Robert Reich: Spot-Auction Labor Market Replacing Steady Work

Robert Reich describes how more businesses are skirting labor laws by employing so-called “independent contractors” working irregular hours for unpredictable pay.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightning speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

…Whether we’re software programmers, journalists, Uber drivers, stenographers, child care workers, TaskRabbits, beauticians, plumbers, Airbnb’rs, adjunct professors, or contract nurses – increasingly, we’re on our own.

And what we’re paid, here and now, depends on what we’re worth here and now – in a spot-auction market that’s rapidly substituting for the old labor market where people held jobs that paid regular salaries and wages.

Bottom line: the 1 Percent want to rake in nearly all the profits from this economy while shifting a much bigger proportion of the risk onto workers. They have combined 21st Century information systems with 19th Century labor practices. So far, they are getting away with it.

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Utah State Reps Margaret Dayton and Mike Noel Join The Tin-foil Hat Brigade

According to a recent article:

Two Utah lawmakers on Tuesday speculated that federal environmental officials might have deliberately triggered the Colorado mine release that sent 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a San Juan River tributary, and asked Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate the possibility.

Yep.  They asked for that.

Utah’s Sen. Margaret Dayton (R) and Rep. Mike Noel (R) have no evidence for their claim — it’s more of a feeling, really — but the two have asked the state Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate anyway.

Because we all know the absence of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy.

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Re-Organizing the Political Rules?

I won’t say I agree with every word, but Nancy LeTourneau’s article at the Washington Monthly, “President Obama on Power and Change”, is one of the better articles I’ve seen lately.  In it, LeTourneau describes President’s Obama’s approach to policy and political negotiations as “conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy.”

In the article, she quotes Mark Schmitt:

The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear…One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that’s not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists — it’s a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.

Obama’s approach to negotiation has been to put something on the table and challenge his political opponents to respond. Republicans have repeatedly fallen into the trap of having nothing or having only proposals so extreme they were clearly not serious. In a world not distorted by a media entranced of the “both sides do it” narrative, this strategy could have yielded greater results. As LeTourneau describes it:

As the story was told to the American public, it came across as “Washington is gridlocked because both sides have dug in.” According to former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, that is exactly what Republicans had in mind.

I’m not a fan of the “Barack Obama plays eleven dimensional chess” school of thought.  Instead, I like this explanation of his often seemingly timid approach.  He’s not doing politics as usual, instead he’s playing the game differently, he’s playing by a different set of rules. Arriving in a DC up-ended by the seemingly endless failures of the Bush administration, it was obvious something different had to happen.  Well it has been happening and the progress has been achingly slow, but it has been progress.

The question for me is – “Can we expand on the foundation that’s been laid?”

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Anchor Babies Are Back, Thanks to Trump

Anchor babySo-called “anchor babies” are now an issue in the Tea-GOP presidential primaries, with most candidates saying they would like to cancel the constitutional right of citizenship.

Since Donald Trump came out Sunday against birth right citizenship, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham have followed suit. Scott Walker is also with Trump on this.

Chris Christie says we ought to “reexamine” the 14th Amendment. John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush says birth right citizenship is one of “like 10 things I would change in the Constitution.”

If the Tea-GOP prevails, the children of a disfavored class will be disqualified from citizenship – rejected by the land of their birth. Despite the fact that birthright citizenship has been part of our Constitution for nearly 150 years, no precedent is sacred to the Tea-GOP. For them, there is no such thing as settled law.

Of course, the anchor baby myth is pure fear mongering without basis in fact. Assuming anyone cares about facts. Children born to undocumented immigrants get deported all the time, along with their families – precisely what Trump proposes. Even though they are U.S. citizens, most are not entitled to come back to this country until they are 21 years of age.

What’s more, there would be a significant cost to “solving” the nonexistent anchor baby problem. The parents of every child born in this country would have to go through a lengthy and expensive individualized assessment of their child’s citizenship. The Center for American Progress points out that such assessments currently cost an average of $600, essentially a birth tax. The alternative would be legal limbo, without U.S. citizenship — or possibly having no citizenship in any nation.

More info:
Donald Trump Tells GOP To Jump On Immigration, Candidates Say ‘How High?’
Donald Trump’s First Policy Plan Is Even More Racist Than You Think It Is
Wikipedia: Anchor Baby

UPDATE:
To be fair, some Tea-GOP candidates don’t advocate taking away the right of citizenship to everyone born in the USA.

John Kasich has reversed his position, telling CNN earlier this month, “I think we need to get over that. I’m not for it anymore. Let these people who are born here be citizens and that’s the end of it. I don’t want to dwell on it.” Mike Huckabee also opposes changing the 14th Amendment.

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Look What Tim DeChristopher’s Up To

Go to Tim’s site for more.

It was a nice event. Looked like about one hundred showed up. Here’s how things went down:

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The ’24-Day Delay’ And Other Lies About the Iran Deal

Via Media Matters (the entire article is worth reading).

Remember how the Tea-GOP took advantage of the complexity of the ACA to invent “death panels” and other fictional features they said were in the law? Political allies of Israel’s right-wing extremist government are trying to play the same game with the Iran deal.

Most people don’t understand the details, so liars such as Senator Chuck Schumer think they can get away with falsely claiming there is a “24-day delay” for nuclear site inspections, and other made-up reasons to be against peace and for an unprovoked attack on Iran. Senator Schumer vociferously supported the illegal invasion of Iraq, and apparently has learned nothing from that decade-long fiasco.

For the record, the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community and even the Israeli Mossad is that there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Iranian government ruled out development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as inconsistent with Islam back in the 1980s.

Certain foreign governments would like the USA to start a war of aggression against Iran, a country of 77 million people that’s larger than Alaska and halfway around the world. And they want to sell us a bullshit story about nonexistent nuclear weapons. Americans would have to be breathtakingly stupid to go for that a second time.

More info:
Chuck Schumer is running from TV cameras for first time in his career after rejecting Iran deal

UPDATE:
Josh Marshall explains why the so-called “24-day delay” is a phony issue.

The people making the biggest stink about this are phrase-makers from RNC, AIPAC and the various other billionaire-backed, stood-up advocacy groups fighting the deal. Virtually every nuclear expert and weapons scientist does not see it as a problem.

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‘Bernie Sanders Can Become President’ Has Replaced ‘I Like Him, But He Can’t Win’

Bernie Sanders

I stole the title above from H.A. Goodman because I couldn’t come up with a better one. There is an enthusiasm gap among Democratic primary voters, and Senator Bernie Sanders is way ahead. Polls now confirm this.

From Goodman’s latest post on HuffPo:

Polls once extolling Hillary Clinton’s enormous lead over Sanders are now dwindling for the same reason Sanders beats Republicans in various other polls: Americans have had enough of dynasties, scandals, wars, and Wall Street corruption.

…[M]ore and more Americans have had enough with a two-party system that doesn’t give people a choice.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with practical ideas about what he would do to reverse the trend of increasing inequality in America.

Bernie Sanders knew in 2002 that invading Iraq would be a terrible mistake with horrible consequences. He voted not to authorize the use of military force, unlike then-Senator Clinton and then-Senator Biden.

Also too, voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton.

UPDATE:
Looks like the campaign dirty tricks are starting now…
Black Lives Matter Seattle Protestor Is A Former Tea Party Palin Supporter
Bernie Sanders rally crasher Marissa “Johnson” Jenae is a Republican

How could two people take over the stage and preempt Bernie’s speech in Seattle? Now he’ll have to get some security and his events won’t be as friendly.

After the event was canceled the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement, “I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.”

The so-called protest doesn’t even make sense. Why attack the one candidate who’s most committed to civil rights?

UPDATE:
Sanders talks at University of Washington rally after activists disrupt earlier speech at park

Audience of 12,000. No fake protesters.

UPDATE:
The Real Black Lives Matter Wants Activists To Publicly Apologize to Bernie Sanders

#BlackLivesMatter activists believe that this type of behavior is inappropriate and counterproductive, and we will not support it.

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A Few Thoughts on Phil Lyman’s Saga

I haven’t paid much attention to the brouhaha about Phil Lyman and his saga.  He’s the in-law of an in-law, so beyond some family discussion along the lines of “oh his poor family”, I haven’t given it much thought.

Lyman knew his ride up the canyon was illegal.  He did it anyway. It wasn’t much of a protest. One might reasonably expect a county commissioner to have other avenues by which to make his case. Lyman may think of himself as someone in the grand tradition of Ghandi or MLK but he’s more like Cliven Bundy, i.e. not really the grand rebel he seems to believe he is.

He’s doing his best to confuse the issue (Judge Shelby knows someone in SUWA!).

He seems wildly unlikely to actually go to jail, unlike say real activist Tim DeChristopher.

Large chunks of Utah, like many other western states, is controlled by the Federal Government.  Rural Utah, like the rest of rural America, is struggling economically. If Lyman wants to bring attention to the problems of rural Utah, there were and are better ways.

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America’s New and Unstable Political System

Back in March, Tom Engelhardt posted this question: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

He argued the emerging political system in the US has five primary characteristics.

  1. 1% Elections
  2. Privatization of the State
  3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency
  4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government
  5. The Demobilization of the American People

Each of this characteristics represents a risk to the democratic process and state.  As part of his conclusion, Engelhardt observed:

In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

In the twilight of American empire, something very worrying is happening indeed.  The old system fell apart, the new one arose in an ad-hoc fashion, improvised fashion.  The problem, from where I stand, is that this new system is incredibly unstable.

Over the years, the US has had several iterations of governance and politics, called the various party systems, i.e. the First Party System and so on.  The New Deal Party system was forged in the 1930s and (depending on who you ask) lasted until the late 1960s or the early 1990s.  The New Deal Party System was incredibly powerful and stable for man years; I personally date its demise to the 1994 mid-terms when Republicans re-took control of Congress.  However, rather than a new system arising, we’ve been stuck in a long, grinding, and unproductive period of gridlock.

Some of the problem is that the US’s political architecture is inherently resistant to change – the US Constitutional government has so many veto points that change of any sort is a Herculean effort.  Republicans have too much invested in actively sabotaging government to seek any form of governance that might be productive and are left with nothing but obstruction.  Democratic politicians, by contrast, are in the odd position of fighting to maintain the advances achieved by the New Deal and Great Society programs.  The result is a bizarre inversion by which the party which seeks reform ends up defending the status quo while the conservative party has embraced irredentism and conservative identity politics.  Today’s Republicans are a radical, destructive force trying to roll back 100 years of policy.  We’re not living with anything like politics as usual or governance as usual.

The emerging political system is one of stumbling crisis to crisis with little or no governing philosophy or theory behind it, economic disequilibrium, and a growing and unhappy struggling populace.

At the end of the day, the American populace is unlikely to stay demobilized, which means they will be unlikely to accept the delegitimatization of the President and Congress and will demand the state be returned to the public.  Sustaining the emerging system requires economic disparity and inequality, and the continued valorization of the 1% and given that many of them seem to be grade A morons and buffoons, I fail to see how that happens.

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Conservatives Anti-Abortion Obsession Will Cause More Abortions, More STDs and More Misery

but then we all already knew that, right?

Nicholas Kristof’s column this morning makes several shrewd observations:

TO appreciate the dumbing down of American politics, consider this: Conservative Republicans, indignant about abortion, are trying to destroy a government program that helps prevent 345,000 abortions a year.

And:

In other words, Title X prevents an abortion about once every 90 seconds.

And

Family planning investments also offer hedge fund-like returns, for a condom or IUD can avert more than $12,000 in average Medicaid spending on a childbirth. Guttmacher calculates that every $1 invested in public family planning services saves $7 in public expenditures. This is a program that saves money as well as lives.

The paradox of conservative Republicans falling all over themselves to condemn Planned Parenthood for a practice that many Republicans voted to authorize while also threatening to defund and destroy a program that prevents hundreds of thousands of abortions perfectly exemplifies the self-defeating nature of conservative policy.

Mark Summer at Kos sums up the conservative obsession perfectly:

For them, abortion has never been an issue. It’s AN ISSUE. It’s not about babies, after all, it’s about (sotto voce) S-E-X. Any program that helps women with… women things, is something, something, somehow a Very Serious Threat that women should fail in their defined role as the guardians of virtue. After all, how many little girls out there are thinking right now “well, I would be a total sex-crazed slut if only there was someone standing by with federal funds to help me not catch chlamydia.” Se… (ahem) S-E-X should be scary. And is something that should be reserved to old male Congressmen who have the money to pay for it.

It seems to me there’s a deeper force at work.  In Republican Gomorrah, Max Blumenthal described it as the culture of personal crisis. It should not be lost on us that conservative states have higher rates of unintended pregnancy and teen pregnancy than do progressive states, it should not be lost on us that divorce rates are higher in conservative religious Alabama than they are in liberal Massachusetts. Texas’ conservative, overtly religious political culture produces policies which reliably produce higher rates of teen pregnancy, unintended pregnancy and divorce which creates the feedback loops that drives Texas’ conservative, overtly religious political culture. Opposition to abortion, and more broadly any honesty about sexuality, is not driven by rational concerns and doesn’t connect to rational policies.  When faced with an angry constituency wanting to know why they haven’t done anything about Roe v. Wade, conservative Republicans have no rational policy response so they’ve lashed out at a government policy that is about sex and therefore must somehow alleviate the anger. Then, when the policy response fails, conservatives will, no doubt, decry the culture of personal crisis their policies have created and deepened.  It’s a great racket.

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Kentucky Man Uses Birdshot to Solve Drone Problem

Drone hunter

William Merideth of Hillview, Kentucky grabbed his shotgun and fired three blasts of Number 8 birdshot to take out a drone flying over his backyard.

The Kentuckian was arrested Sunday evening in Hillview, Kentucky, just south of Louisville and charged with criminal mischief and wanton endangerment. He was released the following day.

I think he’s within his rights. If it’s OK to shoot birds, why not drones? What do you think?

Drones have recently become a nuisance in the airspace over western wildfires. And people are making their own armed drones now, which is apparently legal.

More info:
This video of a drone with a gun will freak you the hell out

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Lindsey Graham: Attack on Iran Better Than Diplomacy

Iran attack

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is running for president as a super-hawk, but this is just ridiculous.

‘Who wins the war between us and Iran?’

The Senate Armed Services Committee held its own hearing today on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, which regrettably went about as well as the other congressional hearings on the issue. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Republican presidential candidate and one of his party’s most unyielding hawks, got especially animated during an exchange with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter:

GRAHAM: Could we win a war with Iran? Who wins the war between us and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins?

CARTER: No, the….

GRAHAM: We win!

The senator seemed pleased with himself, though this doesn’t exactly help the Republican cause. For proponents of the agreement, the concern has long been that GOP lawmakers want to kill the diplomatic deal because they want a military confrontation with Iran. Republicans usually make a point to deny this, instead saying they prefer a “better” diplomatic solution.

Graham, however, is less subtle – his line of questioning suggested the United States would win a war, which makes war an appealing alternative.

Reminder: Iran is larger than Alaska, with a population of 80 million people. They have an active duty military numbering 545,000, with 1.8 million reservists.

By comparison, the entire U.S. Army consists of 475,000 soldiers. To say a war of aggression against Iran is a bad idea would be a massive understatement. Like Iraq, it’s halfway around the world. Unlike Iraq, they have the capability to defend their country – making Senator Graham’s proposed invasion very costly and bloody.

As usual Donald Trump says out loud what the rest of us are thinking: Trump: Graham a ‘total lightweight,’ couldn’t get a job in the private sector

UPDATE:
The Badr Organization, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, is in possession of at least one US M1 Abrams tank. The Iraqi government has lost control of many of those lately, mostly to ISIS.

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