The Rants of Issachar

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Companies that aren't making the grade...

It's annoying when companies don't live up to your expectations.

First of all. Radio Shack, or rather the stores formerly known as Radio Shack, now branded TheSourceCC because of a small lawsuit. What's with a 10AM opening time on a weekday? 10AM? Hey, they can open their store whenever they want, but that isn't meeting my expectations. I'm going to go to stores that do.

Next up... Chapters/Indigo/Whatever they're calling themselves online. They've got my e-mail address and they send me advertisements. That's fine because if I recall correctly, I said they could. But... They obviously know where I live because they ship books to me. So why send me an advertisement about how much faster they're making their deliveries in Toronto? Yes, I could send books to friends in Toronto, but all that advertisement does for me is tell me that their service for me isn't as good as their service for residents of Toronto.

That's not surprising as Toronto is a larger cirty and it's easier to provide better service, but you'd think a Canadian company would be slightly more aware of how British Columbians feel about Toronto-centric business models. Advertisements that you send to my e-mail address should be a little more targeted.

Oh, and if Chapters is going to compete with they've got to diversify. If Amazon ever gets off their duffs and starts offerering the same range of products at as they do at it's going to seriously hurt Diversify now become Canada's biggest online retailer. Or you could wait until Amazon does it and play catch-up later.

:: posted by issachar, 11:02 AM | Permalink | 1 comments | Links to this post

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks died yesterday...

I heard on the radio this mornign that Rosa Parks died yesterday at the age of 92. It seems odd, but it had never actually occured to me that she was still alive. She was and is a historical icon. It seems odd somehow that she was still in the same world as me up until yesterday...

:: posted by issachar, 12:48 PM | Permalink | 4 comments | Links to this post

Monday, October 17, 2005

Deleting comments from my blog...

I just deleted a post from my blog for the third time.

The first time, the post linked to porn on someone else blog.
The second time, the post was a inappropriately personal.
This last time the post was comment spam on this thread.

The roommates are watching Monster in Law. I'm writing about this later.

Update: Tuesday, October 18th. 4:29pm

Monster in Law was good. Back to the issue.

As I said, last night someone calling themselves "Join us!! BCTF" posted some comment spam on this entry. I deleted it because I don't allow comment spam on my blog. This is a discussion forum, not the wall of a public toilet. However, since I'm commenting on deleting comments, I've copied the full text of the deleted comment below:

Obviously it's my site and I can do what I want with it, but since I want this to be an open discussion I intend to delete as little as possible.

But why do people post comment spam like that in the first place. I know there are people foolish enough (and irresponsible enough) to buy things they read about in spam, but why the political spam? Is it supposed to be ironic? Or just childish?

Stupid behaviour just can't be avoided...

Here's the deleted comment:

At Mon Oct 17, 07:55:44 PM PDT, Join us!! BCTF has said...

by Northwest Anarchist Federation (NAF)

The LabourWAr begins!!!

While the post-war period brought about a relatively stable climate in which collective bargaining was widely recognized as a basic right, these days workers are increasingly forced to break the law in order to assert their rights to a fair contract. It has become evident time and time again that the provincial government will only respond to the demands of working people if we collectively withdraw our labour power. The government has done all it can to undermine this possibility, passing legislation in direct violation of international labour standards, freezing our funds, imposing enormous fines, and threatening to imprison us. When free collective bargaining has become an exception rather than a rule, it is time to re-evaluate the traditional strategies of labour unions.

History Repeats Itself

In a climate of increasing repression, the organization of job action through hierarchical structures has proved inefficient if not downright counter-productive. The union leadership provides a head that can be easily lopped off. The enormously disappointing events of last April show how the aspirations of strike workers can be quietly betrayed behind closed doors. Moreover, the official leadership of a constituted body provides an easy target in the transition from legal to illegal job action. If they are arrested, who will pick up the slack? The escalation of job action depends on the diffusion of participation and communication across the membership as whole, reaching out to other workers and the broader community. This can best be accomplished through the constitution of decentralized networks and organization.

Grassroots Traditions

In order to effectively mount a sustained opposition to the current provincial government, it is necessary to build networks of support beyond the hierarchical structures of a single union. The popular assembly presents a model that has been effectively utilized around the world in resistance to privatization, deregulation, and contracting out. It has been very effective in coordinating action through decentralized and directly democratic methods. Assemblies have formed in factories, neighborhoods, schools, and villages, enabling organization in a transparent fashion, utilizing mandated and recallable delegates.

In fact, the most successful sustained struggles in recent years have all drawn on models of popular assembly. In Latin America, for instance, such grassroots organizing models have emerged in workers movements across the continent. In 2000, plans by the Bolivian government to privatize water, raising rates by up to 300 percent, were successfully stopped as thousands came together under the slogan "All power to the Popular Assemblies!". Likewise, in Argentina, popular assemblies effectively challenged the Structural Adjustment Policies of the national government, constructing a powerful movement from below to ensure that the social system is not further eroded.

However, such organizations are also cropping up close to home. More recently, over 250,000 students shut down the college and universities of Quebec in opposition to the provincial governments cuts to loans and bursaries. In every school, general assemblies were organized in which all students were invited to make decisions regarding the course of action on a weekly or even daily basis. Through these assemblies, they were able to effectively coordinate large scale and illegal actions such as occupations.

Creating New Possibilities

As we are increasingly pushed to coordinate job actions in this province, building solidarity in the face of a common threat, we are constantly scrambling to build and rebuild networks. Where are people needed? How can we get more people involved? We are dependent on the same sources of information as decisions are effectively made behind our backs. In order to build a sustained opposition in the face of increasing repression it is vital that we construct formalized networks of organization and decision-making. The popular assembly presents an effective model for coordinating our activities in a decentralized and transparent fashion building on our diverse capacities together in active relationships rather than awaiting our orders from on high. But we cannot wait for others to create these networks, we must create them ourselves.

:: posted by issachar, 8:31 PM | Permalink | 6 comments | Links to this post

School Vouchers

This is a thread on school vouchers. I'm going to add some more here, but right now it's just here because I didn't want to get this thread off-topic.

Update: Later...


So what about school vouchers? I should mention that since I work in an independent school, the adoption of school vouchers would probably have a positive affect on my income.

For those who don't know, a school voucher system is one in which parents are given "vouchers" for their child's education. Schools get government funding based on the number of students enrolled at the school. The benefit of this is that school choice is no longer dependent on income. The way things currently stand, not everyone can afford to send their children to independent or private schools. A voucher system changes this.

There are obviously details to be worked out about how vouchers would work with schools that restrict enrolment on other bases. Non-tuition school fees, (such as school trip fees like those currently charged in public schools) would have to be careful regulated. But the principle of school vouchers remains a good idea.

So why is the so-called "left" against school vouchers? They shouldn't be. Voucher systems help the less wealthy more than the wealthy. They level the playing field. They provide parents with free choice in the education of their children. Their time has come.

:: posted by issachar, 7:51 PM | Permalink | 6 comments | Links to this post

Fix You - Coldplay

I'm listening to Coldplay right now... I know I'm late to the party, but I saw the video for Fix You a couple of weeks ago. Wonderful song.

:: posted by issachar, 7:18 PM | Permalink | 0 comments | Links to this post

Sunday, October 16, 2005

BCTF Strike

So the teachers are on strike. I am not on strike. I teach in a private school and I'm not a member of the BCTF. Still, the strike does affect me and I have some thoughts I'd like to share. This is a long another long one...

Some basic background.
I should also mention that this strike has affected me directly and unfairly. I'm the teacher sponsor for the Junior Boys volleyball team at my school. That means I would coach, but I couldn't do it if my life depended on it, so I act as the teacher authority figure while a former student has kindly volunteered to coach.

We were in a league that involved public schools and those games were obviously cancelled. Fair enough. Our athletics director managed to get our team in a league that involved only Christian schools. We were scheduled to take part in a tournament on Friday at Fraser Valley Christian School. At this point, no one involved in this tournament is part of the BCTF. We get told on Thursday evening that BC School Sports , (the umbrella organization for all school sports in BC), has decided that all games would be cancelled to ensure a level playing field for public schools when the strike ends. They also requested that we refrain from practicing or from holding exhibition games. This is unfair. Public school teachers have a dispute about their contract and this means that schools that are not part of the union have to cancel all volleyball for fifteen year old boys?

Enough background, what about the dispute?

As I said, I do not support the strike. Why not?

The BCTF is a public sector union. Their ultimate employer is the government. This is very different from a private sector union. Since the party in power changes this means that labour disputes become political. It's no secret that the BCTF would get a better deal for their members if the NDP was in power. This means that it is in the interest of public sector unions in BC to try to get the Liberals tossed out and the NDP brought in. (That might be why the NDP reserves 25% of its votes for unions). I think that politicizing labour disputes is inherently bad news, but let's leave that aside for the moment.

Market competition applies a check to union power in private sector unions. If the management of a private company agrees to unreasonable union wage demands, (let's say six figure salaries for every employee at a restaurant), the company will suffer in the market place and the employees in turn will suffer. This gives the union an incentive to make reasonable demands. There's no point in asking for something that the management cannot give. This check doesn't exist with a public sector union. Since costs are paid by the government, the only check on union demands is what is politically feasible. Since "feasible" depends on which party is in power, the union has an incentive to fight an continuous election battle rather than bargaining properly.

The other issue with public sector unions is that the government is both the author of labour laws and the "management". The conflict of interest should be obvious. Again, "management" in this case has an incentive to operate by what is political feasible rather than reasonable. Union-Management bargaining just doesn't work properly with public sector unions.

Public school teachers have an government protected near monopoly. We don't have a voucher system in BC, so parents do not have free choice with respect to their children's education. This means that a public teachers strike affects the public in a way that other strikes do not. Consider a parallel to a strike in a restaurant. If all the employees of Earl's restaurant go on strike, the public will go to other restaurants. Earl's restaurant will suffer and the union and management can reach an agreement. The public is affected as little as possible. This sort of choice is not possible with public schools. The public is being used as weapon in the dispute. This is unavoidable since parents don't have free choice in education. Yes, there are private schools, but they charge tuition because public schools are favoured with full public funding. This means that parent "choice" is dependent on income. It is not fair to use children's education as a weapon in a labour dispute.

So that's why I don't support the BCTF in their strike.

I should also add that I strongly disagree with the coercive element of union membership in British Columbia. Union membership is a condition of employment in BC public schools. If you don't want to join the union, the school cannot hire you. If the union votes to strike, you will lose your job if you refuse to participate in the strike. My Aunt Helen was a teacher in a one room school house in Glenrosa. Today, Helen Gorman Elementary school is named after her. She loved teaching, but she would have been fired in the first labour dispute. She believed that striking was morally wrong. I disagree, but that's what she told me. She would have been fired for acting on her beliefs. This seems fundamentally unfair to me.

It also seems unfair that unions use union dues to support political causes, (that are not shared by all of their members), when union membership is not optional. Is it fair that an organization that you must join as a condition of employment can use part of your paycheque to support causes and third parties that you do not agree with?

Okay... That's about it for now... Any thoughts?

:: posted by issachar, 12:16 PM | Permalink | 28 comments | Links to this post