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Corporate Tax Cheats of the Day

[ 85 ] May 20, 2013 |

Apple.

I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to seize Apple’s assets until it came to a reasonable agreement on its tax bill.

Crack Babies

[ 97 ] May 20, 2013 |

Hardly surprising that the crack babies “epidemic” in the 1980s was based on poorly designed scientific studies and really was just another tool in white backlash tool box to blame black people for their own poverty and justify the war on some classes of people who use some drugs.

Elvin Jones: Gunslinger

[ 37 ] May 18, 2013 |

In 1971, the film Zachariah was released. I had never heard of it until last night, but it seems to be a weirdo western starring Don Johnson, Dick Van Patten, Country Joe and the Fish, Joe Walsh, Patricia Quinn, Doug Kershaw, and the great drummer Elvin Jones. In this scene, Elvin Jones wears a groovy vest, kills a man in a gunfight, and then plays a long drum solo.

After seeing this, I went straight to my Netflix queue. Good? No it certainly doesn’t seem so. 1971 weirdness? Oh yes.

A World Less Evil

[ 21 ] May 18, 2013 |

Jorge Rafael Videla, former dictator of Argentina, is dead, much to the benefit of the world.

Lillie Langtry with more.

“Strike raises crop of stubble, cuts, safety-razors.”

[ 13 ] May 18, 2013 |

Cool article on the 1913 barbers’ strike in New York, which led to the reduction of barbers’ workweeks from 92(!!!) hours to a mere 62 with Sunday off.

I may have to explore this in more detail in the labor history series.

Capital Mobility and Corporate Whitewashing

[ 35 ] May 18, 2013 |

This is an interesting piece about apparel corporations looking to get out of Bangladesh because of the bad publicity the building collapse has given the companies. They want to move to Cambodia, Vietnam, and the new frontier of Indonesia. What’s telling about it is that the corporations have zero interest in actually improving conditions for Bangladeshis. For all the talk (including by liberals) about how we need to keep outsourcing the jobs to countries with dangerous working conditions because the companies are providing them work, there is no commitment at all to keeping those people employed. While it might be a good thing that companies want to avoid multi-story factories with the potential to kill over 1100 workers like in Bangladesh, rather than work with Bangladesh to improve conditions or take some responsibility, instead they just want to bail on the country entirely because it might make them look bad to western customers.

Under normal circumstances, 2 workers dying in a Cambodian roof collapse wouldn’t make the news at all, which makes accidents in single-story buildings acceptable to corporations. Right now, if the linked article is accurate, there are some positive things in Indonesia, with contractors having to offer health insurance to attract scarce workers, but I am skeptical of the long-term continuance of such practices if Indonesia becomes a fully mobilized apparel economy with the plethora of workers that has allowed for low wages in other nations.

This issue also gets at the comments in the Cambodia workplace death thread, which were not unusual in their ultimate acquiescence in a spatially mobile capitalism. The only way capital has ever granted safer working conditions is to damage the bottom line. Workers’ compensation laws in the United States happened after workers began winning lawsuits for damages, forcing companies to create a rational system of low compensation to avoid expensive payouts. Corporations stopped dumping chemicals when OSHA and EPA created civil and criminal penalties for violators, minimal as they may have been. Capital mobility across the globe is not “natural.” Rather it is a process encouraged by the governments of the corporations’ home nations. Capital moved to pay lower wages, to reinstitute unsafe workplaces, to dump poisons into rivers and air, all of which increased profits. It is true that calling for international standards where workers around the world could sue corporations in the country of corporate origin for unsafe conditions and environmental degradation would lessen capital mobility, but I hardly see this as a bad thing.

We might ask, “What about the Bangladeshi worker!” if we lessened the incentives for race to the bottom capital mobility, but a) as the flight from Bangladesh shows, capital doesn’t care about that worker anyway, b) a job is a job no matter where it is–there is a great need for work in the United States, Cambodia, Bangladesh, wherever, c) we could create a system with some differentiation in conditions but that still protected basic worker safety and stopped grotesque pollution, both of which are very inexpensive to implement, and d) companies are more than welcome to stay in Bangladesh or Honduras or Vietnam and commit to long-term investments there that will help bring workers out of poverty. We rightfully say that these nations have laws on the books but because of corruption or indifference or violence they aren’t enforced. Allowing foreign workers access to international courts is one way to help solve these problems. The idea that enforcing safety in Cambodia is “impossible” is no different than saying that enforcing safety in Gilded Age American factories was impossible. It’s a process and there are issues of corruption, but of course it is possible, especially if the corporations in charge of the whole process want it enforced. If you want to see conditions in these factories improve fast, a couple of successful lawsuits against Gap or Asics is a pretty likely way to make that happen.

Mother of a Honky Tonk Girl

[ 16 ] May 17, 2013 |

A good rule of thumb about country music is that when the singer starts talking, something weird is about to happen. When it is about morality or politics, you know the song is a winner.

Our Freedom Just Got Smarter

[ 107 ] May 17, 2013 |

If there’s one thing this country needs, it’s “smart” rifles that almost never miss no matter how inexperienced the shooter. I know that the first time some crazy person takes one of these onto a college campus or into an elementary school, our national freedoms will be expressed onto the bodies of students and teachers in an extra bloody and horrifying way.

Cambodian Shoe Factory Roof Collapse

[ 67 ] May 16, 2013 |

This is a story that won’t get lasting attention because of the small number of dead workers, but following the death of 1127 garment workers in Bangladesh, we have another factory collapse in the apparel industry. The roof collapsed in a Cambodian shoe factory, killing 2 workers and injuring at least 9 others. The factory makes shoes for the Japanese company Asics.

Once again, these workplace disasters are a completely acceptable cost of doing business in the apparel industry. Asics could employ these workers directly in its own Cambodian factory. But it is more profitable to shirk the responsibility and instead pretend like it has no fault in the death of these workers. As the linked article notes, Cambodia, like Bangladesh, has workplace safety laws and building standard codes, but they are completely unenforced. The lack of any bite to the regulation is precisely why companies like Asics, Wal-Mart, and Gap outsource factory work there, separating the point of production from the point of consumption by as large a gap as possible. This is why I believe that Asics corporate leads should be held criminally responsible for the deaths under Japanese law, just as if the factory had collapsed in Japan.

Historical Impact of the Obama “Scandals”

[ 42 ] May 16, 2013 |

Ezra Klein sums up what the future will almost certainly say about the Obama Administration and these so-called scandals Republicans are so desperately clinging to like a piece of driftwood in the ocean:

And yet, even if the scandals fade, the underlying problems might remain. The IRS. could give its agents better and clearer guidance on designating 501(c)(4), but Congress needs to decide whether that status and all of its benefits should be open to political groups or not. The Media Shield Act is not likely to go anywhere, and even if it does, it doesn’t get us anywhere close to grappling with the post-9/11 expansion of the surveillance state. And then, of course, there are all the other problems Congress is ignoring, from high unemployment to sequestration to global warming. When future generations look back on the scandals of our age, it’ll be the unchecked rise in global temperatures, not the Benghazi talking points, that infuriate them.

Well-said.

How Industries Fight Safety Standards

[ 62 ] May 16, 2013 |

Myron Levin has just an outstanding report on how the power saw industry fights against implementing already existing technology that would reduce finger injuries from table saws to zero. In short, an Oregon inventor came up with a table saw design that would stop immediately on contact with anything but wood. If you touch a running saw, it leaves you with the equivalent of a paper cut. He figured the saw industry would adopt it immediately. He was wrong. Instead, the saw industry has spent the last decade fighting tooth and nail against it because they fear that if anyone adopts it, their liability will go up and lawsuits will follow.

To reiterate, corporations put profits before people’s hands and lives and there is no hyperbole in that statement at all.

Creating the Permanent Underclass

[ 121 ] May 16, 2013 |

House Republicans are moving forward in their ultimate goal of entrenching poverty, passing a farm bill that slashes food stamps. Steve King talks of food stamps that “expand the dependency class,” words that could have come out of the mouth of any bog standard Gilded Age Republican in opposition to ending the 14 hour day, a minimum wage, or even private charity. But it is the new Gilded Age, so this is to be expected. Other fun things this farm bill does is shift crop insurance to the private sector and reduce conservation programs for farm land.

Let’s hope this gets eviscerated in the Senate.

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