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For Those Who Have Not Yet Been Victimized

[ 32 ] July 26, 2017 |

I can’t believe this asshole is our vice-president.

Oh, wait, it’s the USA. Of course he’s our VP.


Beltway Erections

[ 44 ] July 26, 2017 |

Everyone watch out! Cillizza is getting hot and bothered with a new fantasy!

If you wanted to run for president in 2020, you’d be doing exactly what Joe Scarborough is doing right now.

Marrying Mika Brzezinski? Oh, no, it’s being a Third Way wanker:

Let’s game this out a bit. Say you are a high-profile TV personality with an interest and an ambition to run for president. Positioning yourself as a solutions-minded centrist who has abandoned the party of your youth because it left you with its extreme agenda is a good place to be in an electorate that loathes both political parties and is desperate for other options.
Now what if that same person was also seen — or working to be seen — as someone who was once a friend of President Donald Trump but who has turned into one of his most vocal critics. A person who knows Trump well — so well that he has decided the president is not only out of his depth but in a dangerous state of mind.

“Him getting elected has just amplified all of his insecurities,” Scarborough told Nuzzi of Trump in a bit of armchair pop psychology.

The point here is that Scarborough is not only not denying he is interested in running for president but also positioning himself in such a way to appeal to people disgruntled with Trump and with politics more broadly. Which is interesting — and smart.

Before you write off Scarborough as a candidate, consider this: Donald Trump is the President.
Given that, can anyone really be ruled out? The answer is, of course, no.

The biggest hurdle to Scarborough becoming a serious candidate is not that he is a TV personality but rather that it looks like his path would be as a third-party nominee. That’s a tough row to hoe given the costs of qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states and then getting enough polling momentum to boost yourself into the general election debates.

How’s that post-coital cigarette Chris?

What Might Single Payer Look Like?

[ 51 ] July 26, 2017 |

I am definitely not the LGM health care wonk, but I wanted to point out to you all this proposal about how to get to single payer. The left always says, “Let’s have single payer!” but the conversations rarely go into any depth at all. What would that look like? How would we get there? What about the insurance industry? Etc. So I won’t really comment on the overall quality of this proposal, but rather want to point it out so that commenters can work off some kind of proposal in order to hone their ideas.

Our plan, the Medical Insurance and Care for All program (MICA), is a public health insurance program based on Medicare but open to all individuals. Employers will be required to buy their employees MICA or equally good private coverage. If one does not receive employer coverage, they will automatically be enrolled in MICA and charged for it in their taxes.

ny serious move toward a more rational universal health care system will face strong opposition from hospitals, doctors, drug makers, and insurance companies. That’s because they rely on the byzantine nature of the health care system to charge significantly more than providers and insurers in other highly industrialized countries.

There is no way around this financial reality. Consequently, for any plan to be politically viable, it must aim to reduce opposition from outside the health care sector as much as possible while still achieving universal affordable health care.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed as a large transfer of wealth from the rich and a segment of healthy middle class individuals to the poor, the sick, and importantly, the health care industry. MICA is primarily a transfer of wealth from the health care industry to everyone else.

The guiding political principles behind this plan are intended to make it politically viable by minimizing disruption, making the transition feel voluntary, and ensuring everyone outside the health care sector is noticeably better off (and at least not worse off).

There are two primary approaches to transitioning to single-payer that minimize disruption and the number of losers outside the health care industry.

The first is to slowly lower the Medicare age and/or slowly add specific groups to Medicare. The second is to find a way to transition our current employer coverage system towards single-payer-like health insurance.

This plan does the latter by strongly encouraging the private dollars currently spent on health care to be redirected toward a new, much cheaper, and better quality government program. MICA will be an attractive option for all companies, as the program should cost 20-30% less than what employers are currently spending on insurance.

The existence of a universally better government program will compel the remaining private insurance industry to perform better.

The reasons for this approach over slowly lowering the Medicare age are multifold. First, is the issue of financing. Lowering the Medicare age would need to be combined with a new tax structure while this plan relies on mainly redirecting employer current spending on private health insurance.

This route is also quicker and more difficult to reverse. MICA would be available immediately to all companies and they would steadily start choosing it.

Additionally, one fear with lowering the Medicare age slowly is that opponents could simply freeze it when elected, ending up with our same system—except Medicare now would start at age 59.

Lowering the Medicare age is likely to be disruptive. There might be some point, for example, when the eligibility age reached 45, where larger companies might stop dropping employer coverage en masse, creating a need for an emergency fix.

There’s a lot more detail at the link.

If the Answer is a Specific Leader, It’s the Wrong Answer

[ 277 ] July 26, 2017 |

I don’t want to be unfair to Damon Linker’s argument here, where he notes the tepidness of the DNC’s “Fair Deal” proposal and says that what the party really needs is Bernie Sanders as its public leader. And maybe it does need Bernie as its public leader, although the fact that large number of party activists hate his guts is not maybe the greatest thing. But I have to say that I find the tendency on the left to attempt to find the one true leader a real problem. Moreover, whatever the situation, if the answer is “we need this person to lead us,” it’s the wrong answer. Any political situation needs to have the possibility for many leaders. Yes, it was great in 2008 to get a really skilled politician as the Democratic candidate, even if that included fooling large parts of the left that he was a transformative figure when instead he was someone who would gut teachers’ unions and push the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bernie is not Obama, not in pretty much any way. That might be good and that might be bad. But what Democrats need is a number of capable and quality leaders who can articulate a conversation in a positive way. Whether they have that or not is unclear, but Bernie is a problematic enough political leader that I pretty strongly believe he is not the path forward for the left at this time. He’s part of the solution, but no one should be more than part of the solution and that includes messaging. Linker himself admits at the end of the piece that the message is more important than the messenger and that’s important to keep in mind, even if we need do seem someone of charisma (or more ideally, multiple people) to help deliver that message.

Abolish ICE

[ 76 ] July 26, 2017 |

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a fascist police force engaging in widescale ethnic cleansing of the United States. Now that Trump and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (and I don’t care that Trump is bullying Sessions. That racist elf deserves everything that happens to him) have given ICE agents free run to be the racist strike force many of its employees want to be, they have acted wtih impunity. Because these victims of these fascists are poor, live in the shadows, and often don’t speak English (or even Spanish as many are indigenous), the mainstream reaction against Trump has put this issue too much on the backburner. But on the ground, it is horrifying.

Example A:

A 42-year-old Los Angeles pastor with two U.S. citizen children was detained by immigration authorities on Monday morning.

Noe Carias is the lead pastor at an Evangelical church near Echo Park, a position he has held for a number of years. He is originally from Guatemala and has been in the United States since he was 14 or 15, according to his wife. Carias was reportedly detained during a court appearance Monday during which he had been hoping to receive a stay of removal. His deportation order reportedly dates back to 1994 or 1995, according to advocates for the family. He previously received a stay of removal in 2014, and that same stay was extended in 2016.

“He has a U.S. citizen wife and he has two little children,” pastor and community organizer Martin Garcia told LAist. “They own a house, and at this moment the whole family is going to crumble because he was the economic support for the family. It’s going to have an impact.”

“We consider this unfair according to the promises of the administration,” Garcia continued. “They said that they were only deporting people who had major crimes—bad hombres—but not really people without any criminal record.”

“My husband is not a criminal,” Carias’ wife, Victoria Carias, told LAist outside of the Federal Building while her two small children played nearby. “He’s been a good citizen.” Advocates for the family say that Pastor Carias does not have a criminal record.

Example B:

Example C:

The New Yorker‘s Jonathan Blitzer has been in contact with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent since March in an attempt to learn what the agency is like under President Donald Trump. This week, the agent decided that he’d seen enough and had to blow the whistle:

At first, the agent spoke to me on the condition that I not publish anything about our conversations. But that has changed. Increasingly angry about the direction in which ice is moving, the agent agreed last week to let me publish some of the details of our talks, as long as I didn’t include identifying information.


The agent’s decision to allow me to write about our conversations came after learning that ice was making a push, beginning this week, to arrest young undocumented immigrants who were part of a large wave of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in recent years and who, until now, had been allowed to live in the U.S. Rather than detaining these young people, the government had placed them in the care of families around the country. Most of them are trying to lead new lives as American transplants, going to school and working. ice now plans to pursue those who have turned eighteen since crossing the border, and who, as a result, qualify for detention as legal adults. “I don’t see the point in it,” the agent said. “The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. I don’t understand it. We’re doing it because we can, and it bothers the hell out of me.”

The policy he’s talking about was announced last month and immediately denounced by immigration advocates.

The agent went on, “The whole idea is targeting kids. I know that technically they meet the legal definition of being adults. Fine. But if they were my kids travelling in a foreign country, I wouldn’t be O.K. with this. We’re not doing what we tell people we do. If you look next month, or at the end of this month, at the people in custody, it’s people who’ve been here for years. They’re supposed to be in high school.”

This revolting ethnic cleansing conducted with a government-approved fascist terrorist force has to be the top target of resisting Trump. Or a top target at least. We must not only demand that this stop, but that ICE should be disbanded and reconstituted with a different mandate and under a much more accountable authority. So long as we do not speak out against this agency and its agents on an individual agents if we know who they are, then we are culpable with the ethnic cleansing of our nation.

The Minimum Wage

[ 214 ] July 26, 2017 |

This is a good overview of where we are at now with the minimum wage. Like everything else, it is a tale of two parties with no room for compromise.

At the national level, the Democratic Party has also adjusted its minimum-wage policy, albeit more slowly. During his 2008 presidential bid, Barack Obama advocated for a federal increase to $9.50 an hour by 2011, which then was a fairly radical proposition. By the beginning of his second term in 2013, he called for a $9-an-hour minimum wage, which congressional Democrats increased to a slightly more ambitious $10.10. With a Republican-controlled House, however, this was mostly an exercise in political messaging. By 2015, congressional Democrats were officially calling for $12 an hour, while more progressive members voiced support for a $15 federal minimum wage. That was a dividing line in the Democratic presidential primary between Hillary Clinton, who backed $12 an hour, and Bernie Sanders, who supported $15.

Today, in the political wilderness, Democrats in Congress have made a $15 minimum wage the cornerstone of their economic agenda. For now, that simply means that the two political parties are more polarized than ever on the federal minimum wage. While the odd Republican or two has quietly come out in favor of a modest increase to the federal minimum wage, Republican leadership has unilaterally kept any minimum-wage legislation from even being debated.

And then there is the Party of Plutocracy.

John Boehner once said back in 1996, “I’ll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum-wage bill.” That existential opposition has hardly softened during Boehner’s speakership. Nor has it softened under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who consistently trots out his softer, though equally pernicious, talking points about how minimum-wage jobs are meant as entry-level steps for teenagers—like his first job at McDonald’s in the mid-1980s—on their way to higher-paying jobs, and are not meant for those who need to support families (though the vast majority of minimum-wage workers are, in fact, not teenagers).

Republican hostility to minimum-wage increases of any size are seen most vividly in the states where the GOP is in full control and uses its power to wage a war on minimum wages. As of now, 27 states have laws that preempt cities and counties from instituting minimum wages higher than the state’s. After the majority-black city of Birmingham instituted a $10.10-an-hour minimum wage in 2015, Alabama’s majority-white (and majority Republican) legislature quickly passed a law banning local minimum-wage hikes, thereby forbidding the struggling black workers in the state’s largest city from getting a raise.

More recently, in early June the GOP-controlled Missouri legislature passed legislation that would undo St. Louis’s new $10 minimum wage. Republican Governor Eric Greitens said he’d allow the bill to become law without his signature—almost literally taking money out of St. Louis minimum-wage workers’ pockets.

A couple of thoughts here. First, despite the long history of conservatives demanding state sovereignty over many matters because those governments are easier to control than either localities or the federal government, it would not surprise me in the least to see an increasing move by conservatives to claim that minimum wages should not only not be decided by municipality, as has happened not only in Missouri and Oklahoma, but in supposedly liberal Rhode Island, but that it should not be decided by state at all. This is speculation on my part, but I look at Idaho, with most of its population within 50 miles of Washington and Oregon, two states with much higher minimum wages than that cauldron of frothing reactionaries. Low-wage employers in Idaho have been getting destroyed because they refuse to compete with their higher wage neighbors. Of course they could just raise their wages and to some extent this has happened, but there are lots of Idaho residents working in Pullman and Spokane and Ontario, Oregon. Given the utter lack of even pretending to be consistent any longer, I strongly believe a move toward federalizing the minimum wage is likely as states such as California, Oregon, and Washington push their wages higher.

Second, there is no good reason at all for Democrats to compromise with Republicans on this issue at this time. Like every other issue, middle ground has disappeared, largely because of Republican fireeating. Like on gay marriage, where either you believe it should exist or you don’t and no middle ground really exists, with Republicans now largely opposing the entire idea of a minimum wage and wishing they could repeal it or declare the Fair Labor Standards Act unconstitutional (and don’t be surprised to see a real move toward this by the courts in the next decade, as I strongly doubt Alito or Gorsuch actually sees the FLSA as constitutional, even if they might not say that now), compromise is pointless. You either believe in economic justice or you don’t. While we can argue about what the minimum wage should be among ourselves, there is no purpose having this conversation with corporations or their political lackeys. That’s a very different thing than not bringing minimum wage increases before voters in red states, as such bastions of Maoism as Nebraska and Arkansas have seen voters approve wage hikes in recent years.

Thus, there is no reason to not base our economic message as an expansive welfare state not only includes a robust minimum wage, but a federal guarantee of a job, the forgiveness of student loan debt, and universal Medicare. Sure, the rich might not like it and that matters in the Citizens United era more than anytime since the first Gilded Age. But we are in a nation now of stark choices. Playing reasonable moderate to attract a shrinking number of “moderate” voters makes little political sense. Republicans understand this and act accordingly. We need to give the Americans a stark choice between the New Gilded Age and a robust nation that serves the needs of the working and middle classes. A high minimum wage is only the start.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 113

[ 14 ] July 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of Matthew Brady.

Probably born in 1822 in New York (there is a bit of conflicting testimony about both facts, with some believing he was born in Ireland), the young Brady studied locally to become an artist. But in 1839, he met Samuel F.B. Morse, who had brought daguerreotype technology back from France. Brady began working on this and became an American leader on the developing art of photography. He soon started teaching photography classes in New York. Opening his own studio in New York in 1844, Brady became the day’s leading photographer of the wealthy and powerful, a sort of Gilbert Stuart for the early photographic age. If a president or a business leader or a general wanted their photograph taken, it was Brady they went to. Brady photographed every president or ex-president at some point between John Quincy Adams and William McKinley except for William Henry Harrison. This includes the photograph of Lincoln used for the $5 bill and the very late life images of Adams and Andrew Jackson.

When the Civil War began, Brady wanted to travel with the Army to photograph it. Having friends among the powerful, he got the support of Winfield Scott and Lincoln agreed, with one stipulation. Brady would have to fund it himself. This would eventually prove his undoing. Brady’s mobile studio produced thousands of amazing images. Among those images he and his team of 17 assistants photographed was the dead at Antietam, which brought the horrors of the war home to American readers for the first time and helped define the conflict as the war went on. He created over 10,000 plates during the war. They were expensive. He spent over $100,000 and went into debt to do it. He did this on faith that the government would buy them at the war’s conclusion. That was a mistaken belief. He had to sell his studio and declare bankruptcy. Congress did finally grant him $25,000 in 1875 but that was not nearly enough to clear his name. Brady died in 1896 in the charity ward of a hospital after, by now blind, he was struck by a streetcar. The remaining veterans of the 7th New York Infantry paid for his burial out of appreciation for the work he had done to commemorate them and other Union soldiers.

Matthew Brady is buried at Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

The Jobless Future is Going to Be Great

[ 189 ] July 25, 2017 |

If Democrats are going to start articulating pro-worker policies again as central platform planks, they need to get on board real fast to the problems that automation is already causing, problems that will grow rapidly.

Robot developers say they are close to a breakthrough—getting a machine to pick up a toy and put it in a box.

It is a simple task for a child, but for retailers it has been a big hurdle to automating one of the most labor-intensive aspects of e-commerce: grabbing items off shelves and packing them for shipping.

Several companies, including Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co. HBC +0.82% and Chinese online-retail giant Inc., JD +1.79% have recently begun testing robotic “pickers” in their distribution centers. Some robotics companies say their machines can move gadgets, toys and consumer products 50% faster than human workers.

Retailers and logistics companies are counting on the new advances to help them keep pace with explosive growth in online sales and pressure to ship faster. U.S. e-commerce revenues hit $390 billion last year, nearly twice as much as in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales are rising even faster in China, India and other developing countries.

That is propelling a global hiring spree to find people to process those orders. U.S. warehouses added 262,000 jobs over the past five years, with nearly 950,000 people working in the sector, according to the Labor Department. Labor shortages are becoming more common, particularly during the holiday rush, and wages are climbing.

Throwing nearly a million people out of work sounds pretty great! Hard to see any down side. Democrats should just offer some tax credits for employers to train workers. That will pretty much solve the problem!

Seriously, the real answer for this is going to need to be the right to a job, guaranteed by the government as an employer of last resort. I have no real problem with part of the solution being universal basic income, but again, I am extremely skeptical of Americans approving a welfare program that is not based upon work, as it files in the face of everything about American culture and history. Just the federally guaranteed job isn’t enough–free college tuition and the forgiveness of debt, a real industrial policy, the building of a green economy, and federal subsidies of everything from working in a farmers’ market to your local hipster bicycle shop are going to have to be pieces of the puzzle. People need work of some kind, even if self-defined. And they need a decent income and path to dignity. In a fully automated economy, they aren’t going to get it. And before someone says, “Derp, Luddite, Derp,” let me remind you that previous generations’ technological advancements worked because the increased jobs they created in an expanding economy absorbed those job losses. Today, we don’t create jobs to replace those lost through automation. They are just totally lost jobs, except for robot designers. Not solving this problem means massive social upheaval, no doubt channeled through racial violence, xenophobia, misogyny, and religious nationalism.

I have almost no faith that we will solve any of these problems.

Finally, White People are Outraged about Police Violence

[ 116 ] July 25, 2017 |

There’s no question that the killing of the Australian woman by a police officer in Minneapolis is a terrible thing. It goes once again to show that one of the nation’s biggest problems is that the police carry weapons on all occasions. Stripping the police of their guns is one of the biggest moves toward public safety we could take, second perhaps only to repealing the Second Amendment and making it much harder to own a gun.

That said, the white response to this killing as opposed to the response to the routine killing of black people by white cops is grotesque. That’s especially true considering the Minneapolis police murdered Philando Castile a mere year ago. He we have a full page profile on the attractive white woman killed by a Somali-American cop. And now, racist white people are attacking police violence by saying the cop was a “diversity hire” and only if our society wasn’t overrun by POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and all jobs just automatically went to white people except for porters and mammies, that everything would be great.

When victims of police shootings are black, many pundits demand patience, withhold judgment of the officer’s actions, and start looking for dirt on the person killed. Damond isn’t targeted with the same prejudicial scrutiny, and Noor isn’t getting the same wait-and-see defense.

The hypocritical nature of conservative media reactions here overshadows a bigger problem: the tendency to treat every police shooting as a case of bad individuals, rather than emblematic of a systemic problem in U.S. law enforcement.

Take the argument pioneered by ex-cop turned right-wing radio host John Cardillo, which has since jumped to Infowars, WorldNetDaily, and other far-right online spaces. Cardillo argues that Noor, who is Somali American, was a “diversity hire” pushed by a class of politically correct administrators. If they wouldn’t have pushed for Noor’s hiring in the first place, the argument goes, Damond would still be alive today. Minneapolis gave deadly force to someone unqualified to wield it, these voices claim, because it made people feel good to have a more diverse police force.

A second, similar reaction has spread along the internet’s right edge, exemplified in notorious Islamophobe Pam Gellar’s coverage of the story. Gellar focuses on Noor’s religious affiliation and points to the specter of “Islamic supremacism,” asking readers to believe that Noor killed Damond because that is simply what Somali Americans do.

These reactions are astonishing in their racism, but the problem goes far beyond that. They also exonerate the police institutions that trained Noor, the conduct regulations that governed his behavior, and the political environment in which he and all other police currently operate.

In these renderings of the case, the important details are all about identity. Instead of a white cop killing an unarmed black man, it’s a black cop killing an unarmed white woman. Noor killed a woman who’d sought his help because something was wrong with him, not because anything is wrong with how the institution of policing conditions officers to behave, think, and react to situations.

If Noor is just one faulty piece in a perfectly fine system, fixing things is as simple as plucking him off the chessboard. No further questions need to be asked about how our public institutions hand out badges and guns; the probe stops at the supposed ills of inclusive hiring and religious tolerance.

I’ll tell you what, I’m just amazed that right-wing responses to police violence are entirely framed by the race of the shooter and victim. Amazed.

The difference in the official response between this and the routine murders of blacks by white cops is striking.

Reality did not disappoint the cynics. Within six days of Damond’s death, an attorney for her family had called her “the most innocent victim” of a police shooting he’d ever seen, and the mayor of Minneapolis had asked for and received the resignation of police chief Janeé Harteau. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a story pointing out that Bob Kroll, the leader of the local police union—who once referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terrorist organization”—was being uncharacteristically silent when it came to the culpability of the Somali American Noor. When pressed on why he had been willing to defend the officers involved in Clark’s death but unwilling to defend Noor, Kroll told the Star-Tribune that he hadn’t yet spoken to Noor’s lawyer and therefore didn’t have enough information to comment. “In this case, I don’t know the facts of it,” Kroll told a reporter in a series of text messages. “His attorney is handling and the Federation is remaining silent. This is how our board and attorney decided to handle this one.”

I suppose watching white people begin to realize that maybe police violence is a problem because one of there’s died is a not terrible thing. It would be great if the upshot of this was that white people realized that Black Lives Matter is a real set of complaints about police violence, as well as many other ways black people are discriminated against, and then united with them in a broader fight against police violence. The chances of that happening is approximately the same as John McCain flying back to Washington from brain cancer surgery to save health care for the poor instead of stripping it from them.

Women, Water, and Labor

[ 18 ] July 25, 2017 |

In thinking about both labor issues and global development, the connection between women’s work and water supplies must be central. In much of the world, women work incredibly hard hauling water from often distant sources to homes. In the United States, this was the case into the 1940s, at least in rural America (Caro’s The Path of Power is wonderful on this in describing the Texas hill country and how LBJ was moved by his knowledge of the brutality of this work to fight hard for dams that would bring electricity to his district). It’s not that way today, but because women are so often unequally tasked with reproductive labor, even if they hold paid jobs, that water remains central to their lives. This is a good overview of the issue and why we need to take this problem more seriously.

Collecting water takes time. Simply to get water for drinking, bathing, cooking and other household needs, millions of women and girls spend hours every day traveling to water sources, waiting in line and carrying heavy loads — often several times a day.

The new UNICEF/WHO report states that 263 million people worldwide have access to water sources that are considered safe, but need to spend at least 30 minutes walking or queuing to collect their water. Another 159 million get their water from surface sources that are considered to be the most unsafe, such as rivers, streams, and ponds. Water from these sources is even more likely to require over 30 minutes to collect.

In a study of 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF estimated that women there spent 16 million hours collecting water each day. Women in a recent study in Kenya reported spending an average of 4.5 hours fetching water per week, causing 77 percent to worry about their safety while fetching and preventing 24 percent from caring for their children.

When children or other family members get sick from consuming poor-quality water, which can happen even if the water is initially clean when collected, women spend their time providing care. These responsibilities represent lost opportunities for women’s employment, education, leisure, or sleep.

Water is heavy. The World Health Organization recommends 20-50 liters of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and washing. That amounts to hauling between 44 and 110 pounds of water daily for use by each household member.

And in many places, water sources are far from homes. In Asia and Africa, women walk an average of six kilometers (3.7 miles) per day collecting water. Carrying such loads over long distances can result in strained backs, shoulders, and necks, and other injuries if women have to walk over uneven and steep terrain or on busy roads.

Of course, there are many issues getting in the way of ensuring clean water supplies and the author suggests the exclusion of women from decision making is a real problem.

When communities initiate programs to improve access to water, it is critical to ask women about their needs and experiences. Although women and girls play key roles in obtaining and managing water globally, they are rarely offered roles in water improvement programs or on local water committees. They need to be included as a right and as a practical matter. Numerous water projects in developing countries have failed because they did not include women.

And women should play meaningful roles. A study in northern Kenya found that although women served on local water management committees, conflict with men at water points persisted because the women often were not invited to meetings or were not allowed to speak.

Women who raise their voices about water concerns need to be heard. In Flint, Michigan, women were critical to revealing the city’s water crisis and continue to push for changes.

We also need broader strategies to reduce gender disparities in water access. First we need to collect more data on women’s water burden and how it affects their their health, well-being, and personal development. Second, women must be involved in creating and managing targeted programs to mitigate these risks. Third, these programs should be evaluated to determine whether they are truly improving women’s lives. And finally, social messaging affirming the idea that water work belongs only to women must be abandoned.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called empowerment of the world’s women “a global imperative.” To attain that goal, we must reduce the weight of water on women’s shoulders.

And who knows, maybe someday we will live in a country that once again values making sure even our own citizens have clean water, not to mention the rest of the world.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 112

[ 123 ] July 25, 2017 |

This is the grave of Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Wilbur Wright was born in 1867 in Indiana and his younger brother Orville was born four years later in Dayton. Neither finished high school, which was hardly uncommon at the time. They got involved in the printing business in Dayton, publishing a series of short-lived newspapers, including Paul Laurence Dunbar’s paper for Dayton’s black community, and other publications. None of these were particularly successful, but, again, there was nothing unusual about newspapers coming and going in the Gilded Age. They became interested in the new phenomenon of bicycling and opened a bike shop in Dayton in 1892. By 1896, they were making their own bicycles. At the same time, they became interested in flight, as it seemed increasingly possible that humans could cross this frontier. They paid attention to the continued advancements toward flight in Europe and began to experiment themselves. As early as 1900, the Wright Brothers began traveling to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for flight experiments. They of course succeeded in 1903, making them first people to fly. Wilbur was the first because he won the coin toss. It was only 3 seconds, but flight it was. They had more success 3 days later, once flying for 12 seconds and, more importantly, getting a picture of it. Of course, people wondered if this was even flying. The Dayton Journal refused to write a story about it, believing that this was not long enough to count.

The next couple of years saw the continuation of sort of flying. They continued building early airplanes and having very limited success. But by the fall of 1905, they flew for as long as 38 minutes. This was real flight and finally people began paying attention. Part of the reason they had trouble attracting attention is that this was a strictly entrepreneurial enterprise. They wouldn’t fly for reporters because they feared people stealing their ideas and they wanted to sell the technology to a company. People openly declared they were lying, especially in Europe. In 1906 and 1907, they made no flights at all because of their obsession of selling a technology no one had seen in action. The U.S. military blew them off entirely. Finally, in 1908, they convinced the military to open a contract to build a flyer, which they won, and also agreed to a contract with a French company. Before securing the contracts though, they had to fly with a passenger. The media heard about it and finally the lid was blown off the invention. At that point, they went to France and did several public demonstrations, becoming stars of the day. Of course, these planes were tremendously unstable. At the first demonstration for the military, the plane crashed. Orville was seriously injured, the military officer died of a skull fracture. Still, they managed to succeed in building the planes they contracted for and they became successful, with President Taft inviting them for dinner at the White House.

Typically however, they became involved in all sorts of conflicting patent claims. All of this undermined Wilbur’s health. Instead of dying in a plane accident, which I always assumed was the cause for his early death, he died of exhaustion and typhoid fever in 1912, at the age of 45. Orville, not a very good businessman but knowing that, sold the company in 1915 and moved back to Dayton. He made his last flight as a pilot in 1918 and then retired. Both brothers were close to their sister Katharine, also buried here, but when she finally married in 1926, the only sibling to do so, Orville felt personally betrayed and refused to attend the wedding. She died three years of later pneumonia and he only saw her once before then. Orville also had a lot of regrets later in life over the use of airplanes in war, especially after the horrors of World War II. He didn’t regret inventing it however. He died in 1948.

The continuing battle between Ohio and North Carolina on license plates and the back of quarters to claim the home of flight is largely a pissing match between two states with very little else to offer and should be made fun of by everyone from better states.

Orville and Wilbur Wright are buried in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.

Surprise Scheduling

[ 30 ] July 24, 2017 |

One of the many indignities low wage workers suffer is with their schedules. Whether the constant shift of their schedules week to week, reporting to work and being sent home after an hour if business is slow, and surprise scheduling are all practices that should be banned. They seriously interfere with the ability of an individual to live a dignified life. New York City at least is moving in the right direction on this issue.

The text message came as Flavia Cabral walked to a McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan for her 6 p.m. shift on a May evening. It was from her manager. Business was slow and she was not needed.

Cabral said she was not too surprised. Her work hours fluctuate almost weekly, though losing an entire shift at the last minute happens only once every few months. This time the canceled shift took a $63 bite out of her average $350 gross weekly earnings from two part-time jobs.

“Every week you’re guessing how much money you’re going to get and how many days you’re going to work,” said Cabral, 53, who has been employed at McDonald’s for four years.But a measure of relief is coming for Cabral and 65,000 other New York City fast-food workers whose schedules and incomes often change with little or no notice.

New York recently became the largest U.S. city to require fast-food restaurants to schedule workers at least two weeks in advance, or pay them extra for changes.

The law, which the restaurant industry vigorously opposed, also requires employers to allow 11-hour breaks between shifts, offer part-time staff additional work before hiring new employees, and pay retail workers to be “on call.” It takes effect late this year.

Great work by SEIU on this, which continues to support the fast food workers movement even if they don’t get dues money from new members.

This sort of thing should be a central part in a Democratic Party’s new agenda of basic rights for workers. By itself, advocating for such a federal law would not be all that compelling in terms of GOTV, but as part of a larger package that included the $15 minimum wage, a new law placing the Obama overtime regulatory standards into the legal code, a federally guaranteed job, and other pro-worker planks that would reset corporate power in this country, they would go far to rejuvenating their appeal among the working classes of all races.

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