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Modi’s India: Please Multinational Corporations, Exploit Our Workers

[ 24 ] October 2, 2014 |


Above: The Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, i.e., Narendra Modi’s vision of the Indian economy.

I understand that workers in India need jobs, but I’m not sure that Narendra Modi going full neoliberal is going to build the kind of growth that will be good for India:

Responding to big business complaints that India has not done enough to open up its economy to foreign investment, and that its regulations limiting layoffs and plant closures are “onerous,” Modi declared “India is open-minded. We want change.”

The US business leaders subsequently sang Modi’s praises. GE CEO Jeffrey R Immelt told the Indian Express, “My interaction with him was outstanding. I am certainly looking forward to further investments in India as the climate for investments has switched to positive once again.’’ According to Indian press reports, Modi planned to signal to Immelt that his government is open to amending India’s nuclear liability law, which US energy companies have denounced because it could force them to pay significant compensation were they responsible for a catastrophic nuclear accident.

Regulations limiting plant closures! Why that might hold corporations accountable for their actions. Onerous indeed!

What does Modi have in mind to replace these odious regulations?

At the end of July, Modi’s cabinet cleared 54 amendments to the “Factories Act, 1948,” the “Apprenticeship Act, 1961” and the “Labor Laws Act, 1988.” Under these amendments, women would be eligible for night-shift work, the ceiling for overtime hours will be increased from 50 hours per quarter to 100 hours, and employers will no longer be liable to imprisonment for violating the Apprenticeship Act.

As a test case for the gutting of labour laws nationwide, the BJP state government in Rajasthan has pushed through amendments to the “Industrial Dispute Act”, “Factory Act” and “Contract Labor Regulation & Abolition Act.” These would raise the ceiling for the number of workers in a factory where employers can retrench workers without government approval from 100 to 300 and make it much more difficult for workers to form trade unions with collective bargaining rights.

The amendments to the Contract Labor Act would strip most contract workers of any protection under the labor laws, as contractors employing less than 50 workers will no longer be subject to its provisions. During the past two decades, Indian employers, including government-owned corporations, have vastly expanded their use of contract labour, so as to slash wage and benefit costs, circumvent restrictions on layoffs, and divide the workforce.

In the race to the bottom, I promise my nation will be at the bottom! Give it your best shot Bangladesh. We don’t mind if apparel companies kill 2000 of our workers. Multinationals, please come exploit us!

All of this is a sign of just how much power corporations have in dictating terms of employment today. Capital mobility is a powerful thing and the CEOs know how to use it.

This is also a good piece on Modi’s neoliberal beliefs
that should make him a good friend of corporate leaders if he keeps the anti-Muslim rhetoric to a minimum.

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How Times Have Changed

[ 39 ] October 2, 2014 |

Thirty years ago, environmentalism was a strong enough political force that Mitch McConnell had to pretend to care about coal’s impact upon the planet. Times have really changed.

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Kissinger and Cuba

[ 26 ] October 2, 2014 |


Augusto Pinochet–Henry Kissinger’s kind of Latin American ruler.

Henry Kissinger’s response to Cuba sending troops to Angola in 1975 was quite rational and appropriate, showing how this Nobel Peace Prize winner is someone who still needs to be taken seriously today.

Mr. Kissinger, who was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, had previously planned an underground effort to improve relations with Havana. But in late 1975, Mr. Castro sent troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.

That move infuriated Mr. Kissinger, who was incensed that Mr. Castro had passed up a chance to normalize relations with the United States in favor of pursuing his own foreign policy agenda, Mr. Kornbluh said.

“Nobody has known that at the very end of a really remarkable effort to normalize relations, Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro’s head,” Mr. Kornbluh said.

“You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,” Mr. Kornbluh said, adding that Mr. Kissinger used “language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.”

The plans suggest that Mr. Kissinger was prepared after the 1976 presidential election to recommend an attack on Cuba, but the idea went nowhere because Jimmy Carter won the election, Mr. LeoGrande said.

“These were not plans to put up on a shelf,” Mr. LeoGrande said. “Kissinger is so angry at Castro sending troops to Angola at a moment when he was holding out his hand for normalization that he really wants to, as he said, ‘clobber the pipsqueak.’ ”

The plan suggested that it would take scores of aircraft to mine Cuban ports. It also warned that the United States could seriously risk losing its Navy base in Cuba, which was vulnerable to counterattack, and estimated that it would cost $120 million to reopen the Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico and reposition destroyer squadrons.

The plan also drafted proposals for a military blockade of Cuba’s shores. The proposal warned that such moves would most likely lead to a conflict with the Soviet Union, which was a top Cuba ally at the time.

“If we decide to use military power, it must succeed,” Mr. Kissinger said in one meeting, in which advisers warned against leaks. “There should be no halfway measures — we would get no award for using military power in moderation. If we decide on a blockade, it must be ruthless and rapid and efficient.”

Hard to see how that could have gone wrong.

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Things that probably shouldn’t have been put in writing

[ 78 ] October 1, 2014 |

Speaking of slow motion crashes suddenly accelerating, the latest from the flaming train wreck that is Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Back in July leaders of Mars Hill admitted that non-trivial portions of the millions donated to their “global fund,” ostensibly to aid in missions in Ethiopia and India, was in fact being pumped into the Church’s general fund, and whatever undisclosed salaries it supports. Today we learn, via Brendan Kiley, that Warren Throckmorton has got his hands on some internal memos suggesting that was the plan all along. From the memo:

The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
• For a relatively low cost (e.g. $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism, increase goodwill, and create opportunities to influence and learn from other ministries.

• Many small churches who may consider joining Mars Hill hesitate because they do not believe we support “missions.” While we need to continue to challenge the assumptions underlying a claim, the Global Fund would serve as a simple, easy way to deflate such criticism and help lead change in these congregations.

• The ability to communicate and interact with supporters of Mars Hill Global provides an avenue for promoting events, recruiting leaders, and developing Mars Hill core groups in strategic cities

Here’s at LGM we’ve managed to obtain an image of the meeting where the plan for the global fund was constructed. Context for the “low cost” estimate of 10K a month: as of May, the fund was taking in 300K a month. What’s most striking to about this memo isn’t the plan it reveals, which is more or less what I’ve come to expect from that organization. It’s that it was actually written down in some sort of formal memo. I’m legitimately curious about the intended audience for this memo. It was a group of people that, on the one hand, must have been assumed to be sufficiently cynical about the nature of the Church that such frank admissions wouldn’t be jarring or alarming, but at the same time, be deemed to be sufficiently trustworthy that they could be trusted with such a potentially damning document. How big was that group?  If I were running this scam, my concern would be that people who meet the first criteria were unlikely to meet the second, and vice versa, such that the number of people I would trust to have their hands on such a document must be very small, and the risks associated with putting something this in writing couldn’t possibly be worth it. The memo doesn’t appear to be dated, but it must have been sometime prior to the launch of Mars Hill global fund, which I believe was sometime in 2012. That would place this document most likely in 2011 or early 2012, well after Driscoll’s consolidation of power, but before ex-members and pastors started speaking publicly and critically about the Church in significant numbers, which makes this memo a striking artifact from the high water mark of an extraordinarily successful long con, just before the fall.

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Today In Republican Outreach To Women

[ 52 ] October 1, 2014 |

I’m sure this will be effective!

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El Salvador’s War on Women

[ 11 ] October 1, 2014 |

For Republicans, Central American nations’ treatment of women is no doubt a model, not a problem:

It is a war against women and girls that is documented in Amnesty International’s new report, On the Brink of Death: Violence against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador. 

The report illustrates how a change in the law 16 years ago criminalized abortion in all circumstances, making it one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Women and girls in El Salvador cannot have an abortion, even if continuing their pregnancy might kill them, or if the fetus is not viable and will not live. 
Even a nine-year-old girl pregnant after from rape cannot get an abortion. 

Those that defy the law and seek an unsafe, clandestine abortion are often punished severely. More than 11 per cent of maternal deaths are from unsafe abortions; deaths that are preventable. Those that survive face the possibility of prison sentences of two to eight years. 

The Amnesty International report found that women who have had miscarriages are suspected of terminating their pregnancies and have been charged with aggravated homicide. Courts can order a prison sentence of up to 50 years in an aggravated homicide case. 

The cases highlighted in our report are stark enough, but while in San Salvador, I have met with some of the world’s most forgotten women, women who were fighting for their rights in the face of adversity. It was a truly humbling experience. 

Consider the story of Cristina. She was 18 years old when she miscarried. She passed out and was rushed to hospital where, instead of care and kindness, she was accused of actively terminating her pregnancy. In August 2005, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

Ted Cruz rubs his hands together in excited approval.

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The End of Oysters?

[ 53 ] October 1, 2014 |


This is depressing news for we oyster lovers. In short, climate change is creating ocean acidification which will decimate oyster beds. What’s more, we know it is already happening but the carbon currently affecting oyster beds today was spewed fifty years ago, meaning that what is happening today won’t be fully felt for another 50 years.

Ocean acidification is bound to get worse, before it gets better

It takes a few decades for all this acidic water to make it to the surface. That means the oyster die-offs we’re seeing now at hatcheries across the Pacific Northwest are being caused by carbon absorbed into the ocean at least four or five decades ago, when greenhouse gases levels were significantly lower. “The worst part is that even if I could push a button right now which would stop all CO2 emissions today, for the next 50 years things are going to get worse before they start improving,” Eudeline says. There are record levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now, which means the worst might be yet to come for producers like Taylor Shellfish.

Shellfish operations could move inland, but be prepared to drop almost $20 on an oyster

If acidity levels continue to soar, operations like Taylor Shellfish could theoretically move their operations completely inland and harvest oysters in a lab. But the production costs would get stupid high. “Instead of paying $10 a dozen, you’re going to pay $200 a dozen,” Eudeline says. “That’s just the cost of what it would take to grow an adult oyster on a land-based system where you can control all the water quality.” Plus, growing oysters on land just isn’t, well, natural. Says Eudeline: “We rely 99.9 percent on nature to do the job. If nature cannot do the job anymore, that means there will be a decrease [in oysters] — there is no doubt.”

Eat your bivalves today because your children probably won’t know what they taste like.

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Is There A Good Liberal Defense For the Sebelius Medicaid Holding? [SPOILER: No.]

[ 100 ] October 1, 2014 |

I have a review of Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz’s new book Uncertain Justice in the Washington Spectator.  The most striking argument in the book is an attempt to defend the re-writing of the ACA’s Medicaid provisions by linking it to other federal spending coercion cases (like the upholding of the Solomon Amendment.)  You may be surprised to find out that I do not find this convincing:

Their most original argument concerns the Court’s deciding to rewrite the Affordable Care Act to make its extensive Medicaid expansion optional (rather than making all Medicaid funds contingent on accepting the changes). Seven justices, including Democratic nominees Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, voted for this unprecedented limit on the federal spending power. Some observers (including myself) have interpreted Breyer’s and Kagan’s votes as strategic, doubting that either would have been the swing vote to limit the expansion but wanted to ensure that Roberts would not vote to strike it down. Tribe and Matz not only reject this but try to make a liberal case for the Medicaid holding. Their argument ties the Medicaid decision to a line of cases dealing with the use of the spending power to limit certain forms of speech. The Court’s doctrine in this area has been erratic, striking down a provision that required groups seeking AIDS funding to explicitly oppose prostitution and sex trafficking, but upholding (for example) provisions making educational funding contingent on giving military recruiters access to campus and preventing recipients of certain federal funding from providing abortion counseling. Tribe and Matz advocate for more of the former and less of the latter, and see the Medicaid decision as being part of a tradition of limiting the use of the federal power to coerce.

This argument is intriguing, but also unconvincing. There is a very big difference between coercing individuals—who have explicit free speech rights—and coercing states, who do not. Despite these valiant efforts, the defense of the Medicaid expansion collapses on itself—it would be clearly constitutional for Congress to have simply created the 2013 version of Medicaid from scratch, and it would also be constitutional for Congress to repeal the program entirely, so it makes little sense to say that it’s unconstitutional for Congress to make existing Medicaid funding contingent on accepting new and more generously funded conditions.


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Why is the Forest Service Restricting Photography in Wilderness Areas?

[ 139 ] October 1, 2014 |

My love of an intrusive federal government is well-known. I think government can indeed do most things better than the private sector. But that doesn’t mean that government is perfect. Far from it. I was hoping that the FDA’s attempts to restrict raw milk cheese imports was the stupidest regulatory standard I would hear of this year. But the Forest Service has it beat:

The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.

Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

Huh? Why?

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions have been in place on a temporary basis for four years and are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.

Close didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”

That doesn’t make very much sense at all. First of all, it’s a non-problem. Second, why does it apply to individuals taking pictures?

Not surprisingly, there is a significant backlash from western members of Congress of both parties:

Rep. Peter DeFazio and three other congressional leaders said Monday they still have deep concerns about the constitutionality of a U.S. Forest Service proposal restricting wilderness photography.

The Forest Service faced nationwide outrage last week over plans to require a permit for photography and filming in vast swaths of the country’s federally designated wilderness areas. Its chief, Tom Tidwell, backed off late Thursday, saying his agency respected the First Amendment and wouldn’t restrict media or amateur photographers’ access.

But the onslaught of criticism has continued.

As written, the proposal would allow special permits to be granted for commercial filming in wilderness only to share information about the “use and enjoyment of wilderness” or its scientific, educational, historic or scenic values.

DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the top leaders in the House Natural Resources Committee, said that requirement was “constitutionally questionable” and should be rescinded.

“We do not believe the Forest Service, or any other agency, should be in the business of determining what type of information can be disseminated to the public,” they said in a Monday letter to Tidwell.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said the provision was just one example of the gaps between Tidwell’s promises Thursday and the Forest Service’s written proposal.

Tidwell told the Associated Press last week that the plan didn’t apply to still photography. The proposal repeatedly says it does.

I’d say there is about a zero percent chance this ever gets implemented. I wish I knew why the heck this proposal was even floated.

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The Republican Party: Where Facts and Evidence Don’t Matter

[ 91 ] October 1, 2014 |

Chait has a good profile of Tom Cotton, quite possibly the next senator from Arkansas. This despite his vote against the farm bill that many Arkansas citizens rely upon:

Yet farm subsidies have lived on. Their survival has nothing to do with any public policy merits. There is no persuasive economic rationale for why the government should write checks to people who operate farms as opposed to textile mills or construction firms or any other business. (Yes, people need to eat, but the market is capable of supplying food, just as it is capable of supplying clothing and shelter.) Farmers are also more affluent than the average American. Since they are overwhelmingly white and conveniently spread throughout nearly every state, their claim to public subsidy has gained some popular legitimacy.

Faced with his controversial vote against the farm bill, Cotton has urgently fashioned himself as an agri-supremacist. He has urged the locals to ignore the judgment of fact-checking journalists who pronounce his ad false: “I don’t think liberal reporters who call themselves fact checkers spent much time growing up on a farm in Yell County growing up with Len Cotton, so I think I know a little bill more about farming than they do.” Cotton’s identity as a onetime farmboy, by this argument, lends him a superiority in any dispute over farm policy that overrides even the facts themselves. Cotton perhaps first developed this epistemological theory while studying philosophy at Harvard.

Cotton goes further still. Molly Ball, in an engrossing profile, reports that Cotton argues against food stamps because its recipients live high on the hog: “They have steak in their basket, and they have a brand-new iPhone, and they have a brand-new SUV.” As an argument against food stamps, this is laughably false: The program offers a benefit averaging $1.50 per person per meal, and its beneficiaries are quite poor.

This is perfect. Evidence doesn’t matter because it’s provided by those outsiders who probably don’t go to church. Growing up in Yell County (a bit too on the nose I think), with that kind of background what can’t one say about policies that effect the good people of Arkansas? That also gives him “credibility” to talk about those big black bucks moochers driving up in their Cadillac and paying for steak dinners with their welfare checks

Mark Pryor might not be anyone’s favorite Democrat. The nation will be worse off when he is replaced by Tom Cotton.

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Violence at Work

[ 8 ] October 1, 2014 |

It’s hardly shocking that the difficult conditions of modern work would lead to a rise in workplace violence as people, who often have access to high-powered weapons, snap. The workers who experience the most workplace violence? Retail sales workers.

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The Shields Trade Today

[ 51 ] September 30, 2014 |

With the Royals making the playoffs, Rany Jazayerli says he was wrong about the Shields+/Myers+ trade. I don’t know if I agree, but the trade is theoretically interesting in terms of team-building. At the time, I think Jazayerli’s analysis was obviously correct. I say this even though I think I’m more of a “flags fly forever” guy than most analytical types. I have no problem in theory with trading major potential when you have a window, but based on what was known when they made the trade they just gave up too much for not enough.

Whether the Royals should have done the trade in retrospect is evidently a more interesting question. (As Jazayerli says, from the Rays’ perspective it remains a no brainer.) Certainly, it did pay off in the short-term as Moore intended. Shields was a very good starter, Davis was extraordinary in relief, and the Royals don’t make the playoffs without both. (One reason I still think the trade was a bad idea at the time is that it’s hard to say that the latter was foreseeable.) What makes the question relatively close is that Myers was injured again and was terrible when he did play. He could still be really good, but there’s reason for concern. It’s not as if he’s an established star and the only question is his health; his lifetime RC+ is 105, which is barely playable in the corner outfield. He needs to develop, and while I think that remains a good bet as Royals fans know it isn’t inevitable, and the time he’s missed with injuries is a concern — his age 24 year will be crucial. Odorizzi looks good, but since most young pitchers can’t handle a 200-inning-a-year workload, from a Royals perspective I don’t mind taking the risk. Whether the trade was a good idea in retrospect will come down to Myers. And at this point, it’s hard to know exactly how valuable he is. He might come out next year healthy and picking up where he left off in 2013 — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him stagnate either. He’s not nearly as valuable a property as he was two years ago after a lost season.

If I were a Royals fan, I probably still wouldn’t want them to have made the deal…but it’s a much closer question than I would have thought. And as Jazayerli says, in that sense I was wrong at the time. And breaking the playoff drought is something that can’t be taken away, and that’s not trivial.

…I will say, though, that if you’re going into “flags fly forever” mode, you really need to hire a minimally competent manager as opposed to, say, Ned Yost.

…a game this good is certainly a point in favor of a more FFF interpretation.

…well, that was something. I’m torn between being happy for the Royals and sympathetic for the perennially snakebit Beane A’s.


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