The more wage thieves that are prosecuted and forced to serve time in jail, the more likely it will be that employers won’t steal their employees’ wages. Also, New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann has really been a leader on these issues and I hope he moves to higher office, replacing Cuomo or Schumer at some point.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
I found this Frontline/Washington Post report on the effectiveness of police reform a little odd. The report finds that the results of enforced police reform is highly mixed, with some departments improving and others not, that it’s really expensive, and that it might deter quality policing. That may all be true but what it doesn’t attempt to answer is what the heck the alternative to fighting for ways to force police to change their tactics. The biggest problem with all of this is police culture because they resist change, force the investigators to stick around longer because of that resistance, and then just choose not to be good cops if they are going to watched. So the alternative is what? Allow the police to continue slaughtering black people and sexually assaulting people? No, I don’t think so.
Certainly understanding the effectiveness of police reform efforts is important, but the tone of the report was awfully odd in that it seemed to be questioning the entire idea without offering anything to replace it.
This is the grave of John Mitchell, president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1898-1908.
Mitchell was born in 1870 and a founding member of the UMWA in 1890. That’s right, he was 20. He’d been working in the mines since 1876. Yes, at the age of 6 he was working. He rose rapidly in the new union, becoming close with Mother Jones. He became president in 1898, a position he would hold for a decade. His most important accomplishment was shepherding the union through its huge victory in the 1902 anthracite strike in Pennsylvania, when Theodore Roosevelt intervened to mediate the conflict instead of sending in the military to suppress it. The union grew from 34,000 terms to 340,000 during his term. The thing about Mitchell though, even though he was close with Jones, is that he also liked living the good life and he began running in some high-end circles, including with business leaders. This eroded the trust of the rank and file in his leadership. He was eventually forced out when the union told him he would have to give up his National Civic Federation membership where he hobnobbed with the wealthy. He refused and resigned. He died of tuberculosis in 1919.
When Buzzfeed runs its inevitable “25 Hottest American Labor Leaders,” Mitchell is going to show serious game.
John Mitchell is buried in Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton, Pennsylvania
I should surprise no readers by noting that racial injustice is so deep in our institutions that it infects nearly every part of American life. The definition of structural racism is that inequality gets replicated without those replicating it even knowing it. Or if they do know it, they can justify it while saying “racism is bad.” This brings me to school funding. Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman run a public magnet school targeting Latinos who may be underachieving in Central Falls, Rhode Island. For those of you unfamiliar with the urban geography of Rhode Island, Central Falls is a postage stamp of a town that should not be its own municipality. It’s barely bigger than a neighborhood. It’s also very poor and very heavily Latino, with a quite high percentage of Colombians.
Of course the schools in Central Falls are awful. And then aren’t much better in Pawtucket or Providence. It shouldn’t have to be that way. But it is because so much of the money for the schools come from local property taxes, as O’Leary an Friedman write. That means that rich districts have good schools and poor districts don’t. Basing much of school funding on local property taxes is racist. It also helps lead to citizens who have the financial wherewithal to make choices on where they live to either move to the suburbs or send their children to private schools. These are racist acts. They don’t mean the people who commit them are racist per se. But they are acts that explicitly commit people to fostering long-term inequality. I get why they do it–it’s my child after all!–but then that again is how structural racism works. It operates to incentivize otherwise perhaps well-meaning people to make choices that perpetuate racism. I’m not trying to troll readers here by accusing them of racism. But I am putting the decisions people make for their children’s sake within the spectrum of American structural racism.
The primary way around this problem is to take local property taxes out of it. More useful would be a state-wide property tax that would go exclusively to school funding. All children should receive equal funding. Unequal funding within states should be considered a civil rights violation. A white student in the wealthy coastal town of East Greenwich is not worth more than a Colombian kid in Central Falls. Except that actually in our society they are worth more. Instead the answer is let’s privatize the education for the poor, which serves to also perpetuate structural racism by firing middle-class black teachers and replacing with untrained non-union labor that is usually white and which allows wealthy, usually white, people to profit off of educating the poor, cutting the corners that capitalists will do to make a buck.
Above: An opportunity for wealthy white men to promote their careers through “leadership”
Scott Cowen is the former president of Tulane University. He wrote a book on Hurricane Katrina and how it transformed New Orleans. It is unspeakably awful. It is all about how awesome Scott Cowen was for using Katrina as an opportunity to charterize all of New Orleans’ public schools, kick people out of their homes, and privatize the city to make white corporate leaders comfortable. Moreover, the only person capable of this was Scott Cowen, so each point is combined with his own bullshit leadership jargon. I was originally going to review the book here. But then I hated it so much I thought it needed a broader audience. So I reviewed it at the Boston Review. It’s really long (I submitted this at 1500 words and they were like, this should be longer. Oh, OK! I can do longer!). An excerpt:
In The Inevitable City, Cowen is proud to have taken advantage of the hurricane to implement Shock Doctrine ideology in New Orleans, starting with Tulane and moving on to the New Orleans public school system. His first post-Katrina priority was to get Tulane up and running because the city needed the jobs and the potent symbol of a functioning university. But in doing so, Cowen led two controversial initiatives. First, he pushed through the chartering of a nearby, predominantly African American school so that the children of his mostly white employees would have a place to send their children. Second, he unilaterally reorganized Tulane, firing tenured professors and consolidating programs without input from faculty. This led to his censure by the American Association of University Professors. He justifies both as examples of his leadership in tough times:
A first principle of leadership is “Do the right thing,” despite opposition. Leaders have the realism to face the facts, the wisdom to weigh the options, the will to make a decision, and the audacity to act. Which is another way of saying, Stand up and do what you think is best.
Cowen’s vision of leadership seems to be that one simply does what one wishes—that displaced black schoolchildren are in effect mere impediments to a kind of self-actualization that one achieves through proper “leadership.”
Unfortunately, that school was merely the beginning. Cowen went on to be a central player in the transformation of New Orleans into the first all-charter school district in the United States. While Cowen and others champion the results—including purportedly higher test scores and graduation rates—researchers at the University of Arizona have shown that even when one controls for race and class, New Orleans schools perform significantly worse on these metrics than Louisiana public schools as a whole, which already rank fourth worst in the nation.
Time and again, test score fraud and false research has put the lie to many such claims about the benefits of charter schools. The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, Cowen’s post-presidency lobbying group that aims to turn New Orleans into a giant experiment for charters, released a 2014 report lauding its success. However, the institute soon had to completely repudiate its own report for its flawed methodology. Despite well-funded charter industry “studies” claiming improved test scores, the nonpartisan Spencer Foundation and Public Agenda has found, “There is very little evidence that charter and traditional public schools differ meaningfully in their average impact on students’ standardized test performance.” On New Orleans schools specifically, the Investigative Fund has written, “seventy-nine percent of [New Orleans] charters are still rated D or F by the Louisiana Department of Education.” Moreover, it has chronicled how the emphasis on test scores and college preparation has led charter schools to eject low-performing students who would require additional help to overcome the tremendous class and race-based barriers that impede their educational success.
Remember when we ripped on Chicago Tribune columnist Katie McQueary for saying she wished a Katrina would come to Chicago and wash away the teachers unions. That’s actually what Cowen is arguing for New Orleans and he was there at the time. The book actually starts with him fleeing New Orleans and supposedly feeling bad that he was staying at the Houston Hyatt (as I recall) when all these other people were suffering. Then he figured it was OK and went to sleep. It was quite a riveting story.
Couple of interesting points that didn’t make it into the review. First, the publisher changed the title in the paperback edition. The original was The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America That’s why I picked it up to begin with. Thought it would be interesting. Now it is The Inevitable City: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and 10 Principles of Crisis Leadership. That’s actually a much more accurate title. It also plays up to the actual audience of this book, which is people Scott Cowen wants to pay him large sums to give speeches about leadership.
Second, let me quote from my original draft for the single most infuriating part of the book:
Even Cowen’s admissions of error are designed to promote an agenda to destroy traditional education. Noting that New Orleans lacks the well-trained citizenry that will attract many corporations, he gives a half-hearted nod toward a liberal arts education yet calls himself “partly to blame” for training students in “medieval French literature, or higher math, or even critical thinking” because many jobs do not require these skills.
A public apology for supporting the humanities and critical thinking from a university president. You can imagine how this sent me through the roof.
The Inevitable City is one of the worst books I have ever read. Lucky for me I have an outlet when I face that situation. I read it so you don’t have to.
David Horowitz is now accusing any university with a Muslim student group of being a fostering ground for terrorists. That my alma mater the University of New Mexico is on his 10 most “terrorist-friendly” university list makes me more proud than you could imagine.
I Mean, Sure, After I Take a Few Bong Hits of that Racist Strain of Weed Called “Christopher Hitchens” I Bought in Colorado.
Ever notice when OBAMA says Muslim words like Hajib, or Hijab, that it sounds like that's his NATIVE tongue? #Trump2016
— Randy Tuggle (@randytuggle) November 18, 2015
Never get out of the boat. Even on Twitter.
Robert Earl Keen played in Pawtucket last night. I was lucky enough to be reminded by a friend this was happening and went. It was fantastic. Because I am mildly cranky this evening, it’s good to relax by listening to a couple of his best tunes that he played last night.
He’s doing this bluegrass thing on this tour and it works pretty well, especially because it’s almost Texas swing more than bluegrass.
The GOP has turned from its usual opposition to all taxes to wanting to tax the poor at the expense of the rich. Josh Mound breaks down this transition over the past decade.
It’s impossible to understand the right’s singling out of tax benefits for the poor, rather than much more expensive ones that benefit the rich, as anything other than a continued attack on the “47 percent.” As the Tax Policy Center’s Howard Gleckman pointed out, a household making between $20,000 and $30,000 in 2011 gained $866 thanks to the EITC, whereas a household making more than $1 million gained more than $7,000 thanks to the deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes alone. “The EITC may have moved a household from federal income taxpayer to non-taxpayer,” Gleckman wrote. “But who was really better off?”
This election cycle, GOP presidential contenders Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul, among others, have taken aim at the “lucky duckies.” Cruz’s plan, for example, calls for turning today’s graduated-rate federal income tax into a flat-rate 10 percent income tax and replacing the payroll tax and corporate income tax with a 16 percent Value Added Tax. Because Cruz’s VAT would be administered by what’s known as the “tax-inclusive subtraction-method,” Cruz’s plan can be thought of as similar to either a 10 percent income tax and a 19 percent sales tax or a 10 percent income tax and a 16 percent payroll tax (for a combined 26 percent federal rate on wage income).
In both cases, it’s difficult to see how either the poor or the middle class would fare better under Cruz’s plan than the current federal tax system, even with the retention of the Earned Income Tax Credit. In fact, it’s likely that most Americans would be much worse off. In addition to the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush administrations’ estimates, studies of the VAT – both as it actually exists in European countries and in estimates of a potential U.S. implementation – consistently find that it’s highly regressive. Even the most favorable analysis of Cruz’s plan, put forward by the business-funded Tax Foundation, found that it would increase the after-tax incomes of the richest one percent by 30 percent, compared to less than two percent for the middle-class.
Cruz’s fellow Republicans’ plans look little better. Like Cruz’s, Paul’s plan – which Glenn Beck said was “so good” it was “erotic” – combines a flat-rate income tax with a VAT, both at 14.5 percent, and eliminates both the corporate income tax and the payroll tax. It, too, would be a huge giveaway to the rich, according to the Tax Foundation’s estimate. Huckabee has proposed a whopping 30 percent consumption tax, which the former Arkansas governor has tried to portray as a blessing for the poor. This assertion didn’t even fly with George H.W. Bush’s former senior economist, William Gale, who brusquely dismissed claims like Huckabee’s that a consumption tax would benefit the poor. “The notion that a tax on consumption will help the poor and hurt the rich is contrary to just about everything that is known about rich/poor spending and income habits,” Gale explained.
Glenn Beck and erotic are three words I never want to see in the same sentence again.
Let’s just rename the universities Division of Capitalist Services. Because that’s what they are becoming. First, there’s the overwhelming work put into destroying the arts, humanities, and, to a lesser extent, the social sciences because they are supposedly pointless and don’t lead directly to a job. That happens in any number of ways, from books and television broadcasters and President Obama talking about it to university administrations telling the students giving tours of campus to focus on STEM and business majors when showing prospective students and their families around. The number of majors in English, History, Philosophy, and the like is plummeting with nervous students and parents responding to all this pressure. On top of this is corporations not wanting to train any of their employees and thus effectively pushing their training onto taxpayers and students through forcing the public universities to do it for them. I have heard of cases as blatant as university administrators holding meetings with corporate heads, asking them what skills students need to have to get jobs at their companies, and then castigating lower-level administrators for the school not producing precisely those skills, messages that then become part of new general education programs and the like.
Another way the university has increasingly become nothing more than capitalist services is through the privatization of research. In other words, university administrators want professors’ research to directly serve corporations in order to bring in money. That happens in both official and unofficial ways. It’s not just an American problem either. The new prime minister of Australia is pushing for this nationwide:
The Turnbull government is set to overhaul the way university research is funded by dramatically downgrading the importance of publishing articles in little-read academic journals.
Prime Minister Turnbull wants to end the “publish or perish” culture in which academics are pressured to focus on constant publishing rather than producing work with commercial and community benefit.
In 2013, Australia ranked last in the developed world on the proportion of businesses which collaborate with research institutions on innovation.
Under one proposal, the government would entirely scrap the use of research publications from the way it allocates $1 billion a year in block research grants and PhD research funding, sources said.
Instead, in its innovation statement next month, the government will put more emphasis on research “engagement” and “impact”. The aim is to encourage universities to work more closely with the private sector to explore how their research discoveries can be commercialised.
Publications in books, journals and conference papers currently determine how 10 per cent of the $678 million funding for PhD research is allocated. Fairfax Media understands a major review into research funding, led by former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Ian Watt, will recommend removing this criterion altogether.
The government is also considering scrapping the use of publications as a criterion for $353 million worth of research block grants.
The transformation of universities into nothing more than capitalist services is detrimental to students and to the creation of knowledge. There’s of course nothing per se wrong with research that is useful to companies and students do need to be concerned about their future earning power, but turning the universities into nothing more than adjunct agencies of corporations does not serve anyone well except those corporations, who should be hiring smart Philosophy and French majors who have all sorts of interesting skills and capacity to think critically and learn complex material and then training them. But that might affect the next quarterly profit report.
This is a guest post by Melissa K. Byrnes, who is Associate Professor of History at Southwestern University. Her research focuses on issues of migration, French Muslims, empire, activism, and human rights. She is finishing a book on post-1945 community activism for North African rights and welfare in the suburbs of Paris and Lyon. This post was written before the Saint-Denis happenings of this morning and she will have a follow up post covering them tomorrow, hopefully.
The moment the news broke about the horrendous attacks in Paris last Friday, a wave of mourning washed over the globe. From world leaders’ pronouncements to the tricolor-ization of Facebook profiles, nearly everyone, it seemed, was moved to demonstrate their connections with Paris and their allegiance to its values and symbolism. “Je suis Paris” echoed from all corners. The city of Paris seems uniquely powerful in its ability to marshal solidarity.
Of course, the Paris attacks fell only a day after the Islamic State perpetrated a horrific attack on Beirut–the deadliest suicide bombing in that city in more than twenty-five years. Beirut, though, is not receiving the same attention as Paris, and there are precious few Lebanese flags lighting up social media or global monuments. This leads to questions about the value we place on the lives of those who are not “Western,” who are not white.
In this context, “Je suis Paris” can be deeply problematic, an emblem of racial difference, an invocation of the idea that certain lives, and certain cultures, are more precious than others. “Je suis Paris” might mean that I am not—nor do I wish to see—anything that does not derive directly from a narrowly-defined canon of Western civilization. “Je suis Paris” can say that “they” are not. Intended as a heartfelt statement of togetherness, “Je suis Paris” has the power to deny solidarity.
It is easy for “Paris” to mean whiteness and wealth, empire and privilege and power. But that is not—and has never been—the only face of the city. Real Paris is far more rich and colorful, but it has its dark neighborhoods—places of poverty, of exclusion, of frustration and loss. Paris has forgotten corners, rooms of solitude and misery, communities from whom the majority has turned away, individuals who daily face discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and all the ills that follow from these. If “Je suis Paris,” than I am also all of these.
Yet Paris’s history is also one of expanding solidarity. Its glory derives from its ability to welcome new peoples, new ideas, new dreams. Paris converts us. Parisians have long been trouble-makers, thorns in the side of authority, the lifeblood of revolutions and progress. The newly ubiquitous French flag derived from Paris itself. Red and blue were the colors of the rebellious city with whom the king sought to make peace in 1789 (while the royal Bourbon white remained in the flag, the monarchy itself did not survive). For centuries, Parisians have demanded rights for and solidarity with the down-trodden. Paris has been the destination of refugees, revolutionaries, and political exiles. Above all, it has called countless generations of migrants—from all across the world—who have each made their contributions and sacrifices to the city.
Paris also reaches into the suburbs on the margins of French society—suburbs like Bobigny, Nanterre, and Sarcelles that are home to large minority communities; suburbs like Saint-Denis that have, it turns out, much to teach us. My first research trip on the 13-Metro line out to Saint-Denis was in October 2005. I was immediately impressed by the close attention city officials had paid to predominantly Muslim North African migrants and the relationships they built. In the 1950s, for example, Saint-Denis’s mayor was outspoken in his support for Algerian nationalists fighting for independence and scathing in his critiques of the French imperial system that sought to subjugate and marginalize Algerians in North Africa and on the French mainland. He and his colleagues invoked a sense of solidarity, a workers’ brotherhood that did not recognize national divisions, a common struggle against oppression. The city offered a host of social programs for local North African migrants and attempted to bring migrants into the active political community to affect policies at the local, regional, and national levels.
In less than a month, I witnessed just how powerful these local traditions were. In November 2005, the suburbs of Paris and other major French cities were engulfed in riots, sparked by the deaths of two boys of African descent who had been chased by police. The worst of the violence—mostly the destruction of property and the very French tradition of burning cars—was in the surrounding region of Seine-Saint-Denis. And yet the city of Saint-Denis itself did not have a single incident The city’s habits of inclusion—developed to address the needs of nineteenth-century European migrants (Bretons, Italians, Spaniards) and readily adapted in the mid-twentieth century for North and Sub-Saharan Africans—had ensured its safety. While state officials—and many individuals—redoubled discriminatory rhetoric and policies, Saint-Denis’s city hall hosted open meetings and decried prejudice.
Photo of Place de Republique, Sunday, November 15 used with permission of photographer
The Stade de France, one of the targets in Friday evening’s murderous attacks, is in Saint-Denis. Yet, even in the face of bloody, senseless brutality, the city’s commitment to solidarity and openness has held. The current mayor’s first statement on Friday evening called on the community not to “give way to fear.” On Sunday, he elaborated*
By attacking the northeast of Paris and the neighborhood around the Stade de France, the terrorists targeted sites of diversity, of social inclusion, youth, tolerance, and openness to others.
Now as ever, terrorism must be combatted in an implacable manner, relentlessly.
Now as ever, it is by coming together that we will be stronger than they are.
Let us reject the confusion and the hatred of others that encourage turning inwards, racism, the lure of radicalism, and violence. Let us stand in solidarity. Let us proclaim, loud and strong, our will to live together and our attachment to the democratic values of liberty, equality, fraternity.
Perhaps we should all be saying, “Je suis Saint-Denis.”
Solidarity is a powerful weapon and shield. France’s military response—to continue (even strengthen) its role in the Syrian airstrikes—is understandable and expected. This was, after all, the policy that the attackers in Paris purportedly sought to undo. Yet in the medium- to long-term, militarization is not the answer—especially not within France’s own borders. This weekend’s state of emergency must give way quickly to a resumption of openness, lest France tread too far down the path of an enhanced security state. France must also consider the connections between the underlying causes of the current refugee crisis and the agenda of those who launched the Paris attacks. Solidarity must cut across borders and social divisions.
The spirit of open doors swept across Paris on Friday evening; #porteouverte was used (in many languages) to invite people into private homes and other safe spaces, to wait out the chaos together. A logical extension—though a difficult one—would be to open doors to other victims of the Islamic State’s terror and brutality. As many have pointed out Syrian and other refugees have long been victims of such attacks. A significant number of the refugees streaming into Europe are fleeing the Islamic State and the Syrian Civil War. Though panic has led to demands that borders slam shut (even in parts of the US) welcoming refugees into Western Europe would be prudent as well as humane. Extremist groups like the Islamic State count on their violence to sow division. Far better to embrace Muslim residents (citizens and refugees alike), to stand with them in a show of strength and unity against extremism and violence.
Solidarity also requires denouncing senseless violence against civilians across the world and mourning publicly with those they’ve left behind. Because if we are Paris, we must also be Beirut—and Damascus, and Baghdad and Baga We must pay attention to atrocities and suffering even when they don’t occur on our doorstep—Friday evening showed us just how quickly these can show up.
In 1789, Paris’s revolutionaries knew that true liberty and equality require fraternity in order to flourish. It’s time we remember what real solidarity means—and begin to act in its name.
The U.S. and Vietnam have a side agreement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that supposedly makes it easier for labor unions to organize. It sounds good in theory but probably will do nothing to protect worker rights.
A pact between Washington and Hanoi to strengthen labor unions in Vietnam could give workers more bargaining power, but the impact will depend on how Vietnam carries out the agreement, longtime Vietnamese government advisers and other specialists said on Thursday.
The side agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership calls for Vietnam to pass legislation that would legalize independent unions, allow them to strike and let them seek help from foreign labor organizations like the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
Sounds good, right! But….
But Tony Foster, the managing partner of the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offices of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a big global law firm, said that the labor provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership had been expected, and that it was unclear how much change they would bring to Vietnam.
The central question, he said, will be the extent to which the trade agreement increases the influence and independence of labor unions.
“The devil is really going to be in the details on a lot of this stuff — I’m sure people are going to be parsing it very carefully to determine what will really be required,” Mr. Foster said in a telephone interview from Hanoi. “It will be a balancing act for the government, and I’m sure they will comply, more or less.”
Multinationals have shown much more interest this autumn in investing in Vietnam, and the anticipated labor provisions of the trade accord have caused little concern among companies, he added.
That this doesn’t worry the corporations is a sign that this is probably going to be totally meaningless, or nearly so. First of all, there does not seem to be any hard consequences to Vietnam if they ignore it. The corporations certainly won’t care. The TPP gives all the benefits to the Vietnamese government up front. The real political concern here is getting the TPP through Congress. Once that happens, what’s the enforcement mechanism? If there was an enforcement mechanism and–most importantly–if workers themselves could access that mechanism and file complaints–then it would be a good thing. As is, this will probably go the way of other labor provisions in these big trade agreements and do almost nothing. It’s also worth noting, since the evangelists of free trade never actually ask workers in other countries what they think, that the Vietnamese labor movement opposes the TPP because it feels that it will make it harder for them to improve the conditions of workers.
Speaking of such things, this is a good place to remind people of my talk tonight in Providence at AS220 at 5:30 (although really at 6). I talked about the TPP with RI Future if you want to get a preview.