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The Month Liberal Blogging Died

[ 36 ] August 31, 2013 |

Dan Nexon joins TBogg and David Roberts in announcing their departure from blogging in August.

The Ramen Century

[ 53 ] August 30, 2013 |

We live in an era of ramen.

That palm oil is central to ramen makes me sad because I’ve seen Malaysian jungle turned into palm monocultures and it is incredibly depressing. But not if you are poor.

Fixing the Rust Belt Through Immigration

[ 89 ] August 30, 2013 |

Jeff La Noue has an interesting piece about how to “fix” the Rust Belt cities. Using Toronto as a model, he asks why the Canadian side of the Great Lakes is booming and the American side is in a decades-long slide. There are complex reasons for this. I am not this site’s resident Canadian, but among Toronto’s clear advantages over Toledo or Buffalo is that Canada doesn’t have an east coast chock full of interesting cities. Halifax might compare to Portland, Maine but it doesn’t compare to Boston, while Montreal is a different beast.

Anyway, he points to the Rust Belt cities making themselves welcome homes of immigrants as key to Toronto’s success:

Hogtown, yes, that is Toronto’s nickname from its frontier days, is comprised of (just a shade under) 50 % foreign born. This 49+percent immigrant population comprises half of Toronto’s 2.6 million people and a metro area now over 5.6 million. In 1950, Toronto was just slightly larger than Cleveland and about 700,000 warm bodies less than Detroit’s population. Today there are more foreign born Torontonians than the combined populations of Detroit and Cleveland. Toronto attracts Asians. Cleveland’s Asia Town strategy is a streetscape project! I am not exactly sure if it involves actually adding Asians. Toronto does not have better weather, natural resources, or geographic advantages than probably any of America’s big city population losers. It’s booming economy relies on “innovation and the development of ideas to create wealth” according to Invest Toronto. Toronto understands immigrants are a central ingredient to their success. It starts with a friendly immigrant portal for getting started in Toronto!

Cleveland, Detroit, etc. would be forever changed if they made their primary revitalization strategy to be a top American “port of entry.” (The Feds would have to approve and cooperate) Cities need new people and immigrants to America have a centuries long tradition of creating or finding opportunity.

Even better, many immigrants would be excited to come if it came with an expedited US green card (even if it required a start out in a Rust Belt City provision) . Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit boomed with the help of immigrants from eastern Europe before WWI, and African-american migrants from the American South in WWII. It is time to avoid native protectionism and tailor a policy to bring new waves of immigrants that would be eager to call themselves Clevelanders et al. Looking across the lake to Toronto is the first step.

Again, I think that Toronto being the financial capital of Canada is probably more important, but the point is valid.

It’s also very much worth noting how capitalists respond to the problems of Cleveland by pushing a failed corporate agenda that promotes their own investment interests. He links to a piece by Sandra Pianalto, President of the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, who argues that what the city really needs to reinvent itself is–wait for it–Rheeism! (for more info about the Cleveland version of this, see here)

This is patently absurd as a way to fix the city. I know that according to Rhee and Rahm Emanuel and all the other school reform charlatans teacher unions are a unique evil, but holding back the entire city of Cleveland from becoming a booming metropolis like Toronto is really quite impressive. But regardless of what one thinks about education issues, that’s so far from a solution to the problem that it’s laughable. Yet as Thomas Frank mentioned in his essay on academic capitalism, the solution for these people is ALWAYS more capitalism, more privatization, more magical hand of the free market.

La Noue’s idea of opening these cities up as immigrant hubs makes a lot more sense. I’m sure older red-blooded Americans like Mr. Horvath and Ms. Wojcik might oppose their cities being taken over by immigrants who just won’t assimilate to our ways, but these concerns are of course misplaced.

This One Goes Out to All the LGM Trolls

[ 102 ] August 30, 2013 |

How to make pink pancakes, a recipe from 1786.

What pancake recipes do you think our trolls use?

Optimism?

[ 65 ] August 30, 2013 |

John Logan has five reasons you should be optimistic about unions this Labor Day.

First, most Americans hold favorable views of unions. According to a June 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of Americans hold favorable views of labor unions, a 10 percent increase from the number in the same poll conducted two years earlier. This is first time since January 2007 that a majority of the public has viewed unions favorably. 80 percent of “liberal Democrats” hold favorable views on unions. Women, minorities and youth – key groups for organized labor — hold the most pro-union attitudes. There is no straightforward relationship between public approval for unions and union growth, but the labor movement must figure out how to bring into its fold the majority of Americans who like unions.

Second, bucking national trends, union membership in California increased by a whopping 110,000 members in 2012, even as it fell by 368,000 nationwide. Much of the increase in California, which has the nation’s largest number of union members, was among healthcare workers and Latino workers. In several other states with growing Latino populations, membership grew more modestly, but these states may soon follow California’s lead.

Third, some of the nation’s most vulnerable workers have been standing up for decent wages and working conditions. Wal-Mart workers and warehouse workers under contract with Wal-Mart have gone out on strike around the country. Port truckers in L.A. and Long Beach voted to unionize, as did carwash workers in L.A. and New York, and taxi drivers in New York. Following the examples of New York, Hawaii enacted a domestic worker “Bill of Rights” and California may soon do the same. Fast food workers — most of who are adults working for little more than $10 per hour — have walked off the job in New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Seattle. They won’t be able to bargain with their employers anytime soon, but few would have predicted their brave job actions last year.

Fourth, after years of Republican obstructionism, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a full compliment of five members for the first time under the Obama administration. The NLRB election system provides weak protection for workers’ right to organize, and its influence has been severely constrained by the courts, but it remains an important bulwark against recalcitrant employers who violate workers’ fundamental rights.

Finally, as demonstrated by next week’s “open convention,” the AFL-CIO and its affiliates are more flexible, imaginative, and inclusive than ever before. They have embraced the struggles of domestic workers, carwash workers, Wal-Mart workers, fast food workers and others. They have formed deep alliances with the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Sierra Club, religious organizations, and other groups that support basic justice for American workers. And they have played a key role in lobbying for federal legislation that benefits all workers – healthcare reform, equal pay legislation, immigration reform, an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick leave.

Other than maybe active growth in California, I’m not sure any of this means all that much in terms of growing union power. A functional NLRB is a good thing, making meaningful, alliances is very important (although what that means in terms of concrete results I’m not sure), and I’m certainly glad fast food workers are standing up for themselves. But sweet icing can’t cover up a cake poisoned by nearly a half century of capital mobility, ideological attacks on unions, and corporate regulatory capture.

Today in Guns

[ 101 ] August 30, 2013 |

A solid rule is that the more one advocate guns in the public sphere, the less one should trust them with a gun:

A Republican state senator from Arkansas who is leading a legislative committee on the subject of giving guns to school teachers accidentally shot a teacher during an “active shooter” drill earlier this year, the local paper of record has uncovered.

Awesome.

Meanwhile, the George Zimmerman victory tour continues, this time to the factory of the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin.

….Meanwhile, Ted Nugent’s wife was arrested for carrying a gun into the DFW terminal.

Pays to Be Rich. Pays to Be White.

[ 75 ] August 29, 2013 |

Johnny Manziel has to serve a suspension of one whole half of football for selling his autograph. Which, whatever except that Ohio State was put on multi-year probation for a few players doing the same thing, players who happened to be black. As part of his “punishment,” Manziel has to give a speech to his team about what he learned. Whether he has to stand in a corner during recess or not remains unknown. Anyway, Dave Zirin imagines the speech:

I’m happy to finally have the opportunity to tell you everything that I have learned this summer. It comes down to one big ol’ life lesson. I learned, after much reflection, that if you are Johnny F—king Football and you put butts in the seats and your school is ploughing $450 million into decking out your college stadium so it will seat 100,000 people and be a “megaphone to the world” and boosters will pay $20,000 to smell your chair when you get up to go to the bathroom, then you can do pretty much whatever the hell you want. Hell, I could sign my name on [NCAA President] Mark Emmert’s head in a “Free Jerry Sandusky” T-shirt while T. Boone Pickens shoves hundred-dollar bills in my pants, and I still would have gotten only this bullshit half-game suspension. Pays to be rich. Pays to be white. Pays to be QB One. Pays to be me.

I mean, you had sports columnists out there who wanted that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor—a black dude—tarred and feathered a couple years ago for trading his own jacket for some free tattoos, and those same sports writers are comparing me to Rosa Parks! Me! Johnny Manziel! I’m Rosa Parks, beeyotches! I had to ask my boy Drake who that even was. He didn’t know, but when I looked it up… Damn! Media peoples are crazy! Shit, I guess I’m buttering their bread too.

Look: most of you grew up poor as shit and after four years as a Texas A&M Aggie, you won’t graduate and you will still be poor as shit. That is, assuming if you make it four years. You get injured on that next play, they’ll have campus security to keep you from even going to class. Also, a whole bunch of you are black. And that’s cool. My boy Drake is black. And I’m Rosa Parks, so we cool. But straight up, if you did what I did, your ass would be on the next bus back to whatever ghetto or shit town you were born in. Dang the NCAA is more gangster than my boy Drake and my girl Miley combined. I know DRAKE, yo!

Academic Capitalism

[ 106 ] August 29, 2013 |

Thomas Frank eviscerates the system of academic capitalism that is destroying higher education in the United States. There is so many wonderful excerpts to this essay, but I’ll choose just one here:

The disaster that the university has proceeded to inflict on the youth of America, I submit, is the direct and inescapable outcome of this grim equation. Yes, in certain reaches of the system the variables are different and the yield isn’t quite as dreadful as in others. But by and large, once all the factors I have described were in place, it was a matter of simple math. Grant to an industry control over access to the good things in life; insist that it transform itself into a throat-cutting, market-minded mercenary; get thought leaders to declare it to be the answer to every problem; mute any reservations the nation might have about it—and, lastly, send it your unsuspecting kids, armed with a blank check drawn on their own futures.

Was it not inevitable? Put these four pieces together, and of course attendance costs will ascend at a head-swimming clip, reaching $60,000 a year now at some private schools. Of course young people will be saddled with life-crushing amounts of debt; of course the university will use its knowledge of them—their list of college choices, their campus visits, their hopes for the future—to extract every last possible dollar from the teenage mark and her family. It is lambs trotting blithely to the slaughter. It is the utterly predictable fruits of our simultaneous love affairs with College and the Market. It is the same lesson taught us by so many other disastrous privatizations: in our passion for entrepreneurship and meritocracy, we forgot that maybe the market wasn’t the solution to all things.

But as Frank points out later, whatever happens, whenever the bubble bursts, whenever students revolt, the inevitable answer will be MORE market, more capitalism, more of the same that puts the tuition dollars in the hands of the administrators and takes it away from teachers or doesn’t take it away from students at all. It’s incredibly depressing.

Work Them To Death For No Good Reason

[ 231 ] August 29, 2013 |

Some of you probably caught this last week, but the death of this intern is extremely disturbing:

Serious concerns have been raised tonight about the punishing hours endured by interns at City investment banks following the death of a young Bank of America Merrill Lynch employee.

Moritz Erhardt, 21, was nearing the end of a seven-week internship in London when he collapsed at home after working until 6am for three days in a row.

Around 300 interns working at various banks stay at the Claredale House student accommodation complex in Bethnal Green in east London for between seven and 10 weeks over the summer. One intern, who did not want to be named, told The Independent those in Mr Erhardt’s investing banking division group faced the longest hours.

He said: “We all work long hours, but the guys working regularly until 3am or 4am are those in investment banking. People working in markets will have to be in at 6am but not stay as late, so what time you can leave the office depends on your division.

“You’re only doing it for up to 10 weeks so there’s a general acceptance of it. I see many people wandering around, blurry-eyed and drinking caffeine to get through but people don’t complain because the potential rewards are so great. We’re competing for some very well-paid jobs.”

There are at least 3 major problems here. First is the exploitation of interns. The most serious example of this doctors and the pointless grotesquely long hours they are forced to serve during their internships, potentially putting people’s lives at risk. Can you imagine pilots having to fly 24 straight hours? Within the financial industry, there’s even less of a reason for this. What do financial workers have to do that’s so important? The answer is impress the employer enough to let them into the inner sanctum of full-time employment, which is the second problem. This is all about the brutality and masochism of our capitalists. You want to work for a company as awesome as Bank of America? Prove it. Do whatever we tell you to do. This is macho hazing and little more. The third problem is the general expectation of extreme hours and massive personal sacrifice that has come out of the tech industry and infected much of our work culture. Americans today will simply volunteer to work 60, 70, even 80 hours a week at a salaried job, simply because it is so ingrained in the culture that no one questions it.

Our national work culture of the twenty-first century is highly disturbing and needs serious reform. Bank of America effectively murdered this guy but they will go completely unpunished and do the same thing to next summer’s intern class.

Cluelessness

[ 9 ] August 29, 2013 |

Well, doesn’t this just make you feel comfortable about the safety of our workplaces and our communities:

A Dallas Morning News analysis of more than 750,000 federal records found pervasive inaccuracies and holes in data on chemical accidents, such as the one in West that killed 15 people and injured more than 300.

In fact, no one at any level of government knows how often serious chemical accidents occur each year in the United States. And there is no plan in place for federal agencies to gather more accurate information.

As a result, the kind of data sharing ordered by President Barack Obama in response to West is unlikely to improve the government’s ability to answer even the most basic questions about chemical safety.

“We can track Gross National Product to the second and third decimal, but there is no reliable way of tracking even simple things like how many [chemical] accidents happen,” said Sam Mannan, a nationally recognized expert on chemical safety who recently testified before a congressional hearing on West.

Let’s be clear, this is intentional. Corporations don’t want you to know where things are produced or under what conditions. Business has ensured that the relevant government agencies that could effectively track this information remain chronically underfunded. We can blame government and there’s no question that it isn’t enough of a priority for either political party. But one party is opposed to the sheer existence of these agencies and that makes it awfully hard to craft an effective regulatory system.

Beer TV

[ 72 ] August 28, 2013 |

Hmmm…..

Things are looking up for Delaware’s Dogfish Head. Not only were recently voted America’s best craft brewery over at the Daily Meal, there are also murmurs that a sitcom is in the works based on the brewery’s founders, Sam and Mariah Calagione.

The show would feature funnyman Ken Marino (“The State,” “Party Down,” and the Ben Stiller-produced web comedy “Burning Love”) and his writer/actress wife Erica Oyama (“Burning Love,” “Children’s Hospital”) as the husband-and-wife owners of a funky craft brewpub. Marino was Sam Calagione’s college roommate at NYU, and remains one of the brewer’s closest friends.

“It was actually my wife’s idea – she does most of the thinking in our partnership.” Marino quipped to TODAY.com. “We pitched it to Sony TV earlier this summer and they loved it.”

Fox also loved the idea, enough to purchase the exclusive rights to the show, Calgione confirmed. A pilot is in the works, and if Fox likes what they see, the show could make it to the airwaves.

This sounds disastrous. I suppose it would be funny the first time they made a Dogfish Head joke about putting pig snouts, caviar, and truffles in a beer. The 57th time, less so. But hey, I’m sure the woman will have an Asian best friend and one of the people working at the brewery will be black so success is assured.

A Metaphor for Conservative America

[ 126 ] August 28, 2013 |

Oh dear:

A special spirit day at Oral Roberts University took a tragicomical turn last week when a bald eagle released into the school’s Christ Chapel by a professional handler crashed into a window just as students began chanting “USA! USA!”

The eagle was unharmed, but many of the students could be heard screaming at the sight of America’s national animal wiping out in metaphorical fashion.

The bird had apparently become disoriented from the crowd’s patriotic hollering.

“It was a bit shocking to see, but we’re thankful the eagle is OK,” an ORU spokeswoman told Tulsa World.

After the eagle’s trainer recovered the bird, university president Dr. William M. Wilson continued with the service, at one point urging students to become “eagles for Christ.”

Ooh, can I be an eagle for Christ? Does that mean that other religions are tasty salmon that I can tear from limb to limb with my sharp beak and claws?