We are going to take a little detour in our weekly lighthearted football trash talk here at the Emptywheel Blog. I will return to the actual games at the end of this post, but for now I want to discuss a hideous and, hopefully, transformative moment in football – the abusive workplace environment to which the Miami Dolphins subjected Jonathan Martin.
As you may know by now, Jonathan Martin is the second year Miami Dolphins offensive tackle who has left the team because of harassment, primarily by fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito, but apparently by other teammates as well.
The official statement by Martin’s lawyer, David Cornwell (a fantastic attorney by the way), gives a pretty fine synopsis of the situation:
Jonathan Martin’s toughness is not at issue. Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012. At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh’s “smash mouth” brand of football and he protected Andrew Luck’s blind side.
The issue is Jonathan’s treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. Beyond the well-publicized voice mail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate, and daily vulgar comments such as the quote at the bottom. These facts are not in dispute.
Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice. Despite his love for football, Jonathan left the Dolphins. Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation.
Quote from teammate: “We are going to run train on your sister. . . . She loves me. I am going to f–k her without a condom and c– in her c—.”
That was on top of the fact direct racial animus evidencing epithets from Incognito to Martin were already known to be in play.
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth. [I’m going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I’m going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”
This is beyond ugly conduct, and, frankly, beyond simple “harassment”. Worse, it appears that it was a pattern of conduct not only encouraged, but requested by Dolphins’ management. They ordered a code red on Jonathan Martin.
Jason Whitlock had a very provocative take on the effect of incarceration and thug culture in general at play, a take that rings all too, uncomfortably, true. Dave Zirin at The Nation has a fine take on what the “Bully Solidarity” of the Dolphins organization in the Martin matter means.
So, this hideous and intolerable conduct is legally actionable against Incognito (and the Dolphins via vicarious liability) by Jonathan Martin, right? Sure, anybody can sue anybody else, and Martin can certainly bring a civil complaint here. But the chances of success are far more tenuous than you likely think Continue reading
Unless there’s some breaking news (like this AT&T story, which I’ll get to tomorrow), I’m going to take a break from surveillance and Syria war posts today. The day is supposed to pay tribute to the great contribution organized labor has made to this country.
But I couldn’t help but think that, while many Americans have a day off thanks to fights waged in the past (fights those Americans often forget), some of today’s most important labor heroes will be at work today.
Just about the bravest, most exciting labor fight being waged today is the slowly growing series of protests by fast food workers — with strikes in 60 cities last week — who are demanding the right to organize and calling for a $15 hour wage. The fight is more than just a battle for wages, it’s a battle for the principle that a job should provide a livable wage, and a battle for the principle that even laborers spread out across the country, potentially at franchises owned by small businessmen, should have some representation.
But today, many of these poorly paid workers will be at work, providing Americans a quick bite to eat as they head off to have their fun.
As you’re enjoying your day, take note of all the fast food restaurants that are open today and remember how many don’t even benefit from the battles won in the past.
Update: Fixed my spelling error, thanks to RTL.
One of my friends, who works in a strategic role at American Federation of Teachers, is Iranian-American. I asked him a few weeks ago whom he called in Iran; if I remember correctly (I’ve been asking a lot of Iranian-Americans whom they call in Iran) he said it was mostly his grandmother, who’s not a member of the Republican Guard or even close. Still, according to the statement that Dianne Feinstein had confirmed by NSA Director Keith Alexander, calls “related to Iran” are fair game for queries of the dragnet database of all Americans’ phone metadata.
Chances are slim that my friend’s calls to his grandmother are among the 300 identifiers the NSA queried last year, unless (as is possible) they monitored all calls to Iran. But nothing in the program seems to prohibit it, particularly given the government’s absurdly broad definitions of “related to” for issues of surveillance and its bizarre adoption of a terrorist program to surveil another nation-state. And if someone chose to query on my friend’s calls to his grandmother, using the two-degrees-of-separation query they have used in the past would give the government — not always the best friend of teachers unions — a pretty interesting picture of whom the AFT was partnering with and what it had planned.
In other words, nothing in the law or the known minimization rules of the Business Records provision would seem to protect some of the AFT’s organizational secrets just because they happen to employ someone whose grandmother is in Iran. That’s not the only obvious way labor discussions might come under scrutiny; Colombian human rights organizers with tangential ties to FARC is just one other one.
When I read labor organizer Louis Nayman’s “defense of PRISM,” it became clear he’s not aware of many details of the programs he defended. Just as an example, Nayman misstated this claim:
According to NSA officials, the surveillance in question has prevented at least 50 planned terror attacks against Americans, including bombings of the New York City subway system and the New York Stock Exchange. While such assertions from government officials are difficult to verify independently, the lack of attacks during the long stretch between 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings speaks for itself.
Keith Alexander didn’t say NSA’s use of Section 702 and Section 215 have thwarted 50 planned attacks against Americans; those 50 were in the US and overseas. He said only around 10 of those plots were in the United States. That works out to be less than 20% of the attacks thwarted in the US just between January 2009 and October 2012 (though these programs have existed for a much longer period of time, so the percentage must be even lower). And there are problems with three of the four cases publicly claimed by the government — from false positives and more important tips in the Najibullah Zazi case, missing details of the belated arrest of David Headley, to bogus claims that Khalid Ouazzan ever planned to attack NYSE. The sole story that has stood up to scrutiny is some guys who tried to send less than $10,000 to al-Shabaab.
While that doesn’t mean the NSA surveillance programs played no role, it does mean that the government’s assertions of efficacy (at least as it pertains to terrorism) have proven to be overblown.
Yet from that, Nayman concludes these programs have “been effective in keeping us safe” (given Nayman’s conflation of US and overseas, I wonder how families of the 166 Indians Headley had a hand in killing feel about that) and defends giving the government legal access (whether they’ve used it or not) to — among other things — metadata identifying the strategic partners of labor unions with little question.
And details about the success of the program are not the only statements made by top National Security officials that have proven inaccurate or overblown. That’s why Nayman would be far better off relying on Mark Udall and Ron Wyden as sources for whether or not the government can read US person emails without probable cause than misstating what HBO Director David Simon has said (Simon said that entirely domestic communications require probable cause, which is generally but not always true). And not just because the Senators are actually read into these programs. After the Senators noted that Keith Alexander had “portray[ed] protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are” — specifically as it relates to what the government can do with US person communications collected “incidentally” to a target — Alexander withdrew his claims.
Nayman says, “As people who believe in government, we cannot simply assume that officials are abusing their lawfully granted responsibility and authority to defend our people from violence and harm.” I would respond that neither should we simply assume they’re not abusing their authority, particularly given evidence those officials have repeatedly misled us in the past.
Nayman then admits, “We should do all we can to assure proper oversight any time a surveillance program of any size and scope is launched.” But a big part of the problem with these programs is that the government has either not implemented or refused such oversight. Some holes in the oversight of the program are:
In tandem with the release of his book, Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier’s interview with Salon generated a lot of hand-wringing across social media. It seems Lanier, one of our so-called intellectual visionaries, believes that the collapse of Kodak and its 140,000 jobs, and the rise of Instagram and its 13 jobs, exemplifies the killing field of the internet. Lanier theorizes good paying jobs that once supported a thriving middle class have disappeared as internet-enabled firms replaced them. As these jobs vaporized, so did necessary benefits. Here’s a key excerpt from the interview:
“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”
What a crock of decade-late shit.
Where the hell was Lanier in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the U.S. manufacturing sector nose-dived due to government policies created by corporate-acquired elected officials and appointees?
It wasn’t the internet that killed the middle class. The apathy of intellectuals and the technology elite did; too few bothered to point out the potential repercussions of NAFTA and other domestic job-depleting policies. In the absence of thought leaders, corporatists sold the public and their electeds on job creation anticipated from globalizing policies; they just didn’t tell us the jobs created wouldn’t be ours.
It wasn’t the rise of digitization that killed the middle class. It was the insufficiency of protests among U.S. brain power, including publicly-funded academics, failing to advocate for labor and home-grown innovation; their ignorance about the nature of blue collar jobs and the creative output they help realize compounded the problem.
Manufacturing has increasingly reduced man hours in tandem with productivity-increasing technological improvements. It wasn’t the internet that killed these jobs, though technology reduced some of them. The inability to plan for the necessary shift of jobs to other fields revealed the lack of comprehensive, forward-thinking manufacturing and labor policies.
It all smells of Not-My-Problem, i.e., “I’m educated, technology-enabled, white collar; those stupid low-tech blue collar folks’ jobs aren’t my problem.”
Until suddenly it is. Continue reading
In a tale of unimaginable sorrow that is made all the worse by the unconscionable greed that brought it about, at least 194 are now known to be dead in the collapse of a building in Bangladesh. But this was not just any building that collapsed, it was a building that housed multiple garment manufacturers. And in a pattern that has been repeated many times before, we see death brought about by the craven actions of the managers of the production companies while US retailers profess grief and claim no direct connection to the particular factories affected. Over time, once attention dies down a bit, those connections will become clear due to what appears to be a system designed to distance the retailers from the sweat shops via multiple subcontracting arrangements.
From today’s New York Times:
Search crews on Thursday clawed through the wreckage of a collapsed building that housed several factories making clothing for European and American consumers, with the death toll rising to at least 194 with many others still unaccounted for.
The Bangladeshi news media reported that inspection teams had discovered cracks in the structure of Rana Plaza on Tuesday. Shops and a bank branch on the lower floors immediately closed. But the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors ordered employees to work on Wednesday, despite the safety risks.
Labor activists combed the wreckage on Wednesday afternoon and discovered labels and production records suggesting that the factories were producing garments for major European and American brands. Labels were discovered for the Spanish brand Mango, and for the low-cost British chain Primark.
Activists said the factories also had produced clothing for Walmart, the Dutch retailer C & A, Benetton and Cato Fashions, according to customs records, factory Web sites and documents discovered in the collapsed building.
The drive to save pennies on garments is directly behind this and similar tragedies:
“The front-line responsibility is the government’s, but the real power lies with Western brands and retailers, beginning with the biggest players: Walmart, H & M, Inditex, Gap and others,” said Scott Nova, executive director of Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights organization. “The price pressure these buyers put on factories undermines any prospect that factories will undertake the costly repairs and renovations that are necessary to make these buildings safe.”
These sorts of tragedies happen with alarming regularity. Last September, at least 258 people died in a fire in a Karachi garment factory that had escaped safety inspections.
And note that although governments are cited in these tragedies for failing to provide adequate regulation and inspections, it is the tremendous pressure applied by US retailers to reduce production costs that drives many of the decisions that put workers at risk of death.
But these retailers are chasing very tiny cost reductions in the overall retail prices of garments. The graphic above is taken from a Tumblr post by retailer Everlane (they are touting their own business model of removing wholesalers, so they do have a particular point of view in promulgating the numbers). Continue reading
Who needs pesky safety regulations or zoning laws when there is money to made running a fertilizer plant? Sadly, the small Texas town of West, which is just north of Waco, is suffering the consequences of unregulated free enterprise today, as a massive explosion at West Fertilizer has leveled much of the town. Perhaps the only remotely fortunate aspect of this tragedy is that it occurred at 8 pm local time and so West Middle School, which burned after the explosion, was not full of children.
A look at the satellite image above shows the folly of putting “free enterprise” ahead of sensible zoning laws. At almost 20 miles north of Waco, Texas, one thing that is in abundance in the region is open space (I’ve driven past this spot several times in the last two or three years–it’s desolate), and yet this fertilizer plant is immediately adjacent to a large apartment building (see the photo at the top of this article for how that building fared in the explosion) and very close to a middle school. There is no reason at all for any other building to be within two or three miles of a facility that produces material that is so explosive.
The Texas tradition of low taxes is also having an impact on this tragedy. Note this passage in the New York Times account of the disaster:
It began with a smaller fire at the plant, West Fertilizer, just off Interstate 35, about 20 miles north of Waco that was attended by local volunteer firefighters, said United States Representative Bill Flores. “The fire spread and hit some of these tanks that contain chemicals to treat the fertilizer,” Mr. Flores said, “and there was an explosion which caused wide damage.”
That’s right. This fertilizer plant and other businesses in West apparently don’t pay enough in local taxes to support a municipal fire department, and so the first responders to a fire at a fertilizer plant were volunteer firefighters. Sadly, several of these volunteers are now missing:
The town’s volunteer firefighters responded to a call at the plant about 6 p.m., said Waco police Sgt. William Patrick Swanton. Muska was among them, and he and his colleagues were working to evacuate the area around the plant when the blast followed about 50 minutes later. Muska said it knocked off his fire helmet and blew out the doors and windows of his nearby home.
Five or six volunteer firefighters were at the plant fire when the explosion happened, Muska said, and not all have been accounted for.
Ammonium nitrate, one of the most commonly used fertilizers is also highly explosive. It was the primary component of Timothy McVeigh’s bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. Texas, especially, should know of the dangers inherent in fertilizer plants, as this disaster occurs very near the anniversary of the Texas City disaster: Continue reading
Public Policy Polling decided to see what Michiganders thought of the radical measures the ALEC Ducks passed last week.
They’re none too happy with it.
In addition to supporting unions 52-33 and opposing the so-called Right to Work law passed last week 41-51, Michiganders’ view of Rick Snyder has soured considerably.
ust last month when we took a first look at the 2014 landscape we talked about how much Rick Snyder had improved his popularity during his second year in office and how he led a generic Democrat for reelection by 6 points, even as Barack Obama won the state comfortably.
Last week he threw all that out the window.
We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38% of voters approve of him to 56% who disapprove. There are only 2 other sitting Governors we’ve polled on who have a worse net approval rating than Snyder’s -18. He’s dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a +10 spread (47/37).
Snyder trails every Democrat we tested against him in a hypothetical match up. He’s down 49/38 to 2010 opponent Virg Bernero, 47/39 to Congressman Gary Peters, 46/38 to State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, and 44/39 to former Congressman Mark Schauer. The Bernero numbers are what’s most striking there. Snyder defeated Bernero by 18 points in 2010, so Bernero’s 11 point advantage represents a 29 point reversal. The Democrats all lead Snyder despite having very little name recognition- only 44% of voters are familiar with Bernero, 36% with Peters, 28% with Schauer, and 27% with Whitmer.
And the Republican crazies in the legislature are even more unpopular.
The Republicans in the legislature are even more unpopular than Snyder after their spate of last minute legislation.
Only 31% of voters have a favorable opinion of them to 58% with an unfavorable one. Democrats lead the generic legislative ballot in the state by an amazing 56/32 margin, one of the most lopsided generic ballots we’ve ever seen in any state.
Which makes now the time to turn this radical agenda to an anvil on this party, even as they try to consolidate their power.
Unfortunately, PPP polled neither voters’ understanding about this legislation, measuring whether it has been influenced by Dick DeVos’ campaign to brand low wages as “freedom,” nor the gun bill, from which Snyder is (thankfully) backing away from.
So we don’t yet have a complete picture of how to best pile on this unpopular group of radicals.
But pile on we must.
Update: A number of hours after PPP released this poll, Snyder vetoed the guns-in-schools bill, citing concerns that schools could not opt out. While I’m sure that’s partly because of Newtown, I suspect he also noted his tumbling approval ratings.
The Michigan State Police are confused. They have issued a statement deeming the protests in Lansing Tuesday reasonably peaceful for an event of that size. But when WaPo asked about Steven Crowder’s claims to have been assaulted, they say they don’t understand why he hasn’t submitted a police report.
But what about the Steven Crowder thing? “We were aware of some reports of minor altercations,” Banner said. “Considering [the] number of people and the intensity of the emotions, I think all things considered, this was a very peaceful event.”
Says Michigan State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk: “No one has filed a complaint on that assault.” A spokesman for the Lansing Police Department says that they’ve gotten no complaint in connection with the event and would have routed the matter to the state police in any case.
Why no charges? “If somebody assaulted you, you’d file a complaint right away,” says Adamczyk of the state police. “Something doesn’t make sense here. If there is a complaint, we haven’t heard about it.” [my emphasis]
To TPM, Adamczyk noted that they can’t investigate this alleged assault unless Crowder files a complaint.
“You can’t leverage the law for personal gain,” he said. “Either you’re the victim, or you’re not. So if he’s the victim of an assault, and he wants to file a complaint, we will definitely investigate it.”
“If somebody broke into your house, wouldn’t you immediately report it to the police? If someone assaulted you or your family member wouldn’t you report it immediately to the police?” Adamczyk said. “Well, why wouldn’t you, unless there’s a personal agenda there.” [my emphasis]
As I have noted, I share the MSP’s confusion.
That said, something has stuck with me through all this. Crowder, who called himself a provocateur while on Hannity, responded to an accusation that he worked for Dick DeVos the other day by joking about selling soap.
According to Spitzley, Crowder had an exchange with two pro-union men wearing blue jeans, hard hats and Carhartt clothing. One of the men accused Crowder of working for Amway, the family company of Michigan businessman Dick DeVos. Crowder joked that he sells soap.
“He said, ‘I sell soap. I should sell you some,'” Spitzley said, quoting Crowder.
Crowder said he never suggested the men needed soap or could use a bath. “That wasn’t my intent,” he said.
It was a joke, surely, and Crowder wasn’t the one who brought up Amway, the union guys were.
I’m rather interested in the formulation here. They’re issuing a cash reward to any information leading to “the arrest and conviction of those responsible for throwing punches at local residents and journalists or for the disgusting, racist assault against Clint Tarver.”
The formulation is rather curious, given that they’re rewarding people for information on alleged assaults on “local residents and journalists.” Putting aside that Crowder didn’t present himself as a journalist and has called himself a provocateur, I’m not sure he’d qualify in any case. Do they mean they’ll award information only for local journalists? Crowder was precisely what the right wing projected the unions were: an outside agitator brought in for the event.
The local rag posted an editorial “reflect[ing] the views of The Grand Rapids Press editorial board,” blaming almost everyone involved in the so-called “right to work” fight for the ugly way things went down Tuesday.
Right-to-work laws may or may not end up helping Michigan, but no one should be pleased with what happened in Lansing this week.
The whole process that led to the bills prohibiting workers from having to pay dues or fees to unions as a condition of employment has a patina of ick that unnecessarily divides and casts the state and its lawmakers in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
We’re disappointed in the whole lot.
The issue deserved the sunlight of the traditional legislative process, not moved through a lame duck session at breakneck speed amid threats and raucous protests, all played out in the national spotlight.
That’s not the Pure Michigan image we’re hoping to project as we rebuild the state’s economy and attract new businesses.
We all deserved better.
It blames Rick Snyder for betraying his “relentlessly positive” promises and flipflopping on an issue he had said wasn’t on his agenda.
It blames union leaders for all the violent images (some–perhaps most–not the unions’ fault), including the disputed tent collapse, the riot gear clad cops, and Jimmy Hoffa’s promise of a “civil war.”
It blames legislative leaders, calling out Doug Geiss and Dave Agema for their violent language and Lisa Posthumus Lyon for her hypocritical attempt to exempt her husband’s profession from the law.
Yet oddly (or maybe not so oddly), the Grand Rapids Press placed no blame on the man who, perhaps more than anyone else, bears responsibility both that this went down, and for the nasty way it was jammed through.
As (the umbrella that owns the Press) MLive’s own senior political columnist Tim Skubick explained, this went down in the way it did in significant part because of Grand Rapids’ most prominent citizen, Dick DeVos.
Surely you remember the GOP candidate for governor and former CEO of Amway. Well he’s back on the political field and he worked tirelessly behind Gov. Rick Snyder’s back to push Right to Work.
Having performed the 180, Mr. DeVos ramped it up. He told senators that if they don’t vote for this thing, he would launch a petition drive to place this before the voters.
Recall that Mr. DeVos spent $35 million of his own money to beat Gov. Jennifer Granholm, (money wasted). Legislators on the other end of his phone calls knew he has the deep pockets to not only gather the required signatures, but also to find a way to sell it to the voters.
Other press outlets (and presumably Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville) were less polite, calling what DeVos and his anti-labor friends did “threats” and “arm-twisting.”
Precisely the kind of implicit violence the Press found so distasteful when union leaders or legislators did it.
It’s all very nice for the Press to blame people on the other side of the state for the ugliness in Lansing on Tuesday. But they’re utterly irresponsible if they don’t also blame the ugliness here at home.
They’re right: We all deserved better. And the place to start demanding better is from Dick DeVos.
I apparently wasn’t clear enough about the alleged assault on Steven Crowder on Tuesday to be understood by the people sent over by the right wing noise machine. So let me try to say it very simply.
If Crowder was assaulted, by all means let’s prosecute the assailant.
My post was intended as a warning that naive local journalists should not rely exclusively on videos from people who have a history of creating firestorms around heavily edited videos launched through Drudge to Fox. There is a long history of James O’Keefe associates just doing that. If the right wants to report events with any credibility, they’d be well served to avoid that route.
A number of people–including the NYT–have exposed why Crowder’s original video was problematic.
Unfortunately for Mr. Crowder, a look at the video broadcast on the Sean Hannity show appears to show quite clearly that he left out an important section of the footage when he put together his edit. A section of the Fox News broadcast preserved by the Web site Mediaite shows that Mr. Hannity’s producers at Fox News started the clip five seconds earlier than Mr. Crowder did. What the extra footage reveals is the man who punched Mr. Crowder being knocked to the ground seconds before and then getting up and taking a swing at the comedian.
But aside from the obvious editing in the Crowder video–possibly hiding that the punch was not the first event in the altercation–I pointed out that Crowder didn’t report the event to any of the 350 cops who were brought in to make sure something like this didn’t happen.
Unlike most of the people engaging in this, I’m a MI taxpayer. Which means I paid my share of the reported $25,000 an hour (which would add up to something like $300,000 for the day) to make sure we had 350 out of town cops on site to prevent violence.
And yet Crowder chose not to report his alleged assault to those 350 cops.
That’s the other reason–aside from the obvious heavy edits–why I don’t immediately accept Crowder’s story. Why, when taxpayers like me paid good money to make sure this event was heavily patrolled, would you go and edit a video (possibly–though I haven’t been able to confirm the time of the alleged attack–for up to 3 hours) rather than tell the cops?
Why would you let the crime scene grow cold?
Why wouldn’t you report the crime immediately to make sure you could prosecute the alleged assailant?
This is basic law enforcement stuff. But as a Michigander, I’m rather offended by the right wingers who suggest I should be happy that Crowder wasted the money we spent on cops.
We have cops. Their job is to solve crimes. Crowder alleges a crime was committed. Yet (last I heard–he didn’t respond to my question about this) he didn’t even talk to the neutral arbiters about his side of the story.
That suggests, to me at least, he’s not very interested in neutral fact-finding about what occurred.