Thursday, November 27, 2014

Shop Stores That Treat Workers Like Human Beings

Of course you are not shopping today, when it means encouraging the slave-driving plutocrats exploiting their employees.

And you're not shopping tomorrow, on Buy Nothing Day.

But when you do start your holiday shopping, stick with the stores that acknowledge their employees' humanity by closing on Thanksgiving.

Costco, of course.  Dillard's. Burlington Coat Factory. TJMaxx and Marshall's. JoAnn Fabrics. Designer Shoe Warehouse. Petco. Barnes and Noble (just this once) Crate and Barrel.
Not to mention every locally-owned, non-chain store you can find and buy something in between now and New Year's.

Think Progress:
Instead of shopping at Macy’s or J.C. Penney, for example, consumers have the option to go to Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus. Instead of Walmart, Kmart, or Target, they can go to GameStop, Barnes & Noble, or Bed, Bath & Beyond. Instead of Sports Authority, shoppers can get outdoors gear at Patagonia or REI.

And consumers may be prepared to stand in solidarity with retail employees who say they don’t want to work on the holiday. Less than one in five people who say they’re going to shop over Thanksgiving weekend say they’ll do it on the holiday itself, a drop from nearly a quarter last year, while the majority aren’t even going to shop in actual stores. Half of Americans say they think shopping on that day itself is a terrible idea. That may be why opening early didn’t juice holiday sales for the stores that made workers come in on the holiday last year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Slice the Mythology Out of Thanksgiving

Not happy feasters eager to share and be friends, but invaders bent on genocide.

Tim Weed at TPM:

It’s what might be called the Thanksgiving Myth — and it’s not wildly off base as far as it goes. But some important context is missing. This is a problem, because a nation’s foundational mythology determines its self-image and deeply affects the behavior of its government and citizenry.
From 1616 to 1619, a series of virgin-soil epidemics spread by European trading vessels ravaged the New England seaboard, wiping out up to 95 percent of the Algonkian-speaking native population from Maine to Narragansett Bay. The coast was a vast killing zone of abandoned agricultural fields and decimated villages littered with piles of bones and skulls. This is what the Pilgrims encountered when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Not a pristine wilderness, but the devastated ruins of a once-thriving culture, a haunting boneyard which English libertine Thomas Morton later described as a “newfound Golgotha.”
Between the freakazoid Puritans who viewed the natives as demons, and the slightly later thieves desperate for land, what Native Americans remained to assert ownership quickly became a convenient enemy.
In May of 1637, colonists from Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay, with a group of their Indian allies, set fire to a fortified Pequot stronghold on the Mystic River. An estimated 700 Pequots perished, mostly women and children, and the few survivors were shipped to Bermuda and sold into slavery. On the heels of the virgin-soil epidemics that had decimated the native population, the ghastly specter of genocide had reached the shores of America. In 1675, bloody King Phillip’s War put the finishing touches on what was more or less the total extermination of the eastern woodland Indians.

It is an inescapable fact, therefore, that this proud country was born in the aftermath of a shameful ethnic cleansing that is largely absent from the collective memory. It behooves us to refresh that memory. How would the current debate over immigration change, for example, if it were to be conducted in the light of a more honest consideration of our own deepest origins? Would self-righteous distinctions about “legal” vs. “illegal” immigrants have the same emotional currency? Recent popular histories such as Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower and Jill Lepore’s The Name of War have taken us some distance in this process of revision, but we need to keep telling ourselves the true story until it is enshrined in our national consciousness. It’s high time we updated the Thanksgiving Myth.


(Source: crime-think)

KY Protests Draw Hundreds in Solidarity With Ferguson

Hundreds in Lexington, and hundreds more in Louisville.  For Kentucky, that's a big turnout.

Karla Ward at the Herald:

There are 340 miles between Lexington and Ferguson, Mo., but a crowd of about 200 demonstrators marched downtown Tuesday night to show their solidarity with protesters there.

The peaceful but impassioned group chanted while walking down North Limestone past the federal and county courthouses, then turned onto Main Street and marched past the police station and back to the courthouse plaza.

There, speakers deplored the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, and a St. Louis County grand jury's decision Monday night not to indict Wilson.

"The goal is to let people in Ferguson know that injustice is not just there in Ferguson," said Lamin Swann, who helped organize the event through Stop Mass Incarceration Network KY. "They're not alone. We're here to support them."

He said "systemic institutional injustice, discrimination" was a problem throughout the nation.
Most of the marchers were young adults, many of whom identified themselves with the University of Kentucky and Berea College.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It IS A Black Thing, But It's Also a Poor Thing

daChipster nails the real reason the rich don't want to share money with the poor: because then they'd also have to share the power.
But, it’s not a “black thing.”

In fact, with all due respect to the black community, most of what’s going on is not about them, per se.

It’s not black-white. Or brown-white. Or yellow-white. It’s not a race or color thing at all.

It’s a poor thing.


Those who stand in opposition to Affirmative Action, public education, and other attempts to level the playing field bleat phrases like “Equality of Opportunity, not Equality of Outcome!” All the while, equality of opportunity is a sham.

The only people with equal opportunity are those who can pay for it.

The only people with equal justice are those who can pay for it.

The only people with equal police protection are those who can pay for it.

The only people with equal access to reproductive health are those who can pay for it.

The only people with equal political speech are those who can pay for it.

The only people with equal access to the ballot are those who can pay for it.

The only people with equal representation in Washington are those who can pay for it.


It’s a poor thing.
Remember, chipster: no one on the Ferguson grand jury was rich by your measure. But three-quarters of those jurors were white.

KY Ferguson Solidarity Rallies in Lexington and Louisville This Evening

KY Ferguson Solidarity Rallies Today


In early March, 2011, I was moved to tears by a photograph of a protester in Cairo holding a sign that read: "Egypt Supports Wisconsin Workers.  One Big Union."
Mubarek was killing protesters in Cairo, while Scott Walker was killing public workers' unions, but those protesting oppression know each other.

From PZ Myers:
It seems that Palestinians are very familiar with injustice.



(Source: 365q)

How the Repugs and Centrists Have Left Democrats and Minorities Powerless

Short version: Racism.  That's what has powered conservatives for 200 years, and looks to be powering conservatives for another 200.

Enabled by fake centrists and cowardly dems whose repeated solution to electoral defeat is to run to the right.

Where Democrats find only more defeat, and more excuses to run further to the right.

It's political suicide.  It has been political suicide for 40 years, but dems never learn.

There’s no point in sugar-coating this. In the Deep South, the Democratic Party is now the non-white party, and minority politicians don’t have the white partners they need to exercise any but the most local political power. While the problem is less severe in the border states, it has clearly made advances there. You can look at pretty much the whole Scots-Irish migration from the Virginias to Oklahoma and see that the Democrats were trounced last Tuesday. They badly lost Senate elections in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and they actually lost two Senate elections each in South Carolina and Oklahoma. Their seat in Virginia was only (just barely) saved by the DC suburbs in the northeastern part of the state.

This isn’t just a problem for the Democratic Party. It’s a big problem for blacks, too.
This situation is so deleterious for African-Americans in the Deep South because, unlike in Congress, where black Democrats have many white Democratic colleagues—not to mention a Democrat in the White House—in these Southern states, black Democratic state legislators (and, by extension, their black constituents) are completely at the mercy of Republican legislative majorities and Republican governors. What’s more, unlike in Washington, where control of the White House—and at least the Senate —swings back and forth between both parties, the Republican control of Southern state houses seems here to stay for a long, long time.
This loss of power is not what progressives or the black community envisioned when the first black president was elected, but the fury of the blowback is now undeniable. Both the party and its African-American base share a self-interest in doing something to combat the impression and (in these parts of the country) the increasing reality that the Democrats are not a party for white people.

This can’t be done by any simple tweaks to the party platform, and there’s a broader cultural element at play here that implicates more than race. Attitudes about religion and human sexuality are also major factors in what has happened, as the country has galloped ahead at breakneck speed to destigmatize homosexuality, for example, while Republican legislatures have furiously sought to restrict women’s rights.

Asking how the party can get white Democrats elected in these regions again isn’t something that blacks or progressive whites are eager to discuss, particularly when the answers may not be to their liking. But their power is at stake, as well as many of the values that they’ve fought for and thought, perhaps erroneously, that they had secured. At stake are basic civil rights (including voting rights), women’s reproductive health, and even the president’s landmark health care law. The black community’s political power is at stake, too, in a major and urgent way.

These problems will require fresh thinking, by which I mean that reconstructing the Blue Dog Coalition is probably not the answer. It’s not the local Chambers of Commerce we need to court, but the economically pressed white voter who must be cleaved from the plutocratic coalition that has enchanted him.

The Third Way led us here. It does not provide the route out of this maze.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Do the Right Thing

(Source: melodyriddle)

Taxes Aren't Just About the Money; They Level the Playing Field

Taxing the billionaires out of existence and the millionaires into humility will solve so many more problems than needed revenue.

Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert at the Nation:

Taxes don’t just produce revenue; they are capable of restructuring how the whole economy works. That the decline in the highest tax rates has insidiously created our runaway inequality is explored in a recent paper by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva, who set out to investigate the relationship between tax rates and the top 1 percent in several key countries.

For example, the top marginal tax rate in the United States was over 70 percent between the New Deal and the Reagan Revolution, but has been below 40 percent since then. The top tax rate in England went from 80 percent to 40 percent during the 1980s. These are also the two countries with the largest growth in inequality.

As shown in the graph, there’s a strong correlation between the growth in pre-tax income inequality and the decline in tax rates. The argument that economists usually put forward to explain this is a conservative supply-side argument: when people are taxed less, they work harder and thus make more money.

But there’s a more plausible—and more worrisome—explanation: wages are the result of bargaining in which the relative strength of each side is influenced by tax policy. As tax rates decline, executives have more reason to fight for higher salaries for themselves, especially through actions like stacking their corporate boards. Boards and other institutional interests are motivated to pay out the new wave of superstar salaries, since they aren’t being taxed away.
 Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


What An Atheist Believes

nuts | 2 notes

The Conservative Cult of Optimism

It's poisoning not just public education, but issues from pollution to foreign policy.   They really think if you don't call attention to a toxic mess, it will go away - or at least the people complaining about it will go away.  They really think if you just keep proclaiming America is the greatest nation ever, that will make it true.

Rick Perlstein:

But there is an even more crucial factor at play here: American conservatism’s historic addiction to the power of positive thinking.

“It doesn’t emphasize any positive things,” said Jane Robbins, a fellow at something called the American Principles Project. “History class, echoed Julie Williams, the leader of the Jefferson County School Board’s three-member conservative majority, should predominantly concern “present positive aspects of the United States.”

And that, above all, is what pushed conservative buttons the hardest.

The cult of optimism in education is an old impulse on the right. In 1967, the target was the eighth grade text Land of the Free by the esteemed African-American historian John Hope Franklin. Pasadena’s “Land of the Free Committee” said the book’s “negative thought models” would give our children a “guilt complex.”

Acolytes availed themselves of a clause in the Supreme Court’s anti-pornography Miller v. California decision giving municipalities the right to ban expression violating “contemporary community standards”; thus armed, a Ridgefield, Connecticut, school board banned Mike Royko’s biography of Mayor William J. Daley, Boss, explaining that it “portrays politics in an un-American way and we don’t want our kids to know about such things as corrupt politics”—a particularly neat example of the right-wing tendency to confuse patriotism with burying your head in the sand.

Liberals—including those who might not even self-identify as such, since a vision of patriotism that insists on civic self-criticism is indeed ineluctably liberal, just as the conservatives charge—counter with the civic value of history that provides “a full measure of truth about our promises and our problems as Americans” (the president of the California Council of Social Studies, speaking in 1967), asking questions like, “Does that mean we’re going to eliminate slavery from class discussions, because that wasn’t a particularly positive time in our history?” (Jefferson County’s PTA president, just last month).


But the underlying war will continue. Because whistling past the graveyard has become as much a part of the right wing’s political religion as, well, religion.

Which is funny. I thought conservatives were supposed to believe in America. Don’t they believe it’s strong enough to teach our kids how to think like grownups?
That's the conservative weakness liberals can't seem to exploit: the pants-shitting fear of everything and refusal to face facts.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A White Cop Killing an Unarmed Black Man is NEVER An Accident

Fire all white cops.  Do it now.

Black Cat

"Immigration keeps our country young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial."

Not to seem ungrateful, Mr. President, but for most of our history the only immigration requirement was to get any part of your body over the border, and you were a citizen.  That's the only immigration requirement we need.

Full transcript here.

KY Adopts Corporate Slave Labor Policies for State Workers

I don't even know where to fucking begin with this shit. 
First, they're lying about it taking two more months to get a new employee.  Retirees have to give at least two months' notice; obviously the Labor Cabinet decided not to even attempt to hire a replacement, because they have slave labor right there in the building.

Second, are the snow shovelers going to get hazardous duty pay and retirement benefits?  Snow shoveling has killed 8 people in Western New York just this week.

Third, reason the infinite that public employees, like all employees, need strong, independent unions to prevent shit like this from happening.

From the Herald:
It's not in their job descriptions, but several state Labor Cabinet office employees were in line this week to be drafted to shovel snow from sidewalks and the parking lot at the cabinet's headquarters this winter.

One came forward to volunteer for the job, but David Smith, president of the Kentucky Association of State Employees,* is still outraged that office workers would be called on for snow-removal duties.

"This gives me great concern," Smith said Thursday. "There are people trained and hired to do such work, not these folks. This is so unfair. Why in the world do they get office employees who are untrained in shoveling snow to do this? It's so ironic that this is happening in the Labor Cabinet."

The cabinet's website says its primary responsibility is "to ensure the equitable and fair treatment of the commonwealth's 1.9 million wage-earning employees."

Five employees — men and women — at the Labor Cabinet who work in office jobs learned Wednesday in an email from cabinet human resources manager Patricia Dempsey that "winter help" was needed.
And fourth, if the Labor Cabinet gets away with this, office workers throughout state government are going to be doing maintenance work for which they are not qualified, trained or physically able to do.

* KASE is not a union, and has no power to collectively bargain, much less to enforce the few employee protections that still exist in Kentucky.

Friday, November 21, 2014

QOTD: The War on Science

Charlie Pierce:

There are some decent liberals who wonder why some of their fellows jump all over every case, no matter how small, when some school board attempts of bootleg creationism -- or Intelligent Design -- are put into the science classes in some very small town. It's because creationism is the index patient for the triumph of the irrational over reason. If, in the face of all scientific evidence, we must Teach The Controversy in high school biology classes, why, in the face of all the available evidence, should we not Teach The Controversy about climate change, or about Liberal Fascism, or about vaccinations, or about Confederate nostalgia,  a self-regulating oil industry, or about supply-side economics, for all that. There is a concerted effort to make room for ignorance in our most serious public debates concerning our most pressing public policy problems. That effort is being made, consciously or otherwise, on behalf of a class of modern plutocrats whose profits depend on muddying the issues, and on injecting irrationality as a paralytic agent in our politics. And, believe me, there's a lot more of this to come.

How to Do "Civil Disobedience" on Immigration

I'm afraid their real plan is to set up sniper nests on the Mexico border to mow down anyone they see, but a TPM reader has a better idea.

Yesterday, Sen. Tom Coburn suggested that President Obama's immigration executive order might lead to "civil disobedience", "anarchy", or even political "violence." I asked just what that civil disobedience might look like and TPM Reader FS has an idea of what anti-immigrant forces might have in mind ...
My suggestion for what civil disobedience should look like is to move to Phoenix, trade their imitation Army rifles for shovels, and do a protest march through the residential subdivisions, pulling weeds as they go.
They should march into restaurant kitchens, offering to wash dishes for free. Or volunteer to man the drive through at any of a hundred fast food joints. Maybe ask a California cabbage farmer if they have anything needs harvesting. Those are the jobs illegal immigrants might be taking away.
 Read the whole thing.

Love and Peace

(via christgoldman-deactivated201308)

No, Your Ancestors Did Not Come Here Legally

(Apologies to TPM for stealing their entire post AND its headline, but this is that important, and the best short explanation I've ever read. And you should be reading TPM every day anyway.)

I repeat: unless you are a 100 percent full-blooded Native American, shut the fuck up.
I guarantee you’ll hear the phrase “My ancestors came here legally” in the aftermath of President Obama’s immigration address. It’s almost impossible to find any conversation about immigration—between elected officials, pundits, online commenters—in which at least one participant doesn’t use the phrase. It’s an understandable position, through which the speaker can both defend his or her family history and critique current illegal immigrants who choose to do things differently. It helps deflect charges of hypocrisy (since most Americans are descended from immigrants). It’s hard to argue with. And it’s also, in nearly every case, entirely inaccurate.

Prior to 1875’s Page Act and 1882’s Chinese Exclusion Act, there were no national immigration laws. None. There were laws related to naturalization and citizenship, to how vessels reported their passengers, to banning the slave trade. Once New York’s Castle Garden Immigration Station opened in 1855, arrivals there reported names and origins before entering the U.S. But for all pre-1875 immigrants, no laws applied to their arrival. They weren’t legal or illegal; they were just immigrants.

Moreover, those two laws and their extensions affected only very specific immigrant communities: suspected prostitutes and criminals (the Page Act); Chinese arrivals (the Exclusion Act); immigrants from a few other Asian nations (the extensions). So if your ancestors came before the 1920s and weren’t prostitutes, criminals, or from one of those Asian nations, they remained unaffected by any laws, and so were still neither legal nor illegal. This might seem like a semantic distinction, but it’s much more; the phrase “My ancestors came here legally” implies that they “chose to follow the law,” yet none of these unaffected immigrants had to make any such choice, nor had any laws to follow.

The 1892 opening of Ellis Island didn’t change these fundamental realities. Ellis arrivals had to wait in line and answer a list of questions, and could be quarantined if they had a communicable disease or were visibly insane. But if they weren’t in those aforementioned few illegal categories, they still weren’t affected by any law, made no choice of how to immigrate. Moreover, many arrivals during this period came not through Ellis but across the borders, which were unpatrolled and open.

Only with the 1920s Quota Acts did Congress establish national immigration laws encompassing most arrivals. But those acts were overtly discriminatory, extending the Exclusion Act’s principles by categorizing arrivals by nationality and drastically limiting certain groups; South Carolina Senator Ellison Smith put it bluntly: “It seems to me the point as to this measure is that the time has arrived when we should shut the door.” Since immigrants had no control over their nationality, it’s difficult to argue that post-1920s arrivals “chose” to immigrate legally or illegally. And since the borders remained largely open and there were multiple entry points, it’s hard to say that any individual arrival was under the quota and thus legal or illegal.

The 1965 Immigration Act ended national quotas, instituting preferences based on less overtly discriminatory categories such as family connections and educational/professional training. Subsequent laws (such as the 1986 IRCA) further adjusted national policy. But as the ubiquitous “my ancestors” phrase proves, current immigration debates aren’t just about present policies—they’re always informed by ideas about history, and specifically about legal and illegal immigration in our past. So it’s vitally important that we begin to use those terms accurately—to recognize that for so many of us, our ancestors were neither legal nor illegal immigrants. That they came in the same way contemporary undocumented immigrants do: by crossing a border.

Ben Railton is an Associate Professor of English at Fitchburg State University and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.