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Donald Trump Is A Terrible Candidate Running A Terrible Campaign

[ 31 ] August 24, 2016 |

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Donald Trump is not raising as much money as a presidential candidate should be raising in 2016, and much of what he is raising he’s using to add a third layer of fake gold to plaster his toilets. If he were running a serious presidential campaign, this would make it all the more crucial that his remaining time and resources would have to be spent very efficiently. This is…not happening:

Donald Trump might be moderating his rhetoric, but he hasn’t adjusted a campaign strategy that has him spending valuable time in states that will not prove decisive on Election Day.

With fewer than 80 days to go and lagging in the polls, the Republican nominee will host a rally Tuesday in Austin, Texas, and another on Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi. Both cities sit inside strongly Republican states that are safe and uncompetitive.

These visits follow a recent trip by Trump into heavily Democratic Connecticut, a choice that enraged and confused Republicans.

“I have never known a general election campaign in my adult life, a Republican campaign, to spend time in Mississippi outside of raising money,” said Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican operative. “Donald Trump’s going to win Mississippi by at least double digits.”

But Trump is behind, several polls show, in North Carolina, a state that has gone Republican in eight of the past nine presidential elections. Georgia, which hasn’t voted Democratic since 1992, is competitive, with the latest poll showing a tied race. And more traditional battleground states have moved away from Trump: Ohio, which polls showed was a tied race last month, is now tilting in Hillary Clinton’s direction. Meanwhile, he is up in Mississippi by double digits, one recent survey shows.

He has totally hacked and disrupted presidential campaigning!

Maybe Trump’s benefactor Woody Johnson can solve his logjam at QB by trading Christian Hackenberg to the Trump campaign. It’s hard to imagine that he could be worse at campaign consulting than he is at NFL quarterbacking.

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Steven Hill, R.I.P.

[ 18 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The great character actor has died. Somebody needs to make gifs of great Adam Schiff one-liners; my nominee would be “the only pattern here is that you have no facts.”

Irving Fields, RIP

[ 6 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The wonderful Irving Fields has died at the age of 101. Fields was a brilliant piano player and probably the last living man on the Catskill circuit of the postwar years who in the 1950s combined Jewish music traditions with Latin rhythms. His most famous album is 1959’s Bagels and Bongos, the height of this combination. It’s simply a wonderful album that is a tremendous amount of fun to listen to. Fields, having great success on that album, recorded a bunch of other albums combining European lounge and Latin traditions. I also Champagne and Bongos, which builds on French cafe music. It’s good, but not as good as Bagels. In his late career, he was picked up in the John Zorn circle, which allowed him to record some albums of Zorn’s Tzadik label. His album Oy Vey! Ole! with the percussionist Roberto Rodriguez is absolutely fantastic. His solo album on Tzadik, My Yiddishe Mama, is quite good, although in my view it has the limits of most solo piano albums which is a lack of varied sound. Fields played weekly in an Italian restaurant in New York until just a few months ago. I am disappointed with myself for not finding a reason to go see him play. Here’s a few available clips from his long career. RIP.

Texas Conservatives Are Winning Their War on Women

[ 46 ] August 23, 2016 |

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Good god Texas.

The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.

From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

No one can say that Texas conservatives don’t know what they are doing. I would like to see how this specifically affects Latinas, because dollars to donuts, the biggest impact is in south Texas. But this article doesn’t explore that.

Building on Obamacare

[ 106 ] August 23, 2016 |

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The Affordable Care Act is arguably the biggest progressive legislative victory since the Johnson administration. It’s also deeply flawed and in need of update in many areas. These two statements are not contradictory. The question, as Jim Newell asks, is whether Democrats are ready to build upon that great victory and improve the law.

First, some of the issues, which have been more in the news lately because of Aetna deciding to play the villain.

But it’s becoming clearer that the Affordable Care Act, for all its advances, is due for the sort of legislative maintenance that most major laws require after implementation. Two temporary federal programs, reinsurance and risk corridors, designed to cushion losses for insurers as they determined sustainable premium price points in new markets, expire in 2017 as the exchanges enter their fourth year of operation. Carriers serving sicker-than-expected pools or rural areas find that their options are either to sharply increase premiums or to leave the exchanges altogether. Average premium increase requests from insurers on the individual exchanges are well into the double digits across much of the country. And a Kaiser estimate in May projected the number of counties that could have a single exchange insurer in 2017 to be 664—70 percent of which are mostly rural—up from 225 in 2016. That number will increase following Aetna’s withdrawal and could reach roughly a quarter of all counties in the country. Alabama, Alaska, South Carolina, and Wyoming are set to have just one insurer offering coverage on their exchanges in 2017. Most of North Carolina, except for the Raleigh metropolitan region, will be down to one insurer as well.

One problem with legislative redress for Obamacare is that the legislators who are supposed to do the redressing seem less than eager to return to the front where not long ago they’d declared victory. The second problem is that, once again, the fight will almost certainly involve the public option.

So what about the public option and what, if anything, are Democrats ready to do if they have a big win in November? Newell correctly notes that most Democratic politicians see the fight as protecting the ACA from Republicans and therefore really not articulating any changes. He does have a slight bit of hope that Hillary Clinton will push toward something like the public option.

There is one Democratic figure who might be in office in 2017 who has treated the law’s shortcomings seriously and put together a bevy of health care proposals—and she happens to be the party’s presidential nominee.

In the beginning of the campaign, Hillary Clinton, too, suffered from the “everything is fine!” bug, going so far as to red-bait Sen. Bernie Sanders over his Medicare-for-all plan. Sanders’ specific proposal suffered from some fuzzy math. But he understood that though the ACA was a vast improvement on an untenable status quo, its flaws really were flaws, and it made little sense to avoid confronting them just because doing so would be a pain. One staple of Sanders’ events during the campaign was to ask members of his crowds to raise their hands if they were facing sharp premium increases, and then to say how large the increase was. There was never a shortage of volunteers.

Eventually Clinton put together a series of health care proposals. It wasn’t the overhaul Sanders wanted, but he gave his enthusiastic endorsement anyway. Clinton would add a Medicare “buy-in” option for those 55 and older, and she also committed to doubling the money for community health centers from the funding mark set in the original ACA, an important provision won by Sanders in 2009. She offered further inducement for states that haven’t already accepted the Medicaid expansion to do so and would grant the HHS secretary additional “authority to block or modify unreasonable health insurance premium rate increases,” increase resources for enrollment outreach, and expand existing exchange subsidies.

And yes, she’s also pledged to “pursue efforts to give Americans in every state in the country the choice of a public-option insurance plan.”

It’s unclear how high a public option, and the political fight that will come with it, ranks atop Clinton’s list of priorities. But if 2017 open enrollment goes poorly and more insurers flee the exchanges, the public option—which has always polled well—would be an obvious go-to solution for restoring competition. The idea doesn’t rely on hand-holding private insurers until they feel properly incentivized to perform their societal function. It is a direct delivery of health insurance plans to health insurances exchanges. “Health care markets will inevitably differ from region to region,” Jacob Hacker, the Yale professor and so-called “father of the public option,” wrote in Vox on Thursday, “but there’s no reason every one of the existing marketplaces couldn’t offer a Medicare-like plan—a plan that’s stable; a plan with predictable costs; a plan that gives patients a broad choice of providers just as Medicare does.” It would also save money—$158 billion over 10 years, according to a 2013 Congressional Budget Office estimate.

There’s another problem that Newell does not discuss, but that I feel. The ACA was a big win but the Tea Party’s rise and McConnell destroying the historical norms of the Senate has meant that it’s now been 7 years since we have seen a major progressive bill become law. The victories of the last 7 years have been in the courts (especially in the last few months) and through the executive branch. There are a lot of other priorities that have been ignored or put aside. If Clinton wins and has the ability to pass any legislation (just play along here), I think her top two priorities should be an immigration bill with a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans and a sizable minimum wage increase. Both of these have significant political support and are fairly simply to articulate. After that, maybe health care comes back on the table, but so does a climate bill, college tuition and debt issues, a revived Employee Free Choice Act, and a whole lot of other things. Given all of this, to what extent should Democrats fight to improve Obamacare?

Which, in other words, means that this could serve as a thread on what you think Clinton’s top legislative priorities should be, in particular keeping in mind what is actually possible, even if she does have 55 senators and a narrow House majority for the precisely 2 years that will probably last.

Elections Matter, Cot’d

[ 38 ] August 23, 2016 |

NLRB

NLRB appointments are important:

Graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities are entitled to collective bargaining, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday.

The NLRB said that a previous ruling by the board — that these workers were not entitled to collective bargaining because they are students — was flawed. The NLRB ruling, 3 to 1, came in a case involving a bid by the United Auto Workers to organize graduate students at Columbia University. The decision reverses a 2004 decision — which has been the governing one until today — about a similar union drive at Brown University.

Many graduate students at public universities are already unionized, as their right to do so is covered by state law, not federal law.

The ruling largely rejects the fights of previous boards over whether teaching assistants should be seen primarily as students or employees. They can be both, the majority decision said.

Hmm, the NLRB under the neoliberal Barack Obama is substantially more progressive than it is under the neoliberal George W. Bush. What an amazing coincidence!

Rules for Wives, 1955

[ 158 ] August 23, 2016 |

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This list of Good Housekeeping’s 1955 “Good House Wife’s Guide” has been getting a lot of attention on ye ol’intertubes. What are those guidelines?

1.) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

2.) Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

3.) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

4.) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

5.) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

6.) Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

7.) Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.

8.) Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

9.) Be happy to see him. Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Listen to him.

10.) You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

11.) Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

12.) Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

13.) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

14.) Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

15.) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

16.) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

17.) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment of integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

18.) A good wife always knows her place.

Of course the response has been the expected combination of incredulity, outrage, anger, and gladness that we don’t live in 1955. And that’s all fine. I feel that way too. “You have no right to question him”???? Wow. It is however worth noting a couple of things here. First, just because the ideology of the 1950s was this directly sexist doesn’t mean that it reflected the realities of people’s lives. That’s especially true when it comes to working class women who were laboring in the workforce, as well as taking care of the kids at home. Yeah, they were doing double work in a sexist society, but it’s not like women were staying at home being the submissive housewife. These rules did not reflect actual relations between men and women at home. However, there’s also no question that even working women came to believe that this sort of arrangement was the domestic ideal during this period, with polling showing that the vast majority of Americans believed women shouldn’t work if a husband could take care of them. It’s interesting to consider why such stark guidelines became popular during a period of relative peace and domestic prosperity and I suppose the back of the cocktail napkin answer is that after 20 years of turmoil, a return to normalcy was very appealing to people, even if that normalcy was an imagined and romanticized past. It’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with the historical literature on these issues, as neither my work nor teaching really covers any of this. No doubt readers can add more to the conversation. But in any case, it is worth noting that this sort of thing isn’t actually what was happening in the vast majority of American homes. And where it was, it tended to be in the homes of the wealthy, which is why Betty Friedan and her friends seem to have been more directly affected by all of this than the working and middle classes.

Speaking of the ideology of post-war middle class whites, watch this great film by the magazine Redbook if you haven’t. Or even if you have.

Just a little dab of racialism

[ 114 ] August 23, 2016 |

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In the Age of Trump the line for “real racism” keeps getting moved, to the point where if somebody isn’t wearing a white robe and a pointy hat and screaming the N word in front of burning cross, then suggesting any sort of racist motivation or subtext or insensitivity is just PC censoring etcetera etcicero.

Still, here’s the lede for a NYT piece on the surprising presence of post-neolithic foodways in Tucson:

There are food deserts, those urban neighborhoods where finding healthful food is nearly impossible, and then there is Tucson.

When the rain comes down hard on a hot summer afternoon here, locals start acting like Cindy Lou Who on Christmas morning. They turn their faces to the sky and celebrate with prickly pear margaritas. When you get only 12 inches of rain a year, every drop matters.

Coaxing a vibrant food culture from this land of heat and cactuses an hour’s drive north of the Mexican border seems an exhausting and impossible quest. But it’s never a good idea to underestimate a desert rat. Tucson, it turns out, is a muscular food town.

What is this I don’t even . . .

Call me a hyper-sensitive Person of Mexican Heritage, but I kinda doubt the Times would, for instance, write a piece on the foodie scene in Stockholm that would lead off with the observation that it’s hard to coax a vibrant food culture out of a land where the soil is locked into plow-repelling permafrost and fresh vegetables are only available three and a half weeks a year.

Not to mention the tortured metaphors and generally horrible writing. Editors anyone?

How Your Anti-Clinton Sausage Gets Made

[ 171 ] August 23, 2016 |

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This WaPo headline is truly a masterpiece of bullshit:

Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept.

If you actually read the story, it shows is that Clinton Foundation donors would email Huma Abedin asking to meet with Hillary Clinton to ask for favors. They mostly didn’t get meetings and never got the favors — in other words, there’s not only not a scandal there’s not even a story. But since Hillary Clinton’s “close aide” did answer some emails and I suppose you could call that “access,” the headline is technically accurate. In conclusion, Donald Trump’s campaign is a massive grift operation and people email Hillary Clinton’s assistants so Both Sides Do It.

Trump : Churchill :: Obama/Clinton : Chamberlain

[ 106 ] August 23, 2016 |

And Jerry Falwell, Jr. is not a crank.

The policies of Obama and Clinton have made the world unstable and unsafe and created a world stage eerily similar to that of the late 1930s.

It is true that the supremacists are letting their freak flag fly, but I don’t think that White Lives Matter is in any condition to invade Poland.

We could be on the precipice of international conflict like nothing we have seen since World War II. Obama and Clinton are the Neville Chamberlains of our time. The deal to make $150 billion available to Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world and a nation committed to the destruction of Israel, clearing the way for Iran to become a nuclear power, reminds me of Chamberlain’s deal with Hitler in 1938, when the British prime minister declared “peace for our time.”

Other things that remind the Right Wing of Chamberlain’s deal with Hitler: Everything.

Eliminate Jungle Primaries

[ 114 ] August 23, 2016 |

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One policy many voting reform advocates like are top-two primaries. But they are terrible because they don’t actually give voters choices. What you often see is the situation we now have in Washington, where the top two primary winners for the office of state treasurer are Republicans because two Republicans ran and three Democrats ran and so the vote was more split on that side. That’s hardly an improvement for some pure idea of democracy that so many voting reform advocates turn into a fetish. The Daily Kos Elections people rip this system apart.

On Friday, Washington’s secretary of state certified the results of the state’s Aug. 2 primaries, cementing an atrocious and under-reported outcome in this year’s open treasurer’s race. Thanks to Washington’s top-two primary, a pair of Republicans will advance to the November general election, meaning no voter will be able to cast a ballot for a Democrat—this in a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since the Reagan landslide of 1984.

In fact, Washington hasn’t elevated a Republican to the treasurer’s office since 1952, when Republican Charles Maybury won a 1-point squeaker the same year Ike was cruising to victory. That trend should have and would have continued this year, had a perfect storm of suck not materialized, as just two Republicans ran for treasurer along with three Democrats. Under the top-two system, all candidates run together on a single primary ballot, and the two highest vote-getters move on to the general election, regardless of party. And because that trio of Democrats managed to split the vote ever so precisely, the two GOP candidates were able to take the top two slots, though it was very close.

As a consequence, the final battle will take place between Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson, who wound up in first with 25 percent of the vote, and finance executive Michael Waite, the runner-up with 23. The top Democrat was state Sen. Marko Liias, who took finished just out of the money with 20 percent, while pension consultant John Comerford grabbed 18 and former Port of Seattle Commissioner Alec Fisken ended with 13. In other words, even though primary voters backed Democrats by a 52-48 margin overall, they won’t get the chance to back a Democrat in the fall.

We’ve seen this same phenomenon before, but this is the first single-party statewide election ever to take place in Washington. That’s just terrible for democracy. California also uses a top-two primary, and there, polls show that many Republican voters simply plan to sit out this year’s Senate race between Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez. But at least we know that California, a very blue state, would likely have elected a Democrat to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer anyway. Washington, by contrast, almost certainly would have voted in another Democrat as treasurer, so the situation here is particularly perverse.

Supposed “good-government” reformers naïvely believed that eliminating partisan primaries would somehow crank down partisan gridlock by forcing office-seekers to moderate their views in order to win. Not only has that not happened, but voters have repeatedly been denied the opportunity to vote for the party of their choice thanks to debacles like these. It’s long past time for proponents to acknowledge their mistake and advocate for a return to proper primaries—and proper democracy.

I have to admit that I find the “good government” people really annoying, from the Progressives to a lot of voting reform advocates today, because policy positions and results take a back seat to abstract ideas of democracy as the ultimate goal. But the problem is that in the real world, such ideas are easily perverted, as we see here. And really it isn’t any better in California, where Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez are the two Democrats running for the Senate. In this case, this could have easily been taken care of in a real party primary and the Republicans would have representation in the general election. It hasn’t less to more moderation among candidates and it hasn’t led to individual policymaker over political party. Here’s another lengthy discussion on the disaster that is the jungle primary.

I simply see no benefit to top-two primaries. And I see a lot of downside, with voters actually disfranchised simply because more ego-driven politicians decided to split the vote of one of the parties, thus ensuring that both finalists were from the other party. Explain to me how this is a good end.

Elvis: The Dead Years

[ 188 ] August 23, 2016 |
A mutton-chopped Presley, wearing a long velour jacket and a giant buckle like that of a boxing championship belt, shakes hands with a balding man wearing a suit and tie. They are facing camera and smiling. Five flags hang from poles directly behind them.

By Ollie Atkins, chief White House photographer at the time. See ARC record. – White House photograph by Ollie Atkins via http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/nixon-met-elvis/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39264

So I was drinking beers with the gents last week, and someone remarked that it was the 49th39th anniversary of the King’s death.  The gentleman suggested that, with a wiser mix of alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and peanut and banana sandwiches, Presley might have enjoyed several more productive decades.  This claim was met by a range of responses that ran from beer-spitting disbelief to respectful silence; the consensus view in this group seemed to be that Presley’s creative years were behind him at least several years before his untimely demise, and that there probably wasn’t much of any interest left in the tank.

It occurred to me later that the picture could be much more complicated than this.  Johnny Cash is perhaps the most interesting comp; he had a two decade or so fallow period before doing some of his most interesting work with Rick Rubin.  The case for the prosecution could rest on Frank Sinatra, who gave up not only on interesting music but also on demanding acting in the latter part of his career.

Thoughts from those more familiar than I with Presley’s career?  Was there any prospect for him to produce something of interest in the 1980s or 1990s? Directions that he might have gone, people he might have worked with?

 

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