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A Cultural Politics That Might Make Even Republicans Blanch

[ 398 ] April 6, 2014 |

Well, maybe not. But anyway, this is pretty gross:

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday it would prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns it won in local elections, saying such arrangements were contrary to France’s secular values.

France’s republic has a strict secular tradition enforceable by law, but faith-related demands have risen in recent years, especially from the country’s five-million-strong Muslim minority, the largest in Europe.

“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”

The anti-immigrant National Front has consistently bemoaned the rising influence of Islam in French public life.

France has seen periodic controversies over schools that substitute beef or chicken for pork from menus to cater to Muslim children. Some of the FN’s new mayors have complained there are too many halal shops in their towns.

Nothing freaks me out like Muslims eating meat butchered in a fashion that affects me in no demonstrative way. I haven’t been that scared since I noted the lack of bacon at my town’s Jewish deli. What’s the deal with that? My entire identity is no more. I’m now voting for the most racist politicians I can find.

Also, I’m glad the French are so much more culturally and socially advanced than we Americans. I’m sure I won’t mention this the next time someone from France talks to me about how screwed up the U.S. is.

VD is for Everybody

[ 34 ] April 5, 2014 |

In 1969, the Ad Council provided a very important message about venereal disease with a tune as catchy as the clap. Remember friends, VD is for everybody.

It’s Hard Out There for Confederate Apologists

[ 134 ] April 5, 2014 |

Poor Natchez. It turns out that people in 2014 may not be so interested in Confederate nostalgia tourism. It has no idea what to do, like you

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know, talking honestly about slavery.

Smooth Jazz Fridays

[ 42 ] April 4, 2014 |

Because I like soulless music I don’t have to think about, I love smooth jazz. Those relaxing vapid sounds really sum up a Friday night. And nothing screams relaxing

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Gilded Age Food Poetry

[ 23 ] April 4, 2014 |

In Gilded Age cities, people were separated from meat production for the first time in American history. Even in early 19th century American cities, meat was produced nearby. Pork could be something of an exception (they didn’t call Cincinnati “Porkopolis” for nothing), but it salted so well that people were comfortable with it. Beef, chicken, lamb, etc.,–these were a lot more sketchy traveling long distances.

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Local butcheries could handle most of this but the explosively growing cities of the Gilded Age made this no longer possible for many. Packaged meats replaced fresh meat for millions. And that quality of that packaged meat, well, allow me to quote the New York Evening Post (although I do not have a date):

Mary had a little lamb
And when she saw it sicken
She shipped it off to Packingtown
And now it’s labeled chicken.

This reference is from Jeffrey Pilcher, Food in World History, p. 59

A Cruel and Unusual Nation

[ 223 ] April 4, 2014 |

The United

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States’ commitment to solitary confinement as a standard operating procedure in our prison system is a horrible, horrible thing. That it remains so common today speaks very poorly for this nation. How this is constitutional under the Eighth Amendment is impossible for me to understand, outside of the bloodthirsty nature of far too many Americans.

Tax ‘Em!

[ 158 ] April 4, 2014 |

Alex Pareene makes a lot of sense on progressives giving up on campaign donations as an issue and instead focuing on a much better idea that will also help solve the campaign issue. Expropriate the wealth of rich people:

If the super-rich had less money, they would have less money to spend on campaigns and lobbying. And unlike speech, the government is very clearly allowed to take away people’s money. It’s in the Constitution and everything. I know it wasn’t that long ago that it also seemed obvious that the government could regulate political spending, but in this case the relevant constitutional authority is pretty clear and there is no room for a so-called originalist to justify a politically conservative reading of the text. Congress can tax income any way it pleases.

There is one glaring problem with my plan, of course, which is that Congress is already captured by wealthy interests, and is not inclined to tax them. But all I’m saying is that would-be campaign finance reformers ought to give up on their lost cause and shift their energies toward confiscation and redistribution.

I don’t think this would totally solve the campaign finance issue unless the tax rates were set very high; after all, Sheldon Adelson is a very rich man. But it would help. Also higher taxation on the rich would do a lot more to solve the much more important social problems in this country.

Should we start at 70% taxation on everything, including capital gains and all investments, for all money over $1 million a year, 90% on everything over $10 million? Seems a good place to start. We can always raise it if we want more of their money. Also, massive punishments for using offshore tax havens. Perhaps property confiscation.

…..It’s also worth reviewing the history of the income tax as a popular economic justice movement.

The Founding Fathers Were Also Very Involved in Slavery

[ 179 ] April 4, 2014 |

It may be that the latest crop of Tea Party challengers to Republican incumbents are even stupider than previous crops:

Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin continued to address his presence at a rally for supporters of legalizing cockfighting by saying America’s Founding Fathers were very involved in the cockfighting world too.

“But it’s interesting when you look at cockfighting and dogfighting as well,” Bevin said in an interview on the Terry Meiners Show on Louisville’s WHAS on Thursday. “This isn’t something new, it wasn’t invented in Kentucky for example. I mean the Founding Fathers were all many of them very involved in this and always have been [sic.]“

Evidently, we are recreating Revolutionary society. Perhaps some of these morons can be bled to death by 18th century style doctors. If there’s one thing

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about Tea Partiers, it’s that their humours are majorly out of whack.

(Almost) Dead Horses in American History (X)

[ 67 ] April 3, 2014 |

It’s about time I got back to this and finished it up.

“City Enormities–Every Brute Can Beat His Beast,” New York, 1874

OK, this is not technically yet a dead horse. But it’s probably going to be pretty soon, as this image showing the horrible treatment urban horses received demonstrates. The dead horse problem was huge in American cities. In 1880, New York carted away 15,000 dead horses off the streets, weighing an average of 1300 lbs. This was a huge health and disposal problem in a society woefully

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underprepared for the growth of American cities. As late as 1912, Chicago still had 10,000 dead horses to deal with in a society transitioning to the automobile. This didn’t even begin to get to the problem of horse manure in cities without any mandates to horse owners on the collection of the stuff. Each horse created 15-30 lbs of manure a day. In Milwaukee during these years, that was 133 tons of horse manure every day.

So the horse in the American city was a major problem that would not be solved until the 1910s.

UPS Labor Intimidation

[ 46 ] April 3, 2014 |

In February, 250 UPS workers staged a 90-minute strike in response to the firing of a union activist.

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UPS has now fired all of them, despite their Teamsters membership. Because this is in Queens, the City Council is powerful enough to push back against UPS. We’ll see if it makes a difference. At the very least, it sends a message to the non-New York part of the nation to not challenge management.

Sex Work Prohibitionism

[ 440 ] April 3, 2014 |

Melissa Gira Grant’s new book is causing all sorts of discomfort among liberals who are just flat not comfortable with thinking of sex work as labor. Katha Pollitt’s latest piece is an excellent example of this. Unfortunately, while Pollitt is writing in the language of second-wave feminism, she’s also writing in the language of prohibitionism. She tries to stigmatize a reality of the world as immoral, but in fact just reinforces a system by which women are in fact victimized. Even the poor women she accuses Grant of ignoring are not helped by keeping sex work illegal. If you legalize sex work, you are going to make it harder for underground sex operations that treat women terribly to continue because a major reason why they exist is that sex work is illegal and therefore stigmatized. That’s not to say sex work is great–it’s a bad job—but keeping it illegal does not promote the equality that Pollitt wants to see.

…To clarify one point, I realize Pollitt is not really calling for sex work to remain illegal, but by using language that separates it from other kinds of work as inherently and perhaps uniquely awful, it reinforces long-standing arguments used to keep it illegal. Quibble with my characterization if you’d like, but I just wanted to clarify this point a bit.

The Money

[ 102 ] April 3, 2014 |

My thought on the McCutcheon case’s importance is as follows. Liberals need to quit whining about the money. I’m not saying the case isn’t a big deal. It is. But I am saying that the plutocrats have always had far more money than working people and they’ve always used it to control politics the best they can. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the corporate control over politics was far greater than today and working people organized on the ground to demand all sorts of changes that led to creation of the 20th century welfare state. The decline of unions and voices for the working class thanks to capital mobility and more aggressive corporate activism undermined these 20th century victories and has created a new Gilded Age in this country. Naturally, that’s going to include corporate control over elections. Such a decision is a symptom of larger problems, an result of American democratic decline, not a cause.

The problem today is that progressives believe the ballot box is where change is made, when in fact it is where change is consolidated. Organize on the ground to demand the change desired and the money can be overcome. But if you think a social movement is buying ad time on television or the right kind of media messaging, that’s a game that progressives are never going to win.

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