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Monthly Archives: November 2015

poached filet of sole

Union and management clashed a lot in the hotels in the 1970s. There were many issues, some a lot more important than others and some which should not, perhaps, have been issues at all. I can’t speak about after 1979 since I haven’t been involved with hotels since then, but in the 1970s , major issues ranged from preservation of jobs to wages. Examples of non-issues might be things like the fireman’s job. In older times when the stoves were wood-burning, a fireman’s position was necessary because the fires had to be built ahead of time and then had to be maintained throughout the day. Since there were a lot of stoves and a lot of fires to be maintained, it was a vital position with lots of work, little glory, and a high risk of getting burned. With the advent of gas, that position became obsolete, and while management argued for the elimination of the position and the termination of the firemen, the union argued to preserve the title and find other work for the firemen to do. That was pretty much how it played out, so in the St. Regis, for example, the firemen came in at 6 AM and lit the gas stoves since they were all flat-top stoves and required some warm-up time, then did kitchen chores ranging from accompanying the floor chefs to get the requisitions filled, acting as runner (a go-for) for things needed, and cleaning and maintaining the stock pots, etc. Believe me, there was plenty of work for them!

In all, the fireman’s position was not a big deal except to management which saw it as an inroad into layoffs and cutting kitchen personnel; once management began to cut there, that was the lead-in for cutting whenever and wherever it chose.

One of the biggest issues in the hotel I worked in was combination jobs. Simultaneously, the major nationwide issue for the union was wage increases for the maids. Eventually the union leaders and the union people in the St. Regis would come into conflict with these, but that is a story for another time.

One evening when I came into work, I saw that the main kitchen had a small banquet to do at 6 PM, a wedding reception of about 20 people. I noted it had a fish-item appetizer and we had no fish cook that night. Yes, for each type of food there was a specific cook and the union held to not letting cooks do combination jobs, a matter of preventing drastic cuts in the kitchen personnel. What was on the menu was really no big deal: a simple poached fish in a simple white wine sauce with a simple  garnish. It had a fancy French name, but that was all it amounted to. Under any normal, ordinary circumstances, I would’ve knocked it out from my station. I was first cook and really it was no big deal. The problem was that I was Assistant Shop Chairman for the union; I couldn’t possibly perform a combination job, no matter how simple, since it would’ve set a precedent I could not/would not set.

The Executive Chef knew this. The Sous Chef knew this. They, especially the top banana, were counting on my not wanting to ruin a wedding reception for some happy but unsuspecting newly-married couple. And I didn’t want to do that; I didn’t want to do that very much. So at 4 PM, two hours after I started work but when both the Sous Chef and Executive Chef made their first appearances in the kitchen during my shift that day, I asked to speak to them and we met in the chef’s office. I told them that I couldn’t possibly put up that fish appetizer and wouldn’t do it only because of my union position. I told them that in respect for the newlyweds and for them and my job I would prepare everything and leave it ready. All they needed to do was to bring in a cook to serve. The chef didn’t say anything other than that he expected the banquet to go off without a hitch and for the fish appetizer to be plated at 6 PM when the banquet waiters came for it. He and his sous chef then disappeared and didn’t return to the kitchen until 6 PM on the dot when they both went into the office and purposefully stayed off the kitchen floor.

I didn’t waste my time. I spoke with Tony, the Floor Chef, Gomez, the Shop Chairman, and my friend Isidro, the night Garde Manger, and we all concurred that I would prepare everything as I had told the chef but not serve it, and that was that. Gomez was not working that night, so in effect I was the head union person, and I was surely in a bind.

At 6 PM sharp, the banquet waiters came for the fish appetizer. I wouldn’t plate it and stayed on my station, maybe 10 or 12 feet away. The waiters begged me and finally the headwaiter went for the banquet captain who went directly into the chef’s office. By this time it was nearly 6:15 PM and I had already held up the serving of the banquet by a quarter-hour.

The rest happened really fast. The Chef came storming out of the office followed by the banquet captain and ordered me to put up the fish appetizer. I told him I couldn’t and wouldn’t. He then came around the service counter, swooped up my knives in a hissy-fit and hurled them over the counter into the middle of the kitchen. Next, he fired me, ordered me off the kitchen floor and to go punch my time-card. Then he ordered the Floor Chef, Tony, to put up the fish.

I didn’t quite obey, but I didn’t quite disobey. My knives had scattered. Some had bounced on the floor and landed. Others had flown to the middle table and bounced off that to the floor. I took my time collecting them, long enough to see Tony serve up the fish appetizer and then slide over to my station, the saucier station, to start readying the main course for dishing up. I’d prepared everything for both courses and so the damage to the newlyweds was a mere fifteen-minute delay, one I had done my very best to avoid.

In the locker room, I locked up my knives and changed clothes then sat down on the bench in front of my locker, the same bench I’d sat on a few short years ago when Raul had handed me the cup of scotch I’d drunk at 7:15 in the morning before heading into the kitchen for my first day of work. I knew the chef could not fire me for doing union business, so I wasn’t all that worried. I was concerned, for sure, since I needed the paycheck, but I was more pissed than anything, not that the chef had fired me but because of how he had handled my knives.

Before I left for home, my friend Isidro found me in the locker room. He told me that they’d spoken to Gomez, the shop chairman, and Arturo and Raul, the kitchen delegates, and to the union. The union had said for me to report to work as usual the next day, to clock in and go to work no matter what the chef did and that Ernie Peters, our union field representative and business agent, would be in to see me sometime during my shift.

(to be continued)


nuclear explosionsmokestack co2 pollution

It’s pretty simple to me. The climate won’t matter at all if we destroy ourselves. Therefore, climate control, global warming, whatever you want to call it, cannot be the most important issue before America and/or the free world today.

Ask the Parisians what they think the most important issue before them is. Ask the Israelis. Ask the Germans and the Greeks and the Brits. Their answers might range from survival and self-preservation to economic issues, but it won’t be climate control, pollution, global warming. Not one of them would say that the severe winters we’ve had recently were caused by global warming and not one of them would say that that the terrorists are violent because of the climate getting more hot.

Are we really that stupid as to believe statements like that?

The facts about climate change are that the facts are not definitive. The majority quote is a 97% consensus of agreement about climate change that has remained pretty much constant over the last decade. Very few scientists actually refute the idea of climate change, and within that consensus the main cause for the change is a concentration of human produced CO2 gasses. Thus, any way you look at it, climate change is an issue.

But the issue of climate change is complicated by several factors. First is politics. Climate change is a political issue as much as a scientific one. Since it is a huge political issue, how much of the consensus has been built by funding of the organizations doing the research and the subsequent political pressure of finding the “correct results” that would ensure continued funding? Or, what would happen if an organization funded by public funds from government went against the government position on the matter?

A second factor complicating climate change is its real trend. Is this an everlasting trend or a cyclical matter? There is no answer that can reasonably be gleaned for this since our record-keeping timeframe is miniscule compared to all time.

A third factor is its real effect. Any attempts to generate predictions of the real effects, the time frame for real effects, etc. border on science fiction. We can measure the Co2 gasses now and predict a future progression based upon the past progression we’ve measured. But we can’t account for climate itself and what the climate itself will do. We can’t account for natural disasters and we can’t attribute all natural disasters to climate change.

In short we don’t know any of these things.

But we do know that climate change won’t matter if Iran starts a nuclear war by attempting to obliterate Israel, or if North Korea starts a nuclear war trying to destroy South Korea or the U.S., or if China and Russia gain enough power to ruin our economy and destroy freedom. Climate change won’t matter if the free world is destroyed because the totalitarian world in all its time before the free world has not done for mankind what the free world has done since its modern inception. The true leaders of the beneficial humanist activities in the world are freedom and capitalism, pure and simple.

And then there’s one last major problem with the climate change issue. The world’s two greatest polluters, China and India, aren’t quite on board with doing something about it. They are busy profiting from their lack of regard for the issue and consequent lack of restraints toward it.

Yes, climate change is an issue. Yes it needs attention. But it is simply not rational for any American leader, would-be American leader or free-world leader to say that climate change is our most important issue in the world today.

If we believe them when they do say that, we deserve what we get, but worse than that, we are dooming our children and grandchildren to lives very likely worse than ours.

If we don’t tend to the more important matters at hand, what will be left will be rubble and rocks. And they won’t care about climate change.

With a bang: A gun salute is fired from a cannon at Fort St. Catherine as the 'Freedom Schooner Amistad' sails past on the North Shore yesterday afternoon. The schooner is a rebuild of the original 'La Amistad' which in 1839 was overthrown by 53 captives that had been kidnapped from Africa despite a 30-year-old treaty that outlawed the importation of Africans for the purpose of slavery. Today the vessel serves as a symbol of hope and monument to the pursuit of universal human freedom.Photo by Mark Tatem

Photo by Mark Tatem

Written September 3, 2015


There are many millions of Americans like me who are watching the craziness around us in disbelief. I know I keep saying it, which means I’m probably hung up on it, but regardless of how you feel about Obama Care, when the Speaker of the House of Representatives says that “you have to sign it to see what’s in it” with a straight face and expects the populace to believe it is a rational statement, we are sinking in the quicksand of craziness. And from there we’ve done nothing but sink deeper and deeper in craziness such that the many millions of people like me wonder if we will ever pull ourselves out. This is mostly non-political, but since the Donkeys are in the White House right now… Well it doesn’t much pay to go into the past to things that are no longer relevant for examples, but the first recent glaring one came from that 750 K/speech ex-president regarding the definition of the word is. And there are many, many more examples in the past and right before us today.

That said, and having passed up the opportunity to comment upon the appropriateness of the donkey as guiding symbol, let’s get to the point at hand.

The killing of nine people in the church in South Carolina is surely one of the most heinous crimes that can be. The act itself contains all the elements of that which we deem abhorrent: killing in a House of Worship, senseless mass murder, unprovoked terrorism, and racism as a motivation, here, of course, a white killing blacks in a black church. It’s that last element, however, that changes the dynamics of the heinousness of the act, and it’s that last element’s doing this which is precisely the problem. If a Muslim blows up a synagogue and kills a lot of Jews while they are praying just because they are Jews, that’s pretty bad but not so heinous. But a white killing nine blacks in a church, whoa! Stop everything. And that’s the real problem.

The killing in South Carolina will dominate the news for several weeks. So what really comes from this? It becomes a media circus, a feeding frenzy for the likes of Al Sharpton and all the cable news stations. It provides an opportunity for our tremendously stupendous presidential hopeful candidates, and it makes a good subterfuge for Obama to find respite from being held accountable for the failures of his presidency. In other words, as we’ve heard repeatedly since this administration came to power, never let a good crisis go to waste, or something like that because in all honesty I’d never heard that before this presidency. I always thought that kind of sentiment was rooted in expressions like “if you get eggs, make egg salad” or, “always do the best with what you have where you are at.” So many people from Al Sharpton up to Obama will capitalize on this tragedy when really everyone should be circling the wagons and taking a good look at how we got where we are and what should be done once we begin to understand where we are. Me, I don’t believe, once again, we are asking the correct questions, making the right assumptions or have the internal wherewithal to really examine who we are and why these types of things are going on.

So now a couple of common sense things. One is a rule of physics. I never much understood physics, but this one’s pretty straightforward. For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. The second is a particular definition of insanity, the one that says to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insanity. Would Nancy Pelosi sign a new mortgage for her house without reading it? That, she would say, would be insane. For Newt Gingrich to have led Clinton’s impeachment (for lying about infidelity) while he was doing the exact same thing, was not only insanity but a great hypocrisy, and for we the people to have followed along is insane and shameful.

Alas we come to the South Carolina shooting. Did anyone honestly think that the president who so early on in his tenure as president interfered in police matters because of race would not be perceived to be president of only some of the people? Did he really think that when in-the-pocket Eric Holder didn’t prosecute the caught-on-camera Black Panthers for tampering with elections and then strongly discouraged his Lack-Of-Justice Department, as it should be called under him and Obama, from prosecuting blacks, that there wouldn’t somehow, somewhere, some way be an equal and opposite reaction? What did Obama think? Did he not think that many, many millions of people, like me, would sympathize with the fight against racial injustice yet not agree with a Justice Department that only went after non-blacks? A Justice Department that circulated a memo to that effect thus letting a whole lot of things slide from prosecution simply due to skin color? Did he really think we wouldn’t wonder why he has sat with a known tax-evader more than God-knows-how-many-times without thinking how come we have to pay our taxes and he doesn’t?

The vocalization by the South Carolina shooter that he hoped to start a race war is the statement of a reaction to where this president and his Lack-Of-Justice Department have led this country in seven  short years, a place where any realities of where we are at as a society will not be looked at, and worse, a place where instead of honestly looking at things we will once again be led by a feckless group of career politicians deeper and deeper into the insanity-quicksand. Those career politicians, Donkeys or Elephants, interested only in reelection, are not leading us by sensibility and common good. They are controlled by special interest groups and driven by personal ambition.

You hear the talk now: gun control, Confederate flag, racism. My high school freshman debate team could debunk the ridiculousness of such talk. In fact, and this administration is notorious for such tactics, it is the all-or-nothing argument, which unless you’re all-in in a poker game, is a fallacy.

Time to take a deep breath. Time for the president to quit hanging out with tax evaders and crying about Fox News. Time for Ferguson and Baltimore leaders to prosecute all wrongdoers and move out of hiding behind the white-devil scapegoat. Time to put personal interests aside. Time for Democrats to quit blaming Republicans and vice versa. Time to understand we must honestly look at where we are at in this country and address the realities. While the South Carolina shooting was perpetrated by a crazed extremist, it expresses yet another aspect of our reality, that there are many millions of Americans out there who wonder about fairness and what’s right and why this administration, at least by appearance, seems to be concerned with fairness to only one group of people. So even shot by a crazed extremist, it is a shot across the bow and a shot heard round the world.

Why is this administration so timid toward Muslim militants? So reluctant to protect the rights and lives of Christians? So antagonistic toward Israel and our other allies? So appeasing toward Iran (and Putin and China)? So supportive of illegal aliens and thus unfair to those immigrants waiting years and years trying to enter America legally?

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we view the South Carolina shooting as a reaction, we might possibly examine our actions that have brought us here. That might be a beginning step to pulling ourselves out of the quicksand of insanity in which we are so rapidly sinking.

Are we a nation of cowards? Certainly not for the ridiculous reason Eric Holder said we were. We will only know whether we are or aren’t if we are gutsy enough to ask the real questions and face the indisputable facts which have brought us here and if we are gutsy enough to shed the stock arguments we use to keep us here.



mickey rabit from hat

We’re getting conned. It’s that simple.

I see the effects of the con on my Facebook page when family members post outrageous political tidbits and comment that such tidbits are realities. And then, our con artists bank on the fact that eventually we will vote based upon the 15-second sound bites they put out. Like the idiots we’ve become, many of us do.

Those sound bites are cons.

I won’t go back to the silly comments some of our esteemed politicians have made, but we can look at the effects. Harry Reid was proud of himself for the net effect of his lying about Mitt Romney’s taxes being that Romney wasn’t elected. We can glean from this that lying is quite okay. Harry Reid, one of our most powerful Senate leaders, thinks so and admits it with a smug grin. That lie he told was a con. He conned a certain amount of people into not voting for Romney.

No matter how you slice it, we still don’t know where Obama was on the night of Benghazi. He was in the White House, but that is all we know. (My guess is that he was prepping for the Debate.) That video story was a con. We were conned for the purpose of his reelection. He conned us about ISIS, or being kind, he was just naïve and underestimated, and he is conning us about the reality of terrorism, the Iran deal, the economy, education, and God knows what else.

Over and over again, we are being conned.

No, I’m not going back to Bush or Clinton, or Nixon. We can look forward though. Hillary? Trump? Pick your next CCA, Chief Con Artist. Personally, the only candidate I think is not a con artist is Ben Carson, and I don’t think he has a chance of getting elected. I could be wrong and wouldn’t be unhappy if I am wrong.

Suffice it to say we are being conned and have been being conned for a long time.

Education: about the only thing that is not a con is the horrendous state it is in. Bloomberg conned New York City with his school reforms, and what the city reports now as its graduation rate is a con and doesn’t reflect the state of the education being given.

Racism: yes, it exists and goes all different ways, in all different directions. Nevertheless, with all the black leaders and the black president, and the Democratic run cities like Baltimore, why isn’t it fixed? What’s the reality of it? We’re being conned.

Poverty: the war on poverty has been going on for 50 years and 22 trillion dollars has been spent on it (in real adjusted dollars). The net effect of this expenditure has been minimal. Net drop in the poverty rate is negligent.

We’re being conned.

One thing that is real is we do not know the truths about most things. So today’s NY Times report about jobs and unemployment, stating that [the] U.S. Economy Added 271,000 Jobs in October; Unemployment Rate at 5.0%, is true, but not true. It does not factor in what kind of jobs or how many people have become disgruntled this month and dropped out of the job market. It’s a con.

As a researcher, I learned to continually check all sources. Simplified, what this means is if I’m looking at liberal sources, I need to check the conservative ones. If I’m looking at sources that are all leading in any one direction, I need to see if there are other sources pointing in other directions. It’s called being balanced. Truths, whatever they are, get approached when all the diverse sources point in the same direction. A good example of this is came in 2009 when Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton went on the road together, appearing in different cities for the purposes of addressing problems in education and education reform. The truth is that our education system needs reform and they together exemplify that sense of what is real.

Used to be that “cons” stood for sneakers, Converse All Stars, one of the brand-name sneakers back when I was a kid. They were really good sneakers, not a con at all. We need to go back to truths, to finding out what’s real and what isn’t, who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, and who is behind telling us about “truths,” whether they are being truthful or not.


November 6, 2015

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