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Member since: Wed Jan 18, 2012, 10:29 PM
Number of posts: 3,410

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I think it's important to keep in mind that a "large middle class" is a historical aberration

As is the idea that ordinary (i.e. non-wealthy, non-elite) people should get a college or university education. The United States didn't even have universal public education at the K-12 level until the late 1800s/early 1900s (IIRC), and that was as a direct response to the challenges posed by industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. The purpose of public education then (as it is now) was to make good citizens (meaning good Americans), but just as importantly, good employees for the various occupations/careers/vocations that the rapidly industrializing country required.

Furthermore, many if not most of the reforms to the overall system weren't granted by political leaders out of the goodness of their hearts or because "it was the right thing to do", but because the overall system was being challenged by growing social unrest, turmoil, violence (in some cases), and the potential for revolutionary or radical activity (e.g. the Socialists, the anarchists, the Populists, and the Communists and other radical movements-very often, connected to organized labor and other grassroots organizers and agitators). It was out of the instinct of self-preservation that the economic and political elites granted concessions to the masses.

This was made easier, of course, by the Second World War (which required the mass mobilization of the economy by the US government at all levels), and the transition to a military-industrial economy (which kept the US on a long-term-some would say permanent-war footing) which occurred after the US emerged from the War's aftermath as the undisputed giant among the capitalist world (and frankly, the entire world .Thus, the "Golden Age of Capitalism" was facilitated by America's uniquely powerful position in the international post-WWII/Cold War context.

All of this was predicated on American economic hegemony....and remember, this was before the 1970s, when the OPEC shocks, runaway inflation, a falling rate of profit overall across the system, median real wage stagnation (a historical first for America!)-not to mention, issues on the domestic front, whether they be directly related to economics (as in say, labor unions demanding higher and higher concessions on wages and benefits), or related to fear and paranoia over race (busing, riots, Black Panthers, the inner-city/urban crime wave, the different movements of "identity politics", etc.), and last but not least, the fracturing of the liberal faith in good governance by Vietnam, Watergate, and the Church Commission's revelations re: the CIA and the FBI...well, all of these things led to a lot of Americans concluding that America's best days were behind us, and that the government was hopelessly inept/corrupt and would be unable to solve problems anymore.

In addition, technological change (e.g. automation), globalization (and all that that entails-the global labor market and the "race to the bottom", outsourcing ,etc.) was also occurring in a big way around this time. Corporate America went through a profound restructuring in the Reagan years. Finance became much more important to corporate profits. And so on and so forth.

You probably know the rest of the story, but all of this is to say that the conditions that created a "large middle class" no longer are present in our country. The elites in our country have regained much of their power and status relative to the post-WWII economic boom. Not only does capital have much more power-economic, political, and ideological-over labor now, but within labor, there are large divides between skilled and unskilled, educated and less educated, white and non-white, male and female...etc. And the elites are playing the game with a globalized labor force at their disposal.

I don't know what the solution is-if there is one at all. But I hope that by examining our history, and keeping things in historical perspective, some lessons can be learned.

-My $0.02.

Indian gang-rape convict blames victim for the fatal assault (trigger warning)

LONDON: One of the main accused in the Nirbhaya gang rape gave a shocking interview recently blaming the victim for the fatal sexual assault.

"Women who go out at night have only themselves to blame in case they attract attention of male molesters," Mukesh Singh, driver of the bus in which the rape took place, said.

He recently gave an interview to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) from jail which will be aired on March 8, which is also celebrated as International Women's Day.

Recounting the incident in which Nirbhaya was sexually assaulted and killed, Singh said, "While being raped, she shouldn't have fought back. She should have just remained silent and allowed the rape."

In the interview Singh said, "A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy is. Boys and girls are not equal. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night or wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good."


Hmmm...where have I heard these victim-blaming attitudes toward women before...

All human beings should be appalled, revolted, disgusted, and angry at this. We all should be speaking out, around the word. Because rapes and murders like this embody the sick, cold-blooded, yet scarily "logical" conclusion of the patriarchal system around the world.

When women's rights as people and as women are denied, then all bets are off. Individually, collectively-these aren't mutually exclusive. But I'm convinced that as long as there is a patriarchal system of power and prejudice, as long as perpetrators get off easy (if they get any punishment at all, of course-a BIG "if"), the violence and assaults won't stop.

Just FWIW: The murder happened in front of the Kremlin,....

...where there are multiple security cameras in the area, so obviously they weren't afraid of being caught. They left the witness (the woman who was with Nemtsov at the time of his murder) alive-presumably, because they were not afraid of any chance of retaliation, and wanted to send a message. Also, the murder appears to be a highly coordinated, professional hit-which narrows the range of possibilities considerably.

And there are now multiple reports coming out that Mr. Nemtsov had been threatened before by the Russian government, especially in recent months. Furthermore, Nemtsov was frequently shadowed, to the point where he feared for his life-again, especially in recent months.

Finally...well, this Reuters report has more details of the last night of Nemtsov's life:

Feb 28 (Reuters) - It was near closing time on Friday at the upscale Bosco restaurant that looks out onto the illuminated red-brick walls of Moscow's Kremlin. Boris Nemtsov and his young, dark-haired girlfriend were finishing dinner.

A political reformer who had fallen foul of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Nemtsov had been preoccupied for weeks with details of an opposition march planned for Sunday.

Dinner at Bosco - dishes include beef with rocket salad and balsamic sauce or duck liver with wild berries - had been interrupted by telephone calls, a waiter told a Russian newspaper. Nemtsov also broke off for an interview with a Ukrainian radio station eager for the details of the rally.

Hopes were high that the demonstration, to condemn Putin's economic and foreign policies, would rekindle the flames of the street protests that in 2011-12 posed the first public challenge to Putin's more than decade-long rule.


The lesson here is that Russian critics of Putin end up dead.

K&R. Even with the best of intentions, social movements can have serious blind spots...

Was not Frederick Douglass one of the most consistent male champions of women's rights in the 19th century?! Meanwhile, after the Civil War, many of the middle-to-upper class white feminist and abolitionist allies whom Douglass had previously been working with abandoned the struggle for civil rights for black Americans-often for racist reasons.

When it comes to race (and class) there's some ugly history to the (bourgeois and white elements of the) feminist movement. I'm not saying that there's never been common cause, but there's a disturbing trend for certain voices to be heard above others, even within movements against social and political oppression and marginalization-like feminism.

From Angela Davis' seminal 1981 work, Woman, Race, and Class:

During the second year of (Susan B.) Anthony's term (as president of the organization) the NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) passed a resolution which was a variation of Blackwell's racist and class-biased argument of more than a century earlier.

"Resolved. That without expressing any opinion on the proper qualifications for voting, we call attention to the significant facts that in every State there are more women who can read and write than the whole number of illiterate male voters; more white women who can read and write than all negro voters; more American women who can read and write than all foreign voters; so that the enfranchisement of such women would settle the vexed question of rule by illiteracy, whether of home-grown or foreign population."

This resolution cavalierly dismissed the rights of Black and immigrant women along with the rights of their male relations. Moreover, it pointed to a fundamental betrayal of democracy that could no longer be justified by the old expediency argument. Implied in the logic of this resolution was an attack on the working class as a whole and a willingness-whether conscious or not-to make common cause with the new monopoly capitalists whose indiscriminate search for profits knew no human bounds.

In passing the 1893 resolution, the suffragists might as well have announced that if they, as white women of the middle classes and the bourgeoisie, were given the power of the vote, they would rapidly subdue the three main elements of the U.S. working class: Black people, immigrants, and the uneducated native white workers. It was these three groups of people whose labor was exploited and whose lives were sacrificed by the Morgans, Rockefellers, Mellons, Vanderbilts-by the new class of monopoly capitalists who were ruthlessly establishing their industrial empires. They controlled the immigrant workers in the North as well as the former slaves an poor white laborers who were operating the new railroad, mining, and steel industries in the South.

-Davis 1981 pp.115-116.

Thank you, bravenak, for speaking out and for refusing to stay silent. This is an important discussion. I really hope that more people can listen to what you say, instead of having a knee-jerk negative reaction.

LA Times: Women are leaving the tech industry in droves

"There are a lot of things that piled up over the years," (Garann) Means said. "I didn't know how to move forward. There was a lot I had to put up with in the culture of tech. It just didn't seem worth it."

That's a huge problem for the tech economy. According to the industry group Code.org, computing jobs will more than double by 2020, to 1.4 million. If women continue to leave the field, an already dire shortage of qualified tech workers will grow worse. Last summer, Google, Facebook, Apple and other big tech companies released figures showing that men outnumbered women 4 to 1 or more in their technical sectors.

It's why the industry is so eager to hire women and minorities. For decades tech companies have relied on a workforce of whites and Asians, most of them men.

Plenty of programs now encourage girls and minorities to embrace technology at a young age. But amid all the publicity for those efforts, one truth is little discussed: Qualified women are leaving the tech industry in droves.

A Harvard Business Review study from 2008 found that as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.

The reasons are varied. According to the Harvard study, they include a "hostile" male culture, a sense of isolation and lack of a clear career path. An updated study in 2014 found the reasons hadn't significantly changed.

Most women in the Harvard study said the attitudes holding them back are subtle, and hence more difficult to challenge.

Although high-profile women such as Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, Hewlett-Packard's Meg Whitman and IBM's Ginni Rometty mark glass-ceiling victories for women, most tech companies are headed by men.

And simply having a female CEO does not in itself solve the problem. Men are crucial for creating an environment where women thrive, said Scarlett Sieber, 27, vice president of operations at tech company Infomous.

"Men need to be the ones that are advocating and pushing for women to rise up, and not just rely on the 1% of women who are already at the top to do it," Sieber said.

Full article: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-women-tech-20150222-story.html#page=1

Am I the only one who finds it frustrating that we focus *so much* on the presidential election?

In case you didn't know....both houses of Congress are now controlled by far-right Republicans. And besides, the majority of legislation in the country happens at the state level, where ALEC is busily drafting up all kinds of heinous shit (I'm sorry, "model" legislation) in all these Republican-dominated state capitols that will affect you, me, and damn near everyone else in this country in a negative way, in terms of economic and social policy. Far-right Republican Governors are a dime-a-dozen these days; I can't keep track of how many there are! And that's to say nothing of all the bullshit that happens at the local "nonpartisan" level.

I'm not saying that the Presidency isn't important. It's very important, particularly in regards to foreign policy and the federal courts (especially the US Supreme Court, which is also dominated by right-wingers, in case you didn't know!), and for vetoing Republican bills. But let's not put all of our eggs in one basket. Let's not invest so much into the outcome of the Presidency, that we forget about all the other branches and levels of government.

-My $0.02.

Some assorted thoughts on affirmative action, racist double standards, and "merit"...

Recently, in a discussion I was having (not on this forum, BTW) with someone regarding the 2016 presidential election, the subject of Scott Walker came up as a potential candidate on the Republican side. I said that I thought that Walker not having a college degree would be an automatic disqualification from consideration for almost any public office-let alone the Presidency-if the candidate were a woman or a person of color. The other person in the debate, who knew I was an Obama supporter, retorted with, "Oh yeah? Then why hasn't Obama released his college transcripts?"

At first, I was utterly confused as to what the relevance of Obama-or indeed, his college transcripts-were to this debate re: Walker. The conversation ended with the other person thinking they had "won", and me feeling a little confused and caught off guard. It took some further reflection to recognize the significance of what Obama's college transcripts mean for issues of racism, affirmative action, and the double standards that American society applies to members of different racial groupings.

The insinuation of the question "Why hasn't Obama released his college transcripts?" is that Obama only got anywhere in life because of affirmative action, not on "merit." Putting aside the question of what "merit" is, exactly, and who is defining it: let's humor ourselves for a second and assume that this is the case, that Obama didn't succeed solely on his own steam. My response to that would be: So what? The notion that anyone succeeds or "fails" based solely on their own merit, without any help from others or by circumstances beyond their control, betrays a radically individualist (dare I say-Randian/libertarian) worldview.

There's a reason why most "rugged individualist" ideologues are white (and male, for that matter). White Americans delude themselves into believing that they never got any help based on any (racial or other) privilege that they have, and then berate black people and other minorities for not "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps." Note that issues of racism are absolutely linked to issues of economic and social class here.

This is how President Obama's immediate predecessor (miss him yet?) could portray himself as a "rugged cowboy" despite the fact that he was from one of the most economically and politically privileged backgrounds imaginable. How many on the Right (or in the mainstream media, for that matter) ever questioned George W. Bush getting to the Presidency in the way that they have questioned Obama's legitimacy? Talk about unearned power and privilege! If someone evaluated "Dubya" on the "merits", without giving him any leeway because he was from an insanely privileged background, or wasn't actually named George Bush, he wouldn't have been able to get an entry-level job in his Daddy's oil company-let alone, the US-fucking-Presidency.

It's time for white America to realize that yes, they are privileged over black America (and other people of color, of course) in oh-so-many ways, individually and collectively. The "meritocracy" is an ideological construct that has little relationship to social reality.

Anyways, as always, I welcome any (constructive, of course) responses.

While you're all so focused on the presidential horse race, ALEC is writing "model" legislation...

...in state legislatures across the country, and Koch-funded candidates have won elected office to local governments all over the map, as well. State and local governments are writing a hell of a lot more shit than the do-nothing Republican Congress. And their bills are what the national Republicans base their legislation on, anyway.

But continue fighting over whether Hillary is the "Lesser of Two Evils" against a Republican, or whether Warren or Sanders can mount an alternative campaign, or whatever other petty issue of individual candidates and their personalities, over actually getting things done politically, at any level of government. The Koch Brothers thank you for it.

How corporate interests, right-wing politicians, and their media allies have captured governments...

..in the United States at both the state and local levels-and turned them into laboratories of right-wing corporate oligarchy.

Where Do Donations from Corporations or Corporate Foundations Go?

For one, they help subsidize legislators' trips to attend ALEC meetings. ALEC has reported to the IRS that it has liabilities of about one million dollars a year for "scholarship funds." These are not scholarships for kids who do well in school; they are financial gifts called "scholarships" to help cover the costs of the family vacations that legislators and their families take to ALEC conventions at resorts every August, after their state legislative sessions end. For these conventions, legislative members are charged a registration fee that is substantially less than what corporate members pay. Some undisclosed number of legislators have their airfare and hotel costs for trips to these posh hotels paid by ALEC. As part of the registration process, legislators can arrange for childcare, which ALEC dubs "Kids Congress," for six-month old babies to teens for $250. ALEC reports that it has spent over $250,000 for childcare for meetings in 2009.

ALEC also spends about $600,000 a year on what it describes as the "recruitment and retention of ALEC State Legislator members." For an organization that claims such devotion to the free market, it is difficult to imagine an ordinary business justification for spending $600,000 to recruit and retain legislative members who only contribute about $80,000 a year in income to ALEC. But plainly, such a lop-sided loss must be covered by other returns on investment. Indeed, ALEC brags about how over 1,000 of its model bills get introduced in statehouses each year, but sticks to its claim that its bill factory does not count as "lobbying."

ALEC's corporate "state chairs" -- companies whose identities are not publicly disclosed by ALEC -- are expected to raise "state scholarship funds" for state legislators to attend ALEC conventions. ALEC's by-laws from 2007 also provide that the legislators who serve as state chairmen have a "duty" to work with the corporate state chairmen "to raise and oversee expenditures of legislative scholarship funds." In other words, select corporations work directly with legislators to raise money from other corporations to subsidize trips for legislators to ALEC events. State chairmen are also tasked with "working to ensure introduction of model legislation." The scholarship funds are apparently essential to ALEC's operations, because most state legislators work as public servants part-time and earn, on average, about $46,000 a year. Without ALEC's subsidy, not as many of them would likely be willing or able to use the ALEC convention as a family trip. But ALEC membership does provide other rewards for legislators. It allows them to rub elbows with rich, out-of-state potential donors to their election campaigns and also to build similar relationships with ALEC's state corporate members.

What Else Does ALEC Do with the Corporate Money?

It spends about $2.5 million a year on its "task forces." ALEC describes its role as providing a forum for legislators and the private sector to discuss model legislation. Many of the corporate representatives on these task forces are lobbyists for their companies, who are discussing their legislative wish lists with politicians through ALEC's facilitation. ALEC has stated that because actual "laws are not passed, debated or adopted during this process," "therefore no lobbying takes place. That process is done at the state legislatures." Yet ALEC is spending millions of dollars to ensure that corporate wish lists get in the hands of legislators, that the legislators vote for the legislation behind closed doors through ALEC, as do corporations, and then that the politicians who are leaders of ALEC introduce those very bills and get them made into law. ALEC then heralds the introduction and enactment of this legislation that was advanced through the enormous corporation donations it receives. As the documents revealed by ALEC Exposed show, ALEC calls its role in the state legislative process "unique" and "unparalleled." As ALECexposed.org demonstrates, it is also deeply troubling.


...the highly organized and lavishly financed right wing campaign to use state and local governments to fight their battles continues to succeed. Many have read about the successful campaigns against unions in states governed by Republicans. But Republicans have also managed to enact laws that allow the Governor to take over any cities or towns that have financial difficulties by throwing out all democratically elected officials mayors, city councils and so forth and appointing what usually amounts to a crony of the governor as, for all intents and purposes, the dictator of these places. This dictator can then undo local laws, abrogate union contracts including pensions, close schools, fire teachers, break unions, sell off pubic assets to their cronies at fire sale prices, and so forth.

This just happened in Detroit Michigan, the largest city yet to have democracy annulled and right wing dictatorship imposed. Surprise : the state government has been cutting financial assistance to Detroit to help push it into financial duress.

A powerful right-wing vehicle for conquering state and local governments and making them vehicles for implementing reactionary agendas is an organization called ALEC the American Legislative Exchange Council. This well-funded group brings together right wing intellectuals, activists and policy technicians with conservative legislators at the state and local government levels, and trains them in ways to get right-wing legislation passed. For example, ALEC has crafted bills in support of all its objectives ready to be submitted as is to state and local government bodies. This has made it quick and easy to pass a high volume of conservative legislation quickly. And of course ALEC and its funders can provide resources needed to help gain support for that legislation. The recent takeover of Detroit by the governor of Michigan is just their most recent and greatest success.


Where is the media in all of this, you may ask? Well, take this story from Idaho in 2012.

The Franklin Center is a multimillion-dollar organization whose websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting to local newspapers and other media across the country. Funded by major conservative donors, staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers, and maintaining a regular presence hosting right-wing events, the organization boasts of its ability to fill the void created by state newsroom layoffs.

The group's editors claim that their "professional journalism" work is walled off from the organization's more nakedly political operations and say that their "pro-taxpayer, pro-liberty, free market perspective" doesn't compromise their accuracy or independence. But many journalism professionals - even newspaper editors who reprint the work of Franklin Center affiliates in their own pages - speak warily of the group's ideological bent.

The group has its origins in the Sam Adams Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes free-market Tea Party-style citizen activism, which "helped launch" the Franklin Center in 2009, reportedly providing the nascent organization with "seed money," according to the National Journal.The umbrella group took in $2,378,931 in contributions and grants in its first year, and $3,776,997 in 2010, according to the most recent disclosure forms available.

The organization also highlights its ability to influence the debate outside the narrow confines of those sites, bragging in a May 30 fundraising email, "When you give to the Franklin Center, you have an immediate impact on the power of our reporting. Legacy news outlets regularly pick up our stories, driving them far beyond the typical audience for online news."

Indeed, the Franklin Center's focus on state legislative news allows it to take advantage of a long-running downturn in staffing and resources at mainstream news outlets' statehouse coverage dating back nearly a decade, providing content local newspapers are otherwise unable to afford.

A 2009 American Journalism Review study found that 355 newspaper reporters and editors were covering state capitols full time, a 30% decrease at the time from 524 in 2003.

"The evidence suggests that, clearly, there has been a significant diminution of bodies from the legacy media outlets covering statehouses and state politics around the country," said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tracks such trends. "Even in a city like Boston, you saw the TV bodies in the statehouse diminish quite dramatically.

"In the newspaper environment, there are just fewer bodies to go around anywhere and that has meant cutting back fairly dramatically on statehouse coverage."


Our current President has always said that political and social change happens "from the bottom up." The Right certainly understands this. Progressives must understand this as well, if we are to ever even HOPE to mount a challenge to the right-wing takeover of our politics.

Fight the corporacracy-beginning at the local level and in your own state, in every way possible. Fight ALEC. Passivity and disengagement is not an option.

K&R. The vicious racism and bigotry against Obama is emblematic of American society's....

...persistent, ongoing, and ugly racism.

It's in our DNA as a nation. Slavery built America. The displacement and extermination of Native peoples, the Color Line, the use of racist demagoguery and its stoking of racist fears to pit white citizens against "the Other"....it's integral to our history.

Sometimes, I wonder if we're actually backsliding into the dark past....after so much progress in the latter part of the last century. Maybe we didn't make as much progress as we had thought we did; America's closely related demons of racism and white supremacy certainly have persisted into the present day. Racism has taken a different form from slavery and Jim Crow segregation, in the Prison-Industrial Complex and the assaults on "welfare" and anything "public" (like education, assistance to the poor, etc.)

These last few years have been very revealing indeed, as much of white America doesn't see the President-OUR President-as "legitimate." They can't fucking accept that a black man can smarter, more competent, and above all, more powerful than a white man. Hence, the constant assaults on Obama-from Left, Center, and Right. "Take our Country Back." Birtherism. Lies upon lies upon racist fucking lies.
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