Unrepentant.

On occasion Your Humble Monarch™ finds herself dining in the company of unrepentant conservatives, and unfortunately tonight was such an occasion. Following are snippets from our conversation.

__________

Conservad00d: When I first took the job they told me this one guy had been with the company forever. And he was a real pain in the ass, but they couldn’t fire him because he was a union guy, and knew all the rules. I said “that guy would hand in his resignation in less than two weeks.” No one believed me. But he did! So they asked me how I did it, because they’d been trying to get rid of him for years.

Well, I called the guy with my job at a big competitor. I asked him, hey, you got any pain-in-the-ass union guys you want to get rid of? He said sure! I said listen, I’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse, a big raise. And when they take the new job, they’re on probation for two weeks, right? Union rules! Heh heh heh. And then I can fire them for any reason, or no reason, right? AND YOU’RE GONNA DO THE SAME FOR ME. Heh heh heh.

Iris: [silence.]

__________

Conservad00d: So at college I ran for chair of the student Senate. I got all the hippies and peacemongers* to back me—I just promised them everything! Lower tuition! Free beer! All kinds of crazy stuff I had no way to deliver. I had just one debate with my opponent, and it was on the radio. So I accused her of being ugly! Heh heh! And I won the election—by three votes!

Iris: Ugly. Seriously?

Conservad00d: Well I figured I was gonna lose, you know? So I had to at least enjoy myself and have some fun with it!

Iris: How could you possibly enjoy yourself at someone else’s expense?

Conservad00d: [silence.]

__________

Conservad00d: How do you like your new socialist mayor.

Iris: Well, he’s actually not a socialist, he’s—

Conservad00d: You know what they say about socialism: it’s great until you finally run out of other peoples’ money! Heh heh.

__________

Yes, that’s right people: teachers, police, firefighters, working people all pay taxes, and in return expect the government to provide social services for themselves, their communities, and those less fortunate. But not Conservad00d. Nope. Somehow, that spending is suddenly all “other peoples’ money,” i.e., money unfairly stolen from deserving Special Snowflakes like him, and wasted on all those undeserving Others.

I despise conservatives. They are not decent people. And they will ruin much more than your evening, if given the opportunity.

__________

*Yes, he said peacemongers. Unironically.

Iris the radical?

I recently enjoyed the company of one of my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ over dinner and cocktails. At one point during our wide-ranging conversation, he said to me: “You are a radical.” Not a “radical feminist.” Not a “radical leftist.” Not “a radical atheist and anti-clerical zealot.”

Just… a radical.

I laughed. Not because I found the charge insulting by any means, but because I had never really considered before whether that particular term accurately described my political views. If it did, I would gladly identify as such, and update my professional resume accordingly.

I am not particularly fond of labeling people—especially political animals—because labels necessarily paint with a broad brush and thereby oversimplify exceedingly complex realities. Humans are wildly complex creatures, our priorities are as fluid as they are diverse, and none of us are always perfectly rational—and this may be particularly true in the case of political orientation. But labels do make for useful shorthand, at least sometimes. For example, it can be meaningful to say that someone leans left (or libertarian) on certain issues (e.g. drug legalization, same-sex marriage), and right-wing conservative on others (e.g. abortion, and funding a social safety net). And so, since that pleasant conversation I’ve been wondering whether or not the term “radical” (noun) is an apt description of Your Humble Monarch™.

Readers are strongly cautioned that what follows is an epic, self-righteous, self-indulgent screed: all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

__________

Loyal Readers™ will not be surprised that I approached the question of whether I am a radical methodically, starting with the definition. Unfortunately, Step One did not exactly turn out to be an exercise in clarification. (Wikipedia was of no help at all here: see if you can glean from that page any coherent, consensus definition of a radical.)

We’re pretty much stuck with crap like this:

radical [rad-i-kuhl]
noun

  • a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.
  • a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.

Wait a minute. For one thing, “a person who holds or follows strong convictions” applies to nearly everyone I know, from family and friends to run-of-the-mill partisans. Ask any American adult about their views on religion, reproductive rights, Wall Street, taxes, drugs, Fox News, Syria, the Second Amendment, health care, Sarah Palin, affirmative action, Israel, criminal law, feminism, assisted suicide, etc. and I can pretty much guarantee you will discover at least one (and probably more) convictions the person holds strongly. Further, the U.S. Constitution itself is absolutist in much of its language and intent, and surely the major principles embodied therein can be correctly characterized as “strong”—although perhaps not strong enough to survive the bipartisan attacks of the early 21st century. In any case, its framers can accurately be described as radicals under this definition. So I will concede that I am a person who holds strong convictions (else, why blog?). But really, this definition is fairly useless. I may be a radical by this definition, but then, nearly everybody else is, too.

The second part of the definition, “a person who holds or follows … extreme principles; extremist,” is equally useless—not for being too broad but for being too vague. “Extreme” is a relative term. Extreme, relative to what, exactly? I suspect many readers here would view, say, neo-Nazis as extremists. Catholic bishops. Eco-terrorists. Take your pick/fill in the blank: you probably have some idea of an “extremist” in mind.

However:

  • Not even 20 years ago, legalized same-sex marriage seemed all but a pipe dream; now, the feds, the states and the courts are dismantling same-sex marriage prohibitions (due in no small part to advocates bolting from Democrats to Republicans in droves after Dems failed to act). Were same-sex marriage supporters extremists or radicals 20 years ago? Are they today? Likewise, how about their opponents, then and now?
  • It took women’s suffrage advocates almost 150 years to secure for American women their right to vote. At some point were they radicals? At what point did they cease to be radicals? I have similar questions regarding American abolitionists. Were they radicals or extremists? Everywhere, or only in the South?
  • An astonishing number (46%) of my fellow citizens believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that some god created humans in their present form around the same time. Are they extremists? Radicals?

If extremism is only a numbers game confined to a particular geographic area and time—that is, if enough people in one place share a view, no matter how demonstrably false it is or how much evil results from holding it—are they by definition not extremists? Because if that is true, then the concept of “extreme” is entirely subjective. I don’t think anyone would disagree that a whole lot of people at almost all times and places fervently believe a whole lot of stupid, wrong and vile shit, consciously or not. We probably all do. So I’m afraid “extreme” (and “extremist”) are far too slippery for our purposes here.

Finally, there is this alternative definition: “a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.” Now this seems somewhat more promising. Let’s see:

“a person” -CHECK.

“who advocates” -CHECK.

“fundamental political, economic, and social reforms.” If you think that a more socialist democracy, i.e., less economic and political inequality, single-payer universal healthcare and advances in social justice for women and minorities, are fundamental reforms, then -CHECK. But we run into the same problems we did with “extreme”: fundamental is equally slippery and subjective. And I would strongly urge you to consider that your judgement on this “fundamental” matter may depend on how far down the right-wing rabbit hole you’ve fallen.

Take a look at these quotes:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican President, WWII General

“I believe that there should be a very much heavier progressive tax on very large incomes, a tax which should increase in a very marked fashion for the gigantic incomes.”
~Theodore Roosevelt, Republican President

“The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”
~Thomas Jefferson, Democratic-Republican President, Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
~Abraham Lincoln, Republican President

“Today’s so-called ‘conservatives’ don’t even know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right. It’s not a conservative issue at all.”
~Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate

“The supreme duty of the Nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice. We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in State and Nation for … the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use.”
~Theodore Roosevelt, Republican President

“The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no Church property anywhere, in any state or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.”
~James A. Garfield, Republican President

“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.”
~Barry Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate

“As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”
~George Washington, first President of the United States, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and Founding Father

“We establish no religion in this country. We command no worship. We mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are and must remain separate.”
~Ronald Reagan, Republican President

“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.”
~Ronald Reagan, Republican President

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Court Justice (Republican appointee)

“We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference.”
~Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican President

“We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican President, WWII General

There is nothing there that I disagree with. You?

For comparison, and with that context in mind, I posted in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election a (non-exhaustive) list of things a political candidate could do to earn my support:

At the time, I noted:

This is not fringe lefty stuff. I really isn’t. There is nothing here that is not standard, mainstream liberal fare.

Much of it was mainstream Republican fare, for most of our nation’s history.

It sure seems to me that something like the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall would qualify as a “fundamental” reform. Dismantling the provisions of the 1933 Banking Act enacted in the wake of the crash that led to the Great Depression that separated commercial banking from investment banking predictably led to the 2008 crash, from which much of the world is still reeling (with the exception of America’s Owners, of course)—and the unprecedented taxpayer bailouts that followed. That seems rather…um…hmmm…what’s the word I’m looking for here? Oh right: radical. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a century of settled law in the Citizens United case, granting corporations First Amendment rights and thereby unleashing the floodgates on corporate money in elections. That is radical. The president’s assassination of American citizens without due process: what could possibly be a more radical “fundamental reform” than that?

These are all recent, rapid, fundamental changes, and I want them changed back. Christ, now I sound like a fucking reactionary.

Anyway. Putting aside whether the reforms I support are “fundamental” or not, the final clause in the definition of “radical” that we are working with requires that I advocate for these reforms “by direct and often uncompromising methods.” Do I?

Well, I do strongly advocate voting, especially in primaries. And I strongly advocate supporting lefty candidates, financially or otherwise—again, especially in primaries, and even more especially in primaries against conservative Democratic incumbents. I further advocate not voting for conservative Democrats (including Barack Obama), both as a tactical strategy and on principle. Finally, I advocate peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience. There is a long and grand tradition of Americans doing precisely the same, from slavery abolition to women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to Vietnam war protests, and history has looked back and smiled kindly at every one of them.

I absolutely do not concede that any of these methods are “direct and often uncompromising” in an ostensible democracy. Indeed, citizens have the right (if not the duty) to advocate for and against candidates, platforms, causes and initiatives that they believe are important.

I am not directly advocating for a revolution, although I do believe that one is inevitable if our current trajectory as a country is not significantly altered—politically, economically and socially—and soon. No one can claim to have any idea what will spark it, where or when, and there is a grave risk that things will turn out very, very badly for large swaths of humanity (almost certainly including America’s Owners themselves). I would like to have some influence on the shape it will take, and the way that it will play out. It is my fervent hope that this revolution will be nonviolent, that diverse coalitions will seek and find common cause in restoring our democracy from the ravages of endless war and corporate greed, and that we will not fall prey to the tactics of an elite which seeks to divide and conquer us. To that end, I will do what I can to advocate peaceful protest and civil disobedience, as well as coalition-building with multiple constituencies, including with those whose political perspective is radically (hahaha) different than my own.

But if I change my mind about all of that, and start directly advocating for a revolution, I would still probably eschew the label “radical.”

Instead, I would be a revolutionary.

Flashmob FTW.

Inspired. And inspiring.

September 5th, 2013, Raleigh, NC – As Walmart workers petition managers to reinstate employees who have been unfairly treated, a flash mob breaks out.

Wilbur on Daily Kos said:

I signed in just to recommend this.  It is one of the most important diaries I have seen on dailyKos because it shows that individuals are beginning to understand and use the Internet for their own rights.  It makes me much more confident about 2014.

Just a note about whether this is a flash mob or a step show.  They are NOT mutually exclusive.  As a matter of fact flash mobs almost always have a purpose whether a Michael Jackson dance or playing Beethoven’s 7th.  What a flash mob is when people interconnect using the Internet to engage in some function at a specific place and time for a specific period.  The people arrive confident they will be joined by other members of the event, but not knowing for sure who is going to be there.  At the agree upon time the flash mob comes together in the chosen venue, it performs their event, and then it quickly disperses.

What this will do in protest if it is used like it was used here is completely take away the power of the militarized police.  The mob quickly makes its point and then disperses into the air before the police can arrive and arrest anybody.  The events need to be both entertaining and focused to be effective, but they can be more effective than long term occupations.  I am hoping this is the direction Occupy Wall Street goes.  When police arrive in all their regalia they are left staring at empty space.

This, my beloved Loyal Readers™, is civil disobedience of the most excellent kind.

New York City has a great tradition of flashmobs: often they are just for fun and entertainment, but flashmob protests of a political nature are not uncommon (e.g. Occupy deployed them). I would very much love to see the use of this tactic expanded. For one thing, I think if the phenomenon really took hold it could turn out to be something of a prophylactic against aggrieved mobs turning violent instead. It doesn’t need to be a tightly choreographed event like the Walmart protest: ordinary people can participate in something simpler that requires only showing up, and perhaps holding a sign or note. If (when?) people show up in big enough numbers, at the very least we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching America’s Owners and their goons in government and major media piss themselves. Maybe they’d even throw us a table scrap. Or, possibly, two!

May our revolution be remembered for its joyous dancing, clapping, singing, chanting and stepping. Otherwise, the terrorists win.

Signal boosts.

My time to write is still extremely limited these days, but I wanted to signal boost two activist campaigns.

The first is from Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN). They need to raise $600 more to cover the $6,200 cost of their full-page LA Times ad promoting an end to long-term solitary confinement, in solidarity with the hunger strikers in prisons across the nation. The ad can be viewed here (pdf). Please contribute a couple bucks if you can. From the ad:

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez told the UN General Assembly in 2011 “Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique… and indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement in excess of 15 days should also be subject to an absolute prohibition.”

In a provocative and visceral form of activism, two weeks ago SMIN set up a scale replica of a solitary isolation unit outside the California state capitol in Sacramento to draw attention to the nationwide prisoners hunger strike. The mental and physical effects long-term solitary confinement are extremely well-documented, and you can investigate them for yourself (the SMIN site is good place to start). Presently approximately 80,000 U.S. prisoners are subject to long-term solitary confinement, although exact numbers are difficult to determine, in part because inmates in long-term solitary are frequently barred or highly restricted from contact with the outside world.

The United States has by far the most prisoners in the world, and it is a near certainty that many of them are wrongly convicted and guilty of no crime whatsoever. Guards and wardens have used solitary with the petty capriciousness one would expect from third world tyrants. It does not matter what these people may have done, although it is without question that many have done nothing violent. These are human beings, and there is no justification to destroy peoples’ humanity under the dubious justification of Keeping Us Safe.

Imagine yourself or someone you love in here for days, weeks, months and years on end, your only human contact when a guard silently shoves (inadequate) food through a slot in the door. Learn more. Then do something about it.

SHUThe second campaign is Fast Food Forward’s national food worker’s strike. Please sign the open letter in support if you are so inclined:

Open Letter to Fast Food Chains

To McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s:

We have a huge economic problem in this country. It’s you and the rest of the fast food industry.

Together, your restaurants employ millions of people. Millions of people, mostly adults, who can’t afford rent if they want to eat. Who can’t afford health care if they want to pay their bus fare. Millions of people, and more than 25% of them are parents who can’t afford school supplies if they have to buy school shoes.

Last year your combined profits were $7.35 billion. Yet you still paid most of your workers less than $11,200 a year – poverty wages. It’s shameful. And outrageous.

We’re speaking out together because it has to change. We’re rising up as Americans to say it’s no longer a matter of WHETHER you will raise wages; it’s a matter of WHEN. Your companies can do this right now – you have the power to raise wages for your workers today.

Please sign the letter and thereby do your small part to piss off America’s Owners—today.

Work, life and death in conservative dystopia.

[Cross-posted at The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy.]

At this writing, the death toll at the site of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh has reached 1,127. The pictures are horrific, the scale of pain and grief unfathomable.

It isn’t as though no one could see this coming. Over 1,800 garment workers have been killed in fires and building collapses in Bangladesh since 2005. Workers have long been demanding better working conditions and higher wages, which are among the lowest in the world. After massive protests in 2010 garment workers received an 80 percent raise, which sounds promising until one realizes that it is now up to 3,000 takas — $38US — a month. Still, working conditions remained abysmal in Bangladesh’s garment industry, the world’s third largest after China and Italy.

To crush ongoing street protests by thousands of garment workers, in 2010 the Bangladeshi government unleashed a newly-created “Industrial Police force.” Trade union activists have also faced harsh crackdowns including multiple arrests and the mysterious death last year of one union organizer, Aminul Islam, whose body was found a day after he disappeared from his home. Technically, Bangladesh’s 2006 Labor Act allows garment workers to unionize with permission from their employers. Unsurprisingly, no garment factory owner allowed a union, ever.

There is good news in the wake of this catastrophe: the government recently announced that garment workers can now form unions freely. But activist leaders are hardly sanguine that legalization alone will have any beneficial effect:

“The issue is not really about making a new law or amending the old one,” said Kalpana Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, a group campaigning for garment workers’ rights. “In the past whenever workers tried to form associations they were subjected to beatings and harassment,” she said. “The owners did not hesitate to fire such workers.”

Instead of crushing worker protests, perhaps Bangladesh’s “Industrial Police force” could be repurposed to enforce worker rights? Probably not. When one considers the sheer amount of death, destruction and despair required to pressure the Bangladeshi government into merely legalizing unions, it seems highly unlikely. The State acts as a de facto instrument of wealthy business owners in Bangladesh, and elsewhere (*ahem*). Well, at least until the body count rises and the riots get too large: then the working class can look forward to a few scraps tossed their way, even if the action is merely symbolic. It seems Bangladesh’s oligarchs are fortunate that the country’s major export is clothing and not, say, pitchforks. Or automatic weapons.

Or consider the desperate situation in Haiti. Absent a strong tradition of labor rights or any meaningful way to enforce them — truly, a libertarian paradise! — impoverished factory workers are sexually exploited in the worst ways imaginable, with total impunity.

Thankfully, such horrors could never happen in the U.S. — I mean happen again, of course. More than 100 years have passed since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, where 146 garment workers died. Many were burned alive, others died jumping out of windows to escape the flames, and a handful of others were crushed when a fire escape collapsed. Workers trapped inside found fire hoses with no water, and exits that were locked or blocked. There were no sprinklers, and there had never been a fire drill. The building itself stands to this day: ironically, it was fireproof.

After the tragedy, U.S. labor groups made significant gains for workers and workplace safety. (SIEU has a good interactive graphic here.) For a while, workers saw unprecedented wage growth and the emergence of a flourishing middle class. But every single gain has remained under relentless attack by America’s Owners and their servants in Congress and state houses across the nation. Indeed, for some workers in the U.S. today, it is almost as if nothing was ever gained at all.

I learned recently of worker exploitation in a Third World country I had never heard of before: “Florida.” It turns out that tomato pickers there earn sub-poverty wages, and have not received a significant raise in over 30 years. Worse, many workers are literally enslaved — and no, that is not hyperbole. The Justice Department has prosecuted seven cases of slavery in the Florida agricultural industry and freed more than 1,000 men and women since 1997, but the abuse continues. Growers have resorted to abductions, pistol whippings, confinement at gunpoint, debt bondage and starvation wages to control desperately poor workers.

About a year ago I learned of the horrendous working and living conditions in yet another Third World country called Louisiana:

My name is Ana Rosa Diaz. I’m 40 years old and I have four children. I came to the United States on an H-2B guestworker visa from my home in Tamaulipas, Mexico. I work in a small town in Louisiana with other guestworkers, peeling crawfish for a company called C.J.’s Seafood, which sells 85% of its products to Walmart.

Our boss forces us to work [VIDEO] up to 24 hours at a time with no overtime pay. No matter how fast we work, they scream and curse at us to make us work faster. Our supervisor threatens to beat us with a shovel to stop us from taking breaks.

We live in trailers across from the boss’s house, and we’re under surveillance all the time. The supervisors come into our trailers without warning, and they threaten to fire us if we leave after 9 p.m.

The supervisor also locked us in the plant so we couldn’t take breaks. One worker called 911. After that the boss rounded us up at 2:30 a.m., closed the door to keep the American employees out, and threatened our families.

He said, “As a friend I can be very good, but you don’t want to know me as an enemy. I have contacts with good people and bad people, and I know where all your families live. I can find you no matter where you hide.” We were terrified.

We want to work. We need to support our families. But we also want to be treated like human beings.

There is a reason why corporations bankroll politicians who will work to undermine unions and regulation at every turn: it is in their interest to see the U.S. workforce go back to living and working exactly the way Ms. Diaz does. It can only help the all-important bottom line. In places without strong labor unions, meaningful regulations or enforced worker protections the picture is always this ugly, or worse. For the vast majority of the world’s workers this is just life in the glorious “free market,” wherever and whenever employers can get away with it. Tempting as it may be to believe the bad old days are all in the past, this is the present for Ms. Diaz, for agricultural workers in Florida and for many others in the Land of the Free. It takes unrelenting vigilance and sustained pressure by labor activists and empowered regulators to protect worker rights, especially where the State is a de facto instrument of wealthy business interests. Well, at least until the body count rises and the riots get too large.

One might also be tempted to blame the Republican Party for this state of affairs: after all, its track record on union-busting, massive tax breaks for wealthy corporations, deregulation, and blocking minimum wage increases speaks for itself. But at least Republicans are explicit about serving the interests of America’s Owners. It’s the treacherous New Democrats — economic conservatives serving exactly the same masters while feigning otherwise — who present the serious threat to our economic well-being. Those who bought into Barack Obama’s rhetoric in 2008 still refuse to see that they were wrong about him on matters as far ranging as unions, corporate servitude, U.S. imperialism, civil rights, transparency, warrantless wiretapping, even Iraq. Under the Bush-Cheney regime the same policies merited scathing condemnation from Democrats. Now? *crickets.* Welcome to bipartisan consensus.

No one should want to see the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or the tragedy in Bangladesh repeated, anywhere. To economic conservatives who remain unmoved, I will just say this: it is well worth considering the implications of your position, for all of us.

Lesson five.

I was planning to write the other day about Michael Calleri, a long-time film critic in upstate New York, whose story has been making the rounds of the Twitt-o-Blog-o-verse.  As is often the case, David Futrelle beat me to it.  (He beat me on my recent Slut Vote post too, but only on a technicality:  I had submitted the Slut Vote piece to TPJMagazine by a November 8 deadline — and on November 9 the good Mr. Futrelle posted “Romney: Defeated by sluts?”  Such is the soul-crushing devastation to which Your Humble Monarch Blogger is routinely subjected.)  Since it’s too late to simply recount the story it and leave it at that, I will instead offer it up for examination as the fifth lesson in the Palace’s ongoing and highly-acclaimed seminar series on the subject of Conservative Personality Disorder.

Pencils ready, class?  Let’s begin.

The Michael Calleri story is a textbook case study in CPD.  Calleri reviewed films for a local weekly newspaper, The Niagara Falls Reporter, and for other print, online, radio and television venues.  In almost two decades as a movie critic he enjoyed complete journalistic independence: not one editor, publisher, producer, anchorperson, station manager or media owner had ever so much as hinted at which films Calleri should or should not write about, or how.  One day, the much beloved publisher of The Reporter moved to Los Angeles and sold the newspaper to some d00d; as Calleri puts it, “the new guy’s only genuine association with professional journalism was that he read newspapers.”  After hearring the rest of this story, one may reasonably doubt whether the d00d even had that much experience.

Soon after the paper changed ownership, Calleri found that his reviews were occasionally cut from the print edition of The Reporter; then they were subsequently dropped from the online edition as well.  He noticed that the names of two longtime colleagues, the managing editor and the senior editor, no longer appeared on the paper’s masthead.  Both were women.  In an effort to find out what was going on, Calleri emailed the new d00d several times and eventually ended up on a phone call with him.  He describes it thusly:

It was one of the strangest phone calls I’ve ever had. Over the course of a truly bizarre hour, I listened to the new owner as he philosophized about the Bible, the sadomasochism of the Greeks, the decline of the Romans, the secrets of the United States of America’s Founding Fathers, threats to the Western world, the role women played in the history of the planet, and the role they should play in the future of a cohesive society.

Calleri once again emailed his new boss for specific guidance as to why some of his reviews were being published but not others.  This is the reply he received:

Michael;[sic] I know you are committed to writing your reviews, and put a lot of effort into them. it [sic] is important for you to have the right publisher. i [sic] may not be it. i [sic] have a deep moral objection to publishing reviews of films that offend me. snow [sic] white [sic] and the huntsman [sic] is such a film. when [sic] my boys were young i [sic] would never have allowed them to go to such a film for i [sic] believe it would injure their developing manhood. if [sic] [sic] would not let my own sons see it, why would i [sic] want to publish anything about it?

snow [sic] white [sic] and the huntsman [sic] is trash. moral [sic] garbage. a [sic] lot of fuzzy feminist thinking and pandering to creepy hollywood mores produced by metrosexual imbeciles.
I don’t want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta.

where [sic] women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females.
[sic] believe in manliness.
not [sic] even on the web would i [sic] want to attach my name to snow [sic] white [sic] and the huntsman [sic] except to deconstruct its moral rot and its appeal to unmanly perfidious creeps.
i’m [sic] not sure what headhunter [sic] has to offer either but of what I read about it it sounds kind of creepy and morally repugnant.
with [sic] all the publications in the world who glorify what i [sic] find offensive, it should not be hard for you to publish your reviews with any number of these.
they [sic] seem to like critiques from an artistic standpoint without a word about the moral turpitude seeping into the consciousness of young people who go to watch such things as snow [sic] white [sic] and get indoctrinated to the hollywood [sic] agenda of glorifying degenerate power women and promoting as natural the weakling, hyena -like men, cum eunuchs.
the [sic] male as lesser in courage strength [sic] and power than the female.
it [sic] may be ok [sic] for some but it is not my kind of manliness.
If you care to write reviews where men act like good strong men and have a heroic inspiring influence on young people to build up their character (if there are such movies being made) i [sic] will be glad to publish these.
[sic] am not interested in supporting the reversing of traditional gender roles.
i [sic] don’t want to associate the Niagara Falls Reporter with the trash of Hollywood and their ilk.
it [sic] is my opinion that hollywood [sic] has robbed america [sic] of its manliness and made us a nation of eunuchs who lacking all manliness welcome in the coming police state.
now [sic][sic] realize that you have a relationship with the studios etc. and i [sic] would have been glad to have discussed this in person with you to help you segue into another relationship with a publication but inasmuch as we spent 50 minutes on the phone from paris [sic][sic] did not want to take up more of your time.
In short i [sic] don’t care to publish reviews of films that offend me.
if [sic] you care to condemn the filmmakers as the pandering weasels that they are…. true hyenas.

[sic] would be interested in that….

Frank

I want to highlight that this missive was written by an editor and publisher of a “weekly newspaper with a circulation of 22,000, which is available in Niagara Falls and Buffalo in Western New York state, a metro area of 1.2-million people.”  (As I hinted earlier, one might quite reasonably suspect that this person has never even seen a newspaper, much less read one.)  And it probably goes without saying, but of course this d00d has seen neither Snow White and the Huntsman nor Headhunters.

Volumes could be written on the toxic, anxious masculinity that this afflicted individual manifests.  (It’s also a pretty safe bet that he is as aggressively homophobic as he is misogynist.)  I wonder what it must be like living in an alternate universe where the Rambo and Die Hard movies were never made, and James Bond doesn’t exist.  In Frank’s strangely barren world, he remains unaware that virtually the entire Hollywood blockbuster genre is comprised of films where manly men are the heroes and villains, and women are just lesser versions or shadows of males.  Poor Frank has never even heard of films like Independence Day, Mission Impossible, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spiderman, Desperado, The Rock, Batman, Speed, Predator, Lethal Weapon, the entire Clint Eastwood oeuvre, the Bourne franchise, and about umpteen zillion other movies wherein manly muscled men march around shooting up everything that moves and blowing up everything that doesn’t, beating up bad guys with their bare hands, and maybe occasionally rescuing inconceivably incompetent, uppity damsels from the most dastardly of (male) villains.  But never mind all that:  this poor d00d’s wee-wee goes frighteningly flaccid at the mere thought of… Snow fucking White?

From the perspective of the world-renowned, undisputed leader in the field of Conservative Personality Disorder research, there are potentially many illuminating takeaways from this story.  Of the twenty hypothesized CPD symptom clusters, Frank-the-editor-and-publisher displays at least ten of them in a single email:

-superficiality: self-aggrandizing displays of “holier-than-thou” behavior;

-willful ignorance: dogmatic;

-irrationality: hyper-religiousness pervading all social interactions;

-tribalism: obsession with strict in-group/out-group delineation, typically with respect to race, class, ethnicity, sex, religion, cultural practices, immigration status, gender, and/or sexual orientation; believes out-groups are inherently, profoundly, and fundamentally different from and inferior to in-group members, and denies or rejects obvious commonalities;

-misogyny: anti-feminist; proponent of strictly binary gender roles and stereotypes with power and authority vested only in males; patronizing and unjust treatment of women; patriarchal;

-self-righteousness:  judgmental; hypercritical, scornful and disdainful of out-group “others”;

-amorality:  markedly unconcerned with the welfare or suffering of others, especially out-groups;

-poor facility with native language:  unusual capitalization;

-limited dimensionality of thought:  anxious and unnerved by cognitive ambiguity, and highly motivated to eliminate it by reducing complex real-world phenomena to discrete dualities; binary thinking;

-stunted self-awareness: aggressively defensive of one’s own culture, subculture, family structure, or way of life as objectively superior to all others despite (a) limited exposure to meaningfully diverse alternatives, (b) plainly evident personal anger, poor relationships, bitterness, and persistent unhappiness that no reasonable person would wish to emulate, (c) refusal to acknowledge other practices and points of view as valid, positive, or potentially beneficial, and (d) nevertheless attempting to compel all others to emulate one’s “superior” culture, subculture, family structure or way of life through legislative action, ballot initiatives, and/or social opprobrium;

If we sneaked a peek some of Frank’s other emails I think we can be fairly certain we’d quickly spot the other ten.

But the one additional symptom cluster upon which I wish to focus today is hierarchical worldview.  This particular concept serves as a critical nexus between all of the other CPD manifestations Frank displays in his email:

-hierarchical worldview:  opposed to equality in principle; pronounced preference for institutions with rigidly maintained lines of status or authority; insistence on win-lose outcomes regardless of obviously superior benefits to alternative win-win scenarios; rigid belief that one person must be “in charge,” and rejects team-oriented approaches to decision making and power-sharing (e.g., proponent of unchecked Executive power, male place as unchallengeable head of household, etc.); rationalizes and justifies social Darwinism, typically along racial, ethnic and/or gendered lines; projection of one’s own “dog-eat-dog world” mentality onto all others; displays anxiousness over status or ranking of self in social or professional hierarchies, especially when ambiguous or unclear;

The impulse motivating the hierarchical worldview is an unabashedly authoritarian one.  (It should be noted here that authoritarianism is itself a distinct CPD symptom cluster, one that we world-renowned CPD experts use to identify and describe observable behavior, rather than mental cognition or motivation.)  In my exhaustive studies of conservatives in the wild, I have found that the hierarchical worldview reveals itself in conversations concerning a vast array of subjects, from the intimately personal to the broadly global.  For example, just the other night I dined at a local seafood joint with My Amazing Lover™ and a small number of acquaintances.  The group included a couple from Boston who had recently repatriated back to the States after several years on business in Geneva, Switzerland.  I noticed that they made a few declarative statements concerning immigration, ethnicity, and other topics that identified them as conservatives, and, not wanting to disgorge my delicious crab ravioli or otherwise deploy it as a projectile in their general direction, I focused my efforts on enjoying copious amounts of white wine.  But then Conserva-d00d said something quite revealing.  The subject of conversation at the table was French culture as it relates to business practices in that country, a subject about which I know very little — except that to the consternation of Western capitalists, socialism is thriving in the form of a kick-ass, cradle-to-grave safety net and 4-week paid vacations.  These 4-week paid vacations Conserva-d00d explicitly disdained, a sentiment shared by Conserva-chick who reinforced her husband’s scorn for excessive Riviera-lounging with a weary head shake and exasperated eyeroll.  He went on:

Conserva-d00d:  The problem doing business with the French is that they have their priorities completely upside down.  In America, the customer always comes first.  After that comes the business, which is supposed to exist to serve the needs of the customer.  The employee comes last in the scheme of things, and is there to support the business, which is how it should be.  But in France, the employee comes first, at the very top.  Then comes the business itself.  It’s as if the business exists just to support the employee!  The customer comes last, at the very bottom.  It’s incredible!  Completely upside down!

(I am of course paraphrasing here.  See “copious amounts of white wine,” above.)

Iris:  Well, that’s one way to look at it, but I don’t see it that way at all.  You’re putting customers, businesses and employees in a hierarchy, either the correct “American” one, or the “upside down” one as the French allegedly view it.  But either way, a hierarchy is only one way to conceptualize the relationships between them, and a particularly unhelpful one in my view.  As I see it, there is no hierarchy.  These three entities are interdependent.  None of them can exist and thrive without the viability and support of the other two.  (And if you wanted to broaden this analysis, you could add a fourth entity to the mix:  government.)  Now you can of course make the case that in France, the employee entity is not adequately supporting the business.  And I can make the case that we have a different problem here, that the business entity is not adequately supporting the employee.  But my point is that these entities all function best when their relationships are in balance:  a win-win-win.  Happy customers->profitable business->happy employees->happy customers->profitable business->happy employees and so on, in a self-reinforcing loop.  Problems arise and send the whole system into a downward spiral — a lose-lose-lose — when any one of them operates as if the system were indeed a hierarchy.  It’s not.

Conserva-d00d: [*blinks*]

[Someone else at the table places a piece of cake in front of Iris.]

Iris:  Oh sure. Let’s all play “kill the diabetic socialist.”

Conserva-d00d: Hahaha!  Oh, you’re no socialist, believe me!  Far from it.

Iris:  Hahaha.

[Laughter all around as My Amazing Lover™ deftly steers the conversation to a lighter topic.  I think it was pictures of people having sex with cats or something.]

For a long time, the connection between social and economic conservatism escaped me.  It was not obvious to me:  what did all those godbot panty-sniffers really have in common with Ayn Rand, say, or Alan Greenspan?  The answer is a hierarchical worldview.

Our friend Frank-the-editor-and-publisher cannot conceive of an egalitarian relationship between men and women.  For Frank, it’s either “degenerate power women” and unnatural “weakling, hyena-like men-cum-eunuchs,” or “heroic,” “good strong men” and women who are “lesser in courage[,] strength and power.”  Someone must be assigned the “alpha” role, the dominant, the Top Dog in charge; therefore someone else must be assigned the “beta” role, the obedient follower, the weakling in need of leadership and protection.  Guess which one Frank just knows is his natural, rightful, divinely-ordained position?  (Hint:  it’s definitely not the unmanly one!)

Frank is a run-of-the-mill gender essentialist.  As such, he is constitutionally incapable of recognizing that as human beings, men and women have vastly more commonalities than differences, and further that individual men and women can manifest qualities like courage, strength, power and leadership in similar ways.  Over here in reality, it’s just an easily observable fact that all men are not braver, stronger, or more powerful than all women, not even potentially so.  My piece on gender essentialism and overlapping bell curves would sail right over Frank’s (very, very manly!) head, but two essential points I made therein are (1) to the extent that gender differences exist they fall on widely overlapping bell curves, and (2) such differences are largely if not entirely inconsequential with respect to nearly any endeavor in the real world.

But the fact remains that the mere thought of a strong, courageous and powerful woman — even a fictional one flitting around a magical woods in a dress with a bunch of big badass men chasing her — sends Frank into paroxysms of deranged misogyny.  Of course men who view the world the way that Frank does undermine the power and leadership of actual women in the modern workplace, but that’s another post.  Yet another post could explore poor Frank’s inability to be secure in his own humanity without the constant and ubiquitous reinforcement of media messages portraying women as weak, fearful and helpless, so that he — a MAN! — can fantasize that he is righteously strong, brave and powerful.  A third post could document that the only people I’ve known who are as obsessed as Frank is with “manliness” are my gay friends.  (Actually, that one’s really more of a tweet than a blog post.)  But I digress.

So:  Frank is deeply offended.  By reality.  He finds it morally repugnant that the real world does not comport with his hierarchical fantasy adventure story in which Frank stars as the brave, strong, powerful — and above all manly — hero.

Meanwhile, economic conservatives like my recent dinner companion project a hierarchical worldview onto business models, labor and markets.  First, let’s be clear:  when we refer to the interests of a for-profit business entity, we do not mean the interests of the abstract legal construct, or the physical and financial assets of the corporation.  We are talking about the financial interests of a distinct and relatively small group of people:  owners, investors, shareholders, principals, upper management and other stakeholders.  To the extent that such people view their own financial interests as “above” those of employees and/or customers — and almost without exception in the 21st century United States they certainly do — sooner or later the business will flounder and fail, and when it does, its employees and customers will flounder and fail along with it.

When a business does not value and actively invest in the well-being of its employees, its best people will ultimately abandon it and those who stay will be subpar and unmotivated — if not downright adversarial.  Its customers do not remain happy for long in such a scenario.  Ask the people who lost their homes and retirement savings in the wake of the financial crisis.  Or those whose mortgages are underwater in a depressed housing market.  Ask those whose jobs were outsourced or eliminated while companies were squeezed and then liquidated to enrich vulture capitalists.  Witness the relentless union-busting, the disempowerment of workers, endemic wage stagnation and the erosion of labor rights.

It is not a coincidence that those who insist on imposing hierarchies where synergistic relationships ought to be recognized are invariably those who place themselves at the top of them.  The warped “business first” paradigm is why we find ourselves in a country in which corporations are “people” — not coincidentally, the very same “people” that own our politicians and control our government.  They see themselves as the rightful, deserving beneficiaries of such a system — and they may very well be, at least in the short term.

But the stubborn fact remains that our species is a remarkably interdependent one.  No matter how complex and diversified our civilizations become, to one degree or another we rise and fall as one.  When the institutions we create, from “traditional marriage” to rapacious corporations, fail to operate in accordance with this basic truth, misery for many is never very far behind.
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Related posts from the Palace’s free online university:

Wingnut workers paradise in Louisiana.

A missive arrived in the Palace inbox today from one Ms. Ana Rosa Diaz, describing in vivid detail the working and living conditions in a Third World country.  Maybe you have heard of the place?  It’s called “Louisiana.”

My name is Ana Rosa Diaz. I’m 40 years old and I have four children. I came to the United States on an H-2B guestworker visa from my home in Tamaulipas, Mexico. I work in a small town in Louisiana with other guestworkers, peeling crawfish for a company called C.J.’s Seafood, which sells 85% of its products to Walmart.

Our boss forces us to work up to 24 hours at a time with no overtime pay. No matter how fast we work, they scream and curse at us to make us work faster. Our supervisor threatens to beat us with a shovel to stop us from taking breaks.

We live in trailers across from the boss’s house, and we’re under surveillance all the time. The supervisors come into our trailers without warning, and they threaten to fire us if we leave after 9 p.m.

The supervisor also locked us in the plant so we couldn’t take breaks. One worker called 911. After that the boss rounded us up at 2:30 a.m., closed the door to keep the American employees out, and threatened our families.

He said, “As a friend I can be very good, but you don’t want to know me as an enemy. I have contacts with good people and bad people, and I know where all your families live. I can find you no matter where you hide.” We were terrified.

We want to work. We need to support our families. But we also want to be treated like human beings.

We joined the National Guestworker Alliance and decided to go on strike. The boss refused to take back his threats against our families, so now we’re taking our demands to Walmart.

Walmart says it doesn’t allow forced labor by any of its suppliers. But Walmart is profiting from the forced labor we lived through right here in Louisiana. And now they’re trying to cover up what happened to us — while three federal investigations are going on — and they’re refusing to speak with us.

The reason I mention this particular missive is that workers — especially young workers, whose entire perception of labor in the Western world is only ever glimpsed through the holes in their bootstraps — should know that Ms. Diaz offers a snapshot of what life is like for the vast majority of workers in a world without strong labor unions, government regulations, or indeed any kind of worker protections.  Whenever and wherever wingnut overlords have their way, the picture always looks like this — or worse.  Not sometimes.  Always.

It takes relentless action by labor activists, reformers, and strong government regulators to prevent child labor, abusive and dangerous sweatshops, and deadly industrial disasters.  This is why multinational corporations who answer only to their shareholders and Wall Street bankroll conservative politicians who work tirelessly to destroy unions and undermine regulatory regimes at every turn: they would like nothing more than to see 99% of the U.S. population accustomed to living and working exactly the way Ms. Diaz does. No, I should phrase that more accurately:  they would like nothing more than to have 99% of the U.S. population go back to living and working again exactly the way Ms. Diaz does.

If nothing else, this story certainly puts the lie to the conservative article of faith that the “free market” is fair and just, and that those who work the hardest in such an economy are rewarded accordingly.  Does anyone seriously think Ms. Diaz or her co-workers would hesitate for one second to trade places with Jamie Dimon, even at their current pay?  (Come to think of it, she might do a better job of running JP Morgan Chase.)

Ms. Diaz has started a petition at change.org:

Walmart needs to meet with us immediately, and to show its suppliers that it won’t tolerate forced labor. We’re demanding that Walmart:

1. Cancel its contract with C.J.’s Seafood to show that it won’t profit from forced labor in Louisiana.

2. Sit down with us, the striking workers, immediately as a first step toward a real investigation — rather than a cover-up.

3. Sign the NGA’s Guestworker Dignity Standards to prevent forced labor and guarantee civil and labor rights for guestworkers across the Walmart supply chain.

Please sign and stand with us!

Please sign the petition if you are so inclined.  And just ponder life in the “free market” in light of what employers do whenever they can get away with it.  It’s tempting to think the bad old days are all in the past, but this is the present for Ms. Diaz.  And it’s looking more and more like the future for the rest of us.

May Day.

May Day is widely celebrated in many Western democracies, although not the U.S.  This is because May Day, also known as International Workers Day, is a celebration of labor, and right wingers HATE labor—i.e. parasites—and love to elect @$$holes who dismantle public unions and restrict workers rights, enact policies that encourage offshoring of U.S. jobs, and support other anti-worker policies that to the point that one in four U.S. jobs now pay poverty level wages.  The Occupy movement is attempting to change all of that, and today, these protests are global.

I was out of town today and unable to participate in the Union Square protest, but I have been monitoring updates here.  Currently thousands of protesters are trapped in the square behind police barricades, and NYPD is apparently only letting ten out at a time—the better to photograph them, perhaps.  This assembly and march from from Union Square to Wall Street has a permit from the City of New York, by the way.

I returned to the West Village about an hour ago, and the swarm of helicopters buzzing loudly overhead just to the East suggest that at least the protest is getting some attention from someone—even if it is only the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau.  You know, I think I might call those d00ds up and register an urgent noise complaint about all the fucking racket.  If they keep it up I won’t be able to hear our Nobel Peace Prize winning president addressing us on TV tonight from his super exciting surprise visit to Afghanistan!  What on Earth could possibly be more important and world changing than that?

Welcome to the War on Liberals.

It is truly astonishing.  I cannot for the life of me understand how — in the name of a ridiculous, counterproductive, never-ending “War on Terror” — citizens of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave meekly acquiesce to our government eviscerating the civil rights of their fellow U.S. citizens, and yet somehow never consider for one second that those powers will inevitably be turned on themselves, purely for political purposes.  It’s all good as long as those being denied their rights are Those Other People:  you know, black, brown and/or Muslim.  And I’d expect it from authoritarian followers of Bushco.  But for all that Democratic blather about “OMFG! Shredding the constitution!” under Bush/Cheney, the Democratic silence is eerie when Obama does exactly the same things (or worse).  The collective pants-wetting after 9/11 when the citizenry went scared, stupid and irrational made this story from the AP inevitable:

Documents show NYPD infiltrated liberal groups

NEW YORK (AP) – Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.

The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York’s 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.

Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department’s intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.

So what scary terrorists and threats to public order were being monitored after the convention?

In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People’s Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists – Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies – were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.

“One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City,” officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer. “Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine.

Oh no!  Not unions!  Immigrant rights!  Anti-racism!  All of that is dangerous and un-American enough.  But not towing the party line on Israel and the Palestinians?!  Well, we will need to make a note about that in your file.

The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, might indicate support for violent militias – an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.

What the fuck did people think would happen when we enabled and even cheered for a massive, unaccountable surveillance state — one with bipartisan blessing?  Seriously, no one ever heard of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI?

Flaherty said he recalls introducing a film about Palestinians but spoke only briefly and does not understand why that landed him a reference in police files.

Another activist quoted in the article nails it:

Eugene Puryear, 26, an activist who attended the New Orleans summit, said he was not surprised to learn that police were monitoring it. He said it was entirely peaceful, a way to connect community organizers around the issues of racism and the rights of the poor. But he described it as a challenge to corporate power and said the NYPD probably felt threatened by it.

From their perspective, they need to spy on peaceful groups so they’re not effective at putting out their peaceful message,” he said. “They are threatened by anything challenging the status quo.”

Yep.  And among other things, the status quo requires that all U.S. citizens pledge unconditional, patriotic support.  Not for the U.S., silly.  For Israel.

“The only threat was the threat of ideas,” [Flaherty] said. “I think this idea of secret police following you around is terrifying. It really has an effect of spreading fear and squashing dissent.”

Not at this blog, it doesn’t.  While it lasts, anyway.

Remember after Obama was elected president all the wingnuts’ fevered delusions about the Top Secret federal government plans to lock up Teabaggers and conservatives in FEMA camps?  It would behoove us to recognize that this particular fear was projection on their part:  it is precisely what they would do to liberals if they could.

And really, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Last week, two Democratic Senators wrote a letter to the attorney general complaining of the FISA court’s secret laws and interpretation of the surveillance powers vested in the government under the Patriot Act.

“When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act,” Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said, “they will be stunned and they will be angry.”

They will?  [Citation needed.]

Unions being stupid.

Some of the country’s most powerful labor unions have officially endorsed President Obama in the general election.  Some tool from the CWA union was on Democracy Now this morning defending the reasons for the early union endorsement of the President:  (1) that no matter who wins the Republican primary Obama is better on labor issues, and (2) to generate press and help keep Obama’s name in the media.  Yes, he actually said that.

Labor journalist Mike Elk was also on the show.  He likened the endorsements to Stockholm Syndrome, and pointed out that Obama was MIA in Wisconsin when unions, facing an existential threat under a radical Republican regime, camped out in the statehouse and initiated recalls of the governor and right-wing legislators.  Obama has never made a single major speech on workers rights.*  Adopting conservative talking points, Obama has conflated job growth with deficit reduction when job (and wage) growth would obviously reduce the deficit.  Elk pointed out that as a campaigner, Obama said he would join a picket line (although no one would expect him to do so literally, a photo-op or a statement of solidarity would certainly speak volumes).  And yet when Honeywell workers were on strike, Obama flew to India with the company president.  Most egregiously, under the FAA provisions that Obama signed into law, federal workers’ rights are now worse than they ever were under George W. Bush.  Elk also pointed out that it damages the credibility of labor leaders when they are scathingly critical (and justifiably so) of the President’s labor record in off election years, then turn around and endorse Obama so early in an election year.

Unions have been under relentless assault by the right wing in the U.S. for decades.  Union membership has fallen dramatically.  Real wages have remained stagnant.  These are just facts.  Each one compounds the effects the others, and taken together they are a powerful catalyst in the swirling middle class death spiral we see today.

Here is another fact:  Barack Obama is a corporatist, moderately conservative president.  But even if he were not, any politician who can take for granted the support of a particular constituency has no reason whatsoever to press for its agenda.  Is the object lesson of the Tea Party takeover of the Republicans lost on union leaders, of all people?  Apparently so.  Then let me spell it out:  the Tea Party withheld support from more moderate Republican candidates to the point that it was willing to lose elections, rather than let some party-endorsed candidate whose values they abhor win a congressional seat.  (See, e.g. Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Republican primary.)  And what happened then?  The Republican leadership saw a very real threat to its power, and thus the party moved even further right toward the positions of the Tea Party.

This story about Franklin Delano Roosevelt cannot be repeated often enough:

After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

If you support politicians and parties that trample on the interests and issues that are important to you, you are in an abusive relationship.  You are the enabler, and your abuser will never behave differently until that dynamic does.  The only power you have in such a relationship is a credible threat to leave, and early endorsements with promises of mobilization and financial support are the opposite of that.

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* Obama has never made a single speech on reproductive rights, either.  But that’s another post or thousand.