OUR Walmart, the group behind last year’s Black Friday activism, has promised even more actions this year with 1,500 protests scheduled at stores all across the country. Walmart is clearly nervous ahead of this year’s plans because the company has asked judges in Maryland and Florida to bar protesters from entering stores on Black Friday.
“This is yet another move from Walmart to try to bend the law to its liking. Walmart has made it a practice to pursue over-the-top legal maneuvers to try to avoid hearing the real concerns of workers and community members,” said Derrick Plummer, spokesman for the organizer, Making Change at Walmart, in a statement.
OUR Walmart announced that Black Friday protests are scheduled in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Miami, Chicago; Seattle, Washington (DC), Minneapolis and Sacramento, and the group calls it the “largest mobilization of working families in recent history.”
“Workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, and for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards, such as providing workers with more full time work and $25,000 a year. As the country’s largest retailer and employer, Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profits, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion—equal to that of 42% of Americans,” the group said in a statement.
Anthony Goytia, a part-time worker who stocks shelves during the overnight shift, says he isn’t protesting because he hates Walmart. Al Jazeera America:
“I actually do like my job. It’s fast-paced, and time goes by quick,” he said. “But last year I made $12,000. I’m a husband. I have four kids. It’s not enough. I’m living in poverty.”
Goytia is a member of Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), which is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He has taken part in several protests for better wages and working conditions at the store, including one in early November, when fifty-four people were arrested during protests at a new Walmart store in Los Angeles.
But worker actions against Walmart aren’t isolated to Black Friday. On Monday, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined Walmart workers in Minnesota who walked off the job, and in Los Angeles, workers went on a two-day strike that culminated in the largest-ever act of civil disobedience against Walmart. Last week, workers in Seattle, Chicago, Ohio and Dallas joined them in walking off their jobs.
Additionally, Walmart workers at three Washington, DC, area stores went on strike Tuesday, calling on the company to end its illegal retaliation against workers, and calling for better wages and full-time work.
“I’m speaking out today because Walmart can afford to do better by its workers,” said striking worker Tiffany Beroid. “We want to work full time, and earn above the poverty level. And we are taking action today because Walmart needs to publicly commit to ending illegal retaliation against workers and better wages.”
In fact, the resistance against Walmart’s low wages never really went away. Workers have continually organized, fought for higher wages, and engaged in creative civil disobedience. For example, these workers led a flashmob back in September at a Raleigh, North Carolina Walmart store:
Since June, Walmart has illegally disciplined more than eighty workers, including firing twenty worker-leaders, and more than 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the company. Recently, the NLRB regional office announced it found merit to OUR Walmart’s charge, and found Walmart committed eleven violations of national labor law.
At a time when workers are struggling to survive on low wages, activists expressed outrage at the retirement pension of Walmart CEO Mike Duke, which at $113 million, is more than 6,200 times greater than the average worker’s pay.
“Walmart should be ashamed of the vast labor mismanagement under CEO Mike Duke. From the low wages at Walmart stores to dangerous working conditions in warehouses and the inexcusable safety conditions in factories in Bangladesh and other countries, as the world’s largest employer, Walmart can and should do better to create good jobs and safe working conditions,” Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice, said in a statement.
Following the announcement that Doug McMillon will succeed Duke as CEO, Beroid said the change of leadership is “a testament to the pressure the company is feeling that they’re changing leadership at this moment.”
“We’re happy to see Mr. McMillon acknowledge the hard work of associates in his statement this morning, and we hope that this appreciation translates into improving jobs for Walmart workers. Americans nationwide are looking to Walmart to improve jobs and strengthen our economy, and Mr. McMillon has an opportunity to be a leader in moving Walmart in the right direction, not just in offering more empty promises. We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country’s calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees.”
I will be live-tweeting from Black Friday actions in New Jersey. Follow me on Twitter @allisonkilkenny.
Wages for Walmart workers are so low that one retail outlet in Ohio held a food drive for its own employees.
Today the Supreme Court announced it will hear two cases concerning the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies’ insurance plans cover birth control. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties claim the mandate violates their belief against certain kinds of contraception—pitting female employees’ right to a nondiscriminatory health plan against a company’s religious freedom. (I also fervently hope these companies are fighting as hard to ensure that their unmarried male employees don’t have access to sin-pills like Viagra.)
Most American women—99 percent—will use birth control at some point in their lives. Twenty-seven million women are being covered by this provision right now. So I have to wonder what companies that don’t want to cover birth control will tell their female employees should the contraception mandate be struck down. Abstinence? Aspirin between the knees, perhaps?
There’s also an incredibly slippery slope here—if employees’ health plans have to adhere to company owners’ religious beliefs, what happens if your boss doesn’t believe in vaccinations? Or as Guardian columnist Jill Filipovic tweeted, “What if your blood transfusions violate your employer’s religious beliefs? No surgery coverage?” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement, “Allowing this intrusion into personal decisions by their bosses opens a door that won’t easily be shut.”
Judy Waxman, vice president of health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center, says these scenarios are real possibilities. “What if an employer believes women should be subservient and doesn’t believe in providing the same wage and hours for them as male employees?” She relayed one case where a private school denied health insurance to married women, because school management believed husbands are the “head of the household” and should provide for their wives.
The truth is that this is not about religious freedom, it’s about sexism, and a fear of women’s sexuality. When Sandra Fluke testified in favor for birth control coverage, she wasn’t criticized for trying to curtail religious freedom—she was called a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’. When the FDA held up over-the-counter status of emergency contraception for years, it wasn’t because of the medication’s efficacy or potential health risks but because of a fear it would make girls promiscuous. The same thing happened when the HPV vaccine was being reviewed. Just this morning, I came across a conservative political cartoon that really says it all.
Reproductive health needs are just that—health needs. But because we live in a country that has a ridiculous hang-up over women and sex, we’re still debating the morality of birth control and calling women whores instead of giving them the care they need. We know why conservatives want to limit birth control access—they show their true colors every day. So let’s not pretend these cases are about religious freedom or employer’s rights. Call it what it is: misogyny.
Lee Fang shows how former Walmart execs are involved in Black Friday Sabotage.
Finally, this afternoon, CBS suspended Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan after the network’s internal probe found serious problems in their 60 Minutes Benghazi report.
The report hit Logan for not knowing, or knowing and not caring, about key source Dylan Davies telling a different story to his employer and FBI; for not really substantiating her claims that Al Qaeda led the assault; and for her now-famous October 2012 speech that suggested she was far from objective on this issue.
Her boss, Jeffrey Fager, now says he needs to “make adjustments” at the show. But he did not say how long the pair would be suspended.
This added injury to insult as Logan had just been disinvited to host the Committee to Protect Journalists dinner tonight.
Summary of the findings by CBS’s Al Ortiz, courtesy of The Huffington Post, does not add much that we don’t already know, but perhaps those details exist in the full report. And many questions remain. Ace blogger “Digby” hits the mere “slap on the wrist” and points to other examples of Logan’s reporting-with-an-agenda. UPDATE Wednesday: Nancy Youssef, the McClatchy reporter who probed the Benghazi segment two weeks ago and found several key factual issues, now IDs many shortcomings in new CBS review.
• From the start, Lara Logan and her producing team were looking for a different angle to the story of the Benghazi attack. They believed they found it in the story of Dylan Davies, written under the pseudonym, “Morgan Jones.” It purported to be the first western eyewitness account of the attack. But Logan’s report went to air without “60 Minutes” knowing what Davies had told the F.B.I. and the State Department about his own activities and location on the night of the attack.
• The fact that the F.B.I. and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to “60 Minutes” was knowable before the piece aired. But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside F.B.I. sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.
• Members of the “60 Minutes” reporting team conducted interviews with Davies and other individuals in his book, including the doctor who received and treated Ambassador Stevens at the Benghazi hospital. They went to Davies’ employer Blue Mountain, the State Department, the F.B.I. (which had interviewed Davies), and other government agencies to ask about their investigations into the attack. Logan and producer Max McClellan told me they found no reason to doubt Davies’ account and found no holes in his story. But the team did not sufficiently vet Davies’ account of his own actions and whereabouts that night
• Davies told “60 Minutes” that he had lied to his own employer that night about his location, telling Blue Mountain that he was staying at his villa, as his superior ordered him to do, but telling “60 Minutes” that he then defied that order and went to the compound. This crucial point—his admission that he had not told his employer the truth about his own actions—should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process.
• After the story aired, The Washington Post reported the existence of a so-called “incident report” that had been prepared by Davies for Blue Mountain in which he reportedly said he spent most of the night at his villa, and had not gone to the hospital or the mission compound. Reached by phone, Davies told the “60 Minutes” team that he had not written the incident report, disavowed any knowledge of it, and insisted that the account he gave “60 Minutes” was word for word what he had told the F.B.I. Based on that information and the strong conviction expressed by the team about their story, Jeff Fager defended the story and the reporting to the press.
• On November 7, The New York Times informed Fager that the F.B.I.’s version of Davies’ story differed from what he had told “60 Minutes.” Within hours, CBS News was able to confirm that in the F.B.I.’s account of their interview, Davies was not at the hospital or the mission compound the night of the attack. “60 Minutes” announced that a correction would be made, that the broadcast had been misled, and that it was a mistake to include Davies in the story. Later a State Department source also told CBS News that Davies had stayed at his villa that night and had not witnessed the attack.
• Questions have been raised about the recent pictures from the compound which were displayed at the end of the report, including a picture of Ambassador Stevens’s schedule for the day after the attack. Video taken by the producer-cameraman whom the “60 Minutes” team sent to the Benghazi compound last month clearly shows that the pictures of the Technical Operations Center were authentic, including the picture of the schedule in the debris.
• Questions have also been raised about the role of Al Qaeda in the attack since Logan declared in the report that Al Qaeda fighters had carried it out. Al Qaeda’s role is the subject of much disagreement and debate. While Logan had multiple sources and good reasons to have confidence in them, her assertions that Al Qaeda carried out the attack and controlled the hospital were not adequately attributed in her report.
• In October of 2012, one month before starting work on the Benghazi story, Logan made a speech in which she took a strong public position arguing that the US Government was misrepresenting the threat from Al Qaeda, and urging actions that the US should take in response to the Benghazi attack. From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story.
• The book, written by Davies and a co-author, was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation. “60 Minutes” erred in not disclosing that connection in the segment.
Greg Mitchell points to additional issues with the Benghazi report.
1) Hot Tuna Live X2
2) The Ramones Box Set
3) The Animals Box Set
4) Rock operas (sort of) by The Cowboy Junkies and a collaboration of Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T. Bone Burnett,
Hot Tuna came to town for their annual Thanksgiving concerts last weekend, this year with two new twists; they divided the shows into one acoustic and one electric, and, for the first time, they thew in some Jefferson Airplane songs. Both nights, morevoer, they were joined by musical ..great idea. In recent years, the extra guitarist has been G.E. Smith, and they had some incadescent moments. Campbell, however, plays more instruments and can sing a little bit and is married to someone who can really, really sing. The prettiness of her voice (face too, I might add) gave the band an entirely new dimension. I loved the version of “Sugaree” they did—something that would have been impossible, I think with just Jorma on vocals—and of course, “Somebody to Love” was a real treat—if over too soon. Jack and Jorma have not lost a step in the half-century or so of their fruitful association, but lately I’ve been concerned that nobody gives amazing versitile Barry Mitterhoff the props he deserves. Eric Diaz on drums deserves a mention too, but Mitterhoff is amazing and together with the Campbells, it’s an amazing ensemble. See them if you get the chance.
I’ve got two box sets I want to let you know about in times for Thanksgiving. The first is an appropriately minimalist Ramones six-cd box of their first six records, nothing more, nothing less. The last Ramones box set was just the opposite, with fancy packaging, a comic-book history and a ton of songs on each cd. I had it for years but I never listened to it. When I bought the Ramones first cd on my first day of work at “Record World” in August 1976, I thought it was a rip-off because it was only 28 minutes. Now I see that was part of their genius. This box is how they short be heard; in short, eplosive spurts—like an orgasm... or a punch in the face. It’s called Ramones: The Sire Years, and it’s got no extras and not even a booklet. Just six cds...
The Animals-The Mickie Most Years & More is a five CD set of the earliest years of the band during which time they charted eleven singles in this country in just two years, including "The House of the Rising Sun" "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," etc. Fifty years later, we’ve got their first four American albums—the first three produced by Mickie Most—The Animals, The Animals on Tour, Animal Tracks, and Animalization in their original mono versions, now newly remastered from the original tapes. And tons of bonus tracks, including their first release ever, the I Just Wanna Make Love to You EP that came out on the Graphic Sound label in 1963 (later reissued by Decca in 1965 as In the Beginning There Was Early Animals), four tracks previously unreleased in the U.S., three single versions (including "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and "It's My Life"), four alternate versions (three in stereo) of such tracks as "Talkin' 'Bout You" and "Don't Bring Me Down," and one U.K.-only track ("Roadrunner)." Packaging is okay. Today’s the release date. Be the first on your block. It ain’t cheap, though.
I also want to give a mention to a marvelously ambitous release by one of my favorite bands, The Cowboy Junkies. “The Kennedy Suite” is a rock opera, song cycle, post-modern musical that tells the story of the JFK assassination through the fragmented narratives of a series of characters, each of whom experiences the tragedy from their own intensely personal perspective. The recording is a collaboration that combines the original work of Toronto composer and lyricist Scott Garbe as arranged, recorded and produced by the Cowboys along with Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers. It could have been a catastrophe but it’s not at all. The music holds up too. Margo Timmins has one my favorite voice on earth and this rewards repeated listenings.
And while we’re on this topic, I don’t know if I ever recommended the wonderful collaboration between Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T. Bone Burnett, T Bone Burnett for the Southern gothic supernatural musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, featuring performances by Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Neko Case, Taj Mahal, Ryan Bingham, Will Dailey and Kris Kristofferson, along with actors Matthew McConaughey, Samantha Mathis and Meg Ryan. It’s also a digital book, which is, of course, best read with the music on. Read all about it here. It’s a wonderful meeting of many minds.
Fox News: Now the Anti-Obamacare Propaganda Channel
by Reed Richardson
The evolution hasn’t been overnight, but if you spend any time watching Fox News nowadays the endstate is unmistakable. When it comes to the network’s cable and online programming there are now but two overarching rules in place.
1) Take every opportunity to bash Obamacare.
2) When covering anything else, see Rule #1.
Anecdotal evidence of Fox News’s willingness to obsess over Obamacare to the detriment of other big news is aplenty, as I documented after sitting through six hours of Election Night coverage earlier this month. Ironically, the network’s fixation on the President’s healthcare reform law that night caused it to be late to the game in adopting the mainstream media’s McAulliffe-almost-lost-because-of-Obamacare meme. (Which was total bunk.)
But the most damning proof of this now singular devotion to all-Obamacare, all-the-time coverage comes in statistical form. A quick term search on FoxNews.com, for example, offers up a revealing pattern on the number of stories posted there for the past year/month/week/day:
Obamacare 1698 427 88 18
NSA 716 92 12 1
Benghazi 792 60 7 1
IRS 503 46 14 5
Budget deficit 467 18 2 0
As each of these much-touted-by-the-right-wing “scandals” have withered and died on the media vine without bearing fruit, the alleged horrors of Obamacare have been planted by Fox News to take their place. So much so that Fox’s Obamacare coverage now even eclipses cataclysmic worldwide tragedies like Typhoon Haiyan. Just how dramatically out of whack Fox’s news judgment is was quantified by Pew Research study last week. In tracking 20 hours of programming across five days in mid-November, Pew found Fox News devoted nearly eight hours—almost 40% of its entire newshole—to just one issue: Obamacare. As for covering the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in decades, Fox News devoted just six minutes of airtime—the equivalent of two commercial breaks. (Even opinion-heavy MSNBC spent 41 minutes covering Haiyan, and just over three hours on Obamacare.)
To be sure, Obamacare is a big story and some critical media coverage of the botched Healthcare.gov rollout is certainly warranted, as are questions about the president’s “If you like your plan, you can keep” broken promise. But fair-minded accountability journalism is not what Roger Ailes is trying to achieve with his network’s rabid focus on Obamacare. It’s not the quantity of Fox News’s coverage that’s problematic; it’s the quality. Or should I say lack thereof. When taken as whole, Fox’s news products have clearly metastasized into a toxic media mass of one-sided hyperbole, willful misinformation, and outright anti-Obamacare propaganda.
Consider these “fair and balanced” headlines—some “news,” some opinion— from just the past few days:
Or my personal nominee in the could-have-run-on-Free-Republic category:
But buried below the rampant bias evident in these headlines are even more misleading talking points. In the Medicaid story from above, for instance, the writer stokes fears of Obamacare by citing a flawed, oft-debunked study that suggests that Medicaid patients die twice as often as those with private insurance. (Here’s why that’s wrong.) And my favorite wingnut-special column from above throws everything but the socialized communal kitchen sink at the reader, whether it’s tired canards like “Chicago-style corruption” and “replac[ing] free markets” or actual falsehoods like Obamacare is ballooning healthcare costs (nope), and the law has ignited a wave of businesses hiring part-time workers (sorry).
In the past week, however, Fox News’s radically dishonest coverage has moved beyond to surreal to the absurd. Now so blinded by its outrage over the healthcare reform law, the network’s programming can no longer see anything else as but a reflection of Obamacare. Of course, the Iran nuclear deal was the big news over this past weekend, but even above and beyond the network’s standard bellicose blovation [a sample chyron: “Sucker’s Deal”], Fox News is there to remind viewers that it’s all just a transparent attempt at distraction.
There was half-term Gov. Sarah Palin on Fox News Sunday singing this same song to host Chris Wallace about Senator Harry Reid’s exercising of the “nuclear option.” But when, in the midst of his obsequiousness, Wallace actually pointed out to Palin that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says Obamacare will give healthcare to 30-million uninsured Americans while the latest GOP plan would only cover three million, Palin’s misdirection-as-response was the very definition of tinfoil-hat chutzpah. First, she dismissed the CBO’s numbers as unreliable and then had the temerity to call it a “sad state of affairs” that “a normal American” such as herself has to be so cynical about government. And, for that matter, why hasn’t Obama ever proved that his FEMA re-education camps don’t exist? Probably because if he did, it’d all be part of grand scheme to…you guessed it…distract from Obamacare’s failures.
Sure, Fox’s lukewarm embrace of Obama conspiracies is nothing new. But still, it’s a wake-up call to our discourse when former President Bush spokesperson and U.S. foreign policy history buff Dana Perino prefaces a question about the timing of the Iran deal to conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer with the always responsible phrase: “I’m not the biggest conspiracy theorist, but…”
As you’ll no doubt be shocked, shocked to learn, Krauthammer agreed with her implied suggestion that this whole diplomatic initiative with Iran was little more than a panicked put-on by the White House. And who could argue with his logic, particularly since he does such a fine job of it himself: “They clearly were in a hurry, though they probably would have gotten here with or without the collapse of Obamacare, but it sure gave them an extra incentive to get in a hurry because they need any distraction, any distraction possible for a government in collapse.” So, not even credit given for being an efficient appeaser? Tough room.
OK, so what? Fox News long ago—like since its first day on the air—cast aside any pretensions about objectivity to promote its owner's and president’s political preferences. And Obama’s presence in the White House has only turned that latent animosity up to 11. But when a network so fully walls itself off from impartiality and honesty, it really does matter, particularly when one political party is so in thrall to their propaganda that it bases its dogma on it.
Case in point, only minutes after the nuclear deal with Iran was reached on Friday night, Republican Senator John Cornyn was Tweeting this: “Amazing what [White House] will do to distract from [Obama]care.” And as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted, Republicans—just like before the 2012 election and during the government shutdown last month—are again cocooning themselves inside a parallel universe where the Obama-is-doomed storylines on Fox are pre-destined to occur and unprecedented obstruction of the government is a winning strategy. In the long run, they’ll be sorely disappointed once again, but thanks to Fox News, our nation will have to suffer through Republicans making the same momentous mistakes once more.
Contact me directly at reedfrichardson (at) gmail dot com.
I’m on Twitter here—(at)reedfrich.
Editor's note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.
As activists continue to organize demonstrations at McDonalds, Walmart and other low-wage firms, big protests are planned against retailers for mistreating their workers this Black Friday. In response, union-busting consultants are ramping up efforts to marginalize them.
Last night—Worker Center Watch, a new website dedicated to attacking labor-affiliated activist groups like OUR Walmart, Restaurant Opportunities Center, and Fast Food Forward—began sponsoring advertisements on Twitter to promote smears against the protests planned for Black Friday. In one video sponsored by the group, activists demanding a living wage and better working conditions for workers are portrayed as lazy “professional protesters” who “haven’t bothered to get jobs themselves.”
“This Black Friday, just buy your gifts, not their lies,” instructs the Worker Center Watch narrator. Watch it:
Worker Center Watch has no information its website about its sponsors. Yet the group attacks labor activists and community labor groups for lacking transparency. “Hiding behind these non-profits, unions mask their true motivations, circumvent operational requirements and skirt reporting and disclosure obligations,” says Worker Center Watch, referring to labor-supported worker centers like OUR Walmart.
TheNation.com has discovered that Worker Center Watch was registered by the former head lobbyist for Walmart. Parquet Public Affairs, a Florida-based government relations and crisis management firm for retailers and fast food companies, registered the Worker Center Watch website.
The firm is led by Joseph Kefauver, formerly the president of public affairs for Walmart and government relations director for Darden Restaurants. Throughout the year, Parquet executives have toured the country, giving lectures to business groups on how to combat the rise of what has been called “alt-labor.” At a presentation in October for the National Retail Federation, a trade group for companies like Nordstrom and Nike, Kefauver’s presentation listed protections against wage theft, a good minimum wage and mandated paid time off as the type of legislative demands influenced by the worker center protesters.
The presentation offered questions for the group, including: “How Aggressive Can We Be?” and “How do We Challenge the Social Justice Narrative?”
It seems retailers are now experimenting with how aggressive they can be. Today, Parquet’s Worker Center Watch posted a link to a Breitbart News story featuring a video allegedly obtained by someone who infiltrated an Occupy activist group planning to demonstrate against Walmart.
The alarm at how quickly the new organizing model has taken off has sparked anxiety among business executives. Littler Mendelson, a law firm that helps companies defeat labor unions, released a report outlining the challenge for corporate executives. The US Chamber of Commerce, a dark-money group that counts Walmart and McDonalds as members, produced a similar study last week.
Corporations fear that the new wave of activism could have a multiplier effect that goes way beyond better pay and benefits for their workers.
In a webinar hosted this month for business executives seeking a “union-free workplace,” Nancy Jowske explained that the alt-labor model could heavily influence millennials and their perceptions of labor unions. “One of the things to consider about what’s going there with SEIU’s Fight for 15 and all of this is the millennial generation,” said Jowske, a former SEIU organizer turned union-buster, “they are getting a steady diet of pro-union from every possible direction." She added, "this is also a generation that is very class-conscious” and explained that the current alt-labor protests could incite future organizing drives. Jowske also cited a recent In These Times piece to argue that worker centers can be portrayed as “union front groups,” and warned that the alt-labor organizing model could have a long-term impact. For instance, the organizing model appears to help unions and community groups forge close ties that could be later used to deploy activists for political campaigns, workplace NLRB elections and other left-wing causes.
Bryce Covert talks about how women’s eye for the long term makes them valuable workers.
For the first time in three decades, Iran and the United States appear to have established a meaningful diplomatic relationship that disrupts the cycle of escalation towards armed conflict. The interim agreement reached in Geneva on Saturday freezes much of Iran’s nuclear program and exposes the country to extensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency in exchange for modest relief from some economic sanctions. Ultimately, the deal opens the door for a long-term resolution to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
This may be the last, best shot for a diplomatic alternative to a nuclear Iran. Before the deal, Iran could have produced weapons-grade fuel in as little as a month. If Iran upholds its end of the bargain it will lose its stocks of uranium enriched above 5 percent, setting its capabilities back. The chance that Iran will renege on the agreement is real—but so is the risk that US lawmakers will undermine it by passing new sanctions.
On Monday, majority leader Harry Reid said the Senate would consider new economic penalties after the Thanksgiving recess. Leading the process will be Senator Tim Johnson, who chairs the Banking Committee with jurisdiction over sanctions, and Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. “They will study this, they will hold hearings if necessary, and if we need work on this, if we need stronger sanctions, I am sure we will do that,” Reid told NPR, adding that the agreement was an “important first step.” Johnson said his committee would hold off from writing new sanctions until after a briefing with Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials.
Likely, the sanctions the Senate will consider would go into effect only after the interim agreement expires, should the negotiating parties fail to reach a long-term resolution. “I expect that the forthcoming sanctions legislation to be considered by the Senate will provide for a six-month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran,” Menendez said in a statement. That seems consistent with what President Obama has said. “If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure,” he said Sunday.
Sanctions that allow time for diplomatic negotiations to play out are certainly preferable to the immediate punitive measures that lawmakers were calling for last week, and that hawks like Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Kevin McCarthy are still pushing. But that doesn’t mean they’re necessary, or that they won’t hamstring diplomatic negotiations.
First, is Congress’s appetite for a new round of economic punishment really in doubt? Even without new legislation Iranian leaders can easily suppose what Washington’s response will be if a final deal falls through. Meanwhile, most sanctions remain in place and continue to put crippling pressure not only on Iran’s political class but also on its citizens.
On the other hand, new sanctions could ruin the prospects of a long-term accord, even if their practical effects are delayed. There’s a risk that Congress will demand concessions in the short term beyond the scope of the interim agreement, or use new legislation to try to set the terms of a final deal, which could bind negotiators to unobtainable standards. Perceived as belligerence, and a signal that President Obama cannot obtain Congress’s support for dismantling the sanctions regime in a final deal, such moves will likely undermine Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s ability to sell a long-term agreement to Iran’s political elites.
Rather than doubting that new sanctions will follow a broken agreement, Iran’s leaders fear that the United States won’t allow meaningful economic relief even if Iran scales back its enrichment program. What Rouhani and other moderates need to secure domestic support is evidence that negotiating with the United States will deliver real benefits. Jamal Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council, said that new sanctions “will be seen as an indication that actually the US is going to back out of this or is going to attempt to take advantage of the offer of compromise.”
Abdi explained that the perception that the United States is committed to keeping Iran weak, if not to overthrowing the ayatollahs completely, has been the prevailing narrative among Iran’s political elite for decades. In selling a long-term halt to the nuclear program, Rouhani must prove the opposite: “That Iran can negotiate with the West on equitable terms, that compromise can beget reciprocal compromise and that Iran’s isolation is harmful,” said Abdi. Any new sanctions, on the other hand, would be easily “spun by hardliners eager to find ways to undercut this victory.”
Abdi believes new sanctions could not only derail negotiations with Iran but could cause the existing sanctions regime to collapse. The simple reason is that there’s little left to sanction. Tom Cotton, a Republican Representative from Arkansas, made that clear in May when he proposed going after the relatives of sanctions violators. Besides grandmothers and nephews, policymakers can only increase the pressure on other countries who do business with Iran, and it isn’t clear that they can do so without alienating the governments whose cooperation is needed to enforce punishments already in place. “If there’s a perception that it’s the US that is unwilling to negotiate and is committed to piling on sanctions endlessly, the main rationale for imposing sanctions is going to evaporate,” said Abdi.
Deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes summed all of these arguments up on Monday. “I have no doubt that Congress could pass these sanctions very quickly, so we don’t see the need to do it now during the length of this agreement, because, frankly, that could cause divisions within our P5+1 coalition,” Rhodes said, referring to the five countries on the UN Security Council, plus Germany, that signed onto the deal. “It could complicate this diplomacy.”
With little economic slack left to ratchet in on the Iranian regime, that leaves two options for rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, one being the resolution of current negotiations into a long-term deal. The other option is military action. As Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, told Ezra Klein yesterday, “If you don’t like negotiating with Iran, what you’re really saying is you want to go to war.”
How lawmakers proceed will be an interesting test of the American Isreali Public Affair Committee’s power, which appeared diminished when its aggressive lobbying failed to provoke military action in Syria, which the American public firmly opposed. Now 64 percent of Americans support softening sanctions in exchange for a restriction of Iran’s nuclear program, which the interim agreement achieves. For its part, AIPAC said there would be “no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts” to ram through additional sanctions. If Congress resists these calls, it could pave the way for a monumental shift in the relationship not only between Iran and the West but also between lawmakers and the Israel lobby.
Bob Dreyfuss has more on the nuclear deal with Iran.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
What are Republicans for? We know they are against healthcare reform. They voted en masse against it, shut down the government to stop it and have voted nearly fifty times to defund it. We know they are against government spending. They’ve voted for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s draconian budgets, which would slash spending so deeply that even some Republicans are in increasingly open revolt. But those budgets don’t go anywhere. So what do Republicans propose that actually addresses the challenges facing the nation or its people?
Republican leaders are clearly concerned that their policy house is largely vacant. In his dissection of the lost 2012 campaign, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus noted that Republicans suffer a “major deficiency”—the “perception that the GOP does not care about people.” He urged a renewed effort to become “the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder.”
All that advice was lost in the anti-Obama venom that unifies Republicans. But after the government shutdown sent Republican poll numbers plummeting to new depths, a new effort—or at least a new public relations push—has been launched. The early reports make the administration’s botched health-care takeoff look smooth by comparison.
Politico noted that Republicans trooping into House majority leader Eric Cantor’s office received a paper titled “Agenda 2014.” The paper was blank. As of now, Politico reported, details are scant, but Republicans seem to be focused more on identifying the problems than the solutions. “The beginning should always be what are the problems we’re trying to fix,” said Republican policy chair James Lankford (Okla.). Or as a GOP aide involved in the planning sessions was quoted: “Cantor wants to take us in a new direction, which is good. The problem is that we don’t know where we are headed, and we don’t know what we can sell to our members.”
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
President Obama yesterday rightly slammed opposition to the US-Iran deal that was reached over the weekend. The critics, unfortunately given far too much time by the media, are in a frenzy to stop the deal. They’re using extreme and overblown rhetoric and throwing everything that they can into the mix. It’s Munich! Iranian suitcase bombs will be blowing up in New York! We can’t negotiate with terrorists! What about human rights?! And so on.
But the accord is a done deal, and its effects are already being felt. The Iranian currency, the rial, is strengthening, and oil prices are falling. The Europeans are already talking about meeting in January to ease sanctions on Iran further. And for the rest of the world it’s sinking in: for the first time in thirty-four years, there’s a chance that the United States and Iran might do more than strike a limited deal to wind down Iran’s nuclear program. It’s possible that the two countries could reach a détente, and work together on problems from Syria and Afghanistan to terrorism, world energy problems, and—believe it not!—even Palestine.
Of course, it’s early—but there’s no going back now. The US-Iran accord has the potential to be a transformational event. Let’s count the ways.
First, it can vastly change the world oil market, and that’s a big part of the reason why Saudi Arabia is so worried. Iran’s oil output, at about 1 million barrels a day now, could almost instantly rise to 2.5 million b/d, and from there it could go up significantly, to as much as 4 million b/d or more. Already, world oil companies are quietly jockeying to take advantage of an opening in Iran, which needs hundreds of billions of dollars in investments to rebuild its production facilities, pipelines, export facilities and refineries. That’ll be good news for China, India, Japan and other consumers in East Asia, and along with rising output in recovering Iraq and Libya, it’ll add a lot to world production. Prices will fall, and among OPEC countries it’s Saudi Arabia that will have to absorb the shock. Saudi Arabia will be faced with the choice of getting far less for its exports, per barrel, or cutting back on its own production to keep prices stable. So, if you thought that Saudi opposition to the Iran deal was only about the Sunni-Shiite struggle for power in the Middle East, well, there’s more to it.
The accord is transformational in other ways, too. It changes the ground rules of the whole region. If Iran winds down its nuclear program, it will reap vast rewards in terms of expanded trade, investment and business with the rest of the world. That will help moderates in Iran—including the business class, led nominally by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the billionaire mullah and former president—to gain momentum over the remaining ideological radicals who seek confrontation and who are still animated by the extreme-Shiite ideology that was put forward by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Every dollar, mark and yen that flows into Iran will bolster Iranian moderation and help Iran back away from its less-than-reasoned confrontational stance. So in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere, where Iran has a role to play, Tehran could become a force for a peaceful, negotiated solution in partnership with the United States and the rest of the world. It’s already partially evident in Syria, where Iran could play an important role in the upcoming peace conference in January.
The elimination of Iran as a regional bogeyman could kick the props out from under the huge American military buildup in the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, the Indian Ocean and the eastern Mediterranean. Why ships tens of billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf kleptocrats and maintain bases in Bahrain, Qatar and elsewhere when there’s no regional military threat? It will be harder for the US military-industrial complex to justify those sales, and for the Pentagon to justify its bases, when Iran is a cooperating actor.
Despite the bluster in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nervous breakdown over the accord, eventually the normalization of Iran’s role in the region will make it a lot harder for future Israeli voters to justify their own armed-camp approach to the region. It will be much easier for Israel to think about a just settlement of the Palestinian issue if and when Iran is no longer a threat.
As for Russia, well, the US-Iran deal will be a concern, too. For decades, Moscow has taken advantage of the breakdown in US-Iran relations by building economic and military ties to Iran and using the churning regional crisis to its advantage. Now Russia will have to recalculate. And not just on political and military issues: if Iran re-enters the world community, it will compete with Russian gas sales worldwide, directly challenging Russia for the in the European and Asian gas markets. One way Russia can use the accord for its advantage, though, has already emerged: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that now that Iran won’t be a nuclear threat, the United States and NATO can forget about putting an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, since the last remaining, thin rationale for that was to deal with supposed missile threat from Iran.
This only begins to cover the possible transformation stemming from the accord. It has huge implications for domestic politics, too, since American neoconservatives have puffed up Iran into a global bogeyman to justify all sorts of shenanigans, and they are about to lose that “big time,” as Dick Cheney might say. Watch for neocons to make their own “pivot” to Asia, warning about the rise of China and the need for the United States to confront the Chinese worldwide.
Katrina vanden Heuvel says the Republicans are waging war on the poor.
There is an argument that a reason to oppose Native American mascots is not only because they are racist. It is not only because they are an act of minstrelsy opposed by Native American groups for decades. It is not only because they celebrate the savage, warlike nature of the Native American people, which for decades has been done—in books, theater, movies, and sports,— as a way to justify the bravery and necessity of European conquest. There’s an argument that it collectively just makes us all stupider.
This was on display last night when Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins and under fire for profiting off a dictionary-defined racist name, used the national television cameras of ESPN to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. These were Navajo soldiers during World War II who used their language to create coded messages to be used over radio that could not be cracked by the Axis Powers. Their presence last night allowed Mike Tirico to bring up the entire “name controversy” on a terrain that made Dan Snyder look like he was honoring their heritage. Tirico also said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had met with Native American leaders, which was not true. There was a meeting between the NFL and Native American leaders but Goodell did not show. Tirico also made no mention of Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo woman who is currently leading a legal trademark challenge to get the name changed. Tirico also made no mention of the fact that the original “code talkers” were the Choctaw Nation in World War I, which for a decade has had a formal position voted upon by the tribal council to get the name changed. Instead, we were treated to the spectacle, three days before Thanksgiving, of Dan Snyder saying to America, “some of my best friends are Navajo Code Talkers!”
Make no mistake about it: wrapping yourself in World War II veterans is the last refuge of scoundrels. Just as the Republican Party during the government shutdown chose to make the World War II Memorial the great symbol of Barack Obama’s lack of patriotism and the true horrors of the government shutdown (forget about those kids not getting the cancer treatments at NIH), Dan Snyder was rushing for cover behind “the greatest generation.”
This was Dan Snyder trolling and lifting a big middle finger to the Oneida Nation, the American Indian Movement, the Choctaw Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, USA Today’s Christine Brennan, The Washington Post’s Mike Wise, the Capital News Service located at the University of Maryland, his alma mater, Charles Krauthammer, Republican Congressman from Oklahoma Tom Cole (one of two Native Americans in Congress), the DC City Council, the thousand people who marched outside the Redskins last nationally televised game against Minnesota chanting “Little Red Sambo Has Got to Go” and everyone who is said the name is racist and belongs nowhere but the dust bin of history.
Don’t say that Dan Snyder reveres Native Americans and his honoring of the Navajo Code Talkers was a show of that respect. Seventy-eight percent of Washington football fans, according to a Survey USA poll, believe that Dan Snyder should actually sit down with the Oneida Nation and others who are protesting the name. He refuses to do so. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has asked him or someone from his organization to speak about the issue on numerous occasions. He refuses to return their calls. His unmistakable disrespect for Native Americans and their feelings about this issue emanate from his mouth every time he opens it.
Last night was Dan Snyder’s Thanksgiving gift to America. He told ESPN’s Adam Schefter before the game the name would never change and then hid behind World War II veterans, a profile in cowardice. It does not take a code talker to crack this particular code. Dan Snyder is on the wrong side of history, and his legacy will be more than just year after year of the lousy-to-mediocre football his stewardship has brought. His legacy will be to stand with George Preston Marshall, Tom Yawkey and Kenesaw Mountain Landis on the Mount Rushmore on sports leaders who looked at the idea of racial progress and just said no.
Dave Zirin looks at how San Jose State is resting on its laurels while racism stalks campus.
In a recent study, Freakonomics guest writers John List and Uri Gneezy set out to prove what they posit is a big reason women are still paid just seventy-seven cents, on average, for every dollar a man makes. “Personally,” they write, “we think that much of it boils down to this: men and women have different preferences for competitiveness, and at least part of the wage gaps we see are a result of men and women responding differently to incentives.” To demonstrate this, they posted ads for a job opening on Craigslist, and when people applied, they told half of them that the job would be paid a flat rate of $15 an hour but the other half that they would get $12 an hour and then have to compete with a coworker for a $6 per hour bonus. The authors write that “both ads would pay workers and average of $15 per hour,” neglecting to explain what would happen if a worker were to lose out to the other every time and miss that bonus.
The two report that women were 70 percent less likely to want the job with a “competitive pay scale”—and conclude that women just don’t have the same desire to chase reward. But what they would call “competitive” I would call risky: one job offered steady pay, while the other varied depending on a variety of factors. One of those factors may have been how the boss viewed female workers. Women have every reason to be averse to a situation that might pit them against a man, knowing that there is still lots of implicit bias against them. Employees would have been putting part of their paychecks at risk, and women—logically—declined to take that risk.
Setting aside the myriad other causes of the gender wage gap that List and Gneezy don’t address, it’s worth asking: Why don’t women take risks? One half of the answer is that they are socialized not to. It starts very early. Girls are rewarded with higher grades at school for their better ability to follow the rules and not act out. Other research has shown that girls learn to give up on a challenge that stumps them while boys are taught to redouble their efforts and keep trying. Boys, who have a more difficult time paying attention and sitting still, are told that they just need to put in more effort to get it right. Girls, who are better at following instructions, are told they are smart, good, clever—innate, unchangeable traits that don’t improve with trying harder. Girls are given less room to make mistakes.
Room to try things over and over, for forgiveness for behaving badly, has ripples throughout boys’ lives. A study of those who start their own high-risk, high-reward businesses found that they were more likely to engage in “aggressive, illicit, and risky activities” as young people than others. Entrepreneurs are twice as likely as salaried workers to say they took something by force when they were young and 44 percent more likely to have been stopped by the police. They also end up earning about 30 to 50 percent more than others.
Women, on the other hand, aren’t rewarded for being risk-takers in the workplace. The other half of the answer to the question of why women might not go in for risk is that they don’t see the same returns. A study by the research organization Catalyst found that female MBA graduates employed many of the aggressive and ambitious strategies to get ahead in their careers as men did, including asking for higher pay while getting hired and a higher position later, both risky demands. But they still didn’t reap the rewards. “[W]hen women used the same career advancement strategies as men, they advanced less,” it noted.
It seems men get paid more for taking bigger risks. But companies may want to rethink rewarding this behavior. Women’s ingrained nature to be risk-averse is proving to make them a boon for the bottom line.
A new study finds that the presence of women on corporate boards leads companies to pay less for buying other businesses and make fewer acquisitions overall, something that may create more value. Each woman added to a board reduces the final price for acquiring a company by 15.4 percent and lowers the chance that it will make a buy in the first place by 7.6 percent. The researchers posit that this shows that women have less appetite for risky deals and are focused instead on higher returns on investment. In another study that took place over seven years, female investors were found to outperform male ones thanks to the fact that they were more level-headed and avoided making a lot of trades, which lowers returns. They are also more loss-averse and let go of losing stocks more quickly. These line up with a host of other studies that show that having more women on corporate boards improves firm performance.
If women were rewarded for going off-script as children, it’s highly possible that they would have similar appetites for risk as men do. But they are discouraged from disobeying the rules and given less room to screw up than boys, and when they take risks later in life they don’t get the glory. Blaming the gender wage gap on this difference blames girls for the way society has shaped them.
But we also may not want to turn women into daredevils. Instead, we could reward an eye for the long term and a more even head the same way that we currently reward impulsive and risky behavior in men. Stealing as a teen may correlate well with starting a new business later in life, but playing it safe can get you a better return.