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Ayn Rand’s life in a nutshell

April 19, 2011

Here it is:

  1. Rand gets a free education in the Soviet Union and is hooked up with a cushy job writing novels and screenplays.
  2. Nobody likes them because they are ATROCIOUS.
  3. Rand gets really butt-hurt and, instead of accepting the fact that she’s terrible at writing and finding a job she’s better at, concocts a “philosophy” about how “the man” is bringing her down because she’s just way too awesome for them to handle.
  4. Rand moves to United States where she has the freedom to continue shitting out awful pieces of work.
  5. Rand’s literary diarrhea is adopted by legions of followers nerdy enough to wade through her awful writing and find a theme that resonates with them: “it’s not that I’m a tremendous doofus who eats his own boogers…it’s that society can’t accept the fact that I’m better than everyone else!”
The end.

Pomade removal guide

April 10, 2011

One question I see a lot on YouTube (always a good arena for intelligent discourse) and blogs and forums of that nature is, “ok, I just put half a can of Murray’s pomade in my hair, how do I get it out without shaving my head?” It is entirely possible to do so and today I will give you some advice on that sorta thing. But first we need to get into a little background of what pomade is and why it’s a pain in the ass to get out.

Pomade is difficult to wash clean because it is not designed to come out with water. Most of it is composed of three ingredients: petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly or Vaseline), some type of oil,  and fragrance. There are exceptions to this. Some pomades will have other minor ingredients. There are water-based pomades, most notably Layrite. But, generally speaking, if you blend some petroleum jelly and oil in such a way to get a desired consistency and throw a little good smellin’ stuff in there, you got pomade.

It’s a lot like when you were a kid. Your mommy would give you watercolor paints because when your sloppy three-year-old ass got it all over yourself, your clothes, the table, the carpet, etc. it all washed out. It probably would be easier for a little kid to get some oil-based boat paint or something but your folks might not dig the clean-up so much. Oil and water don’t mix. It’s the same sort of thing. Water-based hair products wash out easy. Oil-based pomades do not.

You really need to watch George Clooney in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” to see what I mean. The dude’s always putting more pomade in but he never takes any out. Pomades were designed during a time when Americans did not have universal access to running water. Washing your hair was not something that most people did on a daily basis (and, really, you’re not supposed to wash all the oils out of your hair anyway. It’s healthier to have greasy hair, although we tend to think of it as gross in our modern society). You’re supposed to be able to break out of a chain gang, trek across the depression-era South, sleep under the stars, travel on foot rain or shine, and take the occasional bath in a river, without ever having to do more than run a comb through your hair to keep it tight. That’s the idea.

This is advantageous even in today’s society. I remember relying on hair gel as a teen. That was awful stuff. You’d get it all lookin’ sharp (kinda) and then it would dry out. Then your hair would be all crispy, and the crispy stuff would break and flake off, and then you would have no hold remaining. Stuff washes out really easy, though, but it doesn’t do a good job of keeping your hair together throughout the day. With pomade, the stuff will stay moist all day long, and yet not wash out in the rain or snow or whatever, and whenever you need to tighten it up you just run a comb through it and it’s as good (often better, in my opinion) than when you left the house in the morning.

So, basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s just the nature of the beast, and you really wouldn’t want it to be any other way. You just gotta learn to love it for what it is. But that being said, some times you want to get it out. Maybe you don’t want your barber to have to chop through a greasy waxy mess to give you a trim. Maybe you don’t want to leave an oil slick on your pillowcase. I wash (most of) my stuff out every night. So here’s what I do.

There’s two basic processes for removal of pomade: 1) Lower the viscosity. 2) Use detergent. Those are engineerin’ terms (I should have gotten my engineering degree option in Hair Engineering) but I’ll explain what I mean.

Viscosity is the resistance to flow, or how “thick” a fluid is. A light pomade or hair dressing like Royal Crown has a pretty high relative viscosity compared to, say, motor oil. Something like Murray’s or Dax Wave & Groom have a viscosity that approaches infinity. It’s like nothing can move it. So you have to lower the viscosity to make it flow out of your hair.

There are two ways to do this that I have discovered. The first is heat. This works good for putting thick pomades in (scoop some on your comb and hold it over a candle or Zippo) but if you’re trying to wash it out, holding a flame to your head or taking your girl’s hair dryer in the tub with you is probably not a good idea. What you need to do is crank the heat of the shower up as high as you can possibly stand it and holding your head under the stream. Sometimes you can tolerate a hotter temp if you stand away from the shower’s spray and just stick your hair in. You can run a comb through it as well. I’ve also found that sometimes taking a bath rather than a shower helps a lot too, because you can soak your hair, even if the temp isn’t as hot.

The other way of lowering the viscosity is to dilute it with a thinner oil. This works well for removing pomade from your hands as well. Some people have said that olive oil works good but I recommend mineral oil. Mineral oil is marketed for two purposes: preventing diaper rash, and clearing out your ass when it’s plugged up. You can find it with the baby stuff labelled as “baby oil”, or you can find it sold as a laxative. So the choice is yours: you can smell like an infant or have the cute little girlie at the register think your ass is plugged up. If you’re a single guy I’d go with the first one because chicks dig babies more than they do diarrhea. In general, anyway.You’re going to wash the stuff out so it doesn’t matter what it smells like anyhow. So basically you get in the shower, get your hair wet, rub a bunch of baby oil into it to thin out the grease, and then move on to our next step…

Detergent! Detergent is soap for our purposes, but something a little more grease-cutting than Pert or whatever the hell you have hangin’ around. Again, there are two popular options that come to mind. My favorite is a clarifying shampoo such as Suave Daily Clarifying. This is specifically designed to cut through greasy hair, which you got. The other option is a good dish detergent. Obviously it’s designed to clean oily, greasy dishes, and they have that commercial where they’re cleaning crude oil off ducks and shit like that, so it’ll probably do alright for your hair too. So, basically, this step just involves getting something good to wash your hair with and washing it.

So there are some helpful hints. But really, you may have to come to grips with a few things, the main one is that even with these steps, you might not get it all out in one or even two washes. So just ask yourself: do you really need to? Other than the fact that having stuff in your hair when you go to bed makes most of us modern clean-freaks a little uncomfortable, there really is no reason you have to take it out. If you get most of out it out in the shower and dry your hair off only to find out it’s still a little “waxy” in spots, that’s alright. If you are worried about your bedsheets, just tie a bandana around your head in do-rag style before you hit the pillow (more comfortable if you do it “Harriet Tubman style”, that is, with the knot in front). But especially if you’re going to wake up in 8 hours and load that do up with some more greasy goodness, there’s no point in getting real excited about a thorough removal.

So, I will leave you with that. It’s pretty long, and hopefully there is some useful information in there.

Dramatic Finale of my Epic Barbershop Quest

March 29, 2011

Today I finally got my hair cut. I went back to Leisure Time Barber Shop and it was everything I hoped it would be.

The joint opens at 9:00 a.m., so at 9:01 a.m. promptly I gave the shop a call to see if I could get in today. He didn’t answer, but he called me back about ten minutes later. He said he could do 11; I was hoping for “come on down right now!” because I got out of bed this morning ready to get my ears lowered, but hey, what can you do? So I got in there about 10 minutes before 11 and the barber, Dave, was giving a guy a cut. They were talking about the “good ol’ days” before Facebook when they were kids and would go do shit like throw rocks at each other for fun.

So I did some looking around the shop while I was waiting for those two to finish up. I previously stated that the place has one chair; that is not technically correct. The first chair is home of the official shop greeter, a dog named Emma. Apparently Emma loves to be scratched behind the ears. The other thing I noticed about this place was a plaque on the wall which read “UNION SHOP!” and bore the mark of the Barber’s and Beautician’s Association (now part of the UFCW, my old union). So I was getting chopped by one of my union brothers; no wonder I came out looking sharper than Jimmy Hoffa! Big plus in my book.

The cut was good. I showed him a pictured I’d printed off It’s Something Hell’s of some fella who I thought looked sharp. Apparently they don’t want you printing off their photos because they watermarked the hell out of it, but it was good enough to give Dave a good idea of what to do, and he went to work. He did his thing well and we conversed about life, work, school, Alaska, and other casual barbershop conversation staples. Then he took the time to put his clippers to work and straighten out my goatee a bit, even though I didn’t ask him to (he asked me and I said “sure”).

So he finished me up and it was time to square the account. You pay more for union work, right? Nope, $11. A buck less than my other place.

Overall, I was really impressed. Lots of good stuff: good atmosphere, good cut, good price, all good. There were several points that really stuck out that made me think that Dave is a good businessman and barber, such as taking the time to call me back this morning instead of waiting for me to call him. He just struck me as a really good guy who will do a little extra or say the right thing to let you know that he values your business.

Here’s the chop. It’s real short on the sides and neck; I think I like that. It looks a little more rough, I think, and one thing I’ve already noticed is that I can take my shades on and off without fucking up the comb job. I think it would work better if I should choose to wear a hat, too, without having all these hairs sticking out.

Hey everybody, come see how good I look!

The epic quest for a good barber shop (in Butte, which is open on Saturday).

March 26, 2011

I had an almost-epic adventure today. I am about two or three weeks overdue for gettin’ my top chopped. I managed to put aside $15 (which in my sorry financial state is a feat in itself). The sun was shining. I didn’t have a bajillion things to do. And it was a Saturday. I was gonna go out and get my hair cut.

Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of barber shops in Butte don’t cut on Saturday. I drove past my regular place — The Headframe — and saw that they were closed. I really dig that joint so I was a bit apprehensive, but I’d waited long enough, I needed to get my head straightened up. So I thought I’d cruise around and find another place that was open.

Drove past the Butte Barbershop. Nope. Headed up the hill past the Cuttin’ Edge. Nope. Heard a lot on the web about Off Broadway; closed as well. Four places, all closed. At this point I’m thinking I have to either wait until Tuesday (Monday’s no good for me), go to Great Clips and risk having the one of the young ladies at that place butcher me, or head to a “salon” and pay double (which I don’t have) and risk having the same results.

Let me clarify my “butcher” statement. I don’t style my hair like most dudes. I don’t roll out of bed and head out as-is. I don’t do the messy hair or the faux-hawk. I don’t do the mini-quiff. Or whatever the hell it is that pretty boys and frat dudes are into these days. I grease that shit up and either slick it back, or lately I’ve been trying to do a little pomp, like a shorter version of Johnny Cash when he was younger (although I would hesitate to call it a pompadour because my front end is too short to really pile it up, I would say it is a pompadour-inspired hairdo and I think it looks sharp).

Anyway, if I wanted all the trendy new-school stuff, I would probably be alright going anywhere. Great Clips was awesome when I just threw a hat on my head every day and never took it off. Now, if I was 19 years old and female, I wouldn’t hesitate to have a young woman cut my hair because she would probably know exactly what I wanted. But I find that when you’re looking for someone new to cut your hair in a “classic” men’s style for a fair price, going to somewhere called a “salon” or a “hair studio” and getting your ears lowered by a female under the age of 35 increases the odds that she will have no idea what the hell you’re talking about and, by extension, the odds that you’ll walk out of there unsatisfied (and having spent a few bucks more than necessary). This is not a sexist statement, and it may be a bit of a generalization, but I’m just sayin’, if you want an old-school men’s haircut, going to a man who was actually alive when the cut was more trendy will probably increase the odds of getting it done right. It seems intuitive and it has been confirmed by my experimental results.

So I parked the rig and looked around on my Blackberry for a minute to see if there was anywhere else. Out of all the places that came up, there was one I hadn’t checked. It was called the Leisure Way Barber Shop, and it was right in my old ‘hood, so I knew exactly how to get there. It was kind of on the way home so I figured what the hell, I’ll swing by. And lo and behold, they were open!

I was really stoked when I got there. This place is in a strip mall right between a laundromat and a “salon”. I had seen it before but I had always assumed that it was just the men’s chair of the aforementioned salon; it is not. It’s totally separate. When I walked in I was pleasantly surprised. There was a male barber, who wasn’t a young whipper-snapper, about to shave some dude with a straight razor. It was just one chair in a small storefront. Cuts were posted as $11, which is on the cheaper end (though I had $15 and always tip so I’d probably just tell the guy to keep the change if he did a good job). It was like I was in haircut heaven. Unfortunately, he said that he had to close early today and was all booked up through the afternoon, but he gave me his card, which said that his place is open 9-6, Tuesday through Saturday.

So, I walked away as shaggy as I walked in, but I was really impressed with the joint. Let me state that I have nothing against The Headframe; I’ve always been satisfied with their service, prices, facilities, performance, etc. so if you’re considering going there I will definitely suggest them. But I’m seriously considering calling the proprietor of Leisure Way up and trying to get in for a cut on Tuesday, because my first impression was that everything looked perfect. I’m gonna poke around on the net some more and see if I can find anywhere decent-looking open today, but if not I’ll try and get in there this week; if so, maybe I’ll give them a spin the next time I need a trim. Now here’s to hoping the man can actually cut hair!

Pomania

March 21, 2011

So during my recent trip to Alaska (which I intend to document more thoroughly in future posts) I stocked up on the ol’ hair dressing. It may seem counterintuitive to some to think of going to Alaska to stock up on pomade, but the only thing available in a retail location in Butte is Murray’s Superior, which is a little over the top for my fine white guy hair.

I picked up two cans of Royal Crown Hair Dressing, my old standby, to bring my total stockpile up to three cans in reserve. In addition I picked up some Murray’s Super Light to try out. I almost got another can of Dax Wave & Groom just to have around — that’s my “bad hair day” stuff — but the budget is tight and since I have half a can of Murray’s Superior in the cabinet, the Super Light to take for a test spin, three whole cans of Royal Crown on top of the half a can of Dax remaining, I figured I would wait until I need to stock up again.

I thought that since I have all these products hanging out and a variety of them actually in my hair at the moment, I’d give you a run-down. Info on pomade on the net seems to be a little sparse, with the exception of The Rebel Rouser Blog which has tons of pomade info and which is way better than mine, so I guess it can’t hurt to hit you folks with some knowledge.

The Royal Crown hair dressing is, as I stated, my standby. It’s a very light pomade that is good for slick-backs and such, for people with my above-mentioned fine, straight, white-dude hair. I have discovered that a little bit of this stuff will give your hair some weight and moisture enough to go where you want it and stay there without doing anything crazy (see below). It comes in a red cardboard can with a metal top & bottom that reminds me of…a tube of grease. Like the kind you put in a grease gun if you’re going to lube up some hydraulics on a backhoe or something. In the can it looks kind of white-clearish and has a light aroma that is a little oily but smells kind of like roses.

The Dax Wave & Groom, like I said, is my bad hair day stuff. It’s a pretty heavy pomade, with a brown-orange color, that comes in a red all-metal can. It has a really good smell to it. I can’t figure out exactly what it is but I love it.

Murray’s Superior — their “standard” pomade — is the heaviest of the bunch I’ve tried. It’s almost like straight-up wax (they do make a wax, but their pomade is pomade, made of the same stuff the others are). It smells delicious, like cocoa, and has a browny-yellow tint. It comes in a very distinctive, all-metal, orange can with some people with afros on the top. The also sell a commemorative edition tin with the Pres and First Lady on the top, which is pretty funny, I think. Anyway, this is the stuff I keep in the cabinet for when the shit really hits the fan and I need to break out the big guns. For my hair it’s usually total overkill.

The Murray’s Super Light I haven’t used much (actually today was my first time and I put it in a “cocktail”). It’s got a very similar orange can, except it has a barber pole on the lid and a different logo. It’s light, almost as light as the Royal Crown, and it’s been suggested as a way to “cut” the Superior if that stuff is too heavy for you. It’s made from coconut oil and, naturally, it smells like coconut.

Most days I will just go with some straight Royal Crown and slick it back. Today I did something a little different. My wife tells me I have kind of a cone head and look better with some volume up front. She wants me to get that little Mormon boy haircut with the flipped up bangs but I told her it’s not gonna happen! So instead I thought I’d try and pomp it up a bit. I don’t have the haircut to do a proper pompadour, but I did get a little more volume out of the top-frontal area. I had a base of RC in from earlier in the day. I threw some Super Light in just to see what it was all about, and I added a little Dax on the top/front area to help fluff it up a bit. I use the same technique some days when I can’t get certain parts of my hair to stay put: put a little Dax on top of the Crown. So sometimes it’s good to have a variety of hair goops hanging around.

Now, I have one bit of pomade advice to offer, that I have recently discovered. I know you all want to be so greasy you slide when you walk, but seriously, sometimes less is more. When you’re just getting into the grease game (like me, recently) and you are trying out new hair stuff, I would suggest two things with this in mind. First, start with a lighter pomade and work your way up to the hold level you need. Second, apply it in small amounts and build up to the greasiness you desire.

On the first point, that there is such a thing as too much hold, I have noticed that in my case I get things I like to call “hair erections”. This is when I use too heavy of a product (or too much of it, as we will discuss) it doesn’t actually give my hair hold, as in make it stick in the place/shape I want it, but rather makes it stiff so it tends to stick out. In other words, I have a wicked cow-lick and if I put a whole handful of Murray’s on my head it’s like giving the damn thing a couple Viagra.

Like I said, this can also happen when you use too much of a lighter product. In addition, too much is just really not necessary unless it’s the look you’re going for and it’s a waste of good pomade. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend putting it in in small batches, for a couple reasons. For one, it’s easier to put a little more in than it is to take a little too much out. One of the first things we pomade newbies learn is that this shit does not just wash right out. The other reason is that if you work smaller amounts in starting from various locations around your noggin, you’ll get a more even distribution than you would if you just dollop a big blob right on top and try to comb it through. I’ve discovered that once I resisted that temptation, I was able to get the look I desired, with some good shine and hold, and yet still have it be soft and not dripping with goo. So scoop out a little tad — like, half a dime-size dollop — and work it in your palms until it’s hot. Then it will glide right through. For heavier things like the Wave & Groom I’ve tried holding them over a candle or my zippo to melt them a bit, which does liquefy them, but I can’t really tell the difference as far as combing it through goes.

So that’s all the hair advice I have to offer today, but I will offer a funny observation. Back when I had a mohawk in high school I used to use Elmer’s School Glue to hold it up. Everyone thought it was crazy: “You put GLUE in your HAIR?!?!” but it held it up nicely and, the best part was, unlike oil-based pomades it was water soluble and washed right out without much fuss. Well, we took my daughters to get their hair cut this spring break and, lo and behold, the “establishment” has taken note of this and responded. In the barber shop there was, I shit you not, “Paul Mitchell Styling Glue”, in a bottle similar to your little kid school glue bottles, for……wait for it……$15 a bottle. Crazy.

This is going to be the worst week of my life.

March 6, 2011

Yeah, this is gonna fuckin’ suck.

Tests, quizzes, papers, homework, all that kinda good stuff and I have one thing crossed off the list so far headed into the week. I got myself into this mess because I was a lazy-ass student my first several years of college and now I have to take 18 credits a semester to graduate before they throw me out of school.

Anyway, I make it a habit not to complain to people, so my alternative is to complain to my blog which no one reads. So, here it is!

The good news is that I’ll be on spring break after this (that’s what this is all about…professors thinking they all have to sneak one last assignment, test, or paper in before spring break like you’re not going to come back and pick up right where you left off…and that would be really awful to give you a week off right before you get slammed, right?) and I’m headed back to Alaska for the break. Wife, kids, good stuff.

Who are these “taxpayers”?

March 1, 2011

The right-wing talking point about the Wisconsin showdown and similar issues is that it’s the “public employees vs. the taxpayers”. This is not just a gross oversimplification, it’s wrong on several layers.

It’s a false dichotomy between a minority and an ill-defined group which is (probably falsely) implied to be the majority.

So who are “The Taxpayers”? Well, by one definition, probably not you are I (knowing nothing about you). For several years now almost half of all US households have had no taxable income. Considering the fact that more people are being pushed into poverty with the recession and all, and that the government shows no sign in stopping its campaign to create more gaping loopholes and give more tax cuts to the wealthiest, I’d say it’s probably approaching a point where the “non-taxpayers” are in the majority if we haven’t already surpassed it.

I’ve been below the threshold of taxable income for several years running, even when I had good jobs (by the low standard of our day). I struggle with my finances occasionally but I don’t feel like I’m significantly worse off than most of my peers. There has to be millions of families in this country in the same tax bracket (0%) I am.

But of course this is just talking about federal income tax, not sales tax, not state income tax, not FICA, etc. But then that would mean we’re all taxpayers, wouldn’t it?

Well that implies that public employees and union members are taxpayers, too. Hence, a false dichotomy.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that they’re more taxpayerish than average, generally speaking. It’s no big secret that union employees are paid better. I’d imagine you’d almost have to be a union employee of some sort to be rich enough to get over the income tax threshold and yet poor enough that you don’t have Uncle Sam falling all over himself to find new ways to let you off the hook.

I use a lot of words like “majority”, “almost have to”, etc. I don’t have any hard evidence. It’s probably out there if I wanted to do the research, but that’s not my point.

What I’m trying to say is this: it’d be pretty hard to find a definition of “taxpayers” which excludes unionized public employees and yet isn’t so narrow that it constitutes a minority which, frankly, shouldn’t expect to have the majority lining up to cover its ass in kisses the way conservative pundits apparently feel it should.

The “public employees vs. the taxpayers” argument is bunk.

Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo: greatest shampoo ever.

February 20, 2011

In case you didn’t know, I’m a greasy mo fo. I have a long history of putting crazy stuff in my hair, peaking during my huge mohawk phase when I would hang upside down with a blowdryer every morning to get the Elmer’s School Glue to solidify in my towering ‘hawk. The nice thing about the school glue was that it was water soluble so a few minutes under a hot shower would take that stuff right out. Great hold and easy clean-up.

These days I’m sporting the slick back. I dig it because I think it’s kind of more conservative and tidy than a purple devilock but still a little edgy and not the same as every other dude’s hair. I really dig on vintage stuff too and it’s kind of a throwback to another era. But anyway, in the immortal words of Motley Crue, “a hand fulla grease and my hair feels right.” My pomade of choice is the Royal Crown; it’s a lot lighter than something like Murray’s or Dax, which is fine if you’re not doing a pomp or something that requires body/hold and you have white guy hair. It’s just about right for the slickback and it doesn’t feel like I’m scalping myself when I comb it through.

The problem with this is that the Crown (and Dax, and Murray’s, etc., etc.) is that it’s oil-based, meaning soap and water doesn’t do much to take it out. I think the pomade thing comes from another era when people also didn’t wash their hair every day. I don’t get real excited about it because I know most days I’m just gonna wake up and throw another blob of grease in my hair anyway, but sometimes it’s good to get a nice deep cleaning, and it’s frustrating to wash your hair three times and still have it heavy and sticky.

Sound familiar?

If so, you gotta check out this shampoo. I’ve tried some other stuff, like Dax’s special shampoo, and it just didn’t really cut it. This Suave stuff cuts through a gigantic dose of the Royal Crown in one washing. I have yet to try it on the heavier stuff because I mostly keep that around for “touch ups” (like when one chunk of hair pops a couple Viagra and won’t behave like the rest of the slickness) but I have no doubt in my mind that this stuff would strip that junk out in two washings if not one.

The other good thing is that it’s cheap as fuck. I got the family size bottle and it was like $1.97 at CVS or something like that. Way cheaper than that frat boy Axe crap (aka Head & Shoulders in a silly black bottle).

I’m guessing that the downside of this is that it’s going to strip all the good oils out of your hair. On the other hand, I imagine if you’re putting heavy doses of olive or mineral oil based products in your hair on a near-daily basis it’s not going to be that big of a deal.

There are probably a lot of other similar products out there in the “clarifying shampoo” market but this stuff does the trick for a very doable price. If you put a lot of product in your ‘do and have trouble getting it all out when you want to, pick up a bottle.

The phrase “Right to Work” makes me want to jam a pencil into my eye.

February 17, 2011

The whole business going down in Wisconsin has got me thinking about this term, “Right to Work”. Is there any phrase more Orwellian than this one? Doublespeak at its finest.

In the interest of not building a straw man, I will do my best to explain what the term means and where it comes from. The term “right to work” refers to state laws which prohibit closed-shop unionism. A closed shop means that anyone who is employed at a workplace (or, more likely, a specific group of trades within an individual workplace) has to join the Union representing them upon completion of their probationary period.

The logic behind the closed shop is that if folks are allowed to be employed in a union workplace without joining the union, they are simultaneously freeloading off the unionized workers as well as undercutting their power. When the union negotiates a contract or uses its influence to get better wages, working conditions, benefits, etc. the non-union employees get these as well. If I’m not mistaken, the union is legally obligated to represent everyone in their organized area of the job. But the non-union employees in this job/trade, in a right-to-work state, are not required to pay dues, initiation fees, or go on strike if that should ever happen. So, the end result is that you could possibly have a large group of non-union employees reaping all the benefits that the union provides without having to pay a dime in dues. Freeloading, basically. Plus this group is a ready-to-go scab force in the event of a strike or lockout, and employers definitely exploit this.

The other side of the argument — the pro-“right-to-work” side — is that if an employee is forced to join an organization as a condition of employment, or pay dues & initiation fees to that organization against their will, and they have a moral/financial/whatever reason to not want to do this, this is interfering with their supposed right to work by putting unnecessary obstacles between them and employment. Again, no straw man here. I’m trying to present the logic; if there’s something I’m missing, let me know.

But, barring some pretty phenomenal oversight on my part, the above logic is tremendously wrong. Where do I even begin?

That the free-market crowd is dressing these laws up as though they would go to bat for your job opportunities on the grounds that employment is a basic right is what grates at my nerves. If this were true, I would have no problem with it. In fact, it sounds like communism! And I mean that in a good way. In my vision of “Bill of Rights Socialism” the right to employment would be amended to the US Constitution and the state would take measures necessary to realize this in practice. But that’s not at all what they’re doing here.

Where are the rights? What right is protected? Are these supposed “right-to-work” laws guaranteeing full employment for their state’s workforce? Do they do anything to ensure that there are plenty of jobs out there for everyone who wants them? They do not.  If you’re going to tell me I have a right to work in that state, there should be zero unemployment there, or else someone’s rights are being infringed upon. Right to work states tend to have higher unemployment and it doesn’t seem like the legislatures are in any hurry to do anything to protect their constituents’ rights.

OK, but perhaps it’s none of the state government’s business to do something to force the hand of private enterprise to hire people. You also have the right to bear arms, but the government isn’t going to start handing out guns. You have the right to free speech, but the government isn’t going to make you speak. And, of course, your right to speak freely and pack heat doesn’t apply on someone’s private property, so why should your “right to work” apply in someone’s private business? Forcing them to recognize that would be “big government”!

But, wait a second…isn’t it also “big government” for the state to make laws regulating contract negotiations between a labor organization and a private enterprise? The closed shop is not a state law; it’s a stipulation negotiated into the union contract between the employer and the employees. So-called “right to work” laws are interfering in private enterprise, and the right of workers to negotiate the conditions they work under. Isn’t that how the free market works (in the imaginary fantasy land of lassiez-faire teabaggers)? Workers and employers are supposed to negotiate the terms of their relationship without the government interfering?

So, in principle, “right to work” laws have a terribly misleading name. They don’t actually do anything to give you the right to work. It’s not like you are guaranteed a job. If anything it is unnecessary government intrusion into a private transaction, which the Ayn Rand fanboys claim to hate.

But what about in practice? Maybe it makes more sense in real life than in the land of high theory. However, if anything, I’d say they infringe upon your right to work in practice as well as theory. If you don’t have a contract, you have probably entered your employment relationship “at will”. This means they can boot your ass at any time for any reason (look in your employee handbook…oh, and in exchange you have the right to quit at any time. Thanks a lot, boss, for not enslaving me! What a deal!). To draw a parallel, suppose you were speaking out against the government on public property, and the cops show up and say you have to shut up or they’re taking you to jail. Isn’t that infringing upon your right to free speech? If the authorities in question have the power to negate your right at will, it’s not much of a right. So, likewise, isn’t terminating your employment at will a violation of your supposed “right to work”? By contrast, most union contracts stipulate that you have to have violated some sort of a company policy repeatedly, and that the employer provide documentation. Seems like you have more of a right to work there; they can still fire you but only if they have a good reason.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that in “right to work” states you actually have less of a right to work.

Obviously, your rights are not what this is about at all. This is about union busting. Fine. Call it what it is. I disagree with union-busting in all cases, 100%, because I believe in principle that if the employers can have lawyers and corporate boards to draw up legal contracts that you have to sign as a condition of employment, the workers should have someone to represent them and make the employer sign a contract as well. It’s only fair. Are there problems in unions? Does it not always operate as well in real life as it does on paper? Sure. But this is another problem that needs to be solved within organized labor itself, not by just throwing out labor organizations all together.

Yes, I strongly disagree with union-busting, but I understand that there are different people with different economic philosophies. I can accept this. What I can’t accept is that they are such tremendous pansies that they can’t just come out and say “we don’t think unions are good and we want to limit their abilities to coerce people into joining.” Just say what you mean and quit trying to be deceptive. I’m a full-on red commie with a portrait of Lenin on my wall and I don’t give a shit who knows it. I don’t have to think of some sugarcoated way to explain what I am and what I want in order to make it more palatable to people who don’t know better. I don’t try and trick people into following my agenda. But that’s because I have a spine and these conservative shysters, apparently, do not.

But what about the poor worker who really wants a job but doesn’t want to pay his dues or initiation fee? Go get a job at Wal-Mart. I’m told they’re “always hiring”. Oh, what’s that? You can’t make a decent living at Wal-Mart? Gee, I wonder why. If you want all the benefits of working in a union shop without having to join the union or pay your dues, I have a word for that: freeloading. It’s just like faking an injury to get unemployment or getting creative with your finances to cheat the welfare system. Funny how the conservatives are all against it when the shoe is on the other foot.

Getting lost in Seattle (kinda)

February 15, 2011
Epic Adventure!

A map of my awesome adventure.

My first few posts will probably have a lot to do with my recent trip to Seattle & Tacoma as that was the most interesting thing I’ve done all spring semester and I have quite a few different angles to approach it from. Rather than post it all in one big mega trip report I’ll just post it up in bite sized chunks as it pleases me to.

So, I had a bit of an adventure. The main reason I went out there, at least when I did, was to see Social Distortion. They’re one of my bands on my “bucket list”; that is, a favorite band which I have a fear that if I don’t see them soon I might miss the chance. Well, I got them crossed off my list thanks to my dear mother and father who purchased me a ticket for Christmas and pumped up my slush fund with some gas money to get out there from Butte (which takes about two tanks of gas each way).

The show was on Friday night at the Showbox SoDo. I was going by myself but I was hanging out with my pals Ronan and Jean most of the day. Prior to the show Ronan and I were loitering at the Krispy Kreme a couple blocks down the road and I noticed my phone was almost dead. The plan was for him to bus it back to his house and wait for me to call him, and he’d come pick me up in his car when the show was over. I wanted to save my batteries so I turned the phone off (assuming simply switching the power off would save the battery).

The show was AWESOME. Saw Chuck Ragan, Lucero, and of course, Social D. All three bands were great; the first two were a little mellow (and Social D. isn’t as hardcore as they used to be, either) but that’s alright with me. I’ve slowed down in my old age and if I go to a show where the opening acts are particularly brutal it’s like I don’t have any energy left for the main act. It suited me just fine that the first two bands were more foot-tapping/clappy than moshy. The music was still good even if it wasn’t “intense”. So when Mike Ness and the boys came on it was fairly rowdy (still not brutal; no bruises to show for it) but I had my endurance up so I hung right in the pit the whole time.

Anyway, great show, awesome times, but that’s another story. The real story is how when I got out I discovered my assumption about the phone battery was incorrect. So dead it wouldn’t even turn back on. This was particularly inconvenient because I am so reliant on technology that I don’t remember anyone’s phone number, nor do I think to write them down. So, I had no way to contact Ronan, I had no ride home, I was in a strange city at midnight, I didn’t particularly know how to get home even if I wanted to walk, I didn’t know if the buses were still running or which bus to even take. I was screwed.

Actually, I shouldn’t say I was screwed. I had plenty of cash so I figured there had to be a way to get home or at least get somewhere safe; absolute worse case scenario I could just pop into some random motel and hunker down for the night, although that was only an option of last resort (but it was good to know I could if I absolutely had to). But I’m not into blowing all my cash so it became an issue of spending money, or finding a cheap/free way home; some of the cheap/free options requiring an extended stay out on the streets and the possibility of getting totally lost, which would make it more likely for me to get my ass robbed and lose all my money anyway. For the time being, however, I felt pretty calm; even though I’m kind of a small-town guy who found himself Shanghaied in the big city, I think of myself as pretty street-wise and I figured that since it was Friday night I was probably fine as long as the bars were still hopping and non-shady people were still hanging around the sidewalks. I just wanted to get home before everyone else but the tweakers packed it in.

I strolled a couple blocks down the street to Safeco Field to discover what seemed to be the only payphone still in existence, and that it took Visa cards. Awesome. I called Linsday (who is in Alaska). My thought was that she could look on our phone bill and find Ronan’s number — which was the last one to call me — and send him a text telling him to come pick me up. The problem was that the last payphone in existence also happens to not work very well, and it was late, and between being unable to understand me and being tired as hell, she was feeling more like hanging up on my lousy ass than trying to decipher my complex plan to help me out. (Note: I later found out that she had contacted Ronan via Facebook, so she did good).

So I wandered around the streets trying to think or find a better payphone. At one point I came upon a tweaker flopping around on the sidewalk and figured I’d better turn around rather than go around/over him. So I passed the Showbox again and this time there was a cab waiting with no fare; I said ‘fuck it’ and hopped in.

I really had no idea what the address was at Ronan’s house, where I was staying, but I figured I could at least get close enough to find my way home. I told the cabbie to take me to downtown Ballard, to a bar called the Matador. I have never been to the Matador before and I really have no intention of going into it but it was just the first business in Ballard that came to mind. The cabby was an Indian guy, I mean like full-on turban-wearing Indian (as opposed to Native American) and he asked me if I wanted to listen to some Indian music. I said sure, I thought it was going to be like sitar music, but it turned out to be straight-up Indian hip hop. It wasn’t half bad, either. We jammed out until we got to the Matador and it turned out to only be a $20 ride (about half what I imagined) so it was alright.

At this point I was less than a mile (I predict) from Ronan’s house and there were still people hanging around at the bus stops, so I figured I could just hop the bus that stops right in front of his house. I had rode that bus earlier so I knew which one it was. So right as I’m crossing the street, there goes the bus. I started to run after it, but realized I didn’t have bus change, so I said screw it and let it go.

I followed the bus stops back to the house. It was about a half-hour walk. It went by fast because I was pretty hot at Lindsay for hanging up on me! I got back to Ronan’s place; his girlfriend Mary let me in, but apparently Ronan was out looking for me (I’d thought about hanging around to see if he would just come find me, and I thought he probably would, but what if he didn’t? The time spent waiting for him could have been very valuable). He came home and told me that Lindsay had indeed attempted to contact him, though he was already out looking for me. I was relieved that she had done something to try and get in touch with him, and that Ronan had come through for me as well, although both ended up being unnecessary.

So, all in all, it was an adventure, not a misadventure. I learned a little bit about the transportation resources available to a person who finds themselves lost in a strange city. I also learned to WRITE DOWN a few phone numbers and addresses and not just blindly rely on technology to do all the work for you when you are out and about by yourself. I didn’t get murdered, robbed, or violently butt-raped, and I came out of it with a fairly interesting story to tell, so I consider it a good experience overall. But take my advice! Keep some phone numbers and addresses in your pocket “just in case”. Don’t rely on your cell phone for numbers, addresses, maps, bus schedules, etc. because the have a tendency to die at the worst times.