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Violence at Work

[ 8 ] October 1, 2014 |

It’s hardly shocking that the difficult conditions of modern work would lead to a rise in workplace violence as people, who often have access to high-powered weapons, snap. The workers who experience the most workplace violence? Retail sales workers.

German World War I Propaganda Posters

[ 36 ] September 30, 2014 |

Everyone loves American propaganda posters from World War I. Like this one:

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In fact, a selection of these posters are currently on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, which I will be seeing before it closes.

But what about German World War I propaganda posters? Well, they are pretty interesting:

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This is a plea for rabbit skins to be sent to the military.

Or this one urging the killing of seals for train oil:

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Whose American Exceptionalism?

[ 52 ] September 30, 2014 |

In the recent battles over the new AP U.S. History standards, standards that center nothing more than the standard narrative of most American historians in 2014, one of the right-wing critiques is that they don’t celebrate American exceptionalism, while instead instilling in our young people that they should question authority (the horror!). Among the many problems with these assertions is that the idea of American exceptionalism in service of whatever right-wing agenda is currently popular means forgetting the many ways that exceptionalism has operated in the past. Kevin Levin:

Part of the criticism of the revised AP US History curriculum revolves around the assumption that it undercuts and even contradicts a narrative of America’s Exceptionalism. I don’t believe it does and I base such a conclusion on the fact that I’ve read through it. More accurately, it doesn’t say anything one way or the other. I suspect that the vast majority of critics have yet to read it through.

What I’ve never understood, however, is if some people expect me to teach American history through such a lens, whose understanding of the concept should I teach?

Baptist’s slaveowners fully embraced capitalism. Despite the Panic of 1837 slavery resulted in enormous profits throughout the first half of the nineteenth century and helped to push the nation west on its course of “Manifest Destiny.” Americans celebrated this expansion and the wealth created as a sign of its exceptionalism. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why there is such a need to argue that American slavery was not profitable and that it was on the decline by the eve of the Civil War. Better to see it as positioned in sharp opposition from the kind of post-Civil War capitalist surge than as the engine that pushed it forward. We should ignore the fact that it was John Calhoun’s theory of “Due Process” that was later embraced by pro-big-business legal thinkers during the Industrial Revolution.

No, no, stop with that version of American exceptionalism. We just need to teach that America is awesome. Enough said.

Moyers

[ 7 ] September 30, 2014 |

Bill Moyers is finally retiring. Sad but hardly unexpected as he is in his 9th decade of life. A great journalist and a great man.

Kosher Food Blackmail of American Housewives

[ 100 ] September 30, 2014 |

Back in the days when albums were an important way of communicating with the public, the American States Rights Party decided to release an album teaching us whites the true way, i.e., that Jews are a horror threatening white America. I think released in 1961, some call this the most repulsive record ever. And, well, yeah. However, did that stop me from listening to one side of it? No. And what did that one side tell me? That Jews are responsible for all sorts of horrors, including wall to wall carpeting (I too am outraged). You learn that Martin Luther King was Felix Frankfurter’s puppet. Most importantly, Christians need to avoid buying from Jew-loving companies. This includes Kraft. And Ford. Wait, what? Yes, Ford. Only through these actions will good Christians stop the United States from becoming the Congo. Which given the time might mean the CIA overthrowing a popular leader to put into power one of the most vile and corrupt dictators of the 20th century.

Other things I learned include that Jews also love pornography. Jewish ownership of CBS and ABC led to the betraying of the white race through their support of integration. Peanut butter brands to avoid include Jiffy and Skippy. Drink Lipton tea, not Tetley (no guidance on Twinings? What will I do?) Finally, and this goes without saying, Jews are responsible for the graduated income tax. Of course none of this makes any sense, but it’s worth being reminded, in these days of the right-wing embracing its somewhat mythologized view of Judaism that serves as part of a white army against Islam and bringing in the apocalypse through its expansive policies, of how recently the right saw Jews as equal to African-Americans in the pantheon of threats to whiteness.

Ban the Confederate Flag

[ 219 ] September 30, 2014 |

California takes a significant step in what I think should be a movement to ban the Confederate flag:

Starting next year, the Confederate flag will no longer be available for sale or on display at government agencies in California. Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that prohibits selling or displaying items that have the flag on it.

The law was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton after his mom saw a replica Confederate at the Capitol gift shop. As a person of color, Hall says the state should avoid promoting symbols of racism. The gift shop no longer displays or sells the item.

This only applies to sales in places owned by the state, so racists will still be able to buy their Confederate flags at shops off the highway in Needles or whatever. But the state officially designating the symbol as racist and thus moving it in the popular mind as a symbol of hate speech that should eventually be banned nationwide is a really positive move here. Other states should follow California’s lead.

Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present

[ 23 ] September 29, 2014 |

Last week, I gave a talk at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, titled “Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present,” although in reality, I talked more broadly about Appalachia in the second half of the talk. Anyway, it was filmed and is here if you want to watch it. I can’t seem to embed it so click the link. I got pretty warmed up during the talk and really laid into the horrors of the coal industry.

Attacking Two-Tiered Contracts

[ 4 ] September 29, 2014 |

During the economic crisis in 2007, the United Auto Workers was forced to accept two-tiered contracts to keep factories open. These contracts created a second pay scale for new employees that paid them less than other workers. The potential for this to become permanent is quite scary. In the UAW’s failure to win a majority vote in the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, the two-tiered contract was cited by union opponents as a reason not to join the UAW. Even if that was just cover for already existing anti-unionism, it was still quite damaging.

Luckily, the UAW, including rank and file workers, are working hard to fight back against the two-tiered systems as those contracts signed 5 and 6 years ago come up for renegotiation. Of course, employers have a number of tools at their disposal to pay workers less, including the use of subcontractors and the threat of capital mobility. So this is a hard fight but at least the resistance is real and there is hope that the system will end.

Deep Thoughts

[ 115 ] September 29, 2014 |

That the move toward more tobacco prohibition than anytime in U.S. history coincides with the move toward ending prohibition on marijuana is endlessly fascinating to me, and I suspect to anyone familiar with humanity’s complex relationship with body-altering substances.

Crazy Time

[ 44 ] September 29, 2014 |

Your next batch of House Republicans–even crazier and more racist than this edition!

Taking Dead Horses and Ketchup Rhode Island Wide

[ 65 ] September 26, 2014 |

I have long felt the decline in the newspaper industry is related to a lack of stories about me. Evidently, the Providence Phoenix agrees, which is why it is still in business. Thus, in a story about what professors do in its free time, it had me lead off. I cover many of the expected topics–silent film, dead horses, ketchup, the NRA. I thought about a vodka rant as well, but some of the students are under 21 and I wouldn’t want to be corrupting their pure minds and all.

If Not You, Then Who

[ 69 ] September 26, 2014 |

As in Ferguson, the combination of aggressive police tactics and racism once again proves not only toxic, but fatal:

The police officer who shot dead a young black man in a Walmart store in Ohio as he held an unloaded BB rifle had less than two weeks earlier received what prosecutors called a “pep talk” on how to deal aggressively with suspected gunmen.

Sean Williams and his colleagues in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton, were shown a slideshow invoking their loved ones and the massacres at Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech while being trained on 23-24 July on confronting “active shooter situations”.

“If not you, then who?” officers were asked by the presentation, alongside a photograph of young students being led out of Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012. A caption reminded the trainees that 20 children and five adults were killed before police arrived.

Williams shot dead John Crawford III 12 days later, after a 911 caller repeatedly said that Crawford was pointing a gun at Walmart customers, including children. Surveillance footage released on Thursday showed Crawford passing shoppers with the air rifle at his side.

Again, these incidents are not isolated. They are cultural within police departments.

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