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Party of Trump, Party of Breitbart

[ 79 ] August 25, 2016 |


Really good piece by Zack Beauchamp about Breitbart portending Trump, with its indifference to both truth and policy, overt racism, and belief that political correctness is the biggest threat facing the country:

So in March, when then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski manhandled Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and then denied it, the site faced an existential dilemma. Back your reporter, like any journalistic outlet would do, or side with the Trump campaign, like a Trump Super PAC would?

We all know the answer at this point. Breitbart forbade its reporters from supporting Fields (who, I should disclose, is a personal friend of mine). A Breitbart editor, Joel Pollak, published a piece arguing that the incident “could not possibly have happened” as Fields described it. Fields quit Breitbart in disgust, as did several members of the site’s staff.

Trump is the vindication of everything Breitbart has ever stood for, so standing with him over Fields made sense.

Overriding focus on attacking political correctness? Check. Harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric? Check. Broadsides against the conservative elite? Check. Politics of white resentment? Check, check, and check.

The whole thing is very much worth reading.


Le Chant du Styrène

[ 7 ] August 25, 2016 |


In 1958, Alain Resnais made an industrial film, for whatever reason. Money I assume. Le Chant du Styrène is about plastics. It’s also an absolutely beautiful film, really a wonderful artifact of postwar modernism. Unfortunately, the only copy on YouTube I can find is subtitled–in Spanish. But even if you don’t speak French or read Spanish, you can still follow along as Resnais takes us through the wonderful world of oil-based products.

Cherry Catsup Salad

[ 62 ] August 24, 2016 |

As is clear by now, like many others, I am both fascinated and horrified by postwar food. The terrible recipes of the 1950s-1970s are a wonder to behold. Today, I was introduced to this.


Color me shocked that this horror comes from South Dakota. Probably some distant relative of mine. Really, this is the single worst ketchup-based recipe I have ever seen. And that’s a high bar!

I have discovered as well that there is a website devoted to making and trying these food catastrophes. You may not be surprised that this is a terrible recipe.

This didn’t go together at all. At all! If you have ever had a bite of ketchup-covered hot dog in your mouth and washed it down with a gulp of cherry Kool-Aid, then you know what this gelatin tasted like. It tasted like a bad idea. Add a bite of salad to that mouthful, and you have the complete flavor profile: A bunch of random ingredients, thrown together and suspended in gelatin. I can guess that this was supposed to be a type of side to be served with meat, like a sauce or a chutney, but I can’t think of the type of meat that this would compliment. Except for hot dogs, apparently. In this gelatin’s defense, it had a good, crunchy texture. And it did remind us of summer through the whole hot-dog Kool-Aid thing. But other than that it was a bunch of different flavors all happening at once. And all those flavors told us ketchup and cherry gelatin do not go together well.

The canned black olives may be the worst part of a very bad idea. Even worse than the ketchup. What’s with canned black olives? It’s like postwar food companies decided to take a wonderful food, with hundreds if not thousands of awesome varieties, and breed them to make a really terrible tasting olive that somehow worked brilliantly on the market. I guess it’s forgivable in the 1970s. Not sure why on earth someone would eat them now. I figure the use of canned black olives is a good sign that one shouldn’t eat at a given pizza place, although the even less forgivable use of canned mushrooms is more telling. Anyway, you all should make this recipe and report back.

Also, this California prune cream salad from 1934 is seriously the most disgusting historical artifact I have ever run across.


Night night! Sweet dreams!


[ 6 ] August 24, 2016 |


SEK: You mean CrossFit?


SEK: You don’t do CrossFit — but you’re annoying as people who do, so there’s that.


SEK: That’s not CrossFit — that’s you crossing your feet.


SEK: Why do you even —


SEK: No, you’re old and feeble, so you cross your feet when you walk and —


SEK: I’m gonna let you have this.


SEK: That’s not even a —


The complete OLDMAN CAT is available here. I’ll try to be better about cross-posting them, lest someone crossfuck me up.


[ 30 ] August 24, 2016 |

I can’t tell if Uber’s decision to offer retirement planning to people who use its app to find people who wish to be driven somewhere for a fee its drivers in several cities is a sign it’s about to admit it is in fact a taxi service, or an attempt to improve its public image.

Uber is now offering drivers in select cities free financial planning through a partnership with a robo-advisor called Betterment. This announcement is coming on the heels of two huge headlines in Uber-land: the imminent rollout of the ride-hail startup’s first self-driving car, and a federal judge’s rejection of a proposed $100 million settlement with drivers in California in a worker misclassification lawsuit.

Uber mentions neither in its announcement about teaming up with Betterment. The fee-free services will be first available to drivers in Seattle, Boston, Chicago, and New Jersey, with the option to expand the offering to drivers in other cities later this year. Drivers can use the Uber app to open a Betterment IRA or Roth IRA for free for the first year, with no minimum account balance and a team of advisors to walk them through the steps of setting up a retirement account.

More on Betterment.

Uber is touting the new services as part of its ongoing effort to help its drivers save money and plan for the future. Meanwhile in the background, the company is waging a costly fight to keep drivers classified as independent contractors, arguing that it is a technology platform that connects drivers to riders, not an employer in the traditional sense. The class action lawsuit challenging that classification appeared headed toward a $100 million settlement, until last week when a judge rejected it as unfair and inadequate.

Not that it will matter once Uber replaces its ride sharing human drivers with K.I.T.T. and the libertarians who think Uber is the greatest thing since the U.S. Constitution because they don’t think that well will claim this wouldn’t have happened if the drivers hadn’t stood up for their rights.

But the day when Uber goes to court to argue that its unmanned vehicles are fully independent and so the company isn’t liable because a car took a short cut through a maternity ward and a river is ways off.

Uber announced last week that it will bring a fleet of self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs to Pittsburgh starting at the end of this month. This is part of a $300 million partnership, with the end goal being a replacement of Uber’s one million human drivers with robot ones. While the fleet is being lauded as “self-driving,” the cars aren’t fully there yet.

…Uber’s Pittsburgh experiment will be using Level 3 autonomy. The cars will not be “self-driving” yet, like the Google Car.

Self-driving and autonomous are not synonymous with “driverless.” This is an important distinction to make, especially if you’re going to start comparing what Uber’s doing with what Google has been doing.


It’s quite fantastic that Uber is working to achieve Level 4 autonomy. Even though this is not a totally driverless car (yet) that some are making it out to be, it’s still an extremely important vision to autonomous cars and the next stage of ride sharing.

I’m going to say that cars with Level 4 autonomy will represent the end of ride sharing, unless the idea is that passengers going to different places will share the cars. Perhaps the cars could drive on a set route, and have certain locations where the car will stop and people can get on. And then they could notify the car when they want to get off at one of these preset locations by ringing some sort of bell? That might work.


[ 89 ] August 24, 2016 |

This is a thing that exists. [TRIGGER WARNING: to paraphrase Pauline Kael, it would take the wisdom of Solomon to determine whether this video is more offensive aesthetically, psychologically, morally, or politically.]

This is surely the greatest piece of winger art since “Take the R Train.”

[Via Weigel]

Elites vs. The Masses

[ 159 ] August 24, 2016 |


I don’t agree with everything in this article, particularly that we have less democracy in society than 40 years ago. I think the answer to such a question is tremendously complicated but surely isn’t obviously this conclusion. But I do approve of the overall tenor of it. The last thing we should be doing in response to the Trump campaign and most especially the Sanders campaign is think that democracy is dangerous and should be clamped down upon in favor of elite rule.

The vileness of the Trump campaign has exposed something just as odious, and ultimately more insidious: the contempt some elites feel at the prospect of sharing power with regular people. This contempt is nothing new, of course—what’s striking is how acceptable it has suddenly become to express such antidemocratic views in polite company. Just as Trump has given a veneer of “respectability” to expressions of bigotry and xenophobia, he’s made calls for reining in popular democracy sound, to many people’s ears, like a reasonable response.

The elitists gave their game away, though, when they routinely cast Bernie Sanders and his supporters as virtual doppelgängers of the Trump crowd—another out-of-control and misguided mob, hopelessly immature and unrealistic about how the system works. Sanders, The New York Times sniffed, was irresponsibly promising his followers “the moon and a good part of the sun.” In an all-too-characteristic column called “2016: The Reckless Versus the Responsible,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank called Sanders and Trump “peas in a pod.” Post reporter Callum Borchers unfavorably compared the Democratic insurgent’s impassioned followers with Trump’s: “If there is a trophy for bad behavior, Bernie Sanders’s supporters appear hell-bent on taking it from Donald Trump’s.”

The argument that Trump, Sanders, and their respective constituencies are two sides of the same benighted coin gained currency, in part, because it lets elites off the hook. It’s a way to rationalize clinging even more vehemently to a ruinous, oligarchic status quo—democracy be damned. But here again, it gets things backward. Protests and populist political movements, after all, are signs that people have been locked out of structures of governance, not that they have successfully “hijacked” the system. Elitists plead for more reason in political life—and who can disagree with that, in principle? But their position itself is not entirely rational.

In a widely circulated cover story in The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch rallied to the defense of those in power. “Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around,” he complained. “Neurotic hatred of the political class is the country’s last acceptable form of bigotry.” Mass discontent, he concluded, is a “virus” that must be quarantined.

But mass discontent has already been quarantined. That’s why voters on both the right and left are so pissed off. The real challenge facing America today is the near-absence in civic life of democratic channels that run deeper than a sporadic visit to the voting booth, or the fleeting euphoria of a street protest.

Simply put, while I don’t know exactly what “we need more democracy” means because in the real world, that’s really hard to define and implement, what we absolutely do not need is technocratic betters keeping everyday people out of policy and leadership positions. Because we know that is a dead end in the long run. Even in comments here, I’ve seen people defend the superdelegates in the Democratic Party as a defense against a Trump-like takeover of whackos. And that’s a terribly bad thing to argue.

Teen Minimum Wage?

[ 89 ] August 24, 2016 |


To say the least, the idea of a teen minimum wage of $4.25 is a horrendous idea with enormously awful policy implications. It also underplays the actual cost of being a teenager which is not going out with Biff and Cindy to the drive-in and maybe getting some malts afterwards and gee isn’t that soda jerk cute. Unfortunately, a 1996 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (thanks Bill!) allows employers to pay workers under the age of 20 $4.25 an hour for their first 90 days of employment. This needs to change. Not only has that number not increased with inflation, but it always was nothing more than a way for the government to allow exploitative employers to be even more exploitative. At its heart is the idea that teenagers aren’t real workers and shouldn’t be treated as such. This still animates conversations about certain sectors of work, as conservatives and even too many liberals dismiss thinking of fast food work as legitimate work worthy of being covered by labor law or being the target of organizing campaigns. That’s teen work, right? But no, it’s often not. Allowing employers to pay young workers less only undermines the wages for everyone. Meanwhile, many of these teen workers are working to pay for AP exams and to contribute to their family’s income. Repealing the teen minimum wage needs to be a top progressive priority.

Bad Campaign Will Make Futile Attempt to Counter Accurate Perception

[ 109 ] August 24, 2016 |


The Trump campaign perceives a problem:

Donald Trump is rapidly trying to turn around his presidential campaign with a vigorous and at times strained effort to shed a label applied to him by a substantial portion of the electorate: racist.

Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.

I would have to agree that there’s one problem with this:

The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist. His first appearance in the New York Times came in the context of his being caught refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. A former Trump employee has detailed a series of private racist statements and acts — saying “laziness is a trait in blacks,” objecting to black people working for him in accounting, his staff shooing black people off the casino floor when he arrived. Trump has replied that the comments were “probably true,” but berated the person who made them as a “loser.” He has questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate, called him a “terrible student,” and implied he only made it into Harvard Law School due to affirmative action.


Attacking Clinton for having supported punitive crime policies two decades ago is quite a turn for Trump, who is running on a platform of punitive crime policies right now. It was only last month when he made the entire theme of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention “law and order,” promising a brutal crackdown on crime, and lambasted Obama for encouraging black criminals by calling attention to police mistreatment of African-Americans. Trump also once spent his own money on a newspaper ad calling for five minority youths to be executed for a rape they turned out not to have committed. “What has happened to the respect for authority, the fear of retribution by the courts, society and the police for those who break the law, who wantonly trespass on the rights of others?,” he wrote, urging, in hysterical all-caps, “CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!”

Trump has spent more than a year identifying himself as the candidate of white-backlash politics, using his appeal to the most racially resentful Republicans to win the nomination. And now he’s running to Clinton’s left on criminal justice! Trump adviser Roger Stone tells the Post, “an entire generation of young black men are incarcerated” because of the 1994 bill. So African-Americans should instead vote for the candidate who literally called for “retribution” and an end to civil liberties. Does Trump’s campaign really think anybody is going to believe this?

But I’m sure a quick tour of Detroit with Ben Carson will solve everything!

Affordable Child Care

[ 49 ] August 24, 2016 |


The number of policy options that would make people’s lives better while also spurring the economy is quite large. These commonsense choices would be a huge boon for 99 percent of Americans while having the singular downside of making rich people pay higher taxes. Therefore it is of course impossible. But the government taking the lead in creating affordable child care makes more sense than just about anything else and the election is the time to talk about these issues.

Affordable day care, for instance, would stanch the income loss experienced by parents who now must leave the work force while their children are young. The damage of such career interruptions does not end when a parent goes back to work; among other things, there are the raises that were missed and the savings that otherwise would have accrued. A 26-year-old mother who takes five years off from a median-paying job — $30,253 in 2014 — would forfeit $467,000 over a work life, reducing her lifetime earnings by 19 percent, according to a calculator by the Center for American Progress.

The losses are even more profound when multiplied over the economy. International comparisons indicate that more family-friendly policies in the United States, including quality child care, would allow roughly 5.5 million more women to work, assuming the economy was adding jobs at a reasonable pace. All else being equal, that surge could generate an astounding $500 billion a year in economic growth, or about 3.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Proper child care also lays the foundation for future productivity gains. Research shows that public investment in early education yields benefits for children far in excess of its cost, including higher academic and career achievement well into adulthood, as well as better health. McKinsey researchers estimated that closing academic achievement gaps between low-income students and others would increase the size of the economy by roughly $70 billion a year; closing racial and ethnic gaps would add $50 billion annually.

But hey, taxes might go up on the wealthy. And those parents shouldn’t be having kids if they aren’t millionaires. Why can’t the breeding poor just pull themselves by their bootstraps like I did by being born to a corporate lawyer who graduated from Yale?

Hillary Clinton has something of a plan to deal with these problems. Donald Trump does not. But both parties are the same, amiright? Stein ’16!

Welcome to Trump’s America

[ 116 ] August 24, 2016 |


Racists, let your freak flag fly.

The message on the receipt rattled Sadie Karina Elledge, but it made her grandfather see red.

Instead of leaving a gratuity on Monday, a couple eating at the Harrisonburg, Va., restaurant where Sadie works scrawled: “We only tip citizens.”

The dig was aimed at Sadie, 18, who was born in the United States but is of Honduran and Mexican descent. So, John Elledge took a photo of the grease-stained receipt left for his granddaughter and posted it on Facebook.

Beneath the photo he typed: “You are a complete and total piece of dung.”

Earlier on Facebook, the lawyer had written some other harsh words:

I’d happily do the jail time if I could get just one solid punch in to the face of the son of a bitch who paid for his meal at the luncheonette where my granddaughter works and left the receipt for her with a note saying, “Sorry, we only tip citizens.”

Elledge, who is white, told The Washington Post he’s particularly sensitive to slights directed at his multicultural family.

FWIW, this is also another reason why we need to pay restaurant workers a decent wage and eliminate tipping.

The Fundamental Dilemma of Health Care

[ 48 ] August 24, 2016 |


I have a piece at the Prospect about Aetna bailing on most of the ACA exchanges is participates in. On the one hand, it shows the necessity of the public option; on the other hand, is shows (as Erik said yesterday) why it will be enormously difficult to pass:

The Obama administration shouldn’t cave. Instead, Democrats should take steps to address the health law’s underlying problems. The obvious solution is one that surfaced repeatedly in the multiple draft versions of the legislation that eventually became the ACA, and that is now part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform: a public option. This would entail making a government-operated health-care plan available on public markets. Allowing good public insurance to compete would both ensure that decent, affordable insurance is available in all 50 states, and prevent power plays like Aetna’s by making public insurance available as a backstop. If private companies can provide insurance that people want to buy at rates competitive with the public option, good. If they can’t, this would also be fine, because the public sector would absorb a bigger share of the health insurance market, a positive development in itself.

What makes the public option desirable will also make it very hard to pass, of course, even in the event that Congress becomes more Democratic and more progressive after Election Day. Insurance companies know full well how a robust public option would eat into their customer bases and profits, and will fight it with everything they’ve got. Democrats should exhaust every avenue for winning a public option. But if they fall short, there are other ways to strengthen health insurance exchanges.

There are some alternative measures which might be more viable, the best of which is the Medicare buy-in Joe Lieberman torpedoed. You can click the link to find out!

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