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Category: General

Can Walmart and Nike Afford Apparel Workers Making $40 More a Month? (Spoiler: Yes)

[ 7 ] September 23, 2016 |


While we are justifiably focused on the election, American corporations are still exploiting overseas workers and we aren’t paying any attention to that. Unlike those who claim that American apparel companies moving overseas are beneficient glorious job creators gifting work to the global poor, the workers themselves are real people with real demands. For example, Cambodian workers are demanding an increase in their nation’s minimum wage, from $140 a month to just under $180. That is not a lot of money. But the western apparel companies are making no statement affirming this demand except to say they like a transparent minimum wage. One can at least strongly suspect they actively are working behind the scenes to oppose it. Cole Stangler asks a bunch of experts on these issues, including myself, if these companies can afford the extra $40 a month. Um, yes.

Workers’ rights advocates believe that the U.S. and European brands should take a strong stance today.

“They should back labor unions’ proposed wages and they do have a responsibility,” said Irene Pietropaoli, a Myanmar-based consultant on business and human rights. “They are under no legal obligation to do so, but they clearly are key players in this debate and so have an ethical responsibility to show leadership, to influence the government when they can, to use their ‘leverage,’ to use the wording of the UN Guiding Principles (on Business and Human Rights).”

That landmark document, crafted and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, calls on companies to use their “leverage” to prevent “an adverse human rights impact” from taking place.

From labor’s perspective, that’s precisely what’s at stake. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an international alliance of trade unions and labor rights advocates that focuses on the garment industry, has calculated Cambodia’s “living wage” to be $283 a month—far above what local unions are demanding.

However, economic interests get in the way of such a rate, explained Auret van Heerden, senior advisor with the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and former president of the Fair Labor Association.

Suppliers are reluctant to hike wages because, for one, there’s no guarantee their buyers will absorb the higher labor costs. What’s more: garment factories typically operate on short-term contracts, lasting just a few months. If a factory owner decided to unilaterally raise pay, he risks losing future business. A buyer might react by sourcing elsewhere in Cambodia—or by simply finding cheaper labor abroad, in say, Bangladesh or Myanmar.

“A lot of the suppliers, privately, are accusing buyers, brands, of being really part of the problem because they’re cutting their prices on the one hand and they’re expecting them to absorb more costs on the other hand,” said van Heerden.

Of course, the brands themselves could simply sign longer-term contracts guaranteeing higher wages—but they don’t. And, at the moment, van Heerden explained, they’re likely reluctant to get involved in the minimum wage debate for fear of upsetting their business and political partners in Cambodia.

“If the brands do weigh in, they’re going to certainly antagonize government and the industry association, and they’re going to antagonize their own suppliers, frankly,” van Heerden says. “So they’re going to step on three sets of toes and not going to get any credit from the unions unless they want to sort of put themselves in bed with the unions, which is not a position they want to be in either. I can understand why they’d want to stay out of it.”

It is a complicated situation for the companies as they aren’t the only ones who don’t want to pay good wages. But the companies also have the ultimate power–it’s their product. They have the ability to commit to keeping a factory open in a nation that raises its wages or the ability to simply say that they are going to raise prices by $1 for a pair of shoes and that money goes to the workers. We should make them act to improve the lives of the workers making our clothing.


Glenn Reynolds Reiterates Belief in the Summary Execution of Protestors

[ 159 ] September 23, 2016 |


Glenn Reynolds, a law professor, called for the summary execution of protestors. In a non-apology apology, he clarified that he still believed there were numerous circumstances in which people should kill protestors. In a follow-up post, he approvingly posts an email trying to define Reynolds’s tweet as an answer to the “trolley problem”, because apparently anyone in a car when protestors use the common tactic of blocking traffic is in “reasonable fear for his life.” Right. There is no possible defense for this, and Reynolds has an extensive history of this kind of thing.

And, yet, I agree with Henry that Reynolds should not be disciplined. Reynolds’s words, reprehensible as they are, were not plausibly an incitement in the sense that would exclude them from First Amendment protection. Reynolds should be protected by academic freedom, even if his own commitment to the concept is less than robust.

The Party Left Him!

[ 78 ] September 23, 2016 |

The Democratic Party, by shifting away from the leftism of Jimmy Carter and Robert Byrd and BAILING OUT poor people without health insurance, consumers, and LBGT people, has predictably lost people who are truly in touch with the common man. First, there was Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild. And now there’s former New York City City Council President Andrew Stein. He was once the strongest supporter the Democratic Party ever had. Estes Kefauver once stayed at his apartment! But, more in sorrow than in anger, he must support Donald Trump for president:

With this background it is very hard for me not to support the Democratic nominee for president this year. But I believe my party has become the party of the elites and moneyed class and has deserted its historic mission as the party of the working class and disadvantaged.

Oh. How, exactly, have Democrats abandoned “the working class and disadvantaged”?

Given my level of discomfort with the current leftist orientation of the Democratic Party, I am now supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump for president. I urge my fellow Democrats to vote for Mr. Trump. I have known him since the early 1970s and have seen his deep concern for people, and how effective he has been while working on behalf of the average citizen.

Apparently, what the average citizen wants more than anything else is to be bilked out of their life savings for worthless advice, or to be uncompensated for their work, while being told they’re ugly and perhaps denied an apartment because of their race.

Donald Trump is no racist.

This bare assertion is more convincing than any evidence could ever be. Anyway, we’re kind of losing the thread here. How is Trump going to help the working class and the disadvantaged?

While he has made some controversial and provocative statements, I strongly believe he will bring needed change and vitality to our nation and shake up our political system, which is in a state of crisis. He is for strong pro-growth policies like reducing the marginal and corporate tax rates and eliminating thousands of job-killing and business-stifling regulations, the biggest of which is ObamaCare.

The way to help the working class is to take away their health insurance while passing massive upper-class tax cuts. You can see why he had to abandon the Democrat Party, which has abandoned its longstanding commitment to redistributing wealth upwards.

As a bonus, he’s earned a quote when Henwood updates his Clinton book, as finally someone will back up his “American public policy is unilaterally determined by New York’s junior senator” theory:

Her domestic record is as bad as her international one. When Mrs. Clinton was elected to the Senate, she promised to create 200,000 new jobs in upstate New York. When she left office in January 2009, the region had a net loss of 8,000 jobs. Now she promises to create 10 million new jobs in the nation. Why should we believe that she will do that, based on her failed record in New York state?

When Hillary Clinton was in the Senate, and a Republican was in the White House, there was a net job loss in upstate New York. This shows that we need a Republican in the White House again! I am not a crank.

Via Chait, who adds pertinent information about the Wall Street Journal‘s voice of the working class:

Of course, cutting taxes for the rich, deregulating business, and repealing Obamacare are policies that literally every national Republican favors. It is not clear what this has to do with helping the working class and the disadvantaged. Possibly relevant to Stein’s endorsement of Trump’s tax and regulatory policies, but unmentioned in the op-ed, is Stein’s own conviction for tax evasion as part of a money-laundering scheme. At the time of his conviction, Stein requested leniency for his crime on the grounds that he is a longtime elected official. You can see why a man who used inside connections to steal a huge sum of money and requested favorable treatment because he was an insider could become disgusted that the Democrats were now “the party of the elites and moneyed class.”

The new old normal

[ 132 ] September 23, 2016 |


Here’s North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger on the BBC, explaining to his bemused host why people in Charlotte are protesting:

A few things:

(1)A key feature of the racist frame of mind is to adopt an absurd, utterly counter-factual caricature of entire ethnic group, and then apply that caricature to every single individual in that group, while using it as an explanatory mechanism for any issue involving that group.

For this guy (again, a member of the US Congress, not a guy with a sign somewhere) black people are poor people on welfare, and white people are not. Now if you pressed him on it he would admit that there are blah people who aren’t on welfare and white people that are, and he might even admit, when presented with the liberally-biased facts, that there are quite a few more white people on welfare than black people, that the vast majority of black people aren’t actually welfare queens driving Caddylacks and strapping young bucks using food stamps to buy dependency-addicting t-bone steaks etc. (Or maybe not, since you can use statistics to prove anything you know).

(2) I guarantee you Pittenger is genuinely appalled and outraged by claims that he’s a racist. Of course he’s not a racist: he’s just not PC, or a race realist, or a speaker of hard truths, or the true keeper of the spirit of Martin Luther King (He actually starts the interview with a paean to MLK; here’s the longer version if you have five minutes — it’s well worth watching for its sociological interest). Six years ago Chris Rock asked, what do you have to do now to be considered a racist by a mainline Republican, shoot Medgar Evers? That’s not even a joke any more.

(3) This is the Trump effect in action, although of course to a great extent Trump is a symptom not a cause. Open racism in national politics is back in a big way, and it’s having all sorts of social effects. Would law professor Glenn Reynolds have tweeted what he tweeted yesterday a year or two ago? I doubt it. But now that really open racism is off the leash again a lot of “respectable” people are really loving it.

This is your brain. This is your brain on libertarianism.

[ 133 ] September 22, 2016 |

Any questions?

(Yes, he really did say the sun will burn up the planet some day, so we should focus on making lots of money now because money, also money and then of course there’s money. Great job, New Mexico.)


[ 112 ] September 22, 2016 |


Just read this:

The phrase “black lives matter,” which has been used to draw attention to the problem, has inspired its own pushback, with critics suggesting it means that “blue” (police) lives, or nonblack lives in general, aren’t important. That’s hugely confused.

But any sincere confusion about what the Black Lives Matter movement means and what motivates critics of racialized police violence should end with the news of the circumstances of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher’s death in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week (to say nothing of the police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina, of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday night, the details of which are still unfolding).

After Crutcher’s car stalled on the highway, police responding to a call about an abandoned vehicle, saw Crutcher — who video shows was following instructions and who police have admitted was unarmed — and deemed him “a bad dude” who would need to be tasered. Moments later, officer Betty Shelby shot him dead.

Anyone should be able to see that this was wrong. The fact that it happened, that the officer may or may not be held responsible, and that it hasn’t led to national consensus of horror and outrage paints a clear, simple picture of the reality that people are protesting against when they say “black lives matter.”

This shooting, the latest in a long, long string of similar cases, stands out. Because of the specific circumstances, it’s a tragedy that even people who hold deeply misguided beliefs about black criminality or intense loyalty to police officers should be able to see as such. There are no distractions. Those who can’t identify injustice in this latest textbook example of how racial bias can lead to death probably won’t see it anywhere.

It’s Black Lives Matter 101.

Betty Shelby has been charged with manslaughter.

The notorious Big (Papi) and the Hall of Fame

[ 201 ] September 22, 2016 |


I have a theory, which is mine: David Ortiz is going to get elected to the Hall of Fame, AND his election is going to help eventually open the floodgates for the election of Bonds, Clemens, etc. Why?

(1) The circumstantial evidence that Ortiz has used PEDs and that this has had a yuuuge effect on his career is very strong — certainly far stronger than the evidence against somebody like Jeff Bagwell, if not quite at the Bonds/McGwire level.

(2) Ortiz’s Hall of Fame case, in terms of traditional baseball stats, is also very strong.

And here’s where it gets complicated:

(3) In terms of advanced metrics, Big Papi’s qualifications for baseball immortality are actually quite dubious at best. To wit:

*Per Baseball Reference, his career WAR is barely more than Mike Trout’s, who is 16 years younger.

*He’s never had anything like a real MVP season, again per advanced stats.

*He’s only had about four all-star level seasons, including, remarkably enough, (wink wink nudge nudge) his current one, on the eve of his 41st birthday.

His postseason performance, which surely counts for something these days (he’s played in 82 playoff and WS games) has been very good, but basically in line with his regular season stats, although he did have an epic 2013 World Series.

Anyway, the interesting thing here is that the traditionalist voters — the people who are going to point to the 500+ home runs and the nearly 1800 RBIs and the .532 career slugging percentage and such — also overlap to a great extent with the PED hardliners. So these voters are on the horns of a dilemma.

And it’s a dilemma which is going to be exacerbated by the further fact that Ortiz is exactly the kind of candidate that, apart from his stats, is going to get a big boost from his popularity with sports writers and fans. He’s a charismatic guy with a cool nickname who played a lot of big games on TV for a major market legacy franchise team. In other words under normal conditions he’d be elected without a sweat.

My guess is that what happens is that, in this case, a bunch of rationalizations are going to be deployed about better baseball through chemistry, while the sabermetrics crowd (which I’m guessing is far less punitively inclined toward PED use than the traditionalists although I confess this is just a guess) scream bloody murder about hypocrisy plus he wasn’t that good anyway, especially compared to a bunch of truly great players who have been excluded.

This debate will in turn play role in those great players eventually getting in.

Reform the Electoral System Before It Malfunctions Again

[ 156 ] September 22, 2016 |


People on the left should not vote for third party candidates in 2016. But we also shouldn’t forget that we have a bad electoral system that can unnecessarily produce inaccurate results:

But the bigger problem is that supporting any Green candidate for president is all downside and no upside. The only possible effect Stein could have on the presidential election is to attract enough votes to allow Donald Trump to win, which would have horrible material consequences for countless important issues: civil rights and liberties, economic equality, the environment, women’s reproductive freedom, and on and on.

The idea that without third-party challenges the major parties will just take their supporters entirely for granted, and hence that third parties are necessary for major change to occur, sounds plausible in theory but is egregiously wrong in practice. Conservatives didn’t capture the Republican Party by mounting vanity general election candidates against the establishment. The Social Security Act of 1935, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the national right to same-sex marriage were not the result of mass defections from the Democratic Party and effective third-party challenges from the left. Presidents inevitably disappoint their allies, and as Bernie Sanders recently noted, politics has to continue after Election Day. But some presidents are amenable to pressure from progressive groups and some aren’t, and activists who know what they’re doing do what they can to elect the former. In 2016, Hillary Clinton is in the former category and Donald Trump the latter.

Still, why should the consequences of voting your first choice be so potentially perverse? It is a function of the electoral system. To get a state’s Electoral College votes, a candidate does not need a majority, only one more vote than the runner-up. These simple plurality electoral systems have become increasingly discredited among liberal democracies, for good reason.

Plurality systems effectively ignore highly pertinent information. They treat all voters as having no preference between the candidates they don’t mark as their first choice, when we know that in most cases that isn’t true. (A person voting for Jill Stein will, in all likelihood, prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.) Because of strategic voting (e.g., liberals of all stripes voting to keep Trump out of office), plurality elections tend to produce acceptable, majority-supported winners—but not always. Electoral systems that take this information into account—and hence prevent the spoiler effect of third-party candidates—are available and could be instituted.

The problem with the electoral system is not Trump per se; after all, one of the most severe democratic malfunctions of the Electoral College gave us Lincoln. The problem is that it’s a lousy electoral system, and the majority should reliably get their choice. I myself don’t see much value in expressive voting for third-party candidates but an electoral system should accommodate those that do.

For those interested in electoral reform, The Center For Election Science is running a fundraising campaign. And, also, never forget.

Glenn Reynolds (a Professor of Law) suggests his Twitter followers “run down” Charlotte protestors

[ 216 ] September 22, 2016 |


Gets his account suspended.

Glenn Reynolds, a conservative USA Today columnist and University of Tennessee law professor, was suspended from Twitter on Wednesday for urging drivers to hit protesters blocking a highway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Reynolds tweeted a link to a live video stream of demonstrators stopping traffic on I-277 during the chaotic second day of protests over the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. His comment read “Run them down.”

Twitter suspended his account shortly after the tweet went up and outraged commenters accused Reynolds, who also runs the Instapundit website, of inciting violence. Several users preserved screenshots of the tweet.

Wednesday’s protest began as a prayer vigil in downtown Charlotte but became more volatile later in the evening, with one protester hospitalized in critical condition with a gunshot wound and camera crews getting knocked down during live shots. Police fired tear gas and flash grenades at protesters in the city’s downtown.

Murdering protesters is, strictly speaking, illegal, but Reynolds has a history of taking a creative approach toward extra-legal killings of people he doesn’t like.

It might (or might not) be worth mentioning that in addition to being a tenured professor at a flagship state university Reynolds is a columnist for USA TODAY, so this isn’t nutpicking in the classical sense of the term, although it’s getting really hard to keep my internet categories straight these days.

….(djw) Reynolds responds. For those who’d rather not click through, he goes on for a bit about a moral distinction between peaceful protests and rioting (a distinction one can appreciate, it seems to me, without calling for immediate vigilante execution of either group) before explaining that he was making point about traffic safety or something. In a world drowning in Frankfurtian bullshit, this:

“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully

PC continuing: To be fair to Reynolds, I’m going to quote his response to all this:

[B]locking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings, and so on. I wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road, but I wouldn’t stop because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.

“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance.

Meanwhile, regarding Twitter: I don’t even know that this is why I was suspended, as I’ve heard nothing from Twitter at all. They tell users and investors that they don’t censor, but they seem awfully quick to suspend people on one side of the debate and, as people over at Twitchy note, awfully tolerant of outright threats on the other.

Twitter can do without me, as I can certainly do without Twitter.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Erik Wemple of the Washington Post emails that “Keep driving” would have been a better formulation of what I was trying to say. It would have been, and in only two words instead of three. But I’ve had over 580,000 tweets, and they can’t all be perfect.

No further comment necessary plus it’s too early to start drinking.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE [SL]: Since the beginning of time, Glenn Reynolds has yearned to kill his political enemies.

[PC] . . . and just for the record, how’s this for pure hypocritical self-delusion? (Really needs to be read in conjunction with the link Scott posted just above).

ELIMINATIONIST RHETORIC: Rhode Island prof demands NRA chief’s “head on a stick” — Then declares himself a Twitter martyr because people quoted what he said. Then he softened his stance to say that imprisonment for life would be enough. All for the crime of political disagreement.

The anti-NRA syllogism seems to work this way: (1) Something bad happened; (2) I hate you; so (3) It’s your fault. This sort of reasoning has played out in all sorts of places over the past century, with poor results. One would expect a history professor to know better.

h/t Warren Terra

More Manchin-ations

[ 67 ] September 22, 2016 |

The Manchin family is proving my theory that the only real differences between rich assholes and non-rich assholes are that rich assholes can spread their shit a lot farther and deeper than the non-rich; the rich can get lots of people to agree that their shit is in fact thick delicious chocolate frosting; and they rarely ever have to clean up their shit when everyone realizes Hey no, this really is shit.

After Gayle Manchin took over the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012, she spearheaded an unprecedented effort that encouraged states to require schools to purchase medical devices that fight life-threatening allergic reactions.

The association’s move helped pave the way for Mylan Specialty, maker of EpiPens, to develop a near monopoly in school nurses’ offices. Eleven states drafted laws requiring epinephrine auto-injectors. Nearly every other state recommended schools stock them after what the White House called the “EpiPen Law” in 2013 gave funding preference to those that did.

The CEO of Mylan then, and now, was Heather Bresch. Gayle Manchin is Heather Bresch’s mother.

Bonus video, because some are born to chase rainbows, but others pursue goal posts.

Are Donald Trump and his supporters racist? (Spoiler alert: No.)

[ 147 ] September 21, 2016 |

So says Damon Linker, professional serious thinking person and human logical fallacy distribution center.

In fact, Linker thinks liberals need to stop saying the various right wing movements around the world, including the one right here in the U.S., are the product of strawmen, appeals to emotion – I beg your pardon, I was thinking of Linker’s writing – racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, because it’s really just solidarity. I mean, who among you hasn’t looked around during a gathering of family and friends and thought that all you needed to make the event perfect was a handful of strangers to denigrate and abuse?

Thanks to commentarion Gwen for sharing.

Mental illness, incarceration and death

[ 74 ] September 21, 2016 |

Terrill Thomas’ death from dehydration has been ruled a homicide. It’s hard to imagine how the coroner could have reached any other conclusion, even in a country where drapetomania excited delirium is an accepted cause of death: This is the second such death caused by guards shutting off an inmate’s water at this jail.

Fellow inmates told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel corrections officers shut off the water in Thomas’ cell for the six days before his April 24 death. The jail officers refused the inmates’ warnings that Thomas was sick and in dire need of drinking water, the inmates said.


Berry said jail officers shut off Thomas’ water faucet and toilet in a special unit separate from the general inmate population because he had flooded his previous cell. Thomas turned down food in the days before his death as well, according to Berry.

Police said Thomas, 38, had opened fire at a local casino and shot a man in the chest before his April 15 arrest. A judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation that Thomas was still waiting on when he died nine days later.

I don’t hold any hope that someone will finally, just once, go to jail for killing an inmate. Even though letting someone die of dehydration without any sort of medical support (i.e. lots of drugs) is a way to torture someone to death without touching him, I doubt anyone will face charges. Thomas was black, had a history of mental illness and he was accused of committing a violent crime.

That he was killed as punishment for flooding his jail cell, and that death wouldn’t have been the penalty if he was found guilty of the shooting, will likely be seen as irrelevant, especially if the rest of Milwaukee’s law and justice apparatus takes after Sheriff David Clarke. But since I brought it up, here’s an idea of what Thomas was condemned to when guards shut off his water.

“Thirst, as you probably know, is one of the most potent drives for behavior we have. It may be the most potent we have, more than even hunger,” he said.


The body is about 60 percent water, and under normal conditions, he said, an average person will lose about a quart of water each day by sweating and breathing and another one to three quarts by urinating, he said. In the heat and under more difficult physical conditions, that amount increases, he said.

If it’s not replaced over time and dehydration becomes severe, cells throughout the body will begin to shrink as water moves out of them and into the blood stream, part of the body’s efforts to keep the organs perfused in fluid.

“All the cells will shrink,” Berns said, “but the ones that count are the brain cells. They don’t operate normally when they’re’ shrinking.” Changes in mental status will follow, including confusion and ultimately coma, he said. As the brain becomes smaller, it takes up less room in the skull and blood vessels connecting it to the inside of the cranium can pull away and rupture.

This man, who died of dehydration, during a wilderness survival exercise, suffered delirium and hallucinations before he succumbed, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Victims’ kidneys may shut down first, Berns said, as they continue to lack access to both water and salt. The kidneys cleanse the blood of waste products which, under normal conditions, are excreted in urine. Without water, blood volume will decline and all the organs will start to fail, he said. Kidney failure will soon lead to disastrous consequences and ultimately death as blood volume continues to fall and waste products that should be eliminated from the body remain.

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