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Today in the Stadium Scam

[ 61 ] August 26, 2016 |


The Raiders want to move to Las Vegas. They are their partners, i.e., the always lovely Sheldon Adelson, are demanding the city pay a mere $750 million for the stadium, a number that will no doubt increase once the inevitable cost overruns take place. Adelson’s lackey says this $750 million is a non-negotiable number.

The Raiders and Sheldon Adelson: a match made in Hell. Where in fact Al Davis is still pulling the strings over this whole deal.


Anti-Union Universities

[ 15 ] August 26, 2016 |


There’s a forum at N+1 about yesterday’s NLRB decision overturning the Brown decision and granting graduate students at private universities collective bargaining rights. Want to point you to the contribution by Gabriel Winant and Alyssa Battistoni. Universities use the same arguments against unions as any other employer, plus simply claiming that graduate students aren’t workers.

The crux of the 2004 Brown decision had been that the relationship of graduate students to the university was primarily educational, and as a result did not fall under the purview of legislation designed to govern economic relationships. What a line to draw—how could anyone who works at a university fail to cross it? In overturning Brown, the Columbia decision states plainly what we’ve argued all along: “a graduate student may be both a student and an employee; a university may be both the student’s educator and employer.” The decision similarly demolishes, with reference to empirical evidence, familiar arguments that a union of graduate employees would worsen the quality of education, suck up inordinate amounts of valuable time and resources, or pose a threat to the continued functioning of the university. In other words, Columbia rejects the idea that academia is a uniquely un-unionizable industry (an idea that many employers have of their own industries: Target, for example, warns workers that “ if the unions did try to organize our team members, chances are they would change our fast, fun, and friendly culture”).

Pretense prevails among those who run the institutions. Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester. With impressive sophistry, administrators manage to argue that unions would at once destroy academic life and fail to accomplish anything. Columbia’s administration, for example, both warns that the union could break the budget (“all schools may have to make difficult decisions to reflect these new fixed costs”) and cause wages to fall (“Stipend levels, remuneration, and benefits may change; there is no guarantee that they will increase”). The message they’re sending is that change is impossible—that there’s no way to make your voice heard.

To us, then, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the NLRB decision is its explicit recognition of our years of organizing outside the protection of the law, and its argument that this work in itself is admissible testimony for change. Unlike our deans, the federal government has heard our speeches and petitions, and listened to us as adult citizens capable of advocating for ourselves:

It is worth noting that student assistants, in the absence of access to the [National Labor Relations] Act’s representation procedures and in the face of rising financial pressures, have been said to be “fervently lobbying their respective schools for better benefits and increased representation.” The eagerness of at least some student assistants to engage in bargaining suggests that the traditional model of relations between university and student assistants is insufficiently responsive to student assistants’ needs.

When your employer insists that none of your actions matter, it is gratifying to learn that, through years of struggle—sometimes bitter, often seeming fruitless—you have moved the gears of the federal bureaucracy.

Really, this is a hugely important decision for academic labor.

How the ^Claude Maximillian Overton Transpire Dibbler’s anti-Clinton sausage gets made

[ 46 ] August 26, 2016 |

(From ye olde Discworlde Ymporium. It’s an apron. You know you want one.)

I get a lot of mail from organizations that can’t get competent PR flacks to work for them, which is why I get to see RW news output before it’s news. For example, there’s the Association of Free Market Hacks & Conservative Quacks in Health Care American Physicians & Surgeons.

AAPS didn’t start the Hillary Clinton is Dangerously (for America) Ill!! thing, but it has joined in. And AAPS is a favorite of RW news jerks because the org.’s output comes from people with M.D. after their names, which makes everything look sciencish and official-like.

Also, AAPS sends bullet points and a complete article so there’s no risk anyone who uses this stuff will have to perform any actual work. Or introduce facts into the story.

From: Dr. Jane Orient
To: [Moi]
Subject: Is Hillary Clinton Medically Unfit to Serve? (Physician poses the question)

Answer: She fell down and hit her head once and some other spurious claims. But I’m a doctor, so definitely! Yes!

From: Gerard Gianoli, M.D., F.A.C.S
To: [Toujours moi]
Subject: Physician asks: Is Clinton’s Health Less Important than Trump’s?

Answer: I’m just asking questions but I’m a doctor and all of the questions I ask indicate that her health is more important and she is probably brain damaged.

Sure enough, on the same day Orient’s email plopped into my inbox, WND and Breitbart recycled Orient’s article.

Newsmax picked up Gianoli’s bit the day it came out but Fox, WND and Forbes all soon followed suit.

I’m sure there will be a lot more where that came from. Gianoli’s regular announcements that this time doctors really are all going to leave Medicare no longer get much attention. Orient’s usual shtick is Disease! Bearing! Foreigners! and the line to shout into that particular microphone is really long.

When Will Canada Solve Its Immigration Problem?

[ 42 ] August 26, 2016 |


Sounds like Canada needs to build a big wall to protect itself from these scary migrants who are probably bringing crime to the northern paradise, not to mention stealing Canadian jobs and probably sleeping with their women.

An estimated 1,500 Americans illegally and unexpectedly washed up in Canada late Sunday after strong winds blew them across the St. Clair River near Sarnia, Ont.

They were participating in the annual Port Huron Float Down, during which people simply float down the river on rafts, inner tubes and other flotation devices from Port Huron, Mich.

High winds pushed them to a number of points along the Canadian shore. They had to be rescued by Sarnia police, the OPP, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Border Service Agency and employees from a nearby chemical company Lanxess Canada.

In the Canadian Coast Guard video below, you can hear thankful Americans praising Canada for its rescue efforts.

Hopefully Canada places these migrants in long-term detention before sending them back to their terrible lives in their home country.

One day, I’d love to be paid to stare at stuff and have opinions about it again

[ 13 ] August 26, 2016 |

Salon started a new “Look Again” feature, in which staff take another look at all the photographs that fly across the wires daily. I’m going to be a Friday contributor, and here’s my first go at it.

Well, some of it, at least. Y’all know me — I don’t know when to shut up. The complete blather I wrote to accompany my photograph is below the fold. (I’d include the photograph itself, but we don’t have that subscription and Farley would kill me if I got us sued by Reuters.)

Read more…

Brilliant Political Analysis from Brilliant People

[ 88 ] August 26, 2016 |


Above: John Kasich

In a great find, the Hoover Institute blog put up Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway’s (then Fitzpatrick) 1997 prognostications about Gen-X voters in the 2000 election. This is great stuff.

I would say that Al Gore has little appeal among Generation Xers for the simple reason that Xers eschew hypocrisy. The irony for Al Gore is that his running mate, Bill Clinton, had considerable appeal among young people. But that reservoir of goodwill and “coolness,” if you will, does not automatically get bequeathed to the second banana. You’ve got to earn that on your own, and Al Gore has not. Young people are uncomfortable with him–he’s the uncle who buys them subscriptions to Field & Stream for Christmas and makes them sit up straight at the dinner table. Bill Clinton got them their first girl and their first beer. So Xers identify with Al Gore very differently.

Bill Clinton got me laid. Al Gore talks to me about the outdoors. LAME!!!

Among other potential Democrats, I imagine that someone like Bill Bradley may have some appeal among younger voters because he’s a national celebrity and established figure outside politics. He’s a Rhodes scholar and a basketball star, and so he can make a credible case for being a capital I Independent. I think that as time marches on, though, Evan Bayh, the current governor of Indiana, will be the Democrat to look out for in terms of appeal.

If there’s one thing we know about 2000, it’s that the kids flew to Bill Bradley’s campaign of zero charisma. But Evan Bayh, well, that’s a man for the youngs!

But the real good stuff is about the Republicans.

Among the Republicans, Dan Quayle has potential with young people. He’s young, he’s got a handsome young family. But it’s more than that. He talks about the kind of core, commonsense values that appeal to Generation Xers, the kind that its grandparents–the silent generation–grew up with. For obvious reasons, Xers have more respect for their grandparents than they do for their parents, and a candidate like Dan Quayle can really speak to them on a level that resonates with them.

For obvious reasons, the kids hate their hippie parents and want guidance from Strong Leaders like The GREATEST GENERATION OF ALL TIME!!! And therefore, they only have one option–Mr. Dan Quayle, already long since discredited as a national joke.

And now the punchline:

As for other Republicans who appeal to young people, look out for John Kasich. He’s forty-three or forty-four, chairman of the Budget Committee, newly married, takes his staff to Oasis concerts, and knows his way around the hip vernacular.

Well, Oasis, Jesus we might as well be electing a hipster to the White House! And John Kasich has truly maintained his youthful exuberance and appeal to young people all the way to 2016.

In conclusion, The Aristocrats!

Obama administration essentially puts ITT Technical Institute out of business

[ 28 ] August 26, 2016 |


The Obama administration took steps Thursday that could effectively force the closure of one of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains, banning ITT Technical Institute from enrolling new students who receive federal aid.

ITT, which has about 43,000 students nationwide, is facing accusations from its accreditor of chronic mismanagement of its finances and using questionable recruiting tactics. The company is also under investigation by state and federal authorities.

The Education Department said Thursday it had lost faith that ITT would survive the scrutiny and banned its schools from accepting new students that receive federal loans and grants to pay for the school’s tuition. Such aid provided 68% of the company’s $850 million in revenue last year.

While ITT can continue to collect aid from current students, without a future source of revenue the company would almost surely be forced to close many, if not all, of its campuses, analysts said. Private lenders have largely stopped making loans to students at for-profit schools since the recession. . . .

The move is part of a broader crackdown by the Obama administration on the for-profit college industry, which officials have accused of using deceptive marketing to enroll vulnerable students who go thousands of dollars into debt for low-quality educations.

Last year, Corinthian Colleges Inc., another major for-profit chain, liquidated in bankruptcy after the Education Department banned it from receiving federal aid amid allegations of inflating the career outcomes of graduates. Corinthian officials denied the allegations.

“Millions of dollars in taxpayer money and tens of thousands of students are in jeopardy,” Ted Mitchell, the Education Department’s undersecretary, said in a call with reporters about the move against ITT. “We have both a legal and ethical responsibility to strengthen safeguards in accordance with the public’s trust.”

The government would likely be forced to absorb losses on student loans if ITT closes under a federal law that relieves students of the obligation to repay their loans under such circumstances.

Many former ITT students have also applied to a federal program that forgives debt if they can prove their schools used illegal recruiting tactics, such as running advertisements with misleading statistics on the career success of graduates. The government has forgiven $171 million in student debt owed by former Corinthian students.

It’s also nice to see that Obama’s DOE has some appropriately cynically-minded regulators:

The Education Department also prohibited ITT from giving raises, bonuses or severance payments to its executives. Agency officials say that under federal law, it can impose executive-compensation limits on companies like ITT that enter contracts with the department to receive federal aid.

Oh the humanity! If the Free Enterprise System stands for anything, it’s for the principle that Emergency Golden Parachutes should be funded by the public. In fact I believe that’s actually in the Constitution, somewhere towards the back. (Leave to a socialist to trample on these sacred tenets).

Luckily this kind of thing obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with law schools:

It’s a mere formality. Every five years, the Department of Education renews the ABA’s power to accredit law schools. The June 2016 session before a DOE advisory committee (NACIQI) was supposed to be just another step in the rubber-stamping process. The NACIQI staff had recommended approval. The committee’s three-day session contemplated action on a dozen other accrediting bodies, ranging from the American Psychological Association to the American Theological Schools. Sandwiched between acupuncture and health education, the agenda contemplated an hour for the ABA.

What could go wrong?

For the next several hours, the ABA Section of Legal Education was much to its evident surprise subjected to the — well-deserved — regulatory equivalent of a root canal:

The ABA’s culture of self-interest and insularity has now created a bigger mess. Some NACIQI members favored the “nuclear” option: recommending denial of the ABA’s accrediting authority altogether. The committee opted to send a “clear message” through less draconian means.

The final recommendation was to give the ABA a 12-month period during which it would have no power to accredit new law schools. Thereafter, the ABA would report its progress in addressing the committee’s concerns, including the massive debt that students are incurring at law schools with poor JD-required placement rates.

As one member put it, “It is great to collect data, but they don’t have any standard on placement. What’s the point of collecting data if you can’t…use the data to help the students and protect the students…”

Another member summarized the committee’s view of the ABA: “This feels like an Agency that is out of step with a crisis in its profession, out of step with the changes in higher ed, and out of step with the plight of the students that are going through the law schools.”

The day of reckoning may not be at hand, but it’s getting closer.

See also Deborah Merritt, who provides a link to a complete transcript of the meeting for the S&M crowd.

What Should Be Done To Protect Renters in Expensive Cities?

[ 125 ] August 26, 2016 |


Since for at least some of you, evidently rent control is the greatest evil in human history, I am wondering what should be done to protect renters?

More than three dozen New York officials stepped into a high-profile court battle over rent stabilization yesterday, filing a brief on behalf of tenants who have sued their Lower Manhattan landlord, claiming they were denied rent caps that should have been guaranteed under a state tax program.

The fight between residents of 90 West Street and developer Kibel Companies, which ProPublica first chronicled in a story published in May, could determine the legality of two decades of rent increases in more than a dozen downtown high rises.

Developers received hefty tax breaks for converting these former office buildings into luxury rentals under an obscure program known as 421-g. In exchange, they were supposed to provide tenants with leases that limited yearly rent increases to levels set by the city. In practice, they often haven’t, maintaining that units renting for more than a certain amount (now 2,700 dollars) were not subject to rent stabilization.

The amicus brief filed late Thursday afternoon by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, twelve state senators, twelve assembly members, and thirteen city council members, all Democrats, accuses Kibel of claiming a “windfall grant of tax abatements…in exchange for nothing at all.”

Officials said they decided to wade into the case, in part, to demand stronger oversight of an array of programs that swap tax benefits for rent limits, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of units citywide. Preserving rent-stabilized units has become an increasingly hot political issue, with many local leaders calling for Mayor Bill de Blasio to do more to expand lower-cost housing options.

“The deal behind 421-g was clear—tax breaks for housing in lower Manhattan must include more affordable housing,” State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents the neighborhood, said in a statement. “It is not acceptable to shortchange the tenants or the community.”

I am not saying rent control is the only answer. But I do think it can and should be part of the answer. Not having rent control certainly isn’t working. And those who oppose it have no program to fix these problems. Just saying “build more housing units” doesn’t work well in many cities, where foreign billionaires are buying up whole floors of the luxury apartment complexes arising in New York, Seattle, Vancouver, and other cities. Of course, we do need a lot more housing units. But if you are a developer and you have control over what kind of housing unit you build, why not go for the profit on the high-end? Obviously that’s what you are going to do. Far more mandates are needed on rent control and the types of housing that are built. Unfortunately, we do not have that and whole cities are becoming completely unlivable for the working-class, or even the upper middle-class in the cases of New York and Vancouver. And that’s simply not sustainable in any way.

Important Links this Friday Morning

[ 28 ] August 26, 2016 |

Good morning. I hope your Friday is off to a great start. Enjoy…(?)…these links:


Working-Class Trump Supporters: Motivated by Racism, Economic Dislocation, and Community Decline

[ 215 ] August 26, 2016 |


So you might think that a West Virginia coal miner turned strident anti-coal activist would support the one candidate who might do something about climate change and who would follow up on President Obama’s attempts to mitigate coal fired power plants. But you would be wrong. Meet Ed Wiley, a figure in the interesting looking new book by Alexander Zaitchik, The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride through Donald Trump’s America. He is said anti-coal activist. He supports Donald Trump.

Most of this is just an interview. In it, he powerfully talks about the horrors the coal mines have caused on people and the land. He even worked with Earth First founder Mike Roselle. But why does he support Trump? Because he’s just angry.

“Trump will get elected. I’m for it. I said it from the beginning, when everybody said I was crazy. People in America like his attitude. We’re tired of being broke. People’s tired of bull crap. Jobs never should have never left here. They should have stayed in America. He’s a businessman, and mostly everything in the world now depends on some kind of business. We need to keep our butts at home, stay out of these wars. That’s the sort of thing you’d have to watch with him, is: Can he keep himself calm? Control of his bipolar. That might be what we need, is a good bipolar president [laughs]. He says it like it is. If he says it, he’s probably going to do it one way or another, or try to. He don’t hold nothing back. That’s for sure. He probably knows people all over the place. Can make some kind of jobs happen.

“But they need to quit talking about that border wall shit. I never did like this. The drugs are going to get here from somewhere, one way or another. We don’t need a damn wall. Get along with the people. Bring them and build more. Help us build the country. They want to work, too. Let’s put them to work. Put everybody to work. You look at all the problems it’s caused in California right now—it’s over that damn wall. We need to just work this out on that. We need to get that straightened out so people ain’t fighting in the street. And Trump should stop calling them scoundrels. Everybody’s not a scoundrel. And them people are desperate. You become a bit of a scoundrel when you get desperate, whether you are or not. You get hungry, you’re going to grab that doughnut, if you can get it.”

When you read something like this, from someone who is not a low-information voter, it’s hard to know what to make of it. He clearly doesn’t really believe in Trump as some great leader or even a stable person. But he doesn’t care. Because Trump is a businessman and we need businessmen, even though Wiley’s spent the last 15 years as the enemy of his state’s biggest business. So what’s going on here? Discussions of Trump voters and their motivations tend to revolve around two themes that I don’t see as nearly mutually exclusive as others often represent them. The first is that people are devastated by job losses in their communities and need good work. The second is that they are racist. Earlier in the interview, Wiley refers to a “colored boy” who died of an asthma attack at an anti-coal rally. So it’s not like he’s a real sophisticated guy when it comes to understanding race, even if I don’t think we can use this as enough evidence to say Wiley’s a racist.

On the other hand, all the conversations about people angry about job losses and believing in Trump because he supposedly will bring jobs back to the good old U.S.A. internalizes the highly unfortunate tendency to equate working class voters with white people. It’s whites in Scranton or West Virginia or Alabama who are angry about this. But it’s not like deindustrialization and globalization hasn’t hurt the economic prospects of African-American and Latino industrial workers as much as whites. It’s probably hurt them even more because they face racism on top of all the other problems economic upheaval and capital mobility creates. And those voters sure ain’t finding Trump appealing.

I’m sure that Wiley’s response, like a lot of other white people, is a combination of both economic problems, community collapse, and racism. I know people like monocausal responses and to just paint the white people voting for Trump as racists, but the reality is more complicated. The other day, I heard an interview with J.D. Vance about his new book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Vance is a right-winger himself who does not support Trump so take it how you will. But in the interview, he talked about his Trump-supporting family in Ohio and Kentucky. And he said that they know Trump is not really going to make their lives better or fix their problems. But at least he’s articulating their problems. Now, of course part of what they see as their problems is the decline of white privilege. White supremacy is what they want back. But at the same time, they also do want jobs and an economic future. And they don’t have that. That’s probably what Wiley is feeling as well.

In the end, the Trump phenomena is more complicated than just racism. Racism is absolutely central to it. But it’s more than that. And it would indeed behoove policymakers to take these concerns seriously, even if Trump gets crushed. That will finally prove that Democrats don’t need to appeal to white working-class voters (so often equated to be “real Americans” in the media) in order to win. But so what? The concerns are greater than just the election. Policymakers need to not only take the opioid epidemic seriously in white working-class communities, but they also need to figure out ways for these places to have jobs. People need jobs. The Trans-Pacific Partnership only makes the unemployment situation worse for working-class communities. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have had any answer to the economic dislocation caused by globalization and free trade except to say “get some more education and maybe we’ll throw a few bucks at retraining programs that don’t lead to good jobs.” It’s a pathetic response that shows the irrelevance of these people to elites of either party. So it’s hardly surprising that such voters, even one who has fought the coal industry, see Trump as someone paying attention to them and are flocking to him.

Extreme Weather, Climate Change, Science Communication

[ 55 ] August 26, 2016 |


I have long stated the dangers of scientists refusing to take strong stands connecting weather events to climate change. I understand why they have done this–science is not about certainty, is ideally not too connected to politics, and you can’t 100 percent connect a specific weather event to climate change, although that is rapidly changing. But part of the problem as well is that scientists aren’t really trained to communicate their findings to the general public. What this has done in the real world is cede far too much ground to climate deniers, obscuring the facts and making doing something about climate change all the more difficult.

But it’s absolutely crucial to connect current weather events to climate change. Using the recent extreme flooding in Louisiana and other record rains Union of Concerned Scientists climate scientist Astrid Caldas makes the case as to how they are a consequence of climate change.

Louisiana, August 2016: “I’m going home to see if I have a home”.

Ellicot City, Maryland, July 2016: “Oh my god. There’s people in the water”.

West Virginia, June 2016: “23 dead, thousands homeless after devastating flood”.

What do these events (and 5 more since April 2015) have in common? They were all considered very low probability, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center created maps of annual exceedance probabilities (AEPs) for all of them. AEP is the probability of exceeding a given amount of rainfall for a given duration at least once in any year at a given location. It is an indicator of the rarity of rainfall. These maps are created for significant storm events that typically have AEPs of less than 0.2% (i.e, exceed 500-year average recurrence interval amounts). For Louisiana, the probability analyzed was for the worst case 48-hour rainfall. For Ellicott City, it was for the worst case 3-hour rainfall. And for West Virginia, the June 23-24 event became a map for the worst case 24-hour rainfall.

In other words, just in the past 17 months, 8 rain events that are considered very low probability (i.e., less than 0.2%) occurred. Three happened in the past 3 months. Flooding like this should happen very rarely – there are AEP maps for only 18 more events, one of which was in 1913, all others having occurred since 2010. As our hearts go out to the families affected by the flooding, we may be asking; is this a series of unfortunate events? Certainly. The sheer loss of life and property is staggering, and heartbreaking. Totally unexpected? Unfortunately, the answer is hardly.

NOAA and NASA just released their global temperature data for the month of July 2016, and again, it was a record warm month. Not only the warmest July on record, but also the warmest month ever on record. According to NOAA, this is the 15th record warm month in a row, starting with May 2015. One can’t help but notice that over these 15 months, 8 rain events were off the probability charts, so to speak. Yes, climate change fingerprint is on these events, including the Louisiana flood, considered the worst natural disaster in the US since hurricane Sandy. Special conditions mainly fueled by climate change were behind this record event.

As much as local conditions affect rainfall events individually, global warming is among the main reasons why we are seeing places that never flooded before, such as Baton Rouge areas and Ellicott City, being swallowed by not only deep but very fast rising waters. Development and urbanization also play a big role in these events, as rainwater swells rivers that no longer have wide, protective margins, and hits impervious surfaces that do not allow for ground penetration – water that has nowhere to go but along streets and between buildings down the easiest path it can find, based on topology and gravity. Here and here are some good resources that elaborate on the aforesaid factors.

The 2014 National Climate Assessment stated: Heavy downpours are increasing nationally, especially over the last three to five decades. The heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent, and the amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased. Increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected for all U.S. regions.

Even though Louisiana is not among the areas that had seen the most increase in heavy precipitation events, the Southeastern US saw an increase of 27 percent from 1958 to 2012. The straightforward explanation for heavier downpours is that warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air. Indeed, global measurements show that there is more water vapor in the air now. It follows that there is more water to come down when it rains. Other factors also affect precipitation patterns, which I have explored a bit further here. Even if one cannot directly attribute individual events specifically to climate change, the latter is behind an increased likelihood of them happening, and also of them becoming more extreme. Extreme rainfall is one type of extreme event on which the effects of climate change are better understood, according to a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that I explore in this blog.

Now, it’s never going to be a precise 1:1 correlation between climate change and a given event. But despite that, scientists have to send a strong message that it is climate change causing catastrophic flooding that creates havoc on communities and costs taxpayers millions or even billions of dollars in each event. It’s not only in our interests to take strong action to mitigate climate change and start preparing for the inevitable, but it’s the most important issue of our time. We can’t allow oil companies and those who want to deny climate change because they hate the dirty hippies to win the public opinion battle. With each major event, the message has to be over and over again that climate change is at least partially responsible and without a real program to fight and mitigate this, it’s going to happen over and over again. Unfortunately, we are far from even such a widespread communications strategy, not to mention a real agenda on what to do or the political will outside of a few leaders like Sheldon Whitehouse or Ed Markey to even make a stink about it.

Can Our Revolution Be His?

[ 28 ] August 26, 2016 |


Bernie Sanders’s new group is off to a somewhat rocky start:

Bernie Sanders has launched Our Revolution, a new group meant to support progressive causes. In doing so, they’re also promising to “revitalize American democracy” and “elevate the political consciousness.” All of which sounds great, and crucial, and they will probably be right on it, as soon as they replace the majority of the staff, who have resigned almost instantly.

Some of this initial rough patch seems to be connected to choices made by Sanders. In particular, Jeff Weaver, sort of the Mark Penn of the left, is predictably alienating a lot of staffers and causing resignations over Sanders’s personal entreaties. But as Merlan says, there are broader issues with this kind of enterprise that aren’t really about Bernie per se:

Politico reports that the board, which is chaired by Jane Sanders, was growing “increasingly concerned about campaign finance questions being raised over the last week.” Questions like, how does a political nonprofit founded by and closely linked to a sitting U.S. senator operate legally, even if Sanders isn’t directly running the show?


The nonprofit status also means the group can’t give money directly to candidates. And the arrangement is deeply ironic, given that 501 (c)(4) designations are usually pursued by people who don’t want to disclose their donors. The most infamous example is Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which managed to get itself qualified as a nonprofit “social welfare group” despite being run by Karl Rove.

There are, in other words, structural reasons why major activist groups tend not to be led by sitting politicians: doing so limits what they can do and limits their leverage. If Our Revolution or a similar group of set of groups is going to be successful — and finding a way to harness Sanders’s strong support into a powerful voice in the party is important — it probably can’t be about Bernie or any other currently office-holding politician per se. And that’s probably not a bad thing.

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