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How Much Sex is Acceptable for Google?

[ 81 ] May 22, 2015 |

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Above: Google approved Gilded Age courting chair.

 

So evidently images from Gilded Age medical journals of what are today known as vibrators are too risque for Google, so horrible that LGM is threatened by a company that has pledged to never be evil. You can see the offending image here. You can understand how it would be considered too scary for grandma. Note that no one in 1904 thought of the Chattanooga Vibrator as a sexual toy. It provided medical relief for neurasthenic women, replacing doctors who hated doing this service manually. Of course, orgasms gave these women relief, but again, this is not seen as sexual at the time. But it’s too sexy and scary today.

So I have some questions. First, is this too risque for Google?

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What you see above is a robotic butt that helps train medical students to conduct prostate exams. In other words, there is hardly any difference between this and the Chattanooga Vibrator, especially because the above image makes me want to stick my finger up someone’s ass. See, this is why we can’t have anything having to do with the medicine or the human body available on the internet. Won’t somebody think about the children?

And what about history? Isn’t the past full of things like the Chattanooga Vibrator that we need protection from? Such as medieval cats eating a dick?

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Now that I know this image exists, I want to commit bestiality with a cat. Or at least trade it a fish for that penis it has in its mouth, I’m not really sure here.

And doesn’t it seem to you that these early 20th century intracervical and intrauterine pessaries make you realize that people sometimes have sex and that this knowledge must be suppressed by our overlords at Google in order that little Bobby doesn’t get weird dreams at night?

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In fact, as this World War II poster suggests, it’s probably best to keep anything having to do with women or women’s bodies off the internet. She might infect you, be it your cock or your brain.

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For that matter, we need to repress the knowledge that men in the 18th century may have visited brothels. Our Founding Fathers conformed precisely to the moral standards of modern conservatism and if they didn’t we have to say they did.

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In conclusion, I’d like to thank Google for serving as the moral deciders of the internet. I can’t imagine what harm seeing a medical image of a woman receiving a medical procedure caused 21st century people. If I was in control of this website, I’d ban me from the entire internet for my smut and filth. I have sullied LGM and I have sullied America. And I hope to do it again tomorrow.

My Theory of Organizing and Social Change

[ 16 ] May 22, 2015 |

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In the comments to my Poor People’s Campaign post yesterday, JL asked:

Is there anything that you think could have moved the movement forward? I don’t mean in terms of labor’s participation, I mean in terms of what the involved people (who would be more in number with labor’s participation) could have done. Tactics. Effecting social change through a protest in DC, however well-done, seems like it would be really difficult to me, unless it was large enough to shut down the city. DC is used to protests. Though since it was a campaign I assume it wouldn’t have just been that one ongoing protest in one city if it had sustained, and protests in DC as part of a larger mass movement are a different case.

In terms of the Poor People’s Campaign, probably not. Like King’s 1966 housing campaign in Chicago, the times had changed. White liberals were turning away from supporting both economic and racial justice and the votes just weren’t there in Congress anymore. With Johnson fully focused on Vietnam, I don’t think there’s anything real that could have changed history. I mean, if a real progressive is the head of the AFL-CIO instead of George Meany and that person really committed the labor movement, maybe. But that’s getting into really crazy counterfactuals.

But this issue brings up a larger point about why movements succeed and why they don’t. And the answer, after 15 years of being a professional historian is that I have no idea. That’s perhaps a slight overstatement, after all, social movements follow larger societal shifts. But you just never know what is going to spark something. Why did Rosa Parks refusing to change seats on a bus spark the Montgomery movement in 1955 when many other African-Americans had done the same thing around the South in previous years? Why did the Stonewall Riot in 1969 do so much to create the gay rights movement after all these years of police and societal brutality against gays? Why did the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 help define the environmental movement when the 1952 fire did nothing? Why did Occupy flare up at that place and time and why did it change the way so many Americans think about economic inequality in the 21st century?

These are all difficult questions to answer. Some have no obvious answer. All you can do with social movements is try. You never know what might transform the world. Probably your movement won’t. But it might. And when it does, the earth truly shifts. All one can do is point out the injustice of the world and try to make it better. Maybe it catches a moment in society when enough everyday Americans find your movement resonates with them and calls for change grow. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. But I’ll never know why it happens at particular times or why movement x makes a larger difference when movement y did not.

This may be unsatisfying and is probably not an answer a political scientist would give (also anyone who measures social movements using equations cannot be trusted), but I think “I don’t know because it’s really complicated” it’s the most honest answer any historian can give.

Undoing a Historical Event

[ 265 ] May 22, 2015 |

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An interesting hypothetical at Aeon: Which historical event would you undo?

My first thought was that John C. Calhoun was not born. But upon further reflection, it’s fairly obvious from a U.S. history perspective: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The difference between whatever Lincoln would have done from 1865-68 compared to Andrew Johnson would have been so massive as to have probably significantly changed U.S. history. At the very least, you don’t have to wait 2 years for meaningful Reconstruction to be imposed on the South. One wonders whether a reasonably aggressive crackdown on white resistance immediately after the war would have dampened it later. Maybe, maybe not. But I think that’s my choice.

Today in Hollywood Sexism

[ 140 ] May 21, 2015 |

It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:*

Maggie Gyllenhaal, an Oscar nominee getting Emmy buzz for her work on the Sundance miniseries “The Honourable Woman,” reveals that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man.

No kidding.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said during an interview for an upcoming issue of TheWrap Magazine. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

Leaving aside the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal being 37 makes me 103, it’s amazing how deeply institutional Hollywood sexism runs. How on earth is 37 too old for a 55 year old man? The only solution for this is to pair up Clint Eastwood and Emma Stone as a couple. Now that makes sense.

*Let’s hope this post isn’t too forthright about sex for Google.

Fast Track

[ 128 ] May 21, 2015 |

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Above: Senate Democrats who voted to grant President Obama fast track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Well, enough Senate Democrats predictably caved to Obama’s pressure on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to vote to grant him fast track. The 13 Democrats who have sold out working Americans on the TPP.

Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Vague promises by Mitch McConnell convinced some Democrats. Patty Murray said “Mitch gave a commitment” on a June vote on renewing the Export-Import Bank, recently a target of Tea Partiers. Boy would I be shocked to see him renege on those promises. Just flabbergasted.

The biggest hope now is that Elizabeth Warren’s amendment stripping the Investor State Dispute Settlement out of the deal, which is what allows corporations to sue governments if they enact regulations that hurt the corporation. If that happens, probably the biggest objection to the TPP will be gone. But I am highly skeptical that it will pass or that enough Democrats will stand up to the president and corporations at all in the end. Some will. But the 13 listed above are probably yes votes for anything if some pressure is applied.

Bernie Sanders is of course saying all the right things:

“The Senate just put the interests of powerful multi-national corporations, drug companies and Wall Street ahead of the needs of American workers. If this disastrous trade agreement is approved, it will throw Americans out of work while companies continue moving operations and good-paying jobs to low-wage countries overseas.

“Bad trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership are a major reason for the collapse of the American middle class and the increase in wealth and income inequality in the United States. This agreement, like bad trade deals before it, would force American workers to compete with desperate workers around the world – including workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 56-cents an hour.

“Trade agreements should not just work for corporate America, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. They have got to benefit the working families of our country,” Sanders said. “We must defeat fast track and develop a new policy on trade.”

Hillary?

Diplomatic Ties

[ 49 ] May 21, 2015 |

Fidel resignation

One of the most underrated parts of Obama’s legacy is going to be moving as far as he can to end the United States’ idiotic and utterly failed policy toward Cuba and restoring diplomatic ties with the nation.

It would be all too logical for Congress to end the embargo officially. But given that logic and the Republican Party are not friends, good luck with that.

This Day in Labor History: May 21, 1968

[ 9 ] May 21, 2015 |

On May 21, 1968, the Poor People’s Campaign began setting up its encampment in Washington, D.C., called Resurrection City. Attempting to go on after the assassination of Martin Luther King while he marched with the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, this last goal of King’s would tell Americans just how tough the poor had it in this country. But it ultimately failed without his leadership, demonstrating both the limited commitment of civil rights leaders to labor issues and the increasing impatience both the Johnson administration and the public had with grassroots movements demanding continued civil rights and economic reforms by 1968.

By 1967, Martin Luther King had largely broken with the Johnson administration, first on Vietnam and then on the War on Poverty. With Johnson now consumed by the war, the War on Poverty staggered. King, deeply affected by his Chicago urban housing campaign of 1966, saw the common interests of the poor across the nation and wanted to transition into combining the civil rights and poverty movements. In doing so, he continued distancing himself from much of the rest of the middle-class minister-led wing of the civil rights movement that largely saw their goal post-1965 as consolidating their recent legal gains and working with the president who had pushed for those laws.

King announced the Poor People’s Campaign at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff retreat in November 1967 and it received a public announcement on December 4. For King, this was a way to continue his nonviolent campaigns with a more direct action feel in the era of black power and urban riots. It intended to bring at least 2000 poor people of all races from around the nation to Washington, DC to demand federal anti-poverty programs. That included African-Americans from the South and from northern cities, Chicanos from the Southwest, Puerto Ricans from New York, Native Americans, and white Appalachians. King called it “the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity.” At the core of it was that African-Americans and other poor people would never have dignity in this nation without economic security.

Poor_People's_March_at_Lafayette_Park_ppmsca.04302

The immediate goal of the campaign was to secure a full employment bill. The march itself was intended to begin on April 22, 1968. But King was assassinated on April 4.

After King’s assassination, the SCLC decided to go through with the campaign in King’s honor, with Ralph Abernathy leading it. An impressive array of social movement leaders participated. That was especially true in the Mexican-American community as Chicano pioneers Reies Lopez Tijerina, fresh off the shootout at Tierra Amarilla, and Corky Gonzalez led around 1000 Latinos from the Southwest. Unfortunately Tijerina and Abernathy really took an extremely strong dislike to one another and that helped lead to some fairly significant racial tension in the camp. Native Americans came and protested at the Supreme Court for fishing rights, where Tijerina supported an aggressive protest that smashed some of the building’s windows, which Abernathy despised. White Appalachian residents brought a specific class-based critique to the movement as they were white yet still isolated from dominant society. The camp tried to revive the cultural protest of the early 60s through song. Folk singers like Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan were there, as were Native American chanters, singers of Mexican-American folk songs, old-timey Appalachian singers and others. But the conditions were not really right for a successful protest and with the Johnson Administration largely ignoring the protests and the absence of King looming, the campaign struggled.

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It didn’t help that conditions in the camp were not good, not so surprising given that Washington DC is a wet city built on a swamp. Ben Gilbert of the Washington Post:

The grassy parkland turned to trampled mud, ankle-deep, with some puddles of water hip-deep. The plywood homes were soaked. Washed clothes would not dry. Dampness and surprisingly low temperatures for May and June chilled the nights. Mud seeped in everywhere. Moving from place to place meant sloshing around in water and mud. Trash, rotting food, discarded clothing, packing boxes, cans, and liquor bottles slowly sank into the mud throughout the encampment. Huge oil drums, crammed with refuse, burned day and night. Their smoky stench carried all the way downtown and through the surrounding parkland and Mall area.

Without King’s vision, the movement really lacked the power to create change. But it certainly was the greatest attempt to create a truly multiracial coalition for economic justice during the civil rights era. The media largely criticized Abernathy for the movement’s failure, but the reality is that even if King lived, the white middle-class liberals who had provided the political support in northern states necessary to pass legislation were declining in influence, distracted by Vietnam and other issues of the late 60s, and disturbed by the demands African-Americans were making of them, such as jobs programs and the end of de facto segregation at work and in schools.

Certainly the AFL-CIO largely sitting the Poor People’s Campaign out did not help. All too typically of the Meany-era federation, organized labor did not do enough to support anti-poverty movements. Some union leaders were helpful, particularly Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers. The United Steelworkers of America also actively supported the campaign. But by and large the AFL-CIO did not take the full employment goals seriously, even though doing so would have made all the sense in the world. As King had rejected Vietnam and based this campaign in part on how the expense of Vietnam was undermining the War on Poverty, George Meany just could not really support it as he refused to acknowledge that Vietnam had any negative domestic consequences. This is a moment where a full commitment from organized labor could have made a real difference in expanding the welfare state and improving the lives of the nation’s poor. But unfortunately that was not the fundamental interest of AFL-CIO leadership in 1968.

The protests ended in failure on June 24. Resurrection City itself was dismantled on June 19. There has never been a coordinated multiracial alliance of the poor to descend on the capital since.

This is the 144th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Franchising

[ 30 ] May 20, 2015 |

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the system of franchising used by fast food companies, charging that it is designed to hold down wages unfairly.

The union, which has been pushing to boost the pay of low-wage fast-food workers, said the current structure gives too much power to franchisers on issues such as revenue-sharing, capital expenditures, and termination and renewal of contracts.

As a result, too many franchise owners are locked into a model that limits their control, said Scott Courtney, assistant to the president of SEIU. Franchisers, he said, have built low wages into the system and it’s not possible for a franchisee to increase wages they pay to workers without reforming the model.

“Franchisers like McDonald’s control virtually every aspect of the business operation at their franchise stores. They set the cost and effectively set the low wages paid throughout the industry,” Courtney said in a conference call with reporters. He added, “Reform of the system is important to ending poverty wages in the franchised food sector.”

McDonald’s said in a statement it has a strong working relationship with its 3,100 independent franchisees. McDonald’s said it supports its franchisees and protects the brand by providing “optional resources” and setting quality standards that help franchisees operate successful businesses.

Franchising, like temporary work and subcontracting, exists solely to promote the interests of corporate executives over that of workers. That you can have multiple employers employing workers in the same factory making the same thing or that you can outsource production or that you can franchise is a sign of the extremely aggressive move by corporations in recent years to limit corporate obligations and liability. SEIU is right in fighting this. Perhaps the franchising model should not exist at all, but in any case, the corporate home must be held legally responsible for everything that goes on in each and every establishment.

Santa Barbara Oil Spills, Then and Now

[ 3 ] May 20, 2015 |

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In 1969, the beaches of Santa Barbara, California were inundated with oil from a nearby spill. This event galvanized environmentalists both locally and around the nation. I use the Santa Barbara oil spill to help set up Out of Sight, which is coming out officially in 13 days. So buy your copies now. Anyway, an excerpt:

Fifty-eight years later, in 1969, public outrage over corporate behavior again revolved around disturbing images that flashed before Americans’ eyes. Two events that year changed Americans’ views on how industry should treat the environment. First, on January 28, the largest oil spill to that point in American history took place off the coast of Santa Barbara, California when a well blew out on an oil platform owned by Union Oil. Up to 100,000 barrels spilled. People watching their evening news saw sea lions and birds covered in oil, dead fish and marine wildlife, and a paradise spoiled.

The oil industry had long played a controversial role in southern California. As the state became known for its beaches, tourists and developers protested the oil industry’s presence in that beautiful part of the country. Beachgoers in the 1920s found themselves between the picturesque Pacific and a sea of oil derricks. Local residents, led by oil workers’ unions, demanded the industry maintain the character of their towns and beaches. The oil workers unions held beach clean-ups, advocated for drilling limits, and wanted more their towns than the filth of oil pollution. By the 1960s, much of the production had moved offshore, but oil derricks and refineries remained a major feature of the southern California landscape.

When the spill took place, the people of Santa Barbara and southern California responded quickly. An organization named Get Oil Out (GOO) quickly developed. Led by Santa Barbara resident Bud Bottoms, GOO urged people to cut back on driving and boycott gas stations that received fuel from Union Oil. It lobbied to ban all oil drilling off of California and succeeded in enacting new regulations when drilling did resume. Thomas Storke, editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press wrote, “Never in my long lifetime have I ever seen such an aroused populace at the grassroots level. This oil pollution has done something I have never seen before in Santa Barbara – it has united citizens of all political persuasions in a truly nonpartisan cause.” Union Oil suffered greater repercussions for this environmental disaster than any corporation in U.S. history to that time. Company president Fred Hartley couldn’t understand, saying, “I am amazed at the publicity for a loss of a few birds.” The spill made people around the nation realize the importance of preserving the landscapes they loved from industrialists. In the two years after the oil spill, national membership in the Sierra Club doubled. The state banned new leases for drilling on offshore state lands, although existing leases continued to operate. Today, companies do still drill in California, but the visual impact to tourists is much lower than a half-century ago.

The oil spill helped lead to the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, shepherded through Congress by Scoop Jackson who is vilified by progressives today for his defense policy but was one of the most important environmentalists in Senate history.

It may not be as bad as 1969, but another oil spill is now polluting the Santa Barbara beaches:

After flowing from the pipeline, crude pooled in a culvert before spilling into the Pacific, where it created a four-mile-long sheen extending about 50 yards into the water. Officials said winds could send the oil another four miles south toward Isla Vista.

The pipeline, built in 1991 and designed to carry about 150,000 barrels of oil per day, is owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, which said in a statement that it shut down the pipe. The culvert was also blocked to prevent more oil from flowing into the ocean, the company said.

By late Tuesday, a thick layer of crude had begun to wash ashore, with black tar smearing the rocks as the brackish tides arrived.

“It is horrible,” said Brett Connors, 35, a producer from Santa Monica who said he spotted sea lions swimming in the oil slick. “You want to jump in there and save them.”

The reality is that the oil industry is far too lightly regulated as whether in Santa Barbara, Alaska, or off of the Louisiana coast, our energy infrastructure fails over and over to protect the nation’s fragile ecosystems. If the spills are bad enough, like the BP spill, public outrage can again arise, but ultimately very little has changed since that spill, unlike after the original Santa Barbara spill. The social movement to hold corporations accountable for environmental disasters is not what it was in 1969, in part because so many jobs are now outsourced that working people fear any kind of environmental protections will throw them on the street. This shift in attitude is just one of the many cascading effects of the global race to the bottom, a race that benefits corporations at each and every step.

Fight for $20

[ 8 ] May 20, 2015 |

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Yesterday’s bill in Los Angeles to ease in a $15 minimum wage is great. But it isn’t enough to live on in Los Angeles because housing is so expensive. A $15 minimum wage really just needs to be a first step in the larger fight for living wages for working people.

Transgender History

[ 6 ] May 19, 2015 |

transrights

The speed in which the transgender rights movement is moving is utterly remarkable and truly amazing. Here’s a useful timeline of the movement’s history.

Labor History in the Classroom

[ 11 ] May 19, 2015 |

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Above: Strikers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1949

While right-wing states are freaking out about the new AP standards (never mind that this year’s AP US History DBQ was on the rise of the conservative movement), Connecticut has now passed a bill encouraging the teaching of labor history in the state’s classrooms, albeit with a caveat to also include free market economics, i.e., the destroyer of working people. Despite this, a major advance in including working people’s history in education.

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