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Category: General

Looking Forward to the Weekend, Weekend

[ 5 ] May 22, 2015 |

Starting mine out right by taking in a Jason Isbell gig. Don’t tell ‘em you’re bigger than Jesus and give it away while I’m gone…

Unionization and Income Inequality

[ 17 ] May 22, 2015 |

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The Maoists at the International Monetary Fund are out with more evidence that lower unionization rates lead to greater income inequality.

We examine the causes of the rise in inequality and focus on the relationship between labor market institutions and the distribution of incomes, by analyzing the experience of advanced economies since the early 1980s. The widely held view is that changes in unionization or the minimum wage affect low- and middle-wage workers but are unlikely to have a direct impact on top income earners.

While our findings are consistent with prior views about the effects of the minimum wage, we find strong evidence that lower unionization is associated with an increase in top income shares in advanced economies during the period 1980–2010 (for example, see Chart 2), thus challenging preconceptions about the channels through which union density affects income distribution. This is the most novel aspect of our analysis, which sets the stage for further research on the link between the erosion of unions and the rise of inequality at the top.

You can read the whole report. There’s really no reason for anyone to deny the connection. Greater income inequality is the open goal of the Republican Party and that’s why they attack unions. Higher unionization rates are necessary to reduce income inequality, which is why there is a war to eliminate the last of them in the United States.

This Is What’s the Matter With Kansas

[ 54 ] May 22, 2015 |

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I mentioned this briefly in my recent column about Kansas, but the $25 — i.e. de facto $20 — limit on daily withdrawals for TANF recipients merits more sustained attention. Max Ehrenfreund does so:

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this action. Many households without enough money to maintain a minimum balance in a conventional checking account will pay their rent and their utility bills in cash. A single mother with two children seeking to withdraw just $200 in cash could incur $30 or more in fees, which is a big chunk of the roughly $400 such a family would receive under the program in Kansas.

“The complexity of functioning in that cash economy as a very poor family is just not a reality that most of us experience day to day,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, the president of Kansas Action for Children in Topeka. “I pay my bills online.”

Since most banking machines are stocked only with $20 bills, the $25 limit is effectively a $20 limit. A family seeking to withdraw even $200 in cash would have to visit an ATM 10 times a month, a real burden for a parent who might not have a car and might not live in a neighborhood where ATMs are easy to find.

“Banks have traditionally not located themselves in neighborhoods that they perceive either to be unsafe, or where there’s no customer base,” said Kristin Seefeldt, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the lives of low-income Americans. “If that’s the way they’re getting cash, that can be a real chore and a challenge.”

Reading the random anecdotes the lawmakers relied on underscores the last point. The fact that lawmakers seem to think that if a poor person uses an ATM at a given location they must be using the cash there as an illustration of one problem that arises from a legislature consisting exclusively of affluent people. But this one time someone allegedly took out $102 at Coors Field so all poor people in the state should pay a huge tax to banks! Can’t argue with that logic!

The welfare reform bill Clinton signed in 1996 is bad, and at the core of its badness is that it gave much more discretion to our glorious laboratories of democracy. Controls were not entirely absent, however, and in this case the policy change is illegal. HHS needs to step up here.

How Much Sex is Acceptable for Google?

[ 69 ] May 22, 2015 |

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Above: Google approved Gilded Age courting chair.

 

So evidently images from Gilded Age medical journals of what are today known as vibrators are too risque for Google, so horrible that LGM is threatened by a company that has pledged to never be evil. You can see the offending image here. You can understand how it would be considered too scary for grandma. Note that no one in 1904 thought of the Chattanooga Vibrator as a sexual toy. It provided medical relief for neurasthenic women, replacing doctors who hated doing this service manually. Of course, orgasms gave these women relief, but again, this is not seen as sexual at the time. But it’s too sexy and scary today.

So I have some questions. First, is this too risque for Google?

prostate-simulator-header

What you see above is a robotic butt that helps train medical students to conduct prostate exams. In other words, there is hardly any difference between this and the Chattanooga Vibrator, especially because the above image makes me want to stick my finger up someone’s ass. See, this is why we can’t have anything having to do with the medicine or the human body available on the internet. Won’t somebody think about the children?

And what about history? Isn’t the past full of things like the Chattanooga Vibrator that we need protection from? Such as medieval cats eating a dick?

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Now that I know this image exists, I want to commit bestiality with a cat. Or at least trade it a fish for that penis it has in its mouth, I’m not really sure here.

And doesn’t it seem to you that these early 20th century intracervical and intrauterine pessaries make you realize that people sometimes have sex and that this knowledge must be suppressed by our overlords at Google in order that little Bobby doesn’t get weird dreams at night?

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In fact, as this World War II poster suggests, it’s probably best to keep anything having to do with women or women’s bodies off the internet. She might infect you, be it your cock or your brain.

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For that matter, we need to repress the knowledge that men in the 18th century may have visited brothels. Our Founding Fathers conformed precisely to the moral standards of modern conservatism and if they didn’t we have to say they did.

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In conclusion, I’d like to thank Google for serving as the moral deciders of the internet. I can’t imagine what harm seeing a medical image of a woman receiving a medical procedure caused 21st century people. If I was in control of this website, I’d ban me from the entire internet for my smut and filth. I have sullied LGM and I have sullied America. And I hope to do it again tomorrow.

Friends, I’m in Love

[ 10 ] May 22, 2015 |

Don’t mind me, I’m over here, making out with this gallery

Read more…

My Theory of Organizing and Social Change

[ 14 ] May 22, 2015 |

stonewallii

In the comments to my Poor People’s Campaign post yesterday, JL asked:

Is there anything that you think could have moved the movement forward? I don’t mean in terms of labor’s participation, I mean in terms of what the involved people (who would be more in number with labor’s participation) could have done. Tactics. Effecting social change through a protest in DC, however well-done, seems like it would be really difficult to me, unless it was large enough to shut down the city. DC is used to protests. Though since it was a campaign I assume it wouldn’t have just been that one ongoing protest in one city if it had sustained, and protests in DC as part of a larger mass movement are a different case.

In terms of the Poor People’s Campaign, probably not. Like King’s 1966 housing campaign in Chicago, the times had changed. White liberals were turning away from supporting both economic and racial justice and the votes just weren’t there in Congress anymore. With Johnson fully focused on Vietnam, I don’t think there’s anything real that could have changed history. I mean, if a real progressive is the head of the AFL-CIO instead of George Meany and that person really committed the labor movement, maybe. But that’s getting into really crazy counterfactuals.

But this issue brings up a larger point about why movements succeed and why they don’t. And the answer, after 15 years of being a professional historian is that I have no idea. That’s perhaps a slight overstatement, after all, social movements follow larger societal shifts. But you just never know what is going to spark something. Why did Rosa Parks refusing to change seats on a bus spark the Montgomery movement in 1955 when many other African-Americans had done the same thing around the South in previous years? Why did the Stonewall Riot in 1969 do so much to create the gay rights movement after all these years of police and societal brutality against gays? Why did the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 help define the environmental movement when the 1952 fire did nothing? Why did Occupy flare up at that place and time and why did it change the way so many Americans think about economic inequality in the 21st century?

These are all difficult questions to answer. Some have no obvious answer. All you can do with social movements is try. You never know what might transform the world. Probably your movement won’t. But it might. And when it does, the earth truly shifts. All one can do is point out the injustice of the world and try to make it better. Maybe it catches a moment in society when enough everyday Americans find your movement resonates with them and calls for change grow. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. But I’ll never know why it happens at particular times or why movement x makes a larger difference when movement y did not.

This may be unsatisfying and is probably not an answer a political scientist would give (also anyone who measures social movements using equations cannot be trusted), but I think “I don’t know because it’s really complicated” it’s the most honest answer any historian can give.

Undoing a Historical Event

[ 254 ] May 22, 2015 |

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An interesting hypothetical at Aeon: Which historical event would you undo?

My first thought was that John C. Calhoun was not born. But upon further reflection, it’s fairly obvious from a U.S. history perspective: the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The difference between whatever Lincoln would have done from 1865-68 compared to Andrew Johnson would have been so massive as to have probably significantly changed U.S. history. At the very least, you don’t have to wait 2 years for meaningful Reconstruction to be imposed on the South. One wonders whether a reasonably aggressive crackdown on white resistance immediately after the war would have dampened it later. Maybe, maybe not. But I think that’s my choice.

Today in Hollywood Sexism

[ 135 ] May 21, 2015 |

It looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal has had her Last Fuckable Day at the ripe old age of 37:*

Maggie Gyllenhaal, an Oscar nominee getting Emmy buzz for her work on the Sundance miniseries “The Honourable Woman,” reveals that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man.

No kidding.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said during an interview for an upcoming issue of TheWrap Magazine. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

Leaving aside the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal being 37 makes me 103, it’s amazing how deeply institutional Hollywood sexism runs. How on earth is 37 too old for a 55 year old man? The only solution for this is to pair up Clint Eastwood and Emma Stone as a couple. Now that makes sense.

*Let’s hope this post isn’t too forthright about sex for Google.

No, You Make It for Me

[ 123 ] May 21, 2015 |

I really really don’t like the he old “Don’t like it? Make it yourself” chestnut. It’s lazy and dumb. Think about this: if a bunch of tall men said to car manufacturers “Your cars are too cramped for us.” No one would say “Make your own cars, freakshows.” No one who designed, say, dishwashers or homes or computers would have that sort of dialogue with consumers. So why are people in the creative arts allowed to say things like that?

I suppose you could argue artists should get special dispensation because artistic vision is sacred, but I think there are two problems with that: 1.) You have to argue that engineers, designers, architects, etc. aren’t artists. But I would argue that a decent amount of artistry goes into designing even something like, say, a refrigerator. 2.) When an artist becomes popular, she’s not creating her art in a vacuum. She’s profiting from it. She is necessarily in a give and take relationship with the people who consume her product.

I understand why people get very sniffy about keeping artistic vision “pure.” People staying absolutely true to their vision sounds right and the idea of our vaunted genius-artists compromising their artistic vision sounds terrible.  But I think that when you become a popular artist, it’s actually quite fair for your fans to make demands as reasonable as “Hey, could you make your make your next episode less rapey?” (Yes, people in the “Princess” thread, I’m looking at you.)

I can afford to stay 100% true to my artistic vision, because I don’t have an audience–no one is reading my erotic slashfic “T-Rex Takes Clippy.” But once I start selling, you’re damn right I’ll listen to my readers. And if they want me to make it clearer that the sex between a dinosaur and computer icon is consensual, I will happily comply, artistic vision be damned, and thank you for your money.

Sometimes, When Something Is Too Good to be True, It Is

[ 14 ] May 21, 2015 |

What would have been a remarkable social science finding turns out to have been based on fraud:

A study claiming that gay people advocating for same-sex marriage can change voters’ minds has been retracted due to fraud.

The study was published last December in Science, and received lots of media attention. It found that a 20-minute, one-on-one conversation with a gay political canvasser could steer voters in favor of same-sex marriage. Not only that, but these changed opinions lasted for at least a year and influenced other people in the voter’s household, the study found.

Donald Green, the lead author on the study, retracted it on Tuesday shortly after learning that his co-author, UCLA graduate student Michael LaCour, had faked the results.

I strongly recommend Kieran Healy’s piece on the subject. In particular, I’d like to emphasize this:

When something like this happens it raises many issues internal to academia, from the relative role of the authors involved, to the importance of available and replicable data, to the often unrecognized importance of simple honesty in science. As a social scientist I worry most about the quality the frauds we don’t spot. Science is often bitterly competitive but it depends on honesty. It is not set up to weed out liars. We simply can’t proceed without a vocational norm of honesty. Imagine what research, or talks, or conferences would be like if you had to routinely question not simply the quality or competence but the actual honesty of speakers. The same goes for supervision. Or consider having to check not just the quality of grad student work, but whether they were lying to you about the data. Much of what we do would become simply impossible.

…Jesse Singal interviews Donald Green.

Fast Track

[ 128 ] May 21, 2015 |

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Above: Senate Democrats who voted to grant President Obama fast track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Well, enough Senate Democrats predictably caved to Obama’s pressure on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to vote to grant him fast track. The 13 Democrats who have sold out working Americans on the TPP.

Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Vague promises by Mitch McConnell convinced some Democrats. Patty Murray said “Mitch gave a commitment” on a June vote on renewing the Export-Import Bank, recently a target of Tea Partiers. Boy would I be shocked to see him renege on those promises. Just flabbergasted.

The biggest hope now is that Elizabeth Warren’s amendment stripping the Investor State Dispute Settlement out of the deal, which is what allows corporations to sue governments if they enact regulations that hurt the corporation. If that happens, probably the biggest objection to the TPP will be gone. But I am highly skeptical that it will pass or that enough Democrats will stand up to the president and corporations at all in the end. Some will. But the 13 listed above are probably yes votes for anything if some pressure is applied.

Bernie Sanders is of course saying all the right things:

“The Senate just put the interests of powerful multi-national corporations, drug companies and Wall Street ahead of the needs of American workers. If this disastrous trade agreement is approved, it will throw Americans out of work while companies continue moving operations and good-paying jobs to low-wage countries overseas.

“Bad trade deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership are a major reason for the collapse of the American middle class and the increase in wealth and income inequality in the United States. This agreement, like bad trade deals before it, would force American workers to compete with desperate workers around the world – including workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 56-cents an hour.

“Trade agreements should not just work for corporate America, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. They have got to benefit the working families of our country,” Sanders said. “We must defeat fast track and develop a new policy on trade.”

Hillary?

The Intent of Congress Was To Make Subsidies Available on the Federal Exchanges. They Put it in the Text.

[ 19 ] May 21, 2015 |

On the one hand, this is useful reporting:

Doug Elmendorf, the director of the nonpartisan CBO at the time of the law’s drafting and passage, says the idea that the subsidies would be limited to states creating their own exchange was never brought up while his office was estimating the cost of the law.

“It was a common understanding on the Hill, again on both sides of the Hill, on both sides of the aisle, in late 2009 and early 2010, that subsidies would be available through the federal exchange as well as through state exchanges,” Elmendorf said in an interview at the Peterson Foundation fiscal summit.

“And I’m confident in saying that because CBO’s analysis always worked under the view that subsidies would be available under the federal exchange.”

Despite all the scrutiny of his office’s cost projections, he said, the assumption of subsidies being available on both types of exchanges was never questioned, he said.

“Our analysis was subject to a lot of very intense scrutiny and a lot of questions, and my colleagues and I could remember no occasion on which anybody asked why we were expecting subsidies to be paid in all states regardless of whether they established their exchanges or not,” he said.

Sure, you could look at evidence like “every legislator in Congress and every relevant state official.” But surely it makes more sense to misquote President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Prime Minister, and new host of the Late Show on CBS Jonathan Gruber instead.

The analysis, on the other hand, is not so good:

However, congressional intent is not the entire consideration. The Supreme Court’s justices vary in how much they take intent into account.

The more conservative justices are more inclined to look at the plain text of the law itself, which the challengers argue clearly limits the subsidies to state exchanges.

This, of course, is the Card-Says-Moops version of the con — whatever Congress intended, the “text” says that subsidies are only available on exchanges established by state governments. But it doesn’t. You can arrive at such a conclusion only by using methods of statutory interpretation nobody — including Scalia — would defend in any other context. You don’t construe statutory provisions by reading them in isolation from the structure and purpose of the statute as a whole. There’s only a contradiction between the text and the intent of Congress if you’re willfully trying to create one.

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