Tag: protest

The Hipsters, United

by on Feb.15, 2011, under New York, Politics

It may be too much to ask of n+1 that it maintain consistent positions with regard to hipsterdom, but it would be nice to see its investigations at least reference one another. Christopher Glazek’s Hasids versus Hipsters is an entertaining account of a struggle over urban space between “hipster” bicyclists and the Satmar Hasidim of South Williamsburg. The hipsters come off as politically engaged but not fluent; even at its most confrontational, such as when they guerilla-re-paint a bike lane that the city has removed, their activism has a twee, ingratiating quality. That may be enough to earn it the dreaded h-epithet, but it’s also a high-stakes, committed bid for control over public resources.

However, in Mark Greif’s sweeping, scourging survey/eulogy, What Was The Hipster?, hipsterism is resolutely anti-political. “[H]ipsters have mixed with particular elements of anarchist, free, vegan, environmentalist, punk, and even anti-capitalist communities,” bike messengers among them, but the hipster “aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.”

Greif’s essay could be simply discounted as an exercise in No True Scotsman-ing. No True Hipster practices politics; Glazek’s bicycle hipsters practice politics. Therefore, they are not real hipsters. Maybe they are the “particular elements” that help open the “poisonous conduit.” I happen to think Greif’s sour take is an excellent starting point, but it would benefit from a less pre-constrained investigation of how politics plays out among hipsters as examined. (Start by adding Shepard Fairey to Greif’s hipster canon of Dave Eggers and Wes Anderson.) In the meantime, Dorothy at Cat and Girl still has the stronger take.

Cross-posted at Alyssa Rosenberg

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Delicatessen

by on Jan.12, 2010, under Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times features waiters who work at Los Angeles’s two notable south-of-Mulholland delis: Langer’s and Canter’s. Canter’s is the Hollywood deli, set in a neighborhood full of young writers and actors, up all night, and host to The Kibitz Room (where Boots recently brought Edmund Welles). Langer’s, The Restaurant Saved By The Red Line, sits in “transitional” MacArthur Park, an easy lunch destination for downtown office workers who can ride the subway or get curbside to-go using their cell phones.

And Langer’s — as the Times notes 20 grafs in — is union.

Eva Francois began serving at Canter’s 17 years ago. The nighttime shift allowed her to spend days with her young son, but once he grew older, she was able to work days. A co-worker who served at both delis suggested lunch shifts at Langer’s, an extra job she has been working the last eight years. Like many dual-deli waiters, Francois takes the health benefits at Langer’s — a union shop.

Good on them for spelling out the difference. What the article neglects to mention–though the story’s in the archives–is that a little less than twenty years ago, Canter’s was union too. As I understand it, the original owners passed management to their children, who overturned a longtime arrangement with labor. A decertification campaign bitterly divided the staff. The former bass player in my band was a union organizer who worked closely with one of the shop stewards who manned that picket line (at a different job, years later). So we were not about to play The Kibitz Room.

Also, Langer’s is widely thought to make the best pastrami in the United States. Any meat-eating New Yorkers wanna come try it?

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Say It Ain’t… Aw, Just Shut Up, Joe

by on Dec.11, 2009, under Politics

In 1995, Senator Joseph Lieberman gave an address at Yale University to a small crowd. I don’t remember what he was speaking about, but I do remember joining with a few friends to disrupt the speech. About six of us, from either Guerilla Theater or the Radical Student Front, marched into the room during the middle of speech and walked back and forth with picket signs until his aides hustled us out of the room and told us that whatever our complaints, the Senator’s record showed that he was a friend of progress in America. Maybe he had been. I hadn’t known the guy’s roll calls up and down. But you don’t get a pass for voting for gay teen suicide.

Lieberman had recently joined forces with the charming Jesse Helms to strip federal funding from schools that counseled gay teenage students that it was okay to be gay. I don’t remember the exact wording of our signs, but we made the connection that teen suicide rates were highest among gay teens and that Lieberman’s actions were boosting the numbers. We weren’t subtle.

Today, Lieberman threatens to filibuster the public option. I really wish we’d pied the fucker.

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The Graveyard of Anti-Imperialists

by on Dec.02, 2009, under Los Angeles, Politics

But we must also remember that the Afghans, menaced even though they are by the evil of the Afghans, are not blameless here. Have they sufficiently appreciated our efforts to kill them? No, they have not. Have they effectively and efficiently rebuilt their nation whenever we’ve had cause to blow it up? No, they have not. Have they become full and effective participants in the ongoing mission to kill them? No, they have not. It is long past time for the people of Afghanistan to step up their efforts to kill themselves, and not merely rely on American generosity to finish the job for them.

Fafblog

I want to scream against this war, but I don’t want to deal with traffic out to Westwood at 5.

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I Love Leah Fried

by on Oct.15, 2009, under Movies, Politics

There. I said it. So, apparently, does Michael Moore, who featured her in Capitalism: A Love Story and now has her on the front page of his website, urging action on everything from health care…

you have to call, write and email your Senators over the health care bill.  This week the fight is in the Senate, as they work to merge two bills — the Baucus finance committee bill and the HELP committee bill.  The Baucus bill benefits the health insurance companies and is worse than no reform at all, whereas the HELP committee bill includes a public option.  Of course I prefer a single-payer health care plan (Medicare for All) and I will definitely tell my senators that a national health plan would be the best solution, but also that I strongly prefer the HELP bill over the disaster that is the Baucus bill.  To find your senator’s contact information visit:  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

…to, well, capitalism.

Leah organizes workers in the scrappy, independent United Electrical union. She helped run the heroic Republic Windows and Doors factory takeover last winter. (I spent a good hour on the phone with my friend at Bank of America encouraging them to resolve the dispute in time for Leah to come to my wedding, which I’m sure made the difference.) She was one of my first welcomes to the labor movement at Union Summer in Chicago in 1996, she is a superhero, and you should do what she says.

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Me and the Sween

by on Sep.08, 2009, under Politics

John Sweeney retires. Two and a half cheers for the last fourteen years! Sweeney’s rise to the top of the AFL-CIO was an unambiguous victory for the labor movement against its worst self. It was a successful trickle-up of the renewed organizing energy that took over service worker unions in the late 1980s. The New Voices coalition, Sweeney’s governing troika, comprised fire-breathing orator (and now successor) Rich Trumka from the United Mine Workers and AFSCME’s Linda Chavez-Thompson, who came out of  open-shop organizing in Texas’s public sector. Their election in 1995 struck the first real blow from the left to Clintonism that came from north of Chiapas’s Zapatistas.

Harold Meyerson gets it right in the article linked above: “Sweeney repositioned labor as best he could, and with considerable success, at the center of American liberalism.” Its fortunes have not been so far off those of liberalism, either, with occasional displays of strength marred by fecklessness and disunity. His AFL-CIO was riven by internal stress over the appropriate resources and perceptible rewards of electioneering and organizing. The Change to Win split of 2005 might have presaged a renewal comparable to John Lewis’s extraction of the Congress of Industrial Organizations from the original American Federation of Labor. Instead, labor is mired in turf battles, leaving legislative opportunities around health care and labor law reform twisting in the wind.

But this can all be found, in greater detail and more perceptive analysis, on the public record. By way of fond farewell, I want to retell my memory of Sweeney speaking at the giant civil disobedience arrests during the Yale contract fight in the winter of 1996. Several thousand people stood at the corner of College and Grove streets, more than three hundred of us prepared to be arrested in protest of Yale’s plan to replace its unionized blue-collar workforce with subcontracted minimum-wagers. The unions’ logos were projected–a new tactic, then–onto Woolsey Hall, the massive rotunda that defines Fortress Yale against the surrounding city. Sweeney, not known as a firebrand, took the podium and declaimed, in a kind of Long Island honk, words that had been written all too particularly for this occasion:

“In the words of seventeenth-century poet John Donne, ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Yale… It tolls for thee!‘”

The crowd went wild, though a kind of bemused, did-that-just-happen wild. And then I got arrested for the second time.

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Boycott Whole Foods, If It Makes You Happy

by on Aug.14, 2009, under Politics

Libertarian, anti-union body-purity obsessive Whole Foods founder John Mackey, who has laughed himself all the way to the bank on the endive cash of soi-disant liberals, announced his opposition to health care reform in the Wall Street Journal this week. His article has prompted a convulsion of “Boycott Whole Foods!” across my Facebook feed, and blog posts like Why a Whole Foods Boycott Might Actually Work to Spur Real Health Care Reform at OpenLeft. I take the rousing keywords “Might” and “Actually” to mean that author doesn’t, at heart, think anyone should take this idea too seriously. The rest of the post is in keeping with this, with a lot of “my impression is” and “if such a plan works”.

This enthusiasm will soon wash away into the great ocean of ADD outrage, but since such a boycott has been encouraged by people who ought to know better, like the great Russell Mokhiber, I’ll address some of its flaws.

A successful boycott isn’t just a punishment for a transgression. It requires a clear goal. The Forever 21 boycott, organized by immigrant-rights advocates in Los Angeles, sought the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages to workers who made their products. The fair-trade Nike and Starbucks boycotts of the mid-to-late 90’s resulted in monitoring regimes and improved conditions for many of those companies’ suppliers in Southeast Asia and Central America.

A successful boycott needs to be run by an organization with resources to devote to it. The Forever 21 boycott was run out of the Garment Workers Center by labor organizers, immigrant advocates, student activists and the workers themselves. Famously, the grape boycott was run by the United FoodFarm Workers. A great deal of momentum was added by neighbor-to-neighbor conversations, but it wasn’t started by them.

What would be the goal of a health care reform Whole Foods boycott? To get John Mackey to renounce his editorial? Put down the Ayn Rand? Quit blogging? All are worthy as idle hopes. None would move health care reform a day closer.

What organization would run it? Please believe me when I tell you that Whole Foods is not afraid of your Twitter feed, especially because half of the retweeters will feel that they’ve done their part by spreading the news so it’s all right if they duck in for a quick Odawalla. You’ll need to plan direct actions, picket lines in the parking lot, leaflet drops. Is this how Organizing for America should spend its resources? Is it how you should spend yours?

There are plenty of reasons not to shop at Whole Foods, and I encourage everyone to choose not to shop there out of pique or thrift. There are plenty of good reasons to boycott Whole Foods, and if you want to help your local Whole Foods employees join the United Food and Commercial Workers, have at it!

But if health care reform is your goal, take a page from the crazies. They’re not showing up at meetings of the leading health care reform bloggers. They’re not boycotting Wal-Mart, even though that company has nominally joined the side of reform. They’re bring direct pressure on the decision-makers: their elected representatives.

Bonus: the trailer for Made In L.A., a documentary film about the Garment Workers Center and Forever 21.

UPDATE: Why you should have already had problems with Whole Foods via readingmachine.

UPDATE 2: Peter Dreier went to the same Alhambra town hall meeting as Mr. Death Star Panels, and has some advice on where to put pressure:

Rather than confront the extreme right wing of the Republican Party — which is who constitutes the crowds at these town hall events — it might be more useful to target protests at the giant insurance companies and the huge campaign contributions they are handing out , especially to moderate Democrats. Compare the insurance companies’ big profits and outrageous corporate compensation to the tens of millions of Americans who can’t afford health insurance, who can’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions, or who have policies that don’t cover the things they need. Then challenge the waffling blue-dog Democrats to answer a simple question: which side are you on?

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Sorry, Nurse, My Blood Pressure’s Unusually High This Evening

by on Aug.12, 2009, under Los Angeles, Politics

The Los Angeles Times:

Hundreds of people spent the night outside the Forum in Inglewood in hopes of getting free medical and dental care.

More than 2,000 sought services on the first day of the medical clinic — and hundreds were turned away. People were lined up Tuesday night, hoping to get in. The MTA announced it was extending service of Line 115 because of “overwhelming demand” for service to the clinic, which runs for eight days.

The Remote Area Medical Foundation is a trailer-equipped service that has staged health clinics in rural parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. It brought its health camp to urban Los Angeles County on Tuesday to begin a stint that the group’s officials described as its first foray into a major urban setting.

We are all Appalachia now. This would recall the time that Hugo Chavez sent heating oil via CITGO to poor New England families, except that the Remote Area Medical Foundation isn’t twitting the United States government. They’re just going where the poor people are, which happens to be, as Steve Lopez had it, “in the land of palm-shaded mansions.”

No, they’re not trying to make a political point. Is anyone? Certainly not the Democratic representatives who have been eaten alive in town halls over the past few days. These displays yield nothing but the vague hope that the cradle-to-grave racist id of the GOP will fly its freak flag too proudly and drive a few snobs into the reform camp.

I’m not dismissive of all types of political theatre, just of this defensive, too-clever prayer for backlash. The town halls were supposed to be an argument over health care. They have become an argument over town halls. A victory at this point would be getting people to shut up and behave, and it would be a hollow, procedural victory.

So why not stage the town hall meetings in traveling health clinics?

This would put members of Congress in the enviable position of bringing their constituents services they actually need. People who actually need better health insurance would wedge their way into the debate, which is currently dominated by an appeal to those who already enjoy health insurance and seek reassurance that reform won’t hurt them.

In the current scenario, the teabaggers yell “Don’t Kill Trig,” Organizing for America yells back, “Let Him Speak!”, and the media calls a pox on both their houses. A debate in a health care context, on the other hand, would require opponents of reform to make their case in front of people whose lives are at stake.

And who knows? Someone might catch a richly deserved cold.

Video: Sarah Palin only got it two-thirds right. It’s not “Death Panels,” it’s “Death Star Panels”.

UPDATE: Until someone runs with this idea, Cruickshank at Calitics advises you how to win a town hall.

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