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The Dumbest Article You’ll Read Today

[ 83 ] July 16, 2013 |

David Brooks wins that title with most of his articles, but his piece fretting about men in the economy is particularly bad. After a long pointless discussion of The Searchers, which I guess he means to use to fill his word count construct men as pioneers who become irrelevant, Brooks proceeds to misunderstand completely why male employment has not recovered like female employment. It’s not because of some crisis of values, which Brooks loves to push. It’s because of the very economic model for which he has spent a whole life selling us.

The definitive explanation for this catastrophe has yet to be written. Some of the problem clearly has to do with changes in family structure. Work by David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that men raised in fatherless homes, without as many immediate masculine role models, do worse in the labor force. Some of the problem probably has to do with a mismatch between boy culture and school culture, especially in the early years.

But, surely, there has been some ineffable shift in the definition of dignity. Many men were raised with a certain image of male dignity, which emphasized autonomy, reticence, ruggedness, invulnerability and the competitive virtues. Now, thanks to a communications economy, they find themselves in a world that values expressiveness, interpersonal ease, vulnerability and the cooperative virtues.

Surely, part of the situation is that many men simply do not want to put themselves in positions they find humiliating. A high school student doesn’t want to persist in a school where he feels looked down on. A guy in his 50s doesn’t want to find work in a place where he’ll be told what to do by savvy young things.

This is, frankly, stupid. The reason why male employment hasn’t recovered is because the jobs men used to have no longer exist. That the 20th century economy was inherently sexist cannot be questioned. Men had industrial jobs that became high paying after decades of union organization. The middle-class of salesmen, middle managers, etc., was also dominated by men. Women were in service positions. Now you tell me, which jobs still exist in the United States in 2013? The industrial jobs on the shopfloor? Uh, no. Even college educated men are told that they will change jobs multiple times in their lives. The basis of a secure economy that came from knowledge that your job would last a lifetime is long gone. Even lawyers have no work. What remains is a service economy, with jobs long defined as female. Housekeeping, nursing, child care, entry level office work, Wal-Mart–these are jobs that are available. This is not so different than the Great Depression, when men found themselves out of work and women often did not. That’s because telephone operators, teachers, secretaries, and other female-defined jobs proved more stable than a mechanic, working in an auto plant, or mining coal. In the 1930s, you saw a rash of men, embarrassed because they could no longer fulfill their masculine duties of maintaining a household, running away, hopping trains, committing suicide, leaving their families behind.

None of this is to excuse gender divisions at work. It’s to say that (likely) long-term shifts in American capitalism are to blame for what David Brooks would like to blame on culture.

……I stand corrected. Richard Cohen saying that our fear of even mentioning crime committed by young black men is like our fear of talking about sex in the Victorian Era is the dumbest article you’ll read today.

Stand Your Ground: The New Slave Patrols?

[ 104 ] July 15, 2013 |

Does it go too far to compare stand your ground laws with slave patrols? Given the ability of George Zimmerman to slay a random nonthreatening black kid like Trayvon Martin with no consequence and the backing of the Florida legal system, it’s an argument at least worth considering.

Of Thee I Sing

[ 24 ] July 15, 2013 |

If the students of Hoover, Alabama want the government to provide bus service so they can get to school, they are basically moochers anyway and we don’t need them getting in the way of our freedom to not provide basic 20th century government services.

Mystery Meat

[ 46 ] July 15, 2013 |

The meat industry is very upset by new regulations forcing meat producers to tell consumers where the meat comes from:

“Segregating and tracking animals according to the countries where production steps occurred and detailing that information on a label may be a bureaucrat’s paperwork fantasy, but the labels that result will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process,” Mark Dopp, an AMI executive, said in a statement.

Segregation! Is the cow black? If that’s the case, I suppose it’s OK. But those lighter colored cows, no way. That’s a superior cut of meat right there. Really, I haven’t been this outraged since George Zimmerman didn’t receive a parade for killing that hoodlum Trayvon Martin. I’ll bet some of black cows wear hoodies. Heck, they can’t even spell. I’ve seen my share of Chick-Fil-A commercials and we know how those gangster cows with their hoodies and their weed and their walking home at night act.

In all seriousness, we should probably assume most of meat, especially anything ground, has a high percentage of dog.

The Republican War on Women, Ohio Edition

[ 56 ] July 15, 2013 |

Unlike Sady Doyle, I don’t think the incredibly harsh Ohio abortion restrictions are a surprise at all:

And yet, Kasich’s restrictions are unapologetically out-there. Overnight, the nation’s political barometer has become an anti-choice fanatic’s wet dream. Anyone seeking an abortion will be forced to submit to a state-mandated ultrasound—and to pay for that ultrasound after it is forced on them. Planned Parenthood has been effectively stripped of state funding, but so-called “crisis pregnancy centers”—unregulated anti-abortion disinformation centers famous for placing misleading ads, providing medically unsound advice and using coercive tactics—will be receiving taxpayer money. Any clinic providing abortions will be required, by law, to enter into a contract with a nearby hospital, guaranteeing transport if a client experiences complications and needs urgent care. But public hospitals will be prevented by law from entering into such contracts, meaning that clinics will be shut down if they can’t find a local, privately owned hospital willing to comply. The state’s rape crisis centers are also under attack: If they refer a pregnant survivor to abortion services, or even mention the word “abortion,” they too will be defunded. According to Phipps, the law even endangers people who miscarry. Surgical abortions are often necessary after a first-trimester miscarriage to prevent hemorrhaging or infections. But the Kasich budget requires a 48-hour waiting period unless a doctor determines that the patient is at immediate risk of death.

So this, too, is a way the nation can go. If the reproductive rights battle in Texas is a story about how even conservative states can be brought to feel the power of pro-choice voters, then Ohio is a story about how, even in a state where most people do not share extremist anti-choice views, a few sufficiently conservative men in positions of power can bully their way into enacting extremist anti-choice policies. A poll released shortly before the budget passed indicated that 52 percent of voters said they did not support the proposed restrictions. Indeed, when similarly radical bills have been put forward on their own, and not within the context of a budget, as in the case of 2012′s “heartbeat bill,” they’ve been shot down. But because Republicans control the state legislature, the anti-abortion radicals have the edge.

In fact, I think these types of restrictions, and worse as we go forward, can be expected any time Republicans control all three branches of a state (or god forbid, national) legislature. And I’m also not convinced at all that the story of Texas was showing the power of the pro-choice movement. The law passed anyway. Texas Republicans simply don’t care. The reality is that all of us, no matter what progressive movements we believe in, need to understand that Republicans have declared war on the nation we believe should be created and are determined to roll back all of it to a Gilded Age, patriarchal, and racist structure that grants rich white men full rights to control the nation and makes poor white men at least feel superior to women and people of color. That’s the Republican Party platform of 2013 and they’ve already done a heck of a job moving closer to their goals.

Can One’s Arguments Be Too Silly For the “Men’s Rights” Movement To Be Taken Seriously?

[ 109 ] July 15, 2013 |


Here again men are in an impossible situation, for there’s an unspoken commandment when it comes to sex in America: thou shalt never blame the woman. If you’re a man who’s sexually involved with a woman and something goes wrong, it’s your fault. Simple as that.

Judith E. Grossman shed light on this phenomenon in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. A former feminist, Grossman concedes that in the past she would have expressed “unqualified support” for policies such as Title IX. But that was before her son was charged with “nonconsensual sex” by a former girlfriend.

“Title IX has obliterated the presumption of innocence that is so foundational to our traditions of justice. On today’s college campuses, neither “beyond a reasonable doubt,” nor even the lesser “by clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof, is required to establish guilt of sexual misconduct,” she writes.

When men become husbands and fathers, things get really bad. In family courts throughout America, men are routinely stripped of their rights and due process. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is easily used against them since its definition of violence is so broad that virtually any conflict between partners can be considered abuse.

The only thing harder in the United States in 2013 than being a man is being a rich white man. Those guys are like slaves, but it’s way worse for them because they can’t rape whoever they want without someone trying to put them in prison.

The End of Miami

[ 51 ] July 14, 2013 |

If you haven’t read this Rolling Stone piece on the forthcoming erasure of Miami and all of south Florida from the face of the Earth because of rising sea levels, you should. It’s happening and most of us will live to see it.

People Get Ready

[ 47 ] July 14, 2013 |

The projected violence following the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman Trial is coming to pass.

Lester Chambers, a seventy-three year-old musician known for his work as a member of The Chambers Brothers, was assaulted on stage at a blues festival last night after he dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin.

Chambers’ son, Dylan, posted the following on Facebook last night: “Lester was just assaulted on stage at The Russell City Hayward Blues Festival by a crazed woman after dad dedicated People Get Ready to Trayvon Martin. He is on the way to the hospital now.”

Wait, I thought only black people acted crazy? You mean violence is caused by white people?

Bangladesh’s Other Exploited Workers

[ 10 ] July 14, 2013 |

In all the emphasis on factory conditions in Bangladesh’s apparel trade, we’ve forgotten about the other major industrial hazard in the country–tearing apart decommissioned ships for domestic steel production. I’ve seen this highlighted in Jennifer Baichwal’s outstanding documentary Manufactured Landscapes, about the photographer of industrial disaster Edward Burtynsky.

Now this is some awful work:

As the recent tragedies of the garment industry show, safety standards for Bangladesh’s low-paid labor force are painfully lacking. Shipbreaking Platform, a Brussels-based coalition of groups that advocate for better conditions in the Chittagong yards, says 15 people died in the area last year. (The total on-site workforce is around 30,000.) One victim, Korshed Alam, was crushed by a falling metal plate. He was just 16.

One worker remembers an incident 10 years ago when a 40,000-ton oil tanker arrived at a nearby yard without having the highly flammable gases still contained within its holds properly drawn off. It exploded. “The bodies just flew out like birds. Maybe 100 people died,” he says. Another winces as he sits down to speak to TIME. The 23-year-old hasn’t been able to work for a year — last July he was sent up a ladder to cut down a piece of metal that others had been unable to shift. It swung down into his right abdomen, shattering five ribs and damaging his urinary tract. His company paid for a month of treatment, but he is still in pain and, unable to work, has to sell his possessions to survive.

Yet the business continues because, as a poor nation, Bangladesh has little choice. “To develop we need a lot of steel, and importing the finished product becomes very expensive,” says Mohammed Mohsin, head of one of Bangladesh’s largest shipbreaking companies, PHP Group. “We say these vessels are like floating iron-ore mines.” Every part of the ship is recycled — not just the steel — and stores line the highway to the yards selling items that have been carried off, from bathroom sinks to gas cylinders and rubber pipes.

It’s a more complex situation than apparel because the multinational corporations sell their ships to Bangladesh to offload them rather than contract with them to produce products for western markets.

Florida Justice

[ 66 ] July 13, 2013 |

As always in the Sunshine State, justice was served tonight. For another example:

Marissa Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody got hurt, but this month a northeast Florida judge was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison.

Alexander, a 31-year-old mother of a toddler and 11-year-old twins, knew it was coming. She had claimed self-defense, tried to invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law and rejected plea deals that could have gotten her a much shorter sentence. A jury found her guilty as charged: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she fired a gun while committing a felony, Florida’s mandatory-minimum gun law dictated the 20-year sentence.

Her case in Jacksonville has drawn a fresh round of criticism aimed at mandatory-minimum sentencing laws. The local NAACP chapter and the district’s African-American congresswoman say blacks more often are incarcerated for long periods because of overzealous prosecutors and judges bound by the wrong-headed statute. Alexander is black.

It also has added fuel to the controversy over Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which the judge would not allow Alexander to invoke. State Attorney Angela Corey, who also is overseeing the prosecution of shooter George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, stands by the handling of Alexander’s case. Corey says she believes Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.

See. The real criminal is behind the bars. By which I mean the black person of course. Because they are always the criminals in Florida.

Wal-Mart Stories

[ 65 ] July 13, 2013 |

Gawker’s series encouraging Wal-Mart employees to tell their own stories is both incredibly powerful and scaring the world’s largest corporation. The last thing Wal-Mart wants is for workers to have a voice about the terrible labor practices of the company. Check it out.

Silicon Valley Anti-Unionism

[ 263 ] July 12, 2013 |

Last week, BART workers went on strike, shutting down the region’s major mass transit service for a few days. The strike has ended with what will ultimately be a victory for labor. What’s notable here though is the response from the Silicon Valley plutocrats who actively wanted the union crushed.

Tech blogger Sarah Lacy summed up her own attitude and that of many others in an interview with Marketplace:

Sarah Lacy, founder of tech news site Pando Daily, which is based in San Francisco, said “If I had more friends who were BART drivers, I would probably be very sympathetic to their cause, and if they had more friends who were building companies they would probably realize we’re not all millionaires, and we’re actually working pretty hard to build something.”

She said the BART strike exacerbated what she sees as a philosophical divide in the Bay Area. “People in the tech industry feel like life is a meritocracy. You work really hard, you build something and you create something, which is sort of directly opposite to unions.”

If I only cared to know working people, maybe I’d understand. But I’d never slum that much since my vision of meritocracy sees working-class people as below contempt. It’s hardly a wonder that Sam Biddle at Gawker calls Lacy “a free market monster.” But at least she has the right friends for a free market monster!

Kevin Roose has the big picture here:

Anti-union views aren’t unique to Silicon Valley gazillionaires — they’re shared by free-market boosters everywhere. But comments like Lacy’s and White’s in response to the BART strike revealed something new. Namely, portions of the tech community are not only observing the destruction of unions as a long-term sociopolitical trend, but actively cheering it on as an example of an intellectual “maker” class beating out working-class “takers.” The old Silicon Valley anti-unionism came from narrow corporate self-interest; the new seems more broadly ideological.

“The notion that ‘These workers are expendable’ is a fundamentally different attitude toward workers than ‘Let’s make sure they have these benefits so they don’t want to unionize,’” Berlin said.

In other words, it’s not Silicon Valley’s rejection of organized labor that should surprise us. It’s the class hostility that now often rides along with it.

The anti-union libertarianism that coincides with the workplace culture of Silicon Valley that also demands tremendous sacrifices from their own workers is a terrible plague upon the United States and the world, in part because it facilitates sociopaths like Steve Jobs to not care if the workers making his products in China are killing themselves and in part because of the attitudes toward workers shown by Silicon Valley during the BART strike.