Today I thought I’d give you some long, interesting reads to fill what I hope is a nice quiet day for you! Some of these are related to the holiday we celebrate today. You’ll notice that I’ve put up some photos of what it meant to be worker back in the day including pictures of child labor which was made illegal with the help of Union activism. No Labor Day celebration would be complete without a generous selection of Pete Seeger tunes. Check the bottom and listen to this American Treasure!
This Labor Day, while you’re enjoying the three-day-weekend, take a moment to celebrate the heroes of the union movement. These noteworthy people left behind a legacy that we enjoy today, from the end of child labor to the more humane treatment of farm workers.
My next selection is from the UK Guardian and explains why the US middle class started really losing ground during the Dubya years. This is especially true of wages.
Until recently, an examination of the labour market relied on the annual publication of average wages. That is how the story of flat wages for the many and super-returns for the few over such a long period has emerged. Each calculation of average wages is a snapshot of all the people in the workforce. Unfortunately, millions of people quit the labour market during the year and others join. It is not the same cohort, and not just at the outer margins.
Robert J Shapiro, a former economic adviser to Bill Clinton who now runs the Sonecon consultancy in Washington, grabbed the opportunity to look at the raw census data when the US statistical office published it a few years ago.
He tracked the median incomes of average households as they travelled through the decades, checking on the progress of men versus women, Hispanic people versus black and white people, college graduates and different age groups. The report presents us with a more nuanced picture of the workforce and how it has fared.
He found that the 1980s boom, which gained traction in the middle of the decade, boosted the wages of all but the oldest group of workers. So large, steady income gains characterised the average household whether they were headed by men or women, or by people with high school diplomas or college degrees, whatever their ethnicity.
As Shapiro said: “This evidence contradicts the narrative told by those who track the value of aggregate income from the 1970s to present the claim that most Americans have made little progress for decades.”
The momentum dissipated in the first Bush presidency between 1989 and 1993 and accelerated again in the Clinton years before running out of steam in the early 2000s
Then came the downturn. The second Bush era, under George W, was painful for almost all but twentysomething college graduates, who even survived the 2008 crash with barely a scratch, and was worst for those without a high school diploma. Shapiro says the least educated saw their incomes “devastated” after 2001.
“Across the three younger age-cohorts, the median income of households headed by people without high school diplomas fell an average of 1.9% per year as they aged through the 2002-2007 expansion; and over the entire period from 2002 to 2013, their median incomes fell by an average of 1.8% year as they aged,” the report says.
Between 2010 and 2013, households where the main earner had been aged 25 to 29 back in 1982 suffered even more if they quit education before going to high school. They lost 7.1% in income in each year as vast numbers either took a cut in pay, in hours or were made unemployed.
The rise and fall of the average workers’ wages documented in the report chimes with the business cycle and the trend in Europe, which followed a similar trajectory.
The average German worker made income gains through the same period before a deregulation of the labour market under the Social democrat Gerhard Schroeder brought about an effective freeze in wages from 2003.
In the UK, the chancellor at the time, Gordon Brown, reacted to the downturn by switching on the government spending taps. He introduced tax credits as an income top-up to offset the trend for flat or falling real wages. It was a policy that insulated British workers from a trend that clobbered Americans and to a lesser extent German workers.
Retelling the economic story of the 1980s, Shapiro says the US benefited from a mix of Reagan’s expansionary policies in defence and infrastructure and the collapse of commodity prices after the inflationary oil shocks of the 1970s.
George Bush senior was forced to cope with the borrowing hangover from the Reagan years before Clinton assumed the presidency.
Another Guardian article explains how US and British policy in Iraq and Syria actually grew and predicted and WISHED for the rise of ISIS.
A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.
Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later. The report isn’t a policy document. It’s heavily redacted and there are ambiguities in the language. But the implications are clear enough. A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.
That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.
The calculus changed when Isis started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf states are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front. But this US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them, goes back at least to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which fostered the original al-Qaida under CIA tutelage.
It was recalibrated during the occupation of Iraq, when US forces led by General Petraeus sponsored an El Salvador-style dirty war of sectarian death squads to weaken the Iraqi resistance. And it was reprised in 2011 in the Nato-orchestrated war in Libya, where Isis last week took control of Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.
In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule. American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against Isis in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.
Music sounds better when you’re under the influence of LSD. I think I learned this lesson as a sophomore at university but evidently there’s research so we don’t have to rely on my anectodotal evidence.
The right music can evoke powerful emotions seemingly out of the blue, but under the influence of LSD the musical experience is enhanced even further. This according to the Beckley/Imperial Psychedelic Research Programme whichtested this long held assumption under a modern placebo-controlled study for the very first time.
Ten healthy volunteers listened to five different tracks of instrumental music during each of two study days, a placebo day followed by an LSD day, separated by 5–7 days. After listening to each track, participants were asked to rate their experience on a visual analogue scale (VAS) and the nine-item Geneva Emotional Music Scale (GEMS-9). According to the participants’ subjective ratings, LSD enhanced the emotions they felt while listening to the instrumental tracks, particularly those described as “wonder”, “transcendence”, “power” and “tenderness”.
This article from The Atlantic on how universities are helping student protect themselves from ideas and philosophies they don’t want to hear was really quite astounding to me.
Among the most famous early examples was the so-called water-buffalo incident at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1993, the university charged an Israeli-born student with racial harassment after he yelled “Shut up, you water buffalo!” to a crowd of black sorority women that was making noise at night outside his dorm-room window. Many scholars and pundits at the time could not see how the termwater buffalo (a rough translation of a Hebrew insult for a thoughtless or rowdy person) was a racial slur against African Americans, and as a result, the case became international news.
Claims of a right not to be offended have continued to arise since then, and universities have continued to privilege them. In a particularly egregious 2008 case, for instance, Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis found a white student guilty of racial harassment for reading a book titled Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The book honored student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan when it marched on Notre Dame in 1924. Nonetheless, the picture of a Klan rally on the book’s cover offended at least one of the student’s co-workers (he was a janitor as well as a student), and that was enough for a guilty finding by the university’s Affirmative Action Office.
These examples may seem extreme, but the reasoning behind them has become more commonplace on campus in recent years. Last year, at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, an event called Hump Day, which would have allowed people to pet a camel, was abruptly canceled. Students had created a Facebook group where they protested the event for animal cruelty, for being a waste of money, and for being insensitive to people from the Middle East. The inspiration for the camel had almost certainly come from a popular TV commercial in which a camel saunters around an office on a Wednesday, celebrating “hump day”; it was devoid of any reference to Middle Eastern peoples. Nevertheless, the group organizing the event announced on its Facebook page that the event would be canceled because the “program [was] dividing people and would make for an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe environment.”
Because there is a broad ban in academic circles on “blaming the victim,” it is generally considered unacceptable to question the reasonableness (let alone the sincerity) of someone’s emotional state, particularly if those emotions are linked to one’s group identity. The thin argument “I’m offended” becomes an unbeatable trump card. This leads to what Jonathan Rauch, a contributing editor at this magazine, calls the “offendedness sweepstakes,” in which opposing parties use claims of offense as cudgels. In the process, the bar for what we consider unacceptable speech is lowered further and further.
Since 2013, new pressure from the federal government has reinforced this trend. Federal antidiscrimination statutes regulate on-campus harassment and unequal treatment based on sex, race, religion, and national origin. Until recently, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights acknowledged that speech must be “objectively offensive” before it could be deemed actionable as sexual harassment—it would have to pass the “reasonable person” test. To be prohibited, the office wrote in 2003, allegedly harassing speech would have to go “beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive.”
But in 2013, the Departments of Justice and Education greatly broadened the definition of sexual harassment to include verbal conduct that is simply “unwelcome.” Out of fear of federal investigations, universities are now applying that standard—defining unwelcome speech as harassment—not just to sex, but to race, religion, and veteran status as well. Everyone is supposed to rely upon his or her own subjective feelings to decide whether a comment by a professor or a fellow student is unwelcome, and therefore grounds for a harassment claim. Emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence.
If our universities are teaching students that their emotions can be used effectively as weapons—or at least as evidence in administrative proceedings—then they are teaching students to nurture a kind of hypersensitivity that will lead them into countless drawn-out conflicts in college and beyond. Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.
Also from The Atlantic is this great article by Economist Jared Bernstein on how the poorest among us are not getting the help they need. We’re beginning to find out how the Welfare Reform of the 1990s has been as big of a failure as the Drug Wars of the 1980s.
People who pay attention to poverty, including the poor themselves, know one thing all too well: Over the past few decades, anti-poverty policy in this country has evolved to be “pro-work.” This means that if you’re a low-income parent who’s well connected to the job market, the government will help you in a variety of ways. But, if you’re disconnected from the job market, public policy won’t help you much at all.
How do people in that second group survive?That’s a question that Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, a sociologist and a social-work professor, answer in their new book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. It is, as the title suggests, a devastating portrait of families struggling to get by on impossibly low incomes.
A few of their strategies: availing themselves of charities and public spaces (like libraries), selling food stamps for cash (illegal, and they typically get just 60 cents on the dollar on the street), relying on relatives (who can be as hurtful as helpful), selling scrap metal or aluminum cans, selling plasma (which involves considerable angst as to whether a person’s blood’s iron levels are sufficiently high, especially difficult around menstruation), receiving some public support (housing vouchers, nutritional support, disability payments), occasionally holding a job, and—the most common strategy of all—just going without.
Check out these astounding pictures of a small town in California that’s running out of water if you’d like to be stimulated both visually and mentally. This is from Mother Jones who is one of the Labor Leaders we should be celebrating today.
Glance at a lawn in East Porterville, California, and you’ll instantly know something about the people who live in the house attached to it.
If a lawn is green, the home has running water. If it’s brown, or if the yard contains plastic water tanks or crates of bottled water, then the well has gone dry.
Residents of these homes rely on deliveries of bottled water, or perhaps a hose connected to a working well of a friendly neighbor. They take “showers” with water from a bucket, use paper plates to avoid washing dishes, eat sandwiches instead of spaghetti so there’s no need to boil water, and collect water used for cooking and showers to pour in the toilet or on the trees outside.
East Porterville is in Tulare County, a region in the middle of California’s agriculture-heavy Central Valley that’s been especially hard hit by the state’s historic drought. More than 7,000 people in the the county lack running water; three quarters of them live in East Porterville. The community doesn’t have a public water system; instead, residents rely on private wells. But after years of drought, the nearby Tule River has diminished to a trickle and the underground water table has sunk as more and more farmers rely on groundwater. Last week, I spent a few days interviewing residents in the town, also known as “ground zero” of the drought.
Happy Labor Day!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m moving slow today. I was in a recording studio on the North Shore yesterday and it just wore me out. So, I’m catching up on life right now. A meteor could’ve hit the planet yesterday and I probably wouldn’t have noticed at all.
So, the House just tanked Obama’s demands for enhanced negotiating ability on the Pacific region trading deal. The President actually showed up on the Hill to lobby for the bill. (Wonk Trigger Alert!)
House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from President Obama on Friday, torpedoing his ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating power — and, quite likely, his chance to secure a legacy-defining trade accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.
In a remarkable rejection of a president they have resolutely backed, House Democrats voted to kill assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has stood by for four decades. By doing so, they brought down legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress — before it could even come to a final vote.
“We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.
Republican leaders tried to muster support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as an ineffective waste of money and sop to organized labor. But not enough Republicans were willing to save the program.
Obama seems to be staking the end game of his Presidential legacy on this deal which begs the question “Why Does Obama Want This Trade Deal So Badly?”. William Finnegan writes this bit for The New Yorker.
The Senate passed fast-track last month, sixty-two to thirty-seven, with only fourteen Democrats voting yes. Boehner and Ryan expect to be able to produce two hundred Republican votes. That means eighteen Democratic votes are needed. Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, is reported to be working closely with Boehner and Ryan to come up with the number they need—although she still hasn’t said which way she’ll vote herself. That’s how strange the legislative politics of the T.P.P. have become. Nearly every constituency in the Democratic Party opposes it; and the more they learn about it, the more they oppose it. And yet their leader, Obama, wants it badly.
But why? Maybe it’s a better agreement—better for the American middle class, for American workers—than it seems in the leaked drafts, where it appears bent to the will of multinational corporations. John Kerry, the Secretary of State, and Ashton Carter, the Secretary of Defense, co-authored a column on Mondayin USA Today arguing, in evangelical tones, that the T.P.P. will usher in a glorious new era of American-led prosperity, a “global race to the top” for all parties. Meanwhile, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sees only a race to the bottom. Organized labor, by all accounts, plans to punish any elected Democrat who supports the T.P.P., or even supports fast-track for Obama, in the next campaign. It’s difficult, again, to evaluate the agreement when we can’t see it. And it will be difficult for Congress to do its job if its members can’t study each part of the many-tentacled T.P.P. on its merits, but must simply vote yes or no on the whole shebang. What’s the rush? Is it simply Obama’s wish to make his mark on history and to complete his pivot toward Asia before his time is up? Politicians are often accused of supporting pro-corporate policies to please wealthy backers, looking toward the next campaign. That can’t be Obama’s motive now.
I’m going to use my own analysis here and will begin by letting you know that my doctoral dissertation and my research area is the existing trade and development deals in the region of ASEAN+3. ASEAN is a group of small countries that are quite diverse that first banded together under the CIA to oppose the spread of communism in the region. Now, the group actually has some of those very communist countries it feared in its numbers.
It includes some of the most politically and economically diverse countries in the world. Seriously. It’s members include the Sultanate of Brunei, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia is an Islamic Democracy. Brunei is a monarchy. Myanmar is for all intents and purposes run by a military junta. You’ll notice there are also several single party communist states. Brunei has oil. Singapore is an offshore banking haven and international financial center. Many of the other countries are mostly agricultural and traditional economies with production facilities of other countries basically paying labor badly while ignoring any environmental impact of the manufacturing process. But the deal is that this small group of countries along with their plus three neighbors (Japan, South Korea, and China) are the economic dynamos of the global economy for the next century.
It’s the region and area where the most potential for economic growth and development will occur. So, the US needs to be there for many reasons that include economic and political. Most of these countries are emergent democracies and most of these countries are liberalizing their markets which means less state ownership of things. New Zealand and Australia are huge players in the region already. For many reasons, we need to get into their trade deals to remain relevant in THE KEY region of the next century.
The biggest deal with this region is that it doesn’t have the political instability and outright strife that’s impacting Southern Africa and MENA. It’s also not stagnant like Europe. It has political issues but they haven’t blown up into perpetual terrorism and even the near dictatorships are reforming peacefully. Contrast this to what’s going on in the Middle East, then look South to Africa. Those regions appear to be clusterfucks into eternity.
So, it’s a safer place for Western Foreign Direct Investment and it’s economies are developing at phenomenal rates. There are plans to turn the region into a European style Union in the works with a single currency and banking system. All of this decreases the tricky parts of international trade in a region. The region has already successfully negotiated huge trade and currency deals with its neighbors. They all are serious about development. The US cannot maintain its leader of the world nation status and not be a major player in this region. It clearly hands the role over to the PR of China if we can’t get in there. And believe it or not, it makes Australia more of a player than Europe in the near future. The TPP also includes Latin America Countries that border the pacific so it’s a diverse group of nations.
The deal is, however, at what cost do we join in? Why do we seem to be negotiating so much independent power for multinational corporations (MNCs)?
While every other president from Ford onward has been granted similar powers, today’s vote has turned out to be anything but routine. Critics who oppose the TPP and other pending agreements are working to stop the bill—and thwart the anticipated trade deals.
The fast-track process was set out in 1974’s Trade Act, which empowered Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority bills—like the one slated to be voted on today—that allow presidents to negotiate and sign trade deals with less involvement from the legislative branch. Congress still gets to vote yes or no on any final agreement, but amendments are generally prohibited. In exchange, TPA bills let legislators lay out trade priorities and negotiating objectives for the president, and set requirements on how and how often the administration must check in while negotiations are underway.
This TPA, if passed, will guide presidential trade negotiations through 2021. It builds upon a bill that expired in 2007, and is likely more complex than any other in history, expanding congressional oversight and consultation while including new provisions on intellectual property, cross-border data protection, and the environment and human rights. It also increases transparency, requiring presidential administrations to make agreements public 60 days before signing them.
So, the bill does include increased transparency despite many charges that it does not. It’s just not now and and it’s a fairly small window for reaction.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a meandering but dramatic floor speech on Friday announced her vote against a measure providing assistance to workers displaced by trade.
“If TAA slows down the fast-track, I’m prepared to vote against TAA,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi announced her opposition to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program just before it went down in the House, with 302 lawmakers voting against it.
The failure of TAA could sink a broader trade package that includes President Obama’s request for fast-track trade authority.
Pelosi’s move is a rare split with Obama, who visited Capitol Hill on Friday morning and pleaded with Democrats to back the measure.
The California Democrat had been under pressure from liberal groups to oppose the trade package. While many had expected Pelosi to vote against fast-track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), her opposition to TAA took many by surprise.
Pelosi argued that opposing TAA now would give Democrats leverage for a trade package they view as more favorable.
“We want a better deal for American workers,” Pelosi said.
A group of liberal House Democrats opposed to the trade package, including Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Brad Sherman (Calif.), applauded when Pelosi announced her opposition to TAA.
Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO who has been aggressively lobbying Democrats to vote against the fast-track deal, praised Pelosi in a statement just minutes after the TAA bill failed on the House floor.
Obama is rightly focused on the region and the need to get in there before the US is inched out of the deal. The majority of fears are based in the NAFTA deal that caused some economic chaos–especially with traditional labor union jobs–that went south. I’m going to do something that will probably shock and say that it’s likely that these concerns are unfounded.
Sending jobs to Mexico is relatively easy. It’s close, stuff ships over land routes, and even though Mexico still has the feel of a narco-state, many of its regions are developed and there’s not anything in the way of civil unrest. Locating production facilities in Mexico for shipment of final goods and services to the US is a low cost no brainer.
You’re not exactly going to see that happen with Myanmar or Brunei. Also, there’s so much going on already in places like Vietnam that it’s hard to imagine it’s going to get much worse. My data and scooby sense tells me that any business located there will be shipping regionally there so I doubt it will have the same impact that the Mexican deal did. All of these countries have blossoming middle classes that are going to be shopping happy during the next decades. They’ll be able to sell stuff there much more easily than shipping it way over here to a steady state economy. (That means we’re just about as developed as we’re going to get).
Obama had rushed to Capitol Hill on Friday morning to make a last-ditch plea to an emergency meeting of the Democratic caucus. The president urged members to vote with their conscience and “play it straight,” urging them to support the financial package for displaced workers, which Democrats have long supported.
“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here,” Obama told reporters on his way out of the Capitol. “It’s always moving.”
But anti-trade Democrats pushed hard to block the financial aid plan, knowing that its defeat would also torpedo a companion measure to grant Obama fast-track authority to complete the TPP. That bill was later approved with overwhelming Republican support in what amounted to a symbolic vote because it could not move forward into law without the related worker assistance package.
The package for displaced workers should be put in place. I’m sorry to see it used as a political tool because Republicans hate it to begin with and it’s a necessary component of any trade deal. The only issue here–which is the main issue for organized labor–is that many of the displaced workers would likely come from union jobs and go to jobs that are less likely to be union like health care workers. That’s what happened with NAFTA passage. Clinton insisted on the displaced worker clause, got it, and then many Ladies Garment Workers in the South became Nurses as a result. So, in many ways, this could really change the face of organized labor. However, labor unions need to get better footholds in the services industries since trade and technology has already eroded its member base. This deal just exacerbates an already existing issue, if anything.
I’m frankly more worried about the legal implications of making MNCs out of reach of a country’s laws. I expressed that concerned in an April, 2015 post. Here’s a link to my earlier post on the TPP listing some of the most germane concerns.
But, you can see, Obama’s backers on this deal were definitely Republican in general. Politics continues to make strange bedfellows.
On the GOP side, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) cast a vote in favor of TAA. Speakers cast floor votes on relatively rare occasions.
Only 40 Democrats backed TAA, while 144 voted against it. On the GOP side, 158 Republicans voted “no,” while 86 Republicans voted “yes.”
The vote against TAA is a humiliating defeat for Obama, who had spent weeks lobbying House Democrats to support his trade agenda in the face of overwhelming opposition from liberal groups and organized labor.
Under the procedure established for considering the trade package, TAA had been packaged with fast-track authority, and a vote against either doomed the total package.
In a slight surprise, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced after the TAA vote that the House would still vote on the fast-track measure, as well as a separate customs bill.
In the vote on fast-track, the measure was approved in a 219-211 vote. Twenty-eight Democrats backed fast-track, while 54 Republicans voted “no.”
House Republicans said they would bring the TAA bill up for another vote by Tuesday.House GOP lawmakers maintained that voting on TAA again next week would give the Obama administration time to lobby more Democrats to support it.“The president has some work yet to do with his party to complete this process. This isn’t over yet. And we hope that they can get together and make sure that we finish this so that America is back leading,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a hastily scheduled press conference with members of the GOP leadership after the vote.
But it is difficult to see why the Democrats who objected to it on Friday to prevent movement on fast-track would shift their strategy, particularly after Pelosi’s words.Despite the rebuke from House Democrats, the White House still expressed optimism about passing its trade package.Press secretary Josh Earnest described the defeat as “another procedural snafu,” comparing it to a failed test vote last month in the Senate on the trade package, which eventually passed the bill.
So, my political scooby senses still say that this move was to basically appease organized labor and environmental concerns. I’m not sure they’ll win much but a few good enough concessions in the long run.
So, again, sorry for the late posts but my life is bipolar at the moment and it’s wearing on me. At least I make the bills. Now, if I could only get a schedule that doesn’t exhaust me.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Did you hear about the speech John Boehner gave on Tuesday? He was talking to the International Franchise Association. He warned owners of McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and other franchise businesses that Obama’s NLRB is out to destroy them. My goodness! If these one-percenters were forced to pay their employees something approaching a living wage, it would be a nightmare! From The Hill, Boehner warns biz: NLRB is ‘coming right at you’.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), lamenting the rise of “arrogant agencies” he said is threatening the American dream, warned the franchise industry on Tuesday that a politically motivated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is intent on unionizing its workers.
In brief but forceful remarks to the International Franchise Association, Boehner called the NLRB a “political horse,” controlled by Republicans when they occupy the White House and by unions when a Democrat is president.
“They’re going to do everything they can to try to change the rules and try to find a way to organize your businesses,” Boehner told the group.
He cited the NLRB’s recent finding that the McDonald’s corporation has joint-employer status, along with its franchises, over the chain’s thousands of workers.
The designation, if upheld, could force corporate managers to the table in collective bargaining discussions and expose them to claims of labor rights violations from workers at chain stores and businesses.
Horrors! Because everyone knows the American Dream is about a few rich assholes getting richer on the backs of millions of minimum wage workers who can barely feed their families.
But here’s the good part. During his remarks, Boehner complained about the Republican “knuckleheads” he has to deal with as Speaker of the House. The Hill reports:
“On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,” he said. “You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”
As a result, Boehner claims he only has a “paper majority.”
A group of the most conservative Republicans has frequently plagued the Speaker and upended plans for votes, most recently in July when GOP leaders were forced to pull a vote on their bill responding to thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.
In April, Boehner mocked some members of his conference for being reluctant to vote on immigration reform. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,’ ” he said.
Boehner added in his comments on Tuesday that “dealing with Democrats is one thing, dealing with the knuckleheads is another.”
A specialized sort of barometric collapse hit Washington, D.C., last night: a sudden knowledge that the capital’s stocks of Merlot and unfiltered cigarettes had been depleted, and Speaker John Boehner was turning surly. And the target of his abuse, yet again, were the very specimens over whom he attempts to leverage power: the House Republicans conference.
Boehner, speaking to the International Franchise Association (read: people who don’t want to pay their fast-food workers more), described the House majority over which he lords as a “paper majority,” and then went on to label a dissident faction within his conference as “knuckleheads.” ….
Newell mentions Boehner’s complaint about House Republicans who are afraid to vote for an immigration bill (see above in The Hill piece), and an earlier rant by the Speaker from 2012.
“We got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here, and some of the dumbest. We got some of the best people you’d ever meet, and some of the raunchiest. We’ve got ‘em all.”
Why don’t Democrats pull together a bunch of these Boehner quotes and use them in the Midterm campaigns, Newell asks. As for Speaker Boehner,
Why was Boehner insulting members of the House GOP less than two months ahead of an election? Because he’s a strange dude, for starters. Gets his Irish up sometimes, as Paul Ryan would say. But Boehner’s comments were also part of an elaborate pitch to the assembled franchisees to elect more House Republicans this November. He has a “paper majority” in which a few wiseacres can separate themselves from the herd and force the House leadership to pull legislation from the floor. Pity the speaker.
It’s a midterm election cycle in the sixth year of the Obama administration, so the odds are that any new members added to the speaker’s Republican roster this November will be natural fits for the Knucklehead Caucus. The problems Boehner has had (not) moving pieces of legislation these past four years won’t go away, because they’re problems with Boehner’s leadership style. He’s too tentative to threaten the knuckleheads’ committee assignments and access to party campaign cash. He’s abandoned earmarks. And his members know that, except in a handful of cases, his threats to pass legislation with Democratic votes are bluffs. The new knuckleheads will find him just as easy to roll as the previous ones have.
We’ve talked many times here about the differences between liberals and conservatives, and how hard it is for us to understand right-wingers’ thought processes. Well, did you know that liberals and conservatives even smell different?
From The Washington Post, Study: Liberals and conservatives sniff out like-minded mates by body odor.
According to a study published this month in the American Journal of Political Science, people can literally sniff out ideology — and this may explain why so many couples share political beliefs. Or, as the study’s title says, “Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues.”
Researchers led by Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott found that, to a small but significant degree, people prefer the body odor of those who vote as they do.
Previous studies showed long-term mates are more similar when it comes to politics than anything else besides religion. Researchers set out to determine whether this is a purely socially driven phenomenon, or whether biology plays a role.
To test the link between smell and party affiliation, researchers rounded up 146 people aged 18 to 40 from “a large city in the northeast United States.” They used a seven-point scale to determine where they fell on the political spectrum. They sent 21 of these —10 liberals and 11 conservatives — home with fragrance-free soap and shampoo and a gauze pad taped to their armpit. The subjects were told not to smoke, drink, use deodorant or perfume, have sex, eat fragrant foods, sleep with people or pets or linger near strong odors.
They returned the stinky armpit pads 24 hours later. Then 125 participants sniffed the stinky pads, taking a break between whiffs to cleanse their nasal palate with the aroma of peppermint oil. The sniffers, who never saw the people whose smells they were evaluating, then rated the attractiveness of each armpit sample on a 1 to 5 scale.
The subjects found the smell of those more ideologically similar to themselves more attractive than those with opposing views.
Read about the conclusions researchers drew from these results at the WaPo.
How about some archaeology news? German archaeologists have discovered a “long lost Roman fort.” dating to the 1st Century. From Science Daily:
In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers (known as a cohort) was stationed there between 70/80 and 110/120 AD. Over the past weeks, the archaeologists found two V-shaped ditches, typical of this type of fort, and the post holes of a wooden defensive tower as well as other evidence from the time after the fort was abandoned.
An unusually large number of finds were made. This is because the Roman troops dismantled the fort and filled in the ditches when they left. In the process they disposed of a lot of waste, especially in the inner ditch. “A bonanza for us,” according to Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel from the Goethe University Institute of Archaeology. “We filled box after box with shards of fine, coarse and transport ceramics; dating them will allow us to determine when the fort was abandoned with greater accuracy than was possible before.”
Up until now, little was known about Roman Gernsheim, even though findings from the Roman era have been cropping up here since the 19th century. “Previously, the only thing that seemed certain based on the finds was that an important village-like settlement, or “vicus,” must have been located here from the 1st to the 3rd century, comparable with similar villages which have already been shown to have existed in Groß-Gerau, Dieburg or Ladenburg,” explained dig leader Dr. Thomas Maurer. He has been travelling from Frankfurt to South Hessia for years and has published his findings in a large publication about the North Hessian Ried during Roman imperial times.
“It was assumed,” continued Maurer, “that this settlement had to have been based on a fort, since it was customary for the families of the soldiers to live outside the fort in a village-like settlement.” “We really hit the jackpot with this excavation campaign,” said a delighted Prof. Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel. “The results are a milestone in reconstructing the history of the Hessian Ried during Roman times.” For almost 20 years now, von Kaenel has been studying this area with the help of his colleagues and students using surveys, digs, material processing and analyses. The results have been published in over 50 articles.
Read the rest at the link.
There was more bad new for the NFL yesterday. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer (pictured in cuffs at right) was arrested for two domestic violence incidents that happened in July. Dwyer reportedly attacked his wife and caused a bone fracture in one incident, and in the other he threw a shoe at his 18-month old son. He is also charged with preventing his Kayla from calling 911 for help. Fortunately, Kayla immediately took the child and left the state. The New York Daily News reports, Arizona Cardinals shut down running back Jonathan Dwyer over domestic violence charges.
Police said Dwyer hit his wife, causing a fracture. It was not immediately clear if the shoe hit their baby, Jonathan Jr.
Officers went to Dwyer’s home on July 21 after neighbors reported a domestic disturbance. His wife brushed cops off, but later told detectives Dwyer was there when authorities were looking for him, but hid in a bathroom until police left.
The following day, Dwyer snatched a cell phone from his wife’s hand and threw it from the second floor of their home to prevent her from calling the cops, Crump said.
Dwyer is also accused of sending his wife text messages threatening to harm himself if she reported the assaults.
The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer. They really had no choice after what happened with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson.
“We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “Given the serious nature of the allegations we have taken the immediate step to deactivate Jonathan from all team activities.”
One local Boston sports station has nominated Dwyer for “biggest asshole in the NFL.” I’ve been listening to the two Boston sports stations and ESPN radio quite a bit, and I’ve been really heartened by the reactions of the male program hosts and callers. One host said yesterday that he had read a parenting book over the weekend. He has never hit his kids, but he was so shocked by Adrian Peterson’s reported behavior that he wanted to know more about good parenting. Another host said that he had been beaten as a child, and for the first time he has begun to understand that his parents abused him.
Also yesterday, attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference in Atlanta with the best friend and the father of Rasheeda Watley, a survivor of abuse by Chicago Bears player Brandon Marshall and called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to step down. WSB TV Atlanta:
At a news conference Wednesday, Allred detailed the case of Rasheeda Watley, who claimed then-boyfriend Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos had physically abused her….
Allred was joined by Watley’s father and best friend, who both said they reported the abuse to the NFL and Goodell but nothing was done.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of family violence issues has come under fire in recent weeks after a video was released showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer twice inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February.
Allred said the investigation process is flawed within the NFL organization and it needs to change.
“Our focus is on the process and we want the process to be fair. We want the investigation that is conducted in the future, investigations, of NFL players to afford due process to victims as well as NFL players,” Allred said. “The present process is obviously not fair.”
According to Watley’s father, no one from the NFL even talked to himself, his daughter, or any witnesses of the abuse.
I need to wrap this up, but I want to mention one more article from Bloomberg Businessweek, Roger Goodell at the 50-50 Yard Line. It’s a fairly long read that explains why Goodell’s job is not yet on the line. He has made tons of money for NFL owners, and–let’s face it–money is all they really care about.
So . . . what else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!
Yesterday, Fox News sent Fox News contributor and alleged “comedian” Steve Crowder to Lansing, Michigan to involve himself in the protests against Gov. Rick Snyder’s “right to work for less” law. HuffPo reports:
Writer and Fox News contributor Steven Crowder aired video of his violent physical confrontation with opponents of Michigan’s right-to-work legislation, who gathered in Lansing to protest the bills’ passage through the House.
Crowder argued with protesters who began to tear down a tent pitched on the Capitol lawn by the pro-right-to-work group Americans For Prosperity. According to MLive, Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said they were contacted because several people, including two in wheelchairs, were trapped under the tent.
He was then punched repeatedly in the face by a protester, while another man speaking off-camera threatened to kill Crowder with a gun. Crowder said there was no police presence in the area during the altercation.
Hmmm…maybe the police don’t like the new law any more than the protesters?
Afterward, Crowder told right wing talk show host Dana Loesch:
“Dana, they literally would have killed me where I stood if I’d of fought back and defended myself after the sucker punch. They literally would have torn me limb-from-limb.”
Crowder’s injuries: a small cut on the forehead and a “chipped tooth.”
Here’s some video of the altercation.
According to another article at HuffPo, one observer says that Crowder was taunting the union protesters.
Ken Spitzley, a state agriculture department employee, told HuffPost that he walked to the protest at the state Capitol during a break from work and that he witnessed Crowder getting in protesters’ faces.
“He was just after everybody,” said the 56-year-old Spitzley, a procurement technician whose workplace is represented by the United Auto Workers. “There was no question he was there just to start a fight, to start some kind of trouble.”
“I definitely provoked them,” Crowder said. “I was asking them basic questions.”
Sptizley offered one specific anecdote that Crowder disputed. According to Spitzley, Crowder had an exchange with two pro-union men wearing blue jeans, hard hats and Carhartt clothing. One of the men accused Crowder of working for Amway, the family company of Michigan businessman Dick DeVos. Crowder joked that he sells soap.
“He said, ‘I sell soap. I should sell you some,'” Spitzley said, quoting Crowder.
Crowder denies this.
Gawker asks if we really have to condemn the violence because we’re liberals?
Good, serious progressives are supposed to condemn violence as a political tactic, because it’s wrong and in many cases counterproductive. But do we really need to condemn the union protestor who socked Fox News comedian Steven Crowder in the jaw? [….]
He wanted to “provoke” people into “rational thought and civil debate,” he told Fox & Friends this morning. Instead he ended up inserting himself in the middle of a tense argument between protestors and staffers of Americans for Prosperity, the anti-union group funded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. And then he got punched in the face, for reasons that have been edited out of the video.
Click on the Gawker link to see photos of Crowder’s infinitesimal injuries.
Erik Wemple of the WaPo isn’t all that sympathetic. Right wing nuts like Brent Bozell are whining because the “liberal media” hasn’t given a lot of coverage to the Crowder beating. Bozell:
“If a Tea Partier had physically assaulted a liberal journalist or ripped down a structure occupied by a liberal organization all on video, the footage would be broadcast on an endless loop.”
Bozell’s mistake here lies in labeling. His statement suggests that somehow Crowder was working as a journalist yesterday in Lansing. Crowder’s own comments last night on Fox News’s “Hannity” suggest a different mission: “I never went out here to try and be assaulted, as leftists might say,” Crowder told Hannity. “I went out here to prove the left for who they truly are — certainly there’s union thugs — and I’ve achieved that.”
Journalists don’t go to events to “prove” anything.
None of this suggests that Crowder deserved his closed-fist treatment. He didn’t.
I’m not so sure about that. What do you think? And remember, this is an open thread.
Finally…we have a nippy morning here in Banjoland! I love the cold weather, it makes sleeping late in a nice cozy bed even more enjoyable.
There was another shooting late yesterday, this time in Portland, Oregon. Gunman Opens Fire in Oregon Shopping Mall. According to VOA, the gunman shot and killed two people before turning the gun on himself…no final number of wounded as I write this post. I will be sure to update you on this latest shooting as more information comes forward.
Okay…I’ve got plenty of politics for you this morning, if it is okay I will give them to you in link dump fashion. (Honestly, I am still a bit “gun-shy” with WordPress. It may take a few post before I feel comfortable writing a lot of words in these threads. I think it is a slight case of PSTD, from way back in college…when my final thesis went phffft, poof and gone…just as I was printing the thing out on the day it was due. Nightmare!)
Anyway, here are some of the political stories of the last 24 hours:
Soledad kicked some major ass yesterday. She is awesome at her job, which btw is being a journalist and a real savvy reporter. Soledad Grills Jeff Sessions: ‘You Hurt People Who Need Food’ with Food Stamp Cuts
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on Tuesday faced tough questions from CNN host Soledad O’Brien for his plan to cut the food stamp program and “hurt people who need food,” including 20 percent of his own constituents in Alabama.
Speaking to Sessions in an interview on CNN’s Starting Point, O’Brien wondered if cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be on the table as part of the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations.
“Absolutely,” Sessions insisted. “This month was a record increase in food stamp participation at a time when unemployment is declining.”
“But there are people who say if you’re doing cuts, you invariably hurt people who need food,” O’Brien observed. “It’s 61 percent of households in your state have children who are recipients of the food program that they’re on.”
Sessions continued to spew his crap, I mean opinion:
“Soledad, this program has been growing out of control at an incredible rate and there are a lot of people receiving benefits who do not qualify and should not receive them,” Sessions remarked. “No child, no person who needs food should be denied that food. Nobody proposes that. We are talking about an amendment that I offered that would have reduced and closed a loophole of $8 billion when we would spend $800 billion was opposed by saying it would help — it would leave people hungry in America, but it would have only eliminated abuses in the program.”
The CNN host, however, pointed out that the Alabama Republican had voted twice to grow the program and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities had determined that “SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program.”
“People highlight the program as actually not having a lot of fraud,” O’Brien explained. “Most people who are on it are not somehow working the system. They’re just hungry people.”
Snap for SNAP…Video at the link.
From ABC News, and what looks like the back of Barbara Walter’s head: EXCLUSIVE: President Obama Predicts GOP Will Cave on Taxes
You wanna bet?
These right-wing Republicans are like bulldogs locked down on a hunk of red meat…they do not give up. Just take a look at these headlines:
Yes, threats and promises of all out war to get what they want. Basturds!
In other GOP political news:
You didn’t think Michigan Republicans had an original idea:
I’ve got to share this political cartoon with you, it can’t wait until our Friday Nite Lite:
Yup, piss on…piss on!
This latest PPP poll shows that people are sick of the mutant asshole turtle, I mean…Mitch McConnell…he is highly unpopular according to Public Policy Polling
Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular Senator in the country. Only 37% of Kentucky voters approve of him to 55% disapprove. Both in terms of raw disapproval (55%) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska’s Ben Nelson.
McConnell is predictably very unpopular with Democrats (23/73). But his numbers are almost as bad with independents (33/58) and even with Republicans he’s well below the 70-80% approval range you would usually expect for a Senator within their own party (59/28).
If only this disgust toward McConnell would relate in votes against the man.
The reason McConnell does decently well in the head to head match ups despite his poor approval numbers is that even though a lot of Republicans dislike him, most of them would still vote for him in a general election before they would support a Democrat. This is the same phenomenon we saw in Florida and Pennsylvania this year where Bill Nelson and Bob Casey won by solid margins despite middling approval numbers because Democrats that weren’t thrilled with them still voted for them. And although independents don’t like McConnell they don’t like most of the Democrats either, and they support McConnell in every match up we tested.
The PPP article mentions Ashley Judd, go read the rest at the link. (I sure hope Judd does run for McConnell seat in 2014. But my hope is up there with a Hillary run in 2016….I think it is kind of a long shot they will run period.)
Speaking of Hillary, Nate Silver has this to say about Hillary 2016: Why Hillary Clinton Would Be Strong in 2016 (It’s Not Her Favorability Ratings)
Let’s start by stating the obvious: Hillary Rodham Clinton would be a formidable presidential candidate in 2016.
Mrs. Clinton’s credentials as secretary of state, as a United States senator and as a politically engaged first lady would be hard for any of her Democratic or Republican rivals to match. She would have little trouble raising funds or garnering support from the Democratic officials, and she might even come close to clearing the Democratic field of serious opposition.
Be sure to read the rest of Silver’s post.
With the release of The Hobbit later this week, J.R.R. Tolkien is figuring in lots of blog post, like this one from Medieval.net: Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
By J. R. R. Tolkien
Introduction: In 1864 the Reverend Oswald Cockayne wrote of the Reverend Doctor Joseph Bosworth, Rawlinsonian Professor of Anglo-Saxon: ‘I have tried to lend to others the con-viction I have long entertained that Dr. Bosworth is not a man so diligent in his special walk as duly to read the books… which have been printed in our old English, or so-called Anglosaxon tongue. He may do very well for a professor.’ These words were inspired by dissatisfaction with Bosworth’s dictionary, and were doubtless unfair. If Bosworth were still alive, a modern Cockayne would probably accuse him of not reading the ‘literature’ of his subject, the books written about the books in the so-called Anglo-Saxon tongue. The original books are nearly buried.
Of none is this so true as of The Beowulf, as it used to be called. I have, of course, read The Beowulf, as have most (but not all) of those who have criticized it. But I fear that, unworthy successor and beneficiary of Joseph Bosworth, I have not been a man so diligent in my special walk as duly to read all that has been printed on, or touching on, this poem. But I have read enough, I think, to venture the opinion that Beowulfiana is, while rich in many departments, specially poor in one. It is poor in criticism, criticism that is directed to the understanding of a poem as a poem. It has been said of Beowulf itself that its weakness lies in placing the unimportant things at the centre and the important on the outer edges. This is one of the opinions that I wish specially to consider. I think it profoundly untrue of the poem, but strikingly true of the literature about it. Beowulf has been used as a quarry of fact and fancy far more assiduously than it has been studied as a work of art.
It is of Beowulf, then, as a poem that I wish to speak; and though it may seem presumption that I should try with swich a lewed mannes wit to pace the wisdom of an heep of lerned men, in this department there is at least more chance for the lewed man. But there is so much that might still be said even under these limitations that I shall confine myself mainly to the monsters—Grendel and the Dragon, as they appear in what seems to me the best and most authoritative general criticism in English—and to certain considerations of the structure and conduct of the poem that arise from this theme.
Hopefully one of those three links will work for you. Enjoy it!
And finally, a big hat-tip to Fiscal Liberal, who emailed me these links below…kewl as hell!
First link is to a blog that details the movement of sunlight and weather during the day, via Opentopia – World Sunlight Map
A world map showing current sunlight and cloud cover, as of Dec 12 2012 02:00 UTC.
This is the rectangular projection. You can also see a more realistic hemispherical projection.
Image provided by die.net.
Click the link to see the updated real/time image.
This next link is to a 19 minute video, OVERVIEW on Vimeo
On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.
The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.
‘Overview’ is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for society, and our relationship to the environment.
I’ve embedded the video below…however if you want to see a larger screen image, click on that Vimeo link up top. Hope you enjoy this one too.
That is all I got for you this morning, should be a good start, right? What are you all reading and thinking about today?