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Category: General

Mike Pence Makes Idiotic Argument to Defend Horrible Law

[ 62 ] March 26, 2015 |

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It should go without saying that Indiana’s Restoration of Bigotry Act is an abomination. I can’t resist, however, noting this particularly asinine defense of the statute from the governor:

“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” Pence said in his statement Thursday. “For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.”

Uh, can someone show me where the federal RFRA permits burdens on religious liberty to be invoked in suits between private parties? Because it seems to be missing from my copy of the statute. Which seems relevant, since such a provision is in Indiana’s statute and is what will undermine the state’s anti-discrimination laws. I concede Pence’s point: if the law he signed was different it would have different effects. The one he did sign, however, is a disgrace.

…relevant!

Why Doesn’t the Republican Party Fight Climate Change?

[ 63 ] March 26, 2015 |

Film Title: An Inconvenient Truth.

Above: History’s greatest monster oppressing Republicans by talking about climate change

Al Gore of course, at least according to VERY SERIOUS presidential candidate Lindsey Graham.

Slave Labor and Fishing

[ 31 ] March 26, 2015 |

Kay Chernush, Slave Labor,2_0 ©_0

Above: the slaves who catch and process your dinner

One of the issues I talk about in Out of Sight is getting more publicity.

The Burmese slaves sat on the floor and stared through the rusty bars of their locked cage, hidden on a tiny tropical island thousands of miles from home.

Just a few yards away, other workers loaded cargo ships with slave-caught seafood that clouds the supply networks of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States.

Here, in the Indonesian island village of Benjina and the surrounding waters, hundreds of trapped men represent one of the most desperate links criss-crossing between companies and countries in the seafood industry. This intricate web of connections separates the fish we eat from the men who catch it, and obscures a brutal truth: Your seafood may come from slaves.

The men the Associated Press spoke to on Benjina were mostly from Myanmar, also known as Burma, one of the poorest countries in the world. They were brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish. Their catch was shipped back to Thailand, and then entered the global commerce stream.

Tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America’s major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables.

Basically, if you are eating commercial seafood, you are probably inadvertently supporting extremely exploitative labor if not outright slavery. Whether it is Walmart contracting with Louisiana fish suppliers who bring guestworkers in from other countries and then lock them into the factory or big American and European companies buying southeast Asian seafood off the open market, horrific labor is what propels cheap seafood.

This is why in order to fight these conditions, we must be able to hold contracting corporations legally responsible for the actions of their suppliers. It is Walmart, Kroger, etc. that are demanding the fish at a very low price. Just like with apparel, this puts downward pressure on wages, to the point of using slave labor wherever possible. Right now, there is no way to hold these corporations accountable. At best, one local operation gets busted but then it just gets replaced by something else almost or just as bad. That’s not acceptable.

On Foodie Elitism

[ 295 ] March 26, 2015 |

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Don’t live on the west coast? None of this until summer for you!

 

The mockery of Mark Bittman’s “turns out the Bay Area is a nice place to live with many available foodstuffs” column has been swift and inevitable. But there are also some substantive issues at stake here, and Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s response is devastating:

The true villain for the food movement isn’t someone who buys fast food when they should be eating lentils. It’s someone who, despite having the resources to do so, hasn’t researched where his or her food comes from. Grocery shoppers’ desire to purchase fruits and vegetables—a seemingly admirable, or at least innocuous, one—is recast as consumer demand for out-of-season produce—the height of decadence. In 2011, Bittman had some harsh words for these consumers:

[…]

Bittman lamented the fact that “we have ceased to rely upon staples: long-keeping foods like grains, beans, and root vegetables, foods that provide nutrition when summer greens, fruits, and vegetables aren’t readily available.”

Is Bittman relying on root vegetables in Berkeley? When he’s in Rome learning the craft of pasta sauce? Or when he was on a food tour of Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali? Along similar lines, I became somewhat less impressed with David Tanis’s remarks about how he for one is going to stick with “end-of-winter vegetables” until the “local and seasonal” green ones sprout, when I noticed he’ll be giving a cooking workshop in Sicily this April. I point these things out not (just) out of culinary envy of New York Times food writers, but because it genuinely does mean something different to be a strict locavore if you travel around all the time, or live in grocery-endowed part of California, or both.

In addition to the problem that being a “locavore” isn’t much of sacrifice if you live on the California coast or can afford to travel wherever you want, there are the additional problems that 1)relying solely on local produce requires, you know, plenty of money and 2)in the vast majority of places it would be completely unsustainable if more than a minority did it anyway.

Look, I like farmer’s markets and the local co-op; I try to buy as much localish produce as availability and budget permit. But I also appreciate well-stocked supermarkets with decent produce to go along with other staples. And as to the idea that I shouldn’t have access to most vegetables for 9 or 10 months a year unless I can move to Berkeley, go to hell.

Supreme Court Side With Rights of Women Against Employers. (You read that correctly.)

[ 23 ] March 26, 2015 |

ups_truck_-804051-wiki

No longer stands for “Unlimited Pregnant woman Sacking”

You do this long enough, and you’ll see everything:

Based on this test, the majority rejected the Fourth Circuit’s summary dismissal of Young’s claim. Young was able to present at least some evidence that she was treated differently than other non-pregnant employees with similar limitations related to heavy lifting, and hence her case was dismissed prematurely. Justice Alito — not exactly a bleeding heart on employment discrimination cases — found that it “is not at all clear that respondent had any neutral business ground for treating pregnant drivers less favorably than at least some of its nonpregnant drivers who were reassigned to other jobs that they were physically capable of performing.”

If there isn’t a settlement, it will remain up to the lower courts to determine if she can prove her discrimination claim. But at least she will be allowed to make her case.

So while Young did not get the court to embrace the broadest interpretation of the statute, the decision must be considered a victory. “The court made clear that employers may not refuse to accommodate pregnant workers based on considerations of cost or convenience when they accommodate other workers,” Samuel Bagenstos, the Michigan Law School professor who represented Young before the Supreme Court, told me. “It’s a big step forward towards enforcing the principle that a woman shouldn’t have to choose between her pregnancy and her job.”

We still don’t know if Peggy Young’s strong case will ultimately prevail. But when the Roberts Court issues a ruling that sides with the workers and gives greater protection to women, it’s a reason for both surprise and celebration.

A few additional notes:

  • This case was apparently written from an alternate universe in which Stuart Taylor knows what he’s talking about. For the first time in an important case, Roberts and Alito but not Kennedy joined the Democratic nominees.  When I read the Alito concurrence I keep looking for the angle but it’s reasonable enough that I certainly would have signed for it after oral argument. Let’s just say I’m happy that I didn’t have the opportunity to bet on the vote alignment in this case.  I’m not saying that Bagenstos is the greatest Supreme Court advocate since Daniel Webster, but I’m not not saying either.
  •  As Irin Carmon observed on Twitter, Kennedy’s dissent is another one of his “I had to rule against your rights, ladies — I’m not prepared to go as far as a Trotskyist like Sam Alito — but I’m a nice guy, honest” specials.
  • The Scalia is dissent is pretty much all spittle and no gin, but it must be acknowledged that it almost certainly sets the record for uses of the word “poof” in a Supreme Court opinion.
  • More commentary from Lithwick and Leber.

Details Pending

[ 72 ] March 26, 2015 |

Ted-Cruz-for-Dummies-300x232

For a guy who is supposed to be just oh so much smarter than everyone else, you’d think Ted Cruz would actually have a real idea someday. But no.

Forbes

[ 73 ] March 26, 2015 |

Steve_Forbes_at_FreedomFest,_Las_Vagas,_Navada,_USA-12July2013

Who could have guessed in 1996 that the most influential Republican politician of the 1990s 20 years later would be the unblinking one himself, Steve Forbes?

Arizona Summit, Charlotte and Florida Coastal downsize their full-time faculties by 39%

[ 15 ] March 26, 2015 |

oliver twist

Earlier this week I was told that in January the Charlotte School of Law had bought out the contracts of a dozen faculty and 15 staff members, and that last month Arizona Summit had bought out an unspecified number of faculty. I was also told students at Charlotte were upset about the sudden faculty departures.

I contacted Jay Conison and Shirley Mays, the deans at Charlotte and Arizona Summit, and they responded as follows: Read more…

The Complexities of Revitalizing Neighborhoods

[ 88 ] March 26, 2015 |

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I know Cleveland fairly well, though I haven’t spent much time there in the last few years. Much of the city is obviously a mess. I love the place more than pretty much any other city east of the Mississippi and there is so much potential for cool things to happen there. One of the highlights of the city is the neighborhood Ohio City, which has a bunch of cool bars and breweries and restaurants and markets. It’s growing and this is positive. The problem is, as these things tend to be, is that the people who are spurring it are enormously egotistical yuppie neoliberals who make me want to puke. I guess this shouldn’t matter. But as this profile of some of the movers and shakers in Ohio City suggests, when they start thinking of themselves as Congressional material, it moves beyond the personally repulsive into the really problematic.

There are signs Veysey is serious about the “doing good” part: After the Obama campaign, Veysey tried his hand at being a candidate. In 2012 he ran for Congress against Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich. Veysey’s politics during that campaign were those of a generation growing up in the age of neoliberalism: He was left to the two more established candidates on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, and more to the right on economic ones. Veysey is okay with things like NAFTA, a liberal bogeyman; he thinks America’s debt is one of the country’s biggest issues; he thinks underperforming schools should be starved of money.

Veysey only captured 4 percent of the vote, but the run nonetheless whetted his appetite for more do-goodery.

“I thought that I could have brought value when I ran for office,” Veysey said. “But you don’t have to be in office to bring value to a community.”

Still, there are major differences between being the King of Hingetown and a congressman. Political leaders are, at least in theory, meant to represent everyone, not just the well-off. And Hingetown is definitely not meant for everyone.

This guy is gross enough without running for Congress as a neoliberal who thinks Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kuchinch are too far to the left on economics. I mean, if there’s one thing that Cleveland needs, it’s a pro-NAFTA congressman who wants to see more Ohio jobs shipped overseas and more poor schools closed and replaced with capitalist schools! And if his goal is to make Ohio City a haven for the rich, which seems likely regardless of the positive things happening there now, that’s also a bad thing.

On the other hand, doing something with the many struggling neighborhoods of Cleveland is really important. So I’m torn.

The Satirical Novel We’re All Living In Continues to Lack Subtlety

[ 169 ] March 25, 2015 |

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Shorter Verbatim Buckley “Yes of course Tucker Carlson’s brother is named Buckley” Carlson: “Great response [DeBlasio Spokesperson] Amy Spitalnick. Whiny little self-righteous bitch. “Appalling?” And with such an ironic name, too… Spitalnick? Ironic because you just know she has extreme dick-fright; no chance has this girl ever had a pearl necklace. Spoogeneck? I don’t think so. More like LabiaFace.”

What a wit!

Meanwhile, in attempting to play the good cop, his brother remains the most irritating concern troll in the known universe.

…see also.

Happy Triangle Day

[ 38 ] March 25, 2015 |

Triangle-Fire-gs

104 years ago today, 146 American workers died at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York. Combined with the Centralia mine disaster I profiled earlier today, March 25 should be known as American Workplace Disaster Day. Keith Mestrich has a few thoughts on the anniversary and its meaning in the present:

Many will remember in April 2013 when a fertilizer factory in West, Texas, which improperly stored chemicals, exploded. Fourteen men were killed and more than 300 people were injured. The facility was non-union. Stronger workplace protections perhaps could have saved those men’s lives. But since then, Rick Perry and the state of Texas have continued to beat their anti-union drum and have not managed to pass a single new law or regulation to make workplaces safer in their state.

The images of that factory in Texas exploding quickly went viral, ricocheting throughout social media. The tragic photographs from the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire should capture our attention just as much. They may look like distant history but they show a society that did nothing to protect its workers. One hundred and five years later, we cannot make the mistake of thinking the battle is won. The richest country on Earth can afford to protect its workers. And the people of this country deserve to be led by men and women who care whether Americans can get home safely to their families at the end of their shift. The young women who died on that fateful day deserve at least that much.

The Gunman

[ 135 ] March 25, 2015 |

Did you ever want to see a roided-up Sean Penn star in a male wish-fulfillment fantasy where he makes Javier Bardem look like a  dumb Spanish pansy? Well then “The Gunman” is for you.

“Gunman” is about a former Special Ops (because of of course) guy who has a past providing security for humanitarian compounds in The Congo, and–oh yeah–assassinating the country’s Minister of Mining. He tries to atone for his past misdeeds by returning to his old haunts and digging wells for the locals. He also has time to surf and lift weights for about four hours a day, apparently. His super-manly existence is upended when he’s attacked by men looking to get a Proof of Kill. The rest of “The Gunman” is about his surprisingly uninteresting attempts to find out exactly who’s targeting him.

The gunman is a badass. Buff and self-assured and able to get himself out of a jam in almost supero-esque ways. He also has a European Girlfriend TM. (European Girlfriend TM* has a French accent but speaks and understands English perfectly. European Girlfriend is effortlessly lovely, with soulful brown eyes, charmingly-crooked teeth, beautiful skin and perfectly-tousled chin-length brown hair. European Girlfriend maintains her artifice-free loveliness merely by walking to patisseries and bathing in artisanal olive oil.)  And she’s anxious to hop on his junk despite being married to Javier Bardem and being repeatedly ditched by the gunman (for her safety, of course).

Speaking of Javier Bardem, I went to the film thinking he’d be in it a lot more. He made the movie for me– I love watching the man act. His reactions to losing European Girlfriend to Gunman over and over are the best, most emotionally-wrought parts of the film. Otherwise, I’d say “The Gunman” is merely a passable way to spend two hours.

 

*Sometimes European Girlfriend has slightly longer hair…and a Spanish accent.

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