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Did Cantor’s Loss Inspire Extra Crazy Time Today?

[ 178 ] June 11, 2014 |

Who is today’s worst person?

1. Oklahoma state House candidate Scott Esk, for being “OK” with stoning gay people to death.

2. Rep. Louie Gohmert for using a Congressional hearing to speculate about whether non-Christians go to Hell.

3. Pat Robertson for telling kids not to turn their father in to the police when he threatens their mother with a gun.

What the hell is wrong with this country?

Sexual Harassment in the Construction Industry

[ 50 ] June 11, 2014 |

Sexual harassment of female workers in construction is so endemic that most who enter the field quit. It is a problem that nobody takes even close to seriously enough, including the unions. Given that it is one of the best-paying types of work for workers without college degrees, the institutionalization of this sexism means that wage disparities between genders are reinforced as well. It’s a major problem.

Lessons

[ 301 ] June 11, 2014 |

Klein is fundamentally correct about the lessons from Cantor’s loss (side note: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha). This is especially important:

If Republicans hadn’t scared Senator Arlen Specter into the Democratic Party and if Democrats hadn’t kept Senator Joe Lieberman on their side Obamacare would never have passed. If the Tea Party didn’t keep knocking off viable Republicans Mitch McConnell would have been Senate Majority Leader since 2010. If Mitt Romney could have run as the Massachusetts moderate he once was Obama might well have lost in 2012. It’s possible Republicans will now lose in Virginia’s 7th District. The Tea Party is good at policing purity but they’re terrible at winning power.

Of course for the Teahaddis, anything short of a violent coup to institute Jim Crow, er, overthrow Obama, er, restore Constitutional rights is unacceptable. So a sellout compromiser like Cantor needs to be eliminated to save the nation for real Americans.

I hope Eric Cantor likes making millions of dollars as a lobbyist. Because that’s his sad future.

Cash for Votes

[ 6 ] June 11, 2014 |

In the New Gilded Age, politicians don’t have to pretend hiding that corporations are buying their votes.

Public Opinion of the Past

[ 60 ] June 10, 2014 |

Why don’t we pass more social programs today? Maybe because the priorities of Americans aren’t the same as in the 1960s.

2/3 of Americans supporting retraining for the unemployed. Far and away the most popular political program. It’s no wonder that the Great Society would be soon to come. When Americans’ biggest desire is to fight economic inequality again, we will again see politicians prioritize it. Not before.

The Decline of Meatpacking Wages

[ 115 ] June 10, 2014 |

This is a great graph on the decline of meatpacking wages compared to industrial work as a whole. All industrial work has stagnate for 35 years (real wage decline of 1.5% since 1979). Meatpacking–real wage decline by a mere 28.3%.

How did this happen?

Meatpacking has a somewhat unique position in the American economy. Like many other industries, it found capital mobility a great way to cut wages and increase profits. It discovered this early on, busting unions by the 1960s through transition production out of the cities and into small Midwestern towns. But unlike other industries like textiles, the vast majority of the work has remained in the United States. Over 99 percent of our chickens, 92 percent of beef, and 97 percent of pork are produced domestically. This means it has basically found ways to create as exploitative conditions as possible within the U.S. The history of union-busting (which I discussed in detail here) in the meat industry (a phenomenon in fact closely related to the exploitation of truckers since trucking companies played a leading role in this new economy) led to plummeting wages, making it a dangerous and low-paid job in 2014.

Monarch Butterfly Decline and Ever More Intensive U.S. Farming

[ 14 ] June 10, 2014 |

The decline of the monarch butterfly results from multiple causes. The one that gets the most play is logging (often illegal and done by the cartel) in its wintering ground in Mexico. Brad Plumer’s piece suggests a bigger reason is the rapid growth in intensive farming in the U.S. that has plowed under the small pieces of semi-wild land around the edges of farms that allowed monarchs (and many other species) to thrive.

Now a new study in the Journal of Animal Ecology suggests that the decline of milkweed is, in fact, the main factor here. The study, by a team of researchers from the University of Guelph, modeled the variations in butterfly populations. They found that habitat destruction in Mexico was no longer driving the decline — possibly because the country has put new conservation measures in place to protect those forests.

But butterfly populations were very sensitive to changes in milkweed. The study noted that milkweed plants had declined 21 percent between 1995 and 2013. These losses were concentrated in areas where monarchs breed — and 70 percent of the milkweed loss was located in agricultural areas. (The rest of the decline was on conservation lands or public areas such as the medians of roadways.)

And the outlook here is pretty bleak — the authors predicted that the monarch population would decline another 14 percent if milkweed loss continues.

Still, not everyone’s convinced that herbicides are the only reason for the decline of native plants near agricultural fields. Another recent study by scientists at the US Department of Agriculture and Penn State found that herbicide-tolerant native plants around farmland in Pennsylvania were declining at the same rate as less-tolerant plants. That study suggests that other factors may be at work here.

The Penn State researchers pointed out that farmers have made a lot of changes in recent decades besides rising herbicide use — they’ve simplified their crop rotations, segregated crops and livestock, and employed new mechanical farming methods. What’s more, woodlots, hedgerows, pastures, and wetlands have all been cleared to make way for bigger fields. So there may be more going on than just GMOs and herbicides.

Much of this intensification of farming is the production of corn for high fructose corn syrup and the ever-growing corn-based industrial products. It’s not really to feed ourselves that we need to do this. We could mandate a certain amount of wild land per 100 acres or whatever in agricultural zones, but instead, we grow more corn to burn it in our cars.

Wal-Mart Trucking Abuses Kill

[ 169 ] June 10, 2014 |

The man who fell asleep at the wheel of his truck and rammed the back of Tracy Morgan’s limousine of course worked for Wal-Mart and had not slept for 24 hours.

This is not surprising at all. Wal-Mart has long been accused of pushing truckers to the limit. All the companies push drivers to the limit for profit, endangering not only the drivers but also everyday drivers on the road.

Of course, Republicans think that drivers falling asleep at the wheel is OK:

Days before Morgan’s accident thrust trucking safety into the news, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would undo rules that only went into effect last year that mandated certain rest periods for truck drivers. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill that would suspend a regulation that truck drivers rest for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM, before driving again.

“With one amendment, we’re doing away with rules we worked years to develop,” Izer said Monday.

Another reminder that “moderate Republicans” are only moderate on social policy; on labor issues they are as bad as any Tea Partier.

Slave Labor in the Thai Fisheries

[ 32 ] June 10, 2014 |

If you buy southeast Asian seafood, which includes most of the shrimp in the frozen section of your grocery store, you are buying a product produced with slave labor.

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.

Fifteen migrant workers from Burma and Cambodia also told how they had been enslaved. They said they had paid brokers to help them find work in Thailand in factories or on building sites. But they had been sold instead to boat captains, sometimes for as little as £250.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Vuthy, a former monk from Cambodia who was sold from captain to captain. “They kept me chained up, they didn’t care about me or give me any food … They sold us like animals, but we are not animals – we are human beings.”

Another trafficking victim said he had seen as many as 20 fellow slaves killed in front of him, one of whom was tied, limb by limb, to the bows of four boats and pulled apart at sea.

For a more complete view of labor exploitation in the Thai shrimp industry, see this report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (PDF).

Of course, Wal-Mart and the other companies don’t care. They are happy to bring in fish sourced with slave labor. In fact, its own fish contractors in the U.S. have followed this model as closely as possible.

Unintentionally Honest Tweets

[ 46 ] June 9, 2014 |

Say what you will about modern conservatives, but sometimes they are at least unintentionally honest.

The Worst Person in the World

[ 292 ] June 9, 2014 |

George Will:

Washington Post columnist George Will doesn’t believe the statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Instead he believes that liberals, feminists and other nefarious forces have conspired to turn being a rape survivor into a “ coveted status that confers privileges.” As a result of this plot, “victims proliferate,” Will wrote in a weekend editorial that ran in the Washington Post and New York Post.

If you really want to read Will’s article, you can find it. I’m not going to link directly to it. You don’t want to. I will only say that it reminds me how much I hate this “trigger warning” stuff going around on campuses because it just confirms everything conservatives think about universities.

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.

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