The Black Belt’s Revenge

(This was co-written by Douglas and Bryan.)

It came down to turnout, much as it always does.

1.3 million people voted in Alabama tonight, a turnout of over 50% in an off-year election. Black voters especially overperformed, turning their hands against Roy Moore, a man who said the last time America was great was before the Civil War (and an sexual predator to boot…seems like revanchist politics and predatory behavior is co-morbid). This has resulted in making Doug Jones, a prosecutor previously best known for successfully prosecuting Klan murderers, Senator from Alabama.

When Moore was last on the ballot, in 2012, he very narrowly defeated Bob Vance, Jr. to retake his seat as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. The Black Belt, named as much for the Black people who had been enslaved on plantations before the Civil War as much as the rich soil those plantations were situated on, was a wall across the state that ultimately broke Roy Moore’s dream of becoming Senator. The county-by-county turnout of that 2012 election largely matches the pattern seen in tonight’s election, with three exceptions: Lee County (home of Auburn University) and Talladega County went from supporting Moore in 2012 to opposing him, and Pike County ended up doing the opposite.

Other major communities in Alabama also turned out in force: Tuscaloosa went for Senator-elect Jones by seventeen points. Huntsville did much the same. Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham all went for Jones, and it was turnout in those communities that put Moore away tonight, now hopefully for good.

On Practical Political Education

For a lot of socialist groups, political education has a tendency to linger on abstracts.

This is something of an unfair stereotype, as plenty of socialist formations expand what they teach their members and supporters beyond the usual list of Lenin, Marx, Engels, Mao, and interpretations of the above. Inevitably, though, all socialists have to reckon with the legacy of Marx and the soaring achievements and miserable failures of the Soviet Union and these political education efforts return to reading Capital, or The Little Red Book, or The State and Revolution. Most groups structured along democratic centralist lines in the US have a new member vetting process and an intensive political education program that involves reading some or all of those thinkers.

This is not to say any of these books are unimportant, or the ideas in them lack vitality in the current times, or even that the kind of thorough political education that groups other than DSA engage in are bad. They absolutely are not. They are merely a different political approach that the one DSA uses, the difference being largely created by DSA’s looser and more open organizational structure and the political inexperience of your average new DSA member when compared to the average new member candidate for a democratic centralist group.

Class Struggle With a Stack of Pancakes.

In 2012 a federal lawsuit was filed against the restaurant chain IHOP and franchisee, Anthraper Investments Inc. on behalf of four Arab, Muslim managers in Texas, all of whom were fired in 2010. This lawsuit alleged in part that their terminations were unlawful and discriminatory in nature, and came after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that their accusations had merit—not only had these men faced discriminatory harassment at work based on their race, and religion, there were witnesses, and corroborating evidence, determining that there was “reasonable cause to believe that…Arabs were discriminatorily harassed and discharged based on national origin.”

One of the most revealing incidents came during an employee meeting, during which Larry Hawker, hired to replace one of the fired managers, told IHOP workers that, “Arab men treat women poorly and with disrespect. We’re going to let these people go and have new faces coming in.” Prior to this event, and before their respective terminations, the district manager would be emailed warnings in time for the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, asking that Arab and Muslim employees “lay low”.

The CEO of this specific IHOP chain, John Anthraper, even referred to Muslims waiting to break their fasts during Ramadan as “dogs”, and would complain that any work related incidents that occurred at one of his stores came about as a result of the district manager hiring “those fucking Arab friends” of his. And so, these four men sought damages for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Texas Labor Code.

One of these men—the man whose face would be plastered across countless publications and television screens as the story and subsequent backlash went viral—was my father.

The Readjustment

(This is co-written by Douglas and Bryan.)

Roy Moore is terrible. He has been terrible for years, and the scope of terrible that he brings to American society just greatly expanded this week.

It is easy to run a campaign as “not Roy Moore”; all that takes is a measure of compassion, humility, empathy for those who are less fortunate, and not ‘dating’ fourteen year olds as a man in your thirties. Judging from his statewide television ads, Alabama’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate — Doug Jones — seems content to meet that bare minimum standard.

There is lots of talk of “bipartisanship” and “working across the aisle”, which must sound great to people who have been living in some crag-based domicile for the last decade or so. The ads also play on his background as the federal attorney that put the surviving co-conspirators of Dynamite Bob Chambliss in jail for the rest of their natural lives, and urge “unity”. But unity with who? Republicans? The same conservatives who agitated racial animus to their political benefit until it blew up in their faces? The people in the Evangelical Church who are more than willing to blame the women who have come forward against Roy Moore? What iteration of that unity would benefit Alabama’s most vulnerable?

There is a resolution to this horrible situation out there, and its seeds can be found in Virginia.

Pay Your Goddamn Writers

The last thing I thought to myself this morning after checking my email was, “oh great, another excuse from these fuckers.”

In August, I was published by ELLE Magazine, and as of this moment in time I still haven’t been paid by that august publication. Since the article went up, I’ve dedicated a small portion of each day to sending out emails trying to find out why ELLE Magazine, whose editor-in-chief has a net worth is estimated to be around $3 million, has yet to deposit $325 into my bank account.

These days, writing is a precarious endeavour. It is made so in my case by non-staff employment, better known as freelancing. This is reflective of the exploitative relationship between writers and the publications they work for. When you are a freelancer, getting paid for the work you do becomes a second job in and of itself; you’re sending countless emails to dozens of people over weeks, months, and (in some cases even) years just to get paid for the labor you did. “This is how it is,” they tell you. And so, you bite your tongue and hope that your bank account doesn’t overdraft, and that your part time job doesn’t cut your hours. The emails do no good, and soon it becomes clear that, despite your cordiality, your demands for updates are being ignored.

In talking with, two friends in the same boat as me, I found out they were waiting to be paid some $3,500 in back pay from an outlet that offered us $150 or less for 800+ words. We would all whisper in the background about how enraging and humiliating it was, that not only were we being paid so little but that we had to wait months for the scraps that we got. “If we go public we’ll get blackballed,” we say to each other, and it’s true. There’s an unspoken threat that hangs over this tiring process, one whispered to writers that they shouldn’t make noise about being screwed on their pay, especially not the kind of noise that involves naming the publications that make them wait to get paid.

At least, if we ever want to get published again.

On top of it, people who aren’t writers think that dragging them on social media with a name and shame will get a publication to immediately stop fucking people like us on their pay. This is ludicrous. If anything, you’d be seen as an inconvenience or nuisance, and it may result in you being offered less work. It’s mind boggling that publications, as big as they come, expect writers to wait for whatever meager pay we manage to fight for while they reap the fruit of our labor.

What’s more, these kinds of shitty pay practices only serve to cut off working class writers from media work. People whose families come from money, or have supportive partners with steady employment, then have the luxury to keep pitching to these exploitative publications while those of us who are trying to write for a living lose time for writing to doing other jobs or our bills go unpaid. This is, in part, how the media sorts out working class voices and oversamples those from privileged backgrounds.

Websites such as Who Pays Writers highlight not only the number of publications that offer abysmal wages, but just how pervasive late payments, and non-payments are in this industry. What’s horrifying is that writers are not asking for anything even remotely unreasonable. We need to be paid in a reasonable amount of time for the work that these publications build their brands on. And it should go without saying that paying someone for work done months afterward is pretty damn far from reasonable. Despite this occurring as a matter of habit for a lot of publications, it is not acceptable and should be treated as a kind of theft. While things like accounting and responding to invoices are not easy services to provide, any publication that can’t manage to do this isn’t organized enough to deserve to profit from the labor of the writers it publishes.

The only way to address this epidemic of wage theft is through collective action, and the way has already been marked out. In September of this year, The Nation magazine and the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 signed an agreement about how freelance writers would be treated by The Nation. The agreement included minimum payments, kill fees, and a guarantee that freelancers would be paid within thirty days of an invoice being submitted. As those on staff at publications of the online media continue to organize under the auspices of WGA East and The News Guild, freelancers must take up the fight as well to fight for the basic dignity that the NWU’s agreement with The Nation represents.

I should not have to send ELLE Magazine nearly 20 emails in order to get a straight answer out of them as to when I’m going to get $325 for an article that has made them more than that. It’s safe to assume that these same editors wouldn’t accept the type of exploitative relationship writers are so commonly forced into were it their paycheck we’re talking about. The piece I wrote for ELLE came with a deadline, so why can’t they meet my deadline for payment?

Pay your goddamn writers. And pay them on fucking time.

A More Progressive South? You can find it in Virginia.

What a night.

In my native Virginia, voters across the Commonwealth sent Republicans packing. Not only was there a second consecutive sweep at the top of the ballot — the first occurrence of this since the 1980s — but the state House of Delegates appears to have been fought to a 50-50 tie, though this might shift into Democratic control of the House as provisional ballots get counted and recounts occur. Even with the present composition, however, it would be the first time Republicans did not have control of Virginia’s lower chamber since the 1999 elections.

It was a landslide unlike anything we have seen in recent memory in the Commonwealth, and, contextually, anywhere else for that matter. There have been other Southern legislatures that have flipped heavily — all to the GOP — but those elections were less of a realignment than a predictable sorting: legacy Democrats who had long voted Republican at the federal level simply made their ballots a straight ticket in a political atmosphere where every election is nationalized. What happened in Virginia was much different, as Democrats won in places — like Virginia Beach and Prince William County — that are not typically seen as swing districts or even remotely friendly to their candidates.

And all this occurred despite a gubernatorial candidate whose campaign seemingly did its level best to give the whole damn thing away.

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Virginia Deserves Better.

Virginia is in the final hours of a gubernatorial contest that none of its residents deserve. But it did not have to be this way.

Tomorrow’s election had the markings of a bonanza for the Democratic Party. The Republican gubernatorial primary was a knock-em-down-and-drag-em-out affair, with a cheap Sons of Confederate Veterans knockofffrom Minnesota! — coming with 5,000 votes of the party’s nomination.

The eventual nominee, former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie, is probably the worst candidate to have running in a year where his party is about as popular as head lice, syphilis, and root canals. He is a Washington insider, a Virginia outsider (from New Jersey!), and is emblematic of the worst elements of the current rendition of his party.

The Democrats even have history on their side: With the exception of 2013, the opposition party has won every gubernatorial election in the Commonwealth since 1977. Boosting the opposition party’s chances this year is a historically unpopular president who could not even garner the votes of his party’s only living presidents in last year’s presidential election. And people are not passively disapproving of Trump, either: they’re getting active, building movements, and running for office, giving the Democrats the kind of energy that has not been seen since 2008. The national media has helped in a way, framing this as the first statewide electoral test of Donald Trump’s presidency, and it is one that is happening in the administration’s backyard.

And, yet, here we are: in the final hours of this election, the Republican candidate is now even-money to become the Commonwealth’s 73rd governor.