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The Stupidest Newspaper Endorsement of the 2014 Cycle

[ 54 ] October 11, 2014 |

The Denver Post wins the day for idiocy. It decided to change its endorsement for the Colorado senate race from Mark Udall to Cory Gardner. Part of its reasoning:

The newspaper explained that it believed Republicans would “temper their policies” with control of the Senate.

“If Gardner wins, of course, it could mean the Senate has flipped to Republicans. However, that doesn’t mean it will simply butt heads with President Obama as the Republican House has done,” it wrote. “As The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib recently pointed out, ‘A look back shows that eras of evenly divided power — Congress fully controlled by one party, the presidency by the other — have turned out to be among the most productive” because both sides temper their policies.”

Ha ha ha ha. I for one can’t wait until Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz decide to come together with Obama in 2015 to pass immigration reform and other common sense legislation. The only way to make that happen is to elect people like Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner! That’s the kind of moderation this country needs!!!

David Broder approves from the grave.

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Chinese Emissions and American Consumption

[ 10 ] October 11, 2014 |

Too often, we, even liberals, create politically convenient artificial barriers between the globalized economy and national boundaries. Specifically, we have outsourced the vast majority of our industrial production overseas while absconding responsibility for its outcomes. This might mean saying that we American consumers have no responsibility for factory conditions in Bangladesh and Vietnam because “those people should demand change from their government.” This common formulation ignores the power structure behind the present apparel industry situation, where American clothing companies will simply move production abroad if “those people” do demand that change.

The same goes for carbon emissions. We note the growth of Chinese carbon emissions and sometimes use it as an excuse why it isn’t worth the U.S. doing anything about if the Chinese don’t care. But again, a lot of that Chinese production is for the American market and our companies choosing to export production to China make those emissions as much American responsibility as Chinese.

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And while China does lead the world in carbon emissions, the U.S. still far outpaces the rest of the world in carbon emissions per person:

GCP per capita consumption emissions

This all does not mean we should not be concerned about Chinese emissions, but it does mean that a) a lot of those emissions are in fact the responsibility of the United States and b) the United States still produces vastly more emissions per capita and needs to take care of its own house before blaming the Chinese for why we can’t do anything about climate change.

More broadly, it reinforces my very strong belief that in a globalized economy, national law is a hindrance that helps corporations take advantage of hundreds of different jurisdictions, many of which are easily bought off, in order to avoid responsibility. Short of a global legal framework that would actually hold corporations accountable, which is a pipe dream, we have to demand that the U.S. government regulate corporate behavior wherever they operate if they want the advantages of working, living, and trading in the U.S.

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The Vitagraph Smokestack

[ 8 ] October 11, 2014 |

midwood_vitagraph00

I rarely put forth or publicize online petitions but I will make an exception here
. The oldest standing monument to the film industry is falling apart and needs preservation before it is torn down. Vitagraph Studios was a leading maker of silent film from its studio in Brooklyn. Warner Brothers bought the company in 1925 and of course the film industry had already moved out of its New York original home to Hollywood.

Personally, I’d like to see a government-sponsored early film museum created in the area around the smokestack. It’s an incredibly valuable piece of the nation’s cultural heritage and is worth the investment.

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Friday Creature Feature: Sorry for These Creatures

[ 21 ] October 10, 2014 |

Tonight we’re checking with Greta Christina. No, she’s not the creature. It’s the dudes who said the disgusting things to her that are tonight’s creature feature. I know–gross. But, you know what? The news isn’t all bad. She’s got a really positive post up too. And I wanted to add an Amen to it. See, this isn’t the first time I’ve read this post, or this iteration of this sort of post. I’ve read blog entries from other feminists who’ve said they’ve gotten similar feedback. I’ve read comments from newly-minted feminists who’ve said “thank you for opening my eyes.” And there’s this:  I’ve learned a lot from being online, from reading liberal and feminist blogs. I’ve examined my own privilege. Hell, I’ve become aware of the concept of privilege. I’ve learned not to make jerky transphobic jokes. (Shame on former me.) I’ve also given up the word “retard,” even though I never used it with actual mentally disabled people in mind. (Doesn’t matter; I shouldn’t have been using the word–period.)

I’ve learned a crapload about the challenges women, people of color, LBGT and poor people face. It’s been depressing and fulfilling at the same time. Why fulfilling? Because I feel like I’ve “met” an awful lot of people who give a shit, give a shit about everybody: men and women and people of color, gay and trans people. And a lot of these people who care? They’re white dudes. Some of them pretty privileged white dudes. So, in the end, I feel like we’re all in this together…and we’re all still learning. It makes me feel hopeful. For once.

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Can Apparel Factories Treat Workers With Dignity?

[ 19 ] October 10, 2014 |

No industry has engaged in such a lengthy period of consistent exploitation as apparel, which has basically ran sweatshops around the world for 200 years, moving whenever workers successfully win decent conditions. The apparel industry claims such conditions are a must in order for them to profit. This is absurd on a number of levels. The system needs to be radically reformed in order to force the western apparel companies to have legally responsibility for everything that goes on in the factories where they contract clothing. If they don’t like it, they can build their own factories, like other industries. Hardly a shocking idea.

But even within the current system, is overt exploitation necessary? This experimental factory in the Dominican Republic is showing the answer to that question is no:

Maritza Vargas, a 49-year-old union leader with 25 years of experience working in local factories, works a variety of jobs at the Alta Gracia factory, including sewing seams on sweatshirts and putting on labels. A regular day at the factory is nothing like what she’s experienced before, she told HuffPost. Vargas and her 150 or so colleagues are unionized. They’re not forced to work absurd hours, her overtime paychecks don’t disappear into the ether and she gets frequent breaks.

“It’s as simple as understanding that we’re human beings, not machines,” Vargas said through a translator.

In free-trade zones of the Dominican Republic, the minimum monthly wage is set at RD $7,200, or about $165 in U.S. dollars. Alta Gracia factory workers earn a monthly wage of RD $22,342, or about $514 U.S., according to numbers provided by the company’s plant manager.

36-year-old Sobeida Fortuna, who has worked in free-trade-zone garment factories for about 18 years, said she’s finally being treated with “respect” and “dignity” after getting her job at Alta Gracia.

“They would force me to work mandatory overtime hours,” she said of previous employers. “I’d work in uncomfortable chairs and positions. They would control my every movement, even monitor the times I used the bathroom or drink water.”

Still, these people need somewhere to work. Fortuna paused to think when asked what she’d be doing if she didn’t have her Alta Gracia factory job.

“We’d maybe be unemployed,” she said. “We’d maybe be working three hours away from home. We’d maybe be working at another factory with the same conditions as the previous factories. We work in those conditions because it’s all that’s around and we have a family. We have no other choice.”

Now, I would never trust anything the apparel industry says, even if the Workers Rights Consortium is approving it. After all, this is an industry designed around taking every penny in profit through suppressing labor costs. But this is a unionized operation and while the article doesn’t get into how independent this union really is, it’s obviously a vast improvement over the average Dominican sweatshop.

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Vote Suppression And Strategic Voting

[ 6 ] October 10, 2014 |

Hasen on the Supreme Court refusing to intervene in both North Carolina (allowing a vote suppression law to be enforced) and Wisconsin (preventing a vote suppression law from being enforced):

Here is the order, and judged by the dissent of Justice Alito, joined by Scalia and Thomas, the basis was the Purcell objection, the proximity to the upcoming election and the risk of electoral chaos.

Not only did the apparent Kagan/Breyer strategy I explained last night to keep the Chief and Kennedy likely work, here’s something odd: I probably agree with the votes on all three of the decisions of the Court in the election cases: OH, NC, and WI.  Three in a row for me and the Court—unheard of.

If applied fairly, the Purcell principle is one I can live with; last minute changes to the election laws ordered by the courts are problematic. The problems associated Wisconsin are much more severe than they would be with North Carolina, but it’s at least a reasonable outcome, and stopping the vote suppression laws in all cases obviously wouldn’t have had the votes.

This also reinforces my belief that Kagan and Breyer would not have been the swing vote to re-write the Medicaid expansion.

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But only because, as everyone knows, flamingos never lie

[ 22 ] October 10, 2014 |

As horrifying — and horrifying typical of fraternities — as this story is, I can’t help but note that if this same fraternity had done something to a woman, conservatives would insist the students get the benefit of the doubt because she could be lying.

Thanks to campus rape culture, flamingos are more likely to get justice than women.

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Green Card Marriages

[ 104 ] October 10, 2014 |

I have to say that while, yes, marrying someone so they can get a green card probably should be technically illegal because it should be discouraged, that I have trouble seeing it as a real crime I should care much about. Moreover, I certainly don’t see why this should necessarily be the kind of information journalists are hunting down and publicizing, such as the case of the finance of Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, who did this when she needed money for college. She hadn’t even told Kitzhaber because she was so ashamed by it. And now, even outside the political implications of this, did Willamette Week destroy their relationship? I mean, it’s easy to talk about honesty in relationships, but everyone has shame and things they don’t want to talk about. So I don’t think anyone should be all that high and mighty about this thing. Now admittedly, it’s hardly the job of a journalist to care about how their story about a public figure will affect that person’s lives–although it’s equally hard to find the fault in journalists hiding the fact that FDR couldn’t walk. But it’s not like the woman was robbing people or heading a violent cocaine smuggling operation. She made a decision that helped her out, helped this Ethiopian immigrant out, and hurt no one. So who really cares. This seems far less a crime than lobbying for policies that kill thousands of people a year, standard fare in the political realm.

More here.

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Against Amazon

[ 109 ] October 10, 2014 |

Worthy of discussion.

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The Israeli Sub Deterrent

[ 28 ] October 10, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest works through the deterrent capabilities of Israel’s sub force:

Do the Dolphins provide Israel with a credible second-strike deterrent capability? No, not by the standards of every other submarine deterrent force. The obstacles are too numerous to think of the Dolphins as representing the same sort of “dead hand” retaliatory capability that we associate with other sub forces. Israel has other, more capable and more survivable means of retaliating against Iran, or even launching a first strike. At this point, the Dolphins amount to “security theater,” an effort to convey the image of additional protection without actually providing much in the way of defense.

 

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Way Too Close to the Oval Office

[ 87 ] October 10, 2014 |

John McCain’s judgment cannot be questioned.

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America’s Patriotic Singing Highway

[ 83 ] October 9, 2014 |

Oh America:

Sounds emanating from 1,300 feet of roadway just west of Tijeras have been listened to around the world, and it’s more than just tires on pavement catching international attention.

The Singing Road, installed last week, uses rumble strips to play “America the Beautiful” for drivers who obey the speed limit as they cruise down Route 66.

The National Geographic Channel approached the New Mexico Department of Transportation about the project last June, asking if they could construct the road for an upcoming series. The project was privately funded by National Geographic and NMDOT didn’t make – or spend – any money on it. Since the road was finished last week, Melissa Dosher, the public information officer for NMDOT, said she’s fielded questions from television stations as far away as Australia.

“My boss thought it was a really cool idea,” Dosher said.”It promotes public safety because the goal is to have people drive the speed limit. Plus it can be an attraction along Route 66.”

In addition to encouraging cars to slow down to hear the tune, Dosher said the rumble strips can help keep sleepy drivers awake as they wind their way through the Tijeras Canyon. The attraction is expected to draw visitors from Albuquerque to the East Mountains for tourism.

I think this would encourage me to speed. If you go too fast, do the rumble strips play The Internationale instead?

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