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Today In Rape Apologia, Ayn Rand Edition

[ 186 ] July 21, 2015 |

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Via Jill Filipovic, Milo Yiannopoulos describes the inevitable rape scene in the posthumously published Ayn Rand pseudo-novel:

Another reason people get upset about Rand and sex is that her ideal intimate encounters always seem to be pseudo-rapes. Naturally, the sex-negative, authoritarian modern feminist movement gasps in shock at the suggestion that consensually ambiguous encounters might be thrilling for both parties.

It’s been a while, but I don’t recall anything “ambiguous” about the rape scenes in the previous novels. As for the new old one, Filipovic has the text right here:

“She lay dressed, on his bed, and her one hand hung over the edge, white in the darkness. She jerked her head up and he could guess her eyes on the pale blot of her face. She felt his teeth sinking into her hand. She struggled ferociously, her muscles tense, hard, sharp as an animal’s. ‘Keep still,’ he whispered hoarsely into her throat. ‘You can’t call for help!’
She did not call for help…

That word “ambiguity,” I do not think it etc. The fact the review starts off with logic on a par with “you call yourself a feminist, yet you disagree with Phyllis Schafly, make up your mind!” As Filipovic goes on to say:

Perhaps Rand’s largest talent lies not in her status as the mother of Objectivism, but her ability to play the Cool Girl, even posthumously, in the minds of men whose view of women is colored by both desire and revulsion. You’re not a misogynist if your hero is Ayn Rand, and Ayn Rand is the ultimate shield and sword for the kind of arguments regularly entered into by the kind of man who worships Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand wouldn’t care that you called her a slut on the internet. Ayn Rand doesn’t think it’s rape if you hold her down and shove your dick in her without permission. Ayn Rand probably drinks whiskey and plays beer pong and has always had way more guy friends because girls cause so much drama. She’s the Sociopathic Pixie Dream Girl.

Rand’s admiration for murderers also seems relevant here…

Labor Rights Need a Strong State

[ 45 ] July 21, 2015 |

A crucial point from Michael Hobbes’s longform about how ethical consumerism can’t stop labor exploitation:

Yet this is how we expect to bring about better labor conditions in poor countries. Instead of empowering domestic agencies with a mandate to prevent abuses, we rely on international corporations seeking to insulate themselves from bad publicity.

Nearly all of the horror stories that show up in consumer campaigns are illegal in the countries where they take place. These countries simply don’t have anyone to enforce the laws. Bangladesh has just 125 labor inspectors for 75 million workers. Cambodian inspectors, on average, earn less than half as much as the garment workers whose conditions they’re supposed to be safeguarding. Uganda, with 40 million people, has only 120 practitioners capable of carrying out environmental impact assessments. In Burma, regional governments have received more than 6,000 complaints related to land revocations, but have investigated fewer than 300 of them.

That’s why Brazil is so startling. It has 10,000 public prosecutors and 3,000 inspectors, all making monthly salaries of at least $5,000. The inspectors collaborate with other government agencies, workers, unions and NGOs, not just to find the most outrageous violations, but to actually fix them.

This is Racist

[ 171 ] July 21, 2015 |

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Activists in Denton, Texas continue the newfound attack on Confederate nostalgia.

Surveillance video shows that sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, two individuals used large stencils and red spray paint to write the words “This is racist” near the top of the arch of the embattled monument on the south side of the Square. The duo then met a third person near the Square and the three fled on foot, the video shows.

Sheriff’s officials learned of the vandalism shortly before 9 a.m. Monday. County Commissioner Hugh Coleman said he was on the Square enjoying his morning coffee when he was told and took a look for himself.

“Whether you like something or not, there are better ways to express yourself,” Coleman said.

According to sheriff’s officials, the vandalism is a felony that carries a fine of up to $10,000 and from six months to two years in jail. Sheriff’s officials posted still images of the suspects on the office’s Facebook page and issued a news release asking for the public’s help in finding the suspects.

County personnel started working on the damage Monday morning, and by evening the monument still bore faded red marks.

Damage to the monument could exceed $50,000, according to Peggy Riddle, executive director of the Denton County Office of History and Culture. A conservation specialist will be called in if necessary, she said.

“This is not an easy shoot-it-with-graffiti-cleaner-and-go kind of thing,” Riddle said. “It leaches into the porous granite and marble. After that, we will have to do a type of special wax that conservators use so the monument will not look bleached-out in certain areas and all go back to being a cohesive color.”

I wonder how far the county will go with $50,000 fixes for a memorial commemorating those who committed treason to defend slavery if this happened again and again.

The only problem I had was narrowing the list down to eight

[ 58 ] July 21, 2015 |

On the heels of his very stupid statements about shark attacks yesterday, I decided to remind American why Brian Kilmeade of “Fox & Friends” is a national treasure:

Brian Kilmeade is, without a doubt, intended to be a walking punchline on a program already full of them — “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy’s area of expertise is, after all, being a man who eats — so when he wondered yesterday why “they” don’t just “have a way of clearing the waters [of sharks] before a surfing competition of this level,” most observers weren’t surprised that Kilmeade believes we have the technology to rid the oceans of an entire class of animals.

But instead of lingering on whether he thinks America has a shark-vacuum, a laser-equipped satellite capable of identifying and eliminating sharks from space, or a weather-controlling machine capable of suctioning up the offending fishes in a series of spectacular sharknadoes, we here at Salon thought it would be better to remind readers of the greatest things Fox News’ resident man-child has said, beginning with…

New Frontiers in the Global Race to the Bottom

[ 13 ] July 21, 2015 |

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Labor in Bangladesh is not cheap enough for the apparel industry. Time to move to Myanmar, so long as the government–a group of military leaders not precisely known for taking the poor into consideration–doesn’t raise the minimum wage to a shockingly high 40 cents an hour.

In the last few years, top Western clothing retailers such as Gap, H&M, Marks and Spencer Group PLC and Primark Stores Ltd. have signed contracts with more than a dozen garment factories in Myanmar, the former British colony also known as Burma. The country emerged from decades of military dictatorship in 2011 and major U.S. and European sanctions shortly thereafter. It now offers some of the cheapest labor costs on the planet combined with easy access to Asian markets — both attractive features for corporations looking to source low-cost, ready-made garments for export.

Last summer, Gap raised eyebrows when it became the first American apparel company to publicly sign a contract in Myanmar since President Barack Obama eased sanctions. At the time, Gap said, “The apparel industry will play a key role in helping to fuel the economic prosperity of the country.”

But if garment-factory bosses get their way, comparatively little of that newfound wealth will flow to workers.

The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, representing about 350 factories, says the government’s proposed wage is too high and will force employers out of business. It wants its own industry-specific rate of about $2 a day instead. Starting pay in factories currently hovers around $1 a day.

An association official recalled a meeting two weeks ago that brought together representatives of about 160 factories, including the owners of plants that supply Gap and H&M, to discuss the government’s wage proposal. “At one point, we did a roll call vote to see a show of hands, who would say basically they couldn’t afford to pay it, and every hand went up,” says the group’s project manager Jacob Clere, reached on the phone in Yangon, the nation’s largest city and garment-manufacturing hub. “In terms of the membership, they’re all saying they can’t afford to pay it.”

That sentiment contrasts sharply with the repeated public assurances of brands that say they are committed to improving labor standards in Myanmar.

What I love about how the garment industry is framing this is by saying that the apparel contractors can’t pay this minimum wage. Not letting them off the hook here, but the real issue is that Gap, Walmart, Primark, etc., won’t pay enough per garment to allow them to pay that higher wage. Again, let’s be clear where most of the power resides in the global apparel industry–with the big western companies doing the contracting. The garment owners may often be awful people who treat employees with unnecessary cruelty. But they are most certainly operating with very thin profit margins thanks to the cost standards imposed upon them by the western companies. They are the ones that need to be held culpable. This is why we need international standards on wages, conditions, and other facts of work in the global garment trade, precisely so that a nation like Myanmar can pay their workers 40 cents an hour without the garment companies having all the leverage to defeat it.

High Standards

[ 272 ] July 20, 2015 |

It’s nice that the National Review can run articles insinuating that Bernie Sanders is a Nazi, or I’m sorry, a national socialist. Quite the respectable publication with really high standards for publication there.

As for Sanders and Black Lives Matter at Netroots Nation, well, that was pretty ridiculous all the way around and probably doesn’t really mean much of anything as far as the election is concerned. However, he was pretty roundly embarrassed there and I didn’t quite expect him to act like an amateur. There were clear responses to that kind of protest–like affirming the protestors, even if Netroots Nation needs to do a much better job of policing the room–and he and his staffers failed.

The Leadership Contest for the Labour Party

[ 64 ] July 20, 2015 |

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As those poor souls who make a hobby or profession of following British politics know, the opposition Labour Party (and the party that I am a member of) is in the midst of one of our traditional periods of soul searching.  There are four MPs standing, and roughly from right to left, they are Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, and Jeremy Corbyn.  The latter has been receiving a lot of press as the insurgency candidate from the left, “movement” wing of our party.

I’m still in the decision process on this, so I’m not making a public endorsement yet, but will later in the week.  Suffice it to say over the course of the past few days I’ve found myself leaning in one clear direction, thanks in part to the compelling arguments of my partner (and her explicit threat to withhold intimate relations if I vote for Kendall).

Every party member gets a vote this time, and it’s one person, one vote, and preferential voting (a form of the alternative vote / SNTV).  One way to gauge preferences in this mini-electorate is to see which Constituency Labour Parties have endorsed which candidates.  There’s 650 CLPs, and their decision method varies with the CLP.  Today’s standing is here.  Corbyn has 70, Burnham 69, Cooper 58, and Kendall 12.

However, these are not reliable measures.  At the AGM for my CLP a couple of weeks ago, we decided to hold off on an endorsement.  Hence, my surprise that not only my CLP but also one of the two other Plymouth constituencies has apparently come out in favour of Cooper.  I got in touch with one of the two campaign coordinators for my constituency, and he assured me that this is most definitely not true.

So, given the difficulty in polling this particular electorate, we’re basically not going to have a sense of this until the results are announced in September.

Today In “Dick Nixon, Liberal Hero”

[ 128 ] July 20, 2015 |

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Please, please make it stop:

It isn’t that I feel some fervent nostalgia for the good old days of moderate Republicanism, although it’s true that the Nixon-era GOP was only microscopically to the right of today’s Democratic Party on most major policy questions – and decidedly to its left on healthcare and social spending. (Which United States president actually proposed a nationwide, single-payer healthcare system? Well, I’ve already given you the answer.)

The answer to O’Hehir’s question, of course, Harry Truman. I happen to have Richard Nixon’s health care proposal right here, and it’s distinctly to the right of the ACA. (Dig that fully privatized Medicaid!) And even this is far too generous, because it assumes that Nixon sincerely supported such a health care plan, and you’d have to be delusional to assume that. The Heritage Uncertainty Principle might be the most obvious con in history, and yet it’s amazing how many liberals line up to give it their live savings and house keys. Yes, the Republican Party was better then, but its offer on comprehensive health care was exactly the same as it is today: nothing.

I’ve observed this before, but the political universe people nostalgic for 1972 have invented is bizarre. Allegedly this was a golden age in which 1)The Democratic Party weren’t a bunch of corporate sellouts but actually supported single-payer, and 2)the last liberal president Richard Nixon totally supported single-payer and yet 3)not only did single-payer not pass nothing remotely like single-payer came close to passing and 3)when this awesome, way-left-of-Obama Democratic power controlled Congress and the White House for 4 years starting in 1977 not only did single-payer not pass but no major progressive legislation passed. At some point, it might be time to consider the possibility that premises 1 and 2 are wrong.

The Problem With the “Hypocrisy” Justification

[ 245 ] July 20, 2015 |

Attempting to defend the now-retracted Gawker story, Maria Bustillos tweets:

As applied to this specific case, the two massive holes in the argument are immediately evident. First, it uses a far too expansive definition of “public figure.” (As Greenwald says, any definition capacious enough to include an executive accountant for a privately held company would surely include Bustillos, who I’m guessing doesn’t believe every aspect of her private life to be fair game for high-traffic websites.) And second, if there’s any “hypocrisy” angle the story doesn’t even make any attempt to establish it.

Still, the Geithner non-story is an easy case. What interests me are are the broader, more widely shared premises underlying the argument, which as I said the last time there was a similar controversy remain problematic.

One thing we should notice is that “hypocrisy” arguments are as plastic as originalism — you can manipulate levels of abstraction to justify almost any story really motivated by a prurient interest under a “hypocrisy” pretext. Bustillos later tries to do this: don’t all c-suite executives implicitly pretend to a certain bourgeois respectability? But the problem is that pretty much everyone who isn’t a nihilist or sociopath is a hypocrite. People who are able to adhere with perfect consistency to the principles they aspire to are rare indeed. If a “hypocrisy” is defined in broad enough terms there’s no privacy.

Perhaps the bigger problem with the argument is that it assumes that “hypocrisy” per se is a major issue, when it fact it’s a relatively trivial one. I don’t disagree that an inconsistency between personal behavior and values that a powerful public figure is trying to impose on others, hypocrisy is potentially newsworthy. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that its the bad values, not the hypocrisy, that are the major problem. The legal disabilities Larry Craig sought to impose on gays and lesbians would be just as indefensible if he was a 0 on the Kinsey Scale. On the other hand, if the values one is acting inconsistently with are good values, the hypocrisy doesn’t invalidate the values.

On the story at hand, there is one important underlying issue: the fact that someone like Geithner is enormously unlikely to face any legal sanctions, while sex workers always labor under the fear of legal sanction. Criminalizing sex work is really, really terrible public policy. But stories like this with an explicit or implicit hypocrisy angle not only fail to make this point — they rely on the stigma against sex work for a substantial measure of their alleged newsworthiness. Focusing on hypocrisy is more likely to impede clear thinking than to promote it.

Out of Sight in Brooklyn

[ 40 ] July 20, 2015 |

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Time for another round of Out of Sight promotion! Specifically, I wanted to let all our New York readers know that on Wednesday, July 29, at 7 pm, I will be having a book event at Local 61 in Brooklyn. It will be a conversation with Sarah Jaffe about Out of Sight, outsourcing, and possibly dead horses, who knows. Other than listening to me ramble and meeting Sarah, there are two additional reasons why you should come. First, Local 61 is also a bar with a good tap selection. Second, the event will be filmed by CSPAN for its BookTV channel. So that’s pretty cool. That may mean I shouldn’t be drinking that tasty beer during the conversation. Or maybe I should! So if you are in the area, come on out!

I will also soon have announcements for an event in Cambridge, and hopefully one or two more for you residents of the Keystone state.

I’ll also mention that the book is now discounted on Amazon to a Jamestown starvation price of $16.08 so, you know, Christmas is coming.

…Also, I was on the Heartland Labor Forum out of Kansas City last week. Here’s the interview if you want to listen.

This Day in Labor History: July 19, 1972

[ 65 ] July 19, 2015 |

On July 19, 1972, the AFL-CIO announced its decision not to endorse George McGovern for president. This astounding decision helped doom the already floundering McGovern campaign, helping to guarantee another victory for Richard Nixon. It also placed a permanent divide between non-labor progressives in the Democratic Party and the labor movement, one that still has not been fully bridged today. The story is actually more complicated than is usually stated, because in fact a lot of unions strongly supported McGovern.

For George Meany, George McGovern and his supporters were offensive on a number of levels. First, McGovern represented the Democratic Party in revolt, the hippies who protested inside the disastrous ’68 Chicago DNC. In the aftermath, with rules changes to the Democratic Party structure to make it more democratic, the power of the AFL-CIO leadership within the Party was challenged, even as there was room for more rank and file participation. But worse for Meany, McGovern didn’t support the Vietnam War. George Meany was a cold warrior’s cold warrior. He used his power as head of the federation to undermine socialism around the world and promote CIA activities, including, at the beginning of his tenure as AFL chief, supporting the overthrow of Guatemalan leader Jacobo Arbenz. Meany thought the Vietnam War was a righteous war. And that would make him hate McGovern.

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There was another issue at play–the endless rivalry between Meany and the old CIO unions. Walter Reuther was dead by this time, but Meany and Reuther hated each other and what each stood for. Meany was highly concerned that the new social liberalism of the Democratic Party grassroots would empower the Reutherites both in the labor movement and in society as a whole. So undermining the social democratic unions in a new grassroots oriented Democratic Party was also on his mind.

George McGovern had a reasonably strong background in labor. He wrote his first book on the Colorado coal wars that culminated in the Ludlow Massacre. But McGovern’s record was not perfect, and that included on some of the most important labor legislation of his term. First, while in Congress, he voted for the Landrum-Griffin Act. Second, in 1966, he voted against the repeal of Section 14(b) the Taft-Hartley Act. The latter especially is pretty bad. That’s the provision that allows states to enact right to work legislation. Yet in the end, COPE, which was the AFL-CIO political arm, noted that McGovern voted with labor 93.5% of the time, about the same as Ed Muskie, if less than Hubert Humphrey, who was an outstanding supporter of unions. In any case, it wasn’t a record that should have lead to the AFL-CIO ditching him once he had won the domination. One can argue, as Jefferson Cowie has in Staying Alive, that the vote to overturn 14(b) would have hurt him in South Dakota where such a vote would have no support. Possibly, although I think Cowie, is excusing McGovern’s vote here to make a point against Meany. But, to his credit, McGovern openly said that if elected, he would fight to overturn 14(b). And as Cowie also points out, Meany’s good friend Lyndon Johnson had voted for Taft-Hartley in the first place so this was all a frame job against McGovern, a fair enough charge. And in any case, McGovern’s labor record was a hell of a lot better than Richard Nixon’s.

So Meany went to work on the AFL-CIO to not endorse McGovern. That wasn’t all that hard, really. First, Meany himself supported Nixon. Second, a lot of the building trades also supported Nixon. That didn’t mean that the federation was going to endorse Nixon; far from it. But it did mean neutrality, which was a huge and very public blow to McGovern. At the AFL-CIO convention a week before the announcement, Meany worked openly to achieve this result. Even before it was made official on July 19, the newspapers were filled with articles that this was going to happen. And in fact, Meany ruled the day, with the neutrality vote passing 27-3 in the AFL-CIO executive council.

Interestingly, McGovern’s second choice for the vice-presidential candidate, after Ted Kennedy, was United Auto Workers president Leonard Woodcock. By this time, the UAW had withdrawn from the AFL-CIO, taken out by Reuther in 1968 over Vietnam and a variety of other policies. So it’s far from clear that had Woodcock accepted whether this would have done anything more than infuriate Meany. But while Woodcock was interested, there was a lot of feeling within the UAW that this was inappropriate for a union head and he declined.

There was significant discontent within the labor movement over Meany’s tactics. A lot of unions, especially the industrial unions, were furious with him over it. They thought McGovern would be great and fully supported him. The United Auto Workers, the International Association of Machinists, AFSCME, and a lot of less powerful unions like the International Woodworkers of America fought hard for McGovern. Thirty-three unions, representing a majority of unionized workers in the United States, ultimately officially endorsed McGovern.

McGovern also visited that site of 1972 rebellion against both corporations and staid union leaders, Lordstown, Ohio, where his genial rebellion was received very positively with the young rank and file UAW members rebelling against the boredom of their jobs and what they saw as staid union leadership. But it was all too little by far and of course McGovern was crushed that fall.

Unfortunately, this complexity within the labor movement over the McGovern decision gets lost in a general narrative that between Meany’s support for Vietnam, his hatred of McGovern, and a couple of isolated incidents where “hardhats beat hippies,” labor cannot be trusted by other progressives. It’s a cherry picking narrative that is really problematic and needs severe revision. Those incidents are true enough and George Meany was terrible, not only for what he did to McGovern, but to the labor movement as a whole, but that doesn’t mean that labor itself can’t be trusted because of some actions over 40 years ago. Rather, it means that organized labor has had some terrible leadership over the years, but that the union movement has always included some forward-thinking people who have done a great deal of good for social and economic justice everywhere. And that’s should be a lot more important today that George Meany’s call in the presidential election of 1972.

This is the 152nd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Too #Slatepitch For Slate

[ 317 ] July 18, 2015 |

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The “we need someone who’s plainly not running to run” genre of primary season op-eds is inherently useless. This call for Al Gore to enter the race, however, is very special. There’s some garden variety specious arguments that Ron Fournier has probably made 20 times since the beginning if the year (“Hillary Clinton is IN BIG TROUBLE because her approval ratings have dropped now that she’s running for office!”) But this is amazing:

Gore is a superstar with impeccable qualifications. The GOP will have a hard time marginalizing someone of his caliber and experience. His background speaks for itself: a former Congressman, U.S. Senator, and two-time Vice President. He’s even succeed wildly in the private sector as a businessman — something Republicans can’t help but praise. In short, Gore passes the credibility test by any measure, and that matters in a national election.

This is…like the Platonic ideal of wrongness. Jonah Goldberg has dreamed his whole life of being this wrong. The idea that it would be impossible for Republicans to demonize any candidate because they have impressive formal credentials is in itself insane. But to say this about Al Gore — who was successfully branded the lyingest liar who ever lied and the phoniest phony who ever phonied who said he invented the internet and said he was a farmer and said he slept with Ali McGraw and wears disturbing three-button suits and lets uppity women tell him to wear earth tones — Jesus Christ. You couldn’t do more to disqualify yourself from offering campaign strategery if you were trying to.

I’m looking forward to future Illing columns such as “Sam Alito would never be a conservative ideologue” and “history tells us it is unpossible for the Yankees to win a pennant.”

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