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Mother’s Day

[ 10 ] May 14, 2017 |

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As another Mother’s Day winds down, here’s a reminder that the real way we treat our mothers is allowing poor mothers to die in childbirth, forcing them to live in poverty, don’t provide state-supported child care (thanks Nixon!), deny mothers parental and sick leave, and basically allow our mothers and thus their children to suffer needlessly. USA! USA!

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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 83

[ 50 ] May 14, 2017 |

This is the grave of William Clay Ford.

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William Clay Ford was born into American royalty in 1925, the son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford. He was rich, did some rich person things, was very active in the family business, blah blah blah.

The real reason to discuss Ford is his ownership of the Detroit Lions. Under his ownership, the Lions reached an astounding level of ineptitude that never ended until his death, if it has since then. Ford bought the Lions in 1963. In 50 years of owning the club before his death in 2014, the Lions won 1 playoff game. 1!!! Here is a list of 5 defining moments of Ford’s ownership tenure, mostly terrible. I guess it’s fitting that he bought the team on the day JFK was shot; for the people of Detroit, the president’s assassination was only the second worst event that day. Even Barry Sanders couldn’t take it anymore, quitting while he was at the height of his powers, realizing that he would destroy his body for a franchise that would never win.

The real highlight of course was Ford hiring Matt Millen to be General Manager in 2001. In fact, Ford only hired 3 GMs in his 50 years, putting up with endless losing for all of them. The first guy lasted 22 years and never won a playoff game! Millen and Ford’s combined idiocy sent the team to a 0-16 record, the only time that feat has been achieved in NFL history. Millen’s fine 1st round picks included Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, and, yes, Joey Harrington, although I maintain that Harrington could have been a decent QB in a different system, even if he would never really fit into an NFL locker room. At least one Millen knew his dad couldn’t draft his way out of box, but it wasn’t Matt. Ford kept Millen around forever. Why? Because he felt his GM was a good Christian! Now that’s a way to run a franchise. It’s really too bad Millen was fired too, as the way he was talking up Christian Hackenberg could have led to another era of greatness in the Motor City! The only reason Ford finally dumped Millen is that Ford’s own son publicly announced that he would do it if he was in charge. You really have to love how Millen took it with class too, calling himself a martyr for the entire problems of the city of Detroit. Really, only Al Davis was a worse owner over the last 20 years and at least Davis did this on a lived history of success. Ford even managed to make Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill look competent. Dan Snyder may see Ford as a model of how to ruin a franchise.

Anyway, Henry Clay Ford lived a long life that I’m sure was successful in some other way before dying in 2014 at the age of 88. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan.

Music Notes

[ 78 ] May 13, 2017 |

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I saw The New Pornographers at House of Blues in Boston recently. For as much as I dislike the atmosphere of the two House of Blues venues I’ve been to (Dallas is the other), this was a very fun show. I haven’t heard the new album yet and so I didn’t know those songs but that doesn’t matter much. The great thing about this band is its faith in the sound of the human voice. With up to 5 people singing at once, it becomes a transcendent party of voices. And of course the songs are so fun and the music so happy that it is almost impossible not to have a good time at a New Pornographers show. It’s also interesting that A.C. Newman sings with an audible lisp, which is not something I think I have ever heard before. I say that only as a curious point, not that it adds or detracts from the music. From the point of view of justice and acceptance, it’s a pretty great thing. Another pretty great thing is seeing Neko Case play anything, but then I don’t have to convince anyone of this.

Waxahatchee opened, which was also great, even if Katie Crutchfield’s songs don’t quite translate that well to a big room with a crowd only half paying attention and a lot of talking. This is of course the peril all opening acts face. Sometimes, the opening act is the better act and while I wouldn’t necessarily say that here, it’s close.

On Tuesday I saw the Old 97s play in Millvale, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Pittsburgh. It was outstanding. Old 97s has been one of my favorite bands for the last 20 years, yet the only time I had seen them was opening for Drive-By Truckers in 2013. Not sure how that happened. So I was glad to see a full show. Of course it’s Rhett Miller’s band and his party lyrics and ass shaking and windmill guitar have always made it work. But their secret weapon has always been guitarist Ken Bethea, whose driving riffs define the band’s sound and that really came through live. Being 2 feet from the stage always helps bring this out. They played a good variety of songs from their career, heavily focused on the new album (see below), their brilliant last album Most Messed Up, and their 1997 album Too Far to Care, which has many of their classics such as “Timebomb,” “Four Leaf Clover,” and “Barrier Reef,” all of which were played. Being the Pittsburgh area too, a city festooned with old Catholic churches from its steel days, the club was inside an old church and so that was also a cool venue.

I was in Detroit the other week. We stopped by this dive bar called Nancy’s Whiskey. At this bar was just some Detroit bar band. Except that this bar band was made up of old Detroit people doing Motown, soul, and 70s and 80s pop tunes. I could imagine all of these people around the Motown scene in the 70s or early 80s. And it was really outstanding. The bass player especially was sick. And there’s something about random musical experiences that blow your mind that are really great. Back in 1997, I was backpacking around Sumatra. I was walking down a road once and passed this house. There was this band playing, getting ready for what I think was going to be a wedding later in the day. There was this mix of Indonesian and western instruments. And these guys could really play. I just hung out outside for 30 minutes listening to these guys do their thing. I don’t know that this Detroit experience quite met that standard, if for no other reason than that the melding of musical cultures is a wonderful thing. But it was probably the best random no name, pick up bar band I’ve ever encountered.

I don’t have the same level of strong feelings about The Rolling Stones’ songs ranking as many of you did. “Bitch” is too low. And I don’t really agree with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as #1 either. Although I don’t feel strongly about the right song. “Sway” is my very favorite but that’s a personal choice. I suppose “Gimme Shelter” or “Sympathy for the Devil.” Or “Honky Tonk Women,” which is a long favorite of mine.

I’m not sure you were looking for a career retrospective interview with Kim Carnes, but here’s one for you anyway.

Revisiting the music of Midnight Oil in a new era of protest. I always thought this was a highly underrated band. Patterson Hood agrees.

When the American Federation of Musicians tried to stop British rock bands from playing in the United States.

The last time I wrote one of these posts, I noted that I had recently seen Wadada Leo Smith play in New Haven. Here is a lengthy essay on those shows and Smith’s legacy.

Allan Holdsworth died recently. He’s someone who I know is a great guitarist but I just did not like his music. He hated that some tapes were released as the album that became known as Velvet Darkness, but for me, that’s actually my preferred music by him. I didn’t care for his heavily processed 80s albums at all and while I hadn’t heard any recent albums, he just never moved me.

Col. Bruce Hampton died too. On stage, while playing his own 70th birthday concert. Thing was, his own bandmates thought it was an act at first, which did not help matters.

The recent Facebook meme of putting up 10 concerts you’ve seen and then people guess which one you are lying about was useful is learning what terrible taste a lot of people have in music. They probably eat ketchup too.

Reviews:

Lori McKenna, The Bird and the Rifle

One of the 8 million Dave Cobb-produced folk/country/Americana albums a year these days, McKenna provides a very solid set of songs and a good sound. McKenna is most known for writing songs that more famous country singers record. What’s interesting about this is that while mainstream Nashville is an open sewer, there are great songwriters making music that might get recorded by people I disdain, but whose own versions are not only far better but don’t even have that cliched Nashville sound. That’s McKenna, whose songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, among others. In fact, the McGraw cover of “Humble and Kind,” which is on this album, won some country music awards. But whatever, McKenna is better. There’s no fake twang for one thing (McKenna is from Massachusetts). There’s just good songwriting.

B+

Mikal Cronin, MCIII

For some reason, I occasionally listen to a Mikal Cronin album, like it a good bit, and then think a week later that I didn’t care for it that much. I feel the same about Ty Segall, who I frequently put together, as do many since they come out of the same San Francisco garage scene. But then I listen to a Cronin album again and think, “that’s pretty good.” And indeed this 2015 release is pretty good, with great melodies, good hooks, and a solid beach rock sound. I’m not sure the second half of the album, a song suite about loss and discovery, really works all that well.

B

Lyrics Born, Now Look What You’ve Done: Lyrics Born Greatest Hits

My musical journey over the last 20 years has been very willful, with little interest in what was popular or what anyone cared about it. What that has meant is a deep exploration of creative modern jazz and 50s-70s country, two genres with literally nothing in common. Over the past several years, the limitations of this has led me back to a lot of genres I had ignored for a long time. That is I think clear from the variety of albums I review in these posts. But it does often leave me at a loss for words about artists or even entire genres people have thought a lot about. I don’t worry about this too much; like anything else, the only way to get better about writing about these types of music is to keep doing it, sound dumb, and learn. Such it is for basically the entirety of black music between 1990 and 2010. That includes hip hop, pop, and soul. Now, that has changed a good bit in the last several years, but it means that I often lack the vocabulary to talk about those two decades.

I say all of this because there are pretty important artists about whom I am totally clueless. One is Lyrics Born, the Japanese-American hip hop/soul artist from Berkeley who had a number of well-regarded albums beginning in the early 2000s. This greatest hits collection from 2016 is a great intro to a really strong artist who I wish I had known earlier. He’s a very solid singer, even if his voice isn’t perfect, he has tons of great guests on his songs, and this is music that holds up very well.

And if this is kind of vague because I don’t have the right language to talk about it fluently, that’s OK too.

A-

Old 97s, Graveyard Whistling

When I heard that Old 97s was putting out an album about being on the road, drinking, and drugs, I was very skeptical, for as much as I have loved this band over the years. But Most Messed Up was an awesome album. So I had high hopes for Graveyard Whistling. And mostly this is a good album. This band is good enough with the rock and Rhett Miller is a good enough vocalist that it’s hard to imagine a bad album in any case. This first couple of songs here keep up the great rock and roll. There are some gems in other places as well. “Jesus Loves You” is pretty fantastic: “He makes wine from water, but I just bought you a beer.” The second half of the album doesn’t quite hold up and there are a couple of tracks that sound like cuts that didn’t make Most Messed Up. They have the same drinking and partying theme, but aren’t of the quality of that great masterpiece. Still, this is solid listening at the worst and there are several tracks I will listen to a lot.

B

John Moreland, Big Bad Luv

Moreland is a national treasure. His last two albums were absolutely mind-blowing, full of hard songs about love and loss and Oklahoma. Seeing him live last spring was also just wonderful. With his newest album, he brings a bigger sound that keeps him firmly within the Americana world, but with the same great lyrics as usual. “Sallisaw Blue” is a great opening track that really jumps out with the fuller sound. “Old Wounds” and “Latchkey Kid” are a couple of others that instantly grabbed my attention. Reviewers have wondered if all these stories are dealing with some personal trauma of terrible relationships. For his sake, I hope he just knows how to write a great song than has to draw too much from his own heartache.

A

Jyotsna Srikanth, Call of Bangalore

Srikanth is a master of the violin in the Indian Carnatic tradition, who also plays western classical music. This is squarely in the former, a masterful recording of Indian classical music, replete not only with her violin, but also outstanding percussion and stringed instruments. Usually this music is vocal-heavy but the violin serves effectively as the vocal here. The extent to which you like this or not depends on your interest in 39 minute compositions of Indian classical music, which is the length of one song on this album, but I find it pretty amazing.

A

Kelela, Hallucinogen

The Pitchfork hipsters loved this 2015 EP when it came out. I found it to be reasonably mediocre pop music on top of a lot of annoying synthesizers. Not terrible, but not something I will be revisiting.

C+

Finally, thanks to a couple of commenters for their gifts to me. One bought me an awesome Asian cookbook and another a couple of really cool Hawaii based gifts. As I’ve said before, we make peanuts from all this work and so the occasional unexpected benefit is a really wonderful thing and you can pull down our Amazon wishlists under our names at the top of the screen.

As always, this is an open thread for all things music.

What Arouses Cillizza

[ 148 ] May 13, 2017 |

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Above: Home of Real Americans (TM)

Even for Cillizza, this is incredibly embarrassing.

I guess Real Americans live in rural Texas and therefore their votes should count more than those all those urban dwellers. Maybe some more CNN segments on Trump voters and how the mean liberals are mean to their sacred holy values would help everyone understand that voting should be by land mass, not people. The desert, that’s where people who truly understand the global significance of EMAILZZZ!!! live. Maybe that can be part of the Fournier/Dowd 3rd party centrist savior campaign that I’m sure Cillizza will embrace.

Our Idiot King, Part V

[ 138 ] May 13, 2017 |

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An incredible specimen of idiot.

One health aspect Trump is transparent about: He doesn’t like to break a sweat. To be more precise, he thinks physical activity will kill you faster.

In a remarkable New Yorker story this week about how Donald Trump could realistically be removed from the presidency, Evan Osnos writes: “Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.”

The Trump “human body as non-rechargeable battery” theory was first detailed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher in their 2016 book, Trump Revealed:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

On the campaign trail, we learned that Trump didn’t dedicate any extra time to breaking a sweat because he believes exercise is actually harmful, according to this 2015 New York Times profile:

Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,’’ he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘‘That’s exercise.’”

Let’s pause to consider how remarkably backward this is.

There was a time when doctors would have concurred with Trump on this. That was the Victorian era. Back then, people worried a physical activity could cause everything from exhaustion and heart palpitations, particularly in women.

If we are bringing back the Gilded Age, we might as well include Gilded Age ideas about the body. Now can we legalize laudanum so I can get through the next 4 years?

Tearing Down Monuments to Treason in Defense of Slavery

[ 40 ] May 13, 2017 |

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Above: Actual protestor for keeping up New Orleans monument to Jefferson Davis

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu has a good op-ed on why his administration is eliminating the Confederate monuments polluting it.

But New Orleans was also America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of misery and torture. Our history is forever intertwined with that of our great nation — including its most terrible sins. We must always remember our history and learn from it. But that doesn’t mean we must valorize the ugliest chapters, as we do when we put the Confederacy on a pedestal — literally — in our most prominent public places.

The record is clear: New Orleans’s Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were erected with the goal of rewriting history to glorify the Confederacy and perpetuate the idea of white supremacy. These monuments stand not as mournful markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in reverence of it. They are an inaccurate recitation of our past, an affront to our present and a poor prescription for our future.

The right course, then, is to excise these symbols of injustice. The Battle of Liberty Place monument was not built to commemorate the fallen law enforcement officers of the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia. It was meant to honor members of the Crescent City White League, the people who killed them. That kind of “honor” has no place in an American city. So, last month, we took the monument down.

This week, we began the removal of a statue honoring Davis, and soon thereafter Lee and Beauregard. It won’t erase history. But we can begin a new chapter of New Orleans’s history by placing these monuments, and the legacy of oppression they represent, in museums and other spaces where they can be viewed in an appropriate educational setting as examples of our capacity to change.

After we’re done moving these monuments, we’ll face an even greater task: coming together to decide who we are as a city — and as a nation. Over the past few years, before the monument removal effort, we began Welcome Table New Orleans, which facilitates tough conversations about race and brings various communities together on projects in their neighborhoods. As part of our work, residents have discussed and designed reconciliation projects, such as a mural and oral history project on what was once part of a plantation, as monuments to the future, not the past.

This is really great. Memphis has moved to get rid of its horrible Nathan Bedford Forrest statue but has been stopped by the lovely state government of Tennessee. I don’t know too much about the various laws and regulations over these statues in cities and states. I do know New Orleans’ response should be a model for the rest of the South to follow, expunging these monuments to white supremacy and racial violence.

The Commies Are Taking Over!

[ 45 ] May 12, 2017 |

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The California Assembly finally repealed its law that barred communists from state employment. Of course Republicans, cosplaying as Cold Warriors whose Dear Leader isn’t in the pocket of Vladimir Putin, are outraged.

The bill passed in a 41-30 vote, after a debate that touched on the Cold War, the U.S. history of fighting communism — and the potential for future conflicts.

While Bonta called the measure “an appropriate step forward” for the state, three of his Republican colleagues in the California Assembly rose to speak against the bill, AB 22.

“This bill is blatantly offensive to all Californians,” said Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, who said his constituents include people who fled Vietnam’s Communist regime. “Communism stands for everything that the United States stands against.”

Allen concluded, “To allow subversives and avowed Communists to now work for the state of California is a direct insult to the people of California who pay for that government.”

Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, also opposed the bill, noting America’s history of going to war to combat communism.

“There are 1.9 million veterans in California,” Voepel said. “Many of us fought the communists. They are still a threat. We have North Korea, that wants to do us in. We have China, who is a great, great threat to the United States.”

Not nearly as great a threat as your president, but whatever. All I know is that I can finally become Julius Rosenberg and hand core national secrets over to the enemy. Wait, that’s happening in the White House too! It’s really hard to be an underground traitor for the Russians these days. I guess I will just watch The Americans and dream about simpler days.

This Day in Labor History: May 12, 1878

[ 10 ] May 12, 2017 |

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On May 12, 1878, Catharine Beecher died. This is a moment to discuss the incredible importance of Beecher’s 1841 book Treatise on Domestic Economy, its influence on housework for middle class women, and the general rise of housework as a modern middle class phenomenon that transformed the nation.

Born in 1800 in East Hampton, New York, Beecher was the daughter of the famed minister Lyman Beecher and the sibling of such luminaries as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher. Like her siblings, she played a critical role in the creation of middle-class Victorian culture. She ran a school where she experimented in the new food reforms of the time such as the Graham diet, which she did not give up until her students asked to dine at a real restaurant with her, after which she realized that food maybe should taste like something. She opposed Indian Removal and she focused her energies on building educational facilities in the West and South.

Modern standards of household cleanliness were basically unknown in the first half of the nineteenth century. Both in terms of personal cleanliness and modern housework, Americans still lived basically medieval lives. This became a more serious problem as American cities grew rapidly with the rise of the Industrial Revolution. The upheaval around that event began to create the social tumult that opened room for new ideas like those movements the Beecher family supported and pioneered, in addition to temperance, women’s suffrage, free public education, and the unusual religious movements associated with the more extreme elements of the Second Great Awakening. Both the economic and social tumult also began to create the beginnings of the middle-class, which included a series of social values that would be strongly associated with both the personal standards that class would demand of themselves and the reform mission work that it would use to attempt to impose these ideas on a broader society. Women would play a central role in all of this, including everything from serving as Christian missionaries to China to temperance. This is the world into which Catharine Beecher entered on the issues of cleanliness and middle-class household standards, redefining women’s work in the home.

In 1841, Beecher published A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School. In this book, Beecher went far to create modern housework standards. For her, the home was not only the refuge of women (a standard feature of 19th century middle class reform thought) but also a place of labor. She believed housework was a legitimate profession and thus women should be educated for it like they would be educated to be teachers. She believed the English were “distinguished for systematic housekeeping, and for a great love of order, cleanliness, and comfort.”

Her book attempted to teach these qualities to American women. She focused on practical advice around childcare, cleaning, training servants (the Irish of course who for a nativist like Beecher needed a lot of training), cooking, sewing, nursing, gardening, and other skills a proper middle-class woman needed to create a new generation of moral Americans. She called for a redesign of houses to create an architecture of cleanliness. Every room would have a fireplace, a kitchen needed a good sink, and wells or cisterns must be located nearby so that the constant amount of laundry that needed to be done in this brave new world of housework could get accomplished. While her book mostly avoided the subject of bathrooms, she did emphasize bathing and rejected the common idea that dirt was healthy. She encouraged full body bathing, fresh air, and exercise.

Of course, it’s not that Beecher was wrong about some of these issues. Americans were shockingly filthy and unhealthy in 1841 and those two issues were related. Cholera epidemics were striking with disturbing regularity and the nation would see just how disastrous public health ideas could be during the Civil War. The lack of bathing did lead to disease and Beecher’s own experiences at health resorts grounded her in the benefits of cleanliness. She noted that horses received more attention to their cleanliness than horse owners gave to themselves. Beecher was not alone in her quest. Beecher would later publish works on the need for women to exercise as part of her larger crusade. During the mid-19th century there were many middle-class reformers making similar arguments, including Sylvester Graham, William Alcott, and Beecher’s sister-in-law Eunice Beecher, who wrote about furniture and domestic arrangements within the context of cleanliness and health in the middle-class household. Catharine Beecher was perhaps first among equals and her book went through several editions. The overall impact of this movement was to transform middle-class ideas of cleanliness by the time of her 1878 death, ideas that then began to be pressed down onto the rapidly growing urban working class and onto the still sizable number of rural dwellers in the nation. All of this had a deeply moral aspect to it. For Beecher, who was by no means a feminist, women had a moral role to play in civilizing men and educating the next generation. Women were to play a decidedly subservient role in the household, yet that role was absolutely crucial for developing the nation and she believed they should embrace by making their homes citadels of cleanliness.

The modern creation of housework during the mid-19th century always had the theoretical side of freeing women from drudgery. But the reality was that most of the technologies created to save women work while keeping up proper standards created more work for women. There were some exceptions. The invention of the electric washing machine in 1910 obviously was easier for women than the horrible drudgery of washing clothes over an open fire that required hauling water. But the idea of proper housework only led to increasingly higher standards over what a properly clean house meant. With all of this work done by unpaid female labor (or sometimes paid female labor, but always for someone else’s house and this declined dramatically after 1910 or so), it vastly increased the daily labors of millions of women.

I originally wanted to write this post using the exact date of the publication of Treatise on Domestic Economy. If anyone has access to this information, I would appreciate it. I could not find it and had to use her death date instead.

I borrowed from Suellen Hoy’s Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness in the writing of this post. Kathryn Kish Sklar’s 1976 biography of Beecher is also a standard of the early women’s history, but I have never read it.

This is the 221st post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Blast from the Past

[ 4 ] May 11, 2017 |

Working on my next book today, I stumbled across this New York Times article from 1979 on the fresh new look Lane Kirkland was going to bring to the AFL-CIO. That turned out well!

Four weeks ago, Kirkland was back at the White House, announcing a turnaround, a triumph for the labor team that had eluded Meany himself the year before. It was a “national accord” with President Carter that came closer to making labor a partner in determining national economic policy than anything ever negotiated in this country, even in the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Kirkland made his trip to the White House just after learning that he would almost surely be elected president of the A.F.L.‐C.I.O. at the federation’s biennial convention in Washington to be held in mid‐November. Meany, now 85 and ailing, had made it clear to Kirkland, whom he designated his heir apparent by promoting him to the number two job in 1969, that the convention would mark the end of his own quartercentury reign as “Mister Labor.” Over

A.H. Raskin, for many years chief labor correspondent and columnist for The New York Times, is now associate director of the National News Council. the last 25 years, the former plumber from the Bronx had established himself as the living symbol of the union move- ment. Kirkland’s only rival for the post, J. C. Turner of the Operating Engi- neers, who had planned to run as an up- from-the-ranks mechanic, pulled out of the race after Meany told him he thought Kirkland had proved his right to the job.

Once Meany’s protective arm is re- moved, how successful will the gentle- voiced egghead be in shoring up labor’s sagging public image? Will he be able to still the power drives of restless re- formers in a movement long wedded to the tradition that the only worthwhile training grounds for union leaders are the shop floor and the picket line?

Kirkland, who trained in college for a diplomatic career and served his union apprenticeship at a researcher’s desk in federation headquarters, will not lack for early tests, inside and outside the movement. Labor’s ark is leaking. Only one worker out of four in the non- farm work force now belongs to a union. When all wage earners are counted, the ratio drops to one out of five. The union heartland in the North- east and Middle West is losing facto- ries, offices and jobs to the “right-to- work” states of the Sun Belt. Low‐wage sanctuaries in the Far East and Latin America are swallowing up tens of thousands of American union jobs.

There are no easy answers for those problems, in 1979 or 2017. But then Kirkland never really tried to come up with any either.

What’s the Matter with Minnesota?

[ 83 ] May 11, 2017 |

Minnesota welcomes you sign at the state border

One of the most distressing things about modern politics is the Upper Midwest going hard right. The only states Clinton carried in the region were Minnesota and Illinois and she did poorly in the former, which was not too long ago one of the most liberal states in the U.S. But the home of Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone is moving right very fast with a state legislature now controlled by Republicans in both houses. We are seeing the results in policy, such as the energy bill under consideration there.

Clean energy and environmental advocates are concerned that several provisions in a Minnesota Jobs and Energy Omnibus bill would remove regulatory oversight of programs, shift power from experts to legislators and potentially kills jobs in a growing sector.

The legislature is still debating the omnibus bill as the official adjournment of the session approaches on May 22. A floor vote is expected as early as today.

“It’s been an incredibly disappointing session, with anti-environment proposals and rollbacks and anti-clean energy efforts on all fronts,” said Margaret Levin, state director of the North Star chapter of the Sierra Club. “We’ve been certainly challenged to make sure citizen input is protected and basic standards for water, air and public health are left intact.”

Many provisions in the omnibus bill would “undermine strides in growing the clean economy and in combating climate change,” she added.

Attacks on science and the administrative policies that oversee air, water, health and climate — and taking decisions out of the hands of agency scientists and putting them into the “political arena” — “mirrors” what is happening at the federal level under the Trump Administration, Levin said.

In an email, Hamline University political science professor David Schultz says the legislature is attempting to “take away rule making authority” from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and making the process so cumbersome that “nothing can be done.”

The legislature’s “entire approach also runs against established judicial doctrine and opens the state up to significant litigation,” Schultz added.

The answers as to what’s wrong with Minnesota is the same as most places–resentment, racism, the decline of industrial work in some traditionally Democratic parts of the state such as the Iron Range. But if we have to fight for decency in Minnesota, not to mention fighting for the decent policies that state has long enacted, instead of fighting in other states that aren’t traditionally so friendly to liberals, we have an even longer fight than we think to get this nation back.

The Nation’s Greatest Thieves

[ 9 ] May 11, 2017 |

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While we rightfully focus on the collapse of American institutions in the face of an orange authoritarian strongman with an IQ of 54, the everyday horrors of American continue and are of course reinforced by said idiot king. Such as wage theft, perpetrated by the biggest thieves in American life: employers.

Ohio ranked second among large states for the share of workers whose employers failed to pay them minimum wage, according to a recently released report.

In Ohio, 5.5 percent of workers experienced this type of “wage theft,” according to the analysis released Wednesday by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Ohio’s current minimum wage is $8.15 an hour.

In the 10 most-populous states that were the subject of EPI’s report, employers failed to pay the minimum wage to an average of 4.1 percent of workers. Florida ranked first with 7.3 percent and New York came in third at 5 percent.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that on the pay stub it says you’re only getting $4 an hour,” said David Cooper, the senior economic analyst, who co-authored the report with research assistant Teresa Kroeger.

“It could be employers are paying them the legal minimum wage, but asking them to work more hours than they are paying them for, or denying them meal breaks they are entitled to or in the case of tipped workers, not making up the difference when their tips don’t bring them above the regular minimum wage,” he said. “All these things can lead to a person having an effective minimum wage that is below the legal minimum wage.

In Ohio, 217,000 workers fell into this category and 2.4 million in the 10 states, the report said. The lost earnings represented a substantial amount of these workers’ earnings.

“They should have been making $12,400 a year, but because employers are keeping $2,800, they are only ending up with $9,600 in a year,” Cooper said about Ohio.

Without unions or a robust enforcement mechanism, who will enforce these rules? No one. Certainly not John Kasich. And since American culture thinks these minimum wage jobs are not “real jobs” that deserve serious attention, fast food franchisers, temp agencies, and people who run cleaning and landscaping firms can fleece their employees at will, with just the slightest creativity to make the books look OK.

The Greatest Neoliberal in Neoliberaland Strikes Again

[ 73 ] May 11, 2017 |

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Look at that neoliberal’s response to Trump’s voting rights suppression commission!

NEOLIBERAL! Only someone who supported Hillary in the primary could be this much of a sellout. I’ll bet Tulsi Gabbard would have expressed the only true progressive viewpoint!

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