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Hippie Energy

[ 164 ] May 2, 2014 |

There’s a certain set of commenters here who love to hate my energy posts because they say I oppose everything. That’s not true at all. I don’t fall in love with technologies or think they are the answer to most questions, which makes people uncomfortable even though virtually every technology should be critiqued. And when it comes to energy production, I am a huge supporter of wind and solar. I believe we need a massive federal program to expand our production of clean, renewable energy, understanding of course that every form of energy production has some kind of environmental downside and mitigating those downsides should be high priorities.

But of course the dirty energy industry opposes any kind of responsible energy policy and so do the Koch Brothers, who are leading the fight to increase taxes on solar energy production. Some of this is rich people and established industries protecting their preexisting economic interests in coal and

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oil. But that’s far from all of it, especially among the politicians who may not directly profit from these companies. This is cultural and in 2014 the politics of resentment rule the day. Solar and wind energy–that’s hippie energy. Producing energy without destroying the climate is something that makes the Commiecrats happy and we can’t have that. If the libtards are crying, then we win.

So in a very real sense, energy policy is about what it means to be an American. Wind and solar can be as profitable as oil and coal. So it’s not really about the potential to make money. It’s about our relationship to other Americans and the world. Are we to be socially and ecologically responsible global citizens leading the way to a more sustainable future? Or can we just kill ‘em all? The Republican Party certainly supports the latter.

Seattle–First to $15

[ 19 ] May 2, 2014 |

A huge step forward in the minimum wage struggle was taken yesterday in Seattle, where a commission of labor and business members came to a general agreement on a $15 minimum wage for the city, making it the nation’s wage leader. This isn’t a total victory–it is really complicated with lots of business-friendly provisions and it needs to pass the City Council and there’s certainly a chance that business will seek to water it down when it gets to that point. Hopefully labor will be fighting to make it stronger at that level (although I doubt it). But these are the compromises one goes through in passing progressive legislation. That it is tied to the Consumer Price Index is also important.

And hopefully, in a few years Seattle’s minimum wage will be widely seen as too low and the fight for $20 will be underway.

Torvald

[ 80 ] May 1, 2014 |

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It’s been awhile since LGM had a cat mascot. So allow me to nominate my cat Torvald, who turned 11 today (or yesterday if you are on the east coast). A plutocrat with a revolutionary birthday, Torvald was born under my house in Albuquerque in 2003, two blocks down from the house where Jesse’s girlfriend OD’s on heroin in Breaking Bad. Torvald has managed to overcome his own catnip addiction, but still struggles to manage his addiction to eating his way through my pens, as is seen in this image. There are many stories, from the time he faced off a raccoon through a window over my bed at 3 am in Santa Fe to the time he decided

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to sneak out in a Denton, Texas monsoon to raise who knows what kind of hell and came back much the worse for wear to the time he decided he liked a gin and tonic when I wasn’t looking (no vodka for this cat). I look forward to many more years of being woken up far too early in the morning by this greedy libertarian pawing me in the face at 7 am demanding canned food and then ignoring me for the next 8 hours.

The Morally Correct Meat

[ 158 ] May 1, 2014 |

There may be many reasons not to eat meat, but there are no good reasons not to eat wild boars which are an invasive species tearing up southern and midwestern ecosystems like there’s no tomorrow.

Verbatim Libertarians: The Minimum Wage is More Racist than Donald Sterling or Cliven Bundy

[ 240 ] May 1, 2014 |

Libertarians are very special people.

Racist rants by federal lands moocher Cliven Bundy and vile comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling have put old-school racism back in the news.

But let’s get real. However contemptible, Bundy and Sterling aren’t what’s holding down blacks and other minorities in today’s America.

Here are three policies that, whatever their original intentions, systematically screw over poor blacks and other minorities.

They include:

1. Barriers to work.

Whether it’s absurd licensing laws for at-home hair braiders, day care operators, and other small-time entrepreneurs or minimum wage laws that price young, unskilled black kids out of their first jobs, barriers to the labor market take their biggest toll on those with the least education, skills, and professional connections.

So paying people even a subliving wage is racist. The truly antiracist position is a race to the bottom with no floor. I guess that evens the playing field in one respect–if nobody is paid anything to work, there’s no racial wage disparity. A post-racial society indeed.

H/t to TG Chicago.

Nuclear Waste

[ 120 ] May 1, 2014 |

69 years into the Nuclear Era and no one still has any solution on what to do with nuclear waste. It’s one thing when we are talking about nuclear weapons production but the sheer level of waste produced in nuclear power plants makes it a

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nonstarter for thinking through solutions to our energy problems.

The Non-Recovery Recovery

[ 93 ] May 1, 2014 |

Looking at real GDP is pretty strong evidence that this is not a “recovery” at all but rather a very long stagnation. Why? I’d argue for the combination of a lack of government spending combined with the outsourcing of decent work. Dealing with either problem is basically politically impossible. Thus I foresee no real improvement and quite possibly a long slow decline over the next several years.

The New Republican Orthodoxy

[ 123 ] May 1, 2014 |

Tom Coburn calls to eliminate the national minimum wage. I

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fully expect this to be party orthodoxy in 2016, with every Republican primary candidate adopting this position. They’ve been moving toward this position for years.

When Australia Out Wingnuts the U.S.

[ 106 ] April 30, 2014 |

This is lovely. The Australian government wants to outlaw the secondary boycott–for everyone. This means that any group calling for a boycott of a company for involvement with an independent contractor engaging in poor labor practices or many other similar situations would be breaking the law:

Even as activists like Akter continue to push for change, the Abbott government is proposing to curtail worker activism. By extending secondary boycott provisions to cover activist groups, it could reduce civil society’s ability to express discontent against big business. Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck, who wants to curb green activists, says it’s about “levelling the playing field” for business.

But citizens and civil society groups aren’t companies or unions in the industrial relations sense of the word. They are loose and responsive networks, there to give voice to those met with criminal injustice or corruption. Making it illegal for civil society groups like GetUp, Oxfam and Amnesty International to urge consumers to boycott companies for being poor corporate citizens is a type of despotism perpetuated by the executive.

“Levelling the playing field for business.” Love that one. It’s so hard for business to operate in a world where citizens sometimes want them to act with responsibility and not, say, work with the apartheid regime in South Africa or not contract with particularly irresponsible apparel producers. By criticizing corporations for complicity in killing 1138 workers in the Rana Plaza collapse, Amnesty International has created the greatest outrage in Australian history. Really it’s far worse than the genocide against the Aborigines. Not even close.

Put the People First in Tennessee

[ 18 ] April 30, 2014 |

Building off North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement, this the kind of community organizing/coalition building/attention raising that those who care about labor in red states need to engage in to bring some attention to the extreme difficulties of the working class in these states.

Note of disclaimer–United Campus Workers (CWA Local 3865)–prominent in this piece–is the union I helped to get started back about 15 years ago now.

Republicans See Poor People, Think They Are Too Rich

[ 230 ] April 30, 2014 |

In case you needed a reminder that the Republicans are engaged in open warfare with the poor, Republican senators filibustered the minimum wage bill today.

Wal-Mart Worker Safety

[ 53 ] April 30, 2014 |

Wal-Mart’s labor practices are really great for workers who want to get hurt on the job.

Workers at an Indiana Wal-Mart warehouse allege they were subjected to safety risks including falling freight, forklifts on fire, and frostbite – and then illegally fired for organizing in response.

“They never want you to stop working,” said fired worker David Fields. “They want you to keep working – and no matter how unsafe it is, they want you to just keep going.” Fields, who asserts he was fired this month for organizing co-workers to take on safety issues at Walmart Consolidation Center #7100, joined co-workers in filing National Labor Relations Board charges alleging illegal retaliation. He told Salon that a temp agency manager terminated him April 2, the same day

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workers planned to deliver a petition with 100-some signatures protesting unsafe conditions. “Seeing we were all on the same page,” charged Fields, “they got threatened, and this is why they got rid of me.” He added that management had been intentionally “secretive” about ejecting him: “They took me out the side door, and they basically fired me on lunch.”

Wal-Mart, the only company whose goods move through the Hammond, Indiana, consolidation center, has contracted Linc Logistics (a subsidiary of Universal Truckload Services) to run the facility; Linc has brought in temp agencies Malace HR and Swift Staffing. Wal-Mart, UTS, Malace and Swift did not respond to Salon’s requests for comment on the allegations. Linc “has said the disciplinary actions were unrelated to the protests in January,” according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

While Wal-Mart doesn’t directly employ any of the facility’s workers, Fields told Salon, “Everything that Linc would tell us in the pre-shift meeting, they basically said, ‘Oh, this is Wal-Mart’s policy.’” He said that included a “policy of loading the freight high and tight,” even though “it’s unstable – it’s basically putting everybody at risk of being crushed by these falling boxes. They are quite aware of what’s happening, but they really just don’t care.”

Fields told Salon he was also repeatedly required to drive forklifts despite conditions made unsafe by accumulated rain or snow on the docks. “I mean, you can’t stop or anything like that…” he said. “It was a terrible feeling.” In addition, he charged, “the hydraulics system didn’t work properly”; “a lot of people were frostbitten”; and “there’s no fire alarms.” Workers at Walmart Consolidation Center #7100 also alleged this month that forklifts have had faulty brakes, and caught on fire.

Note as well that this is technically a contractor of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart controls everything about it except that it is shielded from responsibility for the conditions of labor. The workers are driven by Wal-Mart directives and the costs are determined by Wal-Mart, but the workers aren’t Wal-Mart employees. This is the same immoral system that helped create the Bangladeshi factory collapse a year ago. This system of contracting to avoid labor responsibility needs to end–the ultimate receiver of goods needs to be legally responsible for all labor issues at their contractors. There is no good reason at all that Wal-Mart or any other company should be able to shield themselves from liability for its labor, whether in Indiana or Bangladesh.

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