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[ 9 ] August 17, 2013 |

Say what you will about Jacques Vergès, but everyone deserves the best defense possible, even if it is Klaus Barbie or your long-time friend Pol Pot.

If you’ve never seen Terror’s Advocate, do so.


[ 7 ] August 16, 2013 |

This is pretty close to the most devastating critique I’ve ever read of a baseball player.


[ 78 ] August 16, 2013 |

I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of boycotting the Winter Olympics in Russia because of the nation’s anti-gay laws. Mostly, I don’t think it’s fair to athletes to be used as pawns in a political game and I do think that athletes can become Tommie Smith and John Carlos, protesting in very powerful ways. What would be more powerful, a boycott or athletes on the medal stand making clear statements in solidarity with gay Russians? The latter by far.

That said, the idea that U.S. athletes should “comply” with Russia’s anti-gay laws, as suggested by United States Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun, is deeply offensive. His point is that athletes should always comply with the laws of the country where they visit. 99% of the time that is absolutely correct. Complying with laws that violate basic standards of decency and discriminate against people, well that’s a whole other thing.

Foxconn Labor Strife

[ 16 ] August 16, 2013 |

Glad to see workers in China fighting back against their conditions of work at Foxconn. Of course, I’m sure that the computer industry will move the factory to Vietnam or Cambodia. After all, given the lack of profits made by Apple and Foxconn, there’s no way they companies can afford to pay these workers enough to eat.

Mining Sacred Spaces

[ 24 ] August 15, 2013 |

What’s more important, Kiowa sacred spaces or the whims of a mining capitalist who wants to tear up a sacred Kiowa mountain in order to mine limestone? I think we know which. The state could get involved, but it is in Oklahoma, so there’s little hope.


[ 122 ] August 15, 2013 |

The Philadelphia school system has decided to use a classic union-busting tactic: destroy seniority provisions:

There’s something about seniority that really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. It challenges our national mythology about meritocracy, a myth that ignores the race, gender, and class privileges that underlie a system where I as a white dude just happen to succeed where others don’t. Unions defend seniority not because it is perfect. No system is perfect. They defend it because it is the only system that is fair to workers.* Otherwise, how do we decide who has job preference? Like the Philadelphia schools, it is employers who want to decide. Employers are going to favor those they like, those who don’t support the union, those that are toadies. It is also an illegal labor action and let’s hope this pernicious union-busting gets fought off.

*Obviously the one exception to this was with affirmative action. That’s a complex story. The exception is noted before someone brings it up.

Today in American Corporations Using Slave Labor

[ 30 ] August 15, 2013 |

Shipbuilding corporation Signal International has some very special labor practices, policies that more corporations would emulate if they could get away it:

The lawsuits allege that Signal and its agents defrauded guest workers out of millions of dollars in exorbitant “recruitment fees” and falsely promised help in applying for and obtaining permanent US residence.

The guest workers sold family property and heirlooms, and incurred crippling debt, to each pay as much as $25,000 to Signal, they charged.

Once these workers were lured to Signal’s shipyards in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Orange, Texas, they were forced to live in overcrowded, unsanitary and racially segregated labour camps, the news release alleged.

Signal, used the US government’s H-2B visa guest worker programme to import these employees from India to work as welders and pipefitters after Hurricane Katrina scattered its workforce, SPLC said.

Usually capital mobility moves to other nations in order to exploit labor. But sometimes it draws workers from afar to its manufacturing sites, keeps them in social isolation so they can’t complain, and treats them as if they actually had moved to Vietnam or India or Honduras.

“I think that Robert E. Lee, as a traitor and betrayer of his solemn oath before God and the Constitution, was a much greater terrorist than Osama Bin Ladin”

[ 155 ] August 15, 2013 |

I rather like this Lt. Col. Robert Bateman fellow who is blogging at Charles Pierce’s place:

A little more than a decade ago I was going through a divorce. It was pretty ugly, and emotionally, it left me distracted and out of sorts. The Ex had decided on a course of action with another fellow, and I really could not stand by for that. Allegiances and oaths and vows sort of mean a lot to somebody like me, and this being the second time, that was the end of things. Somehow, however, it was I who ended up moving out of our nice home.

What followed was stereotypical for a divorce of this sort. I spent a lot of time after work going to local bars. All of them within walking distance from my apartment on a hillside known as Marye’s Heights, in the town where I lived. This was 2002.

Being disinclined to sociability at the time, when prompted by a fellow barfly into a conversation I did not feel like having, I would assess my interrogator. If he fit the profile (and so many did), I would counter-present a statement as a way of starting a “conversation.” That “profile” had nothing to do with socio-economic status, but it did have a hell of a lot to do with race, and the bugaboo of “heritage.” At least “heritage” as it is interpreted in rural Virginia anyway. Regardless of the topic he was trying to engage me on, I would parry. Then I would start a new conversation. My entree was, “I think that Robert E. Lee, as a traitor and betrayer of his solemn oath before God and the Constitution, was a much greater terrorist than Osama Bin Ladin… after all, Lee killed many more Americans than Bin Ladin, and almost destroyed the United States. What do you think?”

Yeah, I flunked “Subtle 101” in High School. Oh well. Like I said, I was not in a good place.

But the fact is that there was nothing that any of these men, and they were all men, could say in honest denial to my assertion. They sputtered and growled, spouted and shouted, but not once did it end well for them on any level. You see, if they were “unreconstructed rebels,” well then I was something almost none of them had ever experienced, an “unreconstructed Yankee.” What is more, at the intellectual level I was not playing fair.

Not only did I have the historical facts on my side, but I was also deliberately playing upon two southern biases which are nearly independent of politics: Reverence for military service, and reverence of the concept of “honor” and “oaths.” I am a military officer, Airborne and Ranger qualified. I swore an oath, almost exactly the same as the one Robert E. Lee had, to the United States. Most of those I confronted over barstools and tables in Fredericksburg eventually just asked to be let out of the argument, because I would not let go. I was alone, and angry, and historically versed, and my own G-G-G-Grandfather had actually fought there, not 300 yards from where my crappy apartment was, in 1862. And they were stunned, at the outset, that I was saying something that defied their understanding.

Deep bitterness and outrage at treason in defense of slavery. This is my kind of person.

1940s Parking

[ 43 ] August 14, 2013 |

We need more of these parking contraptions.

The Rush to Fracking

[ 21 ] August 14, 2013 |

I’m not much of a fan of the “crowdsourced discussion” model that Wonkblog uses here, but on the topic of whether fracking’s proponents are not taking potential water contamination seriously enough, the answer is obviously yes. And by fracking proponents, I mean not only the energy industry but state and federal governments. I’m certainly not underestimating the importance of cheap energy, not only to our standard of living but to the political fortunes of politicians. But as is typical in our nation that combines technological fetishism with an almost mythological emphasis on capitalist entrepreneurs, we have jumped into fracking with both feet. A far smarter policy would have been to run a lot more tests, holding back on the technology until we have some really good sense of what the long-term effects on water will be. If we do contaminate large swathes of our water supplies through this in exchange for short-term gains, the future will not look kindly. After all, it’s not as if the U.S. has a lot of water to spare at this point. Water is at least as important to national security and standard of living as energy and sacrificing one for the other is a terrible idea that could really hurt the nation down the road.

Rahm’s War on Public Schools Continues

[ 56 ] August 14, 2013 |

Less than three months after Rahm Emanuel closed 50 Chicago public schools to bust the teachers union move resources around efficiently, the august mayor has issued a call for new charter schools in the very neighborhoods where the public schools were shuttered. It just so happens that these are non-union jobs led by people who will probably not hire the laid off teachers. I’m sure it’s all a coincidence.


[ 84 ] August 14, 2013 |

The inevitable bad choice of the New Jersey Democratic electorate happened last night with the victory of Empty Suit Booker in the state’s Senate primary. Soon to make us long for the days of Joe Lieberman, Booker will combine all of my favorite virtues in a senator: an insatiable ego, a love for television, grand presidential ambitions, Rheeism, an openly pro-corporate agenda, few core beliefs and certainly no core beliefs that would help working class people, and the fawning adoration of the Beltway media. The Washington Post is already giddy. Meanwhile, Alex Pareene’s desperate plea to New Jersey Democrats to elect Holt or Pallone fell on deaf ears, but we can still remember his article as a no doubt accurate prediction of Booker annoying us in coming years.

I’m sure Booker’s long-time defenders Lanny Davis and Harold Ford are pretty happy today.