Employee Free Choice Act 1, Walmart 0

Wal-Mart’s worries center on a piece of legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which companies say would enable unions to quickly add millions of new members. “We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time,” Mr. Tovar said. “We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do.”

Other companies and groups are also making a case against the legislation to workers. Laundry company Cintas Corp., which has been fighting a multiyear organizing campaign by Unite Here, relaunched a Web site July 14 called CintasVotes. The site instructs visitors to take action by telling members of Congress to oppose the legislation.

Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win – WSJ.com

It sounds bad, but this is actually very good news, in that it indicates that our corporate pals, who do read the fine print, seem certain that the Employee Free Choice Act will pass very soon in an Obama administration. Among other things, the EFCA would put some teeth in the protections for unionizing workers and greatly simplify the union ratification process.

A quick search on the act yields links to every right-wing site Orwellian mishmash on the web; another good sign for the efficacy of the bill. The AFL-CIO site is the best place to vaccinate yourself with the facts and the basic ideas before you take a dip in la la land.

The reason for all of this below-the-radar fuss is that if the obstacles to union membership were reduced, there might be a huge swell in organizing. One Gallup poll done a few years ago suggested that 58% of Americans would join a union if they could. That would be change well beyond Obama.

The Dream of (Canadian) Centralization

A Gartner analyst thinks Canada’s natural resources and cooler temperature can help it take advantage of the growing cloud computing trend to provide services and Web applications.

The country has an estimated server installed base of more than one million units, and in the next five years, the market will demonstrate incremental growth typical of a mature market, said Jeffrey Hewitt, vice-president of research with Stamford, Conneticut-based Gartner Inc.

“But is there a way in Canada for that to be boosted beyond that standard incremental projection?” asked Hewitt.

He thinks the country’s years of investment in hydro electric power facilities and ambient temperatures will enable data centres to be powered and subsequently cooled. And, he said, the concerns around power and cooling are only getting bigger as Web content grows with video sharing sites like YouTube. Therefore, the country can take its hydro electric infrastructure to “another level” and extend it to the Web, said Hewitt.

Canada primed for cloud computing: Gartner | The Industry Standard, Kathleen Lau, ComputerWorld Canada.

I used to work at a school that dreamed the dream of centralization and not surprisingly, it was a disaster. This dream is a variant of the automated factory dream; the idea that one day we can get rid of all of those pesky, complaining, expensive workers.

I’m no Luddite. This dream has to do with the idea of a pure profit, divorced from human labor, not with technology. Technology is simply the dominant strategy of the dream in our time. In universities, the dream is as strong as anywhere else, maybe stronger.

Imagine a school without teachers and their pesky unions! Actually, though, the dream as I experienced it had to do with the expense of support people. We had a nightmare of a classroom computer system that needed to be updated. That was clear.

It was also clear that the reason the system was a nightmare was that there was not enough support personnel. Somehow, someone heard about “thin clients”– computers that were, in effect, nothing but a monitor and a box with some flash memory. The software lives on a central server.

It sounds so great. Obviously, the real problem isn’t a lack of support personnel, it’s those wacky students and teachers who keep messing up the system. The “thin clients” made sure that no one could change anything important. It made support almost unnecessary!

The dream was, of course, utterly wrong. In fact the new system was even more of a nightmare than the old, outdated computers. If one thing went wrong somewhere on the network, none of the computers would work. Another dream come true.

The idea of putting the servers in cold places is a good one, but I think it’s also important to think very carefully about cloud computing as the latest instance of the dream of centralization. It’s fine to put all our You-Tube videos in the same place. I’m not sure the same holds true for much else.

All We Are Saying, Is Give Hope a Chance

Roosevelt had called for a “New Deal for the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic heap” in a direct appeal to the working class and the poor that few if any major party candidates had ever made. He already had a record as Governor of New York supporting pro labor and pro social welfare policies, even though those policies had only been enacted in a very limited way. New forces, progressive and largely independent political forces ,were already rallying around him.

I would say the same thing today about Senator Barack Obama. He has a solid record as a progressive in both the Illinois State Legislature and the US Senate. His campaign has mobilized independent non party progressive forces in a way unprecedented excepting the mobilization of non party forces of the religious right behind the Republicans, since the McGovern campaign of 1972 (and his chances of victory today and infinitely stronger than McGovern’s then). Those who are attacking him from the left because of his inconsistencies and lack of specific policies are ignoring both what American politics is and what he is and can become.

Hopefully, McCain and his party will go down to the crushing defeat that the Bush administration and the congressional GOP has richly earned in this coming watershed election. If we are successful in making that happen, an Obama administration will be in a position to address both the present crisis and begin to reverse the disastrous policies of a generation. If we don’t succeed, 1932 on an even grander scale will very likely be the shape of things to come.

Political Affairs Magazine – Bush, Herbert Hoover, and Memories of the Great Depression.Norman Markowitz

Markowitz reminds me that my worries about Obama, particularly his “liberal-as-conservative” centrist rhetoric, has one major ambiguity: events on the ground. It’s not certain, in other words, that the policies of an Obama presidency will be as timid as those of the candidate.

Maybe we are all hoping for some sort of magic, one moment evoking one or more Kennedys, the next F.D.R. Only time will tell, of course. But I think FDR might be the better precedent, particularly if the economy continues to tank. McCain is certainly Hoover like in his love of the powers-that-be.

Even if the economy is just all dull and listless, as it has been recently, but not Depressed, the idea is still sound. If both House and Senate are Democratic, for example, we can fight for a single-payer plan; they could substance to any green building program.

I don’t why Obama would stop laws to make organizing easier; we can keep his feet to the fire about the war on the one hand, and the bases in Iraq, on the other. I certainly would rather have a Democratic administration in the case of another Rita or Katrina. So maybe hope really is an option.

Really Excellent Sheep

When elite universities boast that they teach their students how to think, they mean that they teach them the analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in law or medicine or science or business. But a humanistic education is supposed to mean something more than that, as universities still dimly feel. So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students. Although the notion of breadth is implicit in the very idea of a liberal arts education, the admissions process increasingly selects for kids who have already begun to think of themselves in specialized terms—the junior journalist, the budding astronomer, the language prodigy. We are slouching, even at elite schools, toward a glorified form of vocational training.

The American Scholar – The Disadvantages of an Elite Education By William Deresiewicz.

This might be one of those articles in which a very privileged person suddenly wakes up to their privileges and starts feeling all bad and stuff. It might be a serious attack on class privileges too. The real problems is that academics tend to see writing and teaching in almost magical terms.

Deresiewicz, in other words, is not going to go so far as to argue in favor of those other forms of power– union organizing, say– that have historically been used by those people he has so much trouble talking to, that is, working people.

Teaching and writing are fine things, of course, but it’s hard to imagine how a shift in curriculum, or even hundreds of articles and dozens of new courses, are going to wrest power away from those Yale Alumni and their ilk. They may be sheep, but they are well-organized sheep.