Americans Want to Open Carry at the Republican National Convention. Why Won’t Republicans Let Them?

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As you’ve likely seen, tens of thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that the Republican Party allow the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense, right? Republican politicians love guns so much; they block any laws that might save lives from gun violence, and they even block the study of gun violence, presumably because it might reveal some unflattering facts about guns (such as the fact that they kill people.) As the petition notes, every one of the three Republican candidates left in the race have argued that gun-free zones are targets for shooters. And Ohio is an open-carry state, so guns at the RNC seem like a no-brainer, on several different levels.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was asked about the petition, and he said he’d have to “study the fine print” of the petition before he commented on it. (I looked at the petition, and there is no fine print anywhere on it. That was easy!)  But the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is happening, has a no-weapons policy. And the Secret Service has announced through spokesman Robert Hoback that “Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event.” Another Secret Service spokesman told the National Review that “Title 18 United States Code Sections 3056 and 1752, provides the Secret Service authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by our protectees, including those located in open-carry states.”

Still, even if the two biggest authorities in this scenario—the Secret Service and the Quicken Loans Arena administration—didn’t say no to guns, why would we expect Republicans to practice what they preach? After all, visitors to the National Rifle Association’s headquarters are expected to hand over their guns. Republican leadership has never allowed guns to be carried at presidential debates. They don’t even allow guns at meetings designed to protest gun-free zones.

Are you noticing a pattern, here? You should be: Republican leaders basically want guns to be legal everywhere and for everyone, except in those places where Republican leaders mingle with the general public. When they’re expected to share a public space with ordinary Americans, Republican leaders suddenly become very anti-gun. Doesn’t indicate much faith in their own policies, does it? What does it say that they’re not willing to live under the same rules they advocate for the American public?

As I was writing this post, there was a shooting at the US Capitol which forced a very large (and, from the accounts of people on the ground, a very scary) lockdown to go into effect. Turns out, one security guard was injured and the shooter was taken into custody. It wasn’t a mass shooting. This time. And the Capitol’s police force managed to get the situation under control almost immediately. Too bad average Americans don’t benefit from the same strict security that Republican congressional leaders enjoy while they vote against gun responsibility.

(To learn more about gun responsibility, I’d encourage you to listen to our recent podcast on guns.)

Hillary Clinton Refuses to Evolve on Marijuana

Hillary Clinton is a self-confessed pragmatic progressive. In everyday parlance, that means she’s the type of person that likes to dip her toe in the pool before jumping in. There’s a lot to admire in a deliberative person like that. There’s also a lot to despise in someone that uses “pragmatism” to veil their political cowardice.

Unfortunately, Clinton continues to exhibit the latter when talking about marijuana. This is what she had to say on the subject last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

What the states are doing right now needs to be supported. And I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward absolutely legalizing it for recreational use. But I want to see what the states learn from that experience, because there are still a lot of questions we still have to answer on the federal level.

There’s some great evidence about what marijuana can do for people who are in cancer treatment, who have other kinds of chronic diseases, who are suffering from intense pain…

I’m accepting information from everybody.

At the risk of mansplaining to the Secretary of State, here is some information which illustrates why she should reconsider her hesitant position on marijuana legalization:

Supporting legalization could tick the following political boxes then for Clinton:

  • Energize young people to vote for her. Which is something she could use going into the general election, as right now she only enjoys 37 percent of Democratic millennial support. She needs to give young people a reason to show up and vote for her – beyond telling them that they can refinance their student loans from 8% to 4%. YES WE CAN!
  • Cut down on a huge amount of unnecessary public money on the drug war
  • Confront racial injustice head on
  • Start to dismantle our prison-industrial complex
  • Show that she has the capacity to get out in front of a progressive issue

Clinton is right that weed needs to be removed from the list of Schedule I substances. Yet this move isn’t going to address the criminal elements of the issue. While scientists will spend years studying marijuana, millions of our people will continue to be put behind bars for a relatively innocuous drug. That comes at a cost. Not only through a loss of human capital, but also through our tax dollars. Our public infrastructure is crumbling and our government is deciding to spend our hard-earned dollars by locking up people over marijuana? This is insanity.

If this is what “pragmatism” yields, then color me disappointed. Hillary, please reconsider legalization. I know you’re not afraid of dramatically changing your position on tough issues. And this actually has the benefit of not only being popular, but also morally and politically correct.

Legalize it.

Daily Clips: March 28th, 2016

California raises minimum wage to $15: The west coast of the United States is now one contiguous area with higher minimum wages. Somewhere, Tim Worstall is freaking out. Oregon and (hopefully) California were able to reach agreements through the legislature, whereas it looks like Washington will have to take a higher minimum wage to the ballot in 2016.

Not only is this huge news for the many low-wage workers in California, it’s also big news for those wanting to study the effects of the minimum wage. In the next decade, economists will be able to look at the west coast of America and see if the minimum wage *actually* killed our jobs and economies. Something tells me it won’t. Call it a hunch.

How the GOP elite lost its voters to Donald Trump: A long and thorough piece by Nicholas Confessore. I would highly recommend reading it if you have ten minutes to spare. He takes a deep dive into why Republicans didn’t see Trump’s rise coming. His conclusions in TL;DR format? The GOP became the party of the economic elite, ran on trickle down policies (tax cuts, deregulation, and wage suppression for 90% of the country) and thus alienated their working class base.

The myth of the Reagan Democrat: Reagan Democrats is the new buzz term used by pundits in order to justify Trump’s chances to take the White House. As human megaphone Chris Matthews put it in January, “I think there’s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him.”

What’s interesting, however, is that “Reagan Democrats” (that being Northern blue-collar whites) will only constitute roughly a third of the electorate in 2016. In fact, “a new Center for American Progress report…notes that in the classic “Reagan Democrat” states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, blue-collar-whites’ share of the electorate will shrink two percentage points between 2012 and 2016 alone.”

Time to transform Bernie’s campaign into a permanent organization:

There has rarely been a better opportunity to create and build a permanent, national progressive organization than has been afforded by the Sanders campaign. The historical moment is right, with Bernie winning millions of supporters’ votes for his campaign against a rigged economic and political system, against institutional racism and a broken criminal justice system, and for aggressive action to combat climate change.

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What Can You Do to Fight for Equity in Seattle Public School’s Libraries?

We can supply books to school libraries throughout Seattle. It's just a matter of thinking we can.

We can supply books to school libraries throughout Seattle. It’s just a matter of thinking we can do it.

Over at the Seattle Review of Books, I’ve been interviewing Seattle-area school librarians all month long. They have, to a person, been delightful interviews: friendly, optimistic, and eager to talk about their work. Almost every one of them told me that they believe they have the best job in the world.

But they’ve also all talked about a problem that plagues every school librarian in Seattle. It’s a problem that is frankly unbelievable for a modern American city, especially one that considers itself to be as progressive as Seattle does. To be blunt: Seattle Public Schools’ libraries are criminally underfunded. Not only are school librarians in Seattle all expected to perform a more than full-time job on a half-time salary, but there is no budget to buy materials for school libraries. As in, none.

When Kathleen Eads started as the librarian at Greenlake Elementary School, she was greeted by the school’s Parent Teacher Association with a $5000 fund to buy books. Eads was thrilled to receive such generous support — to put it in perspective, Greenlake Elementary School has roughly 350 students, so $5000 is a lot more than the $10-per-student minimum that national school library organizations recommend as the bare minimum for school libraries to sustain themselves by replacing lost, stolen, and damaged books, and buying new books to keep the collections fresh and relevant.

But Eads also knows that other librarians in the Seattle area aren’t so lucky. She says our school libraries are suffering from egregious inequality. When a librarian starts the school year, they’ll receive a certain amount from the PTA “and maybe if your principal is nice, he’ll give you some money from the discretionary fund.” Librarians share stories about school libraries in Seattle that have only $1000 per year for schools of 750 kids. Other Seattle Public School libraries get nothing at all. Librarians try to make up the rest of the funds by applying for grants and throwing book fairs, but they’re already expected to maintain collections, support teachers, and interact with multiple classes of students per day on a schedule that only allows them to be at work for a few days a week. Their time is already stretched way too thin.

And this inequality means that the schools that need library funds the most aren’t getting them. Eads says her “heart hurts because the kids who have books at home get funding, while the kids who don’t have books at home don’t get funding.” That divide in Seattle falls almost directly on north-south lines: the poorer schools to the south — the districts with more people of color — always suffer more than the schools in the wealthier, whiter neighborhoods to the north. Eads says we have “this crazy thing in Seattle where we pretend we’re not divided, and in reality we’re so divided on systematic levels.”

School librarians have discussed ways to share resources more efficiently and equally — they’ve entertained the possibility of well-supported school libraries from wealthier neighborhoods establishing a sister school relationship with libraries in poorer neighborhoods. But experience has shown, Eads says, that “parents would not contribute as much [to the PTA] if they knew that their money would not go entirely to their school.” She pauses. “So that’s where we are now.”

Eads and other school librarians have founded a Library Equity Team over the last few months. They plan to work together to demand a $10 per student budget for every school in Seattle. But that’s a lofty goal — libraries have gotten short shrift in Seattle schools for a long time. Eads says that when the last Director of Libraries for Seattle Public Schools left, the position was not replaced. A part-time manager is now performing the duties for what used to be a full-time dedicated position.

Eads tries not to get discouraged, but it’s tough. “I feel like I’m alone in this mission at times,” she says. The fight for library equity is “really a grassroots movement. It’s really easy to think we’re never going to make a change, that we’re fighting a huge uphill battle.”

What can parents and concerned Seattleites do to make sure kids across Seattle get the books that they need? Eads advises “advocacy on a verbal level. Writing about it, going to school board meetings, hashtagging it, whatever it might be.” The recently created hashtag for the equity movement is #SPSLibraryEquity; Eads says that sharing your support on Twitter and Facebook would make a world of difference. And if you have any ideas on how to improve advocacy for our school libraries, Eads encourages you to contact her on Twitter @eadsreads or via email at kaeads@seattleschools.org.

Why, with all Washington state’s education problems, should libraries be a priority? For one thing, a school with a quality library is much likelier to succeed than one with a library in disrepair. Eads also thinks people should get involved in the battle for library equity because it’s a challenge with clearly defined goals. If Seattle properly funds its school libraries, she says, those libraries “can be a little beacon of light that would inspire” us to do better in other areas. If Seattle had the best public school libraries in the nation, for example, that would encourage us to look at other elements — special education, say, or arts programs — that can be improved.

No single signifier says more about a society’s commitment to learning than its libraries. Seattle can and must do better.

(Cross-posted.)

Daily Clips: March 25th, 2016

This is what political revolution really looks like:  “To refocus our political system on the people, we need a sustained effort to revitalize our democracy. We need to significantly expand participation.”

Polls suggest that Trump is the worst, not the best, general election candidate for Republicans: Donald Trump loves to repeat that he would beat Hillary Clinton in a general election, but does the data back up that claim?

The answer is no.

In fact, “both Clinton and Sanders are starting to beat Trump by a lot. The reply from Trump fans is predictable…Trump will turn out more independents and Democrats! they’ll say. Whether those fans know it or not, that argument hinges on the idea that the turnout in November will be hard to predict and that current pollster modelling is wrong. But it’s worth remembering that these polls include Democrats and independents that Trump will supposedly woo.

Consumers prop up US economy, but profits under pressure: “U.S. economic growth slowed in the fourth quarter, but not as sharply as previously estimated, with fairly strong consumer spending offsetting the drag from efforts by businesses to reduce an inventory overhang.”

Tweet of the day:

 

The Opposition to Secure Scheduling Sounds Very Familiar

secure scheduling

Your record is broken, my dudes. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Déjà vu is a fairly common experience (with a surprisingly scientific explanation)—but if you ever really want to pause and ask yourself “haven’t I been here before?”, all you need to do is listen to business interests try to argue against pro-worker policies.

The most recent instance of this truly puzzling phenomenon is in the bubbling battle over a potential secure scheduling ordinance in the City of Seattle—where in the last five years, Councilmembers, activists, unions, and business leaders have clashed over similar laws, including paid safe and sick leave and the increased minimum wage. And despite how recently these fights were won—in spite of the fact that we can all clearly remember the exact people and businesses who opposed the ordinances and their precise language—those same forces are now back at the table and seem to be entirely comfortably recycling their talking points.

In a March 21 meeting of the city’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts Committee, headed up by secure scheduling proponent Councilmember Lisa Herbold, representatives from local restaurants—including Pamela Hinckley, the CEO of Tom Douglas’s Seatown Restaurants—and the business community were invited to discuss their concerns about the potential legislation, which hasn’t even been officially drafted yet.

Immediately, the defensiveness began—and with it came the three arguments that we typically see in these situations:

  1. It’s not really a problem/workers like it how it is.
  2. It’s not really a problem for us because we are nice to our workers / it’s just a few bad apples.
  3. Even if it is a problem it’s too expensive to fix.

In the corner of the first argument, we had Hinckley, who seemed suspect that the issue even existed and suggested—of course—that there just wasn’t data to support it.

“We’d like to put forward a request for a full city audit of scheduling practices,” Hinckley explained, “to see how businesses schedule…to see if we really do have a problem here. I think we need to know.”

Hinckley also noted that “the employees are attracted to the business that is flexible,” because some may want to “coach their daughter’s basketball team” or do other things outside of work, which is arguably difficult when you have no idea how much you’re working.

Bob Donovan, of Donovan Employment Law, joined Hinckley in pressing the councilmembers about their data and insinuating that the workers like it how it is. He questioned whether or not Susan Lambert’s national report on insecure schedules, which they’d Herbold’s committee had been briefed on two weeks prior (and which states that 48% of service workers, nationwide, get their schedule a week or less in advance), actually represented Seattle. Despite mountains of anecdotal evidence collected by Working Washington,UFCW 21, and even the personal stories of Councilmember Lorena González, who herself was a migrant farm worker, Donovan insisted that workers in Seattle just didn’t seem to be dealing with the precariousness of issues like unpredictable hours and wages, clopening shifts, and the lack of compensation for on-call shifts.

“This doesn’t seem to be an emergency,” he explained.

Donovan also argued that many restaurant workers like what he called “flexibility,” though he seemed to be conflating “picking up the occasional Saturday shift” with “not getting paid for the shifts that I may or may not have to work and as a result being unable to pay my rent.”

Lambert’s study would indicate that this “flexibility” often comes with financial hardship for employees; 87% of retail employees say their hours fluctuate, which can make it difficult to know how much they’re getting paid on a weekly basis. According to Hinckley and Donovan, that’s necessary, because the business climate is unpredictable. They simply can’t provide stable hours, they explained.

“Does that variability fall on the single mom who’s got to come up with childcare on short notice?” asked Councilmember Mike O’Brien “or is it up to the business to figure out how to manage that? What’s a fair way to do that? Because my concern is that the cost of that uncertainty will get shifted to a low-wage worker.”

“With all due respect,” Donovan answered, “I think that’s an assumption that has no basis in fact.”

“I’ve heard from people who do that,” O’Brien answered.

“Ok, how many?” Donovan asked.

If only he’d seen the study, he’d know that most hourly workers in low wage jobs have unpredictable schedules, and that their employers are often the ones who decide just how “flexible” the schedule really is.

secure scheduling

Image: Susan Lambert

Both Donovan and Hinckley were also eager and prepared to take up the line that Tom Douglas and his ilk have been towing for literal years, which is that the problem is real in some restaurants, but not theirs. Hinckley admitted that yes, some restaurants may not take their workers’ needs into account, but they do. And for that reason, you don’t really need laws.

“I admit to express frustration that the City government considers it their job to enforce guidelines on how to schedule employees…the other thing that was unsettling from Susan Lambert’s study was that employers only care about profit…I take offense to that, because every company I have worked at puts their employees first.”

Which sounds a lot like Tom Douglas when he fought the living wage in 2013 (in the same interview where he noted that he was “25 years in…I own my car, you know, I own my house, I own my farm. Now, instead of buying more toys, I just feel like this is the way I want to pay back a bit of the incredible luck that I’ve had over the years” with wages):

I’ve always wanted to be the best place to work in town. And sometimes that is just being a good boss, just being nice to people…I can’t speak for every other company, but I think it’s a personal decision. It’s also a time in your life decision and I don’t think there necessarily needs to be laws. I think that people need to stand up with their backbone and not go to places where they feel like the workers aren’t taken care of.

And Tom Douglas when he side-eyed paid safe and sick leave:

It just felt like an intrusion into my business philosophy that we already had, but it wasn’t official.

Then, of course, there’s the final argument against policies which actively seek to benefit workers: That it’ll kill jobs.

Douglas and his company have also used the third talking point in the past, threatening that increasing the minimum wage would shut down businesses, or at least make growth difficult. Here he is in 2014:

I don’t know that it would put us out of business, but I would say we would lose maybe a quarter of the restaurants in town, would be my guess. And if we have to lose a quarter in order for people to make what people are considering a living wage, maybe I should just shut up and take it. I just want the facts. I don’t want these slogans because they’re nonsense. Let’s talk about real numbers.

Since the minimum wage ordinance went into effect, Tom Douglas has opened six new establishments—Assembly Hall, Home Remedy, Tanaka San, Serious Pie Pike, Cantina Lena, & Carlile Room—though, when Working Washington’s Sejal Parikh brought up this figure, Hinckley somewhat cryptically denied it, saying “we haven’t, actually,” but didn’t expand any further. 

Similarly, Subway franchisee David Jones—who said his employees are scheduled out weeks in advance— explained that unless people start eating the same volume of sandwiches all day long, rather than just at meal time, he’d never be able to offer regular hours. It would be too expensive, he said, to keep someone on the clock for a full, predictable shift, rather than splitting shifts.

That sounds a lot like when, during the debate over $15, Jones said that “a footlong sub may go up by more than a dollar.” In reality, Subway owners ended up settling on a price increase of just about 4%, and are continuing to open new locations throughout Seattle.

Which forces a bystander to ask the question: Is secure scheduling not a problem at all, is it a problem that’s not being addressed properly, or is it a problem but one that’s just going to cost too much to fix?

Councilmember González was incredibly straightforward in her answer: It’s a problem and one that we need to fix, and if businesses want to be part of the solution, they are welcome. But questioning that this is the experience of workers, and that it is making their lives and finances difficult or impossible, is unacceptable.

“I don’t want to be apologetic about having that perspective; I have worked in those industries…I understand what it means to have that lack of predictability about how much you’re going to make the next week. And I hope that we can have that conversation…from a place where, though we might disagree on the pervasiveness of the problem, we’re not having it from a place of ‘well, there is no problem.’ There are people who are expressing concerns,” she stated. “To deny them that truth is unfair.”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who herself was integral in the passage of Seattle’s landmark $15 wage, seemed incredulous that the same talking points were being reused—and that they were couching their concerns as worry for employees yet again.

“These are not entities that have any track record of standing up for their workers,” Sawant said, indicating the restaurant industry, “Tom Douglas spoke out against paid safe and sick leave. He said it was going to really destroy business. Then he, himself, came out and said ‘actually, as it turns out, the cost was a third of what I thought it would be.'”

She’s not wrong, either; Douglas somewhat infamously walked back his end-of-days claims in the Puget Sound Business Journal. From that story, called “Apocalypse Not”:

“Douglas has now changed his mind about the law, saying he was ‘naive’ to think that restaurants would raise pay on their own.”

Is it possible, then, that he’s being naive in this instance as well, or is he simply doing what business owners always seem to do—hoping to delay the process into oblivion with their myriad “concerns”?

This is, of course, not surprising—basically none of the doomsaying from restaurant owners and other business interests after the increase of the minimum wage or paid sick and safe leave came to fruition and, in fact, many of the very business owners who wrung their hands have since seen opened new establishments.

Still, we’ve seen this same rhetoric used in regards to everything from child labor laws to OSHA requirements for the last 80 years, so we really shouldn’t be shocked when they’re being trotted out again so soon. If anything, if those who are trying to protect their own bottom line are showing up to recycle these same statements so often in just a few years, it probably means Seattle is doing something right.

NEW PODCAST EPISODE: Secure Scheduling

Scheduling practices today are frankly appalling. Employees are given schedules which make it impossible to plan for the most basic elements of daily life – whether it’s child care, a dentist appointment, or family dinner. That’s why we here at Civic Skunk Works recorded an episode devoted to secure scheduling. Seattle led the nation on the $15 minimum wage, and now we’re leading the nation when it comes to protecting a worker’s right to secure scheduling. Tune in to the newest episode of The Other Washington and tell us what you think!

Daily Clips: March 23rd, 2016

Jeb Bush endorses Ted Cruz: In order to stop Donald Trump and his “divisiveness and vulgarity,” Jeb has thrown his support behind a candidate that responded to yesterday’s Brussels attack by calling for police to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods. Here, we see how epically screwed the Republican Party is today.

As Vox’s Dylan Matthews notes:

The fact that Republican elites like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Lindsey Graham are all lining up behind a candidate who wants to harass Muslim Americans on the basis of their religion, and whose advisers are a murderer’s row of the worst anti-Muslim bigots in America, tells us something about exactly why Donald Trump has become so anathema to establishment conservatives.

Bernie Sanders is coming back for another rally in Seattle this Friday: How does he keep up with this schedule at his age? Very impressive. Admission is first come, first served at Safeco Field. Doors open at 4pm on Friday.

How can the US make work less draining for its workers?

According to one recent OECD survey, the United States ranked 29th out of 36 countries for “work-life balance,” a comparison of hours worked versus hours devoted to leisure. In most cases, the brunt of this brutal load falls harder on women, who still do the bulk of housework and may find careers, particularly those with the most financial and personal rewards, impossible to sustain.

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