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Dead Horses in American History (XI)

[ 22 ] April 9, 2014 |

little-bighorn

Pile of horse and human bones, the aftermath of

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the Battle of Little Bighorn, 1876.

Data is Not Objective

[ 133 ] April 9, 2014 |

This

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takedown of a FiveThirtyEight article on Venezuela is pretty complete and damning. Once again, data is in no way “objective” and Silver’s belief that it is has lead to some pretty bad articles at the new site.

Jim DeMint on How Slavery Ended

[ 327 ] April 9, 2014 |

Obviously I need to change the way I teach my Civil War course. Since Jim DeMint has the ear of God, we know his view of history is also correct.

DeMint: This progressive, the whole idea of being progressive is to progress away from those ideas that made this country great. What we’re trying to conserve as conservative are those things that work. They work today, they work for young people, they work for minorities and we can change this country and change its course very quickly if we just remember what works.

Newcombe: What if somebody, let’s say you’re talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, ‘that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.’

DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

This is funny on so many levels but my favorite part of this “interpretation” that the federal government didn’t free the slaves is that in fact not only is this wrong, but doing so led to the largest expansion of the federal government in the nation’s history to that time.

Dumb upon Dumb

[ 84 ] April 9, 2014 |

Sadly today, as you have probably heard, a high school kid went ballistic with a knife in a Pennsylvania high school. Gun nuts are joyous–guns don’t kill people, people kill people!

Oh yeah, except that this kid didn’t actually kill anyone (at time of writing, word is everyone will survive) whereas he might well have killed dozens with a gun.

Of course, only a gun nut would celebrate school stabbings.

$10.10

[ 71 ] April 8, 2014 |

Glad to see Maryland following Connecticut in creating a $10.10 minimum wage. That’s still too low but it’s a nice jump. It also continues to build a real red state-blue state divide in wages and I wonder how big that gap will become.

Equal Pay Day

[ 46 ] April 8, 2014 |

Today is Equal Pay Day. Pay equality has still never been achieved in this country. Some facts, thanks to the National Women’s Law Center:

On average, women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.For women of color, the gap is even wider: African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. The wage gap has only budged by 18 cents since it was signed into law in 1963, when women were typically paid 59 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.

The wage gap among union members is half the size of the wage gap among non-union workers.


Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers
.22% percent of minimum wage workers are women of color.More than three-quarters of women earning the minimum wage are 20 or older, and do not have a spouse’s income to rely on.70% of restaurant servers (the largest group of tipped minimum wage worker) are women – and their poverty rate is nearly 3 times higher than the rate for the workforce as a whole.

Women represent 76% of the low-wage workforce, defined as the ten largest low-paying occupations. Women of color are 37% of the low-wage workforce.

4.8 million working mothers would get a raise if the minimum wage was increased. Increasing the minimum wage would boost annual earnings by $5,700 – enough to pull a family of three out of poverty.

Does Ezra Klein Really Not Understand the Point of Politics?

[ 334 ] April 8, 2014 |

So Ezra Klein’s big lead-off article at Vox was, well, strange. Not that I disagree with all of it, although there is way too much both sides do it in here. But see here:

The silver lining is that politics doesn’t just take place in Washington. The point of politics is policy. And most people don’t experience policy as a political argument. They experience it as a tax bill, or a health insurance card, or a deployment. And, ultimately, there’s no spin effective enough to persuade Americans to ignore a cratering economy, or skyrocketing health-care costs, or a failing war. A political movement that fools itself into crafting national policy based on bad evidence is a political movement that will, sooner or later, face a reckoning at the polls.

The point of politics is not policy. The point of politics is power. This is blindingly obvious. I know that there is a subset of Beltway pundit types who really wish that politics was about policy. They want to talk about policy and wonkish details. They don’t want to talk about building social movements. But that is a severe misreading of what politics actually are about. The civil rights movement or the conservative movement did not succeed because of policy debates. They succeeded because they were able to marshal power. The environmental movement faded in part because it did begin to believe that politics was about policy and deemphasized its base expressing power. To a lesser extent, the labor movement did the same thing. The Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson laugh at Klein’s formulation.

And the idea that the right evidence is going to save a political party and the wrong evidence is going to destroy one, I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence to this unless you are cherrypicking fairly significantly. I mean, OK, Hoover’s actions during the Depression did doom the Republicans. But while Obama won in 2008, I don’t exactly recall Bush’s many failed policies making him one of the worst presidents in American history permanently dooming the Republican Party. Oh yeah, because Republicans knew how to take power in a number of ways that frustrate the majority of the country today.

Maybe some of this is that I take a longer-term view because I’m a historian. But maybe some of it comes from some pretty significant ideological blinders that Klein wears.

Thanks to friend of the blog Robert Cruickshank for bringing this to my attention.

Wellness Programs as Tools of the Boss

[ 82 ] April 8, 2014 |

Not at all surprising that employee wellness program shifts responsibility for unhealthy workplaces off of the employer and onto the employee:

“Many of the individual behaviors you are focusing on in your health and wellness programs [such as] stop smoking, eat better, exercise more, are in fact the consequences of the environments in which they [employees] are working,” Pfeffer says. “If you work people to death, of course they are going to smoke more, drink more and eat worse.”

Pfeffer outlined his concept of “social sustainability,” where companies invest more in making their human capital sustainable.

“Work organizations ought to be measuring the health of their workforce,” he said in his keynote speech. “Just as many places today measure carbon, renewables and environmental impacts, we ought to measure human sustainability just as much as we measure environmental sustainability.”

When determining well-being and longevity of workforces, Pfeffer said that most company wellness programs – which conventionally promote individual health and wellness, biometric screenings and smoking and drinking cessation programs – do fall short of really instituting change. Indicators such as work-family conflict, lack of job control, perceived fairness at work, as well as layoffs and economic insecurity, all play a huge role in workforce health, he added.

“The higher you are [in the organizational structure of

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your company] the more control you have; the lower you are, [the] more flows down hill,” Pfeffer said, while noting that low control over one’s work increases a person’s likelihood of having a cardiovascular event.

That this Stanford researcher told this to a conference of employers means I’m surprised he wasn’t howled down on the spot. If companies can charge workers higher premiums if they don’t live up to their standards of health, even more money stolen from workers!

Another Family Values Republican

[ 60 ] April 7, 2014 |

If there’s one thing we know to be true about Republicans, it’s that they are never hypocritical on sexual issues. They always live up to their Christian faith and they value their own marriages just as much as they value pressing their views on marriage to the society at large.

Congressman Vance McAllister issued a statement Monday afternoon “asking for forgiveness” after The Ouachita Citizen first reported McAllister was captured in a video recording passionately kissing and embracing a member of his congressional staff.

“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness,” McAllister said in a statement. “I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.”

Throughout last fall’s congressional campaign, McAllister, a Republican from Swartz, touted his Christian faith and in one television commercial, he asked voters to pray for him. At least two other campaign television commercials featured McAllister walking hand in hand with his wife, Kelly, while their five children walked along. One television commercial captured the McAllister family in the kitchen of their home preparing breakfast before attending church.

McAllister and his wife have been married for 16 years.

McAllister told The Ouachita Citizen during last fall’s campaign that he would not shy from stressing his Christian faith. McAllister and his family are members at North Monroe Baptist Church. That faith prepared him for public service, he said during an interview.

McAllister’s campaign benefited from support from the Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame. Phil Robertson publicly supported McAllister while Willie Robertson endorsed McAllister in a YouTube video. Also, Willie Robertson recorded “robo” calls on behalf of McAllister’s campaign.

In January, Willie Robertson attended President Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington as McAllister’s guest.

Of course, like David Vitter, he’ll be forgiven because he’s a white evangelical Republican. If he was a black politician doing the same thing, all we’d hear is slightly veiled snickering about uncontrollable black sexuality, Chicago-style politics, and talk about the immorality of Democrats.

Capital Mobility and the Death of Steady Work

[ 103 ] April 7, 2014 |

Once again, capital mobility is the biggest threat to modern labor.* Companies already outsourced much work from the United States, contributing to the decline of unions, the split between labor and environmentalists, the end of steady work, the corporate domination over American politics, Gilded Age levels of income inequality, and the rapid decline of working-class voices in American debates.

Well, it’s no better for Indian workers since companies will dump those workers to in order to fight ever cheaper labor, making the conditions necessary for a permanent middle class nigh well impossible.

NEW DELHI: Struggling to diversify the delivery footprint to take advantage of low-cost centres, India’s BPO industry is currently losing 70 per cent of all incremental voice and call centre business to competitors like Philippines and countries in Eastern Europe, says a report.

“It is estimated that in the ongoing decade India might lose $ 30 billion in terms of foreign exchange earnings to Philippines, which has become the top destination for Indian investors,” Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said. Thus there is a need to reduce costs and make operations leaner across the BPO industry,” he added.

BPO companies could reduce the total operating costs by 20-30 per cent by moving to a low-cost city within India, with a cost differential of around 10-15 per cent for non-voice processes and upwards of 20 per cent for voice processes, the report pointed out.

Several Indian firms have set up substantial operations in Philippines which has a large pool of well-educated, English-speaking, talented and employable graduates. Almost 30 per cent graduates in Philippines are employable unlike 10 per cent in India where the training consumes considerable amount of time, according to the report.

David Atkins on the importance of this.

The labor arbitrage game continues worldwide as corporations shift from country to country looking for highly trained workers to sell their labor for next to nothing on the global marketplace. These corporations are like parasites, putting jobs in one country for a decade or two, only to destabilize them and move the jobs elsewhere the moment something cheaper and better trained comes along.

Combined with increased capital mobility, labor arbitrage is giving corporations the upper hand in the battle with governments worldwide. The fate of the world’s economy–and, given the realities of climate change perhaps even the human race itself–will depend largely on whether the governments of the world can cooperate to neutralize the parasitic, plutocratic threat of global corporations.

I agree entirely. Fighting capital mobility needs to be at the very highest level of the progressive agenda. It is not today.

*One can make an argument for automation here as well.

If We Start Enough Wars, Surely One Will Work Out

[ 87 ] April 7, 2014 |

Reihan Salam provides of somewhat less than compelling defense of why he is still a neo-con and why America needs his point of view. He fully admits that Iraq was a total disaster. But it’s justified because maybe, just maybe, involving the United States in regime change in countries

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where it has no vested interest might have worked some other times:

The neocon impulse proved badly misguided in Iraq, where it contributed to a moral calamity. But there are other cases, in South Asia in 1971 and in Bosnia in the early 1990s, to name two examples among many, where it might very well have prevented one.

Note he can’t name any cases where it actually did prevent one. But maybe these other times would have gone better. So let’s get the gang back together and do this all over again. I’m sure it’ll work great the next time. And if not then, one of the other times.

A Cultural Politics That Might Make Even Republicans Blanch

[ 398 ] April 6, 2014 |

Well, maybe not. But anyway, this is pretty gross:

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday it would prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns it won in local elections, saying such arrangements were contrary to France’s secular values.

France’s republic has a strict secular tradition enforceable by law, but faith-related demands have risen in recent years, especially from the country’s five-million-strong Muslim minority, the largest in Europe.

“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”

The anti-immigrant National Front has consistently bemoaned the rising influence of Islam in French public life.

France has seen periodic controversies over schools that substitute beef or chicken for pork from menus to cater to Muslim children. Some of the FN’s new mayors have complained there are too many halal shops in their towns.

Nothing freaks me out like Muslims eating meat butchered in a fashion that affects me in no demonstrative way. I haven’t been that scared since I noted the lack of bacon at my town’s Jewish deli. What’s the deal with that? My entire identity is no more. I’m now voting for the most racist politicians I can find.

Also, I’m glad the French are so much more culturally and socially advanced than we Americans. I’m sure I won’t mention this the next time someone from France talks to me about how screwed up the U.S. is.

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