General: August 2005 Archives






I cry for New Orleans.

And I don't want to see another photo with a caption screaming about folks "looting," when they are in the midst of an unprecedented disaster where there is no food, no water and no help. Only people with real resources could have afforded to leave before the hurricane hit: For the many who stayed, everything they ever had was in their homes. They could expect no protection, and almost certainly no insurance compensation.

[UPDATE: I've just learned that in fact many people who were mobile and who wanted to leave just couldn't, as there was no public transportation. Our blindered media doesn't point out that since this is America if you didn't have a car you didn't get out. The Greyhound station was closed before the hurricane hit, and of course there are no trains. Similarly, there's also no media discussion of how the sick and the aged were expected to leave.]

Also, I hesitate to dignify their status by even mentioning the network, but this morning FOX "NEWS" includes a discussion asking seriously whether this city and these stricken people should get any disaster funds from the federal government. I guess they should all have known better and chosen to live in a less vulnerable area, say . . . Florida(?), where there's always government disaster relief available. Not heard explicitly, but perhaps implied here, and certainly to be found along the long, rough road ahead, is the voice of racism - and even that of the hellish "Christian" Right: Colored folk don't deserve the help, and for its sins this entire great, irreplaceable city itself should go the way of Sodom and Gomorrah.

We must save these people and this city, and of course we must do what we can to reduce the impact of the next storm. Just for starters, we should have the National Guard and skilled Army and Navy engineers here now, when and where they could make a difference.

The enemy is here, not in Iraq.

[images, in descending order (all via YAHOO! Photo) by Chris Graythen for Getty Images, Rick Wilking for Reuters, James Nielsen for AFP, Bill Haber for AP Photos, and Rick Wilking for Reuters]

Pinin Farina Cisitalia 202 GT Car 1946 aluminum body 49" x 57 5/8" x 13' 2" [detail of installation]

I didn't expect to look for the Cisitalia again when I casually wandered into MoMA's Architecture and Design galleries earlier this week. I'd seen it many times before and in spite of my obsession with interesting automobiles I didn't think it could mean much to me any more.


I was particularly sensitive to industrial design that day because we recently decided we needed a new land phone and I had just been looking at the lamentable, no, painful choices available. This beautiful car was imagined and put together almost 60 years ago. Have we learned nothing since?

I'm not even going to dwell on the ugliness and gigantism of the SUVs, Town Cars and Ford taxis which confronted me as I left an art museum which has tried since 1932 to honor good, simple design in everyday objects created over the last 150 years or so.

I'm sticking my neck out a bit by bringing up the subject of this Museum collection in the first place. Many people still think a design gallery in an art museum is inappropriate in the first place, but I'm happy with the idea that we shouldn't be content with a world where art is only found hanging on walls or standing in public spaces.

There's also the subject of the [ethics?] of any kind of enthusiasm for the private automobile, especially in the twenty-first century, even if Americans don't have any real alternatives at the moment. In any event, when this car was built General Motors and the oil companies had barely begun their campaign to destroy public transportation, so the idea of a private pleasure vehicle did not carry the baggage it does today.

Incidently, this little Cisitalia has an engine smaller than that in my 1962 VW Beetle, but with more power, and it weighs about the same (1600 pounds). Hey, those power and weight figures are pretty much the same as those of a basic Smart. Now there's an original and almost perfect design for modern industry, and it too is now a part of the Collection. But, and no surprise here, we're not allowed to have it on our streets. Too pretty and too sensible, and it doesn't have a brutal line in its body.

But back to the old car and the new phone. The color of the sleek Italian antique on MoMA's third floor is a luscious red which could never be forgotten, much less ignored if you're anywhere near it. When I'm through with this post I'm going to plug in my new phone system. it's in a busy combination of a dull black and a grey pseudo-aluminum, and it looks like it will be almost too painfull to live with. Maybe I can cover it with a doily. But, really, it's not about color. The colors are only symptoms.

demonstrators dressed as a priest and a nun kiss in front of a large model dinosaur during an anti-religion demonstration in Cologne August 19, 2005 [as der Ratzinger arrived in Cologne]

Sometimes it's best to let the thing speak for itself.

I'm very proud of my family's ancient Rhenish Catholic [and before that, Roman without the Catholic] Heimat, and amazed at the effrontery of [Yahoo!]. See Bloggy for a related post.

[image by Pawel Kopczynski from Reuters which, together with my excerpt from its accompanying caption, is furnished by Yahoo!]

are they invisible?

Is the story about lost or missed flights and the attendant inconvenience for thousands of travellers, or is it about humiliating and discarding hundreds of low-paid Asian workers struggling in a racist society?

There have been headlines about the British Air interruptions everywhere in the mainstream media since last Wednesday, but you'd have to be a very determined newsy indeed if you wanted to know what started the disruption.

Most American accounts, when they included any information about the origin of the toubles, referred to "wildcat ground staff strikes" or some equally vague and pejorative description of the original offense.

I did some digging and I've come up with some facts which have been reported almost nowhere within the reach of most U.S. news consumers. They must have been considered too complex for us to understand, or, more likely, too destructive of the conventional wisdom of contemporary American society about the evils of labor unions. Besides, images of people (especially attractive blond people, and most especially young women) stranded at Heathrow are a better sell to corporate media advertisers than the background facts and images which might assault their Olympian indifference to the people in real markets.

In a front-page article in the NYTimes this morning, at least four days after the ["unofficial strike," in the brief, enigmatic description found in the piece's first lines] you would have to read through thirteen paragraphs and move onto page 4 before you would find anything about the origins of the disruption in London.

And in fact, the dispute at the heart of the walkout - over employment practices at Gate Gourmet, an independent catering firm based in the United States [my italics] that provides food for British Airways and other airlines - is only indirectly related to the airline.

The strike began when the catering firm abruptly fired about 670 of its Heathrow-based workers on Wednesday, causing the rest of the catering staff to walk out in a show of support. On Thursday, about 1,000 other airport workers - including baggage handlers, bus drivers, ramp workers and check-in staff, walked out, too, for an unofficial strike.

To give the paper credit, the larger image accompanying the article on the inside page is of a group of Gate Gourmet [ex-?] employees assembled at the airport.

But the context of the firings is missing, as is any attempt to describe why they might have been kicked out in the first place.

I went looking and turned up this story on thisismoney, a financial website belonging to Britain's [populist right-wing] Daily Mail/Evening Standard:

But what happened last Wednesday in a car park in Hounslow, near Heathrow, was everything that [Sir Rod Eddington, British Airways' departing chief executive] says he condemns. It was crude, unintelligent and ultimately totally counter-productive.

When Gate Gourmet sacked 650 workers - some of them pregnant - by bellowing through a megaphone in the car park [italics mine again], it was, he believes. the inevitable trigger for retaliation.

In the closeknit Asian community around Heathrow, sacking lowly paid workers in such humiliating terms was an outrage.

Many Gate Gourmet workers had relatives employed by BA - not surprising since the airline sold its catering division to Gate Gourmet in 1997 for £60m.

The illegal sympathy strike action by 1,000 BA staff had the understanding and sympathy of all BA workers, even at the highest level.

Eddington, whose wife is Asian, has diplomatically refused to comment on Gate Gourmet's management style. Publicly, he says: 'I would like to apologise unreservedly to our customers who have suffered because we have been dragged into a dispute not of our doing.'

But he has not hidden his anger to close friends at the 'stupidity' of Gate Gourmet. 'When you tackle change, you need to be clever and box clever,' he said. 'What happened out there was unintelligent and stupid,' he is alleged to have said, adding 'You can't treat people in this way. They were not fat cats for God's sake, they were hard-working lowly paid people.'

As for Gate Gourmet, it is satisfied it has not made any mistakes in its handling of the dispute, which started after an attempt to change working conditions and cut the workforce. A spokesman said it was haemorrhaging cash and unless there were agreed changes, the company would go into administration. As for sacking people by megaphone, he said: ' Sometimes the only way to communicate with the staff is by megaphone.'

Or whips?

[image by Andrew Stuart for the Associated Press via the NYTimes]

This page is an archive of entries in the General category from August 2005.

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