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Category: General

Bad Arguments of the Left

[ 197 ] May 28, 2016 |


Normally this sort of thing wouldn’t even be worth linking to, but given the current political battles on the left, I will make an exception. I am as big a believer in the need for socialism as anyone. The working classes should be united against economic exploitation and the class warfare from the plutocrats in the New Gilded Age. However, arguments that the left need to stop paying attention to identity politics in order to fight the class war only adds to the oppression of everyone who is not a white male.

Ultimately, though, the left should seek to move beyond identity politics for the simple reason that it is compatible with neo-liberal economics. Identity politics can co-exist with the corporate boss who makes more money in a week than his cleaner takes home in a year – as long as the chances of being the boss are assigned proportionally among different ethnic groups, sexualities and genders. Individual winners and losers remain as remote from each other as ever; they are simply sorted in direct proportion to their numbers in society. The ultimate aim of identity politics is to ‘tune up’ the elite rather than to abolish it.

By emphasising difference over commonality, identity politics also makes it harder for the left to establish a mass politics based around shared economic interests. By seeking constantly to divide people up into smaller and smaller groups, identity politics forestalls the creation of a sense of unity around issues of economic justice. And because it is obsessed with difference, the divisions are potentially endless.

An assumption that white men invariably occupy an economically privileged position seems to be another unfortunate assumption among those pushing for greater diversity in the professions. Most equality drives today explicitly exclude class. White males are certainly over-represented in many of the most prestigious professions in both Britain and the United States. But this is an over-representation of a very particular class of white male. White men from the working class are not – by a long stretch – ubiquitous in the elite. In fact, they encounter economic hurdles at least as difficult to surmount as the barriers of gender and racial equality faced by their contemporaries.

You may be shocked to know the writer of this article is a white male.

Yes, it’s true that corporations can indeed support gay marriage without hurting their bottom lines. Doing so is still contributing to the reduction of injustice in the world. That’s a fundamentally good thing.

And don’t even get me started on the incorrect use of “neoliberal,” which sadly on the left just means “capitalism” or “rich people” or “things I don’t like” instead of its actual meaning.

These sorts of white male arguments should be shunned and ridiculed, even as we should also fight for economic justice.


The Workers Party?

[ 75 ] May 28, 2016 |

The thing about Trump is that he really is the only presidential candidate in U.S. history who will say literally anything. The danger is that people will take some or all of it seriously, either because some of it touches them where they live even though it is probably a lie or because of blind hatred for Hillary Clinton or just because they are low-information voters. Thus Trump’s claim to make the GOP the party of the workers.

“Five, 10 years from now — different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party,” Trump said in the May 17 interview. “A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Trump reiterated that cutting Social Security would be a “big mistake” for the GOP, remarking that “[c]utting it the wrong way is a big mistake, and even cutting it [at all].”

The presumptive nominee’s views would not appear to have come about through intense retrospection. “My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party,” he said, admitting that he had not closely followed past Republican efforts to reform the immigration system.

This is of course the definition of bullshit. Maybe Trump actually wouldn’t sign a bill cutting social security but for the most part, he will sign any bill a Republican Congress sends to his desk. His list of potential Supreme Court nominees consists of not a single one who wouldn’t vote for the plaintiffs in Friedrichs. We already know he has no actual interest in governing. But he knows he can say anything he wants and at least 45% of the voters will go along. So he keeps saying it.

Climate Change and the National Parks

[ 7 ] May 28, 2016 |


This is a good report on the challenge of climate change for the national parks. How important is this?

Climate change isn’t the first challenge to the wonders that national parks protect. Air pollution, the threat of oil and gas extraction on their borders, budget woes and the arrival of non-native species have all put the pinch on parks. But climate change represents an existential threat the likes of which the National Park Service has never had to deal with.

“Fundamentally, it’s the biggest challenge the National Park Service has ever faced,” Jonathan Jarvis, the NPS director, said. “I put it up there because it fundamentally changes the way we are going to manage our national parks into the future. It’s making us rethink the whole paradigm under which we manage them.”

Strong words. Scary words too.

Rowsdonald Saves Us and Saves All the World!

[ 162 ] May 27, 2016 |

Conor Friedersdorf interviewed a 22-year-old Trump supporter (white and male, natch). The result is every bit as facepalmy as you might expect. My takeaways:

  • The obsession with the idea of political correctness is notable. I wonder how many Trump supporters have a similar obsession.
  • Really what the PC complaints come down to is resentment about having to self-censor. The world doesn’t uniformly defer to the opinions of straight, white, conservative men and so occasionally these men might find themselves in a situation where they have to demure or self-censor. This galls them.
  • The little shit wants a “pure merit-based” system in lieu of affirmative action. [Level of merit to be determined by little shits like him, I assume.]
  • Young Trumper considers agreeing to allow access merely to birth control to be a leftist position. My Overton Window, let me show you it.
  • Young Trumper thinks that BLM protesters should face consequences. He doesn’t say what kind of consequences. WHAT does he mean by this? Does *he* even know?

Those Contradictions Won’t Heighten Themselves!

[ 414 ] May 27, 2016 |

This NYT article shows a variety of #BernieorBust rationalizations. One (which, it must be said, Sanders has helped to cultivate with his arrant nonsense about the system being fundamentally rigged against him) is to argue that if not supporting Clinton means Trump winning, it’s all Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s fault:

Ms. Peters, who makes a living selling goods online, said that she would not vote for Mrs. Clinton under any circumstance — and that she would blame the Democratic Party for a Trump victory in November.

“If the D.N.C. wants to go ahead and put out the candidate who can’t win and we lose in November, it’s not because I didn’t vote,” she said. “It’s because they were looking out for their interests and not for the better interests of the country.”

“If the DNC wanted to win, it should have overruled the will of the party’s voters by fiat.” Hard to see anything wrong about this except that it’s wrong on every possible level. (Even if you believe that Sanders would be a better candidate in the general, it’s rather obvious that a Bernie Sanders installed as the Democratic nominee against the preferences of a substantial majority of Democratic voters would not be.)

But at least Peters implicitly concedes that a Trump presidency might be even worse, even if she ignores these consequences. Some take the Brogan W. Bragman IV line that Trump won’t really be able to do anything:

“Everyone is like: ‘Trump has these terrible social issues. He hates Muslims and he hates the L.G.B.T. community,’ ” she said. “But our world is big enough that he’s not actually going to implement any of those changes in a realistic way. But what he will do is potentially audit the federal government, and he will try to break up some of the banks and try to at least influence government that way. However, with Hillary, it will just be a complacent, run-of-the-middle-of-the-road presidency.”

I dunno, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg and/or Stephen Breyer and/or Anthony Kennedy with a fifth and/or sixth and/or seventh vote to overturn Obergefell seems like a pretty concrete harm to me! But yes, I concede the point; if you focus on bad stuff Trump can’t accomplish, ignore all of the horrible things he would have the power to do (including signing bills that a Republican Congress puts on his desk), and assume that he will do some good things there is absolutely no chance he will do, then his presidency seems better. As for Hillary Clinton doing boring stuff like “ensuring that the Supreme Court isn’t controlled by neoconfederate cranks for decades,” BORRRRR-ING.

Another special snowflake likes this idea. A Trump presidency might not be so bad because BUNGA BUNGA!

Victor Vizcarra, 48, of Los Angeles, said he would much prefer Mr. Trump to Mrs. Clinton. Though he said he disagreed with some of Mr. Trump’s policies, Mr. Vizcarra said he had watched “The Apprentice” and expected that a Trump presidency would be more exciting than a “boring” Clinton administration.

“A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in,” said Mr. Vizcarra, who works in information technology. “There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change. People are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

A Trump presidency would be a like a reality show! A reality show in which poor women in many states couldn’t get abortions, tens of millions of people would lose health insurance, carbon emissions would skyrocket, countless same-sex couples would have their marriage licenses invalidated, federal aid for the poor is slashed while the taxes if the upper class are slashed, etc. etc. etc. Hell, maybe even some fascism. That’s entertainment! And sometimes you have to focus on what matters.


[Meme by Noon.]

“As An Admirer of Barack Obama, I Cannot Support A Candidate Who Has Indistinguishable Views.”

[ 338 ] May 27, 2016 |


This interview in which Shaun King explains why The Party Left Him is…amazing:

ER: You say in your piece that in 2008 you were an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. Do you think he’s been a successful president?

SK: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I think so. I respect President Obama a great deal. I’m probably to the right of Cornel West’s critique of President Obama, but I’m also not that guy who thinks he is beyond criticism.

ER: But the president — and there are some places where this isn’t true, especially on foreign policy — but the president’s political positions are certainly closer to Hillary Clinton’s than they are to Bernie Sanders’s. In the past eight years, how have your politics evolved in a way where now you won’t campaign and aren’t even sure you’ll vote for Hillary Clinton?

SK: I think we would have to go down each and every one of the president’s positions to really evaluate, what does the president think about health care? Yes, there is a thing called Obamacare — but was that what he campaigned on? What came out of the sausage factory, was that his dream? No. Of course not.

So is the president for universal health care? Well, he was. For years and years and years. And I don’t know that he stopped being for universal health care. It was just that he used virtually all the political capital he had in his first term to get something decent through Congress, and what came out was very different.

ER: Isn’t this effectively the Hillary Clinton theory of politics? Her argument throughout this campaign has been, “We have to defend the president’s accomplishments, and it’s very hard to get things through Congress. It’s instrumental. Sanders has no chance of passing this plan.”

SK: I hear that, but I think of it like this: Had the president’s idea been Obamacare, had his initial idea been, “Let’s just require everybody to have private health insurance and make a few tweaks here and there and create a website for it” that wasn’t anywhere near his original idea. His original idea was much more significant, a much bigger shift, than what ended up coming out of the other end.

As K-Drum says, this is all risible nonsense. Obama and Clinton ran on nearly identical health care plans, and the extent to which Obama’s plan differed involved rather dishonest pandering that he abandoned after he got elected. Not only that, Clinton has a much longer record of being committed to universal health care. And, also, the Affordable Care Act is notably inconsistent with the idea that you create political change by a president proposing something far outside of the expected negotiating space. Had Obama’s opening bid been “Single Payer or Bust!” it wouldn’t have resulted in more progressive legislation, and indeed probably would have resulted in nothing passing.

There’s isn’t a penny’s worth of difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on domestic policy. Clinton is worse on foreign policy, but as the fact that Clinton was Obama’s Secretary of State makes clear it’s a difference of degree, not kind. The idea that the differences between Obama and Clinton are big enough to be worth leaving the party over but the differences between Clinton and Trump are too minor to make the former worth supporting is even more ridiculous than the idea that the Democrat Party is suppressing America’s natural social democratic governing majority.

What exactly are King’s DEALBREAKERS?

President Obama tried removing lobbyists from donating. Then they put all those things back into place. If Hillary is the nominee, whether she becomes president or not, she’ll be the face of the party. And I don’t just disagree with her on war or campaign finances; there is also the death penalty. There are 10 different issues that I disagree with her. And her as the face of the party, I disagree with. I think there are millions and millions of progressives who are finding themselves uncomfortable in the Democratic Party, and I’m one of those people.

Clinton’s position on campaign finance is nearly identical to Bernie Sanders’s, and on the issue where presidents can most impact campaign finance (Supreme Court appointments) Clinton and Sanders’s Supreme Court appointments are also likely to be equally good on the issue. On the death penalty, Hillary Clinton is indeed wrong. It’s also true that the federal government has executed exactly 3 people since 1976, and in the absence of the federal death penalty all three likely would have been executed by the benevolent local overlords in Texas and Oklahoma anyway. The idea that this is worth blowing up the Democratic Party over is, like pretty much every word of this, self-refuting. Also, the historical period in which leftists could agree with Democratic presidential nominees on every issue is for some reason unspecified.

There is of course no remotely coherent theory of political change in this call for a third party; the arguments here are, as such arguments almost always are, fundamentally aesthetic rather than political. But King’s invented differences between Obama and Clinton are particularly telling. Third party politics was really dumb in the 90s, and led to utter disaster in 2000, but at least one can understand why people had trouble accepting the direction the Democratic Party was taking in the 90s. The picture in 2016 is completely different. The Democratic Party is well to the left of where it was. At most, three presidents in American history have had greater records of progressive accomplishment than Barack Obama, and all three did so in more favorable circumstances. The traction Sanders’s campaign has gotten shows that the party is moving in a more progressive direction. Comparing Hillary Clinton’s agenda to Bill Clinton’s agenda also makes this clear. Picking now as the time you want to take your ball, go home, and leave America to Donald Trump among other things shows remarkable ignorance of American political history.


[ 205 ] May 27, 2016 |

Did you know that there’s a Ghostbusters reboot coming out and it stars four women? Well there is and it does and some people (poopy-pantsed misogynists who probably love Smashmouth) have a problem with it. One of these people is poopy-pantsed probable-Smashmouth-fan, David Harsanyi.

His screed on identity politics begins uninterestingly enough with the usual boring whine about how mean everybody is to white men these days. But it gets hilariously stupid a few paragraphs in when he says this:


On Wednesday entertainment reports were discussing a study that delves into how many words women say in movies compared to how many words men say. There is real-life study titled “Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment,” that figured out that a little over one-third of “speaking characters” in movies were female though women represent over half the population in America. How dare Hollywood not divvy up the words in perfectly coordinated sexual and racial percentages?

OK, let’s do this Americans. Has anyone calculated whether 5.6 percent of the total speaking roles in movies are given to Asian Americans? Actually make that 2.3 percent Asian American women and the same for men. And four percent of those roles must be offered to gay Asian Americans. And don’t forget that .02 percent of Americans are transgendered Asian Americans. Where are their roles?

Ha ha ha!!! He’s got us there, libs! How come you guys never talk about Asian erasure? Oh you do? A lot? WELL, I CAN’T HEAR YOU BECAUSE I’M PLAYING THIS RIGHTEOUS SMASHMOUTH RECORD TOO LOUD!!

But let’s get to the meat of this: David–like so many other misogynists with skidmarked-drawers–is upset that the new Ghostbusters is getting a female-centric reboot.

Wednesday also brought another round of debate over the Ghostbusters reboot trailer—a movie already instilled with the full absurdity of gender identity politics. You can see it playing out. Many liberals feel compelled to make sure everyone likes the reboot because women have taken starring roles in it.

Here David links to a completely innocuous piece in Salon about how the newest trailer may be an improvement over the first one. Seriously. Its basically just says “Here’s the new trailer; it looks slightly more promising than the first one.” At no point does the author demand that everyone dress from head to toe in pink and wave tampons in the air while attending the film.


Now, if male reviewers happen to hate the movie, it probably won’t be due to misogyny.

Geez, it’s almost as if you want people to feel compelled not to point out that some people will hate the movie due to misogyny even if they actually *do* hate the movie for misogynistic reasons. See how that works?

(Hey, has anyone conducted a study quantifying how often men give films starring women bad reviews? We need this.)


It is far more likely due to the fact that Bill Murray is, by my rough estimate, approximately 200,000 times funnier than Melissa McCarthy.

Is it? Because last time I checked comedy was subjective. One man’s funny is another man’s Jeff Dunham playing with racist puppets. In other words, it’s very hard to quantify how funny something is and it’s equally as difficult to compare comedians, since most of them have their own unique shtick. It’d be hard to compare the comedy stylings of, say, Don Rickles and Jim Carrey, for instance. You could argue they’re both funny, they’re both unfunny, but it’d be weird to make a direct comparison between the two, because they’re doing completely different things with their comedy. Similarly, it’s weird to compare Melissa McCarthy to Bill Murray because they’re doing different things with their comedy. I find both of them hilarious, but for different reasons. It’s my opinion and that’s how comedy works–you can have an opinion about it; you cannot say that it’s fact that one comedian is funnier than other, because that makes you an idiot.

It is far more likely, considering the societal pressures of this environment, that writers will feel somewhat compelled to praise the movie, lest they intimate that women can’t be as funny as men.

But a great way to inoculate yourself against charges like this is by declaring as fact that a male comedian is “200,000” times funnier than a female comedian. Well-played, David Harsanyi.

Theater Critic Analysis of Politics Is Tautology All the Way Down

[ 143 ] May 27, 2016 |


David Brooks explains Hillary Clinton’s problem:

Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun—golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

This idea that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have hobbies is silly, easily disproven nonsense, but that’s not the point. When pundits analyze “character,” it is almost without exception pure tautology that tells the reader nothing. Personal characteristics are cherrypicked (or, in the style of Brooks here, presumably influenced by his colleague Maureen Dowd) outright invented, which amazingly always prove the politically expedient ex ante views of the pundit correct. My favorite example of the genre is Jacob Weisberg’s analysis of iPod playlists. Amazingly enough, George W. Bush’s bog-standard middle-aged-white-person playlist showed that George W. Bush was an Authentic Straight-Shooting Comfortable In His Own Skin You’d Like to Have a Beer With Brush-Clearer and Hillary Clinton’s bog-standard middle-aged-white-person playlist showed that Hillary Clinton was an Inauthentic Politically Calculating Ice Queen Who Doesn’t Know Herself And Would Scold You For Having A Beer. (Theater critic analysis of political figures, among its many other problems, has a strong tendency to be preoccupied above all with the concept of Authenticity, which is even more useless applied to political leaders than it usually is.) To state the obvious, there is no collection of songs that would have caused Wiesberg not to reaffirm the standard pundit wisdom.

Brooks’s column is a case in point. You could make the same point about Clinton by discussing her hobbies, and you could draw pretty much any other conclusion from Clinton’s hobbies, and none of these conclusions will actually be of any value. Elspeth Reeve helpfully demonstrates how Brooks would react to hypothetical new Hillary Clinton hobbies:

Future Hillary hobby: A chatty podcast with her friends.

Future Brooks column: “Another tone-deaf decision by Clinton (or, more likely, her aides). They are seemingly unaware the vast majority of Americans do not listen to vocally fried podcasts on subway rides from their pleasant Park Slope apartments, but plainspoken drive-time radio spoken from the heart. And furthermore this ‘hobby’ brings up uncomfortable associations for Clinton with financial misdeeds, as countless podcasts are kept afloat by unsavory subscription companies that use auto-billing to prey on consumers who can’t be bothered to closely check their statements. No wonder Americans are in so much debt. But they owe Hillary nothing.”

Future Hillary hobby: Improv.

Future Brooks column: “In perhaps the darkest hour in the history of the republic, Hillary Clinton expects us to laugh. It is unsettling to see a presidential candidate giggling like a schoolgirl over some Justin Bieber reference as the entire Middle East burns. Serious times call for serious candidates, Madame Secretary.”

Future Hillary hobby: Adult coloring books.

Future Brooks column: “Yet another example of liberals’ sad infantilization of the American public, ever the Mommy Party forcing us to sign up for health insurance and creating ‘safe spaces.’ Coloring in the lines? Typical Hillary.”

Future Hillary hobby: Home brewing.

Future Brooks column: “While she remains desperate to reach out to the common man, she can’t help but wallow in coastal liberals’ corrosive commodification of the working class. Here’s a tip, Hillary: Want to drink a beer like an authentic white man, one who works with his hands? The kind who has grease stains on his plaid shirt, woven in a rustic fabric? Drink a Lite Coors.”

Future Hillary hobby: Colorguard.

Future Brooks column: “Who could have imagined a year ago we’d be witness to the ludicrous spectacle of Hillary Clinton prancing about a football field and twirling a purple flag? The whole stunt is a disaster. And it’s doubly bad for Clinton, as it recalls uncomfortable associations with Obama’s failed foreign policy. Why not wave a white flag of surrender?”

Future Hillary hobby: 3-D printing.

Future Brooks column: “Americans are tired of distractions. Elections are about ideas. They are hard-fought battles of intellect and ideology—the stuff that actually matters. Blah blah moral seriousness.”

Exactly. This genre of political writing just doesn’t have any added value.

…see also Jia Tolentino.

On Hipster Hate

[ 183 ] May 27, 2016 |


If you want an academic discussion of hipsters and the problem of hipster hate, here’s one for you. Mostly it makes good points.

All jokes aside, there is a point to be made here. That is, while there are plenty of people who fit the above description, it’s a satirical construct, not a research demographic. It is perfectly acceptable for writers and scholars to deconstruct complex cultural notions of hipster semiotics and praxis, but I have serious concerns when I start seeing urban geographers, sociologists, and economists scapegoating and critiquing a media-constructed trope for gentrification, sexism, racism, and cultural appropriation. These are real issues that deserve ongoing critical research and policy development. Rather than talking about hipsters, we should look for the synergies in the research of people like Markus Moos (“generationed” space and “youthification”), Heather McLean (feminist critique of the creative city), Sarah Dooling (ecological gentrification), Phil Hubbard (“studentification”) and other scholars of the city. These academics are conducting sound demographic analysis, applying critical theory, and proposing meaningful policies. They are doing real research, but hey, maybe it is being dismissed as “too mainstream.”

In the end, denouncing hipsters as the source of all things wrong with Austin has become a lazy habit in this city, and we should think about the reasons we default to “die hipster scum” every time we see a bearded ukulele player on a fixie. When we do, we play into social media essentialization and pop-social commentary. At best, we add faux legitimacy to a modern day folk devil. At worst, we condescendingly make light of inequality, marginalization, and privilege in a city that all too frequently markets itself as a progressive utopia.

Which is a completely hipster thing to do.

It is pretty dumb for academics to actually take “hipster” seriously as a category of analysis, especially when it really means “people younger than me who do things I find weird.” On the other hand, while it’s hard for me to justify being annoyed by a bearded ukulele player on a fixie, I find him annoying nonetheless. Damn kids need to get off my lawn.


[ 113 ] May 27, 2016 |


Donald Trump’s version of “pandering” is just an excuse so he can surround himself with white men.

White men make up about 30.6 percent of the United States population. In 2012 they made up 35 percent of voters. But according to Donald Trump’s campaign chair, white men make up 100 percent of people who could possibly be qualified to be vice president.

That’s certainly the implication of what Trump campaign chair and chief strategist Paul Manafort told the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman in an article published Wednesday:

The campaign probably won’t choose a woman or a member of a minority group, he said. “In fact, that would be viewed as pandering, I think.”

I think “pandering” isn’t precisely the word I’d use here.

On the other hand, I absolutely love this:

To be fair to Manafort, the bar for being “qualified” for the vice presidency is higher than usual when the man at the top of the ticket is Donald Trump. That’s because, as Manafort admits elsewhere in the interview with Fineman, the job of Trump’s VP will be to do the parts of the United States presidency Donald Trump “doesn’t want to do”:

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

OK. That should go well.

I still maintain the most appropriate VP selection for Trump is Paul LePage.

Today in Sweatshops

[ 11 ] May 27, 2016 |


Everyone loves Beyoncé. But you would be surprised to know that she is exploiting sweatshop labor for her clothing brand? Of course you wouldn’t:

Ivy Park, the sportswear brand that is a joint venture between singer Beyonce and Topshop tycoon Philip Green, has defended itself against a Sun newspaper report that says its supplier in Sri Lanka uses “sweatshop slaves” to produce the clothing.

Workers making some of the clothes at MAS Holdings in Sri Lanka earn just 4.30 pounds ($6.30) a day, the tabloid reported on Sunday. Most of the “poverty-stricken seamstresses” are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs, it said.

“Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading programme. We are proud of our sustained efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits, and our teams worldwide work very closely with our suppliers and their factories to ensure compliance,” Ivy Park said in a statement emailed to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We expect our suppliers to meet our code of conduct and we support them in achieving these requirements,” it said.

Oh, well, I’m convinced….

However, while companies generally comply with the minimum-wage levels set by governments in Asia, these wages “fall far below a wage a person could live on”, according to lobby group Clean Clothes Campaign.

It estimates that in Sri Lanka the minimum monthly wage is about a fifth of the country’s living wage.

Annanya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA)said the garment workers in Sri Lanka were probably working longer than eight-hour days and not being paid overtime.

“They often don’t have the option of saying ‘no’ as they may lose their jobs if they do, and also because of economic coercion. So this is a form of forced labour; they’re bound to the employer,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The AFWA will call on the International Labour Organization at its conference next month to adopt its recommendations for global standards for supply chains that include the recognition of a living wage as a human right.

To be blunt, if Beyoncé believes in feminism and social justice as she claims, she needs to intervene here. I am positive she has no idea what is going on in those sweatshops and it’s her people handling all of this. But it’s her name and it’s on her to do something about it.

Speaking of such things, how about opening a store in New York that exposes random people who walk to some information about sweatshops?

The Mad Rush is a concept store launched in Amsterdam aimed to raise awareness about dangerous working conditions behind cheap fashion, designed by Schone Kleren Campagne, the Dutch arm of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The boutique is situated in the busy shopping street of Kalverstraat in Amsterdam. From the outside, it appears like any other well-lit, stylish clothing store. However, once a customer asks to try something on, they’re led into a hellish sweatshop that mimics real world working conditions behind cheap, disposable fashion. Next, an educational hub informs customers what they can do to help.

The project is meant to alert customers about an often neglected reality, and offer tips on what individual shoppers can do to help change working conditions in the garment industry.

I love this so much.

Income Inequality in Silicon Valley and Asia

[ 31 ] May 27, 2016 |


Silicon Valley is the true epicenter of the New Gilded Age:

As Silicon Valley boomed after the recession, its middle class shrunk, creating one of the widest gaps in the nation between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else.

Here, fewer than 50% of households are now middle class and half of all income gains flowed to the top 1% of earners, said a new report released Wednesday.

At the same time, housing prices skyrocketed while incomes at the lower end of the spectrum were stagnant.

The three county region of Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco, home to employees from hundreds of tech companies including Facebook, Google and Apple, is a far more unequal place that it was a quarter of a century ago.

The report, Inequality and Economic Security in Silicon Valley, was produced by the non-profit, non-partisan California Budget & Policy Center, based in Sacramento, Calif. It looked at income equality in Silicon Valley from 1989 to 2014, the last year for which full data was available.

In San Mateo county, the average income of the top 1% earners climbed 36% between 2009 and 2013, to $4.2 million, meaning that sliver of the population took home 46 times more pay than the average of the bottom 99%.

In Santa Clara county, the average income of the top 1% of households increased 83% to $2.7 million. That was 30 times more than other households in the county.

For San Francisco, which is both a county and a city, the average income of the top 1% rose 51%, to $2.7 million. That was 43 times the average income of the bottom 99% of city residents.

While income inequality is an issue nationwide, in Silicon Valley it’s become a chasm that could affect the nation’s center for tech innovation long term, the report cautioned.

Could affect? I think that ship has sailed. What’s worse is that this extreme inequality is spreading to other areas where overpaid techies build gigantic homes, like Austin, Portland, and Seattle. What poor people do in these places is have ever-longer commutes, now reaching two hours for the service workers in the Bay Area.

Speaking of such things, for as much as free trade fundamentalists love to talk about Asia, they ignore the gargantuan income inequality problems in those industrializing countries that have now reached Latin American levels.

The more recent increase in Asia’s income inequality is another potential disaster.

Strong growth has seen hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty in Asia but, since the beginning of the 1990s, that growth has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in income inequality.

Income inequality in the region’s mega economies, China and India, is now at Latin American levels.

More worrying is the inequality of opportunity that has accompanied it: the dual labour markets with unskilled workers in “informal sector” poorly paid with no opportunity for training; the limited access of lower-income individuals to health care, education and financial services.
In India, the IMF says, there are large gaps between the top and the bottom of the income distribution in educational attainment, access to health care and access to finance, while at least 70 per cent of non-agricultural workers are employed in the informal sector.

There is roughly the same reliance on the informal labour market in Indonesia and The Philippines, and similar gaps in access to education in Cambodia and in access to financial services in Indonesia, The Philippines and Vietnam.

A temporary increase in income inequality plays a positive role in economic development and poverty reduction, because it induces under-employed rural workers to relocate to the cities.

But entrenched income inequality is likely to undermine political stability and economic growth. We have seen that most spectacularly in Thailand.

This has the potential to be a huge problem, as we have seen in the political turmoil in Thailand over the last decade, which is fundamentally a class war between the poor on one side and the rich and the military on the other. This income inequality is not sustainable if Asian nations want long-term stability. Which is also true for the United States.

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