Remind me never to turn on Meet the Press, even for 2 seconds. I do today, or more accurately my wife is watching it because as a Latin American historian who has traveled in Cuba, she is following the events of the last week closely. Of course Marco Rubio is on. And in conversation, Chuck Todd and Rubio compare the left-wing dictatorship of Cuba to the left-wing dictatorship of Venezuela.
Except of course that Venezuela is not a dictatorship. They have elections that are relatively free and fair. Which is, you know, the opposite of a dictatorship. But the right-wing can’t win because even though the Chavistas are ineffective at this point, the open contempt of the Venezuelan elite for the poor gets in the way. But hey, we don’t like Venezuela so they are a dictatorship. Never mind that words have meanings.
Two recent Diplomat columns. First, the results of the Brasilia conference on the future of war:
What will the future of war look like in East Asia? A recent conference at the Pandia Calogeras Institute, a think tank associated with the Brazilian Ministry of Defence, examined potential developments in warfare with an eye toward 2045. Here are several trends the group identified, with implications for thinking about how conflict may develop in East Asia.
Then some thoughts on Cuba:
The direct legacies of the Cold War are dwindling, with the cross-straits relationship and the Korean divide remaining as the most prominent reminders. Unfortunately, neither of those conflicts are as easily resolved as the U.S.-Cuba dispute.
With respect to the ongoing technical problems, we’re hoping that an upgrade to WordPress 4.1, which should happen early this week, will resolve the issue.
Why would I put up footage of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which was a world’s fair held in San Francisco, celebrating both the rebirth of the city after the earthquake and the opening of the Panama Canal the year before? The real question is why wouldn’t I? Plus it features a rarity here at LGM–footage of living horses.
Businesses are very, very sad because the National Labor Relations Board did not tip the balance of workplace power toward them even further when it ruled for faster union elections.
Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued long-awaited new rules to modernize and streamline union certification elections and to eliminate the worst cases of pre-election delay. The board is mandated to protect the rights of employees to form unions and bargain collectively, but numerous academic studies have demonstrated that the current NLRB election process fails to protect workers’ free choice.
One major problem under the current system is that unscrupulous employers use delaying tactics to undermine employee choice. Thus, the NLRB’s new rules seek to reduce unnecessary litigation and delay in the union certification process; to ensure that workers, employers and unions receive timely information; and to provide for the electronic filing of election petitions and other documents. The rules were published in the Federal Register on Dec. 15 and will take effect on April 14, 2015.
Predictably, anti-union groups and their Republican allies have claimed that the rules will deprive employers of sufficient time to campaign against the unions. One prominent anti-union law firm complained that the rules would “minimize” an employer’s time to “run an anti-union campaign,” while the International Franchise Association apparently believes they will enable unions to “silence” employers like McDonald’s. The National Retail Federation, which represents Wal-Mart and other billion-dollar retailers, described the NLRB’s modest reforms as “devastating,” and Republicans, who say that the current broken system has “worked well for decades,” have proposed legislation that would mandate even longer pre-election delay (H.R. 4320). In short, representatives of big business and right-wing lobbying organizations oppose any attempt to promote basic fairness in the union certification process.
Employers hate this because they rely on a long period of time to engage in a coordinated campaign of intimidation against employees that includes sophisticated anti-union firms. A quick election means that workers will be able to express their voice without this intimidation.
Of course both parties are the same and therefore Rand Paul is the only progressive alternative in 2016.
Bob McCulloch is the master.
Shorter Fred Hiatt: “China and Vietnam prove that normalization of relations does not necessarily guarantee freedom. Therefore, we should maintain the embargo of Cuba, which has a superb 50-year track record of promoting freedom, with plenty of unnecessary impoverishment as a side benefit.”
Ygelsias is correct here:
On November 26, the Obama administration put forward new anti-smog regulations that should prevent thousands of premature deaths and heart attacks every year. About two weeks later, Obama’s appointees at the Federal Reserve implemented new rules curbing reckless borrowing by giant banks that will reduce profits and shareholder earnings but increase the safety of the financial system. Yet both of these were minor stories compared to normalizing relations with Cuba after decades and his sweeping plan to protect millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Somewhere in the meantime, Democrats broke the congressional logjam and got a whole boatload of nominees confirmed.
It has been, in short, a very busy and extremely consequential lame-duck session. One whose significance is made all the more striking by the fact that it follows an electoral catastrophe for Obama’s party. And that is the Obama era in a microcosm. Democrats’ overwhelming electoral win in 2008 did not prove to be a “realigning” election that handed the party enduring political dominance. Quite the opposite. But it did touch off a wave of domestic policymaking whose scale makes Obama a major historical figure in the way his two predecessors won’t be.
In an excellent November 26 article, Coral Davenport observed that Obama will likely “leave office with the most aggressive, far-reaching environmental legacy of any occupant of the White House” even though “it is very possible that not a single major environmental law will have passed during his two terms in Washington.” The Clean Air Act of 1970 simply turns out to be a very powerful tool crafted by very ambitious legislators, who wanted to make sure future administrations would be able to address not-yet-foreseen environmental problems. He’s used that law to issue a “series of landmark regulations on air pollution, from soot to smog, to mercury and planet-warming carbon dioxide.”
In his second term, Obama has also managed to get a record number of judges confirmed thanks to Democrats’ use of the nuclear option to reduce filibustering. When Obama took office, 10 of the 13 appeals courts had Republican majorities — today only four do
As I’ve said before, the only two presidents who can even arguably been said to have presided over a more substantial body of progressive policy-making in the last century are FDR and LBJ, and both did so in significantly more favorable contexts.
If North Korea hacking Sony e-mails actually leads to Idris Elba playing James Bond, it will be that country’s greatest gift to humanity.