How Breitbart and Bannon Work Their Politics Using Innuendo and Random Association

New Orleans   You know Google Alerts, right? If not, it’s worth a spin around their block. You put your email on a list to get a daily, weekly, or monthly email that gives you some of the hits on things within your wheelhouse. I have alerts for “community organization” of course. I have one for “boycotts,” thinking I’m going to do something with that one day, and of course companies we are targeting on campaigns and certainly for ACORN. We’re in the season I particularly enjoy as fall breaks and Thanksgiving looms ahead. You wouldn’t believe the number of recipes that focus on acorns or the meticulous way that that the season’s acorn crop, so to speak, informs deer hunters preparing for the bounty of their own hunting season.

While I was waiting for a meeting in Canada, I looked at the daily alerts for ACORN and saw a strange one tying Alabama Democratic US Senate hopeful Doug Jones who is running against the controversial former bible-thumping Chief Justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court Roy Moore in the general election to ACORN. Moore of course flipped the script on a semi-incumbent Republican Senator supported by Mitch McConnell and less enthusiastically by President Trump. The headline was “Roy Moore Challenger Doug Jones Pushing ACORN Pet Project Known for Devastating Small Businesses and Workers.” You, guessed it, the almost 2000-word piece by Aaron Klein had to be in Brietbart.com ‘s premiere site, Big Government. Stephen Bannon is now back at Brietbart and disruption of the establishment is his current “war,” and innuendo and guilt by association are his favorite weapons. The article is a case study for how this kind of modern right wing red-baiting works.

Doug Jones probably had to have some young staff member on his campaign go to Wikipedia to even get a grip on ACORN, and how he was now intimately involved with the organization. The ACORN “pet project” is fighting for living wages. So is Doug Jones now becoming a fierce advocate for living wages in Alabama and beyond? Well, I wish, but this whole screed is based on Jones saying on his website that he is in favor of increasing the federal minimum way, and, oh my god, raising it to $10.00 per hour from the presently frozen level of $7.25 that has been in effect since the Ice Age.

The factual thread that unleashes this flood of associational offense for Breitbart is this highly non-radical comment on Jones’ website, quoted by Klein:

The brief economic policy listing on Jones’s campaign website calls for the enactment of a “living wage,” which would hike the minimum wage above the federal minimum.

A short “living wage” section on his website reads:

People in Alabama should not have to work two or three jobs just to provide food, housing and other necessities for their families, often foregoing healthcare and other needs. I strongly support ensuring working Alabamians receive a living wage for their hard work. It is past time. They are then less reliant on the government and those dollars help lift the economy.

Oh, and Jones told USA Today, “I’m not one of these people who thinks that raising the minimum wage to a living wage is going to stifle competition, or going to lead to automation and cost jobs.”

Bannon and Brietbart then try to hang him from the nearest tree with that thin thread. The rest of the piece is a brief thumbnail sketch of the history of ACORN’s living wage campaigns, the horrors allegedly visited on workers from the victory for living wages in Santa Fe and Seattle, neither of which were ACORN wins.

The other alleged connection to ACORN is even more far-fetched, because no Brietbart piece can omit George Soros either, but here’s Klein on his witch hunt:

Contributing to the living wage campaign was the George Soros-funded Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. The Center’s lawyer, Paul Sonn, took a leading role in helping to craft wage ordinances and ballot measures for numerous cities and states, the Times reported. Jones himself has close ties to the Brennan Center. In 2014, Jones served as co-chair of a panel of then current and former federal prosecutors that produced a white paper for the Center on criminal justice reform.

Surely you can follow this. Jones, a former federal prosecutor worked on a paper about criminal justice reform with the Brennan Center, a legacy project of the former US Supreme Court Justice, and another project of the same center had a lawyer who worked with ACORN, so therefore Jones is probably wearing an ACORN t-shirt around his house and sleeping with an old ACORN button under his pillow.

It’s clear how Brietbart wants to herd you to their conclusion, but come to your own, and keep your feet on the ground, rather than jumping down their wormhole to the beyond.

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Fifteen Dollars for Fast Food Workers – More to Come?

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Fast-food workers and supporters gathered on Wednesday in Manhattan to watch a live video of the wage board’s decision. The governor hailed it as an example of New York’s progressiveness. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

New Orleans   Fast food workers in New York State got some great news after a three year campaign. The wage review board set up by Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced, as expected, that it will recommend a $15 wage for many fast food workers in New York State. The increase, once approved will stair step the wage up to $15 over the next six years statewide by 2021 and in New York City will accelerate faster and reach the $15 per hour number in three years by 2018. This is unquestionably a huge victory for service workers and their unions and their community-based partners, like New York Communities for Change, formerly New York ACORN, and the Working Families Party. Hip-hip-hooray!

The wage increases will impact fast food workers working in the big chains with 100-stores or more, so clearly the MacDonald’s, Taco Bell’s, Popeye’s, Burger King, and the like. Outfits like MacDonald’s have already agreed to go to $9 now and $10 next year, so they seem resigned to reality. Reports indicate that there are 180,000 fast food workers in New York State. It is unclear how many are employed in the 100-plus-store chains, but presumably this number would approach or exceed 100,000 workers.

The $15 per hour minimum wage has now won favor and is on an implementation timeline in Seattle, Los Angeles City and County, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.  The New York plan is the only one that singles out fast food workers rather than all workers in a jurisdiction. Mayor DeBlasio and others in New York City continue to argue for the $15 wage to be spread to all workers, not just fast food workers, and this should put some wind behind their sails. SEIU’s giant New York-based building services local, 32B-J, has announced a strike for airport related workers in their campaign for a $15 per hour wage for contractors there, so the fast food move will be a shot in their arms as well.

God and the government should both know they need it. A report from the nonprofit Tax Foundation found that in cities like Washington, D.C. spending $1 will buy only about 84 cents worth of goods compared to the rest of the country where in places like Mississippi and Arkansas spending $1 will get you about $1.15 worth of goods.

That’s little comfort though. Bill Lipton, the director of the New York Working Families’ Party, was quoted calling the wage recommendation a huge victory for the “99%.” Given the polarized politics of the country and the huge division between rich and poor, it’s worrisome what will happen in the rest of the country, where the fights are still concentrated on winning a ladder to $10 or $11 per hour? We may start having to talk about tales of more than two cities, with the rich and poor divided, and the poor and poorer also divided. Little progress seems forthcoming in Congress on enacting President Obama’s now dusty proposal for a $10.10 minimum wage for example.

This is a clear victory, but there will have to be many, many more of them before New York’s Governor Cuomo’s words that “other states will follow” can come true. A victory in New York for 100,000 workers helps the 99% in New York, but that hardly moves a decimal point in the rest of the country, and the 98.9% are still desperate for a raise. Celebrate for the day, but there’s a lot of work still to be done tomorrow!

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