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The Labor Building the Abu Dhabi Artistic Institutions

[ 16 ] August 10, 2014 |

As Molly Crabapple reports, the Abu Dhabi elites have decided to purchase western culture and bring it to their city are doing so on the backs of horribly exploited immigrant laborers who lack rights. This is the same labor who dies building NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, soccer stadiums in Qatar, and now outposts of the Louvre and Guggenheim. The workers fight back and fight back hard but between lacking legal status, the indifference of the involved western institutions, and violence, the odds they face are huge. And how do you stop it? To do so, you have to force legal regimes onto mobile capitalism, as some in the Abu Dhabi workers’ struggles understand:

Defenders of Western institutions in Abu Dhabi are right about one thing. They are not unique. The labor abuses at the Louvre or NYU are the same labor abuses that are happening throughout the UAE. The UAE is not the worst country for workers in the Gulf, and the Gulf is not the worst region for workers in the world. Most countries sustain themselves on the labor of transient, disposable people. This may be unofficial, as in the United States (our agricultural industry would collapse overnight without undocumented migrants), or it may be institutionalized, as in the UAE.

“Capital is global and derives its velocity from replicating the same model everywhere. Gulf Labor is arguing for a global, humane, and fair standard of labor and migration regulations to accompany, and slow down, global capital,” said Naeem Mohaiemen, a New York–based Bangladeshi artist who is a member of Gulf Labor. “The implications can be staggering. If Saadiyat implemented world-standard labor and migration rights, that could become a precedent for implementing the same standards in the entire region. Then people would ask, what about migrant labor in Malaysia? In Texas? And so on…”

These are indeed the questions we should be asking, arguing for a race to the top rather than a race to the bottom in workplace standards.


Pleasing Without Making You Worried About What Other Men Think

[ 64 ] August 10, 2014 |

After Coca-Cola cut the cocaine after the formula, it was very important to let drinkers know that it was “pleasing without being effeminate.”


Confederate Freedom

[ 34 ] August 9, 2014 |

Color me shocked that a “nation” based on denying people freedom as its fundamental reason to exist would move to limit the freedoms of all its citizens.

But even as white Southerners grew used to applying for passports and presenting them when asked, the symbolic meaning of the domestic passport system was hard to ignore. Passes for travel had been an essential and unmistakable feature of Southern slavery since anyone could remember. All over the South, enslaved men and women were required to carry a written pass from their owners whenever they went outside the confines of their places of bondage. Those caught moving about without a travel document were brutally punished, either by their owner or by the South’s notorious slave patrols, armed units of white men who roamed the region’s roads, woods and swamps in search of itinerant slaves.

The problem with the wartime passport system was that it resembled the parallel method for governing slaves not only in theory, but also in practice. The documents required for white travel bore an uncanny similarity to those carried by blacks: Some merely noted the person’s name, destination and dates of permitted travel, but others also noted the height, hair color, eye color, complexion and scars of the traveler.

Today in Racism

[ 223 ] August 8, 2014 |

A post-racial society indeed:

Crain’s reports on SketchFactor, a racist app made for avoiding “sketchy” neighborhoods, which is the term young white people use to describe places where they don’t feel safe because they watched all five seasons of The Wire:

SketchFactor, the brainchild of co-founders Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, is a Manhattan-based navigation app that crowdsources user experiences along with publicly available data to rate the relative “sketchiness” of certain areas in major cities. The app will launch on the iTunes on Friday, capping off a big week for the startup, which was named as a finalist in the NYC BigApps competition.

According to Ms. McGuire, a Los Angeles native who lives in the West Village, the impetus behind SketchFactor was her experience as a young woman navigating the streets of Washington, D.C., where she worked at a nonprofit.

But hey, they aren’t racists. Because they say so.

With firsthand experience living in Washington, D.C., where white terror is as ubiquitous as tucked-in polo shirts, grinning caucasians Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington should be unstoppable in the field of smartphone race-baiting—they’re already finalists in a $20,000 startup contest! But don’t worry: they’re not racist. It says so right on their blog, which asks people to share “sketchy” stories about strangers they spot:

Who we’re not: racists, bigots, sexists. Any discriminatory posts will be deleted.

Oh, well in that case. The app launches tomorrow, so it’s probably safest to just stay indoors until then.

I can’t even express how much this drives me nuts. In 2014, it is evidently OK to say the most racist thing imaginable and then get away with it because you say you aren’t racist. People–no one gets to decide whether or not they are racist or sexist or really much of anything. I know we fetishize individual consumerism and personal branding, but it is actually the community at large who gets to decide–and yes, judge–you. You can think about yourself however you want but that doesn’t mean it is very close to reality.

Income Inequality

[ 22 ] August 8, 2014 |

Standard and Poor’s says that American income inequality is impeding the nation’s economic recovery.

Rising levels of income inequality in the U.S. is a drag on economic growth, and was a factor that contributed to S&P lowering its growth rating over the next decade from 2.5% to 2.8%, the report said. Income inequality leads to extreme economic swings, an uncompetitive workforce, and discourages investment and hiring, per S&P.

The U.S. Gini coefficient, a widely-used measure of income inequality, rose by 20% from 1979 to 2010. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office showed that after-tax average income ballooned 15.1% fro the top 1% of earners, but grew by less than 1% for the bottom 90% of earners.

The S&P said in its report that government policies on taxation and government wealth transfers, including Social Security and Medicare, have not significantly reduced income inequality. Many government programs aren’t limited to assisting lower-incoming households and extend to wealthier groups more than they did at their inception, according to the report. The bottom 20% of households received only 36% of transfer payments in 2010, but received 54% in 1979, according to S&P.

The S&P recommended greater education levels as a key means to improve productivity, saying that if the American workforce completed just one more year of school over the next five years, productivity gains could add over $500 billion, or 2.4% to the level of GDP relative to the baseline.

But if you a member of the 1%, who cares. What incentive do you have about to do something positive the state of the nation or widespread unemployment? Isn’t income inequality good news for you? The more desperate the poor are, the more you can recreate your late 19th century fantasy of exploitation in the early 21st century. Sure, having American workers stay in school another year is fine, especially if they fork over their hard earned cash to for-profit schools that do nothing to educate them, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter much to the extreme rich.


[ 3 ] August 8, 2014 |

The story is still incredibly tragic, but it is amazing that the leader of the Argentina abuelas, leading the resistance to the dictatorship by demanding to know what happened to her and others grandchildren adopted out to military supporters before their daughters were murdered, has found her grandson after all these years.

Diaspora Education

[ 67 ] August 8, 2014 |

An interesting short essay by Bonnie Honig on how Jewish education in the U.S. erases the Palestinian experience, going far to create the divide in the American Jewish community today between those who are avowed supporters of Israeli polices toward the Muslims around them and those who are outraged dissenters against the lies they have been told.

Mining: A Reponsible Industry. Unless You are a Human or Other Creature

[ 10 ] August 7, 2014 |

Oh mining, will you ever even try to be a responsible citizen of the world?

Hundreds of people in British Columbia can’t use their water after more than a billion gallons of mining waste spilled into rivers and creeks in the province’s Cariboo region.

A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.

The flow of the mining waste, which can contain things like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees on its way to the creek and forced a water ban for about 300 people who live in the region. That number could grow, as authorities determine just how far the waste has traveled. The cause of the breach is still unknown.

The answer is, of course, no.

Thorne Auchter

[ 15 ] August 7, 2014 |

When we think back to the Reagan Administration, there are so many loathsome characters. Oliver North. John Poindexter. James Watt. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ed Meese. We could go on and on. But as happens in any modern Republican administration, there are all sorts of really powerful appointees who go totally under the radar. Because of my logging book, I became acquainted with one Thorne Auchter, a Florida construction contractor who Reagan named as head of OSHA. Auchter completely turned OSHA away from the semi-crusading agency it was during the Carter years under the leadership of Eula Bingham and moved it toward an employer services agency that it so often remains today. Part of the process was Auchter killing a bunch of OSHA videos the agency made to help workers fight for safety and health on the job. But you can see them here and they are pretty great.

Imagine, a government that sought to help workers rather than plutocrats. I know it must be dream.

Undergarments in History

[ 20 ] August 7, 2014 |

I’m a bit skeptical of crediting World War I as the primary reason for the decline of the corset and rise of the bra. Usually things like this have multifaceted causes and I highly doubt that without World War I, flappers and Depression-era women would be wearing corsets. That said, this is an interesting discussion of the switch from the corset to the bra and the development of that garment over the decades.

Today in the Sixth Extinction

[ 11 ] August 6, 2014 |

The Chinese appetite for wild meat and medicinal products derived from wild animals is wiping basically every animal of size out of Asia and Africa, including something as small as the pangolin.

The Mexican Craze in Tito’s Yugoslavia

[ 22 ] August 6, 2014 |

Evidently, Yugoslavians of the 50s were nuts for what they thought was Mexican music and fake Mexican bands sprung up across the nation. I have trouble seeing how this did not keep the nation united after communism’s fall.

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