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DesignTShirtsFree[Dot]Com and SunFrog Shirts: “Printed in the USA”… but MADE in a Sweatshop

Today, some cheesehead from a website called DesignTShirtsFree[Dot]Com posted a spam comment at Irregular Times, advertising for some fairly stupid t-shirts with “Keep Calm and [BLANK] On” and “It’s a [BLANK] Thing… You Wouldn’t Understand” printed on them, selling for $25 a pop.  On most days, I’d just delete the stupid piece of spam and move on.  But today I did a bit of checking.  Here’s what I found:

Idiotic SunFrog T-Shirts Sports Team Blah Blah Babble Fan T-Shirt: Marked Up $6 Profit to Seller Per Shirt.  Gildan Workers who make shirts for the likes of SunFrog earn $6 A DAY.1.  DesignTShirtsFree makes about $6 of profit for every $25 shirt it sells through an online t-shirt sales operation called SunFrog Shirts.  SunFrog gets the rest — which is, according to its FAQ page, $19 a shirt.

2.  SunFrog Shirts declares that “we use a Gildan brand shirt.”

3.  Gildan’s t-shirt workers in Haiti earn $6 for a day’s labor producing these shirts, a December 2014 Washington Post investigation discovered.

4.  Also in December 2014, the Toronto Globe and Mail investigated Gildan shirt factories “in Montreal, Canada, it has factories in Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti – which is still reeling from the 2010 earthquake….

“Archil Feraire, 32, said he was fired from his job as a machine operator in April due to his union activism. He lives in a three-room cinder-block shack with his wife and two children and earned £74 a month. ‘The salary is so low, you can only pay for food,’ he said.

“Many workers have to borrow money from loan sharks, such as mother-of-three Marie-Bénie Clerjo, 32, who lives is one small room where she and her children sleep on two beds. There’s no kitchen, toilet or sink, and she is two months behind in her rent.

“‘We are not treated like humans, we are treated like animals,’ she said. ‘I am living a miserable life.'”

SunFrog tries to deflect the sweatshop issue by placing a message on every page where it sells a Gildan shirt: “Printed in the USA!” the message declares, with a little tiny American flag next to the message.

That may be.  But the shirts themselves are made by Gildan.  As the Washington Post and Toronto Globe and Mail have discovered, Gildan is a sweatshop operator.  If SunFrog were honest, the image on its website would look like this:

Made In A Sweatshop

At the beginning of the day, I was upset about a little bit of annoying spam.  At the end of the day, I’m infuriated to learn of some people’s profit from other people’s misery.

America May See Its First Openly Pagan Presidential Candidate This Year

The Darryl Cherney for President Exploratory Committee popped up on Facebook earlier this year, and though he hasn’t registered with the FEC, Darryl Cherney says that he is contemplating running for President with the Green Party. If he does, he says that he would be the first openly Pagan presidential candidate.

Why does it matter that Darryl Cherney identifies his religion as Pagan? Cherney says that Paganism is just what the U.S. federal government needs.

darryl cherney pagan for presidentCherney writes, “If I choose to run I may be the first (openly) Pagan Presidential Candidate. And yes it matters. To have a candidate that honors the feminine and Mother Earth as sacred is something we are sorely lacking. For those who say we must not bring religion into the mix, may I remind you that among our greatest activists were Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Desmond Tutu and Ghandi–all who wore their spirituality on their sleeves. There is a difference between the separation of Church and State and letting people know your spiritual practice. And given the hundreds of years of brutality foisted upon pagans, which continues to this day, it’s time someone spoke out in the political arena and besides saying “I am gay,” or “I was a pot smoker” or “I am a socialist;” to say “I am a pagan!” And then to let people know it simply means honoring the female and male as equals in the divine.”

To me, the most important issue isn’t whether a Pagan President is going to make everything better in the USA, but whether Darryl Cherney is just one more in a long line of presidential candidates who assert that their own religion should be the guiding standard for American government. We already have a guiding standard for our country. It’s democratically established and maintained. It’s called the Constitution.

The Constitution makes it clear that there shouldn’t be any religious test for any governmental position in the United States, much less for the position of President. That doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional for Darryl Cherney to campaign on a platform of using the government to implement his religious beliefs. It means it would be unconstitutional for Cherney to follow through on these campaign promises. No law in the USA can be used to establish any religion, whether it’s Christian, Pagan, or something else.

We would be wise to choose our elected leaders on the basis of policy agenda, rather than on the basis of religious identity. We’ve seen many American politicians identify themselves as Christian, yet disagree with each other vigorously about policy. Religion is political, but it provides vague and contradictory ideas about politics, leading to remarkable diversity in interpretation. It’s not the job of the President to be the preacher in chief, whether the preaching is about Jesus or about the Sacred Feminine.

On the political substance, Darryl Cherney seems to be having some trouble getting his policy agenda clear. In April, he announced that he had been working hard on his campaign platform. “It’s almost ready to share,” he said. A couple of weeks ago, when a follower of his exploratory campaign asked if he had finished his platform yet, Cherney wrote, “I’ve got the document in it’s form. Now I’m ironing out the typos, kinks, errors, and so on.”

Still, months after Cherney began his exploratory presidential campaign, he still hasn’t been able to say what he would do if he gets elected. The Cherney for President platform remains unfinished.

It appears to be much easier for Cherney to simply say that he would be the first openly Pagan president than to explain why that matters.

Catholic Vote Wants To Spread Natural Marriage

natural marriageOn Friday, an organization called Catholic Vote began a national campaign to “support natural marriage”. The campaign consists of members of the Catholic church praying and fasting on Fridays. The idea is that, by having Catholics abstain from eating food and talk to themselves as often as possible, laws about marriage will change.

Let’s see if that works. The national campaign will end on June 30. If natural marriage has become the law of the land by June 30, we might conclude that Catholics have summoned some kind of holy power through their actions.

But then, there’s a problem. In order to test the effectiveness of this prayer and hunger campaign to impose natural marriage upon the United States, we first have to understand what natural marriage is.

I’ve never met anybody who had a natural marriage before. I’ve never even heard strangers on the street talking about what a natural marriage might be.

There are a couple of possibilities I can think of.

First, a natural marriage might be a marriage in which the spouses solemnly agree to eat natural foods, to make all their own clothes from plant fibers and animal hides, and avoid riding in cars and airplanes.

Second, a natural marriage might be the kind of marriage that isn’t created through the artifice of government certification or religious ceremony, but just when two people start hanging out together and decide to refer to themselves as a married couple.

Which of these do you think is the proper definition of natural marriage, and why do you think Catholics are choosing to promote it now?

John Edwards on Memorial Day 2007; Bernie Sanders on Memorial Day 2015

Since it was known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day has been a day to remember the dead.  Let’s also remember the actions of the living.

On Memorial Day 2007, John Edwards used his platform as a Democratic presidential candidate to call on Americans to engage in activism against the ongoing war in Iraq.  Unfortunately, the consistency of his position was undercut by his vote as a U.S. Senator in 2002 to start that war in Iraq.

On Memorial Day 2015, Bernie Sanders has used his platform as a Democratic presidential candidate to send this message:

Bernie Sanders on Memorial Day: "If you are not prepared to take care of the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this country -- who came back wounded in body, wounded in spirit -- if you are not prepared to help those people, then don't send them to war in the first place." -- Senator Berie Sanders (VT)

This is a complicated message. As J. Clifford pointed out this morning, one of the reasons we have wars is that we are conditioned to accept without question the idea that wars are carried out to defend this country.  But unlike John Edwards, Bernie Sanders had the courage to make a deeply unpopular congressional “Nay” vote on going to war in Iraq in 2002.  When it mattered most, Bernie Sanders acted to prevent a bloody, deceptive and ultimately fruitless war.  Remember.

Mommy, Why Do We Have Wars?

A Memorial Day in which we attend parades and celebrate soldiers while waving flags is a Memorial Day in which we forget what war is really all about. Soldiers are often wrecked by wars, and we should have compassion for them because of that, but we should remember the victims of soldiers as well. We should remember the destruction caused by war, which often continues, as in the case of Iraq, for years after wars officially end.

To broaden our collective memory, people are sharing a meme through their social media accounts this weekend. It’s a picture by David Avocado Wolfe, showing a mother talking with her young son. The son asks, “Why do we have wars?” The mother answers, “Because we are ruled by an elite group of psychopaths who own the banks that control the governments and media. They fund both sides of war for profit and they manufacture the consent of the public through the propaganda of the media.”

why do we have wars meme

The people who share this meme seem to be sincerely motivated to offer an interpretation of Memorial Day that is more peaceful than the Support Our Troops model of holiday celebration that has become dominant. Yet, as much as the mother in the image uses sophisticated vocabulary, I can’t help but think that her reasoning is almost as simple as what we would expect from her young son.

The mother’s answer to the question “Why do we have wars?” is essentially that “There are powerful bad guys, and they make us have wars.” A kindergartener would understand this reply, but having lived through a few wars, and participated in efforts to resist them, I can’t agree with the mother’s argument.

I have quibbles with the details of what the mother in the picture says to her son. For one thing, if an “elite group of psychopaths” really controls “the media”, why has this social media meme been allowed to spread, as its own form of propaganda? For another thing, the small model of human psychology that proposes that consent can be manufactured, like a consumer good in a factory, isn’t in accord with how people actually make decisions.

Real human beings are more psychologically complex than this meme gives them credit for, and that’s what bothers me most about it. It reduces people to the status of dull-minded herd animals in order to portray them as victims. It diminishes the American people into passive tools, and it does so in order to avoid a genuine examination of our own collective responsibility for war.

I propose the following alternative: When our children ask us, “Why do we have wars?”, we can avoid easy answers that deflect moral responsibility, and say something such as, “There isn’t just one answer to your question. It’s because of different choices we all make every day.”

why do we have wars meme alternative with nuance

Why do we have wars? It’s because Mommy and Daddy drive a big SUV that uses a lot of gasoline – even to go short distances that we could walk.

We go to war because those cute little sandals you are wearing are made in overseas sweatshop factories, and Mommy and Daddy didn’t want to pay a fair price for them, so with our money we choose to pay for an international system of trade that exploits people and sets off conflicts around the world, though no individual has exactly planned it that way.

We go to war because Mommy and Daddy start to feel uncomfortable when we look for news independently, and so we stick with the easier messages that are provided for us by a few big powerful television networks.

We go to war because Mommy and Daddy gain a strange kind of warped sense of security by maintaining a hypervigilant belief that bad guys are constantly on the verge of invading the United States.

We go to war because we feel sorry for people like your Uncle Steve, the weird one that we try not to let you talk to for very long at family picnics, who have never been the same since they came back from war, and Mommy and Daddy don’t want to confront the fact that the war is the reason Uncle Steve drinks too much, and isn’t married any more, and can’t hold down a job, so we wave our flags, and say “Support Our Troops”, and pretend that the wars we’ve fought had something to do with preserving freedom, which just makes it all the more easy to go to war again the next time, creating more people like Uncle Steve.

We go to war because, although Mommy and Daddy sometimes have doubts, we don’t want to seem unpatriotic. What would the neighbors say?

We go to war because, sometimes, it makes us feel excited to feel like we’re part of a big struggle for something important, even though we really just sit back in our living room watching news broadcasts about it.

We go to war, and applaud as the terrible things that happen during war are done in our name, not because there are any psychopaths controlling us as puppets, but because Mommy and Daddy and all the other grownups that live in our country have a part of them that sometimes gets sick of playing nicely, and working through problems in a slow, methodical, difficult way, so that every now and then we just want to reach out and hit somebody very, very hard. That doesn’t make us psychopaths. It’s a part of being human, but it does make us dangerous when we don’t control that urge, or when we redirect it onto an international stage through our political decisions.

why do we have wars meme political version

We go to war because Mommy and Daddy always vote to elect the political leaders who, like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, have loudly supported going to war in the past. We reward the war-loving politicians, and teach them that the easiest way to retain a grip on power is to take the nation into war. We consent to these wars with our votes, and that consent isn’t manufactured. It’s something we choose to give.

We go to war because Mommy and Daddy and most of the other grownups across America don’t have the moral courage to stand up and speak out against war, and don’t make individual choices that will lead to more peaceful alternatives to what we see in our culture of adulation of the military.

Now, why don’t we get ready to go to that parade? They’ll be throwing candy!

Two Fairy Houses on Monhegan Island


monhegan fairy house one

monhegan fairy house tardis

Maine’s Monhegan Island, May 23 2015.  Two different kind of fairy houses referring to two not-so-different kinds of fairy tales.

(After this weekend it’ll be people season, not proper for visiting until later.  Try a visit after September 1 and the woods will be yours again.)

Fact Check: Does A NASA Scientist Say The Earth Will Be Plunged Into Darkness For Six Days This June?

“Earth Will Experience 6 Days Of Total Darkness In June 2015″ – such is the claim made in many places around the Internet, from to

NASA has confirmed that the Earth will experience 6 days of almost complete darkness and will happen from the dates Tuesday the 30 – Monday the 6 in july . The world will remain, during these six days, without sunlight due to a solar storm, which will cause dust and space debris to become plentiful and thus, block 90% sunlight.

dark cityIt sounds like an outrageous claim, but the writer behind these articles claims to have expert sources: NASA head Charles Bolden and NASA scientist Earl Godoy.

Is it true?

Charles Bolden is indeed head of NASA, but I can find no reference to anyone at NASA named Earl Godoy – except in the articles claiming that we will be doomed with 6 days of darkness. This invisibility of a scientist who has supposedly predicted an astonishing, unprecedented event is suspicious. Even more suspicious is the fact that the story of 6 days of darkness doesn’t appear anywhere on the NASA web site.

Then there’s the content of the prediction: That a solar storm will cause so much dust and debris to “become plentiful” that the light of the sun will be blocked. How a solar storm would create dust and debris is never explained. Known solar storms have never done any such thing in the past, and given that space is mostly empty, it’s implausible to think such a thing could take place.

The kicker, for me, is that an identical, nearly word for word, prediction has been made before:

The Earth will experience 6 days of almost complete darkness NASA has confirmed. This will happen from the dates Tuesday the 16 – Monday the 22 in December. During these three days in December, the world will remain without any sunlight due to a solar storm, which will cause dust and space debris to become plentiful and thus, block 90% sunlight.

The story was bogus before, and I’m thinking it’s bogus this time around too.

Rodney Davis Wants To Make Sure School Kids Keep Eating Lots Of Salt And More Carbohydrates

high sodium rodney davisI’m finding myself perplexed this morning by a bill that was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives this week by Congressman Rodney Davis, a Republican from Illinois. The legislation would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act in two ways: It would outlaw reductions in sodium levels in school kids’ lunches and would reinstate a requirement that lunches be “grain-rich”.

Why would any member of Congress seek to have a law passed requiring a high salt and high grain diet? There is no known health problem of salt deficiency among America’s children. On the contrary, most kids have a diet that is too high in salt, because it’s stuffed into heavily processed foods common in the American diet in order to improve the foods’ taste.

Neither are American children suffering nutritionally from grain-deficient diets. They’re eating too many grain-packed foods, made with white flour that has been stripped of its nutrition in order to make lightly-textured treats. The vast majority of grain flours that are eaten in the United States have little nutrition, and strongly contribute to high rates of obesity and diabetes.

It could be argued that American children would benefit from eating more whole grains, which are nutritious when properly prepared, but the bill introduced by Rodney Davis wouldn’t promote whole grains in particular. Instead, it promotes grains as a broad category, and almost all of the grain-based foods available in the United States are not whole grain. Even bread that is sold as “whole grain” is almost always not really based on whole grain.

So, why is Rodney Davis introducing legislation that would prevent more healthy sodium levels in children’s diets, and actually make their diets worse by requiring schools to feed students large amounts of grains?

Part of the answer to this mystery may come from the fact that Rodney Davis practically grew up at McDonalds fast food restaurants. His parents operated a McDonalds franchise, at which he worked when he was a teenager. McDonalds foods are notorious for being high in sodium, and the McDonalds hamburger buns are made from 100 percent white flour with all the nutrition of whole grains stripped out.

Another explanation may come from the nature of the congressional district that Rodney Davis represents. Though parts of it include suburbs of Saint Louis, Missouri, the 13th district of Illinois has large agricultural areas where a great deal of grain is grown. The 13th congressional district is also home to salt mines.

Would Rodney Davis really write a law that would worsen the health of American children, just to bring some people in his congressional district financial profit?

The record shows that Rodney Davis has, over the course of just two elections, taken $464,183 from agribusiness and $127,012 from mining interests. So, it’s not just a few people in the 13th district who have profited from salt and grain. Rodney Davis himself has a financial connection.

Considering this information, I find that my confusion is waning.

U.S. House Passes Bill Allowing Negligence In Commercial Space Travel

dangers of space travel“Launching rockets into space is inherently dangerous,” observes U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson. The Armagh Planetarium lists things such as space debris, cosmic rays, flaws in spacesuits, accidents during launch and re-entry, breathing in needle sharp moon dust, and being sent off hurtling through the vacuum of space as a consequence of letting go of a spaceship for even a moment. The thing about space, though, is that it’s very, very big, and largely unexplored, so the unknown dangers of space travel are almost certainly much greater in number than the dangers we know about.

In the face of this risk, you can probably guess what the U.S. House of Representatives did yesterday. They voted to remove commercial space operations from all liability for harm that comes to passengers on their spaceships – even if the harm comes from negligence of sensible safeguards for predictable risks to life and limb.

The legislation was the SPACE Act of 2015, H.R. 2262, which will, if signed into law, make it a legal requirement for travelers on commercial space flights to sign legal waivers of all rights to compensation for themselves or their families in case of an accident.

Despite our best efforts, and over 50 years of technology development, accidents still occur. Just last year the U.S. commercial launch industry suffered two serious accidents, one of which resulted in a very unfortunate death. I cannot support a commercial space bill that minimizes the issue of safety, like H.R. 2262 does, said Eddie Bernice Johnson, explaining her opposition to the bill.

Unfortunately, most of her colleagues weren’t bothered by the legislation’s encouragement of death trap spaceships. The SPACE Act of 2015 passed by a vote of 284 to 133.

North Carolina Moral Mondays Roll On With Themed Protests

At a time when most of America is politically quiescent, Moral Mondays are a regular feature of the progressive protest calendar in North Carolina.  As the summer looms, the North Carolina NAACP has a queue of themed protests to be staged at the complex of the NC General Assembly in Raleigh:

May 27 theme: Healthcare & Environmental Justice

June 10 theme: Women’s Rights Moral Monday

June 17 theme: Voting Rights

June 24 theme: Equal Protection Under the Law

If you’re there, do you plan to join in the action?



House of Representatives Passes Bill Restricting Scientific Research

The American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015 was originally meant to reauthorize the law of the same name that was passed in 2007. That law provided funding to support scientific research in the United States. What the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015 (H.R. 880) became before it passed the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday was quite different.

congress of the United statesThe American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015 actually cuts spending on science, and dictates what kind of scientific research will be performed using public money. The legislation prohibits certain kinds of research on climate change, and restricts the use of science to inform public policy.

The reason for this change is that Republicans and conservative Democrats don’t like much of what scientific research has to say. Information provided through scientific research is often inconvenient for the big corporations that pay for their campaigns – especially for corporations in the fossil fuels industry. They find it troubling when scientists keep reporting about the way that consumption of fossil fuels harms human health and degrades the ecological integrity of life on Earth as a whole.

So, only one Republican, Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against the American Research and Competitiveness Act.

37 Democrats caved in to corporate pressure and joined the Republicans to vote for the anti-science bill. They were:

Peter Aguilar, Brad Ashford, Sanford Bishop, Julia Brownley, Cheri Bustos, Michael Capuano, Andre Carson, Katherine Clark, Gerald Connolly, Joe Courtney, Henry Cuellar, John Delaney, Suzan DelBene, Elizabeth Esty, Gwen Graham, Joe Heck, Bill Keating, Joseph Kennedy, Derek Kilmer, Ann Kuster, John Larson, Dave Loebsack, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Steve Lynch, Sean Maloney, Jim McDermott, Patrick Murphy, Richard Neal, Rick Nolan, Scott Peters, Collin Peterson, Raul Ruiz, Dutch Ruppersberger, Kyrsten Sinema, Dina Titus, Paul Tonko, and Timothy Walz.