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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 66

[ 16 ] January 15, 2017 |

This is the grave of James J. Hill.

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Born in 1838 in Ontario, Hill moved permanently to the United States in 1856, setting in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a few years before the good citizens of that state committed massive genocide against the Dakota people in the 1862 Dakota War. He quickly became involved in shipping and then banking, building a small fortune for himself. Railroads became his next target. He wanted to build a transcontinental line across the northern border of the U.S. to the Puget Sound. He starting buying up railroads and moving his lines farther west, into North Dakota and Montana. In 1893, his Great Northern Railway reached Seattle, connecting that burgeoning city to the east. As part of the railroad empires, the federal government deeded huge sums of land to the capitalists. They wanted to dump that land in order to turn a profit that was not always easy to get building into sparsely populated land. But how to turn North Dakota into a profit? Hill relied on schemes to convince Scandinavia farmers to come to the United States and buy this bucolic land of mild climate, where anything could grow and sure fortunes were to result. In other words, his agents lied to the poor of Europe to sucker them into buying land in the middle of North Dakota. Hill also was aggressive in finding new labor forces to exploit. Never comfortable actually paying workers enough to live, he originally wanted to use the Chinese but that was getting more difficult by the 1890s. He briefly turned to Italians and Greeks but found the Japanese more exploitable.

He then sold 900,000 acres of Washington to Frederick Weyerhaeuser in 1900, creating that state as a timber capital and allowing the southwestern part of it to become a permanent timber colony, subject to the whims of the global market and allowing it to remain in poverty, in many cases to the present, as massive deforestation, a lack of alternative economic options, and schemes to con the poor into farming logged-off lands created a semi-permanent Washington underclass today embodied in such areas as Aberdeen, Longview, and Centralia.

Hill of course was as steeped in shady dealings as any other Gilded Age capitalist, although he doesn’t seem to have stolen from his own companies like the California rail barons did. He sought to build his monopoly and found a ready ally in J.P. Morgan to help him do that. He wanted to take over most of the major railroad lines in the West. He first grabbed the Northern Pacific during the Panic of 1893. He and Morgan then made a play at the Union Pacific, but that railroad had Rockefeller money behind it. The ensuing chaos meant too much competition. So instead they came to a truce, but Hill and Morgan created the Northern Securities Company to tie all the lines together and come out on top. It was this monopoly that Theodore Roosevelt chose to take on in 1902 to acquire his undeserved reputation as a “trust-buster,” a reputation that, like everything else with Roosevelt, was a product of his own self-promotion machine that sought to play the press like a violin to promote his own agenda, a machine that still colors our view of Roosevelt, as well as people who he turned on like William Howard Taft, into the present.

In any case, the Supreme Court upholding Roosevelt’s actions in busting the Northern Securities monopoly did hurt Hill’s hoped for investments in Asia. He had to console himself with only taking over more American railroads and building himself a 36,000 square foot mansion. When Hill died in 1916, he was only worth $2.5 billion in today’s money. Hard out there for a plutocrat.

What kind of man was James J. Hill? The kind who is a hero to the Mises Institute and other purveyors of Austrian economics. The kind of man who would call William Jennings Bryan’s plan for government regulation of the railroads “revolution.”

Unfortunately, no one has ever played Hill on TV or in the movies. Maybe it’s time to create an HBO show on the vile doings of Gilded Age capitalists.

James J. Hill is buried in Resurrection Cemetery, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Building International Solidarity

[ 13 ] January 14, 2017 |

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With the overall attack on unions in the United States, the ability of the AFL-CIO to engage in international solidarity actions gets harder and harder, as does its ability to lead the way on working-class issues at home. This is of course the point of anti-union laws. But if we are to tame the horrors of the supply chain, with American companies moving jobs overseas to increase profit and undermine work at home, the American labor movement has to build solidarity with those workers overseas and figure out ways to tame the global exploitation of corporations. Of course for a long time the labor movement worked closely with the government to undermine international solidarity in the AFL-CIA days and it’s a sad irony that the labor movement has finally moved toward helping build social democracy in other nations at the same time it is losing its ability to do so at home.

Anyway, the AFL-CIO has an excellent set of ideas of working toward justice in Bangladesh, where American corporations have targeted workers for death in their supply chains.

Nearly five years after the torture and assassination of Bangladeshi labor leader Aminul Islam, the country’s garment-sector employers and the government continue to persecute workers who try to exercise basic rights. In the three weeks since a December strike to protest the paltry $68 per month minimum wage, garment employers and the government have again shown their hostility toward workers and their rights. At that wage, workers in Dhaka would need to spend 60% of their income solely to rent substandard housing in a slum, leaving little to live on in a city about as expensive as Montreal (where the minimum wage is more than ten times higher).

Initially, employers and the government responded to the strike by closing 60 factories on Dec. 20 and deploying hundreds of police to the area. After the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) ordered owners to reopen factories on Dec. 26, employers fired and suspended more than 1,600 workers for their alleged involvement in the unrest. Labor leaders and activists in Bangladesh and abroad demanded the reinstatement of all workers.

Instead, both employers and government responded with increased repression. Since Dec. 21, at least 15 union leaders and workers’ rights advocates have been detained or arrested and 11 individuals remain in police custody. At least two of these have been beaten, and at least one was threatened with death. Clearly, the BGMEA and the government have the power to end these abuses immediately. Instead, garment employers and their association, exercise their considerable political power (at least 25 members of parliament are garment employers!) to demand that the government repress any worker or labor activist attempting to organize or represent workers’ interests. And the government delivers quickly on this request.

American companies may not be pulling the strings on the repression of the Bangladeshi labor movement. But they are very happy about it and it’s happening with their clear consent. Here is the call to action:

The AFL-CIO calls on the following to act:

The U.S. government must maintain its current suspension of GSP benefits to Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh government must stop using national security/anti-terrorism laws to criminalize trade union activity and release arrested trade union activists.
The Bangladesh government must enforce its own laws with regard to registering unions.
The Bangladesh government must convene the minimum wage board and union federations with real representation in the garment industry and must negotiate on behalf of the workers.
The BGMEA and all garment manufacturers must actually negotiate collective agreements with the unions and workers in their workplaces to address wage and other issues.

Finally, the AFL-CIO urges the European Union to seriously review its current GSP program with Bangladesh since its market is the largest for garments from Bangladesh.

This is fine but it doesn’t go far enough. The AFL-CIO also needs to call for American law to restrain American corporate behavior in their supply chains, holding companies accountable for what happens in the production of their products and the creation of trade agreements and international law that allows workers access to courts to fight for their human rights.

Right to Work a Man to Death

[ 27 ] January 14, 2017 |

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A key reminder that the intellectual founder of the right to work a man to death movement was Vance Muse, anti-Semite, racist, and anti-worker. Of course these things are not unconnected. Neither are they today as Kentucky destroys its unions and Missouri may well do the same, building on the many states to do so in recent years.

Muse had long made a lucrative living lobbying throughout the South on behalf of conservative and corporate interests or, in the words of one of his critics, “playing rich industrialists as suckers.” Over the course of his career, he fought women’s suffrage, worked to defeat the constitutional amendment prohibiting child labor, lobbied for high tariffs, and sought to repeal the eight-hour day law for railroaders. He was also active in the Committee for the Americanization of the Supreme Court, which targeted Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Vienna-born Jewish man, for his votes in labor cases.

But Muse first attracted national attention through his work with Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby in the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution, which sought to deny Roosevelt’s re-nomination in 1936 on grounds that the New Deal threatened the South’s racial order. Despite its name, the Southern Committee to Uphold the Constitution received funding from prominent northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers including John Jacob Raskob, Alfred P. Sloan, and brothers Lammot, Irénée, and Pierre du Pont.

Among Muse’s activities on behalf of the Southern Committee was the distribution of what Time called “cheap pamphlets containing blurred photographs of the Roosevelts consorting with Negroes” accompanied by “blatant text proclaiming them ardent Negrophiles.” Muse later defended the action and the use of its most provocative photograph: “I am a Southerner and for white supremacy… It was a picture of Mrs. Roosevelt going to some n—-r meeting with two escorts, n—–s, on each arm.”

In 1936, on the heels of the Southern Committee’s failure to deny Roosevelt’s nomination, Muse incorporated the Christian American Association to continue the fight against the New Deal, offering up a toxic mix of anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Communism, and anti-unionism. The Christian Americans considered the New Deal to be part of the broader assault of “Jewish Marxism” upon Christian free enterprise.

The organization’s titular head, Lewis Valentine Ulrey, explained that after their success in Russia the “Talmudists” had determined to conquer the rest of the world and that “by 1935 they had such open success with the New Deal in the United States, that they decided to openly restore the Sanhedrin,” that is, both the council of Jewish leaders who oversaw a community and the Jewish elders who, according to the Bible, plotted to kill Christ.

This “modern Jewish Sanhedrin” – which included people like Justice Frankfurter and NAACP board member Rabbi Stephen Wise – served as the guiding force of the Roosevelt Administration and the New Deal state. Vance Muse voiced the same anti-Semitic ideas in much simpler terms: “That crazy man in the White House will Sovietize America with the federal hand-outs of the Bum Deal – sorry, New Deal. Or is it the Jew Deal?”

By the early 1940s, Muse and the Christian American Association, like many southern conservatives, focused much of their wrath on the labor movement, especially the unions associated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The Christian Americans solicited wealthy southern planters and industrialists for funds to help break the “strangle hold radical labor has on our government” through the enactment of anti-union laws.

Muse and his allies continued to claim that Marxist Jews were pulling the national government’s strings, but the membership of this cabal shifted from the likes of Wise and Frankfurter to CIO leaders like Lee Pressman and Sidney Hillman. The Christian Americans, like other southern conservatives, insisted that the CIO – which had become shorthand for Jewish Marxist unions – was sending organizers to the rural South to inflame the contented but gullible African-American population as the first step in a plot to Sovietize the nation.

Nice guy. Perfect for the Republican Party of 2017.

Also, in case any needs a primer on the origin of my term for those laws.

Obama’s Climate Legacy

[ 30 ] January 14, 2017 |

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Given the constraints of an extremist opposition, there’s probably not much more Obama could have done on climate change. He sums up his achievements and the need to move forward in an article in Science, written by him, although almost certainly not actually written by him. This is the first time a sitting president has ever published in the prestigious journal.

Of course one can argue that Obama’s biggest weakness is thinking that anyone cares what is published in a journal like Science instead of playing the dirty politics that actually leads to power in this country. It would be nice if this country could have nice things, but what a pipe dream.

Buy Me Arthur!

[ 47 ] January 13, 2017 |

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My birthday is coming up later this month. I think some presents are in order!

Politicians like to say they cannot be bought.

But this weekend, here amid the rolling Civil War battlefields and the kitschy souvenir shops, anyone can buy a politician — a president no less — deftly shaped by skilled manipulators of wax and other polymers.

At auction is the collection of the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies, a 60-year-old wax museum that has earnestly presented every occupant of the Oval Office — and their female counterparts — in varying degrees of accuracy.

“Franklin Pierce has the wrong color hair,” said Bruce Larson, a professor of political science at Gettysburg College, who had come to case the collection on a boreal winter day.

“And Taft, to me, looks too thin,” said John Tormey III, an entertainment lawyer who had driven from New York, and was nevertheless planning to bid on a figure for his home office. “I’ve already been told that if I take back more than one wax figure, the locks on my house will be changed.”

Do you think I care about accuracy in look? I want Chester Arthur or Benjamin Harrison in a corner, overlooking my students as they come to me begging for unwarranted grade improvements. How do you think a Gilded Age figure would consider your begging? Pathetic! Social Darwinism people! Chester Arthur for my office! Do it sheeple!

The Women’s March

[ 300 ] January 13, 2017 |

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Despite Chait’s usual whining about identity politics and protest, making one wonder why he is taken seriously at all, the Women’s March is producing a highly progressive platform.

Organizers have laid out an unapologetically radical, progressive vision for justice in America, placing the march in the context of other past and ongoing movements for equality. “We welcome vibrant collaboration and honor the legacy of the movements before us—the suffragists and abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, the American Indian Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Marriage Equality, Black Lives Matter, and more,” the statement starts out. It name-checks feminist leaders that represent a diverse range of ideologies and issues, including Harriet Tubman, Gloria Steinem, Audre Lorde, Malala Yousafzai, farmworker organizer Dolores Huerta, former Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller, and Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman who was an instrumental leader of the Stonewall uprising.

The platform supports increased accountability for perpetrators of police brutality and racial profiling, demanding the demilitarization of American law enforcement and an end to mass incarceration. It calls for comprehensive antidiscrimination protections, health care, and gender-affirming identity documents for LGBTQ people. It calls unions “critical to a healthy and thriving economy” and aligns the march with movements for the rights of sex workers, farmworkers, and domestic workers.

March leaders have gone further than supporting access to safe, legal abortion and reproductive health care to demand the right to abortion for women of all incomes. (Even many supposedly “pro-choice” politicians have squeaked away from advocating an end to the ban on public funding for abortions, so this is commendable.) As for immigration, “we reject mass deportation, family detention, violations of due process and violence against queer and trans migrants,” the statement reads. “We recognize that the call to action to love our neighbor is not limited to the United States, because there is a global migration crisis. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.”

Is this the be all and end all of what needs to develop against Trump? Of course not. But it is an important expression of an alternative to the hell to come. It is almost certain to drive Emperor Tangerine crazy and lead to an epic Tweetstorm. And maybe the bizarre decision to sack the head of the Washington DC National Guard during the inauguration is part of an attempt to bust some heads Bonus Army style. That would be an appropriate start to America’s first fascist presidency.

Also, I await the Jacobin piece criticizing the Women’s March for being a bunch of white liberal feminists and saying this is why Democrats have lost white working class men, as well of course as their preference for Grey Poupon over French’s.

Maybe Our Jobless Future Will Wait a Year or Two More

[ 190 ] January 13, 2017 |

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I would say this might allay our rightful fears of automation creating massive unemployment and the social and racial unrest that follows, which we are having our first taste of in this country right now. But it really doesn’t.

The report, which was released Thursday, breaks jobs down by work tasks — more than 2,000 activities across 800 occupations, from stock clerk to company boss. The institute, the research arm of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, concludes that many tasks can be automated and that most jobs have activities ripe for automation. But the near-term impact, the report says, will be to transform work more than to eliminate jobs.

Globally, the McKinsey researchers calculated that 49 percent of time spent on work activities could be automated with “currently demonstrated technology” either already in the marketplace or being developed in labs. That, the report says, translates into $15.8 trillion in wages and the equivalent of 1.1 billion workers worldwide. But only 5 percent of jobs can be entirely automated.

“This is going to take decades,” said James Manyika, a director of the institute and an author of the report. “How automation affects employment will not be decided simply by what is technically feasible, which is what technologists tend to focus on.”

The report, a product of years of research by the McKinsey group, adds to the growing body of research on automation and jobs.

Conclusions about the relationship between the two vary widely. Examining trends in artificial intelligence, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, researchers at Oxford University, estimated in a widely cited paper published in 2013 that 47 percent of jobs in the United States were at risk from automation.

Maybe it takes decades. Maybe much of it happens in the next ten years. But nearly 50 percent of American jobs being lost? How are we prepared to deal with this? We are not. Not in any way. The only way to recover from that would be universal basic income, federal employment guarantees, or some version of a vastly increased welfare state. Instead, we are moving toward dismantling our already pathetic welfare state, grant huge tax breaks to an elite class who have not had this much power since 1933, and a rise of racial tension. And I see no reason to believe that more automation won’t just exacerbate all of this. I’m sure the unemployment of 3 million truck drivers with the arrival of self-driving vehicles means we will find out sooner rather than later.

Useful Idiots

[ 261 ] January 13, 2017 |

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I only engaged on Facebook with random “leftists,” which in 2016 and 2017 is not about policy but rather about how much one hates the Democratic Party, one time in the months before the election. This was right before the election. I was told that there was no reason to vote for the Democrats since Hillary would start World War III with Russia. I quickly regretted my decision. But we all know how happy the far left was to be useful idiots for Putin. Jill Stein traveling to Russia before the election was the peak but there was the consistently terrible coverage from The Nation, which of course is usually good on other issues than Russia. But it was all over the place. This is a good run-down of the useful idiots. And I bring you this particular anecdote.

Another Nation staple, contributing editor Doug Henwood, has maintained a professional relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, yet is apparently very tetchy about the collaboration, as I also discovered when I engaged him.

Henwood had planned to work with Assange on putting out a book about Hillary Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches—Henwood annotating, Assange writing the foreword—transcripts of which were of course originally hacked by Russian intelligence and disseminated through WikiLeaks, at least according to 17 different U.S. intelligence agencies, two of which concluded that this was done with the express purpose of helping Trump get elected. When I brought up this pending project, as detailed both on the book publisher’s website and in multiple articles, Henwood called me a “fucking idiot.” (Henwood’s publisher, when contacted for this story, noted that Henwood was no longer affiliated with the endeavor, saying that he had now grown “weary of chronicling Hillary Clinton’s boundless political shortcomings.”)

Henwood and Assange are made for each other. Which is tragic because when Henwood talks about the economy he is great and when he talks about politics he is absolutely out of his mind. But then I’m probably a “fucking idiot” too.

The Republican War on Higher Education

[ 46 ] January 13, 2017 |

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Above: One of Many People the GOP Wants to Make Sure Students Know Nothing About

Another year, another set of Republican legislators seeking to engage in a political war on those liberals in higher education. First, Arizona.

Saying students are being taught hatred at public expenses, a Republican lawmaker from Flagstaff is proposing new limits on what and how schools, colleges and universities can teach.

Rep. Bob Thorpe said a 2010 law that targeted “ethnic studies” courses at some public schools, including those at Tucson Unified School District, does not go far enough with its prohibition against teaching anything that promotes resentment toward another race. He wants to expand that list to include gender, religion, political affiliation and social class.

And Thorpe wants a ban on not just classes but any events or activities that “negatively target specific nationalities or countries.”

But it does not stop there.

HB 2120 would extend the new restrictions to community colleges and universities, not just in terms of what’s taught in the classroom but also any event or activity. And it gives the attorney general the unilateral power to withhold up to 10 percent of state aid if he or she determines a college or university is in violation.

Thorpe said Thursday his bill is aimed specifically at things like a “privilege walk” exercise sponsored by the University of Arizona and a course entitled “Whiteness and Race Theory” at Arizona State University.

This is of course nothing more than a politicized attack on higher education. Republicans want people like myself and the other members of this blog fired for teaching anything that does not confirm whatever the conservative talking points of the moment may be. And that takes us to Missouri.

College graduates in Missouri should be able to find jobs that correspond with their degrees, and their professors should help them do so, says State Rep. Rick Brattin, a Republican.

To make that happen, Mr. Brattin says, he would eliminate tenure at Missouri’s public colleges and universities. House Bill 266, introduced this month, would outlaw awarding tenure in Missouri after January 1, 2018. (The bill would not apply to faculty members awarded tenure before January 1, 2018.)

HB 266 would also require public colleges to publish more information, including the estimated price of individual degrees, employment opportunities expected for degree earners, and a summary of the job market for each degree, among other things.

But let’s be clear, for Brattin, a man who never attended college, this is about politics, not job prospects. The link also included an interview with him.

Q. Are you concerned that eliminating tenure would damage academic freedom, or professors could get fired for political reasons?

A. Like I said, in what area do you have protection of your job for whatever you say, whatever you do, you’re protected? You don’t have that. Their job is to educate, to ensure that students are able to propel themselves into a work force and be successful. That’s their job.

If they are going off the rails and not doing what they are supposed to as a hired staff of educating those kids, should they not be held accountable? Should they have the freedom to do whatever they wish on the taxpayers’ dime and on the students’ dime? That should be more the question: Should they have that freedom to do that? Their focus should be to ensure that we have an educated person to be able to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

Q. Specifically, what do you mean “things aren’t being done” according to a professor’s job description?

A. When we have college graduates making up 40 percent of unemployed Americans, after they have been promised if they come here and they receive this degree, they’ll be able to do this, that, and the other, and they find out it’s an out-of-date degree program or degree, it’s an injustice to our youth.

Something’s wrong, something’s broken, and a professor that should be educating our kids, should be concentrating on ensuring that they’re propelling to a better future, but instead are engaging in political stuff that they shouldn’t be engaged in. Because they have tenure, they’re allowed to do so. And that is wrong. It’s an abuse of taxpayers dollars. If you want to go get grant money, or you want to be privately funded to do your endeavors of whatever, that’s fine. When you’re on the taxpayer dollar, I don’t think that’s a proper use of the taxpayers’ money.

Q. Let’s say a geologist at the University of Missouri is tenured and his responsibility entails research. Part of his job is to do research on publicly funded dollars. Do you think that should be publicly funded?

A. If that’s his job and he was hired by the university to do x, y, and z, and he’s performing x, y, and z, that’s what he was hired to do. It’s when these professors receive tenure that they are all of a sudden allowed this astronomical freedom to do whatever they wish, and they’re virtually untouchable, I’m sorry, it’s taxpayer dollars.

There should be accountability with whatever you’re doing. And it’s quite clear by the numbers that what’s being done is not at the best level and the highest echelon that it should be.

Of course this guy doesn’t know anything about how higher education actually works. Since research is part of the job of a tenured and tenure-track faculty, maybe he could find out that his bill makes no sense. But then the issue is not “professors doing research” but rather “professors doing research conservatives don’t like.” You also have to love the a priori assumption that it is un-American to be able to speak your mind at work. This guy is a real peach.

I don’t know what the chances of passage of these bills are in the respective states, but given that Arizona already banned ethnic studies in K-12, this is certainly scary. And we can certainly expect many more bills like this as conservatives seek to destroy the American institution where liberalism remains the strongest.

Vo Quy, RIP

[ 15 ] January 12, 2017 |

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Vo Quy, the pioneering Vietnamese environmentalist and communist who not only convinced Ho Chi Minh to create Vietnam’s first national park, but also played a critical role in bringing his nation and the United States to an agreement on dealing with the ecocide the Americans committed after the war, has died at the age of 87.

Here is more about him.

Enjoy the Last Days of a President Who Does the Right Thing

[ 23 ] January 12, 2017 |

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The last days of Obama make me sad because there are enough good things happening, even though I have my strong criticisms of his presidency, that it’s incredibly depressing think about what could be versus what will be. Two critical items, just from the last three days.

First, there’s OSHA’s announcement that it will pursue a federal workplace standard on workplace violence for health care and social service workers.

The effort to provide better protections for health care and social service workers has gained momentum in recent months. In December, OSHA issued a Request for Information about whether to propose a standard aimed at preventing workplace violence in the two industries, citing a Government Accountability Office report that noted rates of workplace violence in the health care and social service industries were “substantially higher” than in private industry.

“Our nurses came to D.C. today to speak out on the importance of passing an enforceable workplace violence prevention standard, and we are thrilled to know that OSHA has granted NNU’s petition for that standard to begin to take shape,” Bonnie Castillo, health and safety director for Silver Spring, MD-based NNU, said in a press release. “Such regulations are vital to protecting nurses and other health care workers, as well their patients, from the epidemic of workplace violence across the U.S.”

In Congress, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) has called on OSHA to promulgate a workplace violence standard. Earlier this month, outgoing OSHA administrator David Michaels sent a letter to Scott thanking him for his concern and supporting his position.

“I agree with you that workplace violence is a serious occupational hazard that presents a significant risk for health care and social assistance workers,” Michaels wrote. “Evidence indicates that the rate of workplace violence in the health care and social assistance sector is substantially higher than private industry as a whole and that the health care and social assistance sector is growing. In response to this problem, OSHA has used the General Duty Clause in cases involving employers that expose workers to this recognized hazard in a growing number of workplaces. OSHA has also revised its guidance on preventing workplace violence for health care and social service workers, and has conducted its first comprehensive workplace violence training for its Compliance Officers.

I think we all know this is going to go nowhere under Trump and Andy Pudzer’s Department of Labor.

And then there is Obama using the Antiquities Act for what I imagine is the last time, creating three new national monuments and expanding two others. He has created the first national monument to remember Reconstruction, in South Carolina, as well as national monuments in Birmingham and Anniston to remember the civil rights movement. He also expanded the California Coastal National Monument and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument along the Oregon-California border. Given that I’m an Oregonian and that there is slow momentum building toward monuments to eventually be created out of the old growth Cascade forests and the wild southeastern part of the state, it would be great to see the Antiquities Act continue. And maybe it will be–after all, I don’t know that the western Republicans outraged by these monuments have the political clout to get the Senate votes and few presidents want to give away their own power. But of course anything is on the table right now. Maybe we can convince Trump to name his own properties national monuments to himself, along with a huge check from the government to compensate him.

But hey, at least 25 year olds will soon be denied access to their parents’ health insurance so that if they survive their cancer, they will be in debt forever. Freedom is finally at hand.

Booker

[ 338 ] January 12, 2017 |

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Cory Booker has a reasonably high chance of being the Democratic nominee in 2020. There are good reasons for this. He gave a great speech at the DNC that really rallied everyone who heard it against hate. Given the amount of hate that is coming, this is a good thing. His testifying against Jeff Sessions was excellent. He is charismatic and has a great chance of reviving the Obama coalition. That charisma and leadership potential is absolutely crucial for whoever the nominee is going to be.

At the same time, the nominee is almost certainly to be someone who can speak to some sort of economic populism. Maybe that can be Cory Booker. But he has a lot to answer for. His embrace of charter schools and the inherent anti-unionism involved in them made him a heck of a lot of enemies. So have his close ties to Wall Street. And now we have him voting against allowing the importation of prescription drugs from overseas. All of these are real problems for him and should make us ask him very hard questions. I get that he is from New Jersey. He is also basically untouchable in that state. He can defy Wall Street and the Big Pharma companies based in New Jersey to run for the presidency. He needs to if he indeed is going to do that. Unfortunately, he does not seem to understand that. And thus he is going to be rightfully criticized from the left.

Booker has mostly been a pretty good senator. Despite his past apostasy, I could potentially see supporting him in 2020 and of course certainly will if he is the nominee. He’s light years better than Andrew Cuomo or Rahm Emanuel. But he needs to be a lot smarter about his votes and a lot smarter about adopting economically progressive positions if he is going to make that run. Because someone is going to be the economically left candidate and that person is going to make a compelling case to a whole lot of voters, no matter what happens in the next 3 years before the Iowa caucus. It could be Booker. But right now, it’s not.

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