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Class Identity

[ 108 ] February 23, 2014 |

A very interesting report showing that despite the constant discussion of the middle class in the media and by our politicians, as many Americans openly identify as working class as they do middle class:

Pew doesn’t include working class as an option in its survey, but the long-running General Social Survey (GSS) includes both working class and lower class as options. In the chart below, I use the GSS to track class identification between 1980 and 2012 (the most recent year for which GSS data is available). As it shows, at 44 percent, the share of Americans identifying as working class in 2012 was the same as the share identifying as middle class. Only about 8 percent of Americans identified as lower class, slightly higher than the roughly 5 percent on average who identified as lower class before the Great Recession.

This is important because it shows how the media and political class work to obscure class in this country, naturalizing the middle class as important while denigrating the working class as lazy or irrelevant. It shows at least the potential for some kind of more concrete class politics in this country. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Americans vote according to political class the way many progressives would like them to vote, nor does it mean that they believe their working-class status makes capital an antagonist to their interests. These are complex questions and can’t be reduced to dollars and cents.

The Coordinated Anti-UAW Campaign

[ 94 ] February 23, 2014 |

Great reporting here detailing the coordinated anti-UAW campaign between the right-wing Norquist forces and anti-union workers inside the plant. In part:

While the UAW has focused much of its post-election ire on Corker, anti-union activists say a key player in their effort in Chattanooga was Patterson, a little-known Norquist lieutenant who heads the Center for Worker Freedom.

Patterson began laying the anti-union groundwork in Chattanooga last spring, while still working for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He began writing a series of opinion pieces for newspapers and helped organize local events.

“I thought if the UAW was going to have a victory in the South, then this was going to be the place where they had the best chance,” Patterson said in an interview.

Patterson was one of the featured speakers at an anti-union town hall last July in Chattanooga. The event was organized by Mark West, head of the Chattanooga Tea Party, and his neighbor Don Jackson, former head of VW’s Chattanooga plant.

Anti-union activists deny coordinating their efforts. But West and Jackson said Patterson shared information, including newspaper articles and opinion pieces, with Mike Burton, 56, a paint shop worker at the VW plant who last summer began organizing anti-UAW workers in Chattanooga and later formed a group called Southern Momentum.

Burton, who became a poster boy for the anti-union movement, raised more than $100,000, mainly from workers and local citizens, according to Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga attorney retained by Southern Momentum.

Some of the money was used to create a website, www.no2uaw.org, develop a YouTube video and print anti-UAW fliers

.

This may help the UAW’s complaint with the NLRB, since this is a lot more detailed information than it was able to provide for its complaint about coordinated anti-union efforts.

Film Blog (VI)

[ 35 ] February 22, 2014 |

I’ve put up another set of short reviews on my tenth-rate film blog. Read if you care. In short:

Leave Her to Heaven (Stahl, 1945)–I know people love this film, but I’ve seen in a couple times and can’t get over the huge plot problems.

Women Without Men (Neshat, 2009)–Beautifully shot film about Iranian women during the 1953 coup, major plot issues.

Climate of Change (Hill, 2010)–Unsuccessful documentary about people doing various things to fight climate change, makes no concerted attempt to speak truth to power. Tilda Swinton narrates in rhyme.

Gloria (Lelio, 2013)–Not going to change your life, but a pleasant enough film that embraces the sexuality of people in their 50s. Worthy.

The Oyster Princess (Lubitsch, 1919)–One of the first really complete and successful feature-length comedies. Lots of people doing the same thing does indeed turn out to be funny.

I Don’t Want to Be a Man (Lubitsch, 1918)–A mind-blowing gender bending comedy. Never let it be said silent films didn’t play with sexuality.

Our Daily Bread (Geyrhalter, 2005)–Kind of interesting film about the industrial food system that is incredibly powerful when showing meat production, less successful otherwise because of no narration or interviews.

Aurora (Puiu, 2010)–Another fast-paced Romanian film! Not enough of a payoff for such a long film. I know Puiu was the first of the modern Romanian directors to strike it big internationally, but I tend to find him less satisfactory than the others.

North Country (Caro, 2005)–I really wish this was better than it is.

The Front Line (Hun, 2011)–Fairly blase Korean film about the pointlessness of the last two years of the Korean War.

The Harder They Come (Henzell, 1972)–Sure the plot is a cliche but the music is great and it was probably the first piece of culture projecting the poverty of Kingston to the world. Fun stuff too.

Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger, 1959)–As awesome as advertised. Can’t believe I went this long without seeing it.

Divorce, Italian Style (Germi, 1961)–Quality satire of Italian gender roles, good thing that’s irrelevant to modern Italy….

The Congressional Science Commitee, Brought to You by Chevron

[ 89 ] February 22, 2014 |

The Congressional Science Committee is at present basically the legislative arm of the Chevron octopus:

For Chevron, the second-largest oil company in the country with $26.2 billion in annual profits, it helps to have friends in high places. With little fanfare, one of Chevron’s top lobbyists, Stephen Sayle, has become a senior staff member of the House Committee on Science, the standing congressional committee charged with “maintaining our scientific and technical leadership in the world.”

Throughout much of 2013, Sayle was the chief executive officer of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying firm retained by Chevron to influence Congress. For fees that total $320,000 a year, Sayle and his team lobbied on a range of energy-related issues, including implementation of EPA rules under the Clean Air Act, regulation of ozone standards, as well as “Congressional and agency oversight related to offshore oil, natural gas development and oil spills.”

Sayle’s ethics disclosure, obtained by Republic Report, shows that he was paid $500,000 by Chevron’s lobbying firm before taking his current gig atop the Science Committee.

In recent months, the House Science Committee has become a cudgel for the oil industry, issuing subpoenas and holding hearings to demonize efforts to improve the environment. Some of the work by the committee reflect the lobbying priorities of Chevron.

Hardly surprising of course since Republicans control the House. This does highlight a couple of key points. First is the importance Democrats need to place on congressional races, which of course the Democratic Party does, but the base does not. Progressives especially emphasize the presidency far too much in comparison to Congress. Not that the presidency isn’t vitally important, of course it is. But we judge Obama for not doing enough on climate because Green Lantern presidency when, well duh, look who controls Congress. And then of course there’s the huge challenge of getting this nation to do anything about climate or a green energy policy when dirty energy controls one political party.

Oil Train Voluntary Safety Standards

[ 17 ] February 22, 2014 |

The oil industry has agreed to voluntary standards to improve safety on oil trains after a spate of recent accidents. Of course it’s voluntary which means that it’s unenforceable. So color me skeptical. The government can still threaten actual regulations so there is some leverage for real improvements. It’s better than nothing.

Pro-Keystone Unions Donating to the Chamber of Commerce

[ 58 ] February 22, 2014 |

Head, meet desk:

Several construction labor unions have decided to lend their support to the Keystone XL. Though critics charge that the pipeline will lead to a drastic increase in carbon emissions, the unions, including Laborers International Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers, have endorsed the project in exchange for several thousand short-term jobs and only 35 permanent jobs.

Trading a few jobs now for environmental destruction might seem like short-sighted strategy, but apparently such thinking runs deep in both unions.

According to a search of Department of Labor records, both the Laborers and the Engineers provided the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest anti-union lobbying group in the country, with $50,000 each.

Wow. It’s one thing for LIUNA and the Operating Engineers to support building Keystone. I disagree with this decision very strongly, for many reasons, including the very few permanent union jobs it will create, not to mention the divisions created with labor’s badly needed allies in the environmental movement. But OK, I get it.

Donating to the Chamber of Commerce is a whole other deal. Does LIUNA and the Engineers need reminding that the Chamber of Commerce opposes card check? Supports right to work laws? Opposes a higher minimum wage and the enforcement of labor law? The Chamber of Commerce is opposed to everything the labor movement believes in. Except I guess the building of the Keystone pipeline. Donating union dues to the Chamber is a betrayal of members’ interests regardless of where the union leadership stands on the pipeline. It’s embarrassing and it shows just how poor some internationals are at separating short-term interests from long-term interests.

More here.

The Cow Tunnels of New York City

[ 40 ] February 22, 2014 |

It isn’t dead horse blogging (and don’t worry yourselves, I still have a good number of dead horses to show you), but this essay on the forgotten history of cows in New York City is great. There may be some cow tunnels underneath the city built to move cows around without clogging city streets, a real problem in 19th and early 20th century New York, when there were a good number of slaughterhouses in Manhattan. It’s unclear whether they do actually exist, but this is a fun story, not only because of the cows but because of the research process.

UAW Files NLRB Complaint against Tennessee Republicans for Interference in Chattanooga

[ 101 ] February 21, 2014 |

The UAW has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the interference of Tennessee politicians in the union election, claiming intimidation and asking that the results be thrown out and a new election held (PDF). This was an expected step and I’m glad the UAW made it. Because workers did say these threats turned their vote, they do have a legal leg to stand upon. Whether the NLRB will actually toss the results, I don’t know. My gut feeling says it’s a bit of a long-shot. Even if it is overturned, will the workers vote differently the second time around?

But the evidence of Republican interference is all in that complaint and it’s pretty damning. Using the specter of capital mobility through the state not supporting company incentives as a threat against workers is a real dirty tactic and one that worked. One thing about this case is that everyone will be watching to see what the NLRB does.

The Pac-12: Screwing Over the Little Guy

[ 24 ] February 21, 2014 |

Building on the model of professional sports, where immensely profitable owners squeeze the wages, reduce the benefits, and undermine the pensions of everyday workers because they can, the Pac-12, flush with cash from the Pac-12 Networks, refuses to provide health insurance or retirement benefits for its technicians and relies upon unpaid internships for students from the member schools to train for jobs that do not pay standard or living wages.

This of course on top of Pac-12 schools, like the rest of the NCAA, stealing the labor of their athletes. And god forbid those athletes eat too much pasta.

Figure Skating

[ 118 ] February 21, 2014 |

Once again, figure skating is a terrible sport.

Income Inequality

[ 24 ] February 21, 2014 |

I highly recommend Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price’s report on growing income inequality by state since 1979. Some of their findings from the executive summary (you can download the PDF at the link).

Lopsided income growth characterizes every state between 1979 and 2007.

In four states (Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan, and Alaska), only the top 1 percent experienced rising incomes between 1979 and 2007, and the average income of the bottom 99 percent fell.

In another 15 states the top 1 percent captured between half and 84 percent of all income growth between 1979 and 2007. Those states are Arizona (where 84.2 percent of all income growth was captured by the top 1 percent), Oregon (81.8 percent), New Mexico (72.6 percent), Hawaii (70.9 percent), Florida (68.9 percent), New York (67.6 percent), Illinois (64.9 percent), Connecticut (63.9 percent), California (62.4 percent), Washington (59.1 percent), Texas (55.3 percent), Montana (55.2 percent), Utah (54.1 percent), South Carolina (54.0 percent), and West Virginia (53.3 percent).

In the 10 states in which the top 1 percent captured the smallest share of income growth from 1979 to 2007, the top 1 percent captured between about a quarter and just over a third of all income growth. Those states are Louisiana (where 25.6 percent of all income growth was captured by the top 1 percent), Virginia (29.5 percent), Iowa (29.8 percent), Mississippi (29.8 percent), Maine (30.5 percent), Rhode Island (32.6 percent), Nebraska (33.5 percent), Maryland (33.6 percent), Arkansas (34.0 percent), and North Dakota (34.2 percent).

The lopsided growth in U.S. incomes observed between 1979 and 2007 resulted in a rise in every state in the top 1 percent’s share of income. This rise in income inequality represents a sharp reversal of the patterns of income growth that prevailed in the half century following the beginning of the Great Depression; the share of income held by the top 1 percent declined in every state but one between 1928 and 1979.

Ukraine

[ 212 ] February 20, 2014 |

If you are like me, you know basically nothing about Ukraine and the protests going on there. This was tremendously useful. In part:

More subtly, what this campaign does is attempt to reduce the social tensions in a complex country to a battle of symbols about the past. Ukraine is not a theater for the historical propaganda of others or a puzzle from which pieces can be removed. It is a major European country whose citizens have important cultural and economic ties with both the European Union and Russia. To set its own course, Ukraine needs normal public debate, the restoration of parliamentary democracy, and workable relations with all of its neighbors. Ukraine is full of sophisticated and ambitious people. If people in the West become caught up in the question of whether they are largely Nazis or not, then they may miss the central issues in the present crisis.

In fact, Ukrainians are in a struggle against both the concentration of wealth and the concentration of armed force in the hands of Viktor Yanukovych and his close allies. The protesters might be seen as setting an example of courage for Americans of both the left and the right. Ukrainians make real sacrifices for the hope of joining the European Union. Might there be something to be learned from that among Euroskeptics in London or elsewhere? This is a dialogue that is not taking place.

The history of the Holocaust is part of our own public discourse, our agora, or maidan. The current Russian attempt to manipulate the memory of the Holocaust is so blatant and cynical that those who are so foolish to fall for it will one day have to ask themselves just how, and in the service of what, they have been taken in. If fascists take over the mantle of antifascism, the memory of the Holocaust will itself be altered. It will be more difficult in the future to refer to the Holocaust in the service of any good cause, be it the particular one of Jewish history or the general one of human rights.

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