I am a glorified temp. White collar Manpower. A contractor. I have worked for national and international corporations for years. I never trusted them. Not the people, necessarily, but the machine. To the machine, I am not a person. I am the hired help. A “human resource.” Consumable. Disposable. If work gets slack and I have to move on, it’s not as if anyone is breaking any promises to me I knew they wouldn’t keep. I never let them make them. Like Chaplin’s tramp, just a cog in the machine.

Ah, but “Modern Times” was 80 years ago. And now? The New Yorker‘s John Cassidy observes that this weekend’s New York Times article about Darwinian workplace conditions for white-collar workers at Amazon under Jeff Bezos has drawn more comments to the Times’ website than any other it has published. Cassidy writes:

Perhaps Times readers, who tend to be well educated and reasonably well off, like reading about bad things happening to people like themselves. But I think it goes deeper than that. As the “New Economy” celebrates its twentieth anniversary—on August 9, 1995, Netscape’s initial public offering took place—it is becoming harder to ignore some of its negative aspects. Behind all the technological advances and product innovation, there is a good deal of old-fashioned labor discipline, wage repression, and exertion of management power.

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Categories : Education, National
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Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Once again, our vigilant T-party politicians are on the alert for the theoretical possibility of crimes by the Poors. Courtesy of Charlie Pierce comes the next wave of imaginary dirty tricks perpetrated by the Poors on honest, decent Americans. Landlords, in this case:

Holt is Maryland’s secretary of housing, community and development, and he is wise to the ways of America’s crafty poor people. Holt is seeking to “relax” Maryland’s lead-poisoning law in order to take the jackboot of regulation off the necks of the state’s landlords. And nothing gets by Kenneth Holt.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Kenneth C. Holt, secretary of Housing, Community and Development, told an audience at the Maryland Association of Counties summer convention here that a mother could just put a lead fishing weight in her child’s mouth, then take the child in for testing and a landlord would be liable for providing the child with housing until the age of 18.

Pressed afterward, Holt said he had no evidence of this happening but said a developer had told him it was possible. “This is an anecdotal story that was described to me as something that could possibly happen,” Holt said.

Thank heavens these public servants are always on high alert for the possibility of widespread voter fraud (or was it the widespread possibility?) and other dangers for which they never seem to produce evidence. Bigfoot might steal their Wheat Thins. The Poors might counterfeit the governor’s power bill.
Prisoners might hide tiny revolvers in their beards. “Just because we haven’t found the example doesn’t mean they aren’t there” was good enough to argue last year before the Supreme Court.

Pierce continues:

Republican audiences are perfectly willing to buy the notion that clever moms are having their children suck on lead weights to stick it to their landlords and get something for nothing. Within the Republican Party, there is a relentless search for solutions to problems that do not exist, and an equally relentless search for suckers in the general public.

Monorail. Monorail. Monorail.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Poverty
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Aug
18

Leave ‘Em Alone

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For people who build our computers and smart phones, the Chinese have remarkably retrograde ideas about medicine.

Categories : Environment, News
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One hears repeatedly that questioning people’s motives is rude. Impolitic. Impolite. Paul Waldman a few years ago posted that motive questioning is toxic because it is akin to calling people liars and bad people. Then again:

I’m not saying that on certain occasions it isn’t reasonable to question someone’s motives. In fact, voter ID laws offer one such case. The idea that all these Republican legislatures set out to address the non-existent problem of people impersonating other people at the polls just because they care so deeply about the integrity of the ballot, and did so in a way that purely by accident has the potential to significantly reduce turnout by some of the people most likely to vote Democratic, is more than a little hard to swallow. I’ll absolutely grant that Democrats dislike voter ID laws primarily for the same political reason, because it means their voters may find it difficult to vote. But on the substantive merits, Democrats also happen to be right.

Perfect example. In fact, on several occasions federal courts have questioned the stated rationale behind passing these laws as without substance, including just days ago in the Texas case. But one of the most frustrating things about attempting to engage “a Republican argument” is precisely how often the arguments seem disingenuous. It is not as if rank-and-file activists are actively lying about their motives. It is that they have never questioned them themselves. They have simply heard and regurgitated the talking points so often that they believe their own bullshit and are beyond questioning it. The frustrating thing is not that they are lying to you. It is that in effect (to borrow a Colbert construction), they are lying to themselves at you.

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Two young school children in a school in Shanghai perform a skit denouncing Madam Mao, Jiang Qing, after the arrest of the Gang of Four, 1977.

The religion professor began his Introduction to the New Testament section by holding up and describing the textbook the class would use. He declared it a thoroughly researched, well-regarded scholarly work, a leading textbook in the field, etc., etc. He himself was one of the authors. After extolling his work’s virtues, he held up a copy of the Bible, saying, “And this?” Then he ceremoniously dropped it into the waste basket.

I did not witness this bit of academic theater, but a close friend did over 40 years ago. It was at a Baptist university, too. If the professor shocked freshman naifs straight from First Baptist Church, Anytown, USA, that was the point. This wasn’t Sunday school. Students would be learning things from scholars that would challenge the comfortable theology they had brought with them from home. In the university, they would be asked to “put away childish things,” as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13. There was no “trigger warning.” Students survived without fleeing to the security of the nearest campus “safe space.” If they wanted that, Bob Jones University was right down the road.

In September’s Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt examine how the embrace of “emotional reasoning” in higher education today “presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm.” Instead of challenging them and preparing them to fend for themselves intellectually and emotionally, the notion that “words can be forms of violence” may, the authors argue, be “teaching students to think pathologically.”

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Aug
16

Sunday Morning Music

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A classic, even if the audio levels are pretty low.

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The Washington Post’s Editorial Board scolds Republican presidential hopefuls (with the exception of Jeb!) for “kneeling before [Grover] Norquist’s make-believe anti-tax theology.”

It is ludicrous, the Board believes, to “pre-reject an entire range of policy options” for dealing with government spending projected to expand from the 20.1 percent of gross domestic product the U.S. averaged from 1965 to 2014 to 25.3 percent by 2014:

At that time, federal revenue is projected to equal about 19.4 percent of GDP absent any policy changes. There is, in other words, a vast budget gap that will need to be filled. Unlike his opponents, Mr. Christie has proposed specific benefit cuts that would narrow the gap somewhat. But neither his proposals, nor any other, can close the gap entirely in the absence of increased revenue. Trying to do so would leave the government paying pensions and rising interest costs (as it borrowed more and more) and devoting little or nothing to the other things Americans expect from government: defense, roads, bridges, basic scientific research, national parks and more.

When it comes to blowing up things or threatening other countries with sanctions or invasion, Republicans take nothing “off the table.” When it comes to paying bills or leaving their country better than they found it, they take away the table.

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With Hillary Clinton getting Swift Servered in the media for being, you know, Hillary Clinton, and with Bernie Sanders being used as a progressive effigy by Black Lives Matter, Washington-level Democrats are feeling a bit uneasy about their 2016 prospects this week. Opposed as they are by a Republican cornucopia of clowns, that’s saying something.

BuzzFeed News reported yesterday that, according to “a senior Democrat,” Al Gore supporters are “getting the old gang together” to explore the prospect of Gore entering 2016 presidential race:

“They’re figuring out if there’s a path financially and politically,” the Democrat said. “It feels more real than it has in the past months.”

[snip]

A member of Gore’s inner circle asked to be quoted “pouring lukewarm water” — not, note, cold water — on the chatter.

“This is people talking to people, some of whom may or may not have talked to him,” the Gore adviser said.

It is not clear what the purpose is of floating this story to BuzzFeed, but it smacks of some foreboding about Clinton’s electability. A retired white woman I spoke with last week expressed dislike for Clinton, if that’s any indication. She had voted for Obama, and now is eager for Joe Biden to jump into the race. It’s not just about trust, but likeability.

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Aug
14

Friday Open Thread

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So, okay. Who is NOT running for County Commission?

Categories : Open Thread
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The Doors performing for Danish television in Copenhagen (Gladsaxe Television-Byen studio)
By Polfoto/Jan Persson (Den Store Danske – The Doors) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1960s are back. Campaign for America’s Future’s Bill Scher looks at the no-win scenario Bernie Sanders faces, not just from Black Lives Matter activists, but from the whole progressive spectrum:

In effect, Bernie isn’t running for President of the United States of America. He’s running to be President of Progressive America. And when you are running to be an ideological standard-bearer, your ideological fellow travellers all demand you adhere to their own standard. That involves not just checking every box on the liberal to-do list, but giving maximum rhetorical emphasis to everyone’s top priority. Which is impossible. It’s a game that can’t be won.

Sanders has already proposed immigration reform more liberal than the 2013 bipartisan Senate bill in a speech to the National Council of La Raza and incorporated a searing critique of entrenched racism into his regular stump. His reward was a public scolding by Seattle activists who prevented him from speaking at a Social Security rally, one of whom demanded the crowd “join us now in holding Bernie Sanders accountable for his actions.”

Perhaps what they (and other activists) really want to hold Sanders accountable for is whatever hope and change Obama failed to deliver. This time, no prisoners.

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