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Solidarity and the NFL

The NFL is basically in the entertainment business. Sure, the games are real, they’re athletes, but they make their money entertaining us. So it should be instructive to compare this labor dispute to another entertainment industry labor dispute. Let’s say the Broadway stagehands get locked out due to a contract dispute. In all likelihood the musicians and actors are going to walk out in solidarity and vice versa. In fact, this has happened many times.

There are three (at least) very good reasons for this:

1. They’re all going to have to negotiate their own contracts with the producers soon enough, and any leverage they provide for the stagehands, the stagehands will likely reciprocate if they get locked out or walk out in their own negotiations.

2. The stagehands are responsible on a daily basis for the safety of musicians in the pit and actors on stage. You don’t want some inexperienced scab moving heavy scenery around you.

3. The musicians and actors want to put on a great show. Experienced, skilled stagehands help them put on the best show they can. You don’t want to go out and belt out your solo number only to be upstaged by some idiot hitting the wrong light cue and shifting focus or accidentally flying in the gorgeous backdrop we’re not supposed to see until the finale.

Oddly, NFL players are playing football while complaining about the refs instead of walking out. But the same points above apply. In reverse order this time:

1. Good refs make for a better game and better entertainment. The replacement refs are just screwing it up, and these players are putting their best effort into the game only to have it be screwed up by a mistake by an inexperienced scab.

2. The refs are responsible for player safety. Sure, most of the calls you hear about are who caught the ball, or when to start the clock. But refs also have the job of making sure players are penalized for dangerous plays like clipping, helmet on helmet hits, and more. We’ve been hearing a lot lately about traumatic brain injuries in football, and now the players are out there without experienced refs working to make sure those things are less frequent.

3. Finally, and this is huge here, solidarity. The NFL owners are going to have to negotiate contracts with players soon and it is very likely that the reason they’re acting tough over minor issues with the refs is so that they will be seen as not giving in and have more leverage against the players. The players can short circuit that by walking out. Because if the NFL forces the refs to cave, or simply lets them go and keeps using replacement refs, then the players can bet on getting locked out later.

The NFL players need to stop playing. For their own safety, for the good of the game, and for their own economic interest. Oh yeah, and because if you are a member of a union, and you support unions, and you make millions of dollars a year, it’s just the right thing to do.


I’ve never been big on bumper stickers, politically I’ve tended towards magnets or taping a sticker inside the rear window so I could remove it (who wants to be that guy driving around with a Mondale sticker they can’t get off the bumper). But the other day I saw  a car that used to have a Jesus fish on the back. Someone had attempted to remove it, leaving behind a fairly permanent black residue, still unmistakably a Jesus fish.

Suddenly I was struck by a strong desire to put a Darwin fish on my car. It’s a cheap old car, and will be older by the time I sell it, so I’m largely unconcerned with resale value. I Googled Darwin fish to find a place to buy one and I came across this:,0,5893988.column

I’ve never heard of anything like this before. It never would have occurred to me, even if I were a Christian. It seems incredibly thin skinned and lacking in a sense of humor. I could dissect the arguments piece by piece, but it all seems to me to come down to one thing: when the powerful ridicule the powerless, that’s called bullying. When the powerless ridicule the powerful, that’s called comedy. According to a 2010 Pew survey 80% of Americans consider themselves Christians.

I’ll also note that Goldberg suggests that the Darwin fish is cowardly when one could be speaking out against Islam. This is still wrapped up in the definition of comedy versus bullying, but frankly, I think the speaking out against Islam thing is pretty well covered in this country. As for which is more courageous, if I insulted Islam it is highly unlikely I would end up under a fatwa. On the other hand, shortly after the 2008 election I returned to my car after eating in a restaurant near my home to find my Obama magnet missing and the air let out of my tire. My yard signs have been repeatedly stolen as well. I submit that there is at least a smidgen of threat from having a Darwin fish in my neighborhood, if Christians indeed feel as insulted as Mr. Goldberg thinks they should, but there is essentially zero threat of an attack by Muslims around me.

But I’m really interested in what other people think. Is the Darwin fish a grave insult to Christianity, or just a tame, if a bit stale, joke?

So truth be told, when I paused my blogging I was not only very busy, but also just really not feeling inspired to write anything. Good thing this blog is just for fun. Apparently the thing to do when you want to seem “professional” about a blog is to write a lot of things in advance and have them sitting around ready to post when you’ve got nothing to say so you can update frequently.

But right now I’m still in the crunch at work, and rather busy personally as well, but I’ve had some thoughts on things I really want to write. Including a somewhat fresh take on a topic that usually becomes just a curmudgeonly rant for me: driving. I don’t have time to write it now, but it all hinges on these two items, so I’m just going to leave them here so I don’t lose them:


EDIT: Also, this is interesting and related:

So, it’s still Women’s History Month, and I’m still interested in and excited about the whole thing, but work has been busy, family has been busy, and has only gotten busier… so daily blogging (or even weekly) has fallen to the wayside, especially blogging that requires finding, reading, and summarizing biographies. So I have some thought that I will go back and fill in the days I have missed, but I don’t know. I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to keep up with this, and it’s still hugely important. The religious right is still trying to limit women’s freedom every day, and successfully passing draconian, anti-woman legislation in state legislatures. We must be ever vigilant, we must be aware of the women who struggled to make this world better for their daughters, how well they succeeded, and how much work remains to be done. We must also be aware of the women who accomplished great things in other fields throughout history, doing things men said they couldn’t possibly do, and doing them better than the men. Anyway, it was a good two weeks, so I made it half way, and here are a couple of links to sites I’ve been using for inspiration and research for you to peruse until I get back to this project (if I do):

I’m a bit behind on this. I’ll try to get back on track at some point, but for now I’m just going to drop this article I came across today here for your reading pleasure it has nothing to do with history:

Wu Zetian was a concubine in the courts of Emperor Tai Tsung in Tang Dynasty China and later in the court of his son, Emperor Kao Tsung. Through cold, calculated, and brutal maneuvering she convinced the emperor that his wife had murdered his son. Wu replaced her as empress and maneuvered again to have her weakest son succeed Kao Tsung as emperor and effectively ruled in his stead until he removed himself leaving her in complete control as empress. Confucian teachings held that women were unfit to rule so Wu set about changing this view of women by elevating women to high government positions. She also replaced the existing system of government positions going to aristocratic families with testing for merit.

Elizabeth Tudor or Queen Elizabeth I was the third Queen to rule England, but things didn’t turn out so well for the two who preceded her and it was generally assumed that the best thing she could do was to find a good husband to rule as king. Elizabeth had other ideas. She remained single and reigned for 45 years. The time of her rule became known as the Elizabethan period and is known for a great flowering of arts and fashion in England. Elizabeth’s rule also saw the defeat of the mighty Spanish Armada, turning England into the mightiest sea power in the world and setting the stage for it to become a colonial power and a globe spanning empire. Elizabeth also started the Church of England, a major turning point in the crucial conflict between states and the power of the Roman Catholic Church.

At a time when the power of men and the unsuitability of women to rule were unquestioned, Elizabeth became one of the greatest rulers England ever knew and changed the course of world history.

Women’s History Month, Day 14

By special request, today’s historic woman is Emma Goldman. Goldman was a Russian Jewish immigrant who was moved by the injustice of the Haymarket affair to become an anarchist. She would become perhaps the most influential voice of anarchism in the United States. Goldman believed that violence was an acceptable means to achieve political ends and helped plan the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick, a manager at Carnegie Steel responsible for violent attacks on striking workers. She expressed support for Leon Czolgosz, who had killed President McKinley, but she had nothing to do with his crime. Nevertheless, she was arrested and held in jail until a lack of evidence forced her release.

Goldman’s main focus was education, and she strove especially to educate workers and women to fight against their repression. She was a strong supporter of women’s freedom, particularly reproductive freedom, but her anarchist politics led her to oppose women’s suffrage.

Women’s History Month, Day 13

How far in the past does a person have to be to qualify as a historical figure? I’ve already talked about Margaret Thatcher, who is still living, so the alive or dead threshold has been crossed. Today I’m going to talk about someone who is still actively making history. Hilary Clinton made history as perhaps the First Lady most involved in substantive policy issues during her husband’s term as president; as a senator, making her one of only 39 women to have served in the U.S. Senate; as the first serious contender for a major party’s nomination for president, and as the third woman to serve as Secretary of State. All of this has subjected her to some of the vilest sexist attacks of any modern women in the public eye. She has not defined herself as a victim though, she has instead stepped up and taken a strong role as Secretary of State, negotiating head to head with international leaders male and female and has made strong calls for women’s rights to be respected around the world. One can disagree with Ms. Clinton’s politics on any number of issues, but I don’t think anyone could reasonably deny that she is a strong and influential leader and a fierce advocate for the rights of women (see the video below) who has already earned her place in the history books.

Julia Howe was an abolitionist and suffragist who was a co-founder, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Later that year Howe was part of a group that broke away from the National Woman Suffrage Association to form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). They were a less “militant” group. I put that in scare quotes, but Wikipedia didn’t. I just don’t really like the word militant applied to people whose militancy amounts to strong speeches and carrying signs. If anyone could be considered a militant in the battle for women’s suffrage, it would be Alice Paul, and all she did was get arrested for picketing the white house and go on a hunger strike. None of these people were advocating violence of any kind. So really, the AWSA took somewhat less controversial positions and wanted to stick strictly to suffrage and not take on other issues. In any case the split lasted about twenty years, but the groups merged again in 1890, thirty years before they finally succeeded in getting the nineteenth amendment and suffrage for women passed. Howe is also known for writing the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.