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The Type of Government Action that Could be Used Against Capital Mobility

[ 46 ] July 25, 2014 |

It’s no secret that I see unrestrained capital mobility as a global plague creating a New Gilded Age that makes it nearly impossible for workers to build dignified lives against the constant geographical shift of employment every time they organize. For Americans, the disaster of globalized capitalism has been the fleeing of stable work abroad, a situation I believe has contributed to crises ranging from the decline of unions and weakening environmental movement to the fear of “unemployable majors” in higher education and long-term unemployment.

It’s not that the U.S. could do nothing about this phenomena. It’s not a natural law. Globalization is not gravity. It’s that the politicians, under tremendous pressure from corporations, choose to do nothing except encourage more American jobs to be shipped overseas, soon potentially through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama supports much to the demerits side of his presidential evaluation.

I was reminded of this when Obama yesterday called for a relatively minor but important reform:

President Obama on Thursday will call for Congress to end a tax loophole that allows big corporations to designate a foreign country as their official address, avoiding American taxes while maintaining their presence in the United States.

“The president will make clear that these companies are essentially renouncing their American citizenship so that they can ship their profits overseas to avoid paying taxes — even as they benefit from all the advantages of being here in America,” a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the president’s remarks in advance.

This is a good policy but of course it could be extended much further. It is American tax law, or the lack thereof, that helps give corporations incentive to exploit labor in Bangladesh, Honduras, and Sri Lanka. We could change those laws to both incentivize American owned companies employing Americans and to ensure that when American companies choose to move operations overseas, the workers are treated with dignity and the ecosystems respected. That we don’t is a political problem, not an inevitable result of a globalized world.

Is There Anything We Can Learn From the Russian Revolution?

[ 200 ] July 25, 2014 |

I guess I’m pretty skeptical to the above question except that this essay reinforces my belief that radical groups (and maybe everyone I guess) mostly create ideology to justify their current positions rather than allow their actions to be shaped by ideology.

Republicans Take Economic Inequality Very Seriously

[ 65 ] July 25, 2014 |

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a fairly new economic think tank, decided to throw a bunch of money at economists to work on economic inequality issues. Being intentionally centrist, it wanted to give out these grants along a fairly wide ideological spectrum, with plenty going to conservatives. One problem: not a single conservative even applied for the money.

PETA’s Next Stunt: Announcing It Will Criticize Israel if Hamas Leadership Goes Vegan

[ 232 ] July 24, 2014 |

I hate PETA so much:

An animal rights group is offering to pay outstanding water bills for 10 Detroit residents on the condition they become vegan for one month.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking Detroiters to mail the group a copy of their most recent overdue water bill and a pledge by Aug. 1.

“Anyone who tries a rich, varied, and tasty vegan diet stops contributing to the immensely wasteful use of water in meat and dairy farming,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Vegan meals are also a cost-effective way to help prevent health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart conditions, the last thing that someone who is struggling financially needs to deal with.”

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department had cut off water service to 17,000 households for overdue bills as it faces a staggering amount of unpaid bills. Bill Johnson, department spokesman, said 89,000 customers owe about $91 million.

Is there no situation PETA won’t exploit in ways that kick dirt on the weak?

“Must so many people dwell in hovels while we are conquering space?”

[ 126 ] July 24, 2014 |

This is a fascinating 1967 document from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a great window into how the Great Society tried to figure out what to do with declining cities, in particular into the faith in science and technology to solve urban problems.

Turns out technology is not a panacea to solve urban problems. Shocking.

Pro-Life before Birth, Anti-Ice Cream

[ 40 ] July 24, 2014 |

I know what this is like, to be attacked by lunatics from around the country whipped up by frothing goat-molesting idiots:

A Portland ice cream shop is bombarded with dozens of threats from people clear across the country after raising money for Planned Parenthood.

The owners of What’s the Scoop? in North Portland created a specialty flavor for Planned Parenthood last week that sold as a fundraiser for the organization.

It’s something the shop says they do all the time for local organizations, to give back to the city that supports them.

The backlash only began after an anti-abortion blog caught wind of the fundraiser and published the information.

Now, the shop’s phone is ringing off the hook with threatening phone calls from as far away as New York. Their email account was also inundated with disturbing messages and threats over the weekend.

“Some of the calls and e-mails are really really gross. I don’t even like to say it out loud it’s so disgusting,” said owner Jodie Ostrovsky.

“It’s a flat out attack, there’s nothing behind it but hate,” said Ostrovsky. ” To attack us on unfounded grounds, to accuse of things that we haven’t done, to accuse an organization for things they haven’t done, it’s not right.”

Ostrovsky says many loyal customers have shown their support by responding to some of the online comments and buying ice cream.

I will say this though–the single easiest and most pleasant way to support reproductive rights is through eating ice cream. I will briefly be in Portland in a couple of weeks and now I have a definite stop on my agenda.

ISIS: More Competent than the Bush Administration

[ 32 ] July 24, 2014 |

If I’m Doug Feith or Dick Cheney or Paul Wolfowitz, this is just crazy talk.

An aid worker who travels to Raqqa said the ranks of ISIS were filled with volatile young men, many of them foreigners more interested in violence than governance. To keep things running, it has paid or threatened skilled workers to remain in their posts while putting loyalist supervisors over them to ensure compliance with Islamic rules.

“They can’t fire all the staff and bring new people to run a hospital, so they change the manager to someone who will enforce their rules and regulations,” the aid worker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to endanger his work.

Sure you can fire all the staff! And then replace them with people that have theoretical fealty to outside administrators who know nothing about the country and have no qualifications other than good connections within the Republican Party, thus bringing a level of incompetence to a nation that will truly prove the United States has the interests of the people in mind. Given how brilliantly this worked in the Bush Administration, I don’t see how ISIS hasn’t learned this lesson in Syria.

Poor International Comparisons

[ 119 ] July 24, 2014 |

Somehow I don’t think Niger lowering its birth rate is going to lead to it becoming the next Singapore:

There is no mystery about the immense benefits that Niger and its neighbors would realize if they brought their birthrates under control.

The so-called Tigers in East Asia have recorded sharply falling birthrates since the 1960s. And in a recent, influential paper titled “African Demography,” Mr. Guengant and a fellow demographer, John F. May, noted, “Human capital formation investments (for example, education and health) and job creation appear to have been greatly facilitated by a rapid decline in fertility.”

In the interview, Mr. Guengant drew this conclusion: “If you don’t get a handle on birthrates, you are going nowhere. The nongovernmental organizations have not been up to the job. Everybody looks at everybody else. Nobody has the political courage. And nothing is moving.”

No mystery? Actually I think there is plenty of mystery. Even more mysterious is how this makes it past the first round of editing since there’s a whole lot more to why Niger is poor and Singapore is not than women having too many babies. Although blaming everything on poor women of color having too many babies is a favorite theme of rich white people.

If You Support Alternative Energy, You Support Enormous Tubs of Ocean Lard

[ 30 ] July 23, 2014 |

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Seals have far surpassed Americans in their support for offshore wind energy:

The scientists observed eleven harbor seals outfitted with GPS tracking tags in the North Sea frequenting two active wind farms, Alpha Ventus in Germany and Sheringham Shoal off the southeast coast of the United Kingdom. One seal even visited 13 times, according to a report published this week in the journal Current Biology.

The wind turbines make up a grid. When foraging for food, the seals moved “systematically from one turbine to the next turbine in a grid pattern, following exactly how the turbines are laid out,” says study author Deborah Russell of the University of St. Andrews. “That was surprising to see how much their behavior was affected by the presence of these artificial structures and how they could actually adapt their behaviors to respond to that.”

If the Republicans nominated a seal for president in 2016, it would be an improvement over the current possible candidates.

Apple Treats Labor Like Dirt

[ 89 ] July 23, 2014 |

Given that Steve Jobs was a sociopath and given the labor conditions at overseas factories where Apple products are made, it’s not at all hard to believe that the company would treat their U.S. labor horribly:

A state court in California has granted class certification to nearly 21,000 current and former Apple employees over claims that the company failed to provide timely meal and rest breaks as required by the law, and sometimes denied workers rest breaks altogether.

In a ruling late Monday, Judge Ronald S. Prager of the Superior Court of California for the County of San Diego granted the class certification for a large group of retail employees and workers at corporate headquarters.

Under California law, employers are generally required to provide 30-minute lunch breaks within an employee’s first five hours at work each day and provide a 10-minute rest break every four hours or major fraction thereof. In addition, California law requires employers to provide a second rest break for shifts that run six to 10 hours, and Judge Prager wrote that the evidence showed that Apple had failed to authorized second rest breaks under these circumstances.

Freedom Summer and Union Organizing

[ 1 ] July 23, 2014 |

Freedom Summer was 50 years ago this year and its anniversary has been pretty underreported. Anyway, this is an interesting piece from one of the white organizers about the relationship between organizing civil rights workers and union organizing in Mississippi. Obviously, biracial unionism did not exactly take hold in Mississippi or the rest of the South but still, there are potentially useful lessons here.

Kindly Old Robert E. Lee

[ 204 ] July 23, 2014 |

Robert E. Lee was a kind slavemaster, certainly not the type of man who represents all that was inhumane about the Confederacy:

Lee married into ownership of nearly 200 slaves at Arlington and adjoining properties. Pryor forthrightly confronts this side of Lee’s life; he disliked slavery and found it a burden, but he was no “good” master, communicated badly with his slaves, and considered them naturally indolent and incapable of freedom. He confronted an “epidemic of runaways” (264) in the late 1850s and oversaw one brutal beating of a returned fugitive, including brine sewn into the wounds. Modern day Lee lovers will cringe at some of Pryor’s conclusions, rooted in strong evidence: Lee broke up families and “denied the slaves’ humanity” (275).

H/T Jamelle Bouie

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