Which way to the revolution?
So, by now you know that the New York grand jury we wrote about on Tuesday returned its decision yesterday not to indict NYPD’s Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner. The 43 year-old black man died gasping “I can’t breathe” while in the custody of white officers outside a Staten Island convenience store after being accused of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. The death was ruled a homicide by a New York medical examiner in August.
Oh, but the grand jury did indict the man who videoed the whole thing on his cellphone, so there’s that.
Protests broke out over the grand jury’s non-indictment, as expected, disrupting the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza. Police made about 30 arrests.
Arrests going down at 47th and 6th Avenue. Massive standoff between police and protesters. pic.twitter.com/b9Xcgqhuzo
— ANIMALNewYork (@ANIMALNewYork) December 4, 2014
This is getting to be a Buffalo Springfield kind of thing, ain’t it?
Fast food workers in at least 150 cities nationwide will walk off the job on Dec. 4, demanding an industry-wide base wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union. Workers unanimously voted on the date for the new strike during a Nov. 25 conference call, held shortly before the second anniversary of the movement’s first strike.
The first of the recent fast food strikes took place on Nov. 29, 2012, in New York City. Two hundred workers from various fast food restaurants around the city participated in that strike, making it the largest work stoppage to ever hit the fast food industry. Since then, the size of the movement has ballooned several times over: With the backing of the powerful service sector labor union SEIU, the campaign has come to include thousands of workers in the U.S.
Laura Clawson for Daily Kos Labor:
The fast food strikes and other actions by low-wage workers have been a major source of momentum behind increasing the minimum wage. No one was talking about $15 an hour until fast food workers started fighting for it in late 2012. The Democratic proposal of a $10.10 federal minimum was generally portrayed in the media as a reach, the grounds for a compromise to something lower. $15 sounded impossible, yet now two major American cities—Seattle and San Francisco—are on their way there, while Chicago is about to pass a $13 an hour minimum wage, Oakland has approved a $12.25 wage, Washington, DC, and neighboring counties in Maryland are on their way to $11.50, and Massachusetts is going to $11. Doubtless some or all of these cities and states would have done something about the minimum wage without this level of worker organizing, but there’s no way we’d be seeing so many places going above $10.10.
Chicago passed its $13 an hour measure yesterday.
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays organizer, spoke on the conference call, saying, “The battle for fair wages is as critical as the battle that young people waged in the 1960s when they came into the sit-in movement.”
The particulars of these events are not as important as what they represent: a growing sense of frustration with economic and social conditions. These actions are symbolic, intended to break through the “everybody knows” noise generated by the mass media.
Millions of people make $8 to $10 an hour working as cashiers or in restaurants, or providing elder or child care – a far cry from a living wage. Despite working hard, many of these people live in poverty or on the edge of poverty.
This isn’t what America is about, and it can’t be reconciled with political rhetoric that says if you work hard and play by the rules, you will succeed in the United States.
In a season when the western world empathizes with Bob Cratchit’s struggles – with no heat for his office – to feed his fictional family, real families working for miserly wages and hours must choose between buying food and heating their homes. Food banks are sorely taxed. With every succeeding year, Dickens’ morality tale looks more and more like a quintessentially American story.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
On Asheville FM’s Making Progress Monday, Asheville city councilman, Cecil Bothwell commented on the future of the city’s lawsuit over control of the Asheville water system. McGrady had joined Moffitt and Ramsey in passing the bill stripping the city of control of its water system and transferring control to a regional commission. McGrady delivered what Bothwell describes as “a very unsubtle threat” [timestamp 37:50] to the city and the county’s new, all-Democrat House delegation, essentially, to play ball if they expect to get anything from the GOP-controlled legislature [timestamp 37:50]:
Depending on how that lawsuit occurs will really determine what happens next. But I will tell you — I want to very clear, I’ve talked to again Senator Apodaka about this — if the lawsuit is decided adverse to the position the General Assembly took last time, he and I do anticipate filing legislation to correct whatever the mistake might be. … I’m quite prepared to come back with a different approach to the same issue.
People choosing between food and heat? It’s that time of year:
This past holiday week, those fortunate enough celebrated with family and friends around their Thanksgiving tables. But for those in our communities who are struggling to make ends meet, winter can be the toughest part of the year. According to the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks, about 160,000 people statewide receive emergency food assistance weekly and 75 percent of those individuals live in households who choose between buying food and heating their homes.
Times are tough around here as well. Please donate to Manna FoodBank. (See link in sidebar.)
Protests continued across the country (and on the floor of the House) over a St. Louis County, MO grand jury’s decision not to indict former officer Darren Wilson for the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. But in Staten Island, police are bracing this week for a local grand jury’s decision in another case involving a police officer and the death of an unarmed black man:
With a grand jury expected to come to a decision in the in-custody death of Eric Garner this week, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton met with Staten Island leaders Monday to discuss community concerns and new NYPD initiatives.
The grand jury is to decide whether Officer Daniel Pantaleo will face criminal charges in Garner’s July 17 death outside a Staten Island convenience store. Garner died after being placed in an apparent chokehold during an arrest attempt. Police suspected Garner of selling illegal cigarettes.
Cigarettes? Cigarillos? Perhaps the Surgeon General should add a health warning on tobacco products about the risk of death by summary execution. You don’t even have to smoke them.
Philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have emphasized that human beings are essentially social creatures, that the idea of an isolated individual is a misleading abstraction. So it is not just ironic but instructive that modern evolutionary research, anthropology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience have come down on the side of the philosophers who have argued that the basic unit of human social life is not and never has been the selfish, self-serving individual. Contrary to libertarian and Tea Party rhetoric, evolution has made us a powerfully social species, so much so that the essential precondition of human survival is and always has been the individual plus his or her relationships with others.
Not either/or. Both/and. Terrell argues that Rousseau and others did not mean their speculations about Man’s natural state to be taken literally:
Nicholas Kristof this morning calls for an American Truth and Reconciliation Commission in “When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5.” He cites most of the articles I had collected to write about race anyway, so as he says, let’s talk.
We had an experience recently that showed us just how much we don’t get it. Commenting on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ stunning “The Case for Reparations,” I wrote:
On a long drive in the last year or so, we were trading notes with a friend about where we were born, how long we had lived in North Carolina, and something about our family history. It was all pretty light conversation until our friend remarked that her knowledge of family history went back only as far as her great-grandparents in the Caribbean. She didn’t have to explain why. Because before that was Africa.
In white America many take pride or at least an interest in family history. We mostly take it for granted. I certainly did. What jerked us up short was realizing that our friend didn’t have one and why.
Three-quarters of whites have only white friends, Kristof begins, one big reason “we are often clueless.” Then there is the everyday racial profiling we never see. Like being followed around by security in a department store, as our friend experiences, or the professor falsely accused of shoplifting in a chain store here last year. Kristof writes:
One thing I’ve been thankful for almost my whole life: Mozart.
Just last night we were breathing a sigh of relief to hear that Notorious R.B.G. had left the hospital after a stent procedure. I still remember watching Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Senate confirmation hearings and thinking, damn, she’s good.
But these are more troubled times. It is odd to think the fate of the nation may hang on the 81 year-old Ginsburg staying for now right where she is.
During this fall’s campaign, we had a time convincing people to get off their couches to vote because the Supreme Court was at stake in the Senate race. The workings of the unelected court are that much more removed from the way people think about issue- and personality-driven electoral politics. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman might agree.
Ordinarily, the Supreme Court is brought up almost as an afterthought in presidential campaigns. The potential for a swing in the court is used to motivate activists to volunteer and work hard, and the candidates usually have to answer a debate question or two about it, which they do in utterly predictable ways (“I’m just going to look for the best person for the job”). We don’t usually spend a great deal of time talking about what a change in the court is likely to mean. But the next president is highly likely to have the chance to engineer a swing in the court. The consequences for Americans’ lives will probably be more consequential and far-reaching than any other issue the candidates will be arguing about.