Wednesday, November 30, 2011

tip in cash

Please tip your server in cash. Even in “respectable” restaurants, the management all-too-often keeps some of that tip money. According to Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Americans Are Not Getting Paid–and What We Can Do About It (by Kim Bobo, The New Press, revised ed. 2011), keeping tip money is *one* of the ways that unscrupulous employers steal money from their employees.

I have worked as a server. After tipping the bartender, and the busser, I totaled all of my receipts and turned in the money to the manager. I knew how much was due the restaurant, and I knew how much I’d earned in tips. If I had enough cash, I could just keep the tip money, and turn in the credit card receipts (and the excess cash). If I didn’t have much cash, I had to wait for the company to pay me the cash I had earned as tips. I was fortunate (and white, and male)–I was always paid what I had earned. Many are not paid what they earned, and have little recourse to combat their mistreatment.

By all means, pay for your meal with a credit card, if you like. But do please tip your server in cash.

Learn more at Interfaith Worker Justice; and check out their “Tip in Cash” FB page.

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

grateful for democracy

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for democracy. In all its inefficiency, it still represents the idea that human beings are noble enough to govern themselves.

This is unlike Michigan’s Public Act Four, which grants to an appointed (read: unelected) Emergency Manager the power to “terminate 1 or more terms and conditions of an existing collective bargaining agreement…[and] make, approve, or disapprove any appropriation, contract, expenditure, or loan, the creation of any new position.” In Michigan, an Emergency Financial Manager–now shortened to Emergency Manager (EM)–can fire elected officials and hire unelected officials; and can ignore previously-passed legislation.

David Weigel writes that the Act 4 is “an admission that democracy occasionally doesn’t work.” In the city of Pontiac, one of three cities with an EM, at least some people think that “working with an emergency manager who has no limits on power is a dream…’The last bunch we elected didn’t do anything,’ says [a local businesswoman.] ‘Personally, I like city managers. They’re educated not so much in city politics as in government.’”

Weigel notes there are critics: “A government that cuts at one manager’s discretion, with no voter accountability until his plan is implemented, is ‘a power grab to disenfranchise voters,’ if you ask one of the attorneys on the other side.”

In a similar story, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has announced that he will no longer allow the death penalty on his watch. His opponents state, “just by [his] own personal bias [he will] completely negate a law that exists.” Except Kitzhaber will “punt the issue to the legislature and/or the state’s voters, urging them to reconsider how and whether to have capital punishment,” according to Winston Ross’ article on TheDailyBeast. However, Kitzhaber is accountable to the voters–if they disagree with his decision, they can remove him. We cannot remove Pontiac’s Emergency Manager. Or Flint’s. Or the one that may soon be appointed in Detroit.

Weigel’s article ends: “There’s this…political class saying, ‘You know, this is horrible, this is a travesty, this is the worst thing that could ever happen, they’re violating our right to vote, etc.’ But the man on the street is saying, ‘You know what? I’ve got better police service than I had six months ago. The toilet still flushes, and when I turn my shower on the water still comes on.’” I’m surprised that he didn’t mention the trains running on time.

Given a choice between a super-efficient, unaccountable government, and the messy, slow tangle that is democracy, I am eternally grateful that our ancestors chose democracy. Now, let us continue their experiment, and work hard to embody and enact democracy. Occupy!

(original post, with links, at So May We Be) Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

FTL neutrinos reproduced

OPERA researchers have reproduced their experiment that showed neutrinos traveling faster than light. The new experiment even improved on the methodology of the original, so a number of previously-skeptical scientists have come onboard, according to an online Nature article. Other researchers continue to plan their own experiments, before they will begin to believe such surprising results.

(original post, with links and a gorgeous picture, at So May We Be)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rev. Jeremy's Invitation

After Rev. Jeremy Nickel was arrested at Occupy Oakland, he blogged about it, ending with, “many people remain on the sidelines, and for this to succeed it is essential that this changes. I think one thing that has kept many people from getting involved is that they are not sure what this movement is, what it stands for, and where it is going. From my personal experience, this cannot be explained, only experienced. This movement is open source. It is freely available to any who wish to engage with it. But you must take the first step.

"I know so many of us have been disenfranchised. We believe even our right to vote for those that represent us is meaningless. Well, Occupy is the antidote to that feeling of impotence. Here is your platform. It is the General Assembly near you. Unlike most things in modern American life, it cannot be consumed from the comfort of your couch. It will not come sterilized and pre-packaged like the meat you buy in the grocery store. It is not safe, and neutered and stripped of meaning like a sound bite on TV. It is real and raw and very much still being formed and focused. And it desperately needs your voice.

"Please go to a General Assembly near you and hear and see for yourself, I promise you will be transformed by your efforts.”

On the day when Mayor Bloomberg, et al, evicted the original Occupy Wall Street group, this has particular relevance. The eviction will probably backfire on Hizzoner, as it energizes still more people. You cannot evict an idea. We are everywhere. We are the 99%

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)

Monday, November 07, 2011

anonymous d0x

The group that calls itself “Anonymous” published a lot of information on Nov. 5. They published “d0x” (documents) about many rich people, including and especially how much money those people gave to which political candidates/causes. They also posted information on Walmart and the LRAD corporation (which makes the “Long-Range Acoustic Device” non-lethal crowd control “weapon”).

They began with a statement, “Good morning, people of the internet…there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression…How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.”

They then published home addresses, family members’ names, work places and associates, and the political contributions of Larry Summers, Carlos Slim Helu, Christy Walton, David Koch, Charles G. Koch, Michael Bloomberg, Michael T. Duke, Warren Buffett, William Donaldson, Hugh Grant, and Linda Hudson.

As I’ve written before, I do not know exactly what Anonymous is about, so I will not publish links to their d0x. They tweeted that they have d0x on 9000 other people/entities. They also uploaded a free (pirated?) version of “V for Vendetta” and tweeted the news that some of their members had just gotten engaged.

Finally, they announced #OpDeleteFB, asking everyone to delete their own Facebook accounts on December 24, in protest of the ways that Facebook uses and sells our personal information. They were careful to write, “THIS IS NOT an operation aiming at any form of defacing, hacking, included but not limited to cross site scripting, script injection, etc. Of the Facebook website. We respect Facebook’s right to host a website free from hacking attempts.”

I am also unhappy with the way FB is using our information, but I will be surprised if very many people delete their accounts. I know I will not, because I have congregants who contact me via FB.

I will continue to watch as Anonymous’ “year of change” unfolds.

(original post, with links, at So May We Be)