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Also You Can Punch David Brooks in the Face

[ 0 ] January 24, 2017 |


The women’s marches were a phenomenal success and an important cultural moment. Most everybody came back uplifted and empowered. Many said they felt hopeful for the first time since Election Day. But these marches can never be an effective opposition to Donald Trump.

In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues.

I don’t have words.


Bootstrappin’ It 2: Electric Burgarloo

[ 78 ] January 24, 2017 |
Not Andy Puzder

Not Andy Puzder

You know how I said it was ok to punch nazis a couple posts back? Well, I lied. It’s ok to punch nazis…and Andy Puzder. I’m just kidding of course: don’t punch Andy Puzder. But, man, is he a terrible person.

“Last year, 52% of the people in the country got more from government than they gave to government,” Puzder said. “We do have a segment of the population that’s going to continue to vote benefits to themselves. You have to make a decision for yourself which party actually supports that and would therefore want to continue to have those people vote for them by taking from the rich and giving to the poor, as they like to say, which tilts the electoral balance in favor of those who get the benefits. If they are more than 50% of the population, we’ve got a problem.”

Wow, what a Puzder this guy is. (Let’s get this into the lexicon, ok?)

“Let’s say there’s two political parties,” Puzder said. “One of them says you should lift yourself up by your bootstraps. One of them says that, you know, the easy decision in life isn’t always the right decision. One of them says sometimes, you’re proud of what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, you’re proud that you’ve faced failure and you succeeded against it. You know, you can’t succeed if you can’t fail.”

“And then there’s another party that says, ‘Screw all of that, we’ll just give you money,'” the restaurant chain CEO continued. “Now if you’re a person who buys into the ‘I’m gonna be dependent’ philosophy, who are you gonna vote for? That’s all that’s about. It’s about getting votes, retaining power, gaining control over people’s lives. Are you’re going to make your future, or are you going to let somebody else make those decisions? That’s the way things were before capitalism, before the industrial revolution, where you didn’t have a choice. Some people don’t want a choice. Those people should vote for the party that’s in power. If you want to stand up for your rights and your life and your children and your happiness and your satisfaction, you should vote differently.”

This dumb Puzder is like Romney on steroids. My god, could he be a worse choice for Labor Secretary?

The Stadium Scam Goes Vegas

[ 60 ] January 24, 2017 |


A perfect act for the Trump era.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has a long list of things she would spend $750 million in public money on, if it was up to her. A light rail system, so Las Vegas can compete with cities with better public transportation. Firefighters, because her county has not hired a new one in years. And teachers, as public schools in Nevada perennially rank among the worst in the nation.

Nowhere on Giunchigliani’s $750 million public wish list would you find “help a wealthy NFL team owner and a mega-rich casino magnate build a $1.9 billion football stadium.” But that is exactly what Nevada’s largest county is poised to do, as the likelihood of the Raiders leaving Oakland for Las Vegas inched closer to reality this month.

Last week, Raiders owner Mark Davis made official his plan to move his team to Las Vegas by filing paperwork with the NFL; his fellow team owners could vote on the request in March. Davis decided to make the move, he has said, when Nevada lawmakers agreed late last year to provide a substantial public subsidy to help the Raiders build a new stadium. In October, Nevada’s legislature approved a plan for Clark County to provide $750 million for the stadium over the next 30 years through bonds backed by a new hotel tax.

I mean, this makes sense, right? The people behind this in Vegas totally need the money!

Giunchigliani, a former state legislator, is still dismayed by the decision, which will defray how much Davis (worth an estimated $500 million) and his likely business partner Sheldon Adelson (worth an estimated $31 billion) will have to spend to bring their gleaming vision of a domed stadium in Las Vegas into reality. Under the proposed plan, the Raiders will contribute $500 million, and Adelson will contribute $650 million.

Better subsidize the playground of a billionaire and one of the most grotesque living Americans! If that $31 billion dollar fortune briefly declined past $30.5 billion, he might have to cut back on his support of Emperor Tangerine. And I’m sure the people of Vegas will come out for the Raiders in the kind of droves that requires not 1 but 2 great teams in Los Angeles.

Not A Dime’s Worth of Difference!

[ 137 ] January 24, 2017 |

Scalia gesture

Oh. Goody:

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a highly regarded conservative jurist best known for upholding religious liberty rights in the legal battles over Obamacare, has emerged as a leading contender for President Trump’s first Supreme Court nomination.

Gorsuch, 49, was among 21 potential high court candidates circulated by Trump’s team during the campaign, but his stock has been rising lately as several admirers and supporters have been named to positions in the Trump administration.

He currently serves on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. A former clerk for Justice Byron White, also a Colorado native, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, he served in the George W. Bush administration’s Justice Department.

In Gorsuch, supporters see a jurist who has strong academic credentials, a gift for clear writing and a devotion to deciding cases based on the original meaning of the Constitution and the text of statutes, as did the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Since every story I’ve seen has mentioned Grosuch’s “textualism” and “originalism,” it’s worth noting that in context these terms are interchangeable with “strict constructionist” as defined by the late William Rehnquist:

A strict constructionist judge is one who favors criminal prosecutors over criminal defendants, and civil rights defendants over civil rights plaintiffs.

And businesses against consumers and whatever level of government is regulating them, but you get the idea.

Anyway, Hillary Clinton probably would have nominated a 49-year-old Scalia clone too, so really elections don’t matter.

GM-Blogging #4: Masks of Nyarlathotep – Bad Luck at Ju-Ju House

[ 6 ] January 24, 2017 |

Hey folks! As you know from last time, I’m blogging my Call of Cthulhu campaign, because at least in Call of Cthulhu the mad idiot gods have the decency to stay “beyond angled space.”

When we last left off, our intrepid investigators got their hands on some unpleasant books formerly belonging to the estate of Roger Carlyle, Esq. and started down the inveitable downward spiral of psychological entropy that is the Cthulhu Mythos Book Club…

Read more…

Shadow Government

[ 28 ] January 24, 2017 |



Donald Trump keeps talking about how he wants to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Now Senate Democrats are signaling that they’d be happy to work with him on this — but they have very different ideas on how to go about it.

On Tuesday, Democrats led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will unveil a proposal to spend $1 trillion over the next 10 years to repair old bridges and roads, expand bus and rail systems, and modernize ports, highways, airports, schools, grids, and much, much more. Unlike Trump’s plan, this would be accomplished through direct federal spending. The exact funding mechanisms are still unspecified (in recent years, Democrats have rallied around corporate tax reform to pay for infrastructure).

Trump’s own infrastructure plan is very different — during the campaign, he unveiled a proposal to offer some $137 billion in tax breaks to private investors who want to finance toll roads, toll bridges, or other projects that generate their own revenue streams. Experts across the political spectrum argued that this plan was fairly narrow, mainly focused on projects with a large private finance component that can pay for themselves. Right now, very few roads in America meet that criteria.

“[Trump’s plan] is unlikely to do much for road and bridge maintenance,” Harvard economist Edward Glaeser said when I interviewed him about the proposal last November. “And [economists] have long believed that the highest returns are for fixing existing infrastructure.” Glaeser also noted that Trump’s plan was unlikely to do much for key infrastructure items like bus service for poorer communities.

The scope of the plan is good on the merits, and it’s also good because it makes it more likely that this plan will be used as the justification for rejecting whatever crap the GOP puts to a vote, rather than being used as the start of negotiations that will result in Democrats providing cover from the crap the GOP puts to a vote. It’s crucial to remain united in opposition to these legislative proposals, but providing a superior alternative vision is also good politics even if it has no immediate chance of getting enacted.

Go Team!

[ 107 ] January 24, 2017 |

So I ended up in a twitter thread where someone accused Hillary fans of viewing politics as a team sport (and of not caring about policy). I’ll leave aside the charge of not caring about policy because it’s a ridiculous argument on its face. But I did want to interject “Yes, yes! I do view it as a team sport BECAUSE REPUBLICANS DO.”


Tom P. Emoji

Republican and conservative/R-leaning voters very much view politics as a team sport, which is why our elections are so close now, even with Republicans offering up remarkably flawed candidates election after election. As I’ve said in previous posts, R’s and R-leaners/voters will beat feet to the polls for literally anyone with an “R” beside his name. Literally. Like you could run a poop emoji wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and R’s would trample a field of Pomeranian puppies to vote for Tom P. Emoji.

Won't someone think of the Pomeranians?!

Won’t someone think of the Pomeranians?!

The election of Donald Trump has conclusively proven that R’s will literally vote for anyone who does not have a “D” beside her name. And while I think that that is dangerous and badwrong, I do think we Dems/libs/lefties need to keep that in mind every election. Maybe water down that impulse with the common sense but basically adopt the same game plan.

Mind you, I think this plan has limitations. Like, I could never vote for, say, Joe Manchin or Joe Lieberman or Bob Casey Jr. just because they had a “D” beside their names. (I know Lieberman’s an “I” now.) But I make the calculation that any even halfway-reasonable Dem is at least a little malleable and open to listening to her base. As I said in a previous post, I expect to have to *make* a candidate do certain things. It’s why even though I was a Hillary supporter I would have rabidly and loudly and bitchily supported Bernie Sanders. He wasn’t my first choice. So the fuck what? I can work with him. I’d be Team Bernie.

I have no problem admitting I view politics as a team sport because the other side sure the fuck does. And look what that got them. And, honestly, look what it got all of us.


More From the Formidable #NeverTrump Resistance

[ 26 ] January 24, 2017 |


Remember Ted Cruz, Man of Principle, and his bizarrely overhyped refusal to endorse or not endorse Trump at the RNC, which of course became an endorsement of Trump as soon as the polls showed him with a chance of winning? His ballad continues:

In weeks of conversations with his allies, “team player” was a phrase frequently deployed and with unambiguous purpose. Cruz has always been a partisan—it’s easy to forget he chaired Lawyers for McCain and worked for George W. Bush—and feels, perhaps, that after four years of feuding primarily with his own party there will be some absolution in inflicting punishment on the cartel members from across the aisle. When Cruz visited Trump Tower in mid-November, according to sources present, he told the transition team that with Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general, the new president would need a “champion” in the Senate to lead some of his toughest fights. And then he volunteered.

Cruz showed his fitness for the position in early January when he battered Al Franken and his fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for their questioning of Sessions one day, then turned around the next and vouched for another Trump cabinet pick, introducing Rex Tillerson, a fellow Texan, to the Foreign Relations Committee. None of this escaped the hopeful eye of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, despite their history of hostilities, singled out the junior senator from Texas during that week’s Senate Republican luncheon. Applauding his efforts, McConnell turned to his onetime nemesis and gave him a nickname: “The new Ted Cruz.”

Trump cannot only defeat you for the party nomination but literally insult your spouse and accuse your father of conspiring to kill JFK, and you’ll still fall right into line. I think this behavior was both predictable and rational, but the credibility people gave to #NeverTrump would be hilarious if the consequences weren’t so terrible.

Again, it’s nice to think that this will be a Carter-like situation in which Congress and the White House are simply unable to collaborate effectively and fail to get much done, but I see no sign whatsoever that this is going to happen.

[Via Kilgore]

Is Our Democrats Learning?

[ 144 ] January 24, 2017 |


With the exception of Kirsten Gillibrand, evidently not. She is the only senator to vote against all three of Trump’s cabinet appointments. Yesterday, 15 Senate Democrats voted to confirm Mike Pompeo, a noted pro-torture Islamphobe. This is pathetic. Why? Why would Chuck Schumer vote for Pompeo? Why would Sheldon Whitehouse do this, of all people? What does anyone get out of this? Do they legitimately think these are good choices? Do they think that this will mean Republicans will take Democratic voices seriously? No, of course not. It’s that even Schumer doesn’t understand the rules of the game, even after 8 years of fireeating extremism.

On the other hand, Gillibrand is running for president in 2020 and she is going to have an excellent message for Democratic primary voters: “I voted against every single person Donald Trump nominated for his Cabinet.” And that’s a pretty compelling message. That no one else seems to understand what is going to play in 2018 and 2020 is more than a little dispiriting. But hey, I’m sure a few Democratic votes for Betsy DeVos and Tom Price will totally get Manchin and Heitkamp legit home state cred!

Building Trades Allow Themselves to Be Played Like Fools

[ 123 ] January 24, 2017 |


Emperor Tangerine invited the building trade union leaders in for a meeting yesterday and boy were they excited.

At a meeting with the leaders of several construction and building trade unions, President Trump reiterated on Monday his interest in directing hundreds of billions of dollars to infrastructure investments, some of it from the federal government, union officials said.

“That was the impression I was taken away with,” said Sean McGarvey, the president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, an umbrella group, on a call with reporters after the meeting. “That the American citizenry and the American Treasury will be invested in building public infrastructure.”

Mr. McGarvey added that Mr. Trump clearly felt that much of the money should come from the private sector and that some of the investments could take the form of public-private partnerships, an idea the president floated as a candidate.

The meeting included roughly half a dozen union leaders and a similar number of rank-and-file members, as well as senior White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence; Reince Priebus, the chief of staff; Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist; Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor; and Sean Spicer, the press secretary. It took place in the White House and ran for well over an hour.

The presence of so many senior aides suggests that the Trump administration sees a political rationale to courting the building trade unions, many of whose members appear to have voted for Mr. Trump last fall.

“We have a common bond with the president,” Mr. McGarvey said. “We come from the same industry. He understands the value of driving development, moving people to the middle class.”

Mr. O’Sullivan was previously the chief executive of the Union Labor Life Insurance Company, and he said that during his tenure there the company invested in some of Mr. Trump’s projects and had a good relationship with him.

Mr. McGarvey said he worked on a Trump project in Atlantic City in the early 1990s and had always been grateful for the work. “It was the middle of a recession; no one had jobs,” he said. “He made investments to expand at the time Trump Plaza. I got that job after being unemployed for six months.”

The two union leaders said they had discussed a number of specific projects with the president and his aides, including the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export and storage facility in Oregon. More broadly, they discussed possible investments in building and repairing bridges, schools and hospitals.

Certain projects, like the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, have divided the labor movement, with the building trades supporting them as a source of jobs with good pay, and other unions, like the Service Employees International Union, opposing them on environmental grounds, and out of concern for desecrating sacred Native American lands.

The shorter version of this is that Trump is going to undo Obama’s decision on the Dakota Access Pipeline and run it right down those savage Indians’ throats. And nothing would make Terry O’Sullivan more excited. Because JOBS!!!! The type of job, irrelevant. Do the Laborers or the other building trades have nonwhite members? Yes they do. Does McGarvey or O’Sullivan prioritize the civil rights of those members? Evidently not. Do they prioritize a livable planet? No. Do they think they need allies in the rest of the labor movement or the broader left movement? No. Do they wish it was 1910 again? Yes. Do they hate hippies? Yes. Do they have tremendous power within the AFL-CIO? Yes, very much so. Are they acting in their members’ best interests? No. Do their members see it that way? Largely, no.

And then there’s this:

At the meeting, Mr. McGarvey raised one point of possible discord between the labor leaders and the Trump administration: the so-called Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the federal government to pay contractors and subcontractors “locally prevailing wages,” as determined by the Labor Department, on most construction or renovation projects.

Many conservatives contend that the act inflates the cost of infrastructure projects, and on Tuesday, Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, is proposing a bill to suspend it for federal highway construction contracts.

Mr. McGarvey said he had told Mr. Trump that Mr. Flake’s bill would undercut wages and undermine the president’s campaign goal of producing good middle-class jobs.

The president was noncommittal in response, he said. “He said he knows the Davis-Bacon proposal well, understands how it works,” Mr. McGarvey said, but avoided taking a position.

In other words, my offer to you is nothing.

The building trades are going to have no influence on issues that matter even to their most backward-looking leadership. Davis-Bacon is going to get destroyed. And they will still vote for Trump in 2020.

There’s a few things going on here that are important for us to understand. First, if the Democratic Party or the left wants to “solve the white working class problem,” there’s a case study we can focus on. It’s called “solving the LIUNA problem.” The old adage about the Laborers is that they would build their own prisons if they got union scale to do so. Terry O’Sullivan has been an absolute dinosaur on climate issues, bullying other unions into not saying anything about climate change or other environmental issues. No one in the labor union has done more to damage relationships with the progressive community in recent years. But then these are the white working-class people Democrats need to reach to win those critical Midwestern states. Can they? Rather than focus on this in the big picture, can they win LIUNA members and other building trades members?

The difficulty of figuring this out is the difficulty of the white working class issue generally, which is the enormous cultural baggage that gets in the way of cross-movement alliances over the last few decades. A good bit of the intense focus on DAPL and Keystone is that these workers hate hippies. They see themselves as the working “real Americans” and anyone who gets in the way of that is their enemy. There is no question that environmentalists have failed to reach out to these unions effectively, and it’s a must that they create a union-centered program of green energy infrastructure. That has to be part of solving the LIUNA problem. But there are deep cultural divides here–many of these rank and file members want to see immigrants kicked out, Muslims kicked out, gay rights repealed, etc. That might be expected–it’s not like that’s not the case in every union. The problem is that McGarvey and O’Sullivan and some of these other union leaders aren’t trying to educate their workers on these issues. Instead they are encouraging them to see this as a culture war. Right now in Rhode Island, there’s a battle over whether a gas liquefaction plant will be built. At a recent city council meeting debating it, LIUNA members were outside jeering environmentalists as they walked in. That’s incredibly counterproductive.

On top of this is the fact that the changing makeup of the union movement has reinforced the power of the building trades. One of the impacts of deindustrialization and capital mobility was the decimation of the industrial unions. It was always those unions who pushed for the widespread social democratic policies that typified the New Deal and Great Society. The building trades never played an important role in the New Deal coalition and they have never articulated big social policy. But with the UAW and USWA shells of what they once were and many of the other unions like the International Woodworkers of America no more, the building trades have become more powerful within the labor movement than any time since the creation of the CIO. The public sector unions have countered this to some extent, but with SEIU out of the federation, their ability to do so is more limited. Richard Trumka is, with the exception of Walter Reuther, by far the most politically progressive labor federation leader in American history. But he can only do so much when so much of his membership is made up of very conservative building trdes.

The other thing to note is that it’s pretty clear at this point that many of the building trade leaders would have no problem returning to the labor movement of the late 19th century, where you had tiny numbers of union members in the skilled trades with no impact on government and the vast masses of workers unorganized. I don’t see how they see this as good for them, but by meeting with Trump, they are basically endorsing this position. And you can see it from the look on Trump’s face. They are being played for fools. And they largely are fools.

An editorial decision by the NYT

[ 43 ] January 24, 2017 |

NYT 2017-01-24

I would call the tone of the article non-conciliatory.

Nice, but I still prefer a press that doesn’t wait until the demagogue is in power to state that he is an insecure liar. Time will tell if this is just a one-off or the new standard for reporting on the tangerine nightmare.

Great Moments in Shade-Throwing

[ 47 ] January 24, 2017 |

“We will get Senator Belichick despite the bumbling of my sidekick, Phuck Cagano.”

Seeing the Pats twist the knife into postmaturely deposed GM, crybaby, and future Trump administration Secretary of Defense Ryan Grigson is pretty entertaining:

During a pregame appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Kraft was asked about Grigson’s dismissal and he mentioned the AFC title game two years ago as being the moment when everything started going downhill for the former G.M. in Indianapolis.

“I don’t, you’d have to ask Jim Irsay about it,” Kraft said, via the Boston Herald. “He’d be the one to ask. That game might have been Ryan’s pinnacle, I don’t know. Jimmy can talk about what’s going on with the Colts. We’re fortunately playing football today.”

In addition to being the last time the Colts played a postseason game, that 45-7 Patriots win was also the game that introduced Deflategate to the national lexicon. Grigson sent an email to the league about suspicions regarding the intentional deflation of balls before the game and complained to league officials during the game as well.

One of the amusing things about the Ballghazi farce was the effort some people made, up to and including elaborate junk science, to argue that even in an alternate universe where the NFL could show that the balls were deflated it actually mattered. Of course, if you just say “a rule’s a rule” then there’s no way to justify more than the 5-figure fine the conduct would have merited. Conversely, attempts to argue that marginally deflated footballs were actually material to the outcome of football games collapse from their own silliness. But, sure, the Patriots are going back to the Super Bowl yet again and you can’t beat Brock Osweiler and Bill O’Brien because Jim Irsay just has too much integrity.

It seems obvious that firing Grigson and not Pagano is like only prosecuting one Menendez brother, but hey it’s not as if they have a franchise QB getting beaten up every year to try to start building a team around or anything.

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