If you ever wanted to see how companies work to defeat union votes, check out this Virgin Atlantic unionbusting site. It’s pretty gross. They vote tomorrow so the site will probably be taken down after its over. They are unlikely to want this to stay up long.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
My friend Jay Rubenstein has been promoting his new book about the first Crusade with a series of pieces at HuffPo. His latest asks whether the Crusades or early Jihad was more violent. Not surprisingly, the answer is the Crusades by a long shot:
What became of all the Christians in the conquered territories? For the most part, they stayed put. The Muslims established themselves as governmental leaders, but did not try to forcibly convert their subjects, particularly the Christians and Jews who, in Muslim eyes, had received elements of the same monotheistic revelation that had inspired their faith.
Christians and Jews also paid a public head tax from which Muslims were exempt. Thus from a purely mercenary perspective, Muslim rulers had an actual disincentive to try to convert them–let alone kill them. Christians and Jews, the dhimmi as they were known, provided valuable revenue. Conversion to Islam eventually did occur, but it was a gradual process, not as rapid as the growth of Islamic government.
In other words, the spread of Islam was a very different affair from the crusades. The crusaders aimed to recapture a sacred place from a religion that they barely understood and that they viewed as fundamentally evil. Muslims built an empire.
That is what made the crusaders and their scorched-earth piety so shocking. Here were Christian armies who heedlessly slaughtered entire populations, not in spite of their religion but because of it. After the First Crusade ended, and once the Christians began trying to build settlements in the Middle East, their attitudes necessarily changed. But the crusade itself had introduced into the region a sort of total religious warfare that had not been seen since Old Testament days.
But hey, we’re Christians and we have God/Tebow our side so we are inherently less violent than the Muslim infidel…
There’s a debate among the legions of non-tenure track English and language faculty on whether to occupy the MLA this December in protest of their organization’s disinterest in addressing the massive employment problems for PhDs. They argue that the MLA holds real power over institutions and that schools will listen if the MLA takes an aggressive stance in support of contingent faculty.
I certainly support such an action, though I think occupying a few university administration buildings and state legislative sessions might get more at the root of the problem. Still, the MLA, like the American Historical Association in my field, is quite unresponsive to the needs of the contingent in no small part because they are organizations dominated by the those at the peak of the fields. These are people with Yale and Harvard PhDs who teach at top 20 institutions. What do they know about the realities out there for the newly minted PhD? Not a whole lot.
I am unfamiliar with any similar Occupy AHA movement afoot for this January. There are a couple of websites talking about it in a vague way. Jesse Lemisch has been pushing the needs of the contingent quite publicly and is on an AHA panel about it, but I’m not sure what a panel can really accomplish. Until these organizations allow contingent faculty into leadership positions and become an advocacy organization for their members, and until leading historians recognize that we as a profession have a responsibility toward those we allow into our PhDs programs to fight for their futures, it’s hard to see much concrete coming out of official sessions.
An active protest movement during the presidential banquet, now that would rock the boat in a potentially useful way.
Those We Lost In 2011
From left, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, Family Circus creator Bil Keane, al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
I don’t know about you, but it seems to clear to me that Bil Keane is the greatest monster of all of these. The terror of the current comic page is far worse than anything spawned by North Korea–Family Circus, Snuffy Smith, and B.C. sound like a good Axis of Evil to me.
Occupiers are openly advocating revolutionary change from the streets. But here is where I think the progressive movement’s love affair with OWS should find its limits. Occupy alone won’t produce the changes we need in this country. By focusing on physical occupation of public space, they’ve muddled their early message and have alienated potential allies. On the other hand, they have succeeded in kicking a door open. The public wants action on inequality and wants to go after the 1%. Progressives should walk through the door that Occupy opened – and they should be willing to work with anyone, Occupiers or not, who are interested in providing the leadership that is needed to make lasting change happen.
The goal of progressives should be to build a broader, long-term, mass movement to achieve a democratic economy, an equal society, and a peaceful planet. Taking to the streets is a tactic to help get us toward that goal. But it is those who are best organized who will prevail even if street action leads to major political change.
That is the key lesson of history. In February 1917 a mass movement took to the streets of the Russian Empire and overthrew the tsar. But because they were the best organized, it was the Bolsheviks who ultimately prevailed, even though most Russians seemed to prefer a more moderate and democratic outcome. In February 1979 a mass movement that had been in the streets of Iran for nearly a year finally toppled the shah. Many of the leaders of that movement wanted Iran to become a western-style liberal democracy. What they got was the Islamic Republic, because the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers were by far the best organized group in the country.
In February 2011 a mass movement took to the streets of Egypt and overthrew Hosni Mubarak. But because they were the best organized, it was the Muslim Brotherhood that won the fall elections and is now poised to govern Egypt. The people of Tahrir Square are struggling to maintain their vision of the revolution and are finding that taking to the streets is a tactic that can work at times, but isn’t enough to produce long-term change. If it were, the occupations of Syntagma Square would have stopped Greece from imploding on austerity, and would have brought down the neo-Thatcherism of the Cameron-Clegg government in the UK.
Progressives were not wrong to care about winning elections and making sure the right people were in government. That matters a great deal. Who controls the levers of government, whose ideas prevail in a campaign, which ballot initiatives win and lose, which budgets get cut and which budgets get increased – all of these things are crucially important. And ultimately, if we are going to take our money back from the 1%, it’s going to require governmental action.
What progressives were wrong to do was to make electoral organizing such a central focus of their work, almost to the exclusion of everything else. The movement needs to broaden. The problem with focusing so much on Occupy is that it too is narrow. It’s the overture to the greater opera of change that is beginning. It won’t produce change on its own either.
Forgive the length of the blockquote, but there’s several important points in here. First, the focus on public space was really important in bringing people from behind their computers and into the person-to-person focus necessary to build a long-term movement. This important ingredient in fostering grassroots movement is underrated. That said, by November, the movement’s focus turned to the long-term physical occupation of public spaces rather than economic issues. There was probably no way around this, but the occupation of spaces is a means, not an end.
Second, I completely agree that progressives have focused too much on electoral change. As Cruickshank says, electing more and better Democrats is a necessary part of change, but for a long time Democrats have seen the electoral process as almost the exclusive area where change should be made, missing the bigger picture of fostering grassroots movements. Nowhere have we seen this more starkly than the labor movement. The AFL-CIO has funded Democrats for generations and has prioritized political advocacy over organizing as the primary protector of its interests. This strategy has completely failed. Without grassroots pressure, politicians can safely take progressives’ money and ignore them after they are elected. Remember how Jon Tester was the great hope of Kos in 2006. How did that turn out for progressives? Not so great as Tester has moved consistently to the center and the right over the past 5 years.
As Cruickshank notes, organized and established groups are the best placed to take advantage of discontent in the streets. Occupy should be a major wake-up call for progressive movements and is a huge opportunity. We’ve already seen Occupy focus national attention on income inequality and poverty. From Obama and the mainstream media on down, we’ve seen a new focus on these issues. That’s great, but progressive groups need to nourish movements in the streets, not try to co-opt them for the next electoral campaign.
I’ve long thought that Democrats could open make a lot of political hay by centering veterans’ benefits in their programs and rhetoric. During the Bush administration, I was consistently outraged by cuts to the Veterans’ Administration at the same time that we were fighting ridiculous wars. I was deeply frustrated by Democrats not portraying themselves as the true party of the soldier–the party that would provide them with the finest safety equipment, provide the greatest benefits, fund the VA, get them the medical care they needed when they returned, get them a job.
Now I absolutely refuse to say that veterans are heroes. This is bullshit. Some of them may be heroes, but serving in Iraq does not make one a hero in and of itself. This is nothing but empty rhetoric. However, these young men and women are giving a chunk of their lives to do the government’s bidding. While some are trained in transferable skills, the average soldier is not. The benefits they are promised upon enlistment often turn out to have more conditions than an airline credit card’s offer of free tickets. When they leave, they return to a world where they are years behind their age cohort in job experience, can be socially awkward, and often have psychological or physical issues from there years in the military. Young veterans have a shocking unemployment rate.
Veterans’ joblessness is concentrated among the young and those still serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The unemployment rate for veterans aged 20 to 24 has averaged 30 percent this year, more than double that of others the same age, though the rate for older veterans closely matches that of civilians.
That’s simply unacceptable.
I approve of Obama’s emphasis on trying to get employers to hire veterans. I don’t inherently support giving advantages to veterans in hiring, but I do support any kind of government program for stimulating the economy. Combined with the fact that the government does owe these people a fair shake, it makes sense both from a policy and a political sense to center programs for returning veterans. Couch them in as much patriotic rhetoric as you want; I don’t necessarily buy it but people eat it up. Just do the right thing by people we have have chewed up and spat out.
As the pundit and blogging worlds mourn the loss of a blowhard amoral drunk and reaffirms how much the media loves to talk about itself, the world should really be mourning Vaclav Havel and Cesaria Evora. I’ll leave it to others to eulogize Havel, only saying that for whatever disappointments in his late-life beliefs and actions, on the whole he was a massive force for good.
Less famous is Cesaria Evora, the great Cape Verdean singer. Cape Verde is one of the great musical treasures of the world, an island where many cross-cultural influences have come together to shape amazing art. Evora was probably the most famous Verdean musician and her voice is one of the all time greats. Her loss is far greater than Hitchens; I for one am very sad that she has passed. The impending demise of Etta James makes me even sadder, possibly in a compound way since although James and Evora are from different countries and sing in different languages, they share much in style, talent, and impact.
One great end of the year tradition is the Salon Hack List. This year’s winner—-Mark Halperin! He must be so honored. Jennifer Rubin won the well-deserved silver and Bernard Henri-Levy the bronze. The BHL entry was particularly enjoyable:
He’s prospered in intellectual circles despite his tragic inability to button a shirt in part because he’s a successful businessman, born into wealth and friends with the French corporate elite. He writes with the self-assuredness of someone quite convinced of his brilliance, and that self-assurance perhaps explains why he so regularly makes shit up and gets shit wrong.
Like, for example, claiming that Himmler, who killed himself, stood trial at Nuremberg. And citing a well-known fake satirical philosopher in a book.
For a taste of the sort of hackneyed, half-assed work he produces on the major issues of the day, try this item on the eurozone crisis. It’s the sort of inane nonsense that gives claptrap a bad name. BHL noticed that the crisis involved Greece and Italy and that made him excited because he could then write about how civilization was invented in those places. To understand the European debt crisis, apparently, “we should be rereading Gibbon, Humboldt, or even Polybius — these theoreticians of the fate and the fall of the Athenian paradigm or the Roman road — rather than Friedman or Keynes.” Actually I think in this particular instance Friedman or Keynes would be a bit more helpful?
The real challenge of this list must be holding it to only 20.
This image from Life Magazine disturbs me. I guess because it looks like the shot is set up like giving a dying solider a last drink of water. That it is part of a story on making turtle soup, I guess it probably didn’t bother people in 1947.
….Though the story it draws on does weirdly switch from saying the conditions for the turtles aren’t great and then giving recipes. So not sure what to make of this entirely.
I have an active a research agenda as any untenured academic, but I also love teaching. So do most academics that I know. Part of loving teaching is placing value on your course. If you don’t care enough to take attendance, at least in courses that aren’t huge, why should the students care enough to come? Aren’t you just telling them that it’s not very important? Dean Dad disagrees, meandering around the reasons, but it seems to come down to the fact that he just doesn’t want to deal with the paperwork.
How requiring attendance in upper division courses at a large state institution will go over, I don’t know. But I’ll be finding out this spring.
…..there’s an interesting conversation going on about this on the twitters @studentactivism
It’s hard to see what could go wrong with giving this kind of control to a company whose success is based upon yuppie faddism, with a bad labor record, and stores with a conformist design. If there’s anything modern city dwellers desire, it’s monotony…
Not to mention, if the neighborhood is anything like the stores, you’ll enter and then have to wind around a bunch of curvy lanes for 3 hours before finding the damn exit.
Note: My favorite trend among liberals is to watch them justify the exploitation of labor by companies whose products they like. I am getting very excited about the development of this comment thread.