Sunday, December 19, 2010

AP Newsbreak: More Question Arise from Labor Dispute at North Pole

By Yukon Cornelius, Associated Press – 1 hr 37 mins ago

Reykjavik - A civil suit was filed on behalf of the North Pole Toymakers Union in Reykjavik on Friday, alleging unsafe work conditions, racial discrimination, and animal abuse and/or misuse.  Named in the suit is the sole executive of Christmas, Inc. (CI), President of Operations and Plant Director Mr. Santa (NMI) Claus.  The filing of the civil suit follows quickly on the heels of the opening of a criminal case by Interpol, which is investigating several alleged crimes committed by Mr. Claus, including slavery, animal neglect, prostitution, harassment, breaking and entering, intentional inflection of emotional distress, and trademark and copyright infringement. It is believed charges are pending and that an arrest is imminent.  The timing of these dual actions comes at a difficult time for Mr. Claus and CI, already struggling to keep up with a changing business climate and competition from cheap labor markets in Asia.

Mr. Claus, who Interpol states has gone by several aliases during his infamous career, including the ironic Saint Nicholas, Father "Who's Your Daddy" Christmas, Kris Kringle, or simply "Santa", had no comment about the impending civil or criminal actions.  Calls to the Public Relations Office at CI were not answered or returned.  According to court filings, no attorney has been appointed for Mr. Claus in the civil suit.

Others, however, have not been so tight lipped in addressing the allegations.  Mr. King Moonracer, a popular winged lion who acts as the nearby Island of Misfit Toys' (IMT) Chief Executive Officer, was quoted recently challenging Mr. Claus's distribution system; "I was the first to utilize available technology for flying around the world each night in search of unwanted toys. Kringle illegally copied our infrastructure, adapting it for his questionable service.  Regardless of his questionable use, the system is the product of IMT and we have not received compensation for the impermissible use of our internally developed system." Moonracer further states that Kringle intentionally violates the airspace of IMT and has filed multiple complaints with the FAA, citing unsafe vehicle operation, unlicensed pilots, noise disruption ("Those damned bells!" stated Mr. Moonracer), and illegal dumping. Apparently the flying reindeer have been indiscriminate in handling their waste.

It is not only Santa's neighbors who allege misdeeds.  Perhaps the most serious allegations relate to work conditions at Mr.Claus's factory.  "It isn't a factory; it's a sweatshop," alleges one Mr. Charles Springer, now known to former colleagues as Charlie-In-The-Box. "I was pressed-ganged into service, required to keep elves contained on the work floor, using coercion and even force.  I didn't want to, but I went along because I needed the job.  Times are tough, you know. When I spoke out, I was physically restrained and placed in solitary confinement in a cell the elves refer to as 'the box'. Eventually I spoke out so often, I was deprived of my freedom for weeks at a time, earning my unfortunate nickname." The emotional pain, according to Mr. Springer, has robbed him of the ability to earn a living.  He seeks redress from Mr. Claus. "I am speaking out on behalf of the elves.  Someone has to stand up."

Mr. Springer's story is substantiated by affidavits signed by Sam the Snowman and Hank, the so-called "Tall Elf".  Neither was available to speak with reporters, but through their lawyers issued a statement, which reads, "The North Pole has changed, and not for the better.  Mr. Claus has abused his power, and seems fixated on self-gratification and personal debauchery, often seen bright cheeked (signs of alcohol abuse) and ranting 'Hoes, hoes, hoes' merrily. The whereabouts of Mrs. Claus is unknown, but Mr. Claus clearly has been keeping company with some unsavory women in her absence."

Other instances of abuse of workers is evident in the narrative of one Mr. Hermey.  Mr Hermey was initially brought to the factory to work off "immigration fees" for himself and his immediate family. "I didn't want to make toys.  I was training to be a dentist.  But that dream was taken from me," Hermey testified at a recent hearing into the matters at hand.  "My immediate supervisor was a portly and ill-tempered lackey. He wore a goatee styled to resemble Josef Stalin. He was outraged at what he perceived as my intentional, persistent disruption of the assembly line. And the music! He used to imitate Lawrence Welk's  famous introduction, "Ah one, and ah two" and sing carols all year round. It was unbearable."

Mr. Hermey recounts the tale of escaping the confines of the plant in his soon-to-be released autobiography, titled Unsaintly Nick; The Dark Underbelly of Christmas.While in the woods outside of the plant, living off of melted snow and stale cookies, Mr. Hermey met a starved, skeletal reindeer, whom he called Rudolph. "The stories Rudy told me just broke my heart. You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen? But do you recall why they are famous? They were bullies, four-legged, jack-booted thugs.  Poor Rudolph, you see, was afflicted with a red-nose, a very shiny nose. He was terribly anxious and self-conscious about it. When Rudy would get nervous or anxious, you would even say it glows. All of these dominant reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games. Totally exclusionary behavior.  Typical playground bully crap. And Rudy's story wasn't unique. They domineered every other reindeer who aspired to elevate themselves out of poverty. They repressed any and all fair competition; they ran the whole show, with Claus's blessing. That's why they are famous and you have never heard of Rudy or the thousands of other reindeer trapped in an endless cycle of servitude and pain." More of Mr. Hermey's narrative, including his desperate escape from the frozen north, is contained in his book, available from on December 19th. He wouldn't comment on the fate of his friend Rudy, other than to remark that he no longer eats meat.

On the criminal side of the ledger, local police agencies have been given updated warnings from Interpol regarding Santa's potential illegal entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney. Extra police around the world will be on duty this Christmas Eve, given recent threats posted on Santa's Facebook.  In a rambling post dated last week, Mr. Claus stated, "Oh! You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town! I'm gonna get you and your (darned) cookies, bitch. I'm making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice. Oh yeah, mother (freaking) Santa Claus IS coming to town!" With a chilling coldness, Mr. Claus finishes his missive by darkly stating, "I sees you when you're sleeping, I knows when you're awake. I knows where you live."

The sun has set on the North Pole for the year.  Clearly, the dark times facing a once proud Santa Claus won't brighten with the arrival of spring.  Facing countless legal problems, Mr. Claus's erratic behavior and poor business practices caused one insider to warn, "Jump in bed, cover up your head, 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight. And the long arm of the law is waiting!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't Ask, Grow Up

"It's important that we're clear about the military risks," said Gen. George Casey, the Army's top officer. "Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war."

With all due respect to the Honorable John McCain (R-Arizona) and General John Casey, it is indeed time to repeal the military policy commonly known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And to the hot-heads, pick 'n choose moralists, and pseudo-conservatives, save the "This is about special rights for gays" argument for somewhere else.

The reason why "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) has outlived its usefulness (presume it has a usefulness at some point, please) is that serving in the armed forces for the purpose of defending the US Constitution -- and the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic -- is a duty that anyone, regardless of religion, race, gender, or creed has a right to fulfill. If you can hold a rifle, fly a plane, maintain a vehicle, or do any of the myriad of tasks required by our modern military, your color, race, sexual preference, political beliefs, of anything else that makes you who you are is -- must be -- subordinate to fulfilling your duty while in the service of our great, special Nation.

Let's run this out to a logical conclusion. Consider these scenarios: Black soldiers won't fire on black enemies? A Christian won't fly a mission against a Christian opponent? A woman, in the execution of an order, won't fly a Predator (MQ-1) and launch a Hellfire missile against a Taliban target that might be female? Silly, really. Check your history. There is no evidence -- none -- that indicates gays or lesbians can't, haven't, or won't execute their assigned mission. In other words, if one can do the job, they should be allowed to do the job. I would honor - and you should, too - any veteran, whether they are like you or very different than you. In some way, honoring a veteran who is different than you might be even more important. I call you to remember the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American aviators who served in World War II with great distinction, while at the same time being actively discriminated by their own Nation. You don't have to like "gayness", or for that matter anything else. But is morally wrong to disallow someone from serving their -- our -- Nation because you are uncomfortable with them.

I feel compelled to dismantle two points reported this week in the hearings on the matter of DADT. First, early this week, the Senator from Arizona "misspoke" when he questioned Robert Gates' service record, in a thinly veiled attempt to show that his own service record (and Mr. McCain, indeed has honorably served our Nation) makes him more expert to speak about DADT than Mr. Gates. Look up Gates' record if you want, but trust me when I say Mr. Gates has ample -- even extraordinary -- experience to discuss the impact of the repeal of DADT on the command structure of the modern US military. And Mr. Gates, after a long, serious, conservative study of the impact of gays serving openly in the military, has gone on the record saying repealing DADT won't negatively affect our ability to defend ourselves.

For a moment, allow that these honorable gentlemen's service records balance each other out; then deciding on the future of DADT comes down to what is right, not politically popular with one's base. Sadly, McCain is arguing against comments he has made in years past regarding DADT, and sullying his outstanding record in a drive to the right for short-term political gain. Don't go right, John. Be right. Apologize for the cheap shot against Mr. Gates' record, acknowledge your concern, bias, and phobia. And then, get on the right side of history.

General Casey's comments are far more insidious -- and more troubling -- than he perhaps he intended. First, while he was testifying under oath and in uniform -- and I trust speaking from the heart -- he approached speaking dishonorably by publicly challenging the command authority. His answers approached what will be interpreted by some, if not most, as insubordinate. He -- in fact and by law -- must support any change to (or preservation of) DADT without hesitation. He may have personal opinions -- even professional opinions -- but they are not valid in this domain. He may have done serious damage to not only his career, but worse, caused real harm to the command structure by indicating, passively or by implication, that following orders are a choice or preference. Following orders in the military are not subject to personal opinion. Ever.

What is his shield, his rally point? That the US can't change policy while at war. This statement is far scarier, far more fanatical, than his view point on DADT. Does he really believe we can't change course or policy while in a war? That, my loyal reader, is terrifying. First, we have been at war for nine years with no end in sight, although one might rationally debate whether an actual legal state of war exists. Can he really posit that we can't change any policy that affects the military while engaged in armed conflict? Well, we already have, multiple times. We have changed policy on stop-loss. We have changed command structures. We have changed policy that affects strategy in Afghanistan, just like we changed policy about how we executed the mission in Iraq, forgetting for a moment that we changed the goals and mission profoundly while in that ongoing conflict. To not change policy in the face of new tactical or strategic understanding, is preposterous on its face. We can expect to be at war -- or in a state of semi-active armed conflict -- for years to come. General Casey would have us deny Americans the right to serve until we are conflict-free? We would deny access to serve to our fellow citizens until it is convenient and easy to "give" those rights? No, sir. We must do the right thing, the American thing, most importantly when it isn't easy. We may not be at peace in our life time; the Constitution doesn't prescribe rights only when we are happy, safe, and prosperous. We must do what is right, even when we don't want to. In fact, we must do what is right when even considering change causes us great trepidation.

This issue is not about being gay, or accepting gay lifestyle. This is an issue of rights, of supporting the Constitution, of maintaining a military representative of all Americans. To those who say that there is something wrong about being gay, you may hold that opinion and I honor your right to believe it. I can - in turn - think you are wrong, but I must accept that your belief -- as unpleasant as I find it -- is your belief. But as a Nation, we must respect all citizens' rights and access to our institutions. We must allow anyone able to serve simply to serve. Mind your own business, and if you don't want to know if the veteran marching in the parade is gay, don't ask. But grow up, would you? If they are willing to sacrifice their safety, their health, even their life, to preserve your rights, do you really care if they are gay? America, it is time to grow up.