The Jungle

Jurgis talked lightly about work, because he was young. They told him
stories about the breaking down of men, there in the stockyards of
Chicago, and of what had happened to them afterward–stories to make
your flesh creep, but Jurgis would only laugh. He had only been there
four months, and he was young, and a giant besides. There was too much
health in him. He could not even imagine how it would feel to be beaten.
“That is well enough for men like you,” he would say, “silpnas, puny
fellows–but my back is broad.”

So teachers have been in the news a bit lately, huh?  Back in your Baron’s salad days we were assigned to read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair as part of English.  Which in retrospect seems odd since it would have been more apt to read it in History class.  As a literary work it wasn’t that great, but as a muckraking screed it made a huge impact.

I’ll throw the rest below the fold, I figure to unwind on this beautiful Texas Friday by tying one on and rambling a bit…

]]>< ![CDATA[So as I was saying, The Jungle helped spawn numerous consumer safety regulations, greater scrutiny of worker safety, and some nice ammunition for labor to use against the fat cats.  Mission accomplished for Sinclair, who was a Big-S Socialist.  He ran for Congress twice on the Socialist ticket, founded the California chapter of the ACLU, and later ran for Governor as a Democrat on an “End Poverty In California (EPIC)” platform.

“The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to ‘End Poverty in California’ I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.”

Thanks Wiki!  Ya know, Sinclair was on to something.  There’s an in-way-over-his-head Socialist who out-flanked a lot of people’s common sense running on the slogan “Hope and Change” playing President right now.

That’s not to say the muck in Chicago didn’t need raking.  Surely there was some hyperbole in his descriptions of the conditions.  But even if it was one quarter as bad as Sinclair depicted it would have been what any of us would consider deplorable.  Maybe not as deplorable as the horrors seen every day by a Wisconsin non-police/fire public sector employee, but deplorable nonetheless.  

Interestingly enough, labor leader and synonymous with “union” Eugene Debs was also a Large-S Socialist and ran for POTUS on the Socialist ticket.  Socialism and unions, you wonder?  Oh, yes…

And this Debs fellow?  Where else have I seen a jib cut like this:

Debs was noted by many to be a charismatic speaker who sometimes called on the vocabulary of Christianity and much of the oratorical style of evangelism–even though he was generally disdainful of organized religion. As Heywood Broun noted in his eulogy for Debs, quoting a fellow Socialist: “That old man with the burning eyes actually believes that there can be such a thing as the brotherhood of man. And that’s not the funniest part of it. As long as he’s around I believe it myself.”

Somebody said something about repetition and tragedy and farce, once, I believe. 

To meander back to bygone school days, my community was pretty staunchly conservative.  So far as I can remember that was reflected pretty well by the school staff.  I remember my economics teacher goofing about voting for Goldwater, “unfortunately I was the only one…”.  Individual teachers might have injected some of their personal politics from time to time but it wasn’t memorable if they did.  I don’t even know if Texas teachers were unionized back then.  I doubt good old HP would have stood for it even if the state did.

The teachers taught, parents cared, and kids learned.  My high school was ranked as one of the top 12 schools in the US while I was there (You’re welcome, Principal Powers…) by some prestigious publication – the only public school on the list.  I learned by osmosis even though I was more into the Rock and Roll High School thing than hitting the books (NSFW warning due to gratuitous Clint Howard).

Now, a hundred some-odd years later in Wisconsin, it’s the teachers taking over the school  and chucking the apple brown betty at voters.  Voters with the temerity to elect a Republican Governor, House, and Senate.

This is where you’d see a clip of Ted Striker saying, “I guess the foot’s on the other hand now” if it was on youtube.

Long gone are the days of a sensible gent like Samuel Gompers organizing labor to force private businesses to enact fair pay practices and worker safety measures.  Today we see unionized state employees paid with tax dollars shutting down the government lest they be forced to contribute half as much toward their retirement and health care as someone stupid enough to work in the private sector.

For the children, of course.  Al Shanker said it best, “When schoolchildren start
paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of

Naturally, schoolchildren – or at least their parents – do pay teachers union dues with their tax dollars.  Union dues the state of Wisconsin deducts from teachers’ paychecks and electronically transfers to their union bosses.  For the children.

From what I know about Madison, WI., it’s the kind of place they happily play the wink-and-nudge out-flank-’em-with-a-Democrat game even though they’d have no compunction electing out-of-the-closet Socialists.  If I jumped on top of a car with a megaphone in Madison and implores, “Listen up, people, the new Republican majority at the statehouse is planning…” there’d be thousands of drum beating protesters on the lawn before I could finish saying, “…to ensure every child born to a single mom gets a puppy and free college education.”

It’s a remarkable display of courage.  Since the students have nothing better to do what with their teachers phoning it in, dragging them along as adolescent shields is something they’ll remember the rest of their lives.  Oh the stories they’ll tell.  Gathered around a rusted-out trash barrel; burning human waste for warmth as they regale others with tales of keeping the public employees’ insatiable appetite for dollars on an unsustainable path to oblivion.  Good times.

I remember going out to dinner with the family as a boy.  After the meal when the check came I always wished I could pay.  That’s what made you a grown-up.  It was something special when the day finally came that I had enough money in my pocket to reach for the check.  Followed by the crushing realization I didn’t have enough to actually cover the whole bill.  Damn you, mom, and your three bottles of Chateau Rothschild.

Just wait until those useful idiot students suckered into hanging out at the Capital today get the tab their parents and grandparents ran up.  At least I was able to pretend slip in the restaurant bathroom and be discovered a couple of hours later on the floor not moving in a puddle of blood.  You can get away with it for a hundred bucks.  A hundred trillion?  Good luck, kids.

And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There
must be more money! There must be more money! The children could hear it
all the time though nobody said it aloud. They heard it at Christmas,
when the expensive and splendid toys filled the nursery. Behind the
shining modern rocking-horse, behind the smart doll’s house, a voice
would start whispering: “There must be more money! There must be more
money!” And the children would stop playing, to listen for a moment.
They would look into each other’s eyes, to see if they had all heard.
And each one saw in the eyes of the other two that they too had heard.
“There must be more money! There must be more money!

I’ve dipped into The Rocking Horse Winner before, but it’s just such an apt metaphor for the public sector union/Democrat nexus.  Launder tax dollars into campaign cash through the unions.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Sigh, how about an intermission…

The other thing that kills me about public sector unions is the way they cling to collective bargaining  like it’s the only thing standing between them and being a Chinese coal miner.  That goes for police and fire departments too.  I appreciate the danger they face and don’t have a problem with them being well compensated for their risk.  I’m not alone there, I’m sure, since every time an elected official mentions budget cuts or unsustainable debt they’re bludgeoned with the holy trinity of police, firefighters, and teachers.

But there’s a limit to all things.  Unless governments were stupid enough to do something like allow public employees to extort money with the mere threat of withholding their services.

I told you this would ramble.  Ten hours in the office and four hours of decongestants mixed with radiator squeezins is a cruel mistress.

My favorite part of it all is they don’t even have to be subtle about the extortion and intimidation.  The Gambinos had nothing on organized labor.  If I found a genie in a lamp, my third wish – after a smaller penis that doesn’t frighten the ladies quite so much and a shipping container full of .22 long rifle ammo aka “The Currency of Our Future” – would be for Gabby Giffords to give a nationally televised statement to the financial denialists currently amassed in Madison, Wisconsin.  With special guest commentary from Olby himself.  On all three networks.

I figure that’s the kind of event that would create a space-time shifting singularity, instantly snapping me back to my sophomore year in high school with an opportunity to do it all over again knowing what I know now.

Funny how unions get the government’s blessing to engage in actions that would be called collusion by the same government if tried by employers in the private sector.  Or retailers for that matter.  Funny in a “Mommy, why is Daddy humping that chicken” way, not funny ha ha.

Maybe I’d spend that third wish on being President of the SEIU.  Your underlings go out and convince people to allow you to extort money from them as a condition of employment, thereby giving you the ability to extort even more money from their employer.  Then kickback 5% to the Democratic political machine – half what some suckers tithe – so they’ll enact laws to make it easier for you to unionize even more gullible workers.  You don’t like it?  We know where you live.

My ass would never touch another toilet seat that wasn’t gilded with something.  If only I’d grown up in Madison I could be crapping in perfumed water as I type this very sentence.  And here I am relieving myself in plain old chlorinated like some kind of animal.  That’s not America.  That’s not even Mexico.

God I hate them. 

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