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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 60

[ 0 ] December 4, 2016 |

This is the grave of Abigail Scott Duniway.


Born in 1834, in Illinois, Abigail Scott migrated with her family to Oregon in 1852, where she soon married Benjamin Duniway, a farmer who had recently migrated himself from Illinois. They had six children but Benjamin Duniway became permanently disabled by a runaway team of horses in the late 1850s and Abigail had to support the family. In 1866, they moved to the town of Albany, where she first taught and then ran a millinery shop. It was at the shop, talking to women about the unfair treatment they received throughout their lives, that Duniway first became political and committed to women’s suffrage. In 1871, the Duniways moved to Portland and she started The New Northwest, a newspaper dedicated to women’s rights. Interestingly, she was deeply opposed throughout her political life by Portland’s largest paper, The Oregonian, which was run by her own brother. She became close with Susan B. Anthony and became a vice-president of the National Women Suffrage Association.

Long considered a difficult person to work with, including by other suffragists, Duniway kept fighting for women’s rights against long odds. By the early twentieth century, with Oregon becoming a center of Progressivism, her long struggle began to pay off. Oregon passed a Married Women’s Property Act, which gave married women in that state property rights for the first time. In 1912, Duniway’s lifelong mission was achieved when Oregon became the 7th state to legalized women’s suffrage after five previous referendum on the matter failed. She became the first woman to register to vote in Multnomah County. She published an autobiography in 1914 and then died the next year in Portland at the age of 81.

Abigail Scott Duniway is buried in River View Cemetery, Portland, Oregon


NFL Open Thread: Fire This Asshole! Edition

[ 33 ] December 4, 2016 |


Let’s check in on Ol’ 7-9, the coach who has had 6 winning seasons in only 22 years and who will be cashing healthy paychecks from the Rams for at least two more years:

Today, the Rams head coach appeared to be using years-old intel to plan Sunday’s game against the Patriots.

When asked about the Patriots’ trio of running backs—the question didn’t mention their names, but they’re LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, and James White—Fisher said, “They’re all different.” He complimented LeGarrette Blount, whom he signed with the Titans as an undrafted rookie, but cut before the regular season. Then, Fisher talked about “Brandon” and “Danny.”

The audio’s here, at about the five-minute mark, if you want to analyze whether Fisher knew he was wrong. Brandon Bolden, who used to play a larger role with the Patriots, has one rush for four yards and two catches for 15 yards this season. Danny Woodhead hasn’t played for the team since 2012. It feels safe to say that “Brandon” and “Danny” do not plan to have major roles in New England’s running game this weekend.

Earlier in the week, he offered a compelling reason for why New Orleans was able to score at will against his high-draft-pick-laden defense — they had extra days to prepare:

Ah, yes. New Orleans played a Thursday game the week before, and therefore had the benefit of more time to dissect the incredibly complex Rams. With those additional days, the Saints could properly prepare for an offense consisting of trying to run Todd Gurley into his linemen’s butts before giving up on that midway through the first quarter, with a sprinkling of poorly executed Tavon Austin plays to fulfill some unknown requirement.

Excuses and Jeff Fisher go together like 7 and 9. First overall pick Jared Goff had an unspectacular debut two Sundays ago in a 14-10 loss to the Dolphins, and Fisher praised Goff’s ability to not get flagged for a delay of game. He spent weeks before that saying bad quarterback Case Keenum wasn’t the reason for the Rams’ defeats. All of these actions are evidence that Fisher is clueless at his job.

Maybe there’s a different explanation for all of these bad moves. What if Fisher is masterful at pretending to be dumb?

The good news for Rams fans, if any, is that there’s a game with Seattle left on the docket, and I assume the ensuing 5-3 LA victory will result in Fisher receiving a lifetime contract.

Elsewhere in the annals of bad coaching, we see Chuck Pagano fall for the old second-rate color guy’s fallacy that good teams win with GROUND AND POUND football because they run for more gross yardage. Of course, total rushing yardage is correlated with winning not because good teams run more effectively but because they run more often for strategic reasons. Anyway, I’m guessing that Grigson wasn’t the only genius in the Colts organization who thought it was a good idea to trade a first round pick for Trent Richardson.

To move up the food chain, the AFC is now really wide open. I assume part of the reason that Belichick gave away Jones and Collins is that he thought his offense was good enough to get to the Super Bowl with an ordinary defense, and that’s become a lot more problematic (although, on the other hand, without Gronk I wouldn’t like New England’s chances of winning anyway, so maybe those draft picks will prove more useful in the end.) And yet, they could still get to the Super Bowl — there really isn’t a team in the conference that’s strong both offensively and defensively. If I were in Vegas I’d be checking out the Super Bowl odds for the generic NFC team carefully, though.

You Can’t Stop Third Parties, But You Can Hope To Contain Them

[ 162 ] December 4, 2016 |


I must register a rare quasi-disagreement with Atrios here:

Again, I don’t have any interest in defending Stein. Boo Stein! But I don’t think it’s clear that absent Stein, Clinton would have won. More importantly, so what? Presumably we’re going to have 3rd party candidates in every election. You can think they’re assholes and that people who vote for them are assholes, but that doesn’t make the candidates go away or their voters vote for the Democrat. For various reasons I do think Nader was actually a spoiler candidate, in part because he got an immense amount of media coverage (when does anybody on the left get an immense amount of media coverage?) But generally…just a fact of life. Can’t wish them away, and can’t assume their voters would vote for you even if the candidates didn’t exist.

Well, I do agree that Stein failed in her attempts to throw the election to Trump. Consider this:

Trying to claim that Stein ultimately threw the election to Trump, like simplistic arguments that Clinton could have easily won with different resource allocation, founders in the state of Pennsylvania. Stein quite possibly threw Michigan to Trump, but probably didn’t throw Wisconsin and very clearly didn’t throw Pennsylvania, which would require the unrealistic assumption that almost every Stein voter would have voted for Clinton. In 2000, the margins were so small that there’s no serious question that Nader threw the election; even if you make conservative estimates of how many Nader voters would have voted Gore it’s enough to throw Florida. The evidence cited by Nader himself shows that he clearly threw Florida. (And, just to preempt this, yes “durr, but many nominally registered Democrats voted Democrat for the last time in 1996 and voted for the Southern conservative over the moderate liberal because they’re conservatives who prefer conservative politicians, durr,” which is completely irrelevant to anything. Without Ralph, the efforts of Republican voters, Republican public officials, and conservative nominal Democrats would have been in vain and Gore would have won. The fact that other factors were necessary for Nader to throw the election alleviated Nader of exactly 0% of his responsibility.) Stein is not the Nader of 2016.

But, of course, this demonstrates the value of criticizing third party runs designed to throw elections to Republicans and pointing out that vanity campaigns are a dead-end with a huge downside and no upside. 2016, one would think, would be fertile ground for a third party run. A surprisingly successful primary challenge generated considerable discontent on the left. (To be clear: I am not criticizing Sanders for this. It was no more critical of Clinton than Clinton was of Obama. It was less critical than much of the Republican opposition to Trump. That’s politics.) There was a lot of complacency, across the ideological spectrum, about Clinton winning. Both candidates had unusually high unfavorables. The election came down to remarkably thin margins in three states. And yet, Stein, running the third party campaign of the left that got the most publicity since 2000, still wasn’t able to get enough support to materially affect it. She got much less support than Nader. Good! But that doesn’t mean people who don’t want Republicans to win federal elections should stop criticizing vanity politics — it means they should continue to do so.

This is not the only reason that Stein was a huge flop. The Democrats have moved to the left — despite the Green Party being a non-factor in 2004 and 2008 and 2012, because third party runs, unlike intraparty activism or primary challenges, do not influence the direction of parties — which probably helped and is a good thing either way. A bigger reason Stein generated very little support is that she somehow managed to win an ill-informed buffoon contest with Gary Johnson. A Green Party that could get someone who isn’t a ridiculous crank would be more dangerous…which is why it’s worth criticizing third party politics. Ralph Nader went from being a respected consumer advocate to someone widely and correctly viewed as a hateful, narcissistic crackpot and a cat’s paw of the Republican Party. Many people on the left who are more sympathetic to third party politics in theory than I am correctly view Stein as a ridiculous figure. Running an anti-Democratic campaign as a Green is a way to become a pariah with no influence on the left, and good. Ensuring that the Green Party can’t attract decent candidates for its presidential campaigns is important.

Duncan is correct, as far as it goes, that there’s no way of stopping Green Party presidential candidates from appearing on the ballot. There is no way of stopping some de minimis number of voters-as-consumers from coming up with as many arbitrary dealbreakers as is necessary to refuse to support the Democratic candidate (and, to add a note of dark comedy, the people who are the most clear that there is nothing a party seeking to win a majority coalition could ever do to win their support are also those who are the most insistent in asserting that third party campaigns are a brilliant strategery for moving parties to the left.) But not every third party campaign will be as nihilistically focused on opposing the Democratic candidate and as indifferent about throwing the election to the Republican Party as Nader’s successful attempt to elect Bush in 2000 or Stein’s unsuccessful attempt to elect Trump (“the best way to stop fascism is to elect fascists!”) in 2016. Whether the Green candidate gets less than 1% or 3% of the vote, given current partisan configurations, matters considerably. And if you care about the Democratic Party moving in a leftward direction, you should want the left to pursue strategies that, unlike third party politics, might actually work rather than strategies that are useless and irrelevant at best and horribly counterproductive at worst.

The point of criticizing third party politics, with the lesson of Nader at the center, is not to eliminate third parties on the left but to minimize their influence. It’s working, which it’s why it’s worth continuing to do so.

A. Always B. Be C. Closing

[ 83 ] December 3, 2016 |


Seems about right:

Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein discontinued her statewide recount effort in Pennsylvania Saturday afternoon after a Commonwealth Court judge mandated the campaign post a $1 million bond to press on with its challenge.

In court documents filed shortly before 5 p.m., an attorney for the Stein campaign wrote, “Petitioners are regular citizens of ordinary means. They cannot afford to post the $1,000,000 bond required by the Court.”

The abrupt halt to the campaign’s effort comes less than one week after Stein filed a recount petition in Commonwealth Court, contending the Nov. 8 election was “illegal” and the results inaccurate. Citing research from computer scientists suggesting possible irregularities with electronic voting machines, Stein had hoped a recount in Pennsylvania – as well as Wisconsin and Michigan – could overturn the results in three key swing states that sealed President-elect Donald Trump’s win.

Last Monday, the statewide recount request in Pennsylvania was filed by 100 voters, as required by state law. None were named.

And the good news is that the money she saves by not putting up the bond can be used to try to keep Donald Trump in the White House in 2020! I don’t see the downside unless, unlike Stein, you prefer that Republicans not win national elections.

Last Tango

[ 126 ] December 3, 2016 |
Bernardo Bertolucci Hollywood Walk of Fame.jpg

By Sarah Ackerman from New York, USA CC BY 2.0, Link

This has been floating around for a bit, but still

It’s known as one of the most infamous rape scenes in Hollywood history—but Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci admitted in a recently surfaced video that star Maria Schneider never consented to it.

Instead, Bertolucci confessed in the 2013 clip that he and Marlon Brando came up with the idea to shoot the assault scene in which Brando’s character uses a stick of butter to rape Schneider on screen. At the time, Brando was 48. Schneider was just 19.

“The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting,” Bertulocci said in an event held at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris in 2013. He added that he felt horrible “in a way” for his treatment of Schneider but defended himself, explaining that he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.”

“I wanted her to react humiliated,” he said. “I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her.” Even so, Bertolucci clarified that he didn’t “regret” how he decided to direct the scene.

“To obtain something I think you have to be completely free,” he said. “I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation her rage, I wanted her to Maria to feel…the rage and humiliation. Then she hated me for all of her life.”

Some thoughts:

  • If you had asked me yesterday to guess one rape scene in the history of cinema that involved an actual rape, this is the one I would have picked. In some horrible, perverse sense, Bertolucci and Brando got exactly what they wanted.
  • Imagine Bertolucci saying this: “I didn’t want Marlon to act his painful gunshot death, I wanted him to feel…as if he’d been shot. Then he hated me for all of his very short remaining life.”
  • Tragically, I’d bet that some people will view this as a vindication of Roman Polanski: “Everybody was doing it. And sure, maybe he raped a girl, but at least he didn’t film it.”

… good lord, folks; how deeply do we need to quibble about gradations of sexual assault, especially when both the victim and the perpetrator claim it was non-consensual?

The problem with math, Nate Silver edition

[ 50 ] December 3, 2016 |

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has got a formula for predicting who gets into the college football playoff, and it’s pretty ridiculous.  For example, the formula predicts that if Alabama loses to Florida today, there’s a 58% chance that Alabama will miss the playoff.  The actual odds that Alabama misses the playoff are zero.

Alabama has been ranked #1 all year, they are universally considered the best team in college football this season, and if they were to lose to Florida they would have to be bumped from the playoff by at least one two-loss team.  There is no possible way that can happen. None.

How do I know this? Because I’m a college football fan and I know how this stuff works. I can’t put it into a formula, unless “Alabama is already in the playoff no matter what happens today” counts as a formula.

But Silver has his numbers and he straps themselves to them even when they make no sense, which I guess is what he gets paid for.  To be fair by sticking to his method he ended up being less wrong about the presidential election than everybody else so there’s that.  But if your formula tells you something that any half-informed fan can tell you has no resemblance to reality, then maybe you should tweak it somehow.  (I understand he’s working with very little data here but come on try harder).

Wayne Barrett on Trump

[ 67 ] December 3, 2016 |

TNR has a fascinating interview with Wayne Barrett, long-time Village Voice investigative reporter, and author of a 1992 book that depicted Donald’s Trump’s initial rise and all-too-temporary downfall in meticulous detail.  A few excerpts:

On the failure of the media, and specifically television journalism:

I was at Columbia Journalism School in 1968. It was the first year that they had a broadcast journalism program at the greatest journalism school in the world. Fred Friendly, who had been Edward R. Murrow’s producer, was hired to run it. And the concept of broadcast news, which was effectively written into law, was that if you get free airwaves, granted by the United States government—a trillion dollar asset at least—your only compensation is, you give us a little news. You give us a little fair news that meets journalistic standards. It wasn’t supposed to be a profit center. It was supposed to be a payback to the public for the free franchise. And now all it is is a profit center unguided by any journalistic principles. Guided purely by ratings and advertising. Television journalism proved in the course of this campaign that it has no ethic. It’s not like everybody who is on it is a bad guy. Some people are outstanding. But the industry as a whole has no ethic, owes us nothing. All it owes us is the same as what any other sitcom owes us, which is a product we are willing to consume.

On Donald Trump’s key role models:

What was it like having lunch with Roy Cohn?

Roy Cohn ate with his fingers. I kid you not. He brought a little glass inside of his coat pocket. He would pop little white pills when he thought you weren’t looking. He was the most satanic figure I ever met in my life. He was almost reptilian. I think he’s going to handle the swearing-in at the inauguration. They’re not going to bring a judge, they’re going to have Roy. And then Roy’s going to go back to the White House and fuck a 12-year-old. In the Oval Office.

I think Roy was the second-most important figure in Donald’s life, next to Fred. The point is that if you could meet the guy and say to yourself, “I want to be with this guy … ” Roy was already representing the heads of all five crime families in the city of New York. And the FBI affidavit said that the five crime families would meet in his law office because the feds couldn’t eavesdrop. It was lawyer-client. That’s where the bosses got together, in his office. The feds couldn’t do anything. That was an attraction to Donald.

So these were signs from the get-go, Donald was looking for the dark side. He was angling for the dark side.

On Trump’s likely relationship with Congress:

In your bookyou write about Trump’s talent for side-stepping bodies and extricating himself from damaging situations. What do you think that will portend for his relationships in government, whether they be in his cabinet or in Congress—people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? 

I don’t think they’re going to get fleeced. Ryan’s going to get his dream. He can go into every poor person’s kitchen and take out whatever’s in the refrigerator. He’s been waiting for years to do this. Now he’s going to have two houses of Congress and a president who will just … “OK, you wanna do the budget? OK, that’s fine with me, you just do the budget, Paul. When it comes to poor people, you’re in charge.”

If you’re looking for potentially good news, there’s this:

There’s no check on his power except reality. That’s what I’m saying about Obamacare. He would like to figure out a way to do what he said on 60 Minutes. He doesn’t want 32 million people off of health benefits. He’s a realistic enough politician. And so Donald is restrained. Yes, he’s putting [Michael] Flynn and this crazy woman [K.T.] McFarlane in his cabinet—I mean complete warmongers. If Rudy Giuliani gets in, these are all people who you would think would put us on a pathway to war. But I don’t think Donald has any interest in war. He doesn’t own a munitions factory. It’s too late for Donald Jr. to start one.

I’m saying, not that Trump is a rational actor, but that reality will rationalize him. If he starts a war with Iran it can bring down his presidency. Let’s give him credit for one thing. He understood his own voters. He ran against endless international adventures at such great cost.

Events Have Multiple Causes And Joint Responsibility Does Not Eliminate Individual Culpability

[ 225 ] December 3, 2016 |


In this Thursday’s NFL game, two things happened:

  • Sam Bradford put on a clinic for why the Vikings were idiots to trade 1st and 4th round picks for him — you don’t need to give up very valuable resources to find a QB who can make 3-yard throws to wide open receivers, including on 3rd-and-long. At the end of the game, he did put together one of the intermittent shows of competence that have caused people to make excuses for him during a career of consistently below-average play, leading a potentially game-tying TD drive. And then, on the 2-point conversion, he out-Bradforded himself, heaving the ball out of the endzone when he didn’t immediately spot an open receiver. (Since the game ends on any failed attempt, you’re better off throwing into triple coverage than throwing the ball away.) This wasn’t the only mistake that cost the Vikes the game despite a brilliant defensive performance, of course — under the temporary head coaching stylings of noted bigot Mike Preifer, their punting was awful, and a low-upside high-downside punt return deep in their own territory in the 4th quarter led to a critical game-altering fumble.
  • The Vikings were completely screwed on the missed two-point try that ended the game, with the refs somehow missing a direct blow to Bradford’s head. We’re not talking here about a marginal arguably missed holding or pass interference call, were the distinctions are always going to be somewhat arbitrary, but a call that under NFL practice is black-letter. Bradford should have had another chance to lob the ball into the 3rd row after not seeing a completely wide-open receiver in the end zone.

To state the obvious, it can be simultaneously true that 1)Bradford played badly and 2)the refs blew a critical call that materially affected the outcome of the game. Pointing out one does not eliminate the responsibility of the other. The Vikings players and coaches can be primarily responsible for winning the game, but that doesn’t mean that the refs can’t be criticized for blowing a critical call or that it didn’t potentially affect the outcome.

And yet, when it comes to politics, people like to pretend not to understand this obvious point:

(TBF, Glenn did follow up by conceding that “Pointing out that primary responsibility for winning & losing lies with the campaign/candidate doesn’t preclude media critiques,” which OK, although since 1)I had no role whatsoever in the Clinton campaign and 2)as anyone familiar with my work knows, my belief that people massively overrate the effects of campaign tactics and messaging in the context of presidential elections long predates the 2016 elections, I’m not sure what the point of the first tweet was if it wasn’t to say that we should yadda yadda the role of the media and the FBI because it distracts from the central fact that Hillary Clinton sucks.)

My analogy is actually too generous to people who think that the failed institutions other than the Clinton campaign should be given a de facto pass. Players and coaches actually are primarily responsible for winning, and we know that the marginal relative quality of a team’s passing game is the most important variable determining the outcome of contemporary NFL games. Campaigns, conversely, are not the primary determinant of election outcomes. The vast majority of votes are not gettable for one campaign or the other, and even with swing voters since they tend to vote retrospectively rather than prospectively, messaging is not really effective at affecting many of their votes.

Admittedly, in a context of an election as close as 2016, this qualification is less important; it was certainly possible that better messaging and resource allocation by the Clinton campaign could have affected the outcome. But there’s another problem here. In football, there are good measures of both team and individual quality. We can very accurately measure how good a team’s offense and defense are and how they influence outcomes. Apportioning individual responsibility is more complicated, but at most positions we can tell a good player from a bad one, and even where context makes measurement imprecise we’re not totally at sea — any remotely sophisticated observer knows that you couldn’t plug Dak Prescott into the Rams or 49ers or Vikings and expect the same results he’s producing behind the league’s best offensive line and with a lot of weapons in Dallas, and if you think that the superior Dallas personnel is solely responsible for Prescott’s strong performance, I have two words: “Brandon Weeden.” When it comes to political campaigns, however, arguments about “messaging” are mostly just unfalsifiable speculation, with a strong tendency to mask ideological arguments as tactical ones. I have nothing against this speculation, per se, and some arguments have more basis than others, but I do object to people placing great confidence in their just-so stories about how if candidate X had just done one magic trick Y they absolutely would have won.

All this, though, is beside the point. You can agree with the political science that in presidential elections the effects of campaign tactics are very marginal and what the effects are is very difficult to establish, or you can agree with Mark Halperin that campaign tactics are of immense importance and with countless pundits that messaging aligning with the pundit’s ex ante policy views is, by pure coincidence, also always a winning political strategy. Either way, mistakes made by the Clinton campaign (of which there were surely any number) and the deficiencies of Clinton as a candidate (of which there were surely many) are neither here nor there when assessing the role of the media or the FBI. It is self-serving for the Clinton campaign to focus on the Comey letter and how it was covered, but it’s equally self-serving for the media to want to focus on Clinton’s flaws rather than their own, so that’s just a wash. What matters is whether the arguments are right. And, in fact, there is very good evidence that the Comey letter materially affected the election. (And it’s not just a simple post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy — there’s not only the otherwise inexplicable magnitude of her decline in the polls after October 28th but the fact that she had a similar decline after Comey’s grossly inappropriate editorializing in July, and the demonstrable, massive shift to negative coverage about Clinton after both.) No such counterfactual can be proven with dispostive evidence, of course, but if you wan’t to say it’s not enough you really can’t proceed to assert with no evidence whatsoever that Clinton totally would have won had she just campaigned on the single-payer health care program that Rob Portman and Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey voters were clearly desperately aching for.

If you have a defense of the media’s hyping up of inane trivia about Clinton while almost entirely ignoring policy, then make it. If you have a defense of James Comey’s intervention into the election or a serious rebuttal to the strong evidence that it swung the election, go ahead. But “Hillary Clinton made mistakes” or “Hillary Clinton wasn’t a good candidate” are not relevant rejoinders. Hillary Clinton’s mistakes do not exonerate the media’s gross malpractice or James Comey’s reprehensible and unethical foot on the scale, and vice versa.

Fighting Child Labor in the Global Supply Chain During the Trump Era

[ 12 ] December 3, 2016 |


One of the many things I’ve personally been reckoning with in the past few weeks is how the shocking (although I am disappointed in myself for being so shocked) election of Donald Trump is how it impacts my larger mission of trying to reform the global supply chain and create international accountability to hold corporations responsible for what happens in those supply chains. But I realized that it actually doesn’t really matter very much. Yes, Donald Trump is going to be terrible on these issues, just like every other matter of both work and international relations. But you know what? It’s not like Barack Obama was exactly good on taming the exploitation in the global supply chain. Reclassifying Malaysia’s human rights rating even after mass graves of migrant labor were found just so it could be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership was pretty bloody awful. The inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement courts in said agreement, Obama’s top late-term foreign policy priority, was another. In international labor and trade agreements generally, the U.S. government is the single biggest obstacle to meaningful reform, even under a Democratic administration. The fight might be a little harder on this issue under Trump than under Hillary Clinton, but I never had actual confidence that Clinton would do the right thing on these issues either.

So this Amnesty International report on child labor in Indonesian palm oil plantations, with kids providing the goods for big western companies like Unilever, Nestlé, and Proctor and Gamble is as depressing as always, but doesn’t really affect me too differently at this point than it did before the election. Ultimately, we still have to articulate the just world we want to see and fight for that. We can’t let all of our energy just go into fighting the outrage du jour. Of course, we do need to fight those outrages with everything we have, but we also need to keep our eyes on the prize of a truly just world and keep talking about what needs to happen for children in Indonesia and how to hold Proctor and Gamble accountable for their role in exploiting them. Because someday, maybe, we will actually have the ability to make that world happen.

Trump’s Economic Message

[ 202 ] December 3, 2016 |


Despite the attempts by many people to say that economics and economic messaging had nothing to do with Trump’s victory on November 8, as I have stated repeatedly, Trump’s victory had to do with both race and class, as well as with misogyny, with evangelicals seeing (correctly probably) that Pence is going to be driving a lot of policy and thus God has created in Trump a vessel for Him, and of course rich people and policy hawks voting for any Republican. There’s a lot of factors at play here. That does indeed include appealing to white working class voters over economic issues, with enormous shifts in the vote in traditionally Democratic cities like Scranton and Erie strong evidence for the effectiveness of this message.

Mike Konczal has an excellent piece on Trump’s economic messaging. He went back and watched a whole bunch of Trump speeches from before the election to analyze how he talked about economics. His conclusions are that Trump had a very simple, if false message, that touched the lives of some white workers, whereas Clinton simply did not have simple message that low-information voters that going to attach themselves to. Two excerpts here. First, Konczal’s analysis of how Trump’s message appealed to white working-class voters precisely because it did not blame the rich for their economic problems.

Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites.

It’s important to watch that trick, of who has agency under runaway inequality. From a June speech in western Pennsylvania: “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The rich buy politicians (and Trump can’t be bought) but he doesn’t turn around and denigrate those rich people.

Trump was smart to do so. As Joan C. Williams noted in an important essay, “the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich.” The WWC doesn’t encounter rich people, but “professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money.”

Now even if the WWC doesn’t resent the rich, Trump is likely to push it as far as it can go with a plutocratic administration. But there’s a reason his appointments aren’t sounding alarm bells right away, and it’s this logic. The media messed this up, assuming random vindictive statements amounted to policy, or not understanding how his tax plan worked, instead of seeing this consistent, deeper message.

We’ll need to do better putting populist energy against the bosses and owners. The mechanical, bloodless algebra of Piketty and income statistics probably won’t be enough by itself. We need a story of owners and investment to go with it. We need to talk about monopoly power, especially as Trump doesn’t take it up. Meanwhile we should feel out our own case against professionals. Tying professionals to commodification, the people who get in the way of needed goods (especially with whatever TrumpCare ends up looking like), might be a way to go there.

There sure isn’t any easy answer there. After analyzing Hillary’s unclear message on economic issues, Konczal tries to think through where to go from here:

There are a lot of reasons Clinton lost. There was some made-up wishful thinking in retrospect: her unfavorables were “priced-in”, I heard, which isn’t a thing. What I haven’t seen an answer for is that for all the money and tech, they didn’t know their blue wall was much less safe from the people on the ground than the polling numbers in Brooklyn HQ would see. Something broke down there and it’s urgent to understand why.

But even without that loss there would have been a need to reboot. As Ezekiel Kweku writes in an excellent article, “The lesson we should draw from Clinton’s loss is not that white supremacy is unbeatable at the polls, but that it’s not going to beat itself…If the Democratic Party would like to keep more Donald Trumps from winning in the future, they are going to have to take the extraordinary step of doing politics.” Politics is informed by analysis and policy, and though it is clear we need policy to move beyond neoliberalism, that is only the first step. The journey to find this new path is just beginning.

And of course, given the extremely tight races in the relevant states that tipped the election to Trump and Hillary’s large win in the popular vote, as far as winning the 2020 elections go, Democrats might not really have to change much at all, although the likely overwhelming voter suppression of people of color will make it harder. However, on economic messaging, Democrats need to realize something that Bernie Sanders figured out really quick–people don’t care about complex policy. They want to feel in their gut that a candidate is going to make their lives better. That means couching complex economic issues in simple terms that everyday voters can understand. As Konczal notes, that’s doing politics. That’s not only getting white working class voters to vote for Democrats again, but it’s also getting black and Latino voters to the polls, excited about the Democratic candidate, which they were not in 2016.

I don’t necessarily have an easy answer to this either, but it’s something that Democrats need to start taking seriously, as opposed to making cheap jokes every time some racist does a horrible thing that it’s about “economic anxiety.”

Let’s Make Some Foreign Policy!

[ 80 ] December 3, 2016 |
ROCS Kee Lung (DDG-1801).jpg

ROCS Keel Lung (DDG-1801). By Kliu1 – Public Domain.

  1. Oh hey.

  2. Oh hey.

  3. Changing policy towards Taiwan has been a long-term goal of many within the GOP foreign policy community. While the Reagan, Bush, and Bush II administrations all held the line (with some variance along the way) on the policy of strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan, there was always internal dissension (especially under Reagan and Bush II) over how hard to push Beijing.  The faction that supports confrontation with Beijing seems to have the upper hand at the moment.
  4. Oh hey.

  5. I expect that the short-term fallout will be reasonably limited.  China is exceptionally displeased, and will make its displeasure known across a range of different venues, but we’re unlikely to see anything really severe in the near future.  Beijing is also looking for clarity on what the Trump and Duterte regimes have planned for the South China Sea; I doubt that they’re going to push very hard when it still looks possible that the Philippines may fall into their lap. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to be planning any major investments in, or research trips to, the PRC in the near future.
  6. If Trump is going to go loose cannon on the sacred jewels of American diplomatic policy, better now than later. Right now, both US and Chinese diplomats can write this off as inexperience, and in any case the outgoing Obama administration has to pay the immediate costs.  A year or two from now, it’ll be much harder to draw a bright line between off-the-cuff statements of the US President and the actual foreign policy of the United States.
  7. I sure am glad that we didn’t elect Hillary the Hawk who would have started a New Cold War with Russia or some such.

JOB-KILLING $15 Minimum Wage Fails To Kill Jobs

[ 76 ] December 3, 2016 |


Remember when the $15 minimum wage was going to devastate Seattle’s job market? Well, funny thing about that:

The unemployment rate in the city of Seattle – the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments – has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%, as the city continues to thrive. I’m not sure what else there is to say at this point. The doomsayers were wrong. The sky has not fallen. The restaurant business, by all accounts, is booming (in fact, probably reaching a saturation point when one looks at eateries per capita). I think it’s safe to say we’ve got enough data – over almost two years now – to declare that Seattle has not suffered adverse consequences from its increases in the minimum wage, and has certainly not experienced the dire effects foretold by the anti-min wage crowd.

But not every single restaurant in Seattle remained open for all of 2016 so the critics were right QED!!!!!1!!!

Seattle is a prosperous city with a lot of high-paying jobs, and reasonable people can disagree about what the optimal national minimum wage is. But the C- Econ 101 idea that a significantly increased minimum wage inevitably results in job losses can be safely put to bed.

[H/T Howard]

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