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Hurricanes and Waffle House

[ 79 ] June 9, 2014 |

Outside of the GoT podcasts, this site seems even more dour than normal the last couple of days. So since we all like maps and most of us like food (sometimes even food-like substances like ketchup) here’s 40 interesting food maps of the U.S. I was particularly amused by this:

FEMA has been using Waffle Houses as unofficial indicators of disaster recovery in recent years. Why? First of all, the chains are conveniently located (red dots) across the hurricane zones of the US (the gray lines on this map are hurricane and tropical storm tracks since 1851), as you can see in this map from Popular Science. Waffle Houses usually operate 24 hours a day and have exceptional disaster preparedness that lets them open back up quickly after a storm, the magazine reported. So whether a Waffle House has made it through an extreme weather event can be a handy thing to know. Because of this, Waffle Houses have been reporting their statuses to FEMA since 2012.

And here I thought they were testing whether the grease was made of an indestructible superproduct to be used against our national enemies.

Now back to our regularly scheduled bad news.


[ 223 ] June 9, 2014 |

Turns out if you handle anti-government freaks with kids gloves and let them act violent with no consequences, they just turn up the violence:

Neighbors of the couple who ambushed two police officers Sunday in Las Vegas told local newspapers the pair had bragged about spending time at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during the standoff with the federal government earlier this year.

The two suspects, whose names have not yet been released, fatally shot two police officers who were having lunch at a CiCi’s Pizza restaurant before killing a third person at a nearby Wal-Mart. The female suspect then shot the male suspect and then herself in an apparent suicide pact.

Neighbors in an apartment complex where the two suspects lived said they “had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views” and boasted about their gun collection, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The newspaper reported that residents of the apartment complex who spoke about the suspects also brought up the couple’s relationship with Bundy Ranch, where the two bragged about being present for the standoff between militia members and the Bureau of Land Management.

Donald Rumsfeld and Frederick Douglass

[ 33 ] June 7, 2014 |

I did not know that Don Rumsfeld owns the plantation where Frederick Douglass was sent to be broken in the 1830s. But boy is this appropriate:

The houses have names. Mr. Rumsfeld’s is Mount Misery and is just across Rolles Creek from a house called Mount Pleasant. On four acres, with four bathrooms, five bedrooms and five fireplaces, built in 1804, the Rumsfeld house is just barely visible at the end of a gravel drive.

Thomas M. Crouch, a broker at the Coldwell Banker office in town, says one legend attributes the name to the original owner, said to have been a sad and doleful Englishman. His merrier brother then built a house, and to put him on, Mr. Crouch supposes, named it Mount Pleasant.

But there is some historical gravity to the name, too. By 1833, Mount Misery’s owner was Edward Covey, a farmer notorious for breaking unruly slaves for other farmers. One who wouldn’t be broken was Frederick Douglass, then 16 and later the abolitionist orator. Covey assaulted him, so Douglass beat him up and escaped. Today, where the drive begins, Mount Misery seems a congenial place, with a white mailbox with newspaper delivery sleeves attached, a big American flag fluttering from a post by a split-rail fence and a tall, one-hole birdhouse of the sort made for bluebirds — although the lens in the hole suggests another function.

Does Rummy fantasize about this himself? Does he wish he could break the Iraqis who resisted U.S. occupation in 2004? Did he get off on Gitmo and Abu Ghraib based upon what happened on the land he owns in 1833? The mind reels.

Cape Cod Open Thread

[ 108 ] June 7, 2014 |

I don’t think there has ever been a day since I’ve blogged here that there were zero posts. I guess we are starting to have lives. But people need somewhere to complain about this and that. So allow this comment thread to fill that function. I am on Cape Cod for the weekend. Doing normal things out here– lobster rolls, wearing my ascot, playing touch football with the Kennedys, that sort of thing.


[ 134 ] June 6, 2014 |

True presidential behavior from the only progressive alternative in 2016.

Republicans’ Moral Bankruptcy

[ 116 ] June 5, 2014 |

Will Bunch says that the Republican response to Berghdahl’s redemption is a sign of conservatives’ moral bankruptcy:

The hypocrisy manages to be both stunning yet also banal, even predictable. It’s not rocket science. Sgt. Bergdahl was never a living, breathing human to these people — just what the director Alfred Hitchcock would have called a “MacGuffin,” an insignificant prop that exists to drive the real storyline, and that storyline is tearing down Obama as an un-American pretender to the White House. In 2013, Obama was a coward who didn’t understand our most basic principle of “no man left behind.” In 2014, Obama was a treasonous dictator who put the nation at risk to rescue an undeserving deserter who should be court-martialed, maybe executed. The two narratives are ridiculously, laughably contradictory except for one element: They both involve a president named Barack Hussein Obama.

This is a whole disgusting level below the normal day-to-day hypocrisy of American politics. These responses are the product of a moral sickness — and most pathetic are the ones who call themselves pro-life or who obsess over what they say is the loss of freedom in this country, yet they’d rather see their fellow human Bowe Bergdahl lose his freedom or even die all because of their blind hatred of the man in the Oval Office. Look, if the Army wants to investigate the facts surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance then they should do that (I doubt it would result in more than a slap on the wrist in the reality-based world, but we seem to be losing our grip on reality…so who knows).

But the bottom line is that if you see a woman standing in the middle of the road and a Mack Truck bearing down on her, you don’t stop to grill her on whether she just used heroin or left her child on a stoop somewhere. You pick her up and swoop her out of the street, and deal with the rest later. So should it be with saving Sgt. Bergdahl. For God’s sake, where’s the humanity? A couple of decades ago, two Inquirer reporters wrote an award-winning series and book called “America: What Went Wrong?” Today it’s more appropriate to ask, America…what the hell’s wrong with us?

Let it never be said again that Republicans support POWs. Because they only support POWs when white people are in the White House.

In related news, Joe Scarborough is the nation’s biggest douche.

A Plague of Locusts

[ 23 ] June 5, 2014 |

In a plot line rejected in favor of the airplane in Season 2 of Breaking Bad because the metaphor was too heavy-handed, here is the most Albuquerque story of all time:

According to The National Weather Service, the worst infestation of grasshoppers to hit Albuquerque in twenty years is so dense that it’s showing up on weather radars like rain.

David Craft, a spokesperson for the NWS, told ABC News that the infestation had been showing up on their radars since Memorial Day. The swarm is being blamed on Albuquerque’s recent drought.

John R. Garlisch, extension agent at Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service, explained the extent to which the insects were invading, and it sounds absolutely horrifying.

“It is a nuisance to people because they fly into people’s faces while walking, running, and biking. They are hopping into people’s homes and garages, they splatter the windshield and car grill while driving, and they will eat people’s plants.”

But wait, there’s more. Here’s the locusts showing up on Doppler radar:


If the apocalypse does come, it makes more than a little sense that it will start in Albuquerque.

Shorter Fortune: “The Poor: BORING!!!”

[ 284 ] June 5, 2014 |

Geoff Colvin at Fortune has precisely the reaction to the income inequality debate as you’d expect: “BORING!!!!”

I suspect I’m not the only one suffering from severe inequality fatigue.

The debate over income inequality is now officially the most boring debate in America, and that’s because it’s scarcely a “debate” at all. Here’s the thrilling state of play. Liberals think inequality is a really big problem—“the defining challenge of our time,” as President Obama said last December. Conservatives think it’s a problem, but not all that serious. As House Speaker John Boehner said grudgingly in March, “We do have an issue of income inequality in America.”

So we see furrowed brows across the political spectrum, with the “debate” focused on exactly how energetically we should be wringing our hands.

Wake me when it’s over.

Now, Colvin says there is an income inequality debate he wants to have, but it’s a fakeout. He doesn’t want to talk about income inequality at all. He just wants to find ways to blame the poor for their own poverty. He poses three questions. First,

If today’s degree of inequality is too great, then what degree would be just right?

This is a self-serving question because the answer for Colvin is that inequality is good and by forcing people to admit that, the rich win. Obviously we are never going to achieve full and absolute income equality. But it is a noble aim to strive for and I’m certainly not going to answer Colvin’s question in any other way than “None.”

2. If everyone’s real income were multiplied by 100, would inequality still be a problem?

A stupid question and irrelevant since it is never going to happen and we are heading in the opposite direction.

3. Is education the real reason for what’s happening?

Here we go. Because some of our young people go to Harvard (like Colvin) and others go to the University of Rhode Island and still others don’t go to college at all and because some of our young people were born rich, white men (like Colvin) and others were born in the ghetto or a West Virginia hollow or were raped by their fathers, we can blame those who have failed. If only they had gone to Harvard, they would be writing for Fortune too!

The idea that everyone is responsible for constantly “acquiring new skills” in order to have a house and eat properly and raise a family is totally absurd and ignores the reality of how people actually live in the world. Moreover, it does exactly what the plutocrats and their hack writers have done for 150 years–blame the poor for their own poverty.

I guess this is what one should expect from Fortune. Why read it if not for laughable defenses of the plutocracy?

Guestworkers as Strikebreakers

[ 25 ] June 5, 2014 |

While I am open to an argument that part of an immigration reform package should include a guestworker program, I am extraordinarily skeptical. Why? Because guestworker programs have ALWAYS been used to bust strikes. They give employers even greater leverage over their workers than trucking in strikebreakers from a different part of the country because they have no right to stay and thus no investment in not crossing the picket lines or showing solidarity with the workers, a solidarity they may well feel but what choice do they have? Such was the very plan for Sakuma Farms in Washington, even under the limited guestworker program already in existence:

This year Sakuma Farms applied for H-2A work visas for 438 workers it intends to bring from Mexico to work during the harvest, from June 18 to October 15. Afterward, they would have to go back to Mexico. Sakuma, one of the largest berry growers in Washington state, hires about 500 workers each picking season. If it recruits 438 of them in Mexico, there will not be enough work for those like Ventura, who have been laboring in its fields every year…

What is happening to Rosario Ventura… is a window into a possible future for farm workers. For workers already here, that future includes lost jobs. For growers, the same future holds government-administered programs giving them a source of temporary workers at close to minimum wage, who go back to Mexico when the work is done…

Workers question the company’s eligibility to recruit H-2A workers. [The Department of Labor] Fact Sheet #26 says clearly: “Employers must also assure that there is no strike or lockout in the course of a labor dispute at the worksite.” Last year Ventura, Galicia and 250 workers went on strike at Sakuma Farms several times…

In the course of the work stoppages workers formed an independent association, Familias Unidas por la Justicia—Families United for Justice…

Last year Familias Unidas por la Justicia wanted an improvement in both hourly wages and the piece rate—a $14 hourly guarantee, and a minimum price of $6 for a fifteen-pound box of blueberries. The company would not pay more than $4 a box, and a $12 per hour guarantee, saying that the higher demand would raise its labor costs too much.

When the company was questioned about why it needed H-2A workers, it said a labor shortage had led to the loss of blackberries and strawberries—it couldn’t find enough workers to pick them. But the farm was also unwilling to raise its wages to attract additional pickers.

Sakura has since withdrawn their application, possibly because of bad publicity, more likely because it was going to be rejected. But a bigger guestworker program would only undermine organizing. Immigrant labor must have the opportunity to stay in the country to create a fair playing field for them and for the workers already here.

The New Gilded Age

[ 19 ] June 4, 2014 |

Peter Van Buren provides an absolutely outstanding rundown of the New Gilded Age, even if he doesn’t use the term. An excerpt to remind you of the glories of 21st century America:

Last year eight Americans—the four Waltons of Walmart fame, the two Koch brothers, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett—made more money than 3.6 million American minimum-wage workers combined. The median pay for CEOs at America’s large corporations rose to $10 million per year, while a typical chief executive now makes about 257 times the average worker’s salary, up sharply from 181 times in 2009. Overall, 1 percent of Americans own more than a third of the country’s wealth.

Just in case you aren’t yet rock-bottom certain about the reality of that divide, here are some stats: the top 1 percent of Americans hold 35 percent of the nation’s net worth; the bottom 80 percent, only 11 percent percent. The United States has such an unequal distribution of wealth that, in global rankings, it falls among the planet’s kleptocracies, not the developed nations that were once its peers. The mathematical measure of wealth-inequality is called “Gini,” and the higher it is, the more extreme a nation’s wealth-inequality. The Gini for the US is 85; for Germany, 77; Canada, 72; and Bangladesh, 64. Nations more unequal than the US include Kazakhstan at 86 and the Ukraine at 90. The African continent tips in at just under 85. Odd company for the self-proclaimed “indispensable nation.”

Another way of phrasing this question is: Why don’t we just blame the poor for their plight? Mention unemployment or underemployment and someone will inevitably invoke the old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” line. If workers don’t like retail or minimum-wage jobs, or if they can’t find good paying jobs in their area, why don’t they just move? Quit retail or quit Pittsburgh (Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis) and…

Move to where to do what? Our country lost one-third of all decent factory jobs—almost six million of them—between 2000 and 2009, and wherever “there” is supposed to be, piles of people are already in line. In addition, many who lost their jobs don’t have the means to move or a friend with a couch to sleep on when they get to Colorado. Some have lived for generations in the places where the jobs have disappeared. As for the jobs that are left, what do they pay? One out of four working Americans earn less than $10 per hour. At 25 percent, the US has the highest percentage of low-wage workers in the developed world. (Canada and Great Britain have 20 percent, Japan under 15 percent and France 11 percent.)

One in six men, 10.4 million Americans aged 25 to 64, the prime working years, don’t have jobs at all, a portion of the male population that has almost tripled in the past four decades. They are neither all lazy nor all unskilled, and at present they await news of the uncharted places in the US where those 10 million unfilled jobs are hidden.

I’d only quibble in his way forward bit at the end that he doesn’t talk about taming capital mobility. He correctly identifies the fleeing of factory work from the United States as undermining the nation’s 99%. But without the taming of corporations that can only happen if they remain in one place for a reasonable amount of time, there’s nothing we are going to do about these problems.

Today in the Post-Racial Society

[ 67 ] June 4, 2014 |


Racism is dead:

Two black workers in a Tennessee cotton factory just filed a federal complaint against a domineering white supervisor who called them “monkeys” and was recorded lamenting racial integration while telling them the water fountain and microwave were for whites only. Happy 2014!

The men, who worked at the Atkinson Cotton Warehouse in Memphis, shared their story—and their secret recordings—with WREG-TV. The video above has to be seen to be believed.

The cotton industry’s history reminds some people of slavery.

Antonio Harris and Marrio Mangrum say their former supervisor was stuck in the past.

“He would be like, ‘You need to think like a white man,” said Mangrum.

“He pulled his pants down in front of us and told us to kiss his white tail,” said Harris.

He said after months of racist comments and feeling powerless, he decided to use his phone as a weapon to fight back.

At a cotton gin even.

Obviously the victim is the white supervisor for being accused of racism. Only a black racist would accuse a white of racism.

NYT Opinion

[ 36 ] June 4, 2014 |

I hope I don’t know anyone who thinks the New York Times opinion page is so valuable that they will subscribe to it alone. I know reading about Maureen Dowd getting stoned, Nic Kristof pretending to save Asian women, Little Tommy Friedman giving us the latest installment of “Made Up Conversations with Cab Drivers around the World,” and Ross Douthat cringing over the idea of women using birth control is quite compelling and all, but somehow this does not seem good value if it were free, not to mention paying for it.

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