Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 30, 2015

Fresh audio product

Freshly posted to my radio archive, after too long an interval:

January 29, 2015 Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek economist who’s appeared on this show 16 times since 2008 discussing mainly the Eurocrisis, is now the finance minister of Greece. Here are excerpts from 5 of those interviews. At the very end of this episode, he discusses what Greece’s strategy towards its creditors should be. Tough words, worth checking out. [See next post for an incendiary excerpt.]

January 22, 2015 Priyamvada Gopal, author of this article, on the curious relationship of freedom and unfreedom in Western words and deeds • Maya Schenwar, author of Locked Down, Locked Out, on imprisonment.

January 15, 2015 Lily Geismer, author of Don’t Blame Usdiscusses the evolution of suburban liberalism • Art Goldhammer on French satire and politics in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre

January 8, 2015 Stan Collender on the budget melodramas facing us in Washington this year • David Kotz, author of this article, on about the Russian economic crisis

January 1, 2015 (partial return after fundraising and holiday hiatus) encore presentation of two interviews on policing and prisons:  Alex Vitale on broken windows and the militarization of policing • Naomi Murakawa, author of The First Civil Right, on the underestimated contributions of liberals to mass incarceration (both first broadcast in August)

Note that KPFA is in a fundraiser for the next couple of weeks. I probably won’t be posting a show next week. But if you like Behind the News and want to keep it coming, please contribute! You can get a USB thumb drive with 77 interviews, The Best of Behind the News 6.0, for a pledge of $120. Any amount welcome, of course. Please mention Behind the News if you do contribute.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 28, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis: on BtN 16 times!

The new Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has appeared on my radio show 16 times since 2008. Here are links to those appearances, in reverse chronological order:

November 20, 2014 Yanis Varoufakis on the eurocrisis • Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for NYS governor, on the party’s future
May 29, 2014 Yanis Varoufakis on the European elections • Mohamad Elmasry on Egypt
March 21, 2013 Yanis Varoufakis on the economies of Australia, Cyprus, and Greece • Jonathan Westin of Fast Food Forward on organizing fast food workers in NYC
December 27, 2012 Michael Dorsey on the Doha climate conference • Yanis Varoufakison the perpetual Eurocrisis, with an emphasis on Greece
July 5, 2012 Adolph Reed, author of one of the pieces on this Nation thread, on the crisis in labor • Yanis Varoufakis, now economist in residence at Valve Software, talks about the economics of gaming, and the anarcho-syndicalist organization of the firm
June 21, 2012 Yanis Varoufakis, now economist in residence at Valve Software, on the Greek elections and the reasons for German Sturheit • Amber Hollibaugh, co-director of Queers for Economic Justice, and Kenyon Farrow, former director of QEJ, on the New Queer Agenda


March 3, 2012 Trudy Lieberman on health care reform so far • Yanis Varoufakis on the Greek debt deal and economic collapse
November 12, 2011 Yanis Varoufakis on the latest developments in the Eurocrisis • Ramsey Kanaan, co-founder of PM Press, on the theory and practice of anarchism


August 20, 2011 Max Ajl, the Jewbonics blogger, on why Israelis are in the streets and how talk of the Occupation is not welcome • Yanis Varoufakis updates the eurocrisis as it spreads westwards


June 4, 2011 Another Hoover interview: Morris Fiorina on American public opinion and the nonexistence of the “culture war” • And in non-Hoover content, Yanis Varoufakisupdates the Greek and EU crises


November 20, 2010 Monica Potts, author of this article, on (the lack of) green jobs • Yanis Varoufakis, author of this article, on a better way to do a eurozone bailout


October 23, 2010 (KPFA only) Michael Tafton the Irish crisis • Yanis Varoufakis on the Greek and broader eurozone crises


September 9, 2010 Liz McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the fiscal crisis of the states • Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens fact-checks Michael Lewis Vanity Fair article on Greece
March 4, 2010David Cay Johnston on the Austin IRS suicide pilot and how the rich have largely given up on paying taxes • Yanis Varoufakis on the Greek economic crisis (and Germany’s designs)
October 8, 2009 Yanis Varoufakis on the Greek elections and the economy’s troubles • Greg Grandin on the coup in Honduras
December 11, 2008 Charlie Komanoff on a plan to make NYC transit nearly free (by soaking cars) • Yanis Varoufakis on the Greek riots and Greek neoliberalism


Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 28, 2015

A reader writes…

From the mailbag: a reader reacts to my last post on unions:

I have some feedback for you on your article,”Why Bosses Hate Unions.”

I found it just a really poor piece of journalism.  It was incredibly one-sided, pandering, and missed several key issues.  Yes, union workers make more money than their counterparts, but that is not the only reason bosses (or more accurately shareholders) hate unions.  Unions also:

– Decrease innovation
– Increase Administration cost
– Force non-related political issues into the workplace
– Increase costs of employment – union wages
– Reduce the ability to promote, demote and fire employees based on performance

This is one of MANY reasons why unions have fallen out of favor in our society. This is the main reason that public unions are increasing, vs private ones have shrunken – the feedback loop to results in the public sector is much smaller. (See hundreds of NY teachers being paid to do nothing)

Why didn’t you address this issues?  Why didn’t you address the issues of increase competition due to globalization/technology?  Why didn’t you further discuss the downsides of unionization and how many American’s perceive them to be out-of-date?

You didn’t because you are biased and a bad reporter.

Be less obtuse,

Posted by: Doug Henwood | January 23, 2015

Union density erodes again—and why bosses hate unions

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is just out with its figures on union membership in 2014. Overall membership, aka density, fell to 11.1% of the workforce, from 11.3% in 2013. The decline was more than entirely the result of slippage in the private sector, down from 6.7% to 6.6%. Public sector density, perhaps surprisingly, rose, from 35.3% to 35.7%. Since private sector employment is more than five times that of the public sector, the private sector decline dominated the public sector’s rise, producing the overall drop.

Here’s a graph of union density over time. Current private sector density is half what it was in 1930, just before the great surge in membership during the Depression. Its rate of decline has slowed over the last decade, but there’s no sign of a turnaround. And despite the uptick in public sector density last year, the line has been essentially flat for 30 years.


By age group, union membership rose only among the youngest (16-24) and oldest (65+) cohorts. The decline was sharper for adult men (-0.3 point) than women (-0.1). By race/ethnicity, density declined among whites (-0.2), blacks (-0.4), and Hispanics (-0.2), but rose a full percentage point for Asians.

Density declined for most occupational and industry groups, with some interesting exceptions. By occupation, management, law, healthcare practitioners, and sales all bucked the downward trend; by industry, broadcasting/telecommunications; arts, entertainment, and recreation; accommodations; and bars and restaurants all rose (though the last just barely). The lists of gainers are at odds with the traditional image of unions. Efforts to organize retail showed little payoff, as density fell 0.2 point. Within the public sector, union membership rose at the federal and local levels, and declined at the state level—it looks like that’s where the effort to destroy public sector unionism is having its effect.

Union status matters for wages: overall, unionized workers earned 27% more than nonunion (measured by median weekly earnings for full-time workers). The effect was especially pronounced for weaker, more discriminated-against demographic groups. The youngest group, aged 16–24, enjoyed a 28% union premium; the advantage declined with each successive cohort, down to 12% for the 65+ set. Women aged 25 and older enjoyed a 27% premium, compared to 15% for men. White men (16 and over) had a 20% union advantage, compared with 32% for white women; for black men, the premium was 29%, compared to 34% for black women; and for Hispanics, it was 44% for men and 46% for women. Asian men were a notable exception, with the unionized earning 5% less than the non-unionized—but Asian women showed a 14% union premium.

It’s no wonder employers hate unions so much. As profoundly flawed as American unions are, they can vastly improve the wages and working conditions of their members.

[Technical note: all the figures above refer to union members; they don’t include the 1.2% of the workforce that is represented by unions without being members. If you include them, all the trends are almost identical to what’s outlined above.]

Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 24, 2014

That john a. powell talk…

The excerpts from the talk by Berkeley law prof john a. powell [sic] that Adolph Reed and I discuss on my December 25 radio show can be found here.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | December 4, 2014

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archive:

December 4, 2014 Anatol Lieven of Georgetown U–Qatar (and author of this) on Hillary the Hawk • Alex Vitale, author of City of Disorder, on Ferguson in the context of American policing

November 27, 2014 Lucia Green-Weiskel on the U.S.–China climate quasi-deal • Steven Teles talks about Hillary, kludgeocracy, and neoliberalism.

November 20, 2014 Yanis Varoufakis on the eurocrisis • Howie Hawkins, Green candidate for NYS governor, on the party’s future

November 13, 2014 Detroit bankruptcy exit special: Shea Howell of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, offers an activist perspective, and Wallace Turbeville (see writings here) runs the numbers

Posted by: Doug Henwood | November 10, 2014

Fresh audio product, in quantity

Catching up on a major backlog of fresh audio product, just posted to my radio archives:

September 18, 2014 Gilbert Achcar on the Middle Eastern landscape

September 25, 2014 Mark Blyth on the Scottish independence referendum • Laleh Khalili on the theory and practice of counterinsurgency.

October 23, 2014 [back after fundraising hiatus]  Ryan Grim (author of this article) on Gary Webb, crack, and the CIA • Jake Blumgart (author of this article) on a mini-Detroit on the outskirts of Philadelphia

October 30, 2014  Kevin Alexander Gray, co-editor of Killing Trayvonson racist police and vigilante violence • Trudy Lieberman on the snares of Obamacare

November 6, 2014 Heather Boushey, director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, on inequality • George Joseph, author of this article, on Teach for America

Note the fundraising gap. If you like these shows and want to keep them coming, please contribute to KPFA—and mention Behind the News if you do.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | November 10, 2014

More Hillary

Me on CNN, interviewed by Andrew Cuomo’s brother, of all people.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 29, 2014

Hillary publicity update 2

This just in, from my old pal Russ Smith, publisher of New York Press in its splendid heyday.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 29, 2014

Hillary publicity update

Updates to the Hillary publicity catalog:

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 28, 2014

Hillary publicity roundup

Lots of nice publicity for my Hillary piece in Harper’s:

More, one hopes. One always hopes for more.


Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 24, 2014

On Hillary

[I said this on my radio show yesterday as a Hillary teaser. Jane McAlevey urged me to circulate it, and I do what Jane says.]

A little self-promotion. I have a cover story in this month’s Harper’s on Hillary Rodham Clinton, which the editors gave the tabloidish headline, “Stop Hillary!” (And I do mean tabloidish—it caught the attention of a New York Post reporter, who wrote it up for the paper’s Page Six gossip feature.) In it, I review Hillary’s life in a very non-friendly way, in hope of derailing her unannounced yet all-but-certain presidential campaign.

I have three major objections to Hillary (which is how she seems to brand herself these days): the dynastic, the personal, and the political.

First, after two Bushes, do we really need another Clinton?

Second, the personal. Hillary has a long record of dishonesty, ranging from making up a stories about the origin of her name (she said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, but he didn’t climb Mt Everest until several years after she was born) to lies about all the various Arkansas scandals she brought with her to Washington. Par for the politician course, I suppose, but her supporters like to think of her as several cuts above the ordinary, a judgment I’m sure she concurs with.

But the most important objection is political: the last thing we need is another hawkish, Wall Street-friendly Democrat in the White House. Many people—including me, when I started researching the piece—don’t appreciate how deeply involved Hillary was with creating the New Democrat paradigm, tough and business-friendly, replacing the old New Deal/Great Society model. While governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton took a number of swipes at unions in the state as part of a campaign to shred the longstanding Democratic alliance with labor. He, with Hillary closely involved, launched an attack on the teachers union in Arkansas, a campaign with ugly racial undertones, that was a model for later edu-reform efforts. Once on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary supported Bill’s efforts to end welfare, which is responsible for keeping millions of people, mostly women and children, in poverty now—though, of course, she likes to present herself as an advocate for women and children. That advocacy mainly takes the form of photo-ops and symbolic programs. It’s very reminiscent of her husband’s approach. I remember, back in the 1990s, taking apart his budget proposals. The prose sections always contained rhetoric about “investing in people” and “building a bridge to the 21st century,” but when you looked at the actual numbers, you had to take them out to two or three decimal places to notice any change. That’s the essence of the New Democrat paradigm.

But it isn’t new anymore—it’s more than 20 years old. It represented a consolidation of Reaganism, the conversion of what is supposed to be the popular party into a near-pure instrument of neoliberalism. To a neoliberal, the solution to a social problem should always involve a market, and if the market doesn’t exist, it must be created ex nihilo. (That’s the logic of Obamacare.)

That whole approach has lost even its novelty value now. It is not adequate to deal with climate change, polarization, and structural economic stagnation—problems that are caused by an excess of markets, not a deficiency. The marketization of everything has led to severe social fragmentation and the erosion of all notions of solidarity. Hillary sometimes evokes those notions of solidarity, but usually in photo-ops with women from poor countries in their colorful native garb, where she uplifts them by her mere presence. As for policies that might change their actual material and social status, well, they’re rather thin on the ground, because they might spoil the investment climate.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 24, 2014

Minimum wage politics

I haven’t used this venue to promote my Harper’s piece on the awfulness of Hillary Clinton, but that’s about to change. First this little note, and then some bits from the cutting-room floor that wouldn’t fit next week.

Some Democrats have been saying that a Hillary presidency would almost certainly lead to a rise in the minimum wage and a Republican wouldn’t. Maybe. But here’s the recent historical record. I have to admit I was surprised by this, but here you go:

• The real value of the minimum wage rose 7.7% under George H.W. Bush (measuring from January 1989–January 1993—subsequent calculations follow the same template).

• It fell by 1.5% under Bill Clinton.

• It rose by 5.4% under George W. Bush.

• So far under Obama it’s down 1.3%

This history aside, I’m not saying that the minimum wage is more likely to rise under a Rep than a Dem, but Dems’ faith in the certainty of a minwage increase under Hillary seems misplaced.

PS: Yes, Harper’s is beyond a paywall. They also paid me well and have an excellent staff of editors and publicists. You can’t get that good stuff for free.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | October 8, 2014

More companies dropping health coverage, thanks to Obamacare

Back in 2011, I argued that Obamacare would lead employers to drop existing health insurance coverage and throw employees onto the mercies of the exchanges. (See this post and links therein.) Liberals, including no less than Paul Krugman, denied this. But it’s looking like it’s happening.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart, that paragon of the modern employer, is dropping coverage for 30,000 part-time employees. It joins Target, Home Depot, and UPS, who’ve already cut coverage. And, at the high end, the so-called “Cadillac tax” on generous insurance plans is also leading to cutbacks; JetBlue and FedEx are shifting employees into high-deductible plans.

Obamacare’s popularity

Meanwhile, Gallup finds that more Americans think the cleverly named Affordable Care Act  has hurt (27%) rather than helped (16%) them—though a majority (54%) say it’s had no effect. Almost half (46%) think the ACA will make things worse over the long term, and just 15% think it will make things better.

Maybe they’re wrong. But the typical response of Democrats is basically to say they’re mistaken, and that the Act is the greatest bit of legislated social progress since Medicare. Except almost everyone loves Medicare. It’d be nice if everyone could have something like it.

An hour after I hit the “publish” button on the SodaStream post, the firm’s publicist got back to me with an answer to my question about how BDS might be affecting sales. He referred me to a September 1 JTA story, which reports that the company is thinking of closing its West Bank factory (pictured below)—but purely for “financial reasons.” Those reasons do not include the boycott, which CEO Daniel Birnbaum dismissed as a mere “nuisance.” And, in case you missed the political point, he made the company’s position very clear: “We are not giving in to the boycott. We are Zionists.”

So, they‘d close the plant for financial reasons, but its location in the West Bank has nothing to do with those. Right. Also: it’s not just a beverage—it’s a political statement.

Israeli Soda Club factory

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,388 other followers

%d bloggers like this: