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Category: General

Reality for Garment Workers

[ 25 ] April 27, 2016 |


In all the debates about the global supply chain, perhaps the very laziest and self-serving arguments proponents of free trade make is that the workers overseas need to lobby their own nations for changes if they want their lives to get better. This is a grotesque argument for a number of reasons, including that it allows consumers and, more importantly, active supporters of global labor exploitation, to feel real good about themselves while they benefit from the suffering of others. But it’s also absurd on the face of it because these workers face tremendous daily exploitation that the people who make these arguments have never experienced and cannot comprehend. And despite this, they do stand up and make demands whenever they can! But the reality for these workers is a hard, brutal life. Ila Ananya on garment workers in Bangalore.

“People were angry and they were scared,” Yashodha says. “Very often, any small issue can mean that a worker loses their job. Those who are in charge don’t even have to say that they are terminating our job, all they say is, “naale inda kelsakke barbeda”, “don’t come to work from tomorrow”, and we can’t go to work anymore.” Yashodha laughs in the same way that she does when she talks about doing “OC kelsa”, or free extra work, because they are told that they haven’t met their already high production targets. The targets depend on the piece they are working on – it’s lower for trousers, and also depend on the brand making the clothes (some are for large international brands like Banana Republic and H&M), or the kind of stitches involved. Shanthi, a garment factory worker, says that the production targets have been increased at her workplace, “They used to be about 50 [items] in an hour, which we could do. But now they want 80-90 per hour.”

Yashodha is quick to point out that on paper, workers are supposed to get a lot of things. “According to the law we can have 14 days of leave, but we never get any leave even for emergencies. Someone has died in our family in the village, and we aren’t allowed to go. If we go for a day or two without leave, we are asked to quit work,” she says.

Workers also face restrictions on unionising. Anyone who does unionise or mobilise support for an issue is immediately asked to leave – Rukmini, currently the President of GLU, wasn’t allowed to continue her work when she joined the union. Instead, Yashodha says that they are sometimes given money, and are removed from work – “they have all these tricks,” she says.

Workplace harassment is common, the women say. In February 2007, Ammu, a migrant garment factory worker committed suicide in Bangalore after being harassed by her male supervisors, and in October 2007, Renuka, also a garment factory worker, committed suicide after harassment. “They’re always yelling at us,” Savitri says. Shanti says that when they try to tell their superiors about their problems, nobody listens, “All they say is that it’s in the rules.”

This is why we as Americans have to make decisions on the labor conditions and environmental standards we will accept for products sold in this nation, especially products sold by American corporations. There is no good reason for these conditions to exist. You can still have relatively inexpensive clothes and treat women workers with dignity. Telling them to lobby for change in India and Bangladesh while we do nothing is an absurd argument that is not only offensive, but neocolonialist. We have to expand the American regulatory system to cover imports. We already do–elephant tusks, slave labor, etc. We can expand this tremendously. If we care.


Is Liberal “Smugness” A Meaningful Causal Factor In American Politics? (SPOILER: Still No.)

[ 208 ] April 27, 2016 |


Emmett Rensin has a follow-up to his argument that the white working class, especially in the South, doesn’t vote for liberals because smug liberals hate them. I will give him credit for this much: he sticks to the strong version of his argument. Based on some of his tweets, I fully expected the move in the “the two-step of terrific triviality” in which he backed off his transparently erroneous causal claims and historical assumptions and reduced his argument down to some unexceptionable banality like “liberals should take people who disagree with them seriously.” And we do got both steps here. But ultimately, for better or worse, he means it. This…does not go well:

On the first point, Bouie is correct. Racial animus that had threatened to destroy the liberal coalition as far back as the early twentieth century was a major driver of the realignment that culminated between the late 1960s and the early 1980s.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t something I deny in my own piece. In fact, I’d go further and say that the racial tantrum which drove realignment wasn’t limited to the working class. Among the most critical errors in the history of the American labor movement, the racially motivated defection of union leadership to Nixon in 1968 surely ranks near the top. Subsequently exploited and encouraged by the GOP, racism has continued to animate reactionary populism, from Reagan’s “young buck”, through the reaction to the Barack Obama presidency, and now in the Trump movement.

Resnsin still has no idea of the magnitude of this concession. Remember, his argument is that southern white workers not voting for Democrats is a recent development driven by factors such as Gawker posts and Jon Stewart monologues. If this realignment was not only driven largely by resentment towards the Democratic embrace of civil rights but was mostly complete several decades ago, his argument is reduced to virtually nothing right at the outset. (And when you add in the fact that even before the realignment these voters might have been voting for Democrats but generally weren’t voting for liberals — that this realignment was more about more coherent parties emerging than a change in voter ideology — any possible bite to his argument becomes even more threadbare.)

At this point, any sensible person would realize his argument was a dog and abandon ship. Rensin, instead, makes it even worse. Step one:

That I didn’t explicitly address this my piece is a fair critique by Bouie, but I don’t believe it fundamentally undermines my point. The fact that the white working class embraced and continues to embrace racial resentment does not actually constitute a good reason to deny them economic justice.

This is, of course, true. The problem is that virtually no liberal disagrees with this. Rensin has successfully wrestled a strawman to the ground. Consider Hamilton Nolan, one of the very few of the “smug liberals” who Rensin names and specifically addresses, because he wrote a half-serious post that makes him The Very Smug Face of Liberalism Today (TM). Does Nolan believe that the working class does not deserve economic justice? No, he does not; quite the opposite. Indeed, his half-serious contempt for “dumb hicks” is precisely based on the fact that their votes obstruct efforts to create more egalitarian economic conditions. I don’t think Nolan’s reaction is productive, but given how much weight explanatory weight Rensin piles onto this one post, his incompetent reading of it is an excellent illustration of the problems with his argument.

We have seen a nearly perfect case study to test Rensin’s point: John Roberts’s inept and constitutionally unwarranted re-writing of the Medicaid expansion. John Roberts’s version of Medicaid effectively granted the most important expansion of the welfare state in nearly 50 years to Democratic states and denied it to most of the states in which the white working class helped install Republican statehouses. My challenge: name me one single coastal urban liberal who was pleased with John Roberts’s version of Medicaid. If, as Rensin asserts, the dominant ethos of such liberals is “if they won’t vote for us, deny them economic justice,” they shouldn’t be hard to find! It’s also worth noting that the the large state role in Medicaid, both in 1965 and 2010, was not the preference of urban liberals but was a concession to more conservative Midwestern and rural Democrats. We smug effete liberals generally prefer national programs that provide uniform benefits and despise the neoconfderate ideology Sebelius represents, the fact that decentralization effectively punishes Southern workers notwithstanding.

It is true, in the 90s, that many Democrats — some reasonably described as liberals and some not — pursued policies, most notably welfare reform, that denied economic justice to elements of the working class. But these misguided policies were more a way to appeal to white working class voters rather than a sign of contempt for them, passed during a period in which Democratic elites were suffused with anxiety about their dwindling support in the South. Rensin is right about the policy merits but completely wrong about the politics of their passage.

That said, I don’t think liberal smugness—“These rubes are just ignorant backward hicks who deserve their fate”—is taking a nuanced view of history either.

Indeed it is not! The problem is that Rensin has only some anecdotal evidence for the “ignorant hicks” part of the argument and bupkis on the more crucial “deserve their fate” part. Strawmen you just made up and attribute to others do indeed tend to be lacking in nuance.

And, now, step two:

The second of Bouie’s arguments—that elite liberals in media, on twitter, etc. don’t really matter as much as I think—is a lot less defensible.


But not, evidently, in the case of the working class. You could argue that reactionary working class whites deserve to be shut out and scorned in a way that others do not. But that is not the same thing as saying that being shut out and disrespected doesn’t have much effect.

So Rensin isn’t backing off his causal claims here. And the problem is, as we discussed at the outset, that he has an implausible causal explanation that doesn’t even have causation going for it. Both smug liberals and reactionary whites voting for conservatives are evergreen elements of American politics that long predate The Daily Show and these effete liberals today with their Twitter and Facebook. And two of the less than dozen or so years of the last century in which liberals have been…well, not even dominant in Congress but influential enough to pass something resembling an ambitious if compromised progressive agenda, occurred during the height of liberal smugness. The argument just doesn’t make any sense.

Rensin also addresses the obvious meta-problem of the smugness that consistently characterizes his sweeping, contemptuous, lightly supported generalizations about “smug liberals”:

My essay defines “the smug style” very precisely. It does not mean “having an opinion” or “arguing forcefully” or even “believing your politics are right”. The smug style is about how a large segment of elite liberal culture has come to believe that political differences and political arguments are errors, in the strict sense. That they are ultimately reducible to differences in knowledge (and therefore differences in intelligence). It has accordingly developed an entire culture of tribal signals and jokes predicated on reinforcing this dogma.

The consequence is that elite liberal concerns have been blinded to a whole host of economic issues. It has made liberals worse at combatting reactionary forces. If you believe the main problem is that your opponents are dumb hicks, you do not understand them well enough to fight them, much less persuade them. For example: The smug style made it impossible for liberals to take Trump until very late in the game. It has made a large part of their response to him counter-productive. Even if Trump is defeated, this pattern will continue.

The problem here is that while there are certainly liberals who believe that any disagreement with them must be motivated by ignorance or false consciousness, Rensin provides no evidence that this self-flattery is any more common among liberals than left-of-liberals, moderates, or conservatives. And the weaknesses of his argument are perfectly illustrated by the last three sentences. I assume the third-last one meant to say “take Trump seriously,” but the problem here is that the failure to take Trump seriously was at least as common among conservatives as liberals. (And it’s not just about smugness, either: nobody like Trump had ever won a major party nomination before.) The move in the last two sentence, though, is even better. Liberal smugness has made responses to Trump counter-productive. Liberal smugness is a very bad and very important thing, then! Only liberal smugness notwithstanding, barring economic catastrophe Trump is overwhelmingly likely to be trounced about as badly as a contemporary major party candidate can be in November by a candidate whose campaigning skills are distinctly underwhelming. Does this suggest that perhaps liberal smugness just isn’t remotely the causal factor in determining electoral outcomes that Rensin keeps asserting? No, no, it’s central to his point!

Look, liberal smugness is a real thing. I’ll even give a tip for the next person writing something like this: The Newsroom. It’s a whole show premised on the idea that everyone would agree with liberals if only they heard liberal arguments presented in the right way by the right pompous white guy, and it’s the smuggest and most irritating thing you’ve ever seen. But as much as I’d like to think otherwise, Aaron Sorkin isn’t the reason Republicans control the House. Just because something is really annoying doesn’t make it important. Rensin’s argument is half strawman and half a real thing whose importance he’s massively exaggerated.

If You Want a Racist Campaign Team, the Staff of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is a Good Place to Look

[ 37 ] April 27, 2016 |


Donald Trump senior policy advisor is a guy named Stephen Miller, who he plucked from Jeff Sessions’ staff. Miller went to Duke (which should disqualify anyone from political life anyway) and wrote for the college newspaper there. What sort of things did he write about?

His columns for The Chronicle range in subject from multiculturalism (which he calls “segregation”); to paid family leave (which results in men “getting laid off because [their] boss was losing too much money by paying absent employees”); to the Duke lacrosse scandal (“a large number of people – instead of rejoicing at our peers’ innocence – will insist it is a conspiracy of white privilege”).

The columns offer a revealing glimpse into the opinions and ideology of Trump’s top policy adviser, and the sort of advice the presidential hopeful might be getting.

In addition to standard college newspaper fare – an essay about town-gown relations in which Miller details the “condescension” inherent in giving a janitor a birthday card – Miller’s 25 columns, written between September 2005 and April 2007, frequently touch on hot-button issues.

On torture, for example, Miller writes that criticism of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by American soldiers made then-senator Ted Kennedy “a traitor”, and that comparing the actions of the US military with those of its enemies means “you have betrayed your nation and are morally guilty of treason”.

Most of Miller’s writings, however, are concerned with the culture wars, particularly matters of race. In an article titled “Paranoia”, Miller writes that “racial paranoia” – belief in systematic racism – does a “tremendous disservice” not only to those accused of harboring racist beliefs, but to racial minorities as well.

“It saps their motivation and has devastating results on their potential for success,” he writes.

A great hire!

This Day In Labor History: April 27, 1944

[ 29 ] April 27, 2016 |


On April 27, 1944, Attorney General Francis Biddle arrived in Chicago to order Montgomery Ward head Sewell Avery to either extend his workers’ contract so they would not strike during the war or have his company seized and run by the American government. When Avery refused, Biddle had the military physically remove Avery from Montgomery Ward offices and the process began that led to the government seizing the workplace. This remarkable incident shines a light on a number of major issues concerning organized labor, corporations, and government during World War II.

Many corporate heads originally embraced the New Deal, in particular the National Recovery Administration, because it offered a government-led solution to the problem of overcompetition without really forcing them to give up most control over their daily decisions. So the Blue Eagle, at least under the pro-corporate NRA chief General Hugh Johnson, was amenable to many corporations. But not all. The corporate fundamentalist ideology was that any government interference was a massive violation of liberty. A minority of corporate leaders held to this position no matter how fall the economy had fallen. Even more outrageous to these people was the idea that organized labor had a role to play in the economy. For men like Henry Ford or Montgomery Ward leader Sewell Avery, unions were organizations that sought to crush human liberty.

So Avery was at the forefront of anti-New Dealers from the moment FDR took the presidency in 1933. He was a major financier of the anti-Roosevelt forces, attempting to steer the nation back to Hooverism. This of course failed miserably in the 1936 elections, but that didn’t soften Avery’s opposition.

In 1942, Roosevelt created the National War Labor Board. The NWLB sought to build on government economic planning during World War I to, among other things, create smooth labor relations for the war’s duration so that workers could get out the materiel needed to fight the war. This was a tough challenge for the NWLB. Much of the problem came from workers who had steady, good-paying work for the first time in more than a decade. The NWLB had to keep wages and prices fairly stable but prices did rise faster than wages. Workers wanted a bigger piece of the pie. The NWLB had 12 members–four representatives of business, four of organized labor, and four named by the federal government. This theoretically even playing field brought unions into central economic planning. It also gave them incentive to keep their workers from striking. The agreement that labor and corporations had to come to was that for the duration of the war, unions would not strike if corporations would agree to mandatory NWLB arbitration of all labor disputes and abide by those decisions. Wildcat strikes however remained a consistent problem through the war, as workers desperately wanted to make good money, be consumers, and win the war at the same time.

But while most corporations went along with the NWLB, some resisted. Of course Sewell Avery led this opposition. He maintained a company union as long as possible, but those were ruled unconstitutional in 1937 when the Supreme Court upheld the National Labor Relations Act. The United Mail Order, Warehouse, and Retail Employees Union won an election to unionize Montgomery Ward under NWLB supervision in 1942. Avery refused to negotiate with the union. He hated all unions, but the Mail Order union was affiliated with CIO, which Avery thought was a communist organization seeking to undermine America. This election, which the union supporters won by a 3-1 margin, brought Montgomery Ward’s 7000 Chicago employees into the house of labor. He was most furious that labor won a maintenance of membership clause, which meant that union members couldn’t withdraw from the union for the duration of the contract, i.e., the closed shop. Avery refused to sign the contract, but gave in reluctantly when Roosevelt personally intervened to order him to do so.

In 1944, the contract expired. Avery wanted the union out. He argued that the union did not represent the majority of the employees and that the NWLB had no authority over non-defense plants. This argument made little sense. First, Montgomery Ward was a huge supplier to farmers, who absolutely were critical for American war efforts. Second, the company also supplied the federal government with a lot of goods. The NWLB asked the NLRB to hold another election but also ordered Avery to sign the contract extension in the meantime, which continued the maintenance of membership clause. He said he wouldn’t sign it, “come Hell or high water.” So the workers went on strike on April 12. During the war, this was a big no-no, but not in this case. The Teamsters started a secondary strike, refusing to make deliveries or pick-ups to Montgomery Ward stores around the nation. Even the U.S. Postal Service pulled out their 30 employees dealing with the mass of mail to the company because they had no work to do.

Given Avery’s intransigence, Roosevelt intervened directly. He had Commerce Secretary Jesse Jones plan to seize the company. He dispatched a federal marshal and several government officials to ask Avery to leave his desk. He basically laughed at them. So Roosevelt ordered Attorney General Francis Biddle to personally fly to Chicago to handle it. When Avery showed up to work on the morning of April 27, 1944, he found Biddle there with a group of soldiers. Biddle tried to reason with him and told him he was hurting the war effort. Avery responded by saying “To hell with the government.” So Biddle ordered the soldiers to pick Avery up and carry him out of the building. Avery hurled the worst insult he could think of at Biddle, yelling, “You, you New Dealer!”

The legal case against the company quickly went into the courts, but the workers also immediately stopped the strike and voted in the new contract. So on May 9, Jones returned Montgomery Ward to private management. But Avery then rejected the contract and refused to go along with its provisions. Workers went on strike in the late fall. On December 27, Roosevelt once again ordered the government to take over Montgomery Ward, both its Chicago office and its major regional centers. Avery was allowed to stay in his office this time but was banned from any running of the company’s affairs, while the military set up in an office nearby. The govenrment continued running the company until October 18, 1945. With the war over, they gave it back to Avery, who then purged any managers who had worked with the government. His hatred of labor, which continued unabated, including refusing to offer a pension, combined with Avery’s poor business decisions to start the once dominant company on its long decline.

This is the 176th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

If only Mrs. Till had taught her son not to speak to white women

[ 95 ] April 27, 2016 |

Tamir Rice’s family has reached a settlement with Cleveland. Naturally a local police union seized the opportunity to remind everyone that head of a police union is a great job for someone who was thrown out of a gang of fascist goat-strangling bikers for being too scuzzy.

The head of the Cleveland rank-and-file police union says the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the use of look-alike firearms.

Here’s the education: Ohio is an open carry state. Supremacist dickheads like Steve Loomis don’t believe the law applies to black people, but they do believe in killing them and then blaming them for their deaths.

So eat your veggies so you can grow up big and strong and overthrow the society that allows supremacist dickheads within a light year of a position of influence!

Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.

We look forward to the possibility of working with the Rice family to achieve this common goal.

A perfectly spun “If you don’t work with your oppressors to further their agenda, you’re the real problem and you don’t care about the children.” 10/10.

In response, an attorney for the Rice family filed a Summary Motion to Go Fuck Yourself:

Subodh Chandra … said that the comments “reflect all that is wrong with Cleveland’s police division — he managed to (1) blame the victim, (2) equate the loss of the life of a 12-year-old child with the officers facing scrutiny, and (3) demand money from the victim’s family and counsel.

“Loomis’s continued posturing shows he and the union still don’t comprehend that the police division needs a cultural change — not hiring incompetents, better training, and greater accountability.”

And now, the punchline.

Loomis also sits on the Cleveland Community Police Commission, a board made up of representatives of residents and law enforcement that is tasked with making policy recommendations to the police department. The commission was formed as part of a settlement the city reached with the U.S. Justice Department over police use of force

Unless he’s representing the red-faced violent bloviator faction, this really should not be.

Feeling the Bern? Whatever, Sure, Why Not

[ 186 ] April 26, 2016 |


So even though the Bernie fanatics around here and on the internet have spent 4 months accusing me of being in the bank for Hillary or not a true believer or whatever, just because I don’t Feel the Bern in the same way that some people feel after snorting a few lines of coke, I voted for one Bernie Sanders, Socialist, in the Rhode Island primary today.

I helped put Bernie over the top in the only one of the 5 northeastern states that voted today. Here’s the thing about Rhode Island compared to those other states. It’s objectively better. I mean, we here in the Ocean State are all like, “Let’s vote for Bernie and then go hang by the bay and eat some oysters grown next door.” You know what they say in Pennsylvania? “Let’s vote Hillary and eat some Scrapple.” Please. I mean, really. Probably a bunch of ketchup eaters in those other states.

It Is Getting Hard to See Any Evitability

[ 170 ] April 26, 2016 |


I have generally thought that it would be enormously difficult for Donald Trump to win on a second or later ballot in Cleveland, given his organizational weaknesses. Who knows, this might even be right! However, after tonight’s massive blowout it seems pretty clear that it’s a moot point:

Donald J. Trump is essentially two key states from the nomination.

By sweeping five states on Tuesday, he pulled only a few hundred Republican delegates short of the 1,237 he needs to win without a contested convention.

He has long been favored in the polls in two of the remaining primary states, New Jersey and West Virginia. That leaves Indiana and California as the crucial prizes that would put Mr. Trump over the top — and while he was once thought to be vulnerable in both states, polls have shown him with a modest lead.

And not only that:

One thing that has to greatly worry the anti-Trump forces is that Trump is now exceeding his poll averages. Since New York, Trump has performed at least 6.5 percentage points better in every state than the average of polls taken within 21 days of the election. Before that, Trump tended to hit his polling average and win no undecideds. Now, he’s winning his fair share of undecideds and then some. That’s very bad news for his opponents, given that Trump is already ahead in Indiana, a must-win state for Cruz.

He has a very good shot at 1,237 pledged delegates, and if not he’ll probably get close enough to lock it up on the first ballot. Living in a satirical novel is weird, but I guess eventually you get used to it.

Feminist Book Reviews

[ 37 ] April 26, 2016 |


Female machinist, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California, 1942. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer

A couple of important book reviews for you to read on feminist texts, both of which go after the “marketplace feminism” that currently passes for mainstream feminism in many circles. First, Sarah Jaffe on Andi Zeisler’s We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement.

In writing this book, Zeisler aims to turn our attention back to systems, not individuals. The current moment in pop culture is obsessed with the latter: with the questions of which celebrity called herself a feminist this week, whether makeup can be feminist, if Game of Thrones is too “problematic” to be watched by right-thinking feminists. All of this has shrunk feminism down to the size of a pair of trendy panties; it has made it into yet another box to check off, another set of restrictions on what women can do.

It’s a particular kind of feminism that dovetails perfectly with the rise of neoliberalism—the period of capitalism that features deregulation, privatization, and hyper-individualism. Under neoliberalism, we are all entrepreneurs with “personal brands”; we are all free to choose whatever we want, as long as we can afford to. Neoliberalism has brought us the global supply chain, where fast fashion is sewn by women in sweatshops in Cambodia and Bangladesh, out of sight and mind from the women who will ultimately wear the clothing. Despite the cheery rhetoric of freedom and choices, its icon remains “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, with her forbidding warning that “there is no alternative.”

The problem with “choice” as the key metric for feminism is that not everyone is actually free to make those choices, as Thatcher’s maxim ought to remind us. The point for feminism as a movement, then, is not to get into endless battles about whose choice is the feminist-est of them all, but to critique the ground we’re walking on, to change the rules of the game, not to hate the player.

Zeisler cites Marjorie Ferguson’s 1990 argument about the “feminist fallacy”—the idea that images of powerful women in the media translate into power for women out in the world. In this moment we too often fall under the spell of this and of another kind of “feminist fallacy”: that the success of powerful women will trickle down to the rest of us. In fact, as Zeisler notes, famous and powerful women often mistake what is best for them for what is good for all women; when we put too much weight on the feelings of celebrities, we end up cringing when their uninformed opinions, divorced from solidarity with anyone who might be affected, end up making headlines and even policy, as when Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham put their own feelings ahead of actual research and organizing on the subject of the decriminalization of sex work.

And then Tressie McMillan Cottom with a negative review of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business.

Take, for example, the treatment of race in the book. Slaughter includes a set of data points about race (and class) in her discussion of wage earnings. She rightly points out that black, brown, and poor women do most of the nation’s low-paid service-sector work. She also points out that many of her proposals for narrowing the high-status gender gap might not be feasible for these women. That’s a to-be-sure. But then Slaughter returns to her theory of change, arguing that women are less likely to speak up at work and in class. This gendered deference to masculine authority plagued Slaughter early in her career until her husband taught her to “act like a man”—that is, how to speak up with authority. But there is ample data that black women don’t have the same problem of speaking up. “Acting like a man” is an unfortunate allusion. What they have is a problem of disproportionate, and racist, approbation for speaking up and the racist-sexist double standard that they should speak up on behalf of the nonblack women who are just too painfully afflicted to do so.

If the data on race and class had informed her theory of change, Slaughter might have critiqued the racist, gendered, and classed dimensions of speech and behavior. Data show these social patterns of what is considered acceptable behavior privilege well-to-do white women in mate selection but penalize them at work while also penalizing all other women across the board. Despite minimal engagement with data on race, class, and gender, Slaughter’s revised have-it-all thesis never goes so far as to interrogate the power relations of her positionality. Nor does she allow anything like empirical reality to alter her theory of tipping status competition in favor of highly educated, mostly white women.

There is no more persistent debate in feminist theory and praxis than ones about inclusion. “Big-tent feminism” has been critiqued and, to be fair, has responded, however marginally, to some of the critiques of its elitism, racism, capitalist impulses, and normative social reproduction. All versions of the have-it-all thesis are susceptible to the same critiques because the thesis is just a manifestation of capital’s creative translation of our precarious, post-work political economy. At its heart, for some women to have it all, most women cannot ever have enough. In practice this looks like extracting loyalty from poor women in the service sector while using service-sector labor to negotiate economic elite parity with men in the contracting, competitive good-jobs sector of a global knowledge economy.

The veneer of feminist talk is just that—a veneer and just talk. Even in her revision, Slaughter does not present a feminist theory of change. She presents policy prescriptions for coping with precarity and stratification, not challenges to precarity and stratification. The good news is that there are theories of feminist change for this moment. Take the intersectional politics of Black Lives Matter or the interethnic coalition of the Fight for $15 labor movement for a higher minimum wage. Those debates are happening, and we are all better for holding them to the extent that some of us are actually holding them.

The Carceral-Industrial Complex

[ 178 ] April 26, 2016 |


Mississippi officials are complaining about the state’s declining prison populations. Why? Because county, state, and private funding models were all built on prison profit and losing prisoners now creates budget crises.

County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat. The culprit, say local officials, is state government and private prisons, which are looking to boost their own revenue as sentencing and drug-policy reforms are sending fewer bodies into the correctional system.

In the late 1990s, as the overcrowded Mississippi prison system buckled under the weight of mass incarceration, the state asked local governments to build local correctional institutions to house state prisoners. It was billed as a win-win: The Mississippi Department of Correction would foot the bill for each prisoner, and the counties would get good jobs guarding them. The state guaranteed that the local jails would never be less than 80 percent occupied, and the locals would get a 3 percent boost in compensation each year.

After a few years, say local officials, the state offered a new deal: Instead of the 3 percent bump, they would give the locals more and more prisoners, thus boosting total revenue. Today, the state pays $29.74 per day per prisoner to the regional facilities, a deal that worked for everybody as long as the buildings were stuffed full with bodies.

Scott Strickland, president of the Stone County Board of Supervisors, said reforms at the state and local levels have shrunk the prison population. “Federal laws took some part in that — allowing prisoners to serve only a certain percentage of their term,” he said. “Also, they’ve reduced prison sentences for certain drug-related offenses.”

As the wave of mass incarceration begins to recede, the Mississippi controversy has local and state officials talking openly about how harmful locking up fewer people up will be for the economy, confirming the suspicions of those who have argued that mass incarceration is not merely a strategy directed at crime prevention. “Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration, a social tool used for punishment, also became a major job creator,” Antonio Moore, a producer of the documentary “Crack in the System,” wrote recently.

“I don’t think it necessarily started out this way, but the inmate population has become the backbone of some of these counties that are involved,” said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher as the controversy heated up.

The prisoners have value beyond the per diem, county officials add, when they can be put to work. State prisoners do garbage pickup, lawn maintenance and other manual labor that taxpayers would otherwise have to pay for. Convict labor has made it easier for local governments to absorb never-ending cuts in state funding, as tea party legislators and governors slash budgets in the name of conservative government.

The state knows it, and now demands that local jails house state convicts who perform labor for free, George County Supervisor Henry Cochran told The Huffington Post. The counties take the deal. “You’re either gonna go up on everybody’s garbage bill, or you’ve gotta house those inmates,” Cochran said. “You’re using that inmate labor, so [taxpayers are] getting a little good out of that inmate for their tax dollars. You either gotta hire a bunch of employees or keep that inmate. It’s like making a deal with the devil.”

This whole system is completely dysfunctional, immoral, and racist, given who makes up the prison population. That different strata of government are both making economic claims on prisoners and that because of the state’s terrible politics, both levels of government lack the money to function without prisoners is just a terrible, awful, no good thing.

African-Americans and the 1994 Crime Bill

[ 99 ] April 26, 2016 |


Scott linked to this story last week, but I thought it was worth its own conversation, especially with our commenter ThrottleJockey continually talking about how we need to throw away the key and citing black support for the 1994 crime bill. So did African-Americans support the 1994 crime bill? These authors argue taht white politicians chose to misunderstand black requests for better policing with the desire to throw everyone in prison.

There’s no question that by the early 1990s, blacks wanted an immediate response to the crime, violence and drug markets in their communities. But even at the time, many were asking for something different from the crime bill. Calls for tough sentencing and police protection were paired with calls for full employment, quality education and drug treatment, and criticism of police brutality.

It’s not just that those demands were ignored completely. It’s that some elements were elevated and others were diminished — what we call selective hearing. Policy makers pointed to black support for greater punishment and surveillance, without recognizing accompanying demands to redirect power and economic resources to low-income minority communities. When blacks ask for better policing, legislators tend to hear more instead.

Selective hearing has a deep history. In the Progressive Era, W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells called for state authorities to offer blacks the same social investment that reformers used to manage crime in white immigrant communities. But while whites received rehabilitation and welfare programs, black citizens found themselves overpunished and underprotected.

Flash forward to the Clinton era. As soon as Chuck Schumer, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others introduced their bipartisan crime bill in September of 1993, groups representing black communities pushed back. The N.A.A.C.P. called it a “crime against the American people.”

While supporting the idea of addressing crime, members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the bill itself and introduced an alternative bill that included investments in prevention and alternatives to incarceration, devoted $2 billion more to drug treatment and $3 billion more to early intervention programs. The caucus also put forward the Racial Justice Act, which would have made it possible to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge death sentences.

Given the history of selective hearing, what followed was no surprise. Black support for anti-crime legislation was highlighted, while black criticism of the specific legislation was tuned out. The caucus threatened to stall the bill, but lawmakers scrapped the Racial Justice Act when Republicans promised to filibuster any legislation that adopted its measures.

In final negotiations, Democratic leadership yielded to Republicans demanding that prevention (or “welfare for criminals” as one called it) be sliced in exchange for their votes. Senator Robert Dole insisted that the focus be “on cutting pork, not on cutting prisons or police.” The compromise eliminated $2.5 billion in social spending and only $800 million in prison expenditures.

In other words, the 1994 crime bill served white interests and forced black politicians into a corner over whether to claim they did something on crime or support a bill that was so counter to the interests of the African-American population. It’s clearly not accurate to claim that African-Americans widely supported this bill. We should stop making this claim.

The Sound of One Hand Fapping, No Labels Edition

[ 114 ] April 26, 2016 |


Daydream believing about third parties from the left is misguided and potentially disastrous, but the underlying impulse is at least understandable. From the elite center, on the other hand, it’s just pathetic. I give you Mr. Jim VandeHei and his belief that America’s overpaid and underperforming elites need a DISRUPTIVE vanity candidate to call their own pretend represents any constituency beyond themselves:

Here are my two big takeaways: Normal America is right that Establishment America has grown fat, lazy, conventional and deserving of radical disruption. And the best, perhaps only way to disrupt the establishment is by stealing a lot of Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’s tricks and electing a third-party candidate.

Who knows, maybe this will be the first time a good idea is announced by tying it to “disruption?” I don’t like the odds but…

Take it a step further and force the wealthy to forfeit their entitlement benefits. And everyone loves socking it to Congress. Mandate that lawmakers go home after serving instead of profiting off their service. Also force them to get outside of the D.C. bubble by holding months-long sessions in different sections of Normal America.

Faux-populism that 1)does nothing for the poor or middle class in the short term and 2)probably leaves them worse off in the long term as the elite have even less incentive to preserve entitlement programs.

The candidate has to be authentic and capable of having a rolling, candid, transparent conversation with voters on social and conventional media.

What ordinary Americans crave above all is good jobs financial security dignity and security affordable health care Authenticity! What an amazing coincidence that elite Beltway centrists are obsessed with which candidates can best fake it.

The ideal candidate would write a very specific agenda in normal, conversational language, not whatever nonsensical language today’s political class was taught to speak. He or she would engage voters daily on social media, with fun and flare. (Think Trump with impulse control and better spelling.) The candidate would inundate voters with transparency and specificity, even when it hurts. And exploit cable TV’s addiction to whatever is hot and new. Mr. Trump has shown how technology has made money less important in modern politics.

There are many words here that don’t mean anything. Are we going to get to the “very specific agenda” at some point?

Exploit the fear factor. The candidate should be from the military or immediately announce someone with modern-warfare expertise or experience as running mate.

Apparently not.

Learn from the mistakes of Messrs. Trump and Sanders. Anger has its limits. The fringe can win primaries but it can’t win national elections

Be like Trump and Sanders — who are very similar! — but not too much. Very useful.

Use the Internet revolution for the greater good.

It will be a totally proactive new paradigm! Like this:

Right now, millions of young people are turned on by a 74-old-year socialist scolding Wall Street; millions of others by a reality-TV star with a 1950s view of women. Why not recruit Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg to head a third-party movement? Maybe we can convince Michael Bloomberg to help fund the movement with the billions he planned to spend on his own campaign—and then recruit him to run Treasury and advise the president.

What Americans furious at American elites want is a party led by immensely wealthy people running on no particular agenda! What an amazing coincidence that this is also what I’ve always wanted!

And now, the punchline:

I will even throw out a possible name for the movement: The Innovation Party.

How many times can satire be killed in one op-ed?

Today’s Overdetermined Donald Trump Endorsement

[ 64 ] April 26, 2016 |


He has the perpetually angry white guy asshole vote LOCKED UP, I tell you:

It looks like Donald Trump got what he wanted — former Indiana Hoosiers coach Bobby Knight will be hitting the road with him on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, Knight, who is known for once throwing a chair during a game, has been talking up Trump for months, including when he was on speakerphone with Trump while a New York Times reporter was in the room. ‘‘No one has accomplished more than Mr. Trump has,’’ Knight said in the article that was published last October.

During an event for IU rival Purdue University earlier this year, Knight also said, “I damn sure don’t want to be listening to Hillary for the next four years.”

If only Zombie Woody Hayes could have been more active in Ohio…

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