Rounding up.

I don’t want to obsess on the Ferguson stuff, because I think it has peaked. The locals have been broomed, and with the state boys in charge, my guess is things will calm down. But before they do, let’s take a look at a couple of explainers on how we came to this point. First:

Faced with a bloated military and what it perceived as a worsening drug crisis, the 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.

The idea was that if the U.S. wanted its police to act like drug warriors, it should equip them like warriors, which it has—to the tune of around $4.3 billion in equipment, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The St. Louis County Police Department’s annual budget is around $160 million. By providing law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment free of charge, the NDAA encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics.

This is instructive, too:

Fears of Al Qaeda in the heartland led to the further transfer of surplus military equipment like Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to cops, as well as billions and billions of dollars given to them in the form of Department of Homeland Security grants used to purchase such equipment.

Suddenly, you had small towns in Texas and New Hampshire with armored vehicles, machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles, bomb robots, night-vision goggles, and lately, drones, all in the name of counterterrorism. Such grants have totaled about $34 billion since 2001, a number that has no doubt increased since the Center for Investigative Reporting released that figure in 2011.

Of course, since Islamic terrorists have yet to storm America’s small towns, this equipment is not used for counterterrorism. The police have to use these fancy new toys, so they use them for more and more SWAT operations, like the service of no-knock warrants, drug arrests, expensive and lengthy standoffs with empty houses, and as we saw in Ferguson last night, taking on protesters.

And finally? This:

There’s a no-fly zone in an American town because police are worried they might retaliate against police for shooting and killing an unarmed boy. So far, here’s the headcount:

At least five reports of unconstitutionally detained journalists. Two civilians shot by Ferguson Police this month; one killed. Four nights of tear gas, a chemical banned in war. At least one family teargassed in its own backyard and home. Twenty-one thousand people who have no one to call in case of an emergency, like the man left to struggle for his life while police carted away two journalists last night for sitting in a McDonald’s.

Zero shot or killed police officers. Zero names released for the shootings police committed in the last week. Zero apologies. No accountability.

But really? The story of the day has nothing to do with cops and tear gas, but Starbucks — a deep dive into the life of a single woman trying to keep her head above water and maybe get ahead in the world, but can’t. Not because she isn’t willing to work, but because Starbucks, and thousands of companies elsewhere, have adjusted their labor costs by screwing over their employers with truly impossible scheduling. On-call hours, short-notice shifts, some sort of unique torture called “clopening,” where you close at a late hour and then open the place four hours later — all of this whittles away at the labor costs and improves the bottom line, but makes it impossible to negotiate as a lowly barista. It’s a great, infuriating read, and I encourage you to make it.

Alos, have a great weekend.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

46 responses to “Rounding up.”

  1. Vince said on August 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

    That Starbucks article apparently got results – and fast. Starbucks is ending “clopening” and promising a full week’s notice of schedules. Ever seen a corporation reverse course so quickly before in response to investigative journalism?

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  2. Sherri said on August 15, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Another story about companies screwing over employees, or rather, not employees, but contract workers – the drivers of the buses Silicon Valley companies are using to transport their employees from San Fransisco down the peninsula aren’t employed by those companies even those the buses are owned by the companies.

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  3. Sherri said on August 15, 2014 at 1:15 am

    And at least Starbucks responded, even if it did take a NYTimes article to make them do it:

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  4. Deborah said on August 15, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Starbuck’s baristas are the hardest working people I’ve ever seen. Rarely do you ever see them goofing off. And the pressure to make the drinks quickly must be intense.

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  5. beb said on August 15, 2014 at 8:47 am

    There’s a chart, can’t find it at the moment, that show the growth of SWAT units over time and the number of times SWAT teams have been used. The chart shows an exponential growth in SWAT teams and in their usage. Gone are the days when they were there for hostage situations, barricaded gunmen and other extreme situations. Now they’re being used for routine drug busts. If you give someone a fancy toy, they will play with it. I am grateful that the State Police were able to come in and cool down the tempers. But as log as the police across this country continue to identify with Dirty Harry instead of Joe Friday, Ferguson is just going to keep happening.

    The National Labor Relations Board recently made a ruling with far reaching consequences. They held that McDonalds could be sued along with their franchisers for labor relations violations. McDonald’s position has been that it had nothing to do with the labor practices of its franchisers but the NLRB held that McDonald has such tight control over its franchisers in other areas that they control how franchisers deal with wages. Over time this ruling is going to expand to cover any business that tries to divorce themselves from their workforce.

    It’s so easy for Walmart or Amazon to hire a contractor to run their warehouses and set terms that require the contractor to pay minimally, while over-working their employees. When complaints are made Walmart or Amazon, or Silicon Valley just shrug their shoulders: “they not my employees.” but, of course, they are.

    Things like on-call staffing, short notice staffing, closopenings, massively part-timing are all things that unions were meant to deal with. Allowing a union to organzine all Starbucks shops at once instead of one at a time will greatly advance the American dream of a good-job for good workers.

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  6. Connie said on August 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

    I have no clue who Savannah Guthrie is. Whoever she is, she is important enough that her new baby is all over

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  7. Kirk said on August 15, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Makes me gladder than ever to know I’ve never spent a nickel in a Starbucks.

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  8. LAMary said on August 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Connie, Savannah Guthrie is one of the people on the Today show. She’s ok. Not an idiot. I guess NBC is just making the most of one of their popular people having a baby.

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  9. coozledad said on August 15, 2014 at 10:18 am

    The county prosecutor, who is a creep, will let this creep walk, and then I get to hear the local Republicans celebrate with fireworks, and then the creep will host a Fox News program until he beats up his wife real good, and then he can crank up his color copier and sell art:
    Prior to the release of Wilson’s name, there was speculation that several community members were privy to his identity, and that he had a history of hassling kids in the area. Patricia Bynes, a Democratic Committeewoman in Ferguson, told NPR that “people in the community have told me who the police is. They know who he is. It’s about, I guess, releasing [his name] at the much larger level. But people locally know who the cop is. The kids knew him. They told me that he would harass them all the time.”

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  10. Charlotte said on August 15, 2014 at 11:01 am

    The scheduling bullshit has been going on a long long time. Until my brother got hired in to management at the party tent business he worked for most of his life (and that was started by an old family friend), it was routine for them to schedule all the workers for 38 hours a week so they didn’t have to pay any benefits, and so the guys weren’t eligible for unemployment. This was in the early 1990s. Cisco, where I work, has systematically fired almost all the tech writers, and, as far as I can tell, all the people doing actual work (the only people in the company directory who seem to be “real” employees anymore are managers), and in many cases re-hired us as contractors. While it’s fine by me because I *want* to work part time, there’s a reason we have labor laws — because corporations see employees not as an asset, but as a cost, and will do anything to shave that cost. It’s why I’ve been following the Market Basket story in Boston with such interest:

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  11. alex said on August 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    On a lighter note, canoodling was once called fadoodling.

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  12. MichaelG said on August 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    In California unemployment insurance is based on earnings not hours. I don’t have a citation but I think that’s a federal standard.

    Did I just read the other day that Cisco is laying off 6,000 people?

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  13. Sue said on August 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Scott Walker’s ads have said for awhile now that ‘if you want a job in Wisconsin, you can have one’. In other words, if you’re not working in WI it’s not his fault, must be something you’re doing or not doing, you lazy bum.
    No one seems to find this insulting to the unemployed in WI.

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  14. Suzanne said on August 15, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I used to work at a college and saw the down side of this inane scheduling first hand. So many students who dropped out or flunked out because their job schedules changed as often as their underwear, making them choose between the low-end job or the schooling to help them get ahead in life. According to the article, Starbucks was using scheduling software. When oh when will people (especially management) understand that computers are useful but cannot replace a person who can reason beyond an algorithm??

    I had a part-time job in high school that was a great experience and a great way to save money. We had very regular schedules and pretty much knew weeks ahead when we were working. I could work but also participate in life because I could schedule my life around my work. Unfortunately,this scheduling garbage not just fast food and retail. I spoke to a man a few weeks ago, mid-50s, who couldn’t schedule an appointment with our company because he didn’t know until Sunday night of the work week when he’d be scheduled. I’m not sure where he worked, but he was some sort of professional.

    Correct, whoever said it above. Business now views their employees as liabilities, not assets. But as any farmer knows, if you “sell off” all your assets, you make money, but in the end, you are screwed.

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  15. Deborah said on August 15, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    We got a load of pecan shells this morning, 3 cubic yards to spread on the backyard. First we put this special fabric down, then the shells go over that. Anyone want to come over and help? I’m tired. Things are shaping up though, the back was mud and weeds before. Had to get all the weeds cleared out first, and completely remove all the river rocks from a drainage swale back there, clean out the accumulated dirt and put all the rocks back in. Our landlady loves us.

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  16. Jolene said on August 15, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Good lord, Deborah. I hope you are getting a break on your rent.

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  17. brian stouder said on August 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Let me just say – this whole Ferguson thing has taught me what the people in Chicago were talking about, when they referred to a “Police riot”.

    The calm they had last night, compared to the festival of flash-bang gaseous cruelty on the previous nights makes me ask the following question:

    We now have the policeman/shooter’s name. I want a thorough investigation and review of the command decisions made by those county thugs, and I want names, and (where indicated) arrests

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  18. Sherri said on August 15, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Rembert Browne has a first hand account of that flash-bang gaseous cruelty at Grantland:

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  19. brian stouder said on August 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Sherri – that is the best (and worst) thing I’ve read in a long while.

    Thanks for sharing it

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  20. Jolene said on August 15, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Posting especially for Dorothy, but, of course, for everyone else too: a remembrance by David Simon of filming the Homicide episode mentioned earlier this week. Just happened to come across it.

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  21. Dorothy said on August 15, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Thx Jolene. Will enjoy that later from home.

    Savannah Guthrie is the female co host of TODAY and she’s also an attorney. Ira never wrong, in my opinion, to celebrate the birth of a healthy baby. A friend of mine lost her third child last year when her uterus ruptured during labor. And today I got to hold another friend’s 9 day old baby girl. It was my favorite thing I did all week.

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  22. Charlotte said on August 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Mark H — wouldn’t surprise me if Cisco did announce that — really, there’s no one on as a “real” employee anymore. I’ve got about another year, year and a half until my mortgage is paid off — if the Cisco pony can run that far, I’ll be happy.

    David Simon has also been tearing it up (no surprise) on the Fergeson thing — although the Robin Williams post also broke my heart. So fucking sad. As Marc Maron said setting up today’s podcast, “this one’s just going to hurt for a while.”

    In good news though — Rick Perry was just indicted on two counts! So there’s that.

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  23. Jolene said on August 15, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Also, as new babies go, Savannah Guthrie’s baby is remarkably pretty. None of that red, wrinkly stuff.

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  24. Kirk said on August 15, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Haw haw. Dumbshit Rick Perry indicted.

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  25. Sue said on August 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Mrs. Hughes is going to sack Anna over this. Then Mr. Bates is going to get all broody again. Heaven help us.

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  26. MarkH said on August 15, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Kirk, I was astounded by this as well. For a sitting republican governor of Texas to be charged as a criminal in his own state, dumbshit comes to mind. Have to read further on this for sure, but looks as if it doesn’t pay to take on a drunken DA by holding back state funds from her county if she doesn’t heel.

    Charlotte, that was MichaelG, not me, but I am reading with interest about the massive Cisco layoff as well and wondering why. And now, how will that affect you.

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  27. Sue said on August 15, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    And in Wisconsin, we continue to wait in vain…

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  28. MarkH said on August 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    More on Perry. While the rest of the state is heavily republican, the state capital, Austin, and surrounding Travis County are heavily democratic. The county attorney in question is the Travis County DA. Perry made good on a threat to withhold her county’s portion of a state fund set up to help county DAs fight corruption, $7.5 million in this case, if she didn’t resign as a result of her DUI arrest last year. She blew .230 and from one of the Austin TV stations, this is how she conducted herself that night, prompting Perry’s resignation demand.

    The Austin American-Statesman picks up the tale.

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  29. Deborah said on August 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Sherri, that Grantland link about Feguson was fantastic, so glad I clicked

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  30. coozledad said on August 16, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Leaving aside the fact that Rick Perry faces indictments handed down by a grand jury, using his office to try and unseat an elected official for drinking seems a little odd for this George Dickel based life-form:

    Shorter Republicans- The goddamn rule of law: How do it work?

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  31. LAMary said on August 16, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Remember Joe Cocker at Woodstock?

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  32. beb said on August 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Ferguson back in the news. After the police chief released the name of the officer who killed the boy the chief goes on to slander the kid as a shoplifter. As if shoplifters deserve summary execution. So the store where this crime is alleged to take place was trashed during Friday night rioting. I think it’s time to consider charging the police chief for incitement to rioting.

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  33. brian stouder said on August 16, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Cooz – forget about that damned ‘rule of law’* shinola, man!

    What we gots to do is BE AFRAID! There’s all sorts of stuff that a person oughta’ be AFRAID of, dammit! We ain’t got enough of a SCREER goin’, with these damned ‘low information voters’.

    The trick is, scare the fecal matter out of the white low information voters, and then things will go the right way (even if only two steps ahead of the attack dogs and flash-bangs and tear gas)

    an excerpt:

    Fox Guest: It Is “Tragic On So Many Levels” For U.S. To Educate Immigrant Children. On the August 12 edition of Fox News’ Your World, host Neil Cavuto invited conservative talk show host Gina Loudon on to criticize the fact that undocumented immigrant children receive public education. Loudon claimed it was “tragic on so many levels” for the U.S. to educate the undocumented children, adding that without criminal background checks and health screenings, schools won’t know “if this student is a murderer” or “has one of the diseases that we’re hearing about coming across the border.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 8/12/14]

    and one more

    Fox Business’ Buttner: “Forget The Ebola Scare. Is It Really The Back To School Scare?” On the August 10 edition of Fox Business’ Bulls and Bears, host Brenda Buttner questioned whether parents should be concerned with “a surge of up to 60,000 illegal kids in their classrooms.” Buttner exclaimed, “Forget the Ebola scare. Is it really the back to school scare?” Fox Business reporter Tracy Burns later insisted that “we have to take care of our own first.” [Fox Business, Bulls and Bears, 8/10/14]

    *and don’t remember that ‘ruuuuuull of lawwwww’ was a Republican mantra 20 years ago, when they impeached WJC. Hell, I agreed with the notion, then. Now the Republican ‘brain trust’ seems more adept at ginning up “drool of scofflaws”

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  34. Cosmo Panzini said on August 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Think I’ll weigh in on this Ferguson thing, conjecture of course—Michael Brown strong-arm robs a convenience store, walks out of it now thinking what a bad-ass he is, and a few minutes later, while walking in the middle of the street,encounters a local cop, who probably tells him to get out of the street. Brown replies fuck you or something similar, cop pulls his car over to confront him, and Brown, thinking he is about to take a pinch for stealing from the c-store, gets physical, goes for the cops gun, and winds up getting shot. Lot of witnesses(?) who tell another story entirely, but I’m not sure they can be believed. One said Brown was running away from the cop when the cop shot him in the back, at which point Brown turned around and put his hands up and surrendered. I can’t be the only person on the planet that has a big problem with that–shot in the back and then turned around, still on his feet presumably. Add to all this the sight of Al Sharpton roaring and belching his usual crapola, inflaming the situation even more.

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  35. Sherri said on August 16, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    A really good explanation of what depression feels like:

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  36. Sherri said on August 16, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    What happens when you mix low regulation, toothless enforcement, turning employees into contractors, and right to work with the construction industry? Texas!

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  37. MichaelG said on August 16, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    By the way, I had a chest X-Ray the other day and a visit to my oncologist and there was no change and I feel great. I finally feel back to normal after that horrible chemo and my hair is even growing back. I’m a happy camper.

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  38. Deborah said on August 16, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Good news MichaelG. Holy cow was that not easy to type without autocorrect not changing.

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  39. Sherri said on August 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Excellent, MichaelG! Here’s to continued normalcy!

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  40. brian stouder said on August 16, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Marvelous news, MichaelG.

    Three cheers for good ol’ boring normalcy!

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  41. Charlotte said on August 16, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Yay Michael G — and Mark H, as far as I know, I’m “safe” from Cisco layoffs because I’m a contractor. If my whole translation/localization group gets cut (which could happen), I’ve been a busy bee making friends with the better-funded other group doing what we do. With luck, I could make a sideways move. Otherwise, it’s trying to sell my nonfiction manuscript, or cleaning the Murray Hotel …

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  42. Dexter said on August 17, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Yes MichaelG. Great news.
    Here’s an odd one…a lady I worked with at the factory for 26 years, and we both worked in the same department most of those years, meaning I know her well, just won one million dollars on an Indiana Hoosier Lottery scratch-off ticket. Wow, I say.

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  43. MichaelG said on August 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Far out, Dexter. Tell her she owes you lunch.

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  44. LAMary said on August 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Great news Michael.

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  45. alex said on August 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Brand-new Cuisinart just bit the dust. My last one, which I bought in the late 1980s, still works but the bowl developed a crack and was leaking fluids. So I picked up a new one a couple of months ago. Today I’m making compound butter (tarragon) with the new one and the motor just quits while I’m pulsing. And of course the new bowl isn’t compatible with the old motor. Fuck!

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  46. Deborah said on August 17, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Went to a concert of the Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival, we have had season tickets and it’s held at a private residence in Abiquiu that’s fantastic. I’ve commented about it previously but the residence has been written up in Dwell magazine, etc. today’s concert was percussion and it was fabulous. It was all contemporary music, John Cage etc. I’ve not been a huge fan of that kind of music, but today’s program was stunning. It was so entertaining to watch the passion of the performers, and the complexity! None of it was easy but so beautiful and meaningful. A composer named Harrison was a particular favorite, his work was so consonant for contemporary works, so melodic. Gorgeous.

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