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Out of Sight virtual reading group – April 13

[ 1 ] March 19, 2016 |

WNEP – 1/21/15, aftermath of truck crash on I-81, near Moosic, PA


The next virtual reading group type thing will take place Weds., April 13, 2 p.m. ET.

Chapters 3 – Outsourcing Pollution and 4 – Concealed Food, Broken Workers.

Loomis will answer questions about those chapters and tell us the best way to dispose of ketchup.

Be there or you’ll have to pick up all the garbage ketchup on the side of the road.


Corporations: The Folks Who Want to Take Away the Weekend

[ 18 ] March 19, 2016 |

Remember the halcyon days of the past, where if you worked on the weekend and especially on Sunday, you would get premium pay? Not too long ago. Say goodbye to that.

Walmart discontinued Sunday premium pay, which had been $1 extra per hour, for new hires back in 2011. Those who had continued to receive it will receive a lump sum equal to half the amount of Sunday pay they received last year, according to a company release in January outlining a handful of adjustments that Walmart explained were a way of “simplifying its pay structure” — and reducing the overall cost of increasing base wages to $10 an hour across the board.

That hasn’t worked out so well for more experienced employees like eight-year Walmart veteran Nancy Reynolds, a 69-year-old cashier in Merritt Island, Fla., who works Thursday through Monday. Her base pay was already slightly above $10 an hour, so she didn’t get much of a raise, and the loss of a few extra Sunday dollars a week will hurt. “The younger people, the ones who haven’t been there that long, they got it, and I’m glad for them,” Reynolds says. “But they did it at the expense of me and everybody who’s been there a long time.”

In cutting Sunday pay, Walmart is actually behind most of the retail industry, which made that change as legal requirements to pay more on Sundays were stricken from state laws across the country. So-called “blue laws” once prohibited Sunday commerce altogether in 34 states in the 1960s. They were often weakened through compromise, with higher pay mandated in exchange for shopping being legalized. Even with no mandate, premium pay was often what the labor market demanded.

$10 on hour and work on Sunday. Sounds like a great future for those Indiana workers whose jobs have fled to Mexico and who are now going to vote Trump because of it! Why not vote Trump if this is your life.

The Answer is Half-Naked Dancing Men, The Answer is Always Half-Naked Dancing Men

[ 61 ] March 19, 2016 |

Please thank N_B for this.


Hours after hosting a “women in gaming” luncheon at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft threw a party with scantily clad dancers in school girl outfits. It wasn’t a good look, and the company has since apologized.

Now this seems like a really unfortunate, shitty error in judgement, but, in fairness, Microsoft–as least according to the article–seems to be taking the criticism seriously and working to make sure future fuckups don’t occur. So, great. Lesson learned and onward and upward, right? Not if you’re a commenter at Kotaku. Then it’s all, “Clearly the problem was that Terry Crews was not shirtless and making his pecs dance,  politically-correct, sex-haters!!!” Sometimes the GG demographic makes me want to suffocate myself with plastic wrap, if only so I won’t have to read comment threads like this again.

I’m not happy anymore, N_B. Happy?


[ 121 ] March 19, 2016 |


Wholeheartedly approved:

How y’all doing?

A greeting as Southern as a bowl of grits, it rolls off the tongue in a single open-mouth utterance. Sweeter than honey and often saturated with hidden meaning, it can open up a dialogue with a roomful of strangers with ease.

Part of that ease hinges on the incredible versatility of the phrase’s most important word. “Y’all,” that strange regional and ethnic conjunction, offers a simplicity to speech that can’t be found elsewhere. It is a magnificently elegant linguistic creation.

There are no distinct second-person plural pronouns in modern standard English. “Ye” once served that purpose; a good look at the King James version of the Bible can give a sense of the usage. “Ye are the light of the world,” Jesus told a crowd in Galilee. But nowadays, “ye” and some other fun Middle English pronouns have fallen by the wayside, except at Medieval Times and in fantasy novels. Even “thou,” the etymological informal brother of “you,” fell off the linguistic map around the 17th century.*

Which—thanks to the abandonment of the formal/informal system of pronouns influenced by French—leaves us with one word: “you,” that pronoun-of-all-trades. “You” is all we English-speakers have to refer to any person or group or large crowd, regardless of status or size.

Which is why we need “y’all.” It doesn’t suffer from having the gender implications or general lameness of “you guys.” It sounds elegant, warm, and inviting. It offers both economy and an end to second-person ambiguity. Teach it in schools across the country. Mouth it to babies. Put it on end-of-grade tests. With respect to “youse,” “yinz,” and “you-uns,” its lesser-known cousins, “y’all” is the most widely practiced of the options and could be the easiest to implement.

The hypothesized origins of “y’all” speak to the necessity of adding a second-person plural. While it could just be a contraction of “you all,” some evidence shows that it could also originate from the Scots-Irish ye aw, a Creolization from African slaves, or a combination of the two. Given that the Appalachian Scots-Irish are also behind “youse,” “yinz,” and “you-uns” and given common African Creolizations such as allyuh, it may just be that these two groups were the most fed up with the erosion of the second-person plural.

But those origins may also have something to do with the stigmatization of “y’all.” Southern accents and Southern words are generally perceived by Yankee ears as making their speakers less intelligent, and that ain’t right. The regional bias also bleeds into a quasi-racial bias against AAVE, even during a time when we have a president who employs a cache of its words, including “y’all,” fairly liberally. This is the struggle I’ve long silently endured as a black Carolinian: code-switching my “y’all” to “you all” in speech and emails, mostly because “you guys” was a step too far in the direction of awful. Have I mentioned that “you guys” is really bad?

So let’s end that stigmatization and give “y’all” its rightful place in language proper. “Y’all hiring?” “Y’all ok?” The possibilities are endless, and a simple substitution could actually solve a real problem in modern English that will only grow as we continue to examine how gender works in language. It could provide a better and gender-neutral word. It could relieve “you” of the impossible task of ostensibly functioning in so many roles, and maybe even along the way ease some of the regional and racial stigmatization of language and slang. It’s worth a shot, y’all.

The South is simply correct here. This is a significant addition to the language. We should all embrace it.

Map from this link, which explains more on the issue.

An Environmental Determinist History of the Labor Movement

[ 64 ] March 19, 2016 |

lange oklahomans reach LA-cr

Above: Not people migrating to work at the River Rouge in Dearborn.

Although I write more about labor history in the public sphere, my academic training is in environmental history. As an environmental historian, there’s nothing more frustrating or annoying than environmental determinism (yes, I’m looking at you Jared Diamond). To say the least, nothing can be explained by a single factor and to say that environmental issues determine the past or future completely undermines human agency. It also places unnecessary blinders on our examination of our society that stops us from understanding just why things did happen.

I never thought I’d see a paper explaining the rise of American unions through environmental determinism. But I guess I should have known better. Here’s a summary:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 roughly half of the nation’s 14.8 million union members lived in just seven states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey. Yet these states accounted for only one-third of paid employment nationally. And those same states have held the highest unionization rates for decades. So why do some states remain heavily unionized while others do not? “It turns out there was something that happened in the 1930s that set the rank of unionization in place across states in the United States, and that rank has stayed roughly the same ever since,” says Lauren H. Cohen, the L.E. Simmons Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

The thing that happened was the Dust Bowl: a series of severe dust storms and droughts that decimated farms in the Great Plains during the 1930s, forcing thousands of families to abandon their property. Many migrated to close-by cities, often in California but also in other states, in hopes of finding jobs.

Wait, what? The Dust Bowl explains why Pennsylvania has high unionization rates?

Alas, the Dust Bowl coincided with the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, and those who still had jobs were loath to lose them to migrants. And so they unionized.

“Let’s say you were a subsistence farmer,” Cohen explains. “The drought dried up your crops. You still had to feed your family. So you traveled to the closest city and tried to get a job. Of course, that put pressure on people who did have jobs. They were working for a dollar an hour, and you were willing to come and do the same job for 50 cents. So the people who had jobs said, ‘Let’s unionize to make sure these farmers don’t take our jobs.’”

Oh, yeah, those cities close to the Dust Bowl have super high unionization rates. Dallas. Albuquerque. Houston. Oklahoma City. Huh?

Also, I will note that the authors never provide the first shred of evidence that people organizing to keep their jobs from Okies was why unions formed. I mean one could, you know, go to the words of actual union organizers to talk about why they were forming unions or to those of workers to see why they joined. But then that wouldn’t fit into a fancy regression analysis.

They considered the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which guaranteed the rights of private-sector employees to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. The act certainly encouraged labor forces to unionize. But a national act applies to the whole nation, so it didn’t explain state-to-state differences in unionization rates.

The Dust Bowl, on the other hand, was a massive external force that affected only certain geographic areas.

Yes. Of course the Dust Bowl did not affect the states that had high unionization rates except for California because, yes, lots of migrants ended up there during the 1930s. But they weren’t competing for union jobs at that point. The real turning point for unionization in California was with the rise of the industrial economy during the war that created the big defense plants. And while those migrants were now moving out of the fields and into the defense plants, I’ve never seen any evidence that the growth of unions in those plants had anything to do with keeping other white people out.

The drought-year unionization density predicted relative unionization density in 1943, 1953, 1973, etc., all the way up to 2013. (These findings held true only in those industries in which migrants tried to find jobs during the Dust Bowl—manufacturing jobs, for instance, but not teaching jobs.) In other words, it wasn’t all migration but only the migration related to the Dust Bowl droughts that predicted modern unionization patterns.

“Droughts caused migration. Migration caused pressure on the current workforce. Pressure caused the workforce to unionize. And that unionization just has an incredibly long tail,” Cohen says.

I’m really glad these researchers have a complex view of the past. One things causes another which causes another. OK. Glad we can make these claims without complicating them. I guess I’m in the wrong field.

“I think the reason why this paper is important, especially now, is that unions are a hotly debated issue within policy and within our political process,” Cohen says. “Some people say we absolutely need them. And some say there was a time in history that we needed them, but we’ve outgrown that time. I think both sides have to confront the fact that a fair amount of unionization that exists today was set in place in a random way. So if you want to say unions are great, or if you want to say they’re awful, either way you have to explain why something so obviously great or so obviously awful can be so significantly influenced by something that is essentially random.”

No. Just no. Good lord.

There is so much wrong here. We are talking problems solved by taking History 101. First, there’s no evidence that I am aware of that white migrants from the Dust Bowl played a major role in manufacturing unionism or even trying to take manufacturing jobs during the Depression. These were mostly rural people and they wanted to stay mostly rural people. They most famously went to California but also many went to places like southwestern Washington where they bought up logged-off land to start a new generation of impoverished farming. Many of these migrants of course did eventually end up in the suburbs working in manufacturing, but that’s a generation later. This is a non-issue in the 1930s.

Second, relatively few Dust Bowl migrants ended up in union-dense states. You did see rural migration to these states during the 1930s. Mostly it was from southern Appalachia. Those people did affect the union campaigns of Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania, but a) they were not fleeing climate disasters and b) the unions didn’t appear to keep these workers out. If anything, they joined the unions to keep African-Americans out.

Third, the development of mass unionization in certain states was not “random.” It was a complex confluence of factors that included a) the Fordist factory floor that employed thousands of people which did not exist in most states, b) traditions of socialism from European immigration, c) state governments willing to tolerate unions, d) sizable Catholic and Jewish populations versus the evangelical Protestantism of the South and Great Plains. Could climate-based migration play a role in union history? Sure, I guess. But is this argument had merits, wouldn’t have there been some sort of union growth in cities near the Dust Bowl to protect workers from this new competition? Yet there was so little union presence in these states that even Democratic politicians from these states could attack unions with ferocity and vote for Taft-Hartley because there was no labor movement to speak of in their states. Thus, you have LBJ using his strong anti-unionism as a major campaign point in the 1948 election to the Senate, even though his opponent was equally anti-union.

In other words, this is a dreadfully wrong argument. Of course it is made by a professor at the Harvard Business School.

Capital Mobility and Trumpism

[ 223 ] March 19, 2016 |


As I have been saying throughout the election season, the collapse of the working class thanks to capital mobility is going a long way to feed Donald Trump’s popularity.

The fuzzy video, shot by a worker on the floor of a Carrier factory here in the American heartland last month, captured the raging national debate over trade and the future of the working class in 3 minutes 32 seconds.

“This is strictly a business decision,” a Carrier executive tells employees, describing how their 1,400 jobs making furnaces and heating equipment will be sent to Mexico. Workers there typically earn about $19 a day — less than what many on the assembly line here make in an hour. As boos and curses erupt from the crowd, the executive says, “Please quiet down.”

What came next was nothing of the kind.

Within hours of being posted on Facebook, the video went viral. Three days after Carrier’s Feb. 10 announcement, Donald J. Trump seized on the video in a Republican presidential debate and made Carrier’s move to Mexico a centerpiece of his stump speeches attacking free trade.

In fact, many Carrier workers here say that it was not so much Mr. Trump’s nativist talk on illegal immigrants or his anti-Muslim statements that has fired them up. Instead, it was hearing a leading presidential candidate acknowledging just how much economic ground they’ve lost — and promising to do something about it.

Mr. Trump has repudiated decades of G.O.P. support for free trade, calling for heavy tariffs on Mexican-made goods from the likes of Carrier. This has helped put him within arm’s reach of the Republican nomination.

Opposition to trade deals has also galvanized supporters of Mr. Sanders, helping him unexpectedly win the Michigan Democratic primary this month. At the same time, it has forced his rival Hillary Clinton to distance herself from trade agreements she once supported, like the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 1994 deal with Mexico that is an important part of President Bill Clinton’s political legacy.

Exit polls after the Michigan primary , for example, showed that a clear majority of both Republican and Democratic voters believe international trade costs the American economy more jobs than it creates.

Nicole Hargrove, a 14-year Carrier worker, said she was an undecided voter and was uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s attacks on immigrants, particularly Mexicans. “But I’d like to turn him loose on the financial world,” she said. “Maybe if Carrier had to pay more to bring stuff in, they’d think twice about moving jobs out.”

Mark Weddle, 55, started work at Carrier 24 years ago and earns $21 an hour running a machine that makes heat exchangers. “I have two brothers-in-law from Mexico,” he said, explaining why he disagrees with Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant stance.

But when it comes to Carrier, “we’ve all worked our butts off,” he said. “And now they’re going to throw us under the bus? If Trump will kick Carrier’s ass, then I’ll vote for him.”

That’s pretty much what Mr. Trump has threatened to do. At rally after rally, to rapturous crowds, he vows to impose a 35 percent tax on Carrier products from Mexico. Then, the laugh line: “I want to do this myself, but it is so unpresidential to call up Carrier.”

And Mr. Trump vows not to take Carrier’s calls until it agrees to change course. “As sure as you’re here, they will call me up within 24 hours,” he promises, and say to him, “‘Sir, we’ve decided to stay in the United States.’”

Consistently in the comments of this blog, people wave away these connections or say it is an acceptable cost to pay for global capitalism. Well, maybe. But you have to live with the political consequences of a declining working class. And while people may support dreamy ideas like Universal Basic Income or more politically possible ideas that would help around the margins like an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, none of these things are happening now while all the manufacturing jobs are in fact disappearing. And whether that is because of capital mobility or it is because automation, we have zero concrete plans on what to do with millions of working class people. At best, we might give slight subsidies to retraining programs for careers that pay less and may not have a future anyway. At worst, we start drug testing for people who get on public assistance or slash those programs to nothing anyway.

The doctrine of unrestricted free trade has been basically bipartisan for many decades now. But no one ever thought hard enough about what this would look like when all the manufacturing jobs were gone. We are now finding out. This opens the door to demagogues taking advantage of what is worst about the United States–xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, political violence, strongmen, intimidating journalists, fascism. When you give working Americans no good options, we might think they would turn to socialism. And a few have, as the Sanders campaigns demonstrates. But without widespread leftist organizing in working-class communities, which in working-class white communities largely does not exist, the appeal of racial and class prejudice added to the appeal of seeing someone tell off the forces that have doomed them to stagnation and poverty, that’s very powerful. That’s the Trump voter. Unless we do something for working-class Americans, even if Trump is defeated this year, the door is open for more demagogues and political violence in the near future.

The question is what to do about it. The answer has to be, in part, jobs that pay well and allow people to live dignified, upwardly mobile or at least stable lives. And for proponents of unrestricted capital mobility and extreme globalization, they simply have no answer on how to do this. We as a nation are reaping the results of their indifference.

It’s on like Charles Bron-son

[ 30 ] March 19, 2016 |

The recent outburst of rich-conservative-on-poor-conservative-rhetorical-violence left me rather bewuthered. Fortunately, my closest friend sent me the latest from a man who once tried to make George Dubya Bush sound like he had any business running a reel mower, much less an entire nation.

Here he uses his chops to deplore Trump and his use of violent and bigoted rhetoric to rouse the rabble (sorta, you never know who might be ISO a speech-writer) and defend the rabble for being bigots roused.

Whew, normalcy is restored.

Because organized groups of left-wing agitators intentionally come to Trump rallies to provoke his supporters.

See, you might have been thinking protesters were going to Trump rallies to express their disapproval of a man who wants to be president of the United States, which is the country where they live. But then you probably thought lunch counter sit-ins were staged to protest institutional racism.

However, S-M-R-T people like Thiessen know that these actions are carried out with the sole purpose of annoying Red, White & Bluemericans.

According to the New York Times, the protesters “fling themselves to the ground, forcing law enforcement officers — often outmanned and overwhelmed — to drag them away. They also shout and curse, making obscene gestures.” They should not be surprised when they get a reaction. Walk into a blue-collar bar and start taunting people that way, and you are likely to leave without some of your teeth.

Yeah! Woo! Now there’s a right wing waste of carbon and thumbs who knows what white blue-collar America is for! Serving as volunteer face breakers for their betters!

Who wouldn’t set foot in a “blue-collar bar” if they could find one!

Because those places are icky and the staff and regulars generally unwelcoming of strangers who come in for a little sneering, ironic beer drinking and making idiots of themselves at the pool tables!

But anyway, in the working man’s watering holes of the imaginations of people like Thiessen, only the imaginary hippies and blahs who storm in, shout ‘America, fuck no!’ and lie down on the floor are in any danger, so that’s OK.

Also, a man who wants to be president of the United States may be icky, but the left is icky too!

Yes, Trump’s call for a Muslim ban, his spewing of conspiracies theories about 9/11 and Iraq, his embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Middle East dictators, and his calls for protesters to be “roughed up” are all repulsive. But for many Americans, the left’s smash-mouth tactics are repulsive as well.

Q.E.D! Thank you all. May God bless!


[ 44 ] March 19, 2016 |

Strongtowns has been on a roll lately:

Nice piece on Trader Joe’s parking lots, and the illusions/delusions caused by widespread “free” parking. Few people would actually say “Shoppers who don’t drive to this store are already subsidizing those who do, but not nearly enough” and think they’re being reasonable, but when you complain about the small size and/or lack of room to maneuver in their parking lots, that’s essentially what you’re saying.

If you care about drunk driving, you should care quite a bit about the ways in which land use policy increases the likelihood and inevitability of it. If I were the king of the world, I’d eliminate parking minimums across the board immediately, but legally mandating sizeable parking lots for bars is a special kind of stupid.

The primary culprit for the profound and tragic shortage of housing in walkable urban neighborhoods (which is in spite of, not because of, consumer preferences) is local government but it turns out the Feds are contributing to the problem as well.

On the horrors of the suburbanization of poverty in Florida.

#StopTrump Stillborn

[ 125 ] March 19, 2016 |


Sargent has more:

Politico has a remarkable piece this morning that portrays the “Stop Trump” movement as being in total disarray, with some senior Republicans wondering whether it’s time to give up and accept the once-unthinkable nomination of Donald Trump.

The simple summary of Politico’s story — and some of the other reporting out there this morning — is this: The only goal the Stop Trump movement has agreed upon is denying Trump the outright majority of delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. Even if that were to happen, there is no clear consensus on what would come next — at a contested convention, who would the nominee be instead? And in addition to that, some top Republicans are now wondering whether they should give up on even the goal of forcing a contested convention in the first place.

Some Republicans worry that a contested convention could do more damage than not.


On top of that, Republicans with influence over the party rules are now saying that there’s no scenario in which another non-candidate Republican — Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney, for example — could be given the nomination. That would appear to leave only Kasich (who is a long shot to come in second in delegates) or Cruz (who is almost as unpalatable to many Republicans as Trump, and arguably could be nearly as disastrous — or, who knows, perhaps even more so — in a general election).

The fact that the Rules Committee seems unwilling to consider a white knight like Ryan or Mittens is particularly interesting. If so, the GOP’s choices are 1)Trump, 2)Ted Cruz, a candidate not obviously more electable than Trump in the abstract who had to depose Trump in order to be nominated, or 3)John Kasich, a better candidate than Trump or Cruz in the abstract but probably not if he was selected ahead of them despite receiving far fewer delegates than either. Good luck with that! And if most GOP elites were to conclude that Trump was the least bad option for them, they’re probably right.

“One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.”

[ 27 ] March 19, 2016 |

Keef v. the Donald.

Hey what’s this? 000000

[ 181 ] March 18, 2016 |

Hogan’s zeroes!

Because a jury ordered Gawker to pay him $115 million for publishing a sex tape featuring Hulk Hogan and a friend’s wife.

Get it?

Maybe it needs work.

As for the case, I don’t know much about libel anything about invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional because my job’s not that nowhere near that exciting, but I seriously doubt this award will survive an appeal.

[Update – Someone dropped off a bunch of logical fallacies, swinger’s fantasies and sexism late last night. As a result the comments are no longer fit for persons with delicate constitutions.]

Only the Bonely

[ 23 ] March 18, 2016 |

“The Cursed”


Me: Oh my goodness, what is all this? It looks very emo.

Cursed Girl: We are…The Cursed.

Me: Oh dear. Who cursed you?

CG: I have no idea.

Me: So you’re cursed but you have no idea why or by whom?

CG: Correct. The only thing I know is I’m supposed to stand here balancing my freakishly large head on my tiny body while I offer this ostrich– who apparently used to be a king–this super-cool skull ring.

Ostrich: *Skwawk!*

CG: I said that. I told her you’re really a king.

Me: I’m sorry…you speak ostrich?

CG: Yes. All huge-headed melancholy people do.

Me: I see. You know, I can’t help but notice that so much of this stuff just looks random and silly to me. I mean, is that a castle floating in the sky? Is that spider nearly as big as your freak head?

CG: This only makes sense to…The Cursed. Your tiny, un-cursed head simply can’t comprehend the genius at work here.

Me: Genius now?

CG: Certainly. Our creator may be cruel but there’s a method to her madness.

Me: So you admit she’s cruel.

CG: Ssssssssh, she’ll hear you! Then she’ll put some other absurd thing on my head…like a birdcage or some teacups. I mean, WHO DOES THAT?

Me: I don’t know. It definitely seems like she’s making sound artistic choices to me.

Ostrich: *SQWAWK*

Me: What did he say?

CG: You don’t want to know. It was filthy.

Me: And you were going to marry this…guy?

CG: That filth is precisely what I love about him.

Me: Right then, carry on.


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