Monday, September 7, 2009

It's Labor Day in the USA (and summer's over.)

Grover Cleveland was a very unpopular man back in 1896. He had broken up the Pullman Car strike using United States Marshals and some 2,000 United States Army troops, on the premise that the strike interfered with the delivery of U.S. Mail. During the course of the strike, 13 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded. It didn't win him any friends with the fledgling labor movement in America.

In order to throw a bone to Labor, Cleveland supported a holiday honoring workers on the first Monday in September, hoping it would help Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. May 1st was initially proposed but was then rejected because government leaders believed that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the Chicago Haymarket riots which had occurred in early May of 1886.

Cleveland was proven wrong and the Democratic party suffered their worse defeat ever.

So remember the cynical origins of the holiday while you are BBQ'ing this afternoon.

"Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country," explained Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Mr. Gompers elaborated further: "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day. . . is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

And yet, despite Mr. Gompers's assertions, Labor Day is not a Seinfeldian holiday about nothing. It is, according to Department of Labor, "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Workers being whom, exactly?

Whenever someone talks about Labor with an audible capital L, I picture a bunch of sweaty, grease-stained steelworkers, or guys in blue overalls and goggles with soldering irons. Their contribution is the oft-cited "sweat of their brows." Union regulations being what they are, though, they seem to be pretty well compensated for that sweat.

The term "Workers" has to include more than steelworkers and welders—otherwise we could just call it "Steelworkers and Welders Day." After all, a worker is just "one who works." I'm a worker (until recently, I was a worker). Almost everyone I know is or was a worker.

The difference seems to be unions. If you belong to a union, you're a Worker or a Laborer (I'm not sure if they have different unions). If you don't belong to a union, you're a lousy lazy-ass—an exploiting bourgeois bastard.

Think what this means: Heidi Montag, Tyra Banks, Glenn Beck and Megan Fox are Workers. Your friends who work awful hours at lousy jobs in wretched offices—they're bourgeois scum.

Warren Zevon, Grammy Award-winning American rock singer-songwriter and musician, died at age 56, on this date.

Enjoy every sandwich

Today in History -
September 7 1533 -
Elizabeth I was born on on this date. She was coronated at twenty-five and remained on the throne for 44 years, which helps explain why she remained a virgin all her life.

She is best known for having ordered the destruction of the Spanish Armadillo and the invention of Shakespeare.

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holly, born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936. By the age of 13, Holly was playing what he called "Western Bop" at local clubs. He was 19 when an agent discovered him and signed him to a contract with Decca records.

The following year, Holly returned to Lubbock and, with three friends, formed The Crickets, who then released "That'll Be The Day," which sold over a million copies. Buddy Holly's career was short: He died in February of 1959 in a plane crash in northern Iowa. Soon after, an English band that admired The Crickets decided to call themselves The Beatles.

September 7 1978 -
Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, dies in his London residence from an overdose of chlormethiazole edisylate, a prescription drug used to treat alcoholism.

Moon's flat, #12 Curzon Place, was the same spot where Mama Cass died of a heart attack in 1974

(and not from choking on a ham sandwich, smarty pants.)

September 7 1978 -
Walking to the bus stop, BBC journalist Georgi Markov suddenly feels a sharp pain in his right calf. A KGB assassin had jabbed him with an umbrella tip, rigged to inject a tiny platinum sphere. The pellet is laden with ricin, a castor-based toxin with no known antidote. Markov dies in the hospital four agonizing days later.

Oh those wacky KGB agents.

September 7 1996
Standing up through the open sunroof of a BMW 750 sedan, rap artist Tupac Shakur is talking to some women at a Las Vegas street intersection when a white Cadillac pulls alongside. Gunfire erupts, and Shakur is shot four times. He dies in the hospital a week later.

Although quite dead, he continued releasing new albums for many years.

And so it goes

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