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Bernie and the TPP

[ 18 ] January 10, 2015 |

Bernie Sanders is taking the lead in attacking the odious Trans-Pacific Partnership, the centerpiece of Obama’s trade agenda.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is blasting the Obama administration for a lack of transparency in negotiating a major trade deal that he says will be “disastrous” for workers.

The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be the largest free trade agreement in history, is still being negotiated but is expected to come before Congress for approval this year.

Sanders, an independent, said the treaty’s proposals were written in secret with input from multi-national corporations while members of Congress were “locked out of the process.” Administration officials dispute that claim.

Sanders said the trade pact is part of a “global race to the bottom” to boost corporate profits.

“It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it,” Sanders wrote Monday to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

What I love is the lies about the number of jobs that the TPP will create:

Murphy said trade agreements like TPP dismantle tariffs and barriers used by foreign governments to shut out U.S. goods and services. The deal could boost U.S. exports by $124 billion by 2025 and generate 700,000 new American jobs, he wrote, citing a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

These same sorts of claims were made about NAFTA. Instead, 683,000 American jobs were lost because of NAFTA by 2010, 61 percent of which were the high-paying manufacturing jobs at the backbone of the American union movement of the 20th century.

When Does The National Review Think Income Inequality Should Be Fought?

[ 14 ] January 10, 2015 |

When solar energy entrepreneurs get rich, of course.

Touring the World

[ 20 ] January 9, 2015 |

Whether visiting SEK’s office where he caught students having sex, the Nixon Library, or Eng and Chang’s grave (which oddly I have never written about here), I like weird tourism, especially if it intersects with American history. How to do this on the Colombian coast? Easy enough. Visit the bar where the Secret Service agent picked up the woman that led to the agency’s prostitution scandal. And here it is:


I love the guy who did this because he engaged in my favorite thing in the world: rank conservative hypocrisy.

Huntington was a world away from Severna Park, Maryland, where he lived with his wife of almost 20 years, who homeschooled their two teenage sons and ran a neighborhood Bible-study group. The Huntingtons owned a modest house with two white rocking chairs on the front porch and an American flag flying above the front door. They attended Granite Baptist Church in Glen Burnie. Arthur had graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College, a Christian school in Rochester, New York, where he studied criminal justice. Before joining the Secret Service, he was an airport security guard and then a cop in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I love it when my Baptist Bible school teaching home schooling good Christian security men just so happen to sleep with any woman that moves when their wives aren’t around.

Sexism in Beer Culture, Part Eleventymillion

[ 34 ] January 9, 2015 |


Today in Republican Minority Outreach

[ 4 ] January 9, 2015 |

House Republicans once again show their priorities, seek to repeal Obama’s humane moves on immigration, recriminalize all undocumented people in this country.

And You Thought Robert Moses Was Ambitious

[ 79 ] January 9, 2015 |


A Really Greater New York. That was the title of the 1911 proposal by an engineer and planner who imagined paving over massive amounts of New York Harbor to make room to build the New York of the future. Oh, you like the East River and would miss it? Too damn bad!

Yesterday Jen Carlson brought the proposal to our attention, explaining how it was drawn up—and enthusiastically promoted—by one T. Kennard Thomson in 1911. Just how much would Thomson’s plan have transformed New York? Well, as it stands today, NYC encompasses 469 square miles. Thomson wanted to add a full 50 square miles to that by infilling huge sections of naturally water-bound New York.

In the context of early modern New York, it wasn’t all that crazy. After all, the boundaries of Manhattan had been aggressively expanded since the arrival of Dutch colonists. Ellis Island is built on landfill, as is Battery Park City. During World War II, American naval ships brought back thousands of tons of rubble from English cities that ended up in the East River, serving as infill for FDR Drive.

But all of that pales in comparison to what Thomson, a clearly ambitious city planner and engineer, had in mind.

In a 1916 Popular Science article posted on Reddit, he described the massively expensive and expansive infrastructure project. Starting at the mouth of the East River, artificial infill would great a huge swatch of new land, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan (a new channel would be dug near Flushing to reroute water through Brooklyn). “As a result, it would not be much harder to get to Brooklyn than to cross Broadway,” he writes. “Indeed New York and Brooklyn would be as much one big city as are the East Side and West Side.”

That was far from the most dramatic part of the plan, even if it would have indelibly changed the culture of the city. Down at the southern tip of Manhattan, a long chunk of infill would create an entirely new peninsula extending off of the city—bolstered by Governor’s Island, which would simply be a piece of Manhattan now.

Across the Hudson, more new land would fill in the area around Bayonne, and a new river would connect Newark Bay to the Upper Bay. That’s where Thomson wanted to put Brooklyn’s Navy Yard—the East River, he said, was unsuitable for the task. Oh and Staten Island? It would get two massive new peninsulas, while Sandy Hook would get a new island, too.

Is that all?

Boxer’s Replacement

[ 72 ] January 8, 2015 |

Given the California electorate, whoever replaces Barbara Boxer should be someone around the Elizabeth Warren/Sherrod Brown wing of the Democratic Party. Of course. many of her likely replacements would likely be be far worse than Boxer. At the very least, can you people not elect some Silicon Valley capitalist or Gavin Newsom?

Nazi Cattle

[ 103 ] January 8, 2015 |

I suppose if one is going to raise a breed of cattle created by the Nazis, one should expect it to be a killer breed.

On Sam Adams

[ 380 ] January 6, 2015 |

Being in East Coast exile, nothing bothers me more than the mediocre and overpriced beers I am forced to drink. In Oregon, a $4 beer is normal, a $5 beer expensive. In New England, a $6 beer is normal, an $8 beer expensive. Not to mention that I can get amazing beer during $3 happy hours in Oregon whereas happy hour is illegal in Massachusetts and mostly in Rhode Island. The difference in beer scenes between the coasts is night and day and the only states that can even begin to approach the four great beer states of the West are Michigan and Vermont, and they are decidedly inferior.

Given this situation, I have spent more time in the last few years drinking and thinking about the big microbrew powers than I ever would have done in Oregon. By this, I mean Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Brooklyn. I have really come to appreciate Sierra Nevada. They rarely produce a mediocre beer and nearly everything is excellent, including the seasonal Celebration IPA I wish I had enjoyed more of. Sierra just makes great beer and because of their size, can offer it at a reasonable price. I enjoy Brooklyn’s higher end beers but the stock releases are largely not very good. But Sam Adams? I just don’t think most of their beers are very good. Some of the releases offered only in bombers are pretty tasty but that’s really about it. Its attempt at a west coast IPA, the Rebel IPA, was poor. So it’s hardly surprising that Sam Adams is starting to struggle in a more discerning and demanding beer market. The solution is to make better beer, but that seems unlikely since it is so stodgy and behind the times now. I doubt Sam Adams is going to become the next Pete’s Wicked Ale, a beer very popular when I was in college that is now defunct, since it has such a large market share, but it is clearly a brewery on the decline.

I don’t root for that decline, as I always desire more good beer to drink. But I am skeptical that it will become a leader in the beer world again.

High Recommendations

[ 13 ] January 5, 2015 |

I was welcomed to Cartagena by a picture of Sherrod Brown and his cute dog reading the advance copy of my book. He is writing a blurb, as is Bill McKibben, Aviva Chomsky, James Loewen, Kalpona Akter and even more awesome activists and scholars. You should preorder it.


This Day in Labor History: January 5, 1914

[ 92 ] January 5, 2015 |

On January 5, 1914, Henry Ford announced his famous $5 a day wage to his workers. Ford is often lauded for his efforts here and he was surely forward-thinking in creating this salary. But this post will also challenge his reputation as a good employer, for Ford expected plenty in return from those employees, far more than any employee should have to accept.

Turnover was a massive problem for employers through the early 20th century. The horrors of industrialization combined with callousness of employers to lead to workers constantly seeking a job that was just a little bit less terrible than the last. The growth of assembly line work made this worse because it was so boring. Treating a worker like a machine, as Henry Ford did, deskilled and depressed workers who had once partially defined themselves through their physical labor. This labor was just as physical and exhausting, but required no thinking and provided no satisfaction. Thus the Ford Motor Company had the same turnover problems as other industries. In 1913, the turnover rate for the company was 370 percent. Ford decided he needed to do something about this turnover. So he began to think about what would become known as welfare capitalism. He thought that if he paid his workers a bit more and helped them take care of their basic needs, they would live with the fact that the work was so mindless.

So on January 5, 1914, he announced a reorganization of his company. Workers could be part of a profit-sharing system that would raise their salary to $5 a day. While this has been remembered as Ford wanting to pay his workers enough that they could buy the cars they made, that really wasn’t what this was about. Reducing labor turnover was the reason, which is fair enough. Ford also took power away from the foreman and centralized hiring decisions. Like many industrial worksites, foremen had almost complete authority over workers, including the power to hire and fire, as well as the setting of pay rates to some extent. Ford did not want these little dictators making these decisions and instead created a personnel department that the foreman had to check with before firing. If the personnel department disagreed, the worker would merely be transferred. The introduction of standardized wages (the number of wage rates were reduced from 69 to 8) also took power away from foremen.


The Ford assembly line

Ford had a requirement for acquiring those wages. Workers had to live up to his moral standards. Ford romanticized rural life and what he saw as traditional values. He wanted to inculcate this in his workers and seeing himself as a father figure, he believed he had the right to interfere in their personal lives. Thus if they wanted to work, they had to subject themselves to inspections from his Sociological Department. The department inspected workers’ habits and lives, discharging those seen as unfit. It gave advice, expected to be followed, on money management and family relations. Ford’s foreign employees had to undergo Americanization programs if they wanted their wages. Fore required English on the shop floor in a society and industrial workforce that was very heavily dominated by immigrants. Ford, a staunch prohibitionist, banned his workers from drinking alcohol. The SD would visit the homes of employees to inspect their lives. They would do so without warning so they could see what the inside of your home really like and whether you had liquor in the house. To say the least, no Jews were hired. Some workers were upset about this intrusion, but it seems that most accepted it, even if they complained about the violation of their personal liberties, because they needed the money.

747 Farnsworth

House purchased by Ford worker after Sociological Department assistance

Not all workers could earn those wages. Only men over the age of 22 shown to be taking care of their families, single men who were seen as thrifty, and men younger than 22 who were the sole breadwinner for their family. Female workers could also qualify after 1916 after women’s movement leaders protested their exclusion. The Sociological Department would make the judgment as to which workers qualified. Ford hated quitters, thinking them slackers and undeserving. So he also worked to reduce turnover by making the process to get hired onerous, with full inspections from the SD each time a worker quit. What this really led to was a certain amount of bribery of Sociological Department inspectors. Eventually over 200 SD inspectors pried into every corner of workers’ lives to see if they fit Henry Ford’s personal standards of how they should live. If workers didn’t follow the line, their pay was reduced back to $2.34 and if they didn’t improve in six months, they were fired.

And Ford would work these employees to the bone. Agreeing to work at Ford not only meant agreeing to the moral standards. It meant a lifetime of hard drudgery that gave you little real pride in the work you did. Said one of Ford’s production managers, “Ford was one of the worse shops in town for driving the men. I have been an S.O.B. with everybody in town.” But with wages so bad in 1914, the impact of Ford’s announcement was overwhelming. A crowd of 15,000 people descended on Ford to ask for jobs. They were dispatched with fire hoses.


Workers themselves certainly took the $5 day as a good deal at the time. But Ford became increasingly ossified in his ideas of labor relations and refused to raise the pay. What was a good wage in 1914 became less so year by year. In the 1920s, the Sociological Department’s influence declined and conditions worsened in the factories. By 1927, Ford was driving his men with a bunch of ex-boxers and thugs led by Harry Bennett, who violently put down any protest. By the 1930s, workers were furious with Ford’s labor relations and the plants became centers of labor resistance to employer domination of their lives and home to some of the great battles of the 1930s struggle for unionization.

In other words, we can certainly say that Ford was forward-looking in the sense that he advanced the corporate control over the workforce by giving them a small amount in return for the control over their lives. And the money was real enough, at least for awhile. But to point to the $5 wage as a good thing without placing it in context is problematic and should be avoided by people on the left.

I used Sanford Jacoby’s Employing Bureaucracy: Managers, Unions, and the Transformation of Work in American Industry, 1900-1945, Joan Shaw Peterson’s American Automobile Workers, 1900-1933, and Greg Grandin’s Fordlandia, in the writing of this post.

This is the 129th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.


[ 39 ] January 4, 2015 |

LGM’s least popular blogger is off to Colombia for a couple of weeks. I have a couple of posts scheduled, but blogging will be sporadic and dependent upon unknown internet connections. Hopefully I can watch Oregon in the title game since ESPN does not stream outside the U.S. This is worrisome. Anyway, those of you who long for the LGM days before you were bombarded with discusses of economic inequality, ketchup, and dead horses can celebrate for awhile.

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