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Does This Explain the Burned Taste?

[ 101 ] November 7, 2014 |

I’m not completely convinced that this is central to the Starbucks recipe.

A New York pastor has warned that Starbucks coffees are flavoured with the “semen of sodomites”.

Coffee chain Starbucks recently launched a new ad campaign featuring two well-known drag artists – American Idol star Adore Delano and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio.

Pastor James David Manning, of the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem, claimed last week that Starbucks was “ground zero” for Ebola, which is being spread by “upscale sodomites”.


Racism and Republican Victory

[ 222 ] November 6, 2014 |

It’s pretty difficult to argue that racists are not a huge part of the Republican coalition. Every since the moment Obama won the presidency, white racial resentment has been flowing out of American conservatives and that is a hate well that remains uncapped.

Although birtherism is a complex phenomenon in its own right, Landrieu — like Bush before her — was referencing a much broader problem facing Obama, as well as herself, and the Democratic Party as a whole. You’re not supposed to call it “racism,” because racism means KKK mobs in hoods, and police siccing snarling dogs on young children, and we’re not like that anymore — see, we’ve got armored vehicles and sound cannons now!

But 40 years of data from the General Social Survey — the gold standard of American public opinion research — say otherwise. They tell us that Southern whites overwhelmingly blame blacks for their lower economic status, ignoring or denying the role played by discrimination, past and present, in all its various forms, and that the balance of Southern white attitudes has barely changed at all in 40 years. At the same time, attitudes outside the white South have shifted somewhat — but still tend to blame blacks more than white society, steadfastly ignoring mountains of evidence to the contrary — such as 60 years of unemployment data, over which time “the unemployment rate for blacks has averaged about 2.2 times that for whites,” as noted by Pew Research. It is only Democrats outside the white South who have dramatically shifted away from blaming blacks over this period of time, and the tension this has created within the Democratic Party goes to the very heart of the political challenge both Obama and Landrieu face — a challenge that is not going to simply go away any time soon.

Not only is the Democratic Party split between two dominant views — one in the white South blaming blacks more, the other outside it blaming discriminatory practices in white society more — the minority group within the party, white Southerners, is far more unified in its views.

In the white South, 42.4 percent blame blacks exclusively, compared to just 18.8 percent who blame discrimination, and 38.8 who blame both. That’s a lopsided 69/31 split between the two exclusive positions. Outside the white South, 27.7 percent blame blacks exclusively, 34.4 percent blame discrimination, and 37.9 percent blame both, a much narrower 45/55 split between the exclusive positions.

What all the above boils down to is that blaming blacks for being poor remains broadly popular in America today, and that taking note of continued discrimination is not. A modest majority of Democrats outside the white South disagree, and this creates a political fault line that Republicans have repeatedly exploited across the decades, with no end in sight. When conservatives get too crude — as was the case with Cliven Bundy, for example — this threatens to upset the apple cart, and appearances must quickly get restored. But it’s the crudity, not the underlying attitude of blaming blacks, that has fallen out of favor. This would hardly surprise a Southern gentleman of this or any other century. It’s just the way things are supposed to be. Always have been. Why ever change?

Of course, this racism has manifested itself into policy to restrict African-Americans voting. Five members of the Supreme Court are fine with this racism–the extent to which each of those justices personally share in the racism probably varies. Did that racist decision matter on Tuesday? To some extent, almost for sure, with several states such as North Carolina having close elections that disfranchised voters could have impacted. These laws may well have won that North Carolina seat for the Republicans. There’s little reason to believe new measures to stop brown and black people from voting are coming from the states, especially knowing they have a sympathetic Supreme Court.

This all reinforces Chait’s apocalyptic piece noting that Democrats will either face continued gridlock or “annihilation”
if Republicans win the presidency in 2016. While I’m a bit hesitant to go quite that far, his final point is scary.

Only that sort of freakish event would suffice. And Democrats might notice that, since winning back Congress requires a backlash against the president, their “positive” scenario requires first surrendering to Republicans’ total control of government. As long as Democrats hold the White House, Republican control of Congress is probably safe — at least for several election cycles to come.

The second conclusion is simpler, and more bracing: Hillary Clinton is the only thing standing between a Republican Party even more radical than George W. Bush’s version and unfettered control of American government

Things do change. But any Republican president winning in 2016 is almost sure to be significantly to the right of George W. Bush. And that is truly frightening.

NPR: Unionbuster

[ 10 ] November 6, 2014 |

Our valued commenter Bruce Vail has an important piece at In These Times on the Baltimore NPR station hiring a notorious unionbusting firm to ensure its workers do not have a voice

Jonathan Rogers, Chair of the WYPR Board of Directors and an executive of Merrill Lynch, the stock brokerage unit of Bank of America, told In These Times that the board had approved the hiring of Jackson Lewis but denied it was an attempt to defeat the union.

“We felt it was in the best interest of the station to ensure that the concerns of the organization were heard,” in the course of the NLRB process, Rogers says. Asked whether he was opposed to recognizing the union, Rogers replied, “My personal feelings are irrelevant.”

Marc Steiner disagrees. A former WYPR executive who now hosts a program for a competing radio station in the Baltimore market, Steiner was ousted from the station in 2008 after a showdown with current WYPR President Anthony Brandon over control at the station. He counters that the personal feelings of the board members are very relevant.

“The Board is made up of corporate executives and wealthy people, most of whom do not understand public radio,” Steiner says. “It is really run, or at least it was when I was there, more like a commercial station.”

Steiner says that WYPR workers he has spoken with wanted a union in part “to ensure a firewall between those corporate interests and programming. Unless things have changed [since I worked there], programming is under constant pressure to mold what is heard on the airwaves to interests of underwriters.” He also reports hearing consistent complaints about heavy-handed management techniques and substandard pay levels—many complaints revolve around Brandon’s perceived autocratic style of management. on the job.

Look, we hired this union busting firm but not because we wanted to stop our workers from unionizing. We wanted to make sure our corporate voice was heard through the kind of legal shenanigans that only a union busting firm can provide. Now please give us more money during the next pledge drive.

A Chicken in Every Pot

[ 90 ] November 6, 2014 |

Andrew Lawler provides an excellent history of chicken’s rise through the 20th century from minor part of the American diet to American companies feeding the world with it. The modern chicken is a technological marvel, with all the advantages and horrors that comes with it.

Also, I find it a little disturbing that the average American eats 100 lbs of chicken of year.

What’s Going on with the Mexican Cartels?

[ 13 ] November 6, 2014 |

Benjamin Smith has your day’s must read about the status of the Mexican drug cartels and what seems to be the Mexican government’s attempt to create a sort of super-cartel to keep the peace. There pretty much is no positive angle in any of this, be it the effects on the Mexican people, the possibility of a state-cartel alliance, or anything related to how it effects the United States. Depressing, but important and with excellent analysis.

Soviet Housing Foundations

[ 74 ] November 6, 2014 |

Leave it to the Soviets to have done the worst possible thing in any given situation:

After the war, with Brest’s Jewish community devastated, the Communists set about getting rid of the remnants of Jewish culture in the town. In 1959 they dismantled the Jewish cemetery-one of the oldest and largest in Belarus-and turned it into a sports stadium. As the dismantling process got underway, Communist Party members, along with enterprising locals, recognized the high quality of the headstones and “recycled them.” As well as in the foundations of houses, these Jewish graves have since been discovered in the makeup of Brest’s road surfaces, pavements, and gardens.

In May, with diggers churning up the ground to build a new supermarket, more recycled headstones started popping up. Debra Brunner, co-director of the Together Plan, a UK-based charity supporting community empowerment in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, told me, “I can’t even begin to explain what it felt like to actually stand among the graves. Picture a huge mound of freshly dug mud with Jewish headstones coming out at all angles. It was a macabre sight.”

I just….

Out of Sight

[ 40 ] November 5, 2014 |


Out of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe is now available for preorder at Amazon. I know Amazon is evil. However, many independent bookstores now base their orders on preorders from Amazon. So what are you going to do? I am going to have a follow up post about this issue more specifically. In any case, preorders actually really help move a book, or at least this is what I am told.

Anyway, you know it’s going to be an awesome holiday present for yourself or your family. That it isn’t being released until June should not matter in your decision making! If you pay now, you’ll forget about it by then and be surprised by the “free” book you received in the mail!

I am also rather fond of the cover.


[ 321 ] November 5, 2014 |

A few thoughts, loosely tied together, on last night’s disaster.

Obviously Democrats need to spend some time figuring out what the heck happened. In many ways, few fundamentals had changed since 2012. Gridlock dominates Washington. The economy is not really any worse for the 99%, but nor is it appreciably better. Yet people seem to genuinely dislike Barack Obama at all points when he is not actively campaigning. Mitch McConnell deserves a lot of credit for understanding that the politics of fireeating would work wonders because everyone would blame the president no matter whose fault the problems in Washington actually lie with. He knows that most Americans simply don’t understand how politics work and want the president to solve problems, period. Manipulating that was horrible for the country but great for the Republican Party.

So it’s tough out there.

I don’t want to hear that the problem last night was the map. Yes, the Senate map was tough for Democrats. Winning at this point in Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, and South Dakota is very difficult. However, that’s a limited explanation because it says nothing as to how the widely despised Paul LePage was reelected in Maine even after Eliot Cutler dropped out. It says nothing as to how Scott Walker was reelected in Wisconsin and Rick Snyder in Michigan. It certainly says nothing as to how a Republican became governor of Maryland. Maryland! This is a lot more than a tough map. Also, you can mostly forget about easily winning the Senate back in 2016. That map isn’t so great either and Democrats are in a deep hole.

I also don’t want to hear too much about money. It’s not that it isn’t important. It’s that a) the plutocrats always have tons of money and have always used it aggressively except for a relatively brief period in the decades after World War II and b) it can be overcome and has been overcome. Elections can be bought but grassroots campaigns can make that not happen. Obviously, Democrats failed miserably on this point.

So what’s up? I think there are a few really important points. Democrats need to just stop trying to appeal to old white people. White men voted for the GOP 64-34. It is a loser strategy. This demographic overwhelmingly votes GOP. Alison Grimes, who ran an utterly pathetic and embarrassing campaign, refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama is the prototype of how not to do it. No one is going to believe you. Heard a bunch about the North Carolina race last night and all the discussion about how Ebola, ISIS, and immigration dominated voters’ agenda. When I hear those three things in this context, I hear three words: racism, racism, and racism. And the Supreme Court supporting racist policies to restrict blacks from voting by eviscerating the Voting Rights Act allowed racists to indeed restrict black voting in meaningful ways that may well have swung North Carolina to the execrable Thom Tillis. Developing entire political campaigns to swing a few of these voters to the Democrats isn’t going to work–as we saw quite clearly last night.

Instead, Democrats need to give Latinos, African-Americans, and the young a reason to vote. Check this out:


37%!! That means that Democrats simply could not get young people to vote while Republicans did an outstanding job motivating their base.

That means that Democrats have to rethink their midterm election strategy is a very real way. It’s one thing when there’s a presidential campaign. But the politics of midterm elections means that the same types of political calculations don’t work. How do you do that? You make your party about actual issues that young people and people of color care about. You support legalizing marijuana and prison reform. You support a vigorous government jobs program. You embrace immigration all the way, demonizing those who oppose a path to citizenship and the decriminalization of undocumented immigrants as racists. You make a $15 national minimum wage central to your campaign strategy. You have to call for student debt forgiveness. You have to make your party the party of the poor and the non-white, and not just in the passive way. If the racists and the plutocrats don’t like that, well, they weren’t going to vote for you anyway. Alexis Goldstein offers more radical ideas that may well be effective too. See also Harold Meyerson on this.

It’s increasingly clear, with the minimum wage hikes in deep red states and marijuana legalization continuing its march, that the nation wants these progressive policies, but they don’t see the Democratic Party as any vehicle to get them done. And maybe it isn’t. Certainly the party of Andrew Cuomo isn’t going to do much for the poor. And many may say that the Democratic coalition is too diverse for such a program. And the control of Wall Street over Democratic Party is toxic. But in the Senate at least, the remaining Democratic caucus is as progressive or more so than anytime in history. There simply aren’t conservatives left in that caucus outside of Manchin and King, both of whom could flip to the Republicans (although I am a bit skeptical McConnell wants them to since he can use them for his bipartisan cred). Mark Warner will be on the far right of the caucus. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown–these are people who represent what actual Democrats want to see. They are the future of the party. And the Democratic Senate can push forward really progressive legislation, even if it isn’t going to pass. They can lead the way in developing a left-leaning platform that, hopefully, motivates the young to vote.

Because whatever Democrats are doing is not working and will probably not work in 2018 either. Money will remain vital to that election and Democrats are scared of offending their big money donors (see Mark Pryor saying he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage even though it passes in his state). But that challenge must be overcome to motivate enough voters to compete in the midterms. More commercials about how Republicans are evil isn’t going to do that. Convincing base Democratic groups that the party wants to make their lives better and is the agent for doing that will.

So there’s a lot of work to be done. In case this post was too long, here is a short open letter to the Democratic Party with some visuals.

Dear Democrats,

Less this:


More this:



Election Day

[ 124 ] November 4, 2014 |


Vote today. How bad is it if cats of all animals have more civic responsibility than you?

Burkina Faso

[ 24 ] November 3, 2014 |

Like most of Africa, Burkina Faso is terribly underrepresented in the media. As you may have heard, a popular rebellion overthrew the nation’s dictatorial ruler this weekend. Here’s a good rundown of the issues and what may come next.

Shrimp Sourcing

[ 19 ] November 3, 2014 |

We can pass regulations forcing corporations to divulge sourcing. But unless those regulations come with more stick than carrot, the corporations will fib. See the ever-exploitative shrimp industry:

In a report released Thursday, ocean-advocacy group Oceana conducted a survey of 111 restaurants and grocery stores across the U.S., and found that more than a third of the sampled shrimp were vaguely labeled, or else mislabeled entirely.

The confusion begins with the fact that there are 41 species of shrimp sold in the U.S., but any of them may just be labeled as “shrimp.” It deepens when it turns out that many of those labeled “Gulf” or “wild-caught” were really a species of farmed shrimp. It’s easy to prawn off these crustaceans as more valuable versions of themselves when more than 90 percent of the U.S. shrimp is imported, and only a small percent of that is ever inspected. Still, the depth and variety of deception is shrimply staggering. Consider this from the Guardian:

Unexpectedly, some of the shrimp that were identified in the survey were genetically unknown to science, and one sample taken from a bag of frozen seafood even turned out to be a banded coral shrimp — a species renowned on reefs and coveted as a ‘pet’ shrimp by aquarium enthusiasts, but certainly not as food. “It’s one of the things you look for on a reef,” Warner says. “How it ended up in a bag of salad-size shrimp, I have no idea.”

This says an awful lot about the food system that respects nothing approaching sustainability or ecological boundaries and instead pursues short-term profit.

In other words, more sticks for industry. Vigorous regulations with real consequences in the only answer to solve these problems.

The Coal Narrative

[ 11 ] November 3, 2014 |

Ken Ward has an excellent piece on the media’s complicity in the War on Coal narrative to describe the decline of coal jobs in Appalachia. In short, blame it on Obama and the hippies. This is of course absurd because the real reasons for coal’s decline in the region and the disappearing of the jobs is depletion of the resource, automation, the turn to natural gas and other cleaner forms of energy, and investment in the Powder River basin of Wyoming and other new coal fields. Instead of explaining this though, far too much of the media just repeat industry talking points that obscure the actual reasons in favor of cheap politics that cover up industry’s fault in the disappearance of jobs.

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