Hitting them where it hurts.

On Freethought Blogs’ Freethought Resistance page, I posted a new petition (via CREDO Action*) to Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen demanding he refuse to allocate campaign funds to any Democratic senator who votes or strikes a deal to advance the confirmation of right-wing extremist Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Directing your activism time, energy and resources toward Democrats, particularly with regard to primary campaigns, is vitally necessary. A primary challenger does not need to win in order to pressure the prevailing candidate to move left on issues that matter. There are far too many corporatist, corrupt conservatives in the party, particularly in leadership positions. If we want to put the pressure on where it counts, we need to take every opportunity to go after wayward conservative Democrats in every way possible. (Yeah I’m looking at you, Chuck Schumer.)

Read the background on the petition and then please sign if you are so inclined.

Because fuck these d00ds, that’s why.

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*CREDO is a lefty activist mobile company: every month it allocates a portion of its revenue to various activist non-profits, as voted and allocated by its customers. (CREDO is, for example, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor.) Consider switching to CREDO as your mobile carrier, and stop funding anti-democratic corporations that fund conservatives like AT&T. They offer pretty much all the same deals on phones, contract buyouts, incentives, fees, etc.

Not Afraid.

notafraidFor those inclined toward clicktivism, here is a petition (via Avaaz) you can e-sign that reads:

We stand united in support of the march for Fraternity, Equality and Liberty. We are not afraid, and we will not be divided.

As of this post there are 626,469 signers. They’re aiming for a million.

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.

Lazing around on the Internetz.

Via the awesome Abby Martin, we learn that as the pernicious CISPA bill stalls in Congress, it turns out that the Obama administration has already secretly authorized and put into effect the worst of the bill:

Well, knock me over with a feather. On the plus side: Abby Martin is a badass.

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Speaking of badasses, Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written one of the most succinct, well-expressed and devastating takedowns of the “principles” of economic conservatism I have seen anywhere. I was going to quote from it liberally (see what I did there?) but I will just urge you to go read it.

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If you are so inclined, please go sign this petition by navy Veteran and rape survivor Trina MacDonald,  urging Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice to move the prosecution of military sexual assault out of the chain of command.

According to estimates from the Department of Defense, 19,000 service men and women are sexually assaulted while serving in the United States military every year. But 86% of them never report their assault—too often because seeking justice threatens their safety, their job security, and their future.

One really shouldn’t have to report one’s rape to one’s rapist—or their enablers. Go do your good deed for the day and sign the petition.

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Without endorsing all of it, this is an excellent analysis of Why Things Happen that I mostly agree with. Short version: wars, lies and corruption are not the result of a “conspiracy” per se, at least not in the typical way we think of it. They are the inevitable emergent properties of a system: global capitalism.

Do powerful forces attempt to control events? Yes, they do. But these forces, in this day and age, are political representatives of a class—the capitalist-imperialist class. And they do not have total control.

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Irin Carmon has an interesting and provocative piece at Salon, in which she reflects on the intersection between toxic masculinity and terrorism in the case of the Boston bombings. Does it surprise anyone that friends of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife Katherine told NPR that he “flew into rages, calling her a slut and a prostitute and throwing things at her”? Or that he was arrested for domestic violence against another woman in 2009?

“Large public acts of terrorism are very public displays of masculinity, making a statement in the biggest way possible,” says Abby Ferber, a sociologist at the University of Colorado who has studied white supremacist groups and masculinity. In her work, she said, she often encountered a “vulnerability to their sense of masculinity whether it’s their relationship with their father, their culture. And there are a limited number of ways in the culture to show your masculinity.” In the absence of the traditional forms of masculinity — including financial or social power — “you’re more likely to see extreme means. They’re showing that they’re real men, man enough to do something like this.”

This is problem #423,752 with traditional cultures — i.e. conservative cultures: gender roles are distinct and narrowly limited. Where Real Men™ are defined by their status in a hierarchy and dominance over others, masculinity becomes synonymous with power and strength, and femininity with submission and weakness. This dynamic isn’t good for anyone in a healthy and diverse society. It’s a cultural meme that is self-perpetuating. It won’t die easily.

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Last but certainly not least, Glenn Greenwald has a revealing post about the San Francisco Gay Pride parade’s decision to ban any mention of Bradley Manning, while marching under the banner of some of the most corrupt corporations on the planet.

Yes, there will undoubtedly still be exotically-dressed drag queens, lesbian motorcycle clubs, and groups proudly defined by their unusual sexual proclivities participating in the parade, but they’ll be marching under a Bank of America banner and behind flag-waving fans of the National Security State, the US President, and the political party that dominates American politics and its political and military institutions. Yet another edgy, interesting, creative, independent event has been degraded and neutered into a meek and subservient ritual that must pay homage to the nation’s most powerful entities and at all costs avoid offending them in any way.

Budding fascists in the Democratic Party running the San Francisco pride parade: this is what authoritarianism looks like in the age of Obama.

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I think I’ll have a refreshing cocktail. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, you godless heathens.

Petitionpalooza.

We have signed not one, not two, but three Internet petitions today: one we signed because it has an excellent chance of accomplishing what it sets out to do, the second because it is so darkly amusing to contemplate, and the third because RAGE.

First up is CREDO Action’s petition to pressure the remaining few advertisers on the Rush Limbaugh show to drop him like a hot potato and to keep up the pressure on other advertisers who have only committed to “suspending” their ad campaigns on his show.  That massive whooshing you heard was the sound of dozens of advertisers fleeing as fast and as far away from Limbaugh as they could get, and there is no question that this was a direct result of consumer activism.  CREDO has 444,000 signatures, and would like to get that number up to a cool half million in order to turn up the heat on the stragglers.  Shockingly enough, it turns out that when an advertiser pays for radio spots, it is generally for the express purpose of generating business as opposed to driving it away.  This is a clear cut example of people power working for good:

Over 140 companies1 have pulled their advertising dollars from the Rush Limbaugh show. In fact the national advertising exodus has been so devastating, that Rush Limbaugh has had to resort to filling his advertising slots with free public service announcements and even minutes of dead air at some points.

And just yesterday, Premiere Networks, the subsidiary of Clear Channel that distributes the show, told local affiliates it was pausing national ads for two weeks, though they were free to air ads from two companies remaining loyal to Rush Limbaugh: Lifelock and Lear Financial.

Rush Limbaugh is clearly feeling the pressure of our activism, and the emails we have received from major companies like Geico and Netflix after receiving petitions with your signature show that your activism truly does work. Both companies have instructed their advertising companies to ensure that their ads do not air on the Rush Limbaugh Show in the future.

Don’t feel too sorry for Rush, though — he’s worth a mint.  And we are so looking forward to his forthcoming book detailing his Christ-like suffering and innocent victimhood at the hands of the fearsome feminazis.  Do feel free to pile on if you are so inclined.

The second is a petition for a Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to be submitted to potential supporters Senators Patty Murray, Al Franken, and Kristen Gillibrand to ask them to introduce it to Congress.  No, it’s not like those “personhood amendments” declaring any fertilized egg to be deemed a U.S. citizen with a concealed handgun carry permit or whatever the fuck those dumbasses are up to in the state legislatures.  This Personhood Amendment is directed at — get this! — the rights of “a person identifying as a woman and/or having a uterus,” and therefore it has virtually no chance of ever passing.  But it is nevertheless wildly entertaining to imagine the spectacle of Congress openly debating whether women are, in fact, people.  Is it not?  Here’s the proposed Amendment:

“A person identifying as a woman and/or having a uterus shall retain all of the full, basic, and fundamental rights of a US citizen as promised by the Declaration of Independence—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Congress and the States shall make no law that infringes upon a person’s life, including but not limited to access to life-saving or life-improving healthcare, and/or medicines and procedures deemed necessary or beneficial by a medical professional and/or by the person having the uterus, procurement of which shall not be denied in and of itself by the presence of a uterus. Congress and the States shall make no law that infringes upon a person’s liberty, including but not limited to autonomy over hir own body and the ability to make decisions regarding hir own healthcare. Congress and the States shall make no law that interferes with a person’s pursuit of happiness, including but not limited to access to a full spectrum of reproductive options, freedom from forcible reproduction, and the ability to make decisions regarding family planning and family resources.”

Sign on if, like me, you would absolutely love to watch Theatre of the Absurd on C-SPAN as lawmakers fiercely debate who owns my uterus!

Finally, via a missive from change.org we have a tale from Florida that makes me ashamed to be a human being:

Dear Iris,

Heartbreaking tragedy: 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was visiting a relative’s house in a Florida gated community when he walked to the store to get Skittles and iced tea for his little brother. He never made it home. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a self-styled neighborhood watch leader, who told police he thought Trayvon was “suspicious” in the mostly-white community.

Unbelievable twist: A man named George Zimmerman allegedly admitted to police that he shot Trayvon Martin in the chest. Zimmerman claims he acted in self defense, even though police allegedly told him not to do anything until they arrived — and despite the fact that Trayvon was unarmed, carrying only a bag of Skittles when he died. In the two weeks since Zimmerman allegedly killed Trayvon, police have refused to arrest the confessed killer.

Hope for justice: Sybrina Fulton is Trayvon’s mother, and she’s leading a campaign on Change.org to get justice for her son. Tracy knows that if enough people raise an outcry, Sanford, Florida authorities will be forced to investigate Zimmerman the same way they would investigate any confessed killer.

Sign Sybrina’s petition calling on the authorities in Florida to charge George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin and try him before a jury of his peers.

From Sybrina Fulton’s letter we also learn:

When Zimmerman reported Trayvon to the police, they told him not to confront him. But he did anyway. All I know about what happened next is that my 17 year-old son, who was completely unarmed, was shot and killed.

I don’t know if my family will ever receive justice for this terrible tragedy. It’s been nearly two weeks and the Sanford Police have refused to arrest George Zimmerman. In their public statements, they even go so far as to stand up for the killer – saying he’s “a college grad” who took a class in criminal justice.

Please join me in calling on the the Sanford Police Department and Florida State’s Attorney Norman Wolfinger to investigate my son’s death and prosecute George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.

Please sign the petition if you are so inclined.  There is no telling whether it will lead to the criminal prosecution of a murderer, but it certainly cannot hurt.  At a minimum, doing so will let a grieving mother know there are citizens who care deeply about her unfathomable loss and are outraged by the inaction of the Sanford Police.