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Who Knew?

[ 121 ] February 27, 2017 |


The last person to understand a basic fact is of course our president.

President Donald Trump told a bipartisan group of governors at a White House reception Monday morning that GOP tax reform would have to wait for lawmakers to move on repealing Obamacare, cautioning that, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said.



We Need Open Borders In Order to Cleanse This Nation of the Eating Habits of Old White Men

[ 116 ] February 27, 2017 |


We’ve known this for awhile, but once again, Donald Trump eats his steaks well-done with ketchup.

“The President ordered a well-done steak. An aged New York strip. He ate it with catsup as he always does. The sides and appetizers on the table were shared. Three jumbo shrimp cocktails were delivered before the meal. At one point, the President looked at his watch and remarked ”They are filming ‘Saturday Night Live’ right now. Can’t wait to see what they are gonna do to me this week.“ It was hard to serve him because he is so funny and relaxed, it makes you laugh.”

Do we call this Putin-style steak?

Defeating Puzder

[ 59 ] February 27, 2017 |


I interrupt the present civil war on the left between supporters of two excellent candidates for a position of relatively moderate power that has been blown up into a referendum on whether the future is a glorious revolution or Wall Street domination for mentioning how the left can actually do some pretty great things when it comes together. Andy Puzder blames the left for defeating his nomination as Secretary of Labor.

In his radio appearance, Puzder was even more vehement in denouncing “the left” than he was in denouncing the media. He said the left launched an “enormous campaign to wear down my support.”

“The left is trying to sink as many of the president’s nominees as possible,” Puzder said. “So in that sense, it really wouldn’t have mattered what I believed or who I was or what the process was. They were going to campaign against me as a means of hurting the president.”

Once again, Puzder did not enumerate or respond to the objections raised by labor unions and other left-of-center groups about his nomination, nor did Hewitt bring them up. These concerned labor violations committed by franchisees of CKE Restaurants; sexually provocative ads Puzder approved and defended for Carl’s Jr.; and Puzder’s opposition to raising the minimum wage even to $10.10.

Let’s be clear. It’s not only the left that defeated Puzder. It’s the left plus his extreme positions plus his hiring an undocumented housekeeper plus his grotesquely sexist advertisements for his shitty burgers plus being a wife beater. But without the left opposition to him, he is our Secretary of Labor. Of course, for Puzder, it’s also the left that is destroying the nation, a nation where wifebeaters should be powerful government figures.

Puzder, whose confirmation hearings were repeatedly delayed due to complications in divesting himself of CKE assets, accused Democrats of going “full throttle” once they saw some Republicans wavering. He surmised that Democrats and unions opposed him because he was a successful businessman who could help President Donald Trump create jobs and economic growth.

“I don’t believe their concern was that I would be bad for workers. I think their concern was that I would pursue policies they opposed and that workers would benefit,” he suggested. “So the implications of that for the left would really have been devastating.”

More jobs and a growing economy, Puzder added, would force more competition among employers for workers, increasing wages and benefits. He argued, however, that unions and “big government progressives” didn’t want to see those benefits “because it would confirm that no matter what the mainstream media’s been telling working and middle-class Americans, pro-growth economic policies are, in fact, in their best interest, and big government’s not.”

Totally dude. That’s why the 1930s through the 1970s saw the greatest gains for working class people in this nation’s history and the repeal of those regulations and implementation of Republican class warfare has decimated working Americans.

The Assassination of Keith Ellison by the Neoliberal Coward Tom Perez

[ 654 ] February 27, 2017 |


It seems clear that Keith Ellison and Tom Perez made a deal in advance to immediately make the runner-up the #2 at the DNC. Given their ideological similarities and the fact they apparently work together well, this makes the gap between the actual stakes of the outcome of the DNC race and the apocalyptic morality play being written as an alternative set of facts about it even greater. But the fantasy universe in which Perez and Ellison represent massively different visions of the party they will somehow impose on it through some unspecified mechanism is going strong:

In fairness, unlike some formulations, this seems to leave open the possibility that some liberals can also be on the left and favor policies that advance the interests of the working class. But even confined to mainstream liberals within the Democratic Party, this analysis is absolutely bonkers. Mainstream liberalism “does not include poor people of any kind” and their vehicle for purging any voices for the poor out of the party was..the most effective and left-wing Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins? The most important legislative achievement of the last Democratic Congress and president was a massive expansion of the public health care program for the poor. Was the Medicaid expansion race-not-class because it wasn’t constructed to exclude many people of color, like the Real Working Class Liberalism of the New Deal? What was the objective of Medicaid expansion, if “center-liberalism” has abandoned the interests of the poor entirely?

Needless to say, the Medicaid expansion is not the whole story of the Obama administration, and there are many ways in which its economic policies were inadequate. The most recent Democratic platform was the most attuned to class interests of any in decades, but there remains plenty of room for critique. This, however, isn’t Rensin’s argument. His argument is that the interests of the poor have been entirely abandoned by the Democratic Party, and his central evidence for this theory is the selection of one left-liberal with a strong record on class issues over another for a position that does little-to-nothing to set the ideological direction of the party. OK.

And the analysis becomes even more incoherent when you consider that Ellison had plenty of support from “center-liberalism.” The Manichean alternative history of the DNC race not only ludicrously casts Tom Perez as a Thatcherite, it also apparently casts Chuck Schumer as a left-not-liberal class warrior. It’s incomprehensible on any level.

People for whom it’s never not 1996 notwithstanding, the Democratic Party is clearly moving to the left, as it should be. What the priorities of this coalition should be when it gets the chance to govern and how to get it in a position to govern remain pressing questions with plenty of room for disputation. But the DNC race will barely merit a footnote when this history is written, and distorting the players to try to transform it into a desperate Last Battle for the Very Soul of the Democratic Party is deeply strange.


[ 85 ] February 27, 2017 |

So that was crazy.

In other news:


Oscars No. 89 Open Thread

[ 163 ] February 26, 2017 |

I’m not watching but the Twitters informs me that Mahershala Ali has won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight.

Here’s a list of nominees and winners that will be updated as they’re announced. Consider this your open thread to discuss the 89th Academy Awards.

Leak investigation springs a leak (Update – A Spicey Shot & Chaser)

[ 111 ] February 26, 2017 |

Sleepless Spice is trying to catch sources of White House leaks. Can tracking collars and body cams that can’t be turned off be far behind?

Spicer called staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the leaks, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, was a violation of the Federal Records Act.

Suddenly he cares about laws?

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could
ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

A cunning plan. No one would ever think to delete incriminating info or communicate with reporters in some way that wouldn’t be on their phones at all.

And now, the punchline.

Spicer asked to review both his staff’s government-issued and personal cell phones, the sources said. He also specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media, one source said.

I hope that one day in the near future these unsung heroes get the thanks they’re due.

Update – Perhaps Spicer should shut up and let the leakers handle everything.

Bill Paxton

[ 77 ] February 26, 2017 |

Bill Paxton has died, after complications from surgery.

Paxton seemed to have been in a thousand movies and TV shows, making him a sort of second-string Kevin Bacon, who appeared with him in Apollo 13, and probably a bunch of other things as well.

I remember him best as Hudson, the cowardly Marine who is given the best lines in James Cameron’s Aliens, and as the earnest husband juggling several wives in HBO’s Big Love, a cheesy but strangely compelling series about polygamy among suburban heterodox Mormons in Salt Lake City.  He was also in Titanic, although I can’t remember who he played.  I do have a painful memory of him in Twister, one of the worst big budget movies ever.   An actor who everybody knows but somehow never quite becomes a real movie star, and who then dies on the day the Academy Awards take place, is something out of Woody Allen movie, or maybe a Raymond Carver story.



#StupidestPresidentEver tries to box clever

[ 245 ] February 26, 2017 |



Viva Sandino!

[ 66 ] February 26, 2017 |


Glad to see Republicans repudiate the horrific policies of Reagan toward the Sandinistas!

“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Vice President Mike Pence told the Republican Jewish Coalition on Friday night. Meanwhile, Pence’s Twitter account was sending an entirely different message: America stands with Nicaragua.

The person managing Pence’s Twitter account mistakenly tweeted that “the world will know America stands with Israel 🇳🇮 ” and “Under @POTUS Trump, we will stand with Israel 🇳🇮 ” except, there’s one problem: that’s not Israel’s flag. The person tweeting used the Nicaraguan flag in both tweets, which vaguely resembles the Israeli flag if you squint and are completely ignorant of world politics.

If there’s one thing you can say about this administration, it’s that it’s bigly competent.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 72

[ 39 ] February 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of Joseph Story.


Born in 1779 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Story graduated from Harvard in 1798 and was admitted to the bar in Salem in 1801. In 1805, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature as a Jeffersonian, a difficult victory in this Federalist stronghold. He very briefly served in Congress, from December 1808 to March 1809, and then returned to the Massachusetts legislature, where he was elected Speaker in 1811. In November 1811, James Madison selected him to serve on the Supreme Court. He was only 32 years old. He would remain there until his death. He is still the youngest person ever selected to the Court.

As a justice, Story would develop into a conservative defender of property rights during an age of industrialization. He became closely aligned with John Marshall, even though he had been a Jeffersonian before this. He fought hard for the supremacy of the Supreme Court over the state courts, not an established fact at this time. It was the Virginia courts that rejected Story’s rulings, again an irony given his background. Overall, his view was one of expansive federal powers, particularly in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee. And in later cases such as Charles River Bridge, when Roger Taney and the Democrats had taken over the court, Story became the chief dissenter, supporting the rights of nascent corporations consistently. Today, he is most famous for ruling for the self-emancipated slaves in the Amistad case. In 1829, he also took a job teaching at Harvard. There, he wrote Commentaries on the Constitution, one of the most important early books on interpreting the Constitution. He died in 1845, the last old-school Early Republic figure in government.

Although you don’t get a lot of obscure Supreme Court justices appearing in film, retried Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun played Story in Amistad.

Joseph Story is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spoke at the dedication cemetery in 1831.

It Starts Here

[ 132 ] February 26, 2017 |


Just one data point, of course, but still encouraging:

MIDDLETOWN, Del. ― This is what democracy looks like.

It’s been a chant that has animated marches and protests around the country since the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated president, but it’s been more aspirational than descriptive. On Saturday, in a state Senate district in Delaware that stretches from Middletown to Newark, the voices in the streets turned into votes in the ballot box.

In the most expensive special election in Delaware history ― a contest to decide which party controls the state Senate ― Democrat Stephanie Hansen was on track to annihilate her Republican rival on the back of extraordinary turnout.

The last time her opponent, John Marino, ran in this district, in 2014, he lost by just 2 points. Hansen’s 58-42 percent victory over Marino on Saturday ensured that Democrats will maintain control of the state Senate. It also notched a big Donald Trump-era win for a new generation of Democratic activists shocked into action by the November election.

There were roughly six billion DEMOCRATS ARE DOOMED stories written after the 2016 elections, with an urgency heightened by an undemocratic electoral system awarding the election to the popular vote loser. Of course, the same stories were written about Republicans in 2009, when they got 163 electoral votes, lost 21 House seats and were reduced to 40 Senate seats, and had full control of 14 state legislatures. Part of what happened since then might be explained by superior tactics and organizing by the Republican Party. But the much larger factor is that all things being equal being the presidential out party is an advantage elsewhere, and that goes double when the incumbent president is as unpopular as Trump. Regaining this structural advantage doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s a major opportunity.

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