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This Is How You Do It

[ 24 ] March 30, 2017 |

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Tom Perriello shows how it’s done:

In 2010, as a freshman congressman, I stared down the same threats that many Republican representatives face today, and I had to balance what I thought was right versus what I knew was politically advantageous. I was a Democrat representing a red Virginia district. Back then, a vote backing the Affordable Care Act — which Republican strategists had already branded “Obamacare” — meant facing millions of dollars in right-wing attack ads and almost certain defeat at the polls that fall.

My critics were right: I did lose my seat. But I never regretted my vote. Not once.

Since then, hundreds of Americans have reached out to tell me how the ACA has helped them personally: parents who obtained life-saving treatment for their adult children because they were able to keep them on their insurance plans; workers who left dead-end jobs to pursue their dreams, secure in the knowledge that they could buy insurance on newly created exchanges.

The arguments that periodically surfaced — and not all from the right of the party — that Democrats should have abandoned the ACA were always genuinely terrible on multiple levels. Even on their own terms they made no sense — it is implausible that trying and failing to major comprehensive health care reform would have been better politically, and even if it would have been marginally better it is implausible in the extreme that control over any federal veto point would have changed had Dems given up. But even if the political argument was right, it’s still wrong — the whole point of getting elected is to do stuff.

Make sure to read Clare Malone’s profile of Perriello at 538 — he’s very impressive and I hope he succeeds.

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If I Buy the Bread, I Can’t Afford the Wine

[ 46 ] March 29, 2017 |

I will be testing Merle’s dilemma the next few days, as I am at a conference in the Windy City, which also means light blogging around here. Although I have some more labor history posts in the pipeline, as my quest to write something so obscure that it gets 0 comments continues. Had I not been wrong about Tlateloco being outside of the borders of Mexico City the other day, I would have achieved my lifelong dream on that post on the 1959 Mexican rail strike. But I can dream, I can dream.

Some fruit growing tRumpists aren’t liking them apples

[ 93 ] March 29, 2017 |
Orchard in Bloom, Louveciennes - Camille Pissaro

Orchard in Bloom, Louveciennes – Camille Pissaro

At the intersection of White Privilege and The Lives of People of Color, some ambulatory trash fires contemplate the effects of tRump’s virulent xenophobia and whine What about me, what about my needs??

Phil Doornink represents the fifth generation of his dad’s family to grow tree fruit. He and his wife, Karen, call themselves professional gamblers. They worry about the weather, the bills, the fruit. They worry about getting enough workers and paying everyone fairly. They wonder where the next new regulation will come from and how much it will cost. Or which of their neighbors will be next to pack it in and sell their land.

And now they wonder about Donald Trump.

Like many farmers in the state, the Doorninks voted for Trump. While Trump didn’t talk about ag policy during his campaign, farmers liked his broad promises to cut federal regulations.

But Trump’s ideas about immigration seem out of touch with the demands of the nation’s agriculture industry. Orchards up and down Central Washington, from Okanogan to Benton County, rely on Latino workers whose documentation status covers the spectrum. Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and crack down on immigration broadly, could shake the industry to its core.

Farmers and orchardists heard the message about reducing federal regulation of businesses, but when Punkinhead gabbled about increasing federal regulation of human beings who aren’t U.S. citizens, they were stricken with a brief bout of deafness. Or they were too busy shoving their heads even closer to their splenic flexures.

This isn’t even a case of the stereotypical tRumpists who only know immigrants as scary FauxNewsian stereotypes. These are voters who readily admit that without immigrants, they’re fucked. So they know immigrants, they rely on immigrants, but apparently the Anti-immigrant shouting dot is too far from the Threat to the viability of my business dot for some people to make the connection.

And now they’re concerned that the person they wanted in the White House will do something that will shut down the business that’s been in the family for generations. Even if I weren’t worried about the men and women and children who are being harassed and harmed because the Terrible Tangelo has made Xenophobic Frenzy a policy goal, I would still have a major dearth of fucks to give about tRump-supporting orchardists and their fruit.

But to be scrupulously fair, it isn’t just Napoleorange’s voters who are stupid. Johnson-voting jackasses are also clapping their hands and thinking magically in hopes that will make things better.

Jabin Green, who grows pears and cherries at an orchard down the hill from the Doornink ranch, says Trump will face too much opposition to follow through on any drastic plan regarding migrant workers.

“I’m apprehensive about what’s next, but have trouble believing we’ll start rounding people up,” Green says. He voted Libertarian in the election. “I don’t know if I’d recognize that America, but I have a hard time believing that’s where we’re headed. I hope it’s not where we end up.”

Apparently this person is too busy getting on his freak with a copy of Atlas Shrugged to hear about ICE raids. More likely, he doesn’t care who is rounded up, provided it doesn’t interfere with his profit margin.

Any “deportation scheme” that targets agricultural workers would devastate the tree fruit industry, says Christian Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, which lobbies at the federal level on behalf of growers and shippers in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

It would be unadulterated hell for the people targeted by such a scheme, which would be everyone who doesn’t look American enough to the law enforcement officer or wannabe tough guy out to spread a little MAGA. But even if that specific nightmare doesn’t come true, growers and lobbyists should worry that the people who are essential to their business will be mistreated if they come here.

If seeing humans as anything but labor units is too difficult, they could try being concerned that the workers they rely on will decide that the risks of coming to this country outweigh any benefits.

tRump determined to rescue Americans from affordable health care

[ 21 ] March 29, 2017 |

Obamacare isn’t failing like the human/anal polyp hybrid in the White House predicted, so he’s going to help.

Providing Relief Right Now for Patients

A functioning, competitive market for health insurance is a crucial element of providing patients access to quality, affordable care. But with skyrocketing premiums and narrowing choices, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has done damage to this market and created great burdens for many Americans.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to doing everything in our power to provide relief immediately. Within what the law allows, HHS is taking action to stabilize the individual and small group insurance markets (the markets most affected by the ACA) so that they work better for everyone.

We are going through every page of regulations and guidance related to the Affordable Care Act to determine whether or not they work for patients and whether or not they are making our health care system better.

I’m having this amazing psychic flash. Price will discover that nothing in the ACA works for patients or makes the health care system better, therefore it was all a failure. #MAGA!

Paste — It’s What’s For Dinner!

[ 61 ] March 29, 2017 |

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Commenter Justin Runia brings our attention to this penetrating insight from Walker Bragman, the H.A. Goodman for people who want fewer YouTube plugs:

Former Obama aide and Hillary Clinton booster Jim Messina sent out a tweet soliciting donations for a former Obama staffer who is currently facing a serious health issue, and potential bankruptcy  [note: nothing the the funding appeal suggests potential bankruptcy] under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Yes I am outraged that Jim Messina is asking for help for a sick friend. Wait, what?

Well, Messina, a former aide to Montana Senator Max Baucus, served as Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations under President Obama where he became the unofficial enforcer for the neoliberal elements within the administration. He was a key player in ensuring the Affordable Care Act included neither a single-payer plan or even a public option.

I see. Jim Messina was a “key player” in “ensuring” that Congress did not enact single payer or a public option. (By the way, one perennial feature of this particular brand of derp is to treat “single payer” and any “public option” as similar.) Again, let’s review the right end of the Democratic Senate caucus. Remember, each and every one of these votes was necessary to pass anything:

Max Baucus D Mont.
Evan Bayh D Ind.
Robert C. Byrd D W.Va
Kent Conrad D N.D.
Byron L. Dorgan D N.D.
Kay Hagan D N.C.
Tim Johnson D S.D.
Mary L. Landrieu D La.
Joseph I. Lieberman ID Conn.
Blanche Lincoln D Ark.
Claire McCaskill D Mo.
Ben Nelson D Neb.
Mark Pryor D Ark.
John D. Rockefeller IV D W.Va.
Jon Tester D Mont.
Jim Webb D Va.

Yes, clearly each and every one of these senators was totally a viable vote for singlepayerorevenapublicoption. But Jim Messina stopped them. How did he do this?

As The Nation reported back in 2011, Messina used his influence to place his old boss at the center of the health care debate, helping to secure his “gang of six” senators to write the legislation which would eventually become the Affordable Care Act. In retrospect, this move was widely viewed as a misstep as it slowed the process down, and opened it up to the influence of industry. And yet, while this was going on, Messina took on the role of bully-boy to shield Baucus from progressive critics and scuttle efforts to reform the bill by groups like Health Care for America Now (HCAN).

So Jim Messina stopped single payer by allowing the chair of the Senate Finance Committee to have substantial influence over the content of legislation, which he would not have had otherwise. And then he “scuttled” attempts to “reform” the bill into something Max Baucus and his allies didn’t support, which they would all then vote for. How could this have happened, you ask? Well, Jim Messina could have called Kenny Loggins and collaborated on a single, “Single Payer, Or Even A Public Option (Or Bern It Down),” which totally would have forced the senators who opposed single payer (or even a public option) to vote for single payer (or even a public option). But He. Didn’t. Even. Try.

Or let’s say Kenny was unavailable. Messina could have just put a single-payer proposal on the table and done this:

Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.

It is unpossible for this to have failed! Alas, neoliberals like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama will never have the keen parliamentary acumen of Young Master Bragman, so the Bayh-Liberman-Baucus Single Payer And Nationalize The Banks While We’re At It Act that was within our grasp was never realized.

No.

[ 401 ] March 29, 2017 |

Women having autonomy over their bodies is not up for debate. Neither is preventing the massacre of 6-year-olds.

It’s rich, isn’t it? Juxtaposing the “pro-life” anti-choice rhetoric with the pro-life rhetoric of being ok with 1st-graders getting slaughtered.

The War on Knowledge

[ 36 ] March 29, 2017 |

The Hungarian government is trying to close down Central European University (CEU), an American-accredited university in Budapest founded by George Soros in 1991 to support intellectual freedom and free speech.

CEU’s response to the Hungarian Parliament asserts that the proposed acts are intentionally discriminatory:

After careful legal study, CEU has concluded that these amendments would make it impossible for the University to continue its operations as an institution of higher education in Budapest, CEU’s home for 25 years. CEU is in full conformity with Hungarian law. The proposed legislation targets CEU directly and is therefore discriminatory and unacceptable.

This hardly comes out of nowhere. Earlier this year, the government launched attacks on the Hungarian NGO community, looking to root out Soros’s civil society initiatives (mostly supported by his Open Society Foundations). Other watchdog NGOs were also targeted, including Transparency International, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and the Helsinki Committee.

In an interview with RT, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto explained,

We find it very anti-democratic if someone from abroad would like to influence Hungarian voters on whom to vote for…these organizations must be pushed back with all available tools, and I think they must be swept out, and now I believe the international conditions are right for this with the election of the new president [Donald Trump].”

Government friendly press outlets have long been peddling stories about Soros’s ties to the CIA and plans to overthrow the Hungarian government (and many neighboring regimes).

Much of the anti-Soros rhetoric has also drawn on old anti-Semitic tropes. Karl Pfeiffer neatly lays out some of these trends:

Soros is demonized and presented as the source of all evil by the government. The rhetoric used against him reminds me of the anti-Semitic propaganda from my childhood, according to which the Jews were responsible for all of Hungary’s problems, like poverty, ignorance, and landless peasants.

Moreover, the government media portrays Mr. Soros as an agent of the “international finance.” We know that this is a code for “Jews.” You don’t have to be explicitly anti-Semitic, you can be implicitly anti-Semitic – the message is quite clear for mainstream Hungarian society, which has never come to terms with its own prejudices against Jews.

Finally, Soros is presented by the government as responsible for mass migration to Europe. Did the 86-year-old investor really go to Syria and Iraq to politely ask people to come to Europe? This is a worldview deeply rooted in conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism.

All of these attacks—threatening civil society NGOs, perpetuating wildly xenophobic conspiracy theories, and now assaulting centers of higher learning—map perfectly onto Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chilling vision of an “illiberal state.”

As we consider the rise of nationalist-populist parties across Europe (and the US), we need to remember to take them both seriously and literally. Once in power, they tend to follow through.

[Disclosure: I’ve spent many summer months working in CEU’s library; it’s become a research home-away-from-home. Of course, this could be taken as further evidence for the institution’s support for “rootless cosmopolitans.”]

First They Nuked Santa Fe, and I Said Nothing, Because I Don’t Like Dream Catchers

[ 165 ] March 29, 2017 |
Screenshot 2017-03-29 09.29.07

A tragedy for America’s arts and crafts community.

It takes talent to write a column suggesting a North Korean EMP will kill 90% of Americans, and not have that be the most ridiculous point.  But I give you Mr. James Woolsey, former DCI:

Even if it were true that North Korea does not yet have nuclear missiles, their “Dear Leader” could deliver an atomic bomb hidden on a freighter sailing under a false flag into a U.S. port, or hire their terrorist allies to fly a nuclear 9/11 suicide mission across the unprotected border with Mexico. In this scenario, populous port cities like New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, or big cities nearest the Mexican border, like San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Santa Fe, would be most at risk.

As some of you may have heard, Santa Fe, NM is a low density city of 69000 people. If you drop a 15kt nuke on it, you kill…. 13000 people. If you groundburst that motherfucker, you kill…. 9000 people, and spread radioactive fallout over one of the least densely populated swaths of America.

But what would the United States do without its critical supplies of turquoise?

How Trump Won

[ 365 ] March 29, 2017 |

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Very interesting stuff from Nate Cohn:

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, many analysts suggested that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald J. Trump because of poor Democratic turnout.

Months later, it is clear that the turnout was only modestly better for Mr. Trump than expected.

To the extent Democratic turnout was weak, it was mainly among black voters. Even there, the scale of Democratic weakness has been exaggerated.

Instead, it’s clear that large numbers of white, working-class voters shifted from the Democrats to Mr. Trump. Over all, almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.

[…]

Ultimately, black turnout was roughly as we expected it. It looks as if black turnout was weak mostly in comparison with the stronger turnout among white and Hispanic voters.

This was part of a broader national pattern. Mr. Trump’s turnout edge was nonexistent or reversed in states with a large Hispanic population and a small black population, like Arizona. His turnout advantage was largest in states with a large black population and few Hispanic voters, like North Carolina.

What was consistent across most states, however, was higher-than-expected white turnout.

The increase in white turnout was broad, including among young voters, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated voters, urban, rural, and the likeliest supporters of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. The greatest increases were among young and unaffiliated white voters.

For this reason alone, it’s hard to argue that turnout was responsible for the preponderance of Mr. Trump’s gains among white voters. The turnout among young and white Democratic voters was quite strong.

But the turnout was generally stronger among the likeliest white Trump supporters than among the likeliest white Clinton supporters.

[…]

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.

A few points:

  • Despite her high personal negatives and her generally negative and character-based advertising, Clinton was able to mobilize the Democratic base about as well as could have been expected. Obama’s only significant advantage was with African-American voters, and it was obviously unrealistic to think that the unusually high African-American turnout in 2008 and 2012 could be replicated, whether Clinton or Sanders or Biden was the nominee.
  • The data is not consistent with assertions that Sanders substantially harmed Clinton by endorsing her too late, or too grudgingly, or whatever. Sanders’s core primary constituencies showed up in the numbers that could have been expected or higher and voted for Clinton by the margins that could have been expected. (Stein’s failure to get off the canvas is another indication that Sanders didn’t harm Clinton by not dropping out earlier.)
  • The decisive shift of older, higher-income whites without college degrees to Trump is much more plausibly about Trump/Romney than about Clinton/Obama. If Obama had some special appeal to the white working class that Clinton lacked, it certainly wasn’t evident in the 2008 primaries. I could see Biden mitigating some of the defections; Sanders I’m much more dubious although of course nobody knows.
  • As I’ve said, assumptions that Trump was a particularly terrible candidate and a generic Republican would have won easily are becoming increasingly problematic. I don’t think it’s safe at all to assume that Rubio or Cruz or Jeb! would have Trump’s particular appeal to white working-class voters.  If the United States had a democratic system for choosing the president, then Trump’s unusual weaknesses would have made him a bad candidate. But in a system that accords undue weight to a few states which had a disproportionate number of voters Trump had a particular appeal to…he wasn’t a weak candidate at all. I’m becoming more and more convinced that a Clinton/non-Trump race would have meant a better popular vote showing but an Electoral College loss for the Republican Party.

This Day in Labor History: March 29, 1951

[ 53 ] March 29, 2017 |

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On March 29, 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of treason for passing classified information to the Soviet Union. A few days later they were sentenced to death. This famous case has of course received a tremendous amount of attention; for this series, it’s useful both as a window into the legacy of the New York-based and largely Jewish radicalism that shaped much of the left in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as to place them in the context of the broader attack on left-wing of the labor movement during these years.

Both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg came out of the leftist Jewish tradition extending back into the late 19th century. He was born in New York in 1918, she also in New York in 1915. The both became members of the Young Communist League in the mid-1930s, as was far from uncommon in those days where democracy seemed to be dying and communism was the only hope for the left. They married in 1939. Both had significant union backgrounds. In 1932, Ethel led a strike at a shipping company where she worked, fighting for better wages. In 1935, she led another strike that included the blocking of the entrance to her company’s warehouse with 150 women workers. She was fired, but the National Labor Relations Board ordered she be rehired. All of this helped create the Ladies’ Apparel Shipping Clerks Union. Julius studied to be an engineer, but came from a staunchly union background. His father was a union representative in the sweatshops and apparel industry of New York. They were committed communists who sought to extend the revolution of workers’ rights under a socialist government to the United States. These were the children of the Clara Lemlich and Triangle Fire generation. They brought that same passion and organizing for workers’ rights to a new generation, one shaped by the rise and success of the Soviet Union.

During World War II, Julius worked at the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories until it was revealed he was a communist. Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, worked at Los Alamos. Julius was running a spy ring for the Soviet Union, believing that military information needed to be shared to ensure peace after the war. He and his comrades managed to take photographic copies of documents concerning a wide number of major military projects, including a complete set of prints and production designs for the first jet planes. Greenglass was providing some information from his position at Los Alamos, though as a machinist, he did not have access to much of the really highly valuable information.

After the war, Julius and Greenglass ran their own machinist shop briefly but it fell apart, causing some tension between the two men. When Klaus Fuchs got busted for spying for the Soviet Union, he named names to hopefully reduce his sentence. This led the government to David Greenglass. When Greenglass was caught, he then testified that it was Julius Rosenberg who introduced him to the spy ring. Rosenberg was arrested. So was Ethel, although there was no evidence that she was involved. The government hoped to use her to pressure Julius into revealing everything. She denied everything on the witness stand, including any knowledge of her husband or brother’s activities. She may well have been lying and later studies have suggested she was. But the government didn’t have any evidence to convict her. This did not stop them. After all, the co-prosecuting attorney was one Roy Cohn, who later bragged that he was responsible for them getting the death penalty. The prosecution went full atomic scare, claiming that Greenglass had given the Soviets the secret to the atomic bomb, which is not really supported by the evidence. Atomic scientists said that Greenglass’ supposed sketch of an atomic bomb was worthless and Greenglass himself was highly inconsistent in his testimony. The trial was a complete farce, even if they were both probably guilty. Both Julius and Ethel were convicted and were sentenced to death. They were executed on June 19, 1953. Ethel’s was botched and they had to keep applying shocks through the electric chair. By the time she was declared dead, smoke was rising from her head.

Despite this famous case though, the communists in the labor movement were hardly a threat to the United States. Were there communists in the labor movement? Of course there were. They had played critical roles in the CIO’s organizing campaigns. By the late 1940s, the CIO was ready to get rid of these people for a number of reasons. There’s no question now, after decades of leftist historians dying it, that the CP-led unions and their organizers were following Moscow’s dictates, often alienating non-communist workers who could see through their inconsistency and constantly shifting positions to conform with the Soviets like a thin soup. There’s also no question that the communist issue also split unions, with non-communist members writing in to HUAC, asking for the communists to be investigated and eliminated. The question of communism in the labor movement during the postwar period is much harder and thornier than either anti-communist zealots or the modern left want to admit. Kicking out the communists was both an anti-democratic and anti-left move and was probably necessary for the industrial unions to survive the Cold War. It took away many of the best organizers, but those organizers had often worn out their welcome anyway and I am hesitant of arguments often made that this doomed the labor movement to its staid state of the post-1955 merger of the AFL and CIO. On the other hand, the loss of those good organizers was not replaced with some new generation of hard-core organizers and organizing fell off considerably after around 1950.

But in any case, most of these communists in the labor movement, including the Rosenbergs, genuinely thought they were doing the best thing they could for humanity in a global movement that would bring equality and freedom to the masses. You might argue that after 1939, only someone blind to reality could believe that. And maybe you are right. But I think when looking at people like the Rosenbergs, or the communists in the midcentury left generally, it’s useful to think of them in their own terms. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. But it does mean that the same desire for freedom that led them to create the modern labor movement and the greatest victories in the history of American workers is the same that led them to give secrets to Joseph Stalin. Such were the complexities of the time.

This is the 214th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

The Health Industry Rentiers You Don’t Know About

[ 29 ] March 29, 2017 |

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Really terrific piece by Dayen:

“I get a prescription, type in the data, click send, and I’m told I’m getting a dollar or two,” Frankil says. The system resembles the pull of a slot machine: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. “Pharmacies sell prescriptions at significant losses,” he adds. “So what do I do? Fill the prescription and lose money, or don’t fill it and lose customers? These decisions happen every single day.”

Frankil’s troubles cannot be traced back to insurers or drug companies, the usual suspects that most people deem responsible for raising costs in the health-care system. He blames a collection of powerful corporations known as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. If you have drug coverage as part of your health plan, you are likely to carry a card with the name of a PBM on it. These middlemen manage prescription drug benefits for health plans, contracting with drug manufacturers and pharmacies in a multi-sided market. Over the past 30 years, PBMs have evolved from paper-pushers to significant controllers of the drug pricing system, a black box understood by almost no one. Lack of transparency, unjustifiable fees, and massive market consolidations have made PBMs among the most profitable corporations you’ve never heard about.

Americans pay the highest health-care prices in the world, including the highest for drugs, medical devices, and other health-care services and products. Our fragmented system produces many opportunities for excessive charges. But one lesser-known reason for those high prices is the stranglehold that a few giant intermediaries have secured over distribution. The antitrust laws are supposed to provide protection against just this kind of concentrated economic power. But in one area after another in today’s economy, federal antitrust authorities and the courts have failed to intervene. In this case, PBMs are sucking money out of the health-care system—and our wallets—with hardly any public awareness of what they are doing.

Read the whole etc.

The Gender-Swapped Debate

[ 41 ] March 28, 2017 |
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