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Where’s the Empathy for Istanbul?

[ 166 ] June 30, 2016 |

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I am for one am shocked that when terrorists strike the Istanbul airport, there’s not an outpouring of grief and sympathy from the west. Where’s all my Facebook friends changing their image status to the Turkish flag like they did with the French flag after the Paris attacks? Where’s all the talks about the threat to the glorious Turkish civilization? Where’s the 24/7 news coverage? It’s almost as if these things only matter to Americans if they happen to other white countries! If it’s outside Europe or one of its white settler states, it’s just another thing happening to those people.

In related news, there is no residual impact of colonialism and imperialism.

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Random Musings on the Continuing British Fiasco

[ 362 ] June 30, 2016 |

Conservative Party Chief Whip Michael Gove addresses delegates on the final day of the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, central England, on October 1, 2014. Talk of treason cast a shadow over Britain's Conservative party conference this week, where gossip raged over who might be next to defect to the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP). AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Gove has joined the cast of thousands vying to be the next Conservative Party leader, hence Prime Minister.  Seriously. Yesterday while enjoying a pint or several with fellow bemused Labourites, we figured Gove was the next Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Boris government. After all, he screwed up education and alienated all the teachers, then messed up the justice system, so why not have a crack at what’s left of the economy?

His personal path of destruction has loftier ambitions.

Corbyn is not going anywhere, and will likely face a challenge from Angela Eagle. She will probably lose. I’ve asked this before, but I’m at a loss to understand how he can run an opposition without the support of enough MPs to fill out a shadow cabinet? A country based on an unwritten constitution runs smoothly on tacit norms. Corbyn is ignoring one of those tacit norms. As was brought up in comments yesterday, according to David Ward, Chief Policy advisor to John Smith, the then-Leader didn’t think there was the need to hard code the requirement to resign into the Labour Party rule book when he was redrafting it in 1993:

If the Parliamentary Labour Party had passed a motion of no confidence in John Smith he would have resigned immediately. How do I know this? Because he told me he would. In 1993 during the Labour Party debates on the creation of an electoral college we discussed the lack of a mechanism to eject an unpopular or ineffective leader. He argued there’s no need for one. Without any hesitation he told me that any leader who lost a motion of no confidence in the PLP would have no alternative but to instantly resign.

John Smith was acutely aware that the PLP is the part of the Labour Movement that directly represents millions of Labour voters. He knew that any leader lacking the support of Labour MPs would not have the slightest chance of persuading voters to elect a Labour Government. That’s why he favoured the adoption of an electoral college made up of the three pillars of the Labour Movement; MPs, ordinary members, and the affiliated unions that created the Party in the first place. This system gave the elected leadership a powerful link with trade unionists, members, MPs and their voters. If that link collapses, as it now clearly has with Jeremy Corbyn, then resignation is the only responsible course of action.

To quote a local Labour Councillor and a friend of mine:

The Labour Party leader effectively is leader of three things: the Party at large, the Parliamentary Party, and the Labour Party staff (although Ian McNicol, General Secretary is de jure in charge there). Just in terms of organisational functionality, if they cannot command substantial support in two of those three areas, then their ability to lead the Party as a whole is nullified.

The Labour Party itself is supposed to be the democratic representative arm of the Labour movement, whose official constituent parts include Trades Unions, various socialist societies, the Co-op Party, and unorganised disparate groups and individuals. Obviously this more disparate movement changes over time. It’s primary purpose is to elect representatives of this movement to positions in Parliament, Councils, and other elected positions. For someone so steeped in the Party, I can only be either astonished that the present leader doesn’t recognise this, or assume he ignores it.

Fortunately for Labour, the chances for a snap election following the naming of the new Conservative leader are receding, with both Johnson and Crabb on record as stating it won’t happen. Apparently the Conservative backbenchers don’t want an election having just had one nearly 14 months ago. The overly optimistic amongst us might read into this that they’re worried. I’m not one of those people. This does, of course, bring to the fore questions regarding democratic legitimacy and quite likely contradicts statements made by several of the contenders back when Gordon Brown supplanted Tony Blair. (Side note: the now notorious “Blairite” Tom Watson orchestrated the coup that deposed Tony Blair in 2007. Such is the loose relationship with reality exhibited by some Corbynistas).

UPDATE: While three days old, Owen Jones on the plight of Labour and the left in Britain. Sobering.

Finally, in skimming the comments from yesterday’s post, I’m delighted that the Daria reference was picked up. I should watch that again.

janelane

 

2016 Forecasting

[ 161 ] June 30, 2016 |

150401134700-donald-trump-gallery-4-super-169

A useful interactive model. I suspect it overstates Trump’s chances — the models can’t know about Trump’s organizational issues — but I think we can agree that the chances of Trump winning are 1)low and 2)way too high given the stakes.

I suppose he’d have a pretty good handle on what not to do…

[ 26 ] June 29, 2016 |

This could potentially be a valuable service for a certain kind of religious leader:

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when your pastor or church starts making the headlines. In today’s world, if you’re a Bible-preaching church, then it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be faced with a communications crisis of your own. Even the most squeaky clean church is susceptible to mistakes, sin, false accusations, or worse.
We’ve prepared an all-inclusive training package and downloadable resources to help your church establish an effective PR strategy and crisis plan. You’ll learn tried and true techniques that will help prepare you and your church to handle every day communications crises.

Who would you trusting to help you keep the con going protect your church?

Justin Dean is the Chief Advisor at DOXA Media Group and co-founder of That Church Conference. Previously, Justin served as the Communications Director for Mars Hill Church in Seattle where he oversaw all content, communications, social media, and public relations.

Yes, that Mars Hill.

Which One of You Stinkers Wrote this Parody Opinion Piece for The Washington Post?

[ 354 ] June 29, 2016 |

 

“Jim Ruth,” probably

Jim Ruth?” Yeah, right. Fess up, LGMers.

 

For many of us, Trump has only one redeeming quality: He isn’t Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t want to turn the United States into a politically correct, free-milk-and-cookies, European-style social democracy where every kid (and adult, too) gets a trophy just for showing up.

Which one of you imps went through a checklist of wingnut bugaboos and talking points and put them in the most Onion-esque configuration possible? FESS UP.

Members of this new silent majority, many of us front-wave baby boomers, value hard work and love the United States the way it was. We long for a bygone era when you didn’t need “safe spaces” on college campuses to shelter students from the atrocity of dissenting opinions, lest their sensibilities be offended. We have the reckless notion that college is the one place where sensibilities are supposed to be challenged and debated. Silly us.

Stop. My sides.

Who’s to blame for the Trump phenomenon? There’s culpability on both sides of the aisle for the absence of bipartisanship that fueled his rise. The left blames the policies of a fragmented, delusional, right-wing GOP. But the left bears responsibility, too.

OK, nobody’s come forward to confess to punking The Washington Post yet? You’re scamps. 

So why then would rational, affluent, informed citizens consider voting for The Donald? Short of not voting at all — still an option some of us are considering — he’s the only one who appears to want to preserve the American way of life as we know it. For the new silent majority, the alternative to Trump is bleak: a wealthy, entitled progressive with a national security scandal in her hip pocket. In our view, the thought of four to eight more years of a progressive agenda polluting the American Dream is even more dangerous to the survival of this country than Trump is.

Well, anyway, good job. It was a fun read. Thanks for the laugh, “Jim Ruth!”

So come Nov. 8, you’ll find many of us sheepishly sneaking into voting booths across the United States. Even after warily pulling the curtain closed behind us, we’ll still be looking over our shoulders to make sure the deed is shielded from view. Then, fighting a gag reflex, we’ll pull the lever. We hate Donald Trump. But he just might get our vote.

I GOT YOU

[ 16 ] June 29, 2016 |

OLDMAN MUND: I GOT YOU

SEK: You got me how?

OLDMAN MUND: TOTALLY GOT

SEK: How so?

OLDMAN MUND: COMPLETELY GOTTEN

SEK: Should I be worried?

OLDMAN MUND: PEED ALL OVER IT

SEK: Jesus Christ — peed all over what?

OLDMAN MUND: YOUR ROUND PAPER

SEK: My “round paper”?

OLDMAN MUND: PEED ALL OVER YOUR ROUND PAPER

SEK: Whereabouts?

OLDMAN MUND: THE ROOM I’M NOT ALLOWED IN FUCK YOU

SEK: The bathroom?

OLDMAN MUND: THE MOTHERFUCKING BATHROOM

SEK: You peed all over my “round paper” in the bathroom?

OLDMAN MUND: ALL OVER IT

SEK: So I need to buy more toilet paper?

OLDMAN MUND: I FUCKED THAT SHIT UP

SEK: You would be so be disappointed, if only you knew…

What are the meanings of “working class” in America today?

[ 291 ] June 29, 2016 |

class

This question is inspired by David Brooks’ latest pseudo-anthropological musings regarding the subject. (A curious feature of this column is that it’s obvious Brooks is discussing the white working class, but he never acknowledges this).

There’s now a rift within the working class between mostly older people who are self disciplined, respectable and, often, bigoted, and parts of a younger cohort that are more disordered, less industrious, more celebrity-obsessed, but also more tolerant and open to the world.

Trump (and probably Brexit) voters are in the first group. They are not poor, making on average over $70,000 a year. But they perceive that their grandchildren’s world is quickly coming apart.

Now obviously the phrase “working class” has multiple meanings in American politics and culture, but defining a cohort that has an average household income of $72,000 (about 30% above the national average) as working class stretches any plausible definition well past the breaking point. And Brooks’ cavalier use of the term underlines how amorphous this concept — a key one in contemporary political discourse — can be.

Anyway, what does “working class” mean in America today? I haven’t studied this question systematically or even thought about it much, which is probably representative of how most Americans think, or rather don’t think, about class matters in general. So these suggestions are very much off the cuff: (Note that the point here isn’t to describe the “real” working class, which strikes me as a pretty meaningless endeavor, but rather to suggest what the most widely held views of the concept are).

(1) No college degree, especially no four-year degree. It’s difficult or impossible to be working class if you’re a college graduate (The status of an associate’s degree is somewhat ambiguous in this regard.) In fact that’s probably the single biggest function of college in American culture: to work as as an all but formal class sorting mechanism.

(2) Working a job that doesn’t make much money and doesn’t confer much social status, with those involving significant physical labor or heavily managed customer interaction being the prototypes.

(3) Renting rather than owning one’s residence.

(4) Little or negative net worth.

All of these are of course subject to lots of exceptions, caveats, and gray areas, and it’s certainly possible to be considered working class while not fitting into one or even more than one of these categories. But it’s a start. Thoughts?

. . . In what ways is the concept of working class captured by the white collar/blue collar/pink collar/schema? Can a white collar job be working class?

Microfilm

[ 42 ] June 29, 2016 |

index

As a historian, microfilm is the single greatest invention in human history. You haven’t lived until reading five decades of a union newspaper on microfilm. You should learn more about its history.

Post-Brexit Labour: Our Own Omnishambles

[ 480 ] June 29, 2016 |

daria

I was planning on writing about something else this morning, like strategies to avoid Brexit, political and constitutional dilemmas of the same, or the soul-crushing reality of being a life-long Mariners fan (where life-long is measured in the life of the franchise and not me).

Alas.

As expected, the vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by the Parliamentary Labour Party easily passed, 172-40, or 81% of sitting Labour MPs (who voted; there were a handful of abstentions and even several “soiled ballots” — so roughly 75% of Labour MPs are on record as opposing the leader).  This follows the resignations of two-thirds of his shadow cabinet, and all the various positions have yet to be filled (and considering when one adds in parliamentary private secretaries and junior shadow ministers, simply stated, there might not be enough Corbyn supporters remaining in Parliament to fill all the roles). Indeed, this morning the SNP has stated that it will request to be named the official opposition (no link, as this is just breaking):

A bit more on the news we mentioned earlier that the Scottish National Party will today ask to be declared the official Oppositon at Westminster.

They say their leader Angus Robertson enjoys more support than Jeremy Corbyn.

There are 56 SNP MPs – but only 40 Labour MPs have expressed support for Mr Corbyn.

They also say they are able to fill all the relevant shadow posts to the government, unlike Mr Corbyn.

They point to Parliamentary rules which say the official Opposition must be “prepared to assume power.”

A source said: “We have looked at Erskine May (the Parliamentary rule book) and will put it to the Speaker that the Labour Party no longer meet obligations to remain as the official Opposition.”

The expected response from the Corbyn and Momentum corners are that none of these MPs ever supported Jeremy, so this shouldn’t be a surprise and holds no democratic legitimacy. This is partially true.  It’s no secret that a significant share of the PLP were wary of Corbyn’s leadership, and a core of those on the right and center of the party took themselves out of contention for shadow cabinet positions (which troubled me; the shadow cabinet would have been more effective and representative had Liz Kendall and / or Yvette Cooper taken a role for the sake of the party). And yes, a significant group of MPs have been dreaming of a coup against Corbyn from September, so to some degree this was long in the cards.  However, from what I’ve heard, the majority of the PLP were firmly in the center — not knee-jerk hostile to Corbyn, and willing to give him time and a chance. It stands to reason that anybody who agreed to serve in the shadow cabinet was at minimum open minded about Corbyn’s leadership. It’s one thing to accept that a disaffected core existed on the right of the PLP hoping for this moment, but it’s another thing entirely to explicitly and publicly lose the support of 2/3rds of your own shadow cabinet.

As I stated yesterday, it’s close to impossible to lead an effective opposition, government, or even a marginalised political party if an overwhelming majority of your MPs are rebelling against your leadership. The response of Corbyn and his supporters is to hang on and cite the democratic mandate of the 251,417 (59.5%) votes he received in last summer’s leadership election. As I don’t shy away from stating, I was one of those 251,417.

However, there’s an alternative narrative of democratic legitimacy that is not likely to be warmly received by Corbyn’s supporters.  As MilitantlyAardvark said in comments yesterday: “A decent case could be made that MPs are elected by the people of their constituency and therefore represent a broader and more genuinely democratic section of Labour voters than the relatively small number of party members.”  This narrative is also here in The Guardian:

A defiant Mr Corbyn tonight brushed off the thumbs-down that four in five colleagues gave him, by reciting the rulebook which puts the leadership decision in the hands of the members who he believes remain as loyal as ever, although – amid such chaos – can that be assumed? More fundamentally, the rulebook becomes immaterial when there is no ability to do the basic job. The rules of a charity may, for example, put the appointment of a chief executive in the hands of the trustees, but that chief executive will not be able to function if the staff all want him out. And in the Corbyn case, the option of replacing “the staff” does not exist without showing contempt to the electorate, since they are not mere party functionaries, but MPs elected by 9.3 million Labour voters. And if the election comes this year, there would be no time to go for wholesale reselections to pick a new slate of Corbynite candidates, even if Mr Corbyn had not solemnly promised to avoid this unwise course.

That’s right. The PLP were elected by 9.3 million voters in May 2015. These people are (or at least should be) significantly more important to the operation of a major political party with aspirations (however dimming) of one day again returning to government.

That argument has not nor will it make any headway amongst the core Corbyn support.  Reviewing the discussion in the various pro-Corbyn and Momentum groups I belong to in social media, the tenor is that any criticism of Jeremy is apostasy. The PLP is the enemy (aside form the 40 who voted confidence) including those who once served in the shadow cabinet but have since resigned. It’s fascinating to read. And depressing. Politics in a democracy requires the building of coalitions, of compromise, of reaching consensual outcomes. Jeremy’s core support doesn’t appear to reflect this reality or even accept its legitimacy.

Unlike the Leave Campaign, the Corbyn team and supporters have a plan should he be allowed to stand, and win, the forthcoming leadership election:

“We will offer the most radical leadership reform package ever,” said one insider. “Reselection, recall, a lock on leadership elections that only members can remove. We will bring it.”

This is elaborated upon here. It’s difficult to say if this is really the plan, or wishful thinking taking the shape of rumour.  It would help solve the dilemma I wrote about yesterday, that if we’re going to allow the leader to be elected by, and only by, a direct vote of the membership, the elected leader needs the PLP on side. Having Corbynistas take control of a majority of the Constituency Labour Parties, and force re-selection of candidates for Parliament, is a means to this end.  It will result in bad blood, and could possibly result in a fundamental split in the party, where Corbyn and Momentum have control of the name and machinery, while the PLP breaks off to form another SDLP SDP (or even join the Liberal Democrats), presumably dragging a share of their CLP supporters with them.

Regardless of how this ends up, if there’s a snap election between October and December, there’s probably not enough time to seize control of enough CLPs, nor will there really be enough time for a proper leadership election to progress. Last summer’s leadership election took three months from the close of nominations to the declaration of the winner.

Effectively, the Labour Party has defaulted on its job to be an organised opposition to the equally disorganised Conservatives precisely when the country needs precisely that.

Late Stage Out of Sight Publicity

[ 6 ] June 28, 2016 |

Tazreen-Fashions

A year after its release and long after anyone actually bought the book, there’s still a little bit of Out of Sight buzz here and there. Laura Clawson from Daily Kos asked me to do a Q&A about the book. Here’s one of the questions:

LC: You make the case against the boycott impulse of saying “well, I personally just won’t shop there.” What’s wrong with that and how do we get past it to take action that will put real pressure on companies to change?

LOOMIS: The problem with individuals choosing to boycott companies for a given behavior like using sweatshops is that it doesn’t really accomplish anything for the workers involved. Kalpona Akter, a leader of the Bangladeshi apparel workers movement, has explicitly asked westerners not to boycott the factories. These workers need jobs! If we decide to go buy clothing at the thrift store, we might make ourselves feel good and morally righteous for not supporting an exploitative system, but the reality is that we are doing nothing to change corporate behavior. What we have to do is organize to demand the companies making this clothing be held accountable for their actions. That’s what workers want.

There is an exception to my position on the boycott and that’s when the affected workers ask for one. The United Farm Workers most famously used the boycott during the grape strikes of the 1960s and 1970s. In other words, being an ethical consumer means learning about what workers need and want from you and trying to accomplish those aims to help them, not to make yourself feel good.

Real pressure on the companies can come through movements like the United Students Against Sweatshops, who organized on college campuses in the 1990s to force colleges and universities to contract for their school-sanctioned clothing under ethical guidelines. USAS is still around today. Reinvigorating these sorts of movements that use our power in the organizations to which we belong—schools, churches, social clubs—to place pressure on apparel companies or other industries that use child labor or forced labor or sweatshop labor is how we start to make that change. There are already groups like the Harry Potter Alliance doing this sort of work, in this case on Harry Potter-themed products like chocolates that are produced without child labor.

There will also be talks in the fall at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania and Eastern Washington University, if anyone is around those areas. And I can give a talk at your college and/or university and /or social group for a shockingly low price!

Foreign Entanglements: #Brexit Breaks Bad

[ 26 ] June 28, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, I spoke with Nick Clark about the consequences of Brexit.  There’s also a bit on Game of Thrones at the end.

Unfortunately, the video on both feeds froze.  The audio is fine, though.

Today in the Party of Calhoun

[ 133 ] June 28, 2016 |

nascar-confederate-flags

It’s nice that Congressional Republicans tried to use the Zika funding bill for the all-important goal of reversing the ban on flying the Confederate flag in national cemeteries.

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