Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 2020

Restructuring engineering curriculums to respond to end users demands, safety and health

In 1987, Alphonse Chapanis, a renowned Human Factors professional, urged that published Human Factors research papers target the practical design need of the various engineering disciplines so that the research data be readily used by engineers.

Dr. Chapanis was trying to send a clear message that Human Factors main discipline was to design interfaces between systems and end users and thus, research papers have to include sections directing the engineers as to the applicability of the results of the paper to design purposes.

In return, it is appropriate to send the message that all engineering disciplines should include sections in their research papers orienting the engineering practitioners to the applicability of the results of the papers to the end users and how Human Factors professionals can judiciously use the data in their interface designs.

As it was difficult for the Human Factors professional to send the right message to the engineering practitioners, and still has enormous difficulty disseminating the proper purpose and goals, it would be a steep road for the engineers to send the right message that what they design is actually targeting the needs and new trends of the end users.

As long as the engineering curriculums fail to include the Human Factors field as an integral part in their structures it would not be realistic to contemplate any shift in their designs toward the end users.

Systems would become even more complex and testing and evaluation more expensive in order to make end users accept any system and patronize it.

So why not design anything right from the first time by being initiated and exposed to human capabilities and limitations, their safety and health?

Instead of recognizing from the early phases in the design process that reducing human errors and risks to the safety and health of end users are the best marketing criteria for encouraging end users to adopt and apply a system, we see systems are still being designed by different engineers who cannot relate to the end users because their training is not explicitly directed toward them.

What is so incongruous with the engineering curriculums to include courses that target end users?

Why would not these curriculums include courses in occupational safety and health, consumer product liability, engineers as expert witnesses, the capabilities and limitations of human, marketing, psychophysics and experimental design?

Are the needs and desires of end users beneath the objectives of designing systems?

If that was true, why systems are constantly being redesigned, evaluated and tested in order to match the market demands?

Why do companies have to incur heavy expenses in order to rediscover the wheel that the basis of any successful design ultimately relies on the usefulness, acceptability and agreement with the end users desires and dreams?

Why not start from the foundation that any engineering design is meant for human and that designed objects or systems are meant to fit the human behavior and not vice versa?

What seem to be the main problems for implementing changes in the philosophy of engineering curriculums?

Is it the lack to find enough Human Factors, ergonomics and industrial psychologist professionals to teach these courses?

Is it the need to allow the thousands of psychologists, marketing and business graduates to find outlet “debouches” in the marketplace for estimating users’ needs, desires, demands and retesting and re-evaluating systems after the damages were done?

May be because the Human factors professionals failed so far to make any significant impact to pressure government to be part and parcel of the engineering practices?

Note: I am Not sure if this discipline Human Factors/Ergonomics is still a separate field in Engineering or has been integrated in all engineering disciplines.

From my experience in teaching a few courses at universities, I propose that courses in Experimental Design be an integral course in all engineering disciplines: students graduate without having a serious idea how to run “sophisticated” experiments or know how to discriminate among the independent variables, the dependent variables, the control variable…and how to interpret complex graphs.


“The man with the long curly hair”: Fragments of Abu Nuwas‘ Poems (February 12, 2009)

Note:  I am attempting to convey the style and position of the great Arab poet Abu Nawas during the Abbasid period.  The translation is not literal and I am selecting fragments in specific genres.

Ascetics  (Abu Nawas is witnessing his physical disintegration after his 50)

It is true O God: Great is my villainy.

Your clemency, I know, is infinite.

If the virtuous only dares keep hope.

Then, who the sinner is to appeal to?

Whom the sinner is to believe in?

In humility I implore you my Lord.

Don’t reject me! Only You can have pity.

You are the clement and forgiving.

Finally and besides, I am a Muslim.

My God, you have always been good to me.

My gratitude is little adequate.

Do I have to present my flat excuses?

My excuse is that I have none.

Nullity crawls in me; my members are dying one at a time. Every moment takes its share.

My youth has fled and didn’t deign to listen.

What have I done with my tender youth?

My youth was dedicated to pleasure, every day and every night.

All possible mischief I have committed.  Forgive me God; I hear you and I tremble.

The full moon is just a dim glow compared to your majestic Face.

I carry on my front the indelible mark of prostrations that might pass me a devout.

Oh, how many noble figures are entombed and as many refined beauties.

How many brave are buried and as many great minds.

Let a rational man interrogate Earth. 

We have taken all Earth’s alleys, highways, and passes.

Earth is our enemy disguised as friend.



(The Caliph Al Amine is pederast and wanted to honor Abu Nawas young son Mussa.  The satirized personalities were the poet’s benefactors and he joined their merriments)

The Caliph is losing his way.  It is the Caliph fault.

His ignorant vizier Fadl and his naïve counselor Bakr are to be blamed.

The Caliph Al Amine is a pederast.  He loves young eunuchs.

The Caliph is the active actor: How wonderful!

His vizier is the passive one.

The compromises of these two are splattering all the neighborhood.

Like a pissing camel.

New forms of labor activism: To regain the dignity for Fast-food workers

For the customers, nothing has changed in the big, busy McDonald’s on Broadway at West 181st Street, in Washington Heights.

Promotions come and go—during the World Cup, the French-fry package was suddenly Not red but decorated with soccer-related “street art,” and, if you held your phone up to the box, it would download an Augmented Reality app that let you kick goals with the flick of a finger.

New menu items appear—the Jalapeño Double, the Bacon Clubhouse, a while back, the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal.

But a McDonald’s is a McDonald’s.

This one is open twenty-four hours. It has its regulars, including a panel of older gentlemen who convene at a row of tables near the main door, generally wear guayaberas, and deliberate matters large and small in Spanish.

The restaurant doesn’t suffer as much staff turnover as you might think.

Mostly the same employees, mostly women, in black uniforms and gold-trimmed black visors, toil and serve and banter with the customers year after year.

The longtime manager, Dominga de Jesus, bustles about, wearing a bright-pink shirt and a worried look, barking at her workers, “La linea! La linea! 

Behind the counter, though, a great deal has changed in the past two years.

Among the 35 non-salaried employees, fourteen, at last count, have thrown in their lot with Fast Food Forward, the New York branch of a growing campaign to unionize fast-food workers.

Underneath the lighted images of Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets, back between the deep fryer and the meat freezer, the clamshell grill and the egg station, the order screens and the endless, hospital-like beeping of timers, there have been sharp and difficult debates about the wisdom of demanding better pay and forming a union.

Most of the workers here make minimum wage, which is $8 an hour in New York City, and receive no benefits.

Rosa Rivera, a grandmother of four who has worked at McDonald’s for 14 years, makes $ 8.50.

Exacerbating the problem of low pay in an expensive city, nearly everyone is effectively part time, getting fewer than forty hours of work a week. And none of the employees seem to know, from week to week, when, exactly, they will work.

The crew-scheduling software used by McDonald’s is reputed to be sophisticated, but to the workers it seems mindless and opaque.

The coming week’s schedule is posted on Saturday evenings. Most of those who, like Rivera, have sided with the union movement—going out on one-day wildcat strikes, marching in midtown protests—suspect that they have been penalized by managers with reductions in their hours. But just-in-time scheduling is not easy to analyze.

Arisleyda Tapia, who has been working here for 8 years, and makes $8.35 an hour, says she was fired last year by a supervisor for participating, on her own time, in a protest. She was reinstated three days later by cooler management heads, but Tapia, a single mother with a five-year-old daughter, says that she now gets only thirty hours a week. She used to average forty.

“And they don’t really post the schedule anymore,” she told me. “They just give you these.”

She waved a thin strip of paper in the air. It was like the stuff that comes out of a shredder.

Tapia laughed, and mimicked a manager frantically snipping each line out of a printed schedule, for individual distribution. “This way, it’s harder for us to see what’s going on at the store. You see only your own hours.

Tapia was a nurse in Santiago de Los Caballeros, the second city of the Dominican Republic. She had two children, Scarlet and Steven.

Her husband drove a taxi. Her mother, also a nurse, raised orchids.

When Tapia’s marriage fell apart, she felt her hopes for her children dimming. It was 2003; a banking crisis had cratered the Dominican economy.

With her mother’s blessing, she left her job at a big university hospital where she had worked for 12 years and moved, alone, to New York. She rented a shared room in Inwood, a working-class neighborhood in upper Manhattan, for $50 a week, got a job at a McDonald’s in Inwood, and then a second job, at the 181st Street McDonald’s.

She made minimum wage. Still, she was able to send most of her paychecks home. “I made more in a week here than I did in a month as a nurse there,” she said.

Her children were provided for.  College remained a possibility. Her Facebook cover photo has a woman’s closed eye with long lashes and a big tear trickling down. “That’s for missing my kids,” she told me.

Tapia struggled with depression. Her immigration status was work-authorized, letting her obtain a Social Security number, and then it wasn’t. She got scammed by a lawyer. She feared she would be deported. Tapia makes friends easily—if you walk the streets of Inwood with her, you will see her merrily accosted by neighbors—but she felt isolated. The sueño americanothe reason she still gives, half-ruefully, for emigrating—had taken on nightmarish colors.

She felt trapped in a cold, foreign, overwhelming place. She felt that people were following her. She went for therapy at public clinics. Tapia, who is deeply religious, found herself looking for a sign from God. One night, in church, she got it. Her anxiety receded. She talks about the experience in awed, fierce tones.

She took up with a man—a taxi-driver—and on New Year’s Day, 2009, she gave birth to a daughter, Ashley. The relationship with the taxi-driver did not last. Tapia was thirty-seven. She found an apartment on Sherman Avenue, in Inwood, across from the 207th Street Subway Yard.

The apartment was small and dark, partitioned to create more rooms, and Tapia shared it with other renters. She and Ashley slept in a single bed in a closet-size alcove. They still sleep there. Tapia had already bought, sight unseen, a small rental house in Santiago; her mother manages it, and the rent helps support Scarlet and Steven.

“Take your pick—those people are talking schools. Next to them is real estate, and over by the stairs is money.” Buy or license »

With an infant, Tapia had to quit one of her jobs. Money got tighter. She and Ashley received food stamps—a hundred and eighty-nine dollars a month—and, crucially, an earned-income tax-credit refund. But day care was expensive, and Tapia could never get enough hours at work. Wary of the courts, she received no child support. Still, her spirits were strong.

Now she lived for Ashley, who was bright and mischievous. Friends and co-workers deluged the child with love and toys. Somebody gave her a little plastic cash register. She banged away on it, piping, “Welcome to McDonald’s. How may I help you?”

One of Tapia’s closest friends was Dominga de Jesus, her manager. La Dominga, as everybody calls her, is also Dominican. She lives in the Bronx, started at the bottom herself at McDonald’s, and has a daughter slightly older than Ashley. The little girls are friends.

La Dominga was kind to Tapia in her despair. In turn, Tapia helped Dominga when she had housing troubles. Between crises, the two women loved to party together.

Tapia was delighted for Dominga when she went off to Hamburger University, the McDonald’s training center, in Oak Brook, Illinois, where she earned a degree in Hamburgerology. The course there “sounded like a good party,” Tapia told me, grinning.

In 2012, community organizers from New York Communities for Change, a Brooklyn-based descendant of ACORN, started sniffing around the McDonald’s in Washington Heights. La Dominga—perhaps forewarned, or simply aware of

the long-standing vigilance at McDonald’s against any stirrings of union sentiment—spotted a suspected organizer on one of her closed-circuit cameras. His name was Alfredo Miase. He was Dominican. Tapia recalled, “She told me, ‘Don’t talk to him.’ ”

But Tapia had recently had a run-in with another manager, who kept her working, even though she had a fever, for hours. “Finally, I couldn’t take it,” she told me. “I just couldn’t stand up anymore, and I went home. She suspended me for a week for that. She’s gone now, but she was abusive. That experience left me ready to do something.”

So Tapia met with Miase, down the block, beyond the closed-circuit cameras, skulking, scared. And she was not the only one. “He was a very thoughtful, sympathetic guy,” she said.

A small group of workers, nearly all women, started meeting with Miase and another organizer, Marisol Vasquez, at a nearby Chinese restaurant called Jimmy’s. They discussed their problems and what might be done. Tapia, unlike some American workers, already had a solid grasp of what a union is.

In the D.R., she had been a member of the national nurses’ union during a major dispute with the ministry of health. That fight culminated in strikes that caused a national furor. Doctors had also walked out. “Patients were dying,” she remembered. In the end, the government agreed to meet with the strikers and address their demands.

The Service Employees International Union, the second-largest union in the United States, was quietly funding the fast-food campaign. The first public act was a one-day strike on November 29, 2012. Some two hundred workers, from around forty fast-food outlets in New York City, gathered at dawn outside a McDonald’s on Madison Avenue in midtown, chanting, “Hey, hey, what do you say, we demand fair pay.”

They had walked off jobs at Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino’s Pizza, and McDonald’s. Their goals, they told reporters, were an industry-wide raise to fifteen dollars an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. It was a day of rallies, walkouts, and a march through Times Square. The Times called it “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of America’s fast-food industry.” Tapia and several co-workers from Washington Heights were in the thick of it.

La Dominga was shocked to see her friend’s face in the crowd in a photograph on her Facebook news feed.

The protests spread to the Midwest, with hundreds of fast-food workers demonstrating in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Detroit. By the summer of 2013, workers in sixty cities across the United States, even in the traditionally anti-union South, were staging coordinated one-day walkouts and marches with a single message: fifteen and a union. In December, it was more than a hundred cities.

The movement picked up political support. President Obama renewed a long-neglected pledge to raise the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour—it should be nine dollars, he first suggested, and then lifted his sights, in early 2014, to $10.10.

That’s a modest proposal; in 1968, the minimum wage, in current dollars, was $10.95.

Even so, minimum-wage legislation has no chance of passing in this Congress. But opinion polls show wide public support for a hike. Some cities and states have been bidding up their own minimum-wage laws. In June, Seattle decided to raise its minimum wage to fifteen dollars. Fast-food workers rightly took credit for having made plausible a minimum wage that, less than two years ago, sounded outlandish.

The fast-food giants have seemed clumsy, and wrong-footed by the surge of protest.

Their traditional defense of miserable pay—that most of their employees are young, part time, just working for gas money, really—has grown threadbare.

Most of their employees today are adults—median age twenty-eight. More than a quarter have children. Particularly since the onset of the global recession of 2009, McJobs are often the only jobs available. And 70% of fast-food workers are indeed part time, working fewer than forty hours a week.

McDonald’s has tried to acknowledge the real lives of its workforce by providing counselling through a Web site (since taken down) and a help line called McResource. A sample personal budget was offered online last year.

The budget was full of odd assumptions: that employees worked two full-time jobs, for instance, and that health insurance could be bought for 20$ a month.

The gesture made the corporation look painfully out of touch. The same thing happened with a health-advice page. Workers

were advised to break food into pieces to make it go farther, sing to relieve stress, and take at least two vacations a year, since vacations are known to “cut heart attack risk by 50%.” Swimming, one learned, is great exercise. Fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you, McDonald’s declared.

A mother of two in Chicago, who had worked at McDonald’s for ten years, called the help line and found herself counselled to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. This was, at least, realistic. A recent study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that fifty-two per cent of fast-food workers are on some form of public assistance.

“Look, I know you think you’ve got the stuff, but I’m telling you: walk God.” Buy or license »

Sensitive to the beating that their brands are taking in the escalating confrontation with employees, the fast-food giants have been leaving the hardball response to their lobby, the National Restaurant Association. “The other N.R.A.,” as it is known, is an enormous organization, with nearly half a million member businesses, but its strategic thinking seems to be dominated by the major chains. It has fought minimum-wage legislation, at every level of government, for decades.

It has fought paid-sick-leave laws, the Affordable Care Act, worker-safety regulations, restrictions on the marketing of junk food to children, menu-labeling requirements, and a variety of public-health measures, such as limits on sugar, sodium, and trans fats. Its press releases now deride the demands of fast-food workers as “nothing more than big labor’s attempt to push their own agenda.”

But internal N.R.A. documents, leaked this spring to Salon, show the group’s concern about the “reputational attacks on our industry.”

They say that N.R.A. agents are “closely monitoring social media for any plans or signs of activity,” and are even tracking the movements of one activist. Scott DeFife, the chief N.R.A. spokesman, told me that the crowds at the protests actually consist of organizers: “There’s often not one restaurant

worker to be found among the crowds of organizers.”

McDonald’s has rarely hesitated to act aggressively on labor issues. In 1990, it sued a tiny group called London Greenpeace for libel, because of leaflets the group had distributed attacking the company. According to Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” (2001), McDonald’s had been successfully using Britain’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws to intimidate British mass media for many years.

Two members of London Greenpeace fought back. Although they could not afford a lawyer, the court proceedings went on for more than a decade, revealing, among other things, the extensive use by McDonald’s of spies—some meetings of London Greenpeace apparently had as many spies in attendance as real members.

The “McLibel trial” was, from start to finish, a public-relations fiasco. For the second-largest private employer in the world (after Walmart), with more than thirty-five thousand restaurants in a hundred and nineteen countries, McDonald’s can be, in the court of public opinion, remarkably inept.

In recent months, Fast Food Forward and its many partners—Fight for 15 (Chicago), Stand Up KC (Kansas City), STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 (St. Louis)—have been rhetorically thrashing their corporate opponents. The Berkeley-University of Illinois study, commissioned by Fast Food Forward, found that American fast-food workers receive almost seven billion dollars a year in public assistance.

That’s a direct taxpayer subsidy, the activists argue, for the fast-food industry. Taxpayers are also, by that logic, grossly overpaying the industry’s top management. According to the progressive think tank Demos, fast-food executives’ compensation packages quadrupled, in constant dollars, between 2000 and 2013. They now take home, on average, nearly twenty-four million dollars a year.

Their front-line workers’ wages have barely risen in that time, and remain among the worst in U.S. industry. The differential between C.E.O. and worker pay in fast food is higher than in any other domestic economic sector—1,200  to one.

In construction, by comparison, the differential is 93 to one.

The fast-food chains insist that if they were to pay their employees more they would have to raise menu prices. Their wages are “competitive.” But in Denmark McDonald’s workers over the age of eighteen earn more than twenty dollars an hour—they are also unionized—and the price of a Bi

g Mac is only thirty-five cents more than it is in the United States. There are regional American fast-food chains that take the high road with their employees. The starting wage at In-N-Out Burger, which is based in Southern California, and has two hundred and ninety-five restaurants in California and the Southwest, is eleven dollars. Full-time workers receive a complete benefits package, including life insurance—and the burgers are cheap and good.

McDonald’s, throughout its history, has denied responsibility for the labor practices of its franchisees, who own and operate nearly ninety per cent of its more than fourteen thousand outlets in the United States. In March, seven class-action lawsuits were filed against the company in three states—California, Michigan, and New York—alleging wage theft and other violations of labor law.

In late July, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled, in connection with another set of complaints, that McDonald’s is a “joint employer” with its franchisees. The corporation exercises, through its standard contract, the most elaborate possible control over virtually every aspect of its franchisees’ operations, and the pay and the treatment of workers are very largely determined by that control. Indeed, the lawsuits allege that the crew-scheduling software that McDonald’s franchisees are required to use leads directly to the cost-cutting practices that amount to wage theft.

McDonald’s will fight the ruling and its implementation, both on its own behalf and on behalf of other major franchisors. The implications of the ruling, if it is upheld, are profound. Not only will the responsibility of corporations for millions of workers be increased sharply but the prospects for fast-food unionization will brighten.

Shop-by-shop organizing in what the economist David Weil calls “the fissured workplace” is a Sisyphean chore. Having the legally chosen representatives of the industry’s workforce sit down with the leaders of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, all of whom are capable of a cost-benefit analysis of their business model, makes more sense.

I asked Arisleyda Tapia who she thought could raise her pay. “Bruce,” she said immediately. “He’s rich.”

She meant Bruce Colley, the owner of the McDonald’s where she works. Colley owns twenty-nine McDonald’s franchises, including nineteen in

Manhattan. He grew up in Westchester County, and graduated from the Trinity Pawling School and Cornell. When he joined the family business, in 1980, his father, Dean, owned more than a hundred McDonald’s franchises in the Northeast. Dean was master of foxhounds of the Golden’s Bridge (New York) Hounds. Bruce is a polo player. His net worth is not a matter of public record. Still, you can see where Tapia got her impression.

Colley found himself in the news when, in 2003, he was reported to be having an affair with Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, triggering her divorce from Andrew Cuomo.

According to the Post, Kerry was “crushed” when Bruce decided not to leave his then wife for her. Otherwise, Colley does a good job of staying out of the papers. (He declined to comment for this article.) In July, 2013, during a heat wave, Sheliz Mendez, one of Colley’s employees at the McDonald’s in Washington Heights, fainted in the kitchen and had to be hospitalized.

Some of her co-workers walked off the job, protesting the lack of air-conditioning, and began chanting on the sidewalk outside. Reporters showed up. So did Colley. CBS New York described him as a “McDonald’s spokesman.” He apologized for the inconvenience to customers and employees and said that two of the store’s three air-conditioning units were already repaired. His workers said that they had been complaining about the heat for months and that the units were turned on only because camera crews had appeared.

Jamne Izquierdo, who has worked at the Washington Heights outlet for nine years, said she had never seen the air-conditioning on before.

“As my stunt double, you’ll be doing all of my press conferences, court appearances, and family reunions.”Buy or license »

A year later, on another hot July day, I stopped in the store and found it stifling. Managers were setting up big portable fans near the counter. Colley did not want another labor incident. I was waiting for Tapia to finish her shift. There was a new freestanding sign,

touting the Bacon Clubhouse with a cryptic boast: “Artisan is how this club rolls.” On the workers’ uniform caps, multicolored stitching declared “FAMOUS CRISPY FUN LOVEABLE.” Was William Burroughs writing ad copy from the next world? Having clocked out, Tapia emerged, looking drained, and eating Fruit and Maple Oatmeal from a paper cup.

We walked south on Broadway. A rainstorm had broken the heat. We passed through the spooky, puddled maw of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station, its concrete arms hulking overhead like a Soviet brutalist ruin. Tapia had sent Ashley, her five-year-old, to visit her grandmother in the Dominican Republic. She couldn’t afford to go.

It had been 11 years. She Skyped with her kids and her mother several times a day, but it was strange, this free time that she suddenly had. There was a national conference of the fast-food workers’ movement coming up, in Chicago. The union was sending a couple of buses from New York. Maybe she could go. We found a Dominican restaurant down Broadway.

Did she really believe that Bruce Colley could unilaterally raise the pay of all his employees to fifteen dollars an hour?

Tapia looked down. “He used to give us just one shirt,” she said, finally. “We tried to give a petition to La Dominga about people getting their hours reduced, but she wouldn’t accept it. Then Bruce came and had a meeting with us. He came because we have a strong union committee. He didn’t go to any of his other stores. He listened to us. Then they gave us each a box with four uniforms. That was a real strike victory.” She sighed. “But we know who our real opponent is. It’s the corporation. McDonald’s.”

The space between franchisees and a parent company is nowhere more opaque than at McDonald’s, where the price of admission is exceptionally high: applicants must show at least seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars of

unborrowed money even to be considered for a franchise, and the investment costs go up from there. Very few franchisees fail to observe the code of omertà that governs their relationship with the corporation. One disgruntled franchisee in California recently broke the silence, telling the Washington Post that McDonald’s executives had advised her to “pay your employees less” if she wanted to take home more herself.

Two former McDonald’s managers recently went public with confessions of systematic wage theft, claiming that pressure from both franchisees and the corporation forced them to alter time sheets and compel employees to work off the clock.

Having a union will put a stop to this type of injustice, Tapia believes. And she was not wrong, I thought, about the importance of tangible victories, however small. Building confidence was crucial, even in the fissured workplace—showing doubters that standing up for yourself need not always bring down the wrath of the bosses on your head and could actually achieve benefits.

“Some people are too scared to say anything,” she said. “They’re scared to talk to you, for instance—the media.” I could confirm that. “It’s not that everybody working there supports the union. But they all want us to keep fighting. They’re afraid to fight themselves, but they know they’ll benefit when we win.”

But would the boat parties be reinstated?

Tapia laughed. Bruce Colley was famous for taking his employees on an annual summertime cruise on the Hudson. Tapia had to admit that they were a blast. Colley danced with all the women. But last year, she said, she had not been invited. She blamed her activism. And this year there had been no boat party at all, as far as she knew.

More important to Tapia—far more important—was her friendship with La Dominga. Things between them had cooled lately, she said, but not really, not in her heart. It was only this situation at work. On Dominga’s birthday, Tapia and some of her co-workers had given her a big bunch of flowers. Dominga understood the message: none of this conflict was personal. When the fight for a union was over—after the workers had won their rights—“things between me and Dominga will be just like they were before.”

The modern American labor movement rose out of the struggle over the eight-hour day. Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, told me, “This fight for fifteen is growing way beyond fast food. It’s getting to be what the eight-hour day was in the twentieth century.” That may be so (or it may be a stretch), but labor unions, the centerpiece of the movement to improve working conditions in the last century, have definitely shrunk to the margins. Fewer than seven per cent of private-sector workers are union members today—that’s the lowest density in nearly a century.

The landscape of American business has changed, reflecting the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, but unions have not changed with it. The S.E.I.U., with more than two million members, has probably done the best job among large unions of adapting to the new workplace, organizing health-care workers and janitors, for instance, in circumstances that did not allow for traditional industrial organizing.

The Justice for Janitors campaign of the nineteen-nineties offers a good precedent for the current fast-food campaign, Henry said. The janitors were fissured by the broad move of commercial property owners to subcontracting, much as fast-food workplaces are fissured by franchising. Their nominal employers, small cleaning companies, had no power and thin profit margins.

The tactics of the janitors were unorthodox, and included mass civil disobedience: closing freeways in Los Angeles; blocking bridges into Washington, D.C. Their goal was to get building owners to the table, and in time they succeeded, in some cases nearly doubling with their first contract the compensation they had been earning. The movement was largely Latino, and crucially strengthened by undocumented immigrants who stepped up, risking deportation.

But big-city janitors had been unionized, historically—and in some cities, like New York, still were—so the fight was really to reorganize and rebuild. There is no comparable history in fast food. More important, the fast-food workforce is just under four million and growing, and the main companies are so rich and powerful that the stakes are higher than in any labor struggle in recent memory.

To date, it’s been “more air war than ground war,” as Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor movements at the City University of New York Graduate Center, puts it. The one-day strikes, which aren’t really strikes, since they don’t usually close shops or try to shame (nonexistent) strikebreakers, get larger each time. This May, the fast-food workers staged simultaneous protests in two hundred and thirty cities worldwide.

They have gathered endorsements from a very long list of labor groups and others, including the seventy-six-member Progressive Caucus in the United States Congress and the Boston Wobblies. For the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, an editorial in the Times declared, “The marchers had it right 50 years ago. The fast-food strikers have it right today.” The percentage of the workforce actually committed to the movement still seems quite small, however, and the organizing tactics still decidedly nontraditional. None of this acclaim will translate anytime soon into a shop-floor union vote presided over by the National Labor Relations Board.

The S.E.I.U. leadership sometimes suggests that it is merely following the lead of a spontaneous workers’ movement, but it invested about two million dollars in organizing in New York before the first public protest, in November, 2012, and it has continued to fund organizing nationwide—to the tune of more than ten million dollars. It has retained the services of BerlinRosen, a progressive political-consulting firm that helped propel Bill de Blasio from dark-horsedom into the mayor’s office.

In the vacuum left by the subsidence of labor unions, a rough movement sometimes known as Alt-Labor—community groups, “worker centers”—has

emerged. New York has an abundance of such groups, including the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, launched in 1998, which has successfully defended drivers against exploitation by medallion owners, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center, or ROC, which was originally founded as a help center for displaced restaurant workers after the September 11th terrorist attacks and has since grown into an all-purpose resource for food-sector employees, offering training, conducting research, and filing complaints and lawsuits. Thirty-two cities now have their own ROC. The group has thrown its energy behind the fast-food movement. The National Restaurant Association has targeted ROC, apparently considering it a serious threat.

Alt-Labor groups, by legal definition not unions, will never be bargaining units. Fast Food Forward and its numerous allies in the fast-food campaign, though all closely tied to their funding source, S.E.I.U., are in many ways Alt-Labor, which makes the movement’s path forward rather difficult to picture. Mary Kay Henry told me that the S.E.I.U. is supporting the movement “because it helps our members.”

She said that “6.5 million workers have already had their wages increased owing to minimum-wage increases” driven by fast-food activism. Minimum-wage legislation is great, she said, but “collective bargaining can set a standard that obviates legislation.”

So is she hoping to sign up millions of new members from the food industry?

“Membership is not our foremost question,” she said. “Our first concern is winning $15 and a union. The workers will then choose whom they want to represent them.” That answer seems to dodge the question. Henry, like other labor leaders, likes to sketch a climactic meeting with the big fast-food employers: “The Big Three”—McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s—“are going to have to see the union part, and not just the minimum-wage part, and get their heads around that, before they come to the table.”

The golden arches glowed at dawn above Danville, Pennsylvania, and, later, above other towns—Sharon, Mercer. For Tapia, they were a familiar touch in an unfamiliar land. Also Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts. Tapia napped on and off all morning. She was near the front of the charter bus. It had departed from downtown Brooklyn at 2 A.M., in a convoy with another bus. It got stuck in 3 A.M. traffic on Canal Street, but now they were flying westward. The driver and his alternate were chatting in Chinese.

Tapia was the only person from her McDonald’s going to the conference. Across the aisle was Corina Garcia. She worked at another McDonald’s—at Broadway and 145th—that was owned by Bruce Colley. Garcia, who is fifty-six, looked very put-together, with a sweet smile and a sharp little travel bag. She had been an executive secretary for ten years in the Dominican Republic, she said.

Stacked on the seat next to her were cases of water, bags of apples, and a box full of small cans of Pringles. People from farther back in the bus, which was packed, made occasional raids on the supplies.

Tapia was excited about going to Chicago. She had never been west of New York. The cornfields of Ohio seemed to go on forever. It was so different from el campo back home. No grasslands, rain forest, cane fields, coffee farms. She wondered about the cost of living out here. It was surely cheaper than New York. But you would probably need a car, which was expensive. Hearing that South Bend, Indiana, had a famous Catholic university, she made a mental note—possible college for Ashley.

At the rest stops, the younger men sauntered across the strangely wide Midwestern forecourts, wearing baggy basketball shorts, neck pillows still in place. But most of the conferencegoers were older. Alvin Major, the father of four teen-agers, was from Guyana and worked at a K.F.C. in Brooklyn.

His oldest was going to college upstate this fall. He sometimes worked three jobs, collecting three paychecks, all from K.F.C.—but no overtime, which wasn’t right. Jorel Ware worked at a McDonald’s in midtown. He was thirty-one. He still made minimum wage, after two years. “They say the franchisee is just a small man in the middle,” he said. “If that’s true, then who am I? I’m just a dot on the wall. I just want to be able to get an unlimited MetroCard. I can’t afford nothing.”

Shantel Walker, who works at a Papa John’s in Brooklyn, jumped up as the bus approached Chicago. She wore a gold-billed cap and a big crucifix. She had a microphone. “I work too hard,” she chanted, “for a little income.” The bus erupted, workers chanting the lyrics after her. “Your story is an inspiration / People are with you / New York is proud of you, Hey.”

Tapia, who speaks little English, chanted softly: “People are with you / New York is proud of you, hey.” She was looking pretty sharp herself, in form-fitting jeans, black suède loafers, a black shirt with a cheetah-print panel, long gold earrings.

Walker: “You got to work hard, Hey / To get a union and fifteen.”

Tapia: “You got to work hard, hey / To get a union and fifteen.”

Walker: “Detroit’s gonna be there, remember. Chicago. We gotta represent. We the original starter of this movement.”

Cheers, shouts,whistles.

Chicago, to Tapia’s disappointment, never appeared. Was it a very small city, then? No, the conference was in a convention center out in a western suburb, Villa Park, and the bus took a route that never went near Chicago proper.
October 18, 2010“Looks like someone’s eyes are bigger than his liver.”Buy or license »

The conference, however, did not disappoint. Buses pulled in from every direction—St. Louis, Detroit, Greenville, North Carolina. Delegates in red T-shirts practiced their chants in the late-afternoon sun. Inside the convention center, twelve hundred workers filled one end of a vast space.

There were elaborate shout-outs from each delegation, a ritual that seemed to go on for hours. But the energy stayed high. There were videos, rappers, a driving beat. The proceedings were directed by an organizing committee of a dozen-plus people on a stage. They never seemed to call for order. They just drove the thing forward.

The New York rep, Naquasia LeGrand, a twenty-two-year-old K.F.C. employee from Canarsie, said, “I got to be on my feet all day, and you don’t want me to go to the foot doctor? You want me to smile at customers, but you won’t give me a dental plan?” Mary Kay Henry gave a passionate speech, declaring, “I am proud to bring into this room two million workers who are in this with you to win it!”

After Henry’s speech, Tapia was on her feet, along with the rest of the crowd, chanting, “We believe that we can win!” She was rocking, clapping, smiling excitedly.

On the second day, delegates were directed to sit at tables with people from other cities. Tapia found herself at a Spanish-speaking table with workers from Denver and Chicago. The best part of the conference, she told me later, was sharing stories with Martina Ortega, who was originally from Guerrero State, in Mexico, and Otilia Sanchez, from Denver, about raising families on minimum wage in El Norte, and what their respective union committees were doing.

Tapia filled a notebook with names and contact information. Each table was asked to report to the conference as a whole, and Otilia Sanchez rose and delivered a forceful speech, in Spanish, about how this would be not an armed struggle but a political fight waged by peaceful means—strikes, boycotts, media—and how if the workers stayed strong they would make history.

Tapia said afterward that she was surprised to see that the movement was predominantly African-American. “That’s good,” she told me. “Because they’re not afraid. They have nothing to lose. We’re all afraid of getting deported. They’re not.”

The history of the civil-rights struggle was constantly invoked. The N.A.A.C.P. had just formally endorsed the fast-food workers’ movement at its national convention (without mentioning the central demand for fifteen dollars an hour, possibly to spare the fast-food franchisees among its leadership the shock of that stark figure). The Reverend William Barber II, the head of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., gave a stand-up-and-shout sermon after lunch. Barber talked about President Franklin Roosevelt’s belief that a minimum wage should allow American workers to “live decently,” then offered his own gloss on that idea.

“I want to be able to live,” Barber said. “I want to be able to pay my rent, feed my kids, put gas in my car, maybe buy a house—and every now and then fix my hair!” Representative Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was on hand. “Income inequality is an existential threat to the American Dream,” he told me. “And these people are doing something about it.” In his conference speech, he said, “In the richest country in the world, you should not be working full time and still be on food stamps.”

I noticed Tapia nodding seriously when this was said, as she did when Terrence Wise, a Burger King worker from Kansas City with three children, said, “Most of us are doing this for our kids. For the next generation. If somebody was hurting your kid, you would crush them. And that’s how we need to think about these corporations. They’re trying to destroy our families, hurt our kids.”

The return bus left that afternoon, arriving in New York at nine the next morning. Tapia took the subway directly to work. She stashed her travelling bag under a storage bin, where the manager was unlikely to see it and ask questions. Fortunately, it was Sunday, La Dominga’s day off.

Tapia applied to ten charter schools for kindergarten for Ashley. She got into none. She was wait-listed at three, though, including at Tapia’s first choice, a new Success Academy school opening on Fort Washington Avenue, in Washington Heights. The school’s Web page wouldn’t load on Tapia’s phone. “I need to get Internet,” she said. We were in her apartment, and she pointed out an old Dell desktop wedged among other appliances on the dresser she shares with Ashley. Internet access is about twenty dollars a month. Something would have to give.

It could not be her unlimited-ride MetroCard. That was a hundred and twelve dollars a month—a giant bite out of her paycheck, and a purchase that many people couldn’t manage, but it was indispensable. If she rode the train or the bus (she preferred the guagua, as everybody in her neighborhood calls the bus) eighty times a month, it cost less than half what it would for individual rides.

If she got a raise to fifteen dollars an hour, she could buy new work shoes, help her mother, get Ashley a good winter coat. Even so, fifteen dollars an hour is not considered adequate for a basic household budget by economists who study the matter. Not in New York City, anyway. A recent study found that, assuming you get forty hours a week, which Tapia never does now, it might be enough for a single person living in Montana. In New York, the bare minimum comes to $22.66. For a single parent with a child, it’s $30.02.

I didn’t mention these figures to Tapia. We were sitting in her tiny railroad kitchen, talking in whispers, because the other renters might be asleep. A message came in on Tapia’s phone. It was a photograph of her son, Steven, now a strapping fifteen-year-old and a serious baseball player. He was a lefty, looking snappy at bat, in full uniform. “I could not live without Facebook,” Tapia said. “I’ll get a photo of Steven when I’m at work, and McDonald’s cannot bother me.”

She had told La Dominga about Chicago, after all. “She understands,” Tapia said. “We’re not fighting her. But she’s getting all this pressure.”

I had asked La Dominga for an interview. When we spoke, on a busy Saturday afternoon at the store, she had agreed that her own story was a good one for McDonald’s. But she needed Mr. Colley’s permission to talk, and that had not come.

Tapia pointed to the light switch on the kitchen wall. It wasn’t a sign from God, but it was, in her opinion, close. Under many layers of paint, there was, still discernible, a raised plaster decoration around the switch which, after a moment’s study, revealed itself as a traditional depiction of Christ. Tapia carried a photograph of this odd little miracle in her phone.
August 3, 1998“It’s not enough that I succeed. My friends must also be drawn and quartered.”Buy or license »

We took a walk through Inwood. Her church, the Church of the Good Shepherd, stands above Broadway. It is big, imposing yet sedate, Romanesque Revival, beautifully maintained. Wooden confessionals are built into the walls, along with a poor box with a brass door. Many of the Masses are in Spanish. Tapia tries to come every Tuesday evening. “They welcome you especially, and individually,” she whispered. “It’s a community of brothers.” She has done a great deal of crying here.

“I had so much rancor toward my ex-husband,” she said. “It has finally left me now.” One of the best things about Good Shepherd was the number of young people it attracts. “I came here to pray when my mother said that my kids were becoming impossible teen-agers. I prayed for help. Now my mother says they are acting better.”

We stopped at a McDonald’s on 207th Street. Tapia had worked here, long ago. We started talking about local politicians who now reliably show up at fast-food protests, and also at the next-morning “walk-backs,” when strikers are escorted by sympathetic crowds back to their restaurants. Some of the politicians are sincere; all want the media attention.

Then Tapia shushed me. She texted me from across the table: Don’t talk union—the store manager had spotted her, and he was eavesdropping on us. I saw that she was right. Her expression was strangely mixed: fear, paranoia, mischief, pride. What could this manager possibly do to her? Her activism wasn’t a secret. But struggles for dignity are complex. We talked about Ashley. Tapia was praying hard for that charter school.

Speaking at a Laborfest rally in Milwaukee on Labor Day, President Obama declared, “All across the country right now, there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages, so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.” The President was blunt about the central issue. “You know what?” he said. “If I were looking for a good job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union.”

A few days later, the fast-food campaign mounted actions in a hundred and fifty cities. In New York, there was an early-morning sit-in outside a McDonald’s in Times Square. Nineteen strikers were arrested for blocking traffic. Tapia missed it, because she was busy taking Ashley to school. (Her prayers had been answered. Ashley was admitted to Success Academy—a high-powered bête noire of New York’s teachers’ union.)

Among the several hundred protesters, there were a fair number of labor organizers, but many more fast-food workers. I noticed Jorel Ware, Naquasia LeGrand, Shantel Walker, and other activists from the conference in Chicago, and an all-female delegation from the Washington Heights McDonald’s. Workers were also being arrested in Detroit, Chicago, Little Rock, and Las Vegas. Among those arrested in Times Square was an eighty-one-year-old McDonald’s janitor named Jose Carrillo.

Tapia made it to the day’s second sit-in, a few hours later, outside a McDonald’s at Eighth Avenue and Fifty-sixth Street. The protesters first marched up Eighth, beating on drums, blowing vuvuzelas and kazoos, and chanting, “What do we want? Fifteen and a union!” There were rabbis, priests, preachers, a Buddhist monk, and a full complement of local politicians. Some of the marchers wore their McDonald’s uniforms. Tapia was in civilian clothes. It was midday, hot.

She and the rest of the protesters were steered by police into a containment pen, built of interlocking metal barricades, on the east side of Eighth. Diners on the second floor of the adjacent McDonald’s looked out on the scene, chewing distractedly, and returned to their phones. Cars honked. Then fifteen protesters, quietly avoiding the pen, made their way into the center of the intersection, which was in full blazing sun, and sat down in a circle on the asphalt. Most were dressed in black. Most were women. Nearly all looked to be African-American. Shantel Walker was among them.

Tapia, at the front of the pen, watched closely, her face full of anger and admiration, as the demonstrators were brought to their feet one by one, not roughly, by police, and had their hands cuffed behind them. The police used disposable restraints—white plastic “flexicuffs.” They led their captives toward two large white vans, herded them inside, and shut the doors.

The energy level of the protest dropped. Tapia and the other women from the Washington Heights McDonald’s checked their phones. Some had shifts to work. Tapia had to pick up Ashley from school. ♦


William Finnegan has been a contributor to The New Yorker since 1984 and a staff writer since 1987.

How to handle house waste and keep it clean?

How to learn to stay clean? How to handle house waste? 

For decades Lebanon is plagued with how to dispose of garbage. Most of the time, garbage are Not collected in municipalities for weeks and this pseudo-State refuse to resolve this major problems under all kinds of unfounded excuses.

So far, most of land dumps are filled and those by the sea are also filled. As if no other alternatives adopted by most countries should Not be contemplated and emulated.

Jamil Berry posted


Tout Parent sait les efforts soutenus et continus pour apprendre à son jeune enfant à “devenir propre” .

Une action pérenne qui ne doit ni reculer ni faillir.

A ce prix, l’enfant devient “propre” et pourra alors sortir à la société.

Comment faire lorsque c’est la Société qui n’est pas proper? Peuple et Responsables

1/ Côté Population:

Il ne suffit pas de fustiger la”dawleh ” (State) et faire rimer et jouer avec mots et slogans.

Si la population triait (sorting out) à l’origine ses déchets ( séparer l’organique qui ne pollue pas la nappe phréatique, du toxique qui la pollue durablement et sévèrement) , la crise actuelle n’aurait pas connue toute cette acuité.

La société n’est pas propre mais n’est pas enfant pour autant.

Le Liban est en train de vivre un Tchernobyl Biologique , moléculaire toxique qui continuera à retentir sur nos générations à venir .( Avortements, Malformations etc…)

Sans compter la flopée des infections intercurrentes.

On peut se soustraire à un bombardement, mais peut-on se soustraire à l’eau et à l’air? (Not on the current atomic conflagration on Beirut by the US)

Une société qui trie ses déchets , gagnera en santé publique, en propreté et fera des bénéfices financiers évidents.

2/ Côté Responsables Politiques :

Le problème n’est absolument pas technique. Il est un BRAS DE FER , en rapport avec la PART DU GÂTEAU ( si puant soit-il ) entre les PROTAGONISTES des déchets et leur circuit au Liban.

Là nous nous trouvons devant un état parent représenté par des responsables qui manquent de coercition vis à vis des mafieux des déchets car ils ont grandi sur la même déchetterie, et qui ne prennent pas la peine d’enseigner à l’enfant peuple la propreté à un échelon social

Car nous ne sommes pas plus idiots que d’autres peuples et nous aurions, malgré notre indiscipline légendaire, fini par apprendre, et appliquer …
( Jamil BERRY )

Contradicting illusions of the Lebanese individual and communitarial customs

Are the good connotations mostly diversions to real inner passions?

نحن شعب حلّت على شخصيّته كل تناقضات الكون :

مؤمن وكافر بي نفس الوقت

يحب بلدو كتير ولا يفعل شيئا صالحًا لبلده (باستثناء الأقلية النادرة)

نعشق الحياة ونتبع الموت ورموزه

نتسابق لعمل الخير لكي “نحط وزك للآخر الذي سبقناه”…

ننجح على الصعيد الشخصي ونفشل على الصعيد الجماعي

ننجح في كل دول العالم ونفشل في لبنان…

نريد السلام ونستمتع بلعبة الحرب

نتصالح لنختلف من جديد لنعود ونشرب شمبانيا المصالحة ثم نختلف من جديد

نلبس الكرافات ولسنا خواجات

نلبس التنانير الطويلة ولسنا عفيفات

نشتم كل الزعماء : كلن يعني كلّن، وكل واحد منا تابع زعيمو...

منقول الحق عالكل ولا أحد يعترف بأخطائه

نثور لأجل لبنان ونكسّر الأملاك العامة

ندعّي خلع ثوب الطائفية والطائفية تسري في عروقنا

نتفاخر بإنجازات وهميّة

أنا كتير مسالم وآدمي بس ما حدا يهين كرامتي ب “…” إمّو وسليلتو (عذرًا على قول الحقيقة كما هي)

منغنّي لبنان يا قطعة سما ومننخر جبالو ووديانو بالكسارات

منوزّع نصائح بالجملة والمفرّق وما منطبّق النصيحة عا نفسنا

يمكن أكتر شعب حزين وأكتر شعب بي نكّت (مش غلط)

منعرف قيمة الشخص او الغرض وقت اللي منخسرو أو منقضي عليه ، وهيك عملنا بوطننا…

منبلّش الريجيم يوم الإثنين صباحًا وينتهي صباح الثلاثاء في أقصى حد

نلبس أحدث اللباس على أحدث الموضة ونسمع موسيقى طقّة قديمة

نسوق أفخم سيارة ونرمي النفايات من شباك السيارة أثناء القيادة

الموسيقى الكلاسيكية بالنسبة لغالبيّتنا هي فقط موسيقى الحداد

منقول إنّو غفرنا وعند أوّل مشكل مننبش القبور ومنفتح سيرة أخبار التاريخ نساها ونحنا ما نسيناها

منقول الحب الحقيقي مش موجود ونعشق قصايد الغزل

أو منسعى للحب ومش مستعدين نضحّي بحياتنا او نمط حياتنا للحفاظ على هيدا الحب (pardon انا بي حقّلي بي فسحة فضاء خاصّة فيي)

نتّهم المسؤولين بالفساد وكلنا متورطين بمكان ما في حياتنا بعملية غش

نخون شريكنا الزوجي بالسر وإذا عرفنا إنّو خاننا منعمل جريمة شرف

بتزوّج بس بدّي ضلني عايش متل الأعذب

منطلّق تا نرجع نتزوّج من جديد ونرجع للمشاكل نفسها بس بإحتراف أكبر

ما منخلّي فتاة من تيار شهوتنا ووقت اللي منقرّر نتزوّج بدنا بنت مش بايس تمها إلّا إمها

منكون منتوفين ماديًّا بس منتديّن تا نعمل عرس كبير (من سنة وجر طاروا الأعراس الكبيرة بس راسنا بعدو كبير وقاسي)

نضع صورة مار شربل عند الصباح على الفايسبوك ونرسلها لأصدقاءنا وبعدها بكم دقيقة نضع صور وتعليقات تهين صورة الله في الآخر…

الروح يجمعنا والسياسة تفرّقنا

نتوب مساءً ونعود إلى شرورنا صباحًا (أو العكس)

ندّعي التعايش مع المختلف عنا بالإيمان ومن الداخل نرفضه وليس عندنا الجرأة للإقرار بهذه الحقيقة

نؤمن بالقيامة وندفن أمواتنا كالوثنيين

نحمل لواء المسيحيين في الشرق ونحن الأبرع في نشر ثقافة العربدة

نحمل لواء الإسلام دين الرحمة ولا إكراه في الدين، ويسترجي شي مسلم يصير مسيحي (ونشرب الخمر أكثر من المسيحيين)

نتصالح ببطئ ونتعارك بسرعة

نهب لإعانة بيروت وضحايا بيروت والله وحده يعلم ماذا يجول في أفكارنا ونوايانا وقلوبنا من “….” !!

نصلّي لراحة شهدائنا وننصّب أنفسنا قضاة لنحاكم بعضنا البعض سياسيًّا

نريد العدالة ونعرقلها

نريد محاربة الفساد ولكن نحاربه بذهنية الفساد

نطالب بالدولة المدنية ولا نسعى فعليًّا لتحقيقها لأنّ سطوة الدين ما زالت مهيمنة علينا

نبرع بتبرير أخطاء فريقنا السياسي ونبرع بإتهام خصمنا السياسي

نحب القرية ونعيش في المدينة

نقرأ كل المقالات ونتابع كل البرامج ولا نجد.وقتًا للصلاة او لقراءة كلمة الله
هذا نحن…

لبنانيون جعلوا من هويّتهم وظيفة ترتشِ بقرش مقدوح بدل أن يجعلوا منها رسالة سماويّة تبلسم فعلاً قلب المجروح دون “سيلفيز” ودعاية وتوظيف عمل الخير لغايات “x y z”

وأخيرًا وليس آخرًا
نحنا أكتر شعب منقول نشكر الله ونحنا أبطال العالم بالنق…

بيار بطرس…


“Canto General” or Pablo Neruda: The Comprehensive Song of Americana

“Canto General” or Pablo Neruda: wilderness, blood, and libertad; (July 23, 2009)

In 1945 Neruda is elected Senator to the mining northern region and he adhered to the Communist Party. Thousands of miners are sitting and listening to politicians delivering their speeches around a hot noon.  Neruda is announced to the podium; it was rumored that Pablo will recite a poem.  All the miners removed their hats and head gears: the thousands of illiterates were honoring the poet talking to their spirit.

President Videla persecuted Neruda who had to flee into exile through the Andes mountains.  By the time he reached Paris Neruda had finished his “Canto general”.  Neruda starts describing the land:

Look at the grand solitary South.

Everything is silence of water and wind.

Nobody there. Listen to the araucan tree.

Nobody there. Look at the stones.

Only exist the stones. Arauco.

Then Neruda describes the faunas and the plants and then recount the dignity of his hard-working people and how they sheltered him and fed him during his escape to exile:

Along the grand night, throughout the entire life,

Tears on paper, from attire to attire,

I marched in those misty days,

The fugitive to the police:

I was handed over from hand to hands.

Grave is the night but man disposed his fraternal signs.

By blind roads and plenty of shadows

I reached the lighted tiny star that was mine.

I don’t feel alone in the night.


Two huasos, Argentine cowboys gauchos, ride with fury; they rear up in front of the garden.  With one hand, one of the uncles carries little Pablo Neruda behind him on the rump of the horse (ride pillion). The other uncle is carrying a tied up sheep.  They gallop full wind to the sun set, to the shadow of a large tree with a crackling bonfire.

The muchachos fire their guns in the air; an uncle slid the sheep’s throat; the creamy blood is collected; Pablo drinks a cup full.  Songs on love, corazon, and guitar strumming fill the air.

I saw shadows, faces sprouting

Like plants around our roots, parents

Singing romance in the shadow of a tree

Running among the wet horses.

Women hidden in the shadow

Of masculine towers,

Galops whipping the light,

Rare nights of anger, dogs barking.

Chili is a continent in longitude, spanning a length as vast as from Norway to Senegal in Africa. Chili extends from the tropics all the way down to Antarctica and squeezed naturally between the Andes mountain chains to the Pacific. Al kinds of climates can be experienced when riding the rail from north to south.  Chili was never subjugated by any king or a colonial power.

Whitman, Thoreau, and Melville chanted the wilderness of North America; the background of these chants was a world already made, in a state of exploitation for profit. Neruda is chanting a wilderness with peasants and workers toiling on a savage world to be made. White, black, and Indian in utter poverty have no time to compare the color of their skins; they want to get out of the same life of misery. The South Americans chant liberty and freedom in every moment and at every occasion.

Neruda is the son of “a silent, mother of clay”:

What I saw first were the trees,

Ravines adorned in flowers, wild beauty,

Humid territory, forest ablaze,

And winter behind the world, overflowed.

My childhood, those wet shoes,

Tree trunks broken,

Fallen in the jungle, devoured by lichen.

Pablo was born in 1904 as Ricardo Neftali Reyes Morales and used his pen name Pablo Neruda because of the Czech poet Jan Neruda. His mother died of tuberculosis shortly after he was given birth.  Pablo’s dad Jose remarried Rosa Opazo who took care of Pablo as his real mother.  Jose Reyes constructed railways:

My dad sneaks out in the obscure dawn.

Toward what lost archipelagos these trains are howling?

Later, I liked the smell of coal in the fume;

The burned oil, and the precise frozen axes.

Suddenly, the doors rattled. It is my dad.

The centurions of the railway surround him:

Their wet coats inundate the house with steam.

Reports invade the dining room; wine bottles are emptied.

I capture the suffering, the crying, the dark scars, men with no money,

The mineral claws of poverty.

Pablo moved to Santiago in 1921 and studied French literature. Since 1927 he was successively appointed consul in Rangoon, in Sirilanka, then Batavia (Java) where he married the first time with Marie-Antoinette Vogelzanz (Maruca; a Dutch).  Pablo was then consul in Singapore. He said “without a friend it would have been very difficult for me”.

I did not like India.

I didn’t like the indecent costume,

People in rags; the miserable people are piled on top of others.

The streets, rivers of sobs,

The crowd, sentry of time, arbiters of black cicatrices,

Of slave controversies.

I roamed flat tiny villages; I entered majestic temples, dirty blood,

Dirty death, brutish priests, drunk with ardent stupor,

Disputing change money spilled on the ground.

Grand idols in phosphoric feet worshipped by tiny human beings.

I didn’t like what I saw… Was it out of pity or disgust?

Neruda was consul in Barcelona in 1934; his daughter Malva Marina was born in Madrid. Pablo is consul in Madrid in 1935. The Spanish civil started and Garcia Lorca is assassinated. Neruda writes his first political poem “Chant to mothers of assassinated militiamen” and was relieved of his official functions.

You ask me “Where are the lilacs?

Why my poems don’t talk of the dream of leaves,

The grand volcanos of my native country?

Do come witness

The blood in the streets (of Madrid).

In 1937, Neruda founded in Paris the Hispanic American Group to aiding the Spanish republicans. By 1938, Neruda’s father died and he started “Chant to Chili”. Neruda is dispatched to Paris in 1939 to facilitate the transfer of 2,000 Spanish refugees to Chili.  Neruda is again appointed consul in Mexico.

Neruda travels to the Soviet Union, Poland, and Mexico. He  receive the medal of Peace.  Neruda is back to Santiago in 1952 and built his house “The Chascona”. Neruda marries a third time with Matilde Urrutia, the love of his life; they went in a long trip to Europe. In 1960 Neruda is in Cuba after the success of the revolution of Fidel Castro and writes “Songs of gesture”.

In 1966 Neruda is invited in the USA for a series of reading; the Cuban poets and writers sign a letter proclaiming that Neruda has sided with the imperialist enemies.

Neruda is candidate to be President in 1969 but withdrew in favor of Salvador Allende; he is appointed Ambassador in Paris and receive the Nobel Prize of literature in 1972. In Paris Neruda is diagnosed with an incurable disease.

I write for the people.

Many cannot read my poems with their rural eyes.

Time is soon; a line,

Air that disrupted my life;

Will reach their ears.

They will say ”He was a comrade”

That is enough; this is the crown of laurel that I desired.

A military putsch kills Allende in September 1973; Neruda dies three days later at the age of 69. On his death-bed Neruda managed to sit and roar: ”Todos fusilados! Todos fusilados!” (All shot) In spite of the threats, hundreds accompanied Neruda to the grave.

What happened to that broken parcel

Of uncompleted man?

Light came, in spite of the daggers.

Note: I took great liberty translating portions of poems, my style.

Hiroshima was my City-like, until Beirut and its Port displaced it

Hiroshima is my City-like

You don’t want to approach Hiroshima.

You don’t need to visit my city like:

You touch a wall

You turn a rock.


What do you care of my city?

You will see but flies and road holes.

The only living friend

Is my gigantic boredom.


What should you care of my city like?

It was captured many times by hordes of Moguls and Tatars.

Every adventurer who set eyes on my city

Ended up suicidal.


Be careful my ignorant tourist.

Keep a distance of its broken columns,

Its hundred stone idols.


My heart is same as my closed in city like

Moonlight apprehends visiting it.

My heart is wet, a wet traveling kerchief,


A bird, for centuries lost in down pouring rain,

An empty bottle harassed on ocean waves.

Keep away from Hiroshima.


Tis no time turning a block of salt.

Note 1: A poem in Arabic that I extracted with abridged liberty from the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani.

Note 2: this atomic conflagration on the port of Beirut left over 200 dead and over 6,500 injured from the blast. More than 7,000 residence were demolished.

Avatar getting shielded by their Gods?

Puny avatar; why in the name of God?


Show me a single religion condemning

As blasphemy, the biggest sin of all,

Speaking in the name of its God.


Puny avatar;

Why in the name of God?

Allah, Jehovah, Krishna, Buddha


Show me a single religion

Not inaugurating a President

In the name of its God.


Not haranguing the troops

In the name of a God.

Not persecuting other religions

In the name of a God.


Puny avatar; why are you hiding your weaknesses

In the name of a God?

Are you scaring me with eternal fire?

Is a candle burn not bad enough?


Are you frightening me to obedience by eternal pain?

Millions are suffering constant pain in hospitals, tents, in open air;

Of curable diseases, famine, thirst,


No pain-killer powerful enough to let go in peace.

Isn’t a single case bad enough to you?


Are you enticing me for immortality?

Anything scarier than boring immortality?


Puny avatar; why are you heaping your ignorant arrogance on me

In the name of a God?


Is there a single religion with enough imagination?

A total silence preceding a major cataclysm as God.

A complete darkness, not a candle flickering.


A world devoid of the feeling of touch;

Not a single soft breeze, not a wet loving kiss.

A world odorless and tasteless as God


Any one of that kinds of Gods would scare the hell out of me

And you won’t have to preach in his Name.


Puny avatar; talk in the name of God

And stay a dwarf: petty, mean, and coward.


Mankind! Stand up.  Wake up.

Dare speak in the name of Man.

Take on your responsibilities in the name of mankind.

Embrace your countless limitations;

Develop your limitless potentials.


Pray your God in the solitude of your heart;

Give grace to your God in the many ways to enjoying life;

For the opportunity to working with passion and sweating labor.


Puny avatar you were and is

In the name of God.

Try speaking in the name of man

With respect and humility to your fellow co-survivors


Sharing the same boat, the toil, hardship, and labor.

Sharing the smiles, joy, laughter, and compassion

Sharing what earth has in reserve to us all.


Singing with birds, the breeze, the sea wind.

Avatar you are and will be

And puny no more.

Global Crime Syndicate started with the 19th-Century Opium Trade

Precursor To The Global Crime Syndicate: The 19th-Century Opium Trade

By 1839, this criminal operation in drugs had addicted and zombified an estimated 10 million Chinese and set back social and economic conditions in that country by centuries. I

t was one of the better divide-and-conquer strategies ever devised by the global Crime Syndicate.

Opium was prohibited in China, and the Manchu Emperor of China didn’t take the opium infestation laying down. Rather, he moved aggressively by dumping a fortune’s worth of the merchant’s opium into Canton Bay and destroying production facilities.

Sassoon and his posse then successfully lobbied for military intervention.

England sent an expeditionary force from India to intervene, and they ravaged China’s coastline in a series of battles. Eventually, they dictated the terms of a settlement.

The 1842 Treaty of Nanking opened the way for a further explosion in the opium trade, which went on until the Maoist Communists finally eradicated it a century later.

At one point,  it was estimated that at least 30 million Chinese were addicted to opium.

In addition, Britain took the territory of Hong Kong, unilaterally fixed China’s tariffs at a low rate (aka “free trade”) and arranged for the “merchants” in Canton to pocket $3 million as compensation for the loss of their ill-gotten property.

The Sassoon family’s enterprise relocated to Hong Kong, where it expanded into “merchant” banking.

Various opium dealers formed the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. Over time, the bank — today known as HSBC — would extend its reach into the drug fields of the Middle East and Ibero-America.

Throughout the 19th century, British families Matheson, Keswick, Swire, Dent, Inchcape and Baring, and the Jewish families of the Sassoons and Rothschilds controlled China’s drug traffic.

In 1887, the big Sassoon and Rothschild clans merged by marriage. They were by that time operating out of London, where they intermarried with British aristocracy (City of London), were knighted and went on to finance and promote the Bolshevik and Zionist movements and God knows what else.

To the victors go the spoils, and over time the true history of the opium business was whitewashed and obfuscated by these powerful interests.

They have branched off into media control, which today explains the criminal do-not-trust nature of that influence that I document constantly.

Time and time again, you will see these Crime Syndicate scions landing top positions in intelligence and finance. Since the establishment of Zionist Israel, it has morphed into new manifestations.

Facing continual blow back, the British fought a second opium war in China from 1856 to 1860.

In due course, the crop was grown in China proper, especially in Sichuan province, allowing a new generation of criminal enterprises to develop.

This second war opened up the market to additional players.

In typical modern style, a Crime Syndicate “marketing campaign” emerged that promoted opium smoking as a fashionable, even refined pastime. Opiates were instrumental to the launch of a number of international pharma companies.

Enter the Americans: 

The destabilization of China and the building of the western U.S. railroads opened the floodgates for human trafficking (Shanghaying, as they called it) and expanding of the Chinese opium trade by Americans.

The American families of Perkins, Astor and Forbes made tens of millions off of the opium trade. The Perkins founded Bank of Boston, which is today known as Credit Suisse.

William Hathaway Forbes was a director at Hong Kong Shanghai Bank shortly after it was founded in 1866.

John Murray Forbes was the U.S. agent for the Barings banking family, which financed most of the early drug trade. The Forbes family heirs later launched Forbes magazine. And I covered Secretary of State’s John Forbes Kerry family lineage.

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather Warren Delano created his wealth from the China opium crime racket.

Like U.S. Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry, FDR claimed not to know anything about it.

Note that as a general rule of thumb, when the words “Boston Brahmin” and “merchant” appear in historic contexts, it’s whitewash code for drugs or other criminal activity.

The cesspool of “connected people” stemming from this opium cartel of British elite, American Brahmin and Jewish Sassoon-Rothschilds runs deep and wide well up to present day.

I used to dismiss the talk about secret societies, such as Skull & Bones, but no more. Incidentally, the primary outfit in the opium trade was Russell & Company, the trustee of Skull & Bones.

Is it simply a coincidence that so many worldwide movers and shakers today spewed forth from this old line of criminal activity?

Nothing to see here, move along?

Daily encounters with Taxi drivers in Lebanon this summer.

It seems everything was said even in 2016.

The Outrageously Racist
The Stereotypically Sexist
The ‘I don’t care about traffic lights

The Truly Kind and Wise
The Intellectual
The Hard Worker

And ‘There’s no more hope for Lebanon’

The Smart/Skilled and  ‘there’s no more hope for anything in life
The ‘There’s no place better than Lebanon’

The ‘Any place is better than Lebanon

Chapters from a book I could write about my daily encounters with Taxi drivers in Lebanon this summer.




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