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Jill Stein: SUPERGENIUS

[ 100 ] June 26, 2016 |

jillstein

Jill Stein did a Reddit awhile back. She was asked about vaccines. Her response:

I don’t know if we have an “official” stance, but I can tell you my personal stance at this point. According to the most recent review of vaccination policies across the globe, mandatory vaccination that doesn’t allow for medical exemptions is practically unheard of. In most countries, people trust their regulatory agencies and have very high rates of vaccination through voluntary programs. In the US, however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the US. So who wouldn’t be skeptical? I think dropping vaccinations rates that can and must be fixed in order to get at the vaccination issue: the widespread distrust of the medical-indsutrial complex.

Vaccines in general have made a huge contribution to public health. Reducing or eliminating devastating diseases like small pox and polio. In Canada, where I happen to have some numbers, hundreds of annual death from measles and whooping cough were eliminated after vaccines were introduced. Still, vaccines should be treated like any medical procedure–each one needs to be tested and regulated by parties that do not have a financial interest in them. In an age when industry lobbyists and CEOs are routinely appointed to key regulatory positions through the notorious revolving door, its no wonder many Americans don’t trust the FDA to be an unbiased source of sound advice. A Monsanto lobbyists and CEO like Michael Taylor, former high-ranking DEA official, should not decide what food is safe for you to eat. Same goes for vaccines and pharmaceuticals. We need to take the corporate influence out of government so people will trust our health authorities, and the rest of the government for that matter. End the revolving door. Appoint qualified professionals without a financial interest in the product being regulated. Create public funding of elections to stop the buying of elections by corporations and the super-rich.

For homeopathy, just because something is untested doesn’t mean it’s safe. By the same token, being “tested” and “reviewed” by agencies tied to big pharma and the chemical industry is also problematic. There’s a lot of snake-oil in this system. We need research and licensing boards that are protected from conflicts of interest. They should not be limited by arbitrary definitions of what is “natural” or not.

There’s no reason to refute any of this point by point. You all know how stupid this is. But hey, she only agrees with Donald Trump 41% of the time, so you all should vote for Stein this fall since the Sanders campaign could not dictate every point in the Democratic Party platform.

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“How much of strength, of skill, of possible loyalty, does modern industry tap from the average Hunky?” Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (IV)

[ 31 ] June 26, 2016 |

La_Providence_Réhon_-_steel_workers

The genre of “rich person going undercover to show us what the real life of the working class is like” is pretty old now, going from at least the mid-nineteenth century to Barbara Ehrenreich. Sometimes these exercises can be useful, often they are condescending. I decided to read Charles Rumford Walker’s 1922 book Steel: The Diary of a Furnace Worker for the same reason I read many things–it appeared in front of my face at the right time.

It’s hard to feel comfortable reading such a text when this appears in the first paragraph:

I acquired the current Anglo-Hunky language and knew speedily the grind and the camaraderie of American steel-making.

Ah, nothing like some pejoratives to really sum up the camaraderie of the steel mills. Certainly Thomas Bell’s family just loved being called Hunkies by Anglo folks.

I love the class privilege involved in this sort of paragraph, as our narrator decides what to do after being an officer in World War I:

I was twenty-five, a college graduate, a first-lieutenant in the army. In the civilian world into which I was about to jump, most of my connections were with the university I had recently left, few or none in the business world. Why not enlist, then, in one of the basic industries, coal, oil, or steel? I liked steel— it was the basic American industry, and technically and economically it interested me. Why not enlist in steel? Get a laborer’s job? Learn the business? And, besides, the chemical forces of change, I meditated, were at work at the bottom of society—

The next day I sent in the resignation of my commission in the regular army of the United States.

I’ll bet those Hunkies were making the same choice. Should I go work in middle management of U.S. Steel or slum up with the boys? This guy was really with the people!

This guy clearly was one of the boys:

I was first conscious of the blaring mouths of furnaces. There were five of them, and men with shovels in line, marching within a yard, hurling a white gravel down red throats. Two of the men were stripped, and their backs were shiny in the red flare. I tried to feel perfectly at home, but discovered a deep consciousness of being overdressed. My straw hat I could have hurled into a ladle of steel.

Lucky they didn’t hurl him into a ladle of steel.

My heart leaped a bit at “the night-shift.” I thought over the hours-schedule the employment manager had rehearsed: “Five to seven, fourteen hours, on the night-week.”

My father worked the night shift for many years. I don’t think his heart “leaped a bit” over the matter.

As a whole, the thing reads reasonably decently. Walker is a fair writer. He describes the process of steel making pretty well and enlivens it with a decent amount of swearing from the Hunkies and Wops. Oh, wait, did I mention that Walker loves stereotypes? The Russians booze it up. The Italian makes an OK boss even though Walker admits his resentment to taking orders from the Wop. Surprised he didn’t figure him to be an anarchist, infiltrating the steel mills, or perhaps a member of the Black Hand. But, to give Walker credit, after struggling to understand what anyone is saying, he admits his realization:

This is amusing enough on the first day; you can go off and laugh in a superior way to yourself about the queer words the foreigners use. But after seven days of it, fourteen hours each, it gets under the skin, it burns along the nerves, as the furnace heat burns along the arms when you make back-wall. It suddenly occurred to me one day, after someone had bawled me out picturesquely for not knowing where something was that I had never heard of, that this was what every immigrant Hunky endured; it was a matter of language largely, of understanding, of knowing the names of things, the uses of things, the language of the boss. Here was this Serbian second-helper bossing his third-helper largely in an unknown tongue, and the latter getting the full emotional experience of the immigrant. I thought of Bill, the pit boss, telling a Hunky to do a clean-up job for him; and when the Hunky said, “What?” he turned to me and said: “Lord! but these Hunkies are dumb.”

Of course, he immediately backtracks:

I suddenly had a vision of how the New York subway looked: its crush, its noise, its overdressed Jews, its speed, its subway smell. I looked around inside the clattering trolley-car. Nobody was talking. The car was filled for the most part with Slavs, a few Italians, and some negroes from the nail mill. Everyone, except two old men of unknown age, was under thirty-five. They held their buckets on their laps, or put them on the floor between their legs. Six or eight were asleep. The rest sat quiet, with legs and neck loose,

“Its overdressed Jews.” Gawd….

What’s remarkable is how utterly apolitical this book remains. Walker tells of the heat and stress and long hours. But to what end? It’s almost as if the description is just entertainment for the middle classes reading it. There is very little sense of political purpose until the end, when Walker briefly admits that the long shifts are terrible and undermine workers’ lives. But there’s certainly little empathy with the long-term struggles of the working classes in any political aim, except for one brief mention of Walker, who could talk to bosses since he came from their class and was kind of slumming through this, telling one that his claim that his workers labored an 8-hour day was not true..There’s also very little discussion of workers dying on the job, just a mention or two of stories from the past, which is an obvious omission in an industry suffering frequent deaths. This could have led to something of real interest, but is too much about Walker wanting to “learn the trade.”

In short, too much tourism, not enough analysis. It is a kind of interesting book, but suffers the problem of the wealthy in 1919, when Walker labored in the mills, not really understanding the working class, even when they do actually interact with them.

After Charles Rumford Walker left the steel mills, he had a very hard career ahead of him working for Yale. It’s unclear if he let any Hunkies or overdressed Jews into the august institution.

I am one of all of seven people to download this text. A best seller!

“Much of the renown acquired for Kentucky by her surgeons was in the treatment of calculous diseases”: Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (III)

[ 10 ] June 26, 2016 |

amputation

What’s the point of looking into old historical texts if not to explore texts about surgery? Thus, Gutenberg presents us with David Yandell’s 1890 treatise, Pioneer Surgery in Kentucky: A Sketch. * You know this is going to be illuminating. How drunk was everyone involved? Were Kentucky doctors still bleeding patients in 1890? Are they still in 2016?

The last question goes unanswered, sadly.

This is the start of the text:

1806. The earliest original surgical work of any magnitude done in Kentucky, by one of her own sons, was an amputation at the hip-joint. It proved to be the first operation of the kind in the United States. The undertaking was made necessary because of extensive fracture of the thigh with great laceration of the soft parts. The subject was a mulatto boy, seventeen years of age, a slave of the monks of St. Joseph’s College. The time was August, 1806; the place, Bardstown; the surgeon, Dr. Walter Brashear; the assistants, Dr. Burr Harrison and Dr. John Goodtell; the result, a complete success. The operator divided his work into two stages. The first consisted in amputating the thigh through its middle third in the usual way, and in tying all bleeding vessels. The second consisted of a long incision on the outside of the limb, exposing the remainder of the bone, which, being freed from its muscular attachments, was then disarticulated at its socket.

It goes from there. Unfortunately, some of Kentucky’s finest didn’t stay in the Bluegrass. They traveled abroad and came under the influence of the Celestials, and no doubt their opium:

While among the Celestials he amputated a woman’s breast, probably the first exploit of the kind by one from the antipodes. Unfortunately for science, he there learned the method used by the Chinese for clarifying ginseng, and thinking, on his return home, that he saw in this an easy way to wealth, he abandoned the profession in which he had exhibited such originality, judgment, and skill, and engaged in merchandising. Twelve years of commerce and its hazards left him a bankrupt in fortune, but brought him back to the calling in which he was so well fitted to shine. He moved, in 1813, from Bardstown to Lexington, where he at once secured a large practice, especially in diseases of the bones and joints. He was thought to excel in the treatment of fractures of the skull, for the better management of which a trephine was made in Philadelphia, under his direction, which, in his judgment, was superior to any then in use.

Of course, anyone can secure a functional career in Lexington, even under the influence of opium, as Farley can attest.

Most of the book is a combination of somewhat disturbing tales of pioneer surgery and odes to the glory of sweet, sweet Kentucky. Such as:

It would be neither fitting nor becoming on this occasion, and in this presence, to speak in detail of the technic observed by McDowell in his work. That has long since passed into history. I may, however, be permitted the remark that the procedure, in many of its features, is necessarily that of to-day. The incision was longer than that now usually made, and the ends of the pedicle ligature were left hanging from the lower angle of the wound. But the pedicle itself was dropped back into the abdomen. The patient was turned on her side to allow the blood and other fluids to drain away. The wound was closed with interrupted sutures. This marvel This marvel of work was done without the help of anesthetics or trained assistants, or the many improved instruments of to-day, which have done so much to simplify and make the operation easy. McDowell had never heard of antisepsis, nor dreamed of germicides or germs; but water, distilled from nature’s unpolluted cisterns by the sun, and dropped from heaven’s condensers in the clean blue sky, with air winnowed through the leaves of the primeval forest which deepened into a wilderness about him on every hand, gave him and his patients aseptic facility and environment which the most favored living laparotomist well might envy. These served him well, and six out of seven of his first cases recovered. He removed the first tumor in twenty-five minutes, a time not since much shortened by the average operator.

I don’t doubt it, but thankfully we have turned this pure Kentucky water away from something as useless as surgery and toward something of far greater value: bourbon.

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In all truth, this is kind of an interesting book if you are into reading about historical amputations. And who isn’t?

* I am proud to say that I am evidently one of four people who have downloaded this book.

“C is the Cotton-field, to which This injured brother’s driven”: Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (II)

[ 4 ] June 26, 2016 |

index

Lest one think that the Gutenberg Project only provides bizarre books of America’s past that make ridiculous arguments, let me at least point out that you can access such texts like this 1847 anti-slavery children’s alphabet book that is really neat.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 37

[ 38 ] June 26, 2016 |

This is the grave of George Washington.

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There’s one much one can say about Washington, so just a couple of points.

1) His choosing to step down from power peacefully is one of the greatest things to ever happen to the United States. As we have seen around the world in revolution after revolution, without a respected tradition of peaceful succession, oppression and war result.

2) His record on slavery is highly mixed. He profited his entire life from enslaved black labor. However, to his credit, at least he freed his own slaves on his death. He could not free Martha Washington’s slaves. But he did a lot more than Jefferson. One wonders how quickly this would have changed had he the opportunity to make money in western cotton lands, something he would have been interested in given his lifelong engagement in land speculation.

3) It’s interesting that Washington remains basically inscrutable, even after ages of popular biographies. He was simply an unknowable man, even to his contemporaries.

I’m sure you all have thoughts on Washington. Go for it. The world needs an open thread on George Washington.

George Washington is buried at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (I)

[ 63 ] June 25, 2016 |

I am presently on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Every now and then, often when on vacation, I start reading random things one can find on the Gutenberg Project, the great collection of old public domain texts. If only copyright law was updated so that material after 1923 that no one was making money on anymore could be included, it would be incredibly useful for my research, but as it is, at least it provides glimpses into past weirdness. Still, some post-1923 material does show up, as is seen below.

So I decided tonight, after my wife has gone to bed and I’ve had a few beers, to read Reau Folk’s The Battle of New Orleans Its Real Meaning: Exposure of Untruth Being Taught Young Americans, from 1932. That battle has a lot to answer for. First, it gave us a genocidal maniac as president. Second, it gave us one of the shittiest country hits in the genre’s history (see above). Third, it gave us whatever the hell this is. Basically, Folk’s argument, such as it is, is that Tennessee textbooks (those bastions of leftism during this period) were shortchanging Andrew Jackson and the importance of the Battle of New Orleans. For without said battle, evidently real America would have been split between the British control of the Mississippi River and the evils of New England. My god, the whole nation would be eating Dunkin’ instead of some holding onto Krispy Kreme as the best donut chain. And to give the South credit, this is absolutely correct and New England’s love for Dunkin’ basically absolves the British for the Intolerable Acts.

Anyway, as evidence, Folk points out all the writers who said it was unfortunate a bunch of people died during the battle even though the Treaty of Ghent was already signed. According to Folk, these deaths were necessary for the Americans to truly take control over this region. I mean, I know that I demand my nationalistic project be based on oceans of limey blood, no doubt smelling like Earl Grey from all the tea those people drank, unlike the good coffee-swilling (or even chicory coffee-swilling!) Americans! Folk begins the book with an utterly idiotic imagined conversation between the author and a student who is waiting on him at a restaurant, who it just so happens is part of a debate team at school that has argued that the Battle of New Orleans was unnecessary. Our brave author sure shows up this nonexistent fictional character! This may be the high point of the book.

Folk reliving impressment shows the need for the bloodshed, although it’s unclear why since the treaty ending the practice had just been signed, but, hey, aren’t we real Americans here! There’s a long, boring section on the negotiations at Ghent, intending to show that the homespun Americans outwitted those suave Englishmen, but sort of forgets the key issue, which is that the British didn’t actually care about America with Napoleon defeated. Rather, he claims that the British were negotiating in bad faith, hoping that they would take New Orleans before the U.S. had the chance to sign the treaty and thus making it moot. Then it goes on to quoting this and that person before getting to the real point: that the British are infecting our schools with their vile propaganda:

In all literature there cannot be found a more concrete, comprehensive line: “Great Britain coveted it in 1815 when Jackson saved it.” Pro-English historians may deftly turn and twist this and other facts to their purpose; but let me give a tocsin call: PRO-ENGLISH HISTORIANS SHOULD BE KEPT OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS, AND YOUNG AMERICA TAUGHT ONLY THE UNGARBLED, UNVARNISHED TRUTH.

I guess I was unaware of British fifth columnists infecting Tennessee schools in 1932 but who doesn’t believe that our good young Americans should only be taught THE UNGARBLED, UNVARNISHED TRUTH?

Not I comrade, not I.

Music Notes

[ 46 ] June 25, 2016 |

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I’ve been so busy that I haven’t done one of these in several weeks. I don’t even really have any good stories to link to, but I have slowly listened to a new or long-forgotten album every now and then over the last few weeks and wrote them up here.

First though, another day, another musician. The truly great Bernie Worrell, RIP.

It’s not that 2016 is some sort of musician apocalypse year. It’s that you are getting old, I am getting old, and the musicians who did not take care of their bodies for decades are really getting old. Imagine what 2020 is going to look like.

Ludovico Einaudi, Taranta Project

This is fairly interesting music. Einaudi fuses Sicilian, North African, and Turkish folk music with electronic and contemporary compositional music into a swirling set of compositions. The sounds work pretty well. My one caveat is that this sometimes sounds a bit too New Agey-type world music to me, a genre I have long found repulsive. Not that I need “authenticity,” whatever that is, but borrowing music of the world to provide background music for white people to feel authentic rubs me the wrong way. Mostly this avoids this and stays in the world of worthy music, but sometimes I felt on the border.

B+

Deerhunter, Fading Frontier

This is a very solid, not great, rock album. Deerhunter is one of those bands that I am happy when it comes on the shuffle, but don’t listen to the albums much. I own both Halcyon Digest and Microcastle, both solid enough. Clearly playing for a classic rock sound, Deerhunter mostly succeeds here. I probably won’t buy it, but you might well want to do so.

B+

Sherwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow

This is a decent rock album, although the singer sounds a bit too much like whiny 80s British pop to me. I’ve always hated that Cure-esque sound. Fans of that scene may disagree. 80s nostalgia has never worked for me. Lyrics are fine, music is fine. Overall, a perfectly acceptable album that I won’t ever listen to again. But if someone puts it on while I’m in the car with them, that’s totally fine.

B

Kasey Musgraves, Pageant Material

The critics love Musgraves. And she is a solid performer. But this is not an exceptional or even particularly great album. A lot of that critic love is that she sings about smoking marijuana, questioning religion, and being cool with gay people, topics that are risque in the right-wing world of Nashville. And that’s all great. But it does not mean that she has a great set of songs on Pageant Material. She wrote a perfectly acceptable set of songs for it.

B

Gardens & Villa, Music for Dogs

Mostly I just found this to be irritating synth-pop. Not much for me to grab on to here.

C

The Pretenders, Packed.

I forgot how much this album sucked. Mitchell Froom was a really terrible producer. I guess no Pretenders album can be that bad. But this is pretty lame.

C+

I have seen one live show since I wrote the last of these posts. That was the percussionist Adam Rudolph at The Stone in New York, with Hassan Hakmoun on sintir, Hamid Drake on drums, Graham Haynes on cornet, and an unlisted North African musician on also sintir and hand percussion. This was pretty amazing. Those mesmerizing North African vocals and music with the two drummers can really take you away. And then Haynes popping in with cornet, which really served as another voice, was just great. I don’t have a good YouTube clip of anything quite like this, but here’s some of Rudolph’s music with Yusef Lateef.

As always, this should serve as an open thread on all things musical.

James Green, RIP

[ 11 ] June 25, 2016 |

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James Green, preeminent labor historian, has died. His books reached far beyond the academy to transform popular understanding of the United States’ most dramatic labor incidents. Probably his most famous book is Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided America. His last book was also brilliant. The Devil Is Here In These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom brought the reality of the incredibly terrible lives of these workers and their rebellion that led to the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest civil uprising in the United States since the Civil War, into the public consciousness. His book was adapted by PBS into a documentary for The American Experience titled The Mine Wars, which is also quite excellent. A great historian and a great loss.

This Day in Labor History: June 25, 1914

[ 6 ] June 25, 2016 |

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This is a guest post by Jacob Remes, who is clinical assistant professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. His book, Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era, is available from the University of Illinois Press. He tweets at @jacremes.

Charles Lee worked at a patent leather factory in the Blubber Hollow neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. It was unpleasant work in a rickety building. Workers like Lee dissolved flammable scrap celluloid film in flammable amyl acetate and alcohol, painted it on leather, added another layer of wood alcohol, and then steam heated it.

A hundred and two years ago today, on the afternoon of June 25, 1914, the inevitable came: a fire broke out. Charles Lee was the worker standing closest to the fire’s origin, and he broke both his legs jumping out of a window to escape the flames. Half an hour later, 300 workers had been forced to flee their factories. By evening, the fire had consumed 50 factories across the city, including, most devastatingly, Salem’s largest employer, a sheet factory called Pequot Mills. More than 18,000 people were left homeless or jobless.

Every disaster is a workplace disaster for someone. Sometimes, as for Charles Lee, the disaster is part of work. Other times, as for Pequot Mills employees, a disaster destroys opportunity for work. For others, including the 87 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2015, it is disaster itself that is the worksite. Workers have long responded to workplace disasters by coming together with their coworkers and neighbors to think about–and fight over–the conditions of their labor.

Changes in illumination, heating, firefighting, and transportation technologies–together with organizing and government regulation–led to a gradual decline in the sort of fires that once regularly destroyed large swaths of cities. In 1918, a Canadian government researcher counted 290 urban conflagrations in the United States and Canada between 1815 and 1915, more than half of the global total. Salem’s was among the last.

But industrial risk was not vanquished. In the United States in 2014, the last year for which data were available, about 13 people a day were killed at work, whether in small accidents or big disasters. This risk–of lives lost, of bodies mangled, of property and livelihoods diminished–is never evenly distributed (as Erik, among others, has reminded us). Who bears the bodily risk of industrialism is a political choice we all make. Most of the time, workers die in ones or twos, invisible except to their families, coworkers, and friends. Disasters–like when 29 coal miners died in Upper Big Branch, West Virginia, in 2013, or when, in the same year, 1,100 garment workers died in a factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh–are the times we see our choices and have an opportunity to correct them.

After the Salem fire, as after disasters today, people debated how to organize society and its risk in their neighborhoods and churches, in town meetings and voting booths. Six months after fire, Salemites recalled their mayor in the first modern recall in New England. Catholic laypeople argued with priests and the archbishop about how their parish should be rebuilt. Neighbors argued about whether a new building code, designed to make the city less flammable, was worth the cost.

Most of all, they fought for power in their workplaces. Pequot Mills was rebuilt and reopened a year and a half after the fire, in 1916. Soon, workers began to experiment with new ways of organizing and building power across skill, gender, and ethnicity. At a time when in most Massachusetts textile mills only the most skilled workers, mostly men, were welcomed into unions, workers at Pequot Mills organized a union that included women, unskilled workers, and French Canadians, whom many labor leaders at the time thought were unorganizable.

Workers at Pequot Mills fought for, and won, higher pay, but more importantly they wanted a say in how the factory would be run. They won seniority rights, a grievance system, and defined job categories and so limited management’s arbitrary ability to hire, fire, promote, and discipline workers. By the late 1920s, the union had taken charge of the company’s sales and marketing departments, and it controlled a joint labor-management committee that sought to increase productivity through scientific management. Workers’ willingness to sacrifice some material gains for control over how the factory would run got press attention as a national model.

It did not last. While at first union power meant democratic control of the workplace by workers, within a few years the business manager, not the workers themselves, controlled the process. “I didn’t bother to report,” he told visiting researchers, “because they are a bunch of ignorant Canucks and Polacks who wouldn’t understand anyway.”

After a few years of growing union autocracy, workers took the skills they had honed in the aftermath of the fire and rebelled against their own leaders. Led by women, who were especially hurt by the business manager, they rebelled and struck in 1933 and again in 1935 to found a new, more democratic union. A generation after the fire, workers were still debating with each other, with management, and with their neighbors how to organize work.

In our own era of workplace disasters, we too can debate how labor should be organized. Disasters offer opportunities for solidarity in the workplace, in the community, and up and down the supply chain. They are times when the choices society makes about whose lives are more or less valuable become visible, and they are times we can make different choices.

One example was the prosecution of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for his role creating the Upper Big Branch disaster. (He was sentenced to a mere year in prison.) So too was the Rana Plaza factory collapse. The horror of that disaster forced the North American companies that had subcontracted work to those factories to impose greater–though still inadequate–safety standards. More importantly, it spurred greater garment worker organizing, so that in Dhaka, as in Salem, workers can build power and set their own standards.

This post also encourages readers to donate to the Rosenberg Fund, supporting the children of targeted activists. You can read more about the Rosenberg fund here.

This is the 182nd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Slate Pitches I Can Endorse

[ 145 ] June 24, 2016 |

Playing-Golf-or-Participating-on-Marathon-1

Running a marathon. Why the hell would somebody do that to themselves?

Indeed a vast, disturbing literature has now accumulated on the ill effects of running marathons. Studies find that up to 1 in 12 participants end up seeking medical help during the race. (At hot-weather events, runners can end up “dropping like flies.”) As many as four-fifths report having gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence while on the course. Some runners suffer from blood poisoning. Others must endure a blitz of dermatological conditions: sore nipples (affecting up to 1 in 6 on race day); chafing (another 1 in 6); blisters (1 in 3); and jogger’s toe (1 in 40). Given all the risks, it’s no wonder that some marathon organizers have asked doctors to embed as race participants so they can quickly tend to runners who collapse.

When researchers consider all the injuries that accrue during the period of training—and not just on the day of the marathon itself—they find even greater cause for alarm. One study looked at 255 participants in an extended, 32-week marathon training program and found that 90 of them—that’s 35 percent—experienced “overuse” injuries. (Among the most common training ailments are anterior knee pain, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and stress fractures.) Another research group surveyed 725 men who raced in the 2005 Rotterdam Marathon, and found that more than half of them had sustained a running injury over the course of the year. Among those who sustained a new injury during the month leading up to the race, one-quarter were still suffering, to some extent, three months later.

Deaths do occur during the marathon, but I’m glad to say they’re very, very rare. Most runners’ ailments will be temporary; then again, most runners won’t have any benefits to weigh against those modest costs. Even if they don’t ruin their knees, twist their ankles, or bang their toes while training, their weekly hobby won’t do much to help their health. Marathoners fail to lose weight, as a rule, and while aerobic exercise may be good for the heart, doing a huge amount of aerobic exercise brings at best diminishing returns.

The sport isn’t merely dangerous; it’s extravagant. It costs more than $250 just to enter the New York City Marathon and to have the chance to chafe your nipples alongside 50,000 other people. Meanwhile, humanity’s oldest form of exercise has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry in footwear. Even efforts to pare down the sport to fundamentals have been absorbed into this marketing, such that there now exists a set of high-priced products known, improbably enough, as “barefoot running shoes.”

I get the feeling that marathoners think of themselves as gritty, motivated types, who would rather train and get things done than sit around watching videos on Facebook. Indeed, they’ll often note the fact of their accomplishment (we might think of this as “showing off”) on social media. For them, the pursuit of running 26 miles may have less to do with any functional reward than merely having gone through training in the first place. It’s an exercise of will, not one of purpose; the marathoner views achievement as a virtue of its own—like climbing Everest because it’s there.

It’s telling that this monomania gets rewarded—every single time, with cheering crowds and Facebook likes—despite its lack of substance. (At least Everest has a view!) I guess the form itself excites us: We’re so starved for ways to show self-discipline, and to regiment our time, that any goal will do, even one so imbecilic as the marathon. This only calls attention to the wasted opportunity: If we want to celebrate the act of building up to something hard—if we’re ready to devote ourselves, for at least 100 hours, to regimented training—then we should strive for something better. Instead of spending all that time purely for the sake of having spent it, let’s pursue a goal that has some meaning in itself.

I can think of no form of “leisure” less appealing than running 26 miles. Except for those crazy supermarathon bastards running 100 miles or whatever while they figure out where to poop.

Opinions may differ.

CEO Pay in the New Gilded Age

[ 66 ] June 24, 2016 |

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Where are the pitchforks?

Growth in median compensation may have slowed lately, or even fallen for some of the highest-paid chief executives. But this is little recompense for workers who have seen their wages stagnate or fall for decades.

Last year, the average chief executive of an S&P 500 company was paid 335 times more than the average nonsupervisory worker, according to the AFL-CIO’s useful interactive site, Executive Paywatch.

This stunning disparity has been the norm since the 1990s, but it wasn’t always this way. In 1965, the average CEO made 20 times the pay of the average worker; it was around 34-to-1 in 1980. By 1998, it was nearly 322-to-1.

What to do about it is fairly obvious. Tax the living heck out of them:

One measure would be returning to the progressive taxation system that operated from the 1940s until 1981, with a top marginal rate of, say, 70 percent as opposed to today’s 39.6 percent.

Another is to eliminate the tax-option loophole, which helps subsidize high compensation. (It allows companies to deduct the market value of the options, even though they are not a real expense, thus lowering their taxes. This arguably encourages companies to grant even more options in big comp packages.) According to a report from Citizens for Tax Justice, 315 big companies have used this to avoid $64.6 billion in taxes over the past five years.

Corporate tax rates could be set higher for firms with high CEO-to-worker pay differentials. Say-on-pay could be made mandatory rather than advisory. Public companies could be required to separate the chairman and chief-executive jobs. And unionization could be made easier, giving workers greater bargaining power.

Unionization certainly does need to be made easier, although I’m not sure that it would really make a difference unless unions start bargaining over peak executive pay. I’d love that, but it seems that tax, tax, tax is the answer, in a variety of ways. Time to reclaim that money for the public good.

Hidden Sexism

[ 99 ] June 24, 2016 |

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Will hidden sexism hurt Hillary Clinton this fall? Quite possibly, although I’d like to see more than yet another story on Real American Voters, i.e., working-class white men from the Rust Belt, to suggest it may be so.

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