Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Erik Loomis

rss feed

Visit Erik Loomis's Website

Union Busters and Their Friends on the Bench

[ 10 ] July 8, 2016 |

index

Speaking of Tom Perez, his Department of Labor helped even the playing field between unions and employers earlier this year by forcing employers to be transparent to their workers about the unionbusting firms they hire.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) passed the “persuader rule” that closed a major loophole, which has for decades allowed employers to hire attorneys and consultants to secretly assist them in what is politely referred to in the industry as “union avoidance.” The goal of this activity is to persuade and prevent workers from organizing unions.

The new rule did not try to make the consultants’ and attorneys’ practices illegal, or regulate the types of activities that employers and consultants could engage in; it was simply intended to provide transparency to workers who are the subject of a coordinated anti-union campaign. But last week, a Texas federal district court judge issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the DOL from implementing the rule.

The persuader rule reinterpreted the “advice” exemption in Section 203(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), which had only required disclosure when employers hired outside consultants who directly communicated with employees. Under the previous interpretation of the exemption, the vast majority of employers who hire labor consultants—sometimes referred to as “union busters”—and the consultants they hire have been able to evade their filing requirements and remain in the shadows by having these consultants work behind the scenes.

As a result, the workers are never privy to who is coordinating the anti-union campaign or how much their employers are spending on it. It is estimated that employers in 71-87 percent of organizing drives hire one or more consultants, yet because of the massive loophole in the law, only 387 agreements were filed by employers and consultants.

Good idea, right. Well, sure, except for that Texas judge issuing an injunction against it at the behest of right-wing Texans and, oddly, the American Bar Association.

The new persuader rule, which covers all agreements and payments after July 1, was intended to close this loophole. The rule requires employers who hire anti-union consultants (and those consultants hired) to disclose to the DOL the agreement and the amounts paid. It would not require disclosure of what the consultants said or any legal advice sought. It is akin to a requirement that political campaign ads disclose who is paying for the ad so that people know who is behind the message they are receiving.

But now, under last week’s injunction, all of that is in jeopardy.

“This was one of the most one-sided orders I have ever seen,” explains Seattle University School of Law Professor Charlotte Garden. “The court found every one of the theories brought by the plaintiffs likely to succeed.”

The suit was brought by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Texas Association of Business, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Home Builders, the Texas Association of Builders, and a group of GOP-controlled states. Some of these organizations were concerned that their current activities of providing anti-union seminars and materials would require them to file reports identifying themselves as labor relations consultants.

Perhaps the most surprising group to take a side in this case was the American Bar Association (ABA), whose mission is “To serve equally our members, our profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.” The ABA cited attorneys’ ethical rules for their opposition to the DOL Rule, and said, “by imposing these unfair reporting burdens on both the lawyers and the employer clients they represent, the proposed Rule could very well discourage many employers from seeking the expert legal representation they need, thereby effectively denying them their fundamental right to counsel.”

This coalition of business and attorney groups and states brought forward a number of arguments, from the DOL lacking authority to pass the rule to the rule exceeding the DOL’s estimated compliance costs by $59.99 billion over 10 years. (The DOL estimated the rule would cost all employers and consultants a total of approximately $826,000 per year; the plaintiffs estimated it at $60 billion over 10 years.) Additionally, in line with the growing use of the First Amendment against government regulation of business, the plaintiffs argued that the rule violated the employers’, lawyers’, and consultants’ free speech, expression and association rights. The Judge concluded that some union busters may not offer their services as freely, and some attorneys may leave the field, if their identities and the terms of their arrangements were disclosed.

This is the sort of case that is probably going to be adjudicated over the next few years going up the ladder, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. And as we know, voting is a consumer choice and Hillary Clinton doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside so I am going to vote for Jill Stein to show those Democrats. If that means Trump gets elected, then it’s totally that neoliberal Hillary’s fault when Trump’s judges rule in favor of corporations in cases like this.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

The Mainstreaming of the LGBTQ Movement and History

[ 42 ] July 8, 2016 |

ACT-UP-Phila-on-Broad-St

It seems almost inevitable in the history of oppressed Americans. You have a movement that develops at the grassroots. It seeks to challenge the fundamental basis of American society. It has a bit of success at doing that, but ultimately it channels its goals into a civil and legal rights paradigm that drops the class and cultural challenges to the nation. As those legal aims are achieved, the radicalism of the movement fades and becomes forgotten about. As time passes and historical memory starts developing around these movements, narratives that reinforce Americans feeling great about themselves become dominant and the sharp edge that once defined those movements disappears. The civil rights movement becomes about Rosa Parks having tired feet and refusing to move to the back of the bus (even though it was Rosa Parks with the tired feet but a different woman) and MLK giving a 1-paragraph speech at the March on Washington. The women’s movement becomes about the Equal Rights Amendment. And now, gay rights becomes about resistance at Stonewall and then the right to marry.

In all these movements, the radical edge is blunted in public memory. Given the unusual role the federal government plays in shaping American public memory, we can look at National Park Service sites as a good starting point. There’s a NPS site for King of course, but nothing for Black Power. President Obama just named the offices of the National Woman’s Party in Washington as a national monument because of its centrality for women’s suffrage. And now the creation of the Stonewall National Monument to remember the gay rights movement at a moment when gay rights are ensured through marriage, even as gays and transgendered people are still being murdered. But ultimately all of these are celebrations of fundamental civil rights in ways that don’t actually challenge anything about what it means to be an American and they certainly don’t challenge the class structure or the continued oppression still faced by these groups.

I’m not necessarily criticizing this process, just noting what seems to be its near inevitability. The Stonewall National Monument has received almost universal praise, both within the gay community and the public at large. But it’s worth noting the process of selective memory and the silencing how truly radical the gay rights movement once was and how, maybe, there is something lost without that. That’s why I want to link to this essay criticizing the new national monument designation and the co-opting of gay rights by mainstream organizations.

The memorializing was largely celebrated by those with the loudest voices in the world of gay rights — spokespeople for organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, for example. Representatives of these organizations use their platform to depict the LGBTQ movement as monolithic: one with with shared concerns and a shared agenda. But as white gay people benefit more and more from legal protection, visibility and inclusion, the LGBTQ movement is divided by the same factors that structure all inequity in the US, such as proximity to state violence and access to resources.

These differences, of course, are primarily articulated through race and income; low-income queer and trans people of color are overwhelmingly the targets of police abuse, arrests and surveillance.

This division between white, wealthy, cisgender gays, and queer and trans activists of color has been apparent throughout this Pride season, as queer and trans groups across the country pushed a #policeoutofpride campaign, opting out of Pride celebrations after cities announced increased state security presences post-Orlando.

As with the government’s pro-gay makeover, Pride celebrations across the country are as much an occasion for corporations to promote themselves as “allies” as they are a chance for LGBTQ people to gather and celebrate their survival. In 1998, the Bay Area’s LAGAI-Queer Insurrection was possibly the first queer direct action group to crash a Gay Pride parade and call out corporate hijacking, chanting “It’s a movement, not a market!” as they disrupted what had in large part become a celebration of gay consumerism, not liberation.

Some of the world’s wealthiest banks and tech companies have since solidified their place as sponsors and participants in the festivities. While it may be true that large corporations increasingly employ gays and lesbians, these hires are predominantly white and predominantly cisgender. Even more, the growth of tech industries in cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle continues to displace longstanding communities and bringing in hoards of high-paid corporate workers. What often goes unspoken is that lower-income LGBTQ people, especially communities of color, are forced out when white, wealthy, and highly educated gays and lesbians move in.

The whole essay is worth your time. And criticize this position if you want to, but there’s no question that the public acceptance of gay rights is a warm and fuzzy acceptance of a particular set of actions that makes everyone feel good about their own tolerance without challenging the significant repression that gay people still feel in their lives and without questioning which LGBTQ people are welcome in this new pantheon of official acceptance and which aren’t.

And how about a national monument at a site of an ACT-UP action? That would be a very different kind of historical memory creation than Stonewall, no?

Perez

[ 84 ] July 8, 2016 |

Tom-Perez-AP-IAMGASJH

Here’s another piece on Secretary of Labor and rising star Tom Perez, who I very much hope Clinton picks as the vice-presidential candidate.

My favorite part is why conservatives hate him.

“Our members are frustrated with Secretary Perez,” said Jack Mozloom, a spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents 325,000 businesses with fewer than 10 employees. “He has been very aggressive with the overtime rule,” which Moz­loom thinks will lead to employers to cut back hours. “He too frequently gives the labor community whatever they want.”

Let me get out my tiny violin. Actually ensuring that workers get paid justly for their work, what an outrage. No wonder Limbaugh compares him to Hugo Chavez.

If Perez doesn’t get the VP slot, he would make a fantastic Attorney General.

New Fronts in the War on the Poor

[ 26 ] July 8, 2016 |

22war-on-the-poor

It’s incredibly expensive to be poor in the United States. Many have made this observation, noting not only the relatively high price to live in many places but also the prices charged to the poor for “services” like payday loans. Another is charging defendants fees to access their basic rights. Of course this is also another manifestation of racism given who the poor are and who the police target for arrest.

 A brush with the police for pot possession might quickly spiral into a stiff penalty for a missed court date, deepening legal debt, missed work, re-arrest, a longer rap sheet. In daily life, the accompanying stigma layered over indebtedness “perpetuates inequality among African American and Latino men and among high school dropouts in the employment market.” The long-term opportunity cost could include mental-health crisis, forgone voting rights, and chronic recidivism, because people with nothing left to give also have nothing left to lose.

The question of poor individuals’ “debt to society” in the criminal justice infrastructure has exploded amid high-profile police-violence scandals, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, where the bullet that killed Michael Brown sparked riots and exposed patterns of criminalization that afflict mutually reinforcing social and economic damage. A recent Department of Justice investigation uncovered a system in which officials see black citizens “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”

What do the numbers look like?

 Even due process carries a price tag in states like Washington, where fees for jury trials have risen lately. A 2005 bill set a cost of “$150 and $250 for a six-or twelve-person jury, respectively.” Yes, the right to a jury of your peers costs $25 a head—add another $100 or so for a defense attorney.

Punishing the supposed deviance of the poor with still more poverty reflects “rhetoric in contemporary American society about personal responsibility and accountability,” Harris explains via e-mail:

What is interesting about monetary sanctions and the criminal justice system, similar to that of education and even health care, is that we have shifted what should be a guaranteed right or governmental responsibility to the people who are processed through the system.

Harris’s subjects started with an average debt of about $9,200 each, generally as the combined cost of several convictions. After five years, even with regular monthly payments of about $31, the debtor “would owe $10,667 as a result of the accumulated interest and surcharges—an increase of $1,463 over the initial debt.”

Of course all of this adds up to an inability to pay the rent, clothe the children, eat properly, mental health, etc.

 Legal debtors struggle to live with dignity. Nick, a 38-year-old black man who was attending community college through the help of a reentry program, was trailed by a chain of debt leftover from three convictions in the mid-1990s—violations related to “drug addiction and mental health problems” in adolescence that poverty only exacerbated later on. When Harris interviewed him, he had been sentenced to 56 months in state prison, been jailed several times, and “accumulated a total of $3,178.06 in legal debt,” an impossible sum for him pay down.

This is a complete injustice. But it’s just par for the course for hundreds of thousands of Americans.

“At last he was playing a man’s part, acting in close coöperation with the Government of his country”: Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (X)

[ 21 ] July 7, 2016 |

8b15533v

One of the most interesting genres of books one finds on Gutenberg is old children’s books. I first found these interesting when in doing some research, I had to read the series of books written by conservationist George Bird Grinnell in the early twentieth century, tracing the tale of a sickly eastern elite child who moves to the West and becomes a real man through killing a whole lot of animals in a class-appropriate manner. So every now and again, I flip through some old kids book.

Harold Bindloss was a writer of boys books in the Pacific Northwest. You may remember him from such barnburners as Thurston of Orchard Valley and Lorimer of the Northwest. I read his 1910 book The Boy Ranchers of Puget Sound. This tells the story of an eastern boy who has some small advantages but not too many who has to go to work as a teenager and sort of fails in his business efforts. As a last resort he goes to a distant relative who is ranching on the Puget Sound. He thinks it’s going to be romantic, like what he read in dime store novels, but ranching in Washington meant digging farms out of the forest. What’s interesting about this book is that Bindloss is writing a book meant to appeal to boys but he basically notes over and over again how just bloody hard this work was. Blasting stumps, setting forest fires to clear land, knowing there are no crops you can raise that will get you rich, hoping that those apples and pears you plant will someday make you a functioning crop, the isolaton from towns–these are the stories Bindloss tells over and over.

So in the sheer and surprising honesty about this at a time when railroads and timber companies were hiring promoters to con the poor into buying their logged-off lands, where they entered extremely economically disadvantageous situations that their descendants remain stuck in today (in other words, this is how the crappy little rural settlements that dot southwest Washington got started), this book is kind of fascinating.

As a boys’ book, it’s pretty meh. It’s overlong. The adventure part of it, as an opium smuggling ring is trying to go through their land to get their junk from Canada to the U.S., is occasionally interesting. And over and over again, the boys get into trouble while in a boat, situations that seem to primarily exist so that Bindloss can talk about boats. It’s hard to see the 13 year old of 1910 getting into this, although who knows. There is the occasional jaw dropping racism. When the single Chinese character speaks, it is of course as follows:

“Got any chow, John?” he asked. “Velly good chow,” answered the Chinaman. “Lice, blue glouse, smokee fishee.” “Blue grouse!” said Harry disgustedly aside to Frank. “It’s the nesting season, but I guess that wouldn’t count for much with them.” He turned to his host. “I’m not a heathen. Savvy cook American? Got any flour you can make biscuits or flapjacks of?”

Ah, nothing like a Chinaman for a good laugh!

So, overall, it, like so many of these books, are kind of interesting to me as a historian. As far as you going back and reading it, well, do you like boating terminology and tepid plots?

Competing National Standards within a Globalized World

[ 22 ] July 7, 2016 |

cows_1_zkpm

This is a very interesting discussion about national standards within the global supply chain. Australia is actually shipping live cattle to Vietnam for slaughter and processing because it is cheaper to do. But in Vietnam, cattle are killed by being beaten in the head with a sledgehammer. That’s outraged parts of the Australian public.

Recent revelations about the sledgehammering to death of what seem to be Australian cattle in Vietnam provide further evidence of the government’s inability to control how exported livestock are slaughtered overseas.

An Animals Australia investigation reported by ABC’s 7.30 showed what are reportedly Australian cattle being slaughtered in three abattoirs. Australia has suspended trade to the facilities while they are investigated.

The government’s tool to try to ensure humane slaughter is known as the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS). This requires cattle to be killed in accordance with World Animal Health Organisation standards. Killing cattle by hitting with a sledgehammer, although common practice in Vietnam, is not allowed by the standards.

The other requirements of ESCAS offer little reassurance to the Australian community that welfare will be safeguarded. Under the standards, cattle must be traced. This means we should know which cattle are Australian, and be able to control and audit the supply chain.

There are problems with this model. Supply-chain control is desirable but potentially contravenes the principles of the World Trade Organisation. Auditing is only as good as the manner in which it is undertaken, and there has been much recent debate about this.

I’m personally less concerned over the animal welfare side of this essay, which is its real point, as I am the larger question of supply chain standards. To what extent should companies be able to take advantage of different methods and laws between countries to maximize profit? Does the fact that a company is Australian or American or Canadian mean that they should have to operate by the laws of their home nation no matter where they operate? What role should the citizens of the home countries have in determining corporate behavior overseas? If it’s so cheap for Australia to ship that cattle to Vietnam, is it therefore their responsibility to build facilities humanely slaughtering that cattle? These are the core questions of globalization and supply chains. My own positions on these issues are clear enough and I think that we all need to think through the supply chain and make taming it a core progressive priority.

Failing Regulatory Structures

[ 7 ] July 7, 2016 |

20160602+-+bokoshe+pics070_HR

The Environmental Protection Agency has completely failed to regulate coal ash effectively. Focusing on a case in Bokoshe, Oklahoma and a coal company literally named Making Money Having Fun, this Center for Public Integrity report is highly alarming.

The situation in Bokoshe exposes the weakness in the EPA’s coal ash rule, the fallacy that dumping can continue under the guise of beneficial use. To encourage recycling of coal ash, the agency exempts from federal oversight any disposal method that meets this definition. And this gives carte blanche to sites like the Making Money pit, an old coal mine where disposal of coal ash is considered a beneficial use by the state.

For the purposes of coal ash recycling, there are two types of beneficial use: Encapsulated, in which, for example, the ash becomes part of concrete or wallboard; and unencapsulated, in which loose material is reused as fill for road construction or dumped in active and abandoned coal mines, a practice known as minefilling. The most common reuse method, minefilling remains unregulated at the federal level because of a loophole in the EPA’s coal ash rule. The EPA handed off regulation of the practice to the Interior Department, which has yet to act. The deferral was partly the product of vigorous lobbying by the utility industry over many years.

“If you choose to follow [industry] recommendations, then coal ash reuse is legitimate,” says Tom Adams, of the American Coal Ash Association, a group of utility companies and ash recyclers. He touts coal ash recycling as “one of America’s greatest recycling success stories.”

Evidence suggests otherwise. In 2012, a report prepared for the EPA analyzed a coal ash blend known as AgreMax, marketed by the AES Corporation as “structural fill” for construction — an unencapsulated beneficial use. Researchers found contaminants from the ash mixture can ooze into the environment. Tests showed that arsenic, boron, chloride and chromium could leach at levels up to 9,000 times safety standards.

In 2014, the EPA chronicled 158 cases in 32 states where coal ash compromised water quality. Of these, 22, or 14 percent, involved beneficial use. In some, pollution has degraded nearby water supplies enough to exceed safety standards. In others, the ash has sullied water on site. Some examples:

In Rocky Mount, North Carolina, coal ash recycled as structural fill over 25 acres contaminated the groundwater of adjacent property with arsenic, mercury and lead, resulting in a $4,000 state fine.
In Camden, Tennessee, coal ash used to fill a gravel quarry tainted two residential wells with boron and mercury; the EPA took emergency action after a resident had suffered “burning skin sensations” from the water.
In Chesapeake, Virginia, developers reused 1.5 million tons of coal ash to build a golf course over a shallow aquifer, only to watch the ash blacken 25 residential wells.

“Structural fills have caused the same damage that [regulated] disposal sites cause,” says Lisa Hallowell, of the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit research and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “They’ve proven to be dangerous.”

The rest of the article explores both the health impact of the coal ash and the lobbying campaign of the coal industry that has undermined meaningful regulation. How do the people of Bokoshe feel?

“Nobody cares,” Holmes says, alluding to state and federal regulators. “Everybody says, ‘It’s not up to us.’ It’s never anybody’s fault, and it’s always somebody else’s problem.”

Yep.

Lockouts

[ 13 ] July 7, 2016 |

573a7595b6e68.image

Often, when people say workers are on strike, they are actually being locked out by their employer. Lockouts have become a distressingly common way for employers to bust unions. Moshe Marvit has a compelling essay arguing that the courts should rein how corporations are able to use lockouts. He notes that the lockout was actually something largely created by judges and therefore the courts are the best method to fight this problem today. The original version of the National Labor Relations Act prohibited lockouts, but the language was removed in committee. Marvit then details how the courts have expanded the lockout’s use over the years. Finally, his conclusion:

On May 31, 2016, the NLRB released an important decision that limited the employer’s use of replacement workers during a strike.44 The Board held that the employer’s motivation in hiring replacement workers is important, and if the decision is made to discourage union membership, then the use of replacement strikers is a violation of the Act. Harvard Law Professor Ben Sachs argued that the decision brought “some sanity” to the use of replacement strikers because it addressed the long-standing tension in the law where workers may not be fired for striking, but they may be permanently replaced.45 It is time for the NLRB to similarly bring some sanity to the use of lockouts and temporary replacement workers.

Lockouts are highly disruptive of workers’ lives and they impact one of labor’s greatest strengths: its ability to strike. The lockout serves as a looming threat and a punishment for workers who have joined a union and engaged in meaningful collective bargaining. The employer’s right to lay off all union workers—even if only temporarily—because they engage in their rights to collectively bargain violates these workers’ core rights.

As labor lockouts continue to rise as a percentage of work stoppages, the National Labor Relations Board should reconsider its position that lockouts do not have much impact. In following the Supreme Court’s direction, the NLRB should investigate whether the lockout has had on a “slight effect on employee rights.”

If one walks the picket line in a lockout, one can easily conclude that the effects on workers’ rights are significant. The balance of power is already greatly tilted towards employers, and the right to withhold labor should belong solely to workers. Putting this power to stop work primarily back in the hands of workers is one step toward leveling the playing field of labor.

Assuming a Hillary Clinton victory in November and the Democrats retaking the Senate, the courts are rapidly becoming dominated by Democratic-appointed justices. It’s time to start filing cases against these lockouts and seek to roll back some of the legal framework to even the playing field between employers and workers.

Outsourcing Journalism

[ 51 ] July 6, 2016 |

MTM2NjQzODAxNDg0NzY0NzY3

You may have heard that the International Business Times has laid off a whole bunch of editors and reporters.

Is IBT cutting back? Is it in trouble? No, of course not. It just figured it could outsource most of it to India.

This is basically the future of the entire American middle class unless keeping Americans employed in dignified jobs becomes a national priority. In conclusion,

Fireworks

[ 22 ] July 6, 2016 |

160630_GRIND_Fireworks-02.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Above: Huang Mingwei

Did anyone blow up their fingers this weekend? Well, if you did or if you didn’t, know that the fireworks you enjoyed were made by Chinese laborers working in extremely dangerous conditions and then people may have died while making what you were exploding in fun.

On Sept. 22, 2014, Huang Mingwei fed her 2-year-old daughter, put on a peach-colored dress dotted with yellow flowers—her husband’s favorite—and cycled up the road to work.

It was a muggy first day of fall, a morning with nothing in particular to distinguish it from the decade of Mondays Huang had toiled at the Nanyang Export Fireworks Factory in southern China’s Hunan province. By that afternoon, 14 women—her co-workers—lay dead or dying in the rubble of the exploded factory, and Huang would begin a year-and-a-half-long hospital stay to treat severe burns covering 70 percent of her body. Of the 47 people working in the factory that day, only three escaped with no injuries. The rest became casualties of one of China’s most dangerous and ignored industries: the manufacture of the world’s fireworks.

In recent interviews, Huang, now 29, and other former Nanyang factory workers described the workday that nearly killed them and left their lives irreparably damaged.

Huang was in a packing warehouse when, at 3 p.m., someone in the building next-door triggered an explosion by sweeping rice hulls off the floor. The hulls, highly combustible materials used to burst the cardboard shell of a firework and heave its colored stars into the air, are a key ingredient in making fireworks. Chinese safety regulations dictate careful disposal of leftover hulls, but that day they were swept away like harmless debris, the casual meeting of friction with flammables setting off the catastrophe.

A fire engulfed the first building, then ignited a rolling series of explosions that swept through the too-close-set red brick shops like wind. Huang was knocked down by the first blast, got back to her feet, and ran outside, joining a rush of co-workers scrambling toward the hillside behind the factory. As the fire gathered fuel, flames shot skyward, sending shattered glass and bricks hundreds of feet. Building by building, the factory crumpled.

This is all perfectly preventable, as the article notes when it explores the details of both Chinese workplace safety law and the specific conditions inside the factory. But with all the problems in goods coming from China, the fireworks industry has not appeared on the radar of national or international groups who care about these issues. There’s only so much those who are committed can do if more people don’t join them and demand safe products.

Of course the United States could do something about this. It could say that it will not accept fireworks made from factories that do not have a proven safety record. It won’t do that because of course the geopolitics with China are far, far more complicated than the working conditions of a single industry or the working conditions of all industries. But it’s worth noting that shrugging our shoulders over this while we ooh and ah on Independence Day is not an acceptable response. On the other hand, to its credit, the Chinese government actually did something after this, jailing the factory manager and closing all the unsafe factories. This has actually led to a potential fireworks shortage. But the mangled workers are pretty much left out to dry for the rest of their lives because the government won’t pay for any surgeries that aren’t necessary to save their lives.

The Platform

[ 290 ] July 6, 2016 |

1936-Dem-Platform-1

We are well into Democratic Party post-primary healing mode. There are still diehards who were determined that the FBI would charge Hillary Clinton and allow Bernie Sanders to take the nomination, but these are people who simply would never support a mainstream Democratic candidate for president anyway. Susan Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo can go ahead and vote for Jill Stein, feel good about themselves, and we will go on. I don’t really care anymore about the HA HA Goodmans of the world. But of course this doesn’t mean that Sanders and his more reasonable supporters aren’t still having a positive impact on the party. Now, I am not one to think that party platforms matter all that much except as general statements of principles. So despite a million articles on US Uncut, clearly the model for Salon circa 2016 with its half-truths and conspiracy theories, it seems that a) Sanders and his supporters had a positive impact on the Democratic Party platform and b) Sanders and his supporters had no good reason to think they could simply dictate the platform given that their candidate lost.

Basically, it seems that they won on a lot of the smaller, wonky issues around banking regulations and hedge fund loopholes and either lost or had marginal victories on the bigger issues. I would have liked the party to endorse the $15 minimum wage, yes. But I’m not angry that it only endorsed a $12 minimum wage and had a lot of language about higher wages. $12 would still be a huge improvement over where millions of workers are now. And as for the Sanders supporters wanting a statement that the Democratic Party opposes the Israeli settlements, that’s just a complete non-starter, not because I disagree but because it would divide the party. I’m more dismayed on the TPP, which the party should clearly reject and the carbon tax, which it should clearly support. But if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, these positions can be won by electing people who believe the right things on them. But in any case, Sanders has had a very positive impact on the platform, as he had through the whole election cycle. However, he does need to endorse Hillary Clinton before the convention. He must do this before he is persona non grata in the party.

Alton Sterling

[ 289 ] July 6, 2016 |

alton6n-1-web

Like many of you, I watched the video of the Baton Rouge police killing Alton Sterling. There’s no two ways around this–it was a flat out execution. I would say I am shocked, but of course I am not shocked. The police have been executing black people in the United States and the British colonies before that for almost 400 years. Literally, the only major change that has taken place is that today we all have little cameras that allow us to record the executions. That vision allows us to have the evidence we need to be properly outraged. But the chances that the Baton Rouge officers who committed this horrible crime will be brought to justice are almost zero. Maybe, just maybe, they will be brought to some sort of trial, but I would put the chance of conviction at just about 0%. I just don’t even know what to say anymore except that taking to the streets is probably the best thing anyone can do.

I also love the cops saying that their body cameras “fell off” during the confrontation with Sterling. Yeah, cool story.

Page 5 of 431« First...34567...102030...Last »