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What’s on Your Vagenda Today?

[ 76 ] August 27, 2016 |

A little levity for your Saturday

Also put this wonderful Sara Benincasa answer to “Why Am I So Fat?” on your vagenda.


Supply Chains in Burma

[ 33 ] August 27, 2016 |


H&M can say that it’s outraged by finding out its clothes are made by 14 year olds in Burma all it wants to. But when H&M decides to contract out with clothing manufacturers in Burma, it’s doing so knowing damn well that there is basically no labor oversight in that country and that children are going to be doing much of the work. Given that child labor has been the open goal of the textile industry for over 200 years and that the labor conditions of nations like Burma, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are well known, H&M has no space to claim ignorance or outrage. Or they do have space to claim it because avoiding claims of responsibility and day-to-day control over things like working conditions (not cost or on-time delivery of course) is the central point of the textile supply chain. H&M cares about one thing–cost. So long as they get the clothes for very cheap, the executives are happy. Now, a story like this coming out might spawn some sort of concern precisely because it threatens profit if consumers are turned off, but it’s not like these executives give two whits whether Burmese girls live or die. H&M absolutely could do plenty about this. It could agree to international inspections, binding fines for violations paid by the company, etc. But at least from what I can tell, it is not agreeing to any of this. Nonetheless, American companies are significantly worse and openly callous. The European social climate demands a little more of their corporations on issues like this so there’s a little more hope here than there is for Walmart or Target, who flat out don’t care.

Donald Trump’s Race-Baiting of the Hour

[ 82 ] August 27, 2016 |

What a guy:

NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge was fatally shot Friday pushing a child in a stroller in a Chicago.

Less than 24 hours later, Donald Trump said her death was evidence that African-Americans will vote for him in November.

As always, there are ways in which Trump’s bluntness is relatively unusual. But the underlying idea — African-Americans will leave the DEMOCRAT PARTY PLANTATION because BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE is not exactly rare in Republican circles.

In other Trump news, this picture of the doctor who wandered out of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie to to take 5 minutes writing up a report declaring Trump the healthiest presidential candidate in the history of history itself is the sole redeeming factor of his campaign:


Above: the Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian, make tonight a wonderful thing

Volkswagen and Its Supply Chains

[ 52 ] August 27, 2016 |


Supply chains exist so that corporations can acquire necessary materials without holding any responsibility over conditions of labor, environmental management, logistical headaches, or anything else. They exist to protect the parent company from liability. So it’s hardly surprising that Volkswagen would respond to the discovery of their vast mendacious conspiracy to avoid American emission law by trying to push costs down the supply chain. Because VW doesn’t want to lose profit, it’s seeking to limit costs down the line. But there is a limit to how much this can happen. In order to reduce costs, VW and other companies have already often reduced their suppliers of products to one. So when a company that makes car seats and transmission parts for VW told them to jump in a lake, VW had to halt production entirely in some of its German plants, which no doubt will cost the company even more money. Couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

Will Hillary Clinton Listen to Progressives?

[ 167 ] August 27, 2016 |
Bernie Sanders, left, speaks with Hillary Clinton during a break at a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Bernie Sanders, left, speaks with Hillary Clinton during a break at a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

As Daniel Marans points out, while a lot of rank and file Bernie Sanders supporters think of Hillary Clinton as the Hildebeest rubbing her hands together to start coups in various Latin American nations while lighting cigars with money donating from Wall Street cronies, veteran liberal insiders are optimistic that a Clinton administration will be quite progressive.

Other observers ask a separate, but related question: If Clinton is courting Mitt Romney voters, neoconservative thought leaders and Bernie Sanders supporters alike, whose core interests will she fight for once in office? She cannot please all of them at once, and with progressives lacking an alternative in the two-party system, she is more likely to view their priorities as expendable, the theory goes.

Progressive optimists respond by noting that Clinton has not actually compromised her domestic policy platform to appeal to these “swing” voters. She still supports expanding Social Security, a public health insurance option, debt-free college and raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12. Most crucially of all, Clinton’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade accord negotiated by President Barack Obama, has only grown stronger over time. She now promises to oppose it before the election, after the election ― a tacit reference to the lame-duck session of Congress ― and as president.

The Democratic nominee is not coy about mentioning these plans on the campaign trail. Clinton put them at the center of her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, as well as in a key economic policy address in Michigan last week.

Even if she doesn’t believe in progressive policies, she isn’t going to want to cross the Democratic Senate caucus of 2017, a very different world from the Democratic Senate caucus of 1997.

Warren was also not yet a senator when Obama took office, depriving her of the platform in the media that she has used so effectively. One can easily imagine Warren, a higher-profile Sanders and allies like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) taking their case to cable TV if a Clinton appointment is not to their liking.

“Clinton does not want to see multiple Antonio Weiss-style fights,” a senior aide to a progressive House Democrat said, referring to an Obama nominee for a top Treasury post. Weiss withdrew himself from consideration after Warren launched a public campaign against him.

As a banker, Weiss had worked at a firm that specialized in tax inversion, a technicality through which companies reincorporate overseas to avoid U.S. corporate taxes. (Obama has since named Weiss to a role that did not require Senate confirmation, where he supervises White House policy for the Puerto Rican debt crisis.)

A key test for Clinton will be whether she re-nominates to the Supreme Court Merrick Garland, Obama’s centrist nominee who is stuck in limbo due to Republicans’ refusal to grant him nomination hearings.

The aide to a progressive house Democrat said Clinton is “even cool on Senate Democrats’ push to get her to renominate Garland,” indicating she is acutely aware of progressive trepidation about Garland.

Obviously, a Clinton administration is going to be very good for progressives in some ways. And it’s going to be disappointing in others. Sometimes it might be infuriating. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The primary reason the Bill Clinton years were generally bad was that Democrats in Congress and the general public as well were far to the right of where they are today. Today, as was very much not the case 20 years ago, there is an active left-wing of Congress and there is an active and growing left wing in the general public. Had Sanders not put up such a strong challenge to her, I don’t think Hillary Clinton would realize this easily and there would be some Weiss-style fights in 2017. But now she’s quite cognizant of the left. So are her advisors. This is one of the many good things that will come from the Sanders campaign.

The Republican presidential race this week, last year

[ 9 ] August 27, 2016 |

Confusion 8/22/2015

If Trump is nominated, then everything we think we know about presidential nominations is wrong.

Delusion 8/27/2015

When the race settles down and begins to gel, the operating thinking is that Republican voters will also begin seriously weighing electability, which will begin to lead to Trump’s demise.

Slimy hypocritical fucks 8/25/2015

On Tuesday, Fox News chief Roger Ailes said in a statement Donald Trump should apologize for a tirade of tweets aimed at Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

SNAFU then, really.

Nat Turner

[ 97 ] August 27, 2016 |


We recently passed the anniversary of Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion. And we should remember it and celebrate the bravery of Turner and his followers to fight back against the horrors of slavery.* However, not to be overly pedantic, but the idea, as this piece in Time suggests, that we should take Nat Turner’s “confession” to a white man as literal or even anything close to truth, is highly questionable. We actually have no solid evidence that what was written down was anything Turner said or even really if even represented Turner’s thoughts. The individual who published it was a slaveholder named Thomas Gray. As was common in the southern elite class, Gray had a lot of debt and needed cash. He may well have fabricated all of it in order to pander to southerners freaking out about Haiti coming to Virginia. I’m surprised Time didn’t at least note this. It’s not super helpful to simply repeat lines from the Confession as the true words of Turner without noting that they may well not be.

*And please no one say that Turner and his followers were bad people for killing future slaveholding white children. As if we have the right to judge slaves for fighting for their freedom because they didn’t do it in a way to gain the approval of 21st century white liberals.

Two great tastes that have no place together

[ 41 ] August 27, 2016 |

Brownies and hummus.


I need a beer to wash the thought of how this tastes out of my mouth.

I’m someone who would sample every flavor of ice cream in this article, even the laurel. But garbanzo beans have a very strong odor and flavor which is why they should be mushed up with garlic and tahini and lemon. Not chocolate or vanilla.

At any rate, it serves as a reminder that while it is necessary to LOL/gag at the foods people voluntarily ate in the days of yore (because those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to eat creamed prunes cabbage n’ macaroni casserole), there’s no shortage of modern-day maniacs who shouldn’t be left alone with a food processor.

Today in the Stadium Scam

[ 74 ] August 26, 2016 |


The Raiders want to move to Las Vegas. They are their partners, i.e., the always lovely Sheldon Adelson, are demanding the city pay a mere $750 million for the stadium, a number that will no doubt increase once the inevitable cost overruns take place. Adelson’s lackey says this $750 million is a non-negotiable number.

The Raiders and Sheldon Adelson: a match made in Hell. Where in fact Al Davis is still pulling the strings over this whole deal.

Anti-Union Universities

[ 17 ] August 26, 2016 |


There’s a forum at N+1 about yesterday’s NLRB decision overturning the Brown decision and granting graduate students at private universities collective bargaining rights. Want to point you to the contribution by Gabriel Winant and Alyssa Battistoni. Universities use the same arguments against unions as any other employer, plus simply claiming that graduate students aren’t workers.

The crux of the 2004 Brown decision had been that the relationship of graduate students to the university was primarily educational, and as a result did not fall under the purview of legislation designed to govern economic relationships. What a line to draw—how could anyone who works at a university fail to cross it? In overturning Brown, the Columbia decision states plainly what we’ve argued all along: “a graduate student may be both a student and an employee; a university may be both the student’s educator and employer.” The decision similarly demolishes, with reference to empirical evidence, familiar arguments that a union of graduate employees would worsen the quality of education, suck up inordinate amounts of valuable time and resources, or pose a threat to the continued functioning of the university. In other words, Columbia rejects the idea that academia is a uniquely un-unionizable industry (an idea that many employers have of their own industries: Target, for example, warns workers that “ if the unions did try to organize our team members, chances are they would change our fast, fun, and friendly culture”).

Pretense prevails among those who run the institutions. Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester. With impressive sophistry, administrators manage to argue that unions would at once destroy academic life and fail to accomplish anything. Columbia’s administration, for example, both warns that the union could break the budget (“all schools may have to make difficult decisions to reflect these new fixed costs”) and cause wages to fall (“Stipend levels, remuneration, and benefits may change; there is no guarantee that they will increase”). The message they’re sending is that change is impossible—that there’s no way to make your voice heard.

To us, then, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the NLRB decision is its explicit recognition of our years of organizing outside the protection of the law, and its argument that this work in itself is admissible testimony for change. Unlike our deans, the federal government has heard our speeches and petitions, and listened to us as adult citizens capable of advocating for ourselves:

It is worth noting that student assistants, in the absence of access to the [National Labor Relations] Act’s representation procedures and in the face of rising financial pressures, have been said to be “fervently lobbying their respective schools for better benefits and increased representation.” The eagerness of at least some student assistants to engage in bargaining suggests that the traditional model of relations between university and student assistants is insufficiently responsive to student assistants’ needs.

When your employer insists that none of your actions matter, it is gratifying to learn that, through years of struggle—sometimes bitter, often seeming fruitless—you have moved the gears of the federal bureaucracy.

Really, this is a hugely important decision for academic labor.

How the ^Claude Maximillian Overton Transpire Dibbler’s anti-Clinton sausage gets made

[ 68 ] August 26, 2016 |

(From ye olde Discworlde Ymporium. It’s an apron. You know you want one.)

I get a lot of mail from organizations that can’t get competent PR flacks to work for them, which is why I get to see RW news output before it’s news. For example, there’s the Association of Free Market Hacks & Conservative Quacks in Health Care American Physicians & Surgeons.

AAPS didn’t start the Hillary Clinton is Dangerously (for America) Ill!! thing, but it has joined in. And AAPS is a favorite of RW news jerks because the org.’s output comes from people with M.D. after their names, which makes everything look sciencish and official-like.

Also, AAPS sends bullet points and a complete article so there’s no risk anyone who uses this stuff will have to perform any actual work. Or introduce facts into the story.

From: Dr. Jane Orient
To: [Moi]
Subject: Is Hillary Clinton Medically Unfit to Serve? (Physician poses the question)

Answer: She fell down and hit her head once and some other spurious claims. But I’m a doctor, so definitely! Yes!

From: Gerard Gianoli, M.D., F.A.C.S
To: [Toujours moi]
Subject: Physician asks: Is Clinton’s Health Less Important than Trump’s?

Answer: I’m just asking questions but I’m a doctor and all of the questions I ask indicate that her health is more important and she is probably brain damaged.

Sure enough, on the same day Orient’s email plopped into my inbox, WND and Breitbart recycled Orient’s article.

Newsmax picked up Gianoli’s bit the day it came out but Fox, WND and Forbes all soon followed suit.

I’m sure there will be a lot more where that came from. Gianoli’s regular announcements that this time doctors really are all going to leave Medicare no longer get much attention. Orient’s usual shtick is Disease! Bearing! Foreigners! and the line to shout into that particular microphone is really long.

When Will Canada Solve Its Immigration Problem?

[ 44 ] August 26, 2016 |


Sounds like Canada needs to build a big wall to protect itself from these scary migrants who are probably bringing crime to the northern paradise, not to mention stealing Canadian jobs and probably sleeping with their women.

An estimated 1,500 Americans illegally and unexpectedly washed up in Canada late Sunday after strong winds blew them across the St. Clair River near Sarnia, Ont.

They were participating in the annual Port Huron Float Down, during which people simply float down the river on rafts, inner tubes and other flotation devices from Port Huron, Mich.

High winds pushed them to a number of points along the Canadian shore. They had to be rescued by Sarnia police, the OPP, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Border Service Agency and employees from a nearby chemical company Lanxess Canada.

In the Canadian Coast Guard video below, you can hear thankful Americans praising Canada for its rescue efforts.

Hopefully Canada places these migrants in long-term detention before sending them back to their terrible lives in their home country.

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