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Archive for January, 2016

Ted the Heartless Thompson Gunner

[ 124 ] January 31, 2016 |

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A good question, that proves children are right to be repelled by Ted Cruz:

It happened at a Ted Cruz campaign event in Hubbard, a small town smack in the middle of the state. According to reports in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico, Cruz fielded a question from Mike Valde, a Democratic voter who had come to the event with a story to tell and a simple question to ask.

The story was about his brother-in-law, a barber named Mark. As Valde told it, Mark was a small business owner who worked so hard that he didn’t even take paid days off. But Mark was unable to afford health insurance until the Affordable Care Act became law. When it did, Mark bought insurance and then, when he started feeling ill, saw a physician — who promptly diagnosed him with cancer with no hope for recovery. He died last year.

He had never been to a doctor for years,” Valde said, reportedly on the verge of tears. “Multiple tumors behind his heart, his liver, his pancreas. And they said, ‘We’re sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do for you.’”

The room fell silent, according to the Times’ account, and then Valde, who later told reporters that he was a Hillary Clinton supporter, posed his question: “Mark never had health care until Obamacare. What are you going to replace it with?”

Cruz offered Valde his condolences before launching into the same basic argument that Republicans always make. “Under Obamacare,” Cruz said, “millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Millions of Americans have lost their doctors, have seen their premiums skyrocket.” He pointed out that Obama had promised families would see average savings of $2500 from health care reform, and joked that he’d gladly encourage anybody who’d actually reaped such savings to vote for Clinton — a quip that drew laughter from the audience.

Valde, apparently less amused, kept at it. “My question is, what are you going to replace it with?” he said. Cruz responded that he’d get there, but first he wanted to talk some more about the “millions of stories on the other side” — people who’d had to give up their old plans and, as a result, ended up with higher premiums or co-pays, narrow networks of providers or some combination thereof.

Eventually Cruz suggested that if Valde’s brother-in-law couldn’t afford health insurance premiums previously, it was probably because government regulation had driven up the price — and that the best solution, at this point, was to wipe the slate clean and build a new health care system, one in which people could purchase coverage across state lines.

“Many people will quite literally die because of your policy preferences.” “[Lies ass off about effects of ACA.] “But what is your offer to the uninsured?” “Worthless junk insurance unregulated by Congress or state governments.”

In fairness to Cruz, it’s not like any Republican has a better answer. This is more unique:

The Cruz mailers have been widely condemned by Iowans. “I just wonder how many of these went out to people who might seriously believe they committed a violation or were embarrassed that their neighbors might know about their alleged voting record,” Braddock Massey, a Rubio supporter who lives in West Des Moines and received one of the mailers, said.

Donna Holstein, who was listed on one of them, was upset to learn that she had been given a failing grade and that her neighbors might be told whether she participates in the caucus. She told me that she has voted consistently but that she can’t this time because of a disability.

“I’m crippled, so I can’t go to the caucus,” Holstein said. She was not happy about being shamed in front of her neighbors. “That’s what you call a bully,” she said about Cruz’s tactics. “I wish he would quit.”

Given the target, it’s at times like this that God help me I can understand the basis of The Donald’s appeal:

“But he’s a liar,” he said. “He didn’t even put down on his financial disclosure forms that he borrowed money from banks at low interest loans, lower than you could get, lower than anybody could get.”

“I mean, look, Ted is a liar,” he added. “That’s why nobody likes him. This is why he doesn’t have one endorsement from one senator, not one. He works with these senators, he doesn’t have one endorsement.”

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#LOLBettman

[ 47 ] January 31, 2016 |

I, for one, am outraged about the violation of the Sacred Equal Sovereign Dignitude of the NHL’s annual profit-taking exhibition game.

I’m going to guess that his kids are pretty proud of him.

Wisdom of Children

[ 45 ] January 31, 2016 |

Sen. Creeponaut, family man.

Am I surprised that Ted “Spanky” Cruz is unable to recognize non-verbal and verbal cues that clearly state “Back. The hell. Away. Old man”?

No. I am not.

What is the Midwest?

[ 144 ] January 31, 2016 |

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What states do you say belong in the Midwest? Take the quiz here.

I said North Dakota south to Oklahoma, Minnesota south to Missouri, and then Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

Really state borders don’t fit this that well. The western parts of the Plains states are the West. And western Pennsylvania really is the Midwest but you can’t say the state belongs to it culturally.

I suppose Oklahoma is the one people might take the most exception to, but it’s not really the South and only part of it is really the West. I don’t know.

Recording the Workplace

[ 75 ] January 31, 2016 |

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As I have noted in posts here and in Out of Sight, the greatest threat of ag-gag laws, which criminalize knowledge of what happens inside agricultural operations to fight against animal rights activists getting hired to work so they can record and publicize the mistreatment of farm animals, is that if knowledge of one workplace is criminalized, why wouldn’t the law criminalize all public knowledge of what happens inside all workplaces? It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. It’s one that corporations are well of and have tried to implement. Luckily, Obama’s National Labor Relations Board is there to stop them, at least for now. It may not surprise that the corporation in discussion here is Whole Foods, whose interest in the lives of poor people largely extend to photos in their stores of happy brown farmers to provide an sheen of authenticity to their high prices and cultural appropriation and perhaps to their employees which they won’t allow to join a union.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in a 2-1 decision, ruled against blanket employer policies banning employees from taking photos or recordings in the workplace. Such policies would, in the view of the NLRB, having a chilling effect on employee’s ability to record or photograph workplace safety violations or actions that were discriminatory.

Whole Foods’ unsuccessful argument to the NLRB was that its policy allowed for a free and open discussion in the workplace, without concerns of statements appearing on the Internet. But the NLRB found that a blanket ban went too far, as it was “essential” in many cases to have a photo or video in order to prove a violation of an employee’s rights.

This is somewhat different of course than an ag-gag bill because the NLRB has no authority unless the images are recording workplace safety violations. But the principle is very important.

This case also is another reminder that we can demonize the other Democratic Party candidate all we want to, but the election in November is far, far more important than who wins the nomination.

How the Wagner Act Laid the Groundwork for Affirmative Action

[ 5 ] January 31, 2016 |

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Very interesting Touré Reed analysis at Jacobin:

The case for affirmative action — like unionization before it — proceeded from the view that anti-discrimination policy was in the public interest. Though the history of federal workplace anti-discrimination initiatives dates back to the New Deal, President Kennedy’s 1961 Executive Order 10925 — which authorized the federal government to cancel contracts with vendors who failed to take “affirmative action” to redress employment disparities — is generally understood as the start of the modern era of anti-discrimination policy.

The Kennedy and later the Johnson administrations argued that workplace discrimination was a drag on the national economy, viewing racism as an irrational encumbrance on productivity. The Kennedy administration’s case for a fair employment practices bill — what would eventually become Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — thus centered on the Commerce Clause, placing workplace discrimination in the purview of the federal government.

Those who imagine that market-oriented programs offer the best route to racial equality today should recall that opponents of Title VII, like Republican senator Barry Goldwater, argued that fair employment practices legislation violated “freedom of contract.”

But while anti-discrimination legislation necessarily infringed on an employer’s right to hire, fire, promote, or demote whomever they wished, the Wagner Act had already abridged this right — as proponents of anti-discrimination law understood at the time — thus establishing a precedent for affirmative action.

In fact, the phrase “affirmative action” first appeared in a Wagner Act provision that directed judges to impose financial penalties on employers who discriminated against union organizers.

The eventual implementation of affirmative action in the workplace likewise drew on precedent stemming from the Wagner Act. As study after study has shown, few if any employers use quotas — which are not mandated by Title VII. Instead, employers hoping to avoid costly lawsuits established offices of equal employment to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination law.

These new equal employment offices were modeled on the labor relations departments union and non-union firms established in the wake of the Wagner Act. Moreover, many of the policies implemented by equal employment offices to ensure fair employment practices — including in-house grievance procedures, formal job descriptions, published guidelines for promotion and termination, salary classifications, and open bidding— were already in use by labor relations departments partly because unions had demanded them.

The Wagner Act and the labor movement it helped spawn are perhaps the clearest expression of the social-democratic impulses informing the old New Deal Democratic coalition. As such, the links between the right to collective bargaining and anti-discrimination legislation draw attention to the historic importance of social democracy to so-called civil rights issues.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine on what basis black civil rights leaders — who lobbied on behalf of a group that accounted for just 10 percent of the nation’s population — would have demanded a fair employment practices act in the 1960s, if the Wagner Act had not already established a precedent, in the name of the public good, for abridging the right to freedom of contract.

Simply put, the civil rights movement’s victories required an interventionist state — as was understood by all of the principal players, on both sides, at the time. And while the New Deal had significant limitations, its efforts to enhance the purchasing power of working people — centered on fostering a more stable form of capitalism — established a framework for a rights discourse that would prove indispensable to African-American civil rights.

Cursing and Labor Law

[ 12 ] January 31, 2016 |

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Does labor law protect cussing at your bosses? It depends. And that’s the subject of this story about how Murray Energy, a horrible coal mining company, has fired a couple of workers for swearing at bosses in what the workers call a labor action. Now, for context, coal miners work blue. So do their bosses. This is not a conversation for those who find swearing a mortal sin. For example:

The coarse language, according to workers, extended all the way up to the company’s CEO — Mr. Bob Murray himself.

After Murray Energy took over the mine in late 2014, Bob Murray laid out his company’s rules in a meeting with workers. “These are my f—— rules, and if you don’t like it, there’s the f—— door,” he said, according to workers who testified before the NLRB.

So, in this atmosphere, this is what the workers did:

Richard Harrison and Jesse Stolzenfels used to work at the West Virginia mine. In late 2013, Murray Energy Corp., one of the nation’s largest coal companies, took the mine over from a previous owner. Shortly thereafter, the company tried to implement a controversial production-based bonus program.

Workers at the mine, who are represented by the United Mine Workers of America union, voted it down. But the company went ahead and adopted the plan anyway — in violation of its labor contract, according to the union. Murray Energy disagrees and maintains it followed the agreement.

Under the program, workers received bonuses based on the amount of coal they extracted. Many opposed it on safety grounds, including Stolzenfels and Harrison, according to court filings. The latter, in particular, had a history of a speaking out over safety. Meanwhile, the company told miners who disagreed with the plan that they could opt out of it by writing “void” on their checks and returning them.

In February 2015, Harrison and Stolzenfels took this route — but not before adding some profanity-laced flair. Harrison’s check, for $11.58, read, “Void Void Kiss My Ass Bob.” Stolzenfels’ check, for $3.22, read “Void Eat S— Bob.” The company responded by suspending both of them with “intent to discharge,” citing the employee handbook’s policy against profanity.

For this, they were suspended and canned. So is this a labor issue? What legal protections might these workers have?

“Certainly there are many people who would feel uncomfortable or disapprove of the [workers’] conduct,” said Angela Cornell, director of the labor law clinic at the Cornell University Law School. Ultimately, though, that’s not what matters.

The National Labor Relations Act, the federal bedrock of American labor law, gives workers the right to engage in “protected concerted activity” — to join together with one or more co-workers and speak out over pay and working conditions without facing retaliation. “In this context, workers have more rights than they would otherwise,” Cornell said.

For example, an angry worker who comes into the office and fires off an expletive at his or her boss is unlikely to be protected by the National Labor Relations Act. But if that worker drops an f-bomb or two while she’s complaining with co-workers about say, long hours or unsafe working conditions, her speech is more likely to be protected.

A separate federal law that covers mining safety offers comparable protections.

Cornell University’s Angela Cornell said the angrily worded missives from Harrison and Stolzenfels don’t appear to be isolated or individual incidents. Instead, they seem to be part of a broader workplace dispute — one that involved tense disagreements over workplace safety and the miners’ collective bargaining agreement.

Of course, workers can lose protections if their conduct is especially reckless or egregious — for example, by making a violent threat to a supervisor, or by trying to sabotage their employer’s business. Indeed, that’s precisely what Murray Energy is arguing.

The company maintains the voided checks did not amount to “protected concerted activity” in the first place. But even if they did, the company argued in its post-hearing brief, the miners forfeited their protections by engaging in “indefensible or abusive misconduct.”

The board’s general counsel disagrees. It also noted in its post-hearing brief that employees have used “far more biting and insulting profane language” toward management and not lost their protections. In previous cases, for instance, workers have legally confronted their supervisors with such epithets as “egotistical f—–,” “stupid f—— moron” and “f—— liar.”

Cynthia Estlund, a labor law professor at the New York University School of Law, said the labor board tends to give workers a fair amount of leeway when they express grievances. “It’s not that profanity is protected as such,” she said. But “from the beginning, the board has given employees some breathing room when they’re engaging in protected, concerted activity,” she added.

Right now, the two workers are being paid by their employer to stay at home.

Interesting case.

Foreign Entanglements: Trump! Cruz! Bernie!

[ 1 ] January 31, 2016 |

On the latest Foreign Entanglements, Michael Cohen and I jabber about foreign policy and the Presidential primary:

“Can you even get a flight from Phoenix to Newfoundland?”

[ 98 ] January 31, 2016 |

John Scott’s account of the NHL trying to force him out of the NHL All-Star Game is richly entertaining:

“Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?”

That was it, right there. That was the moment they lost me.

At first, when it became clear that I was going to win the All-Star fan vote, I understood the league’s position. They didn’t mince words — This is not a game for you, John — but I understood all the same. Honestly, on some level, I agreed.

In the beginning, at least, I just wanted the entire thing to go away. We were on a really fun run in Phoenix, and I was starting to feel like I was part of something. The Coyotes had been picked to finish dead last — but in the first half of the season, we’d surprised a lot of people. We were this strange collection of underdogs, and I fit right in. And I fit right in by doing what I do best: being a locker room guy, a no-nonsense guy, and a quiet yet effective enforcer.

One of the reasons I’ve made it as long as I have in the league is because I specifically know I’m not an All-Star.

So when they asked me to make a statement — nudging the fan vote in another direction and denouncing the John Scott “movement” — I did it without hesitation. I told the fans, “Listen. I don’t deserve this. Vote for my teammates.” And I was telling the truth.

But while I don’t deserve to be an All-Star, I also don’t think I deserve to be treated like I’ve been by the league throughout this saga. I’m an NHL player — and, whatever my set of skills may be, that I’m an NHL player is no accident. I genuinely believe that when I’m on the ice, or even just the bench, I make my teammates feel safe to do what they do best.

Does that make me an elite player? God, no. Am I going to be nervous as hell when I step onto the ice on Sunday — and I’m playing three-on-three, with Tarasenko whizzing by over one shoulder, and Toews putting the moves on me over the other? Of course. Will I be the worst skater in the game? I mean, probably.

But at the same time: this isn’t Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m not some random person off the street, and I didn’t win a golden ticket to “play hockey with the stars.” I won an internet fan vote, sure. And at some point, without question, it was a joke. It might even finish as a joke. But it didn’t start as one. It started with a very small pool, out of a very small pool, out of the very, very smallest pool of hockey players in the world: NHLers. That was the vote. A fan vote, an internet vote — but a vote from among the 700 or so best hockey players in North American professional sports.

And I’m one of them.

If the league thought this was an embarrassment, pretty much all of the players I’ve encountered have thought otherwise. I’ve gotten texts from so many guys saying the same thing: “You should go.”

And that didn’t happen because of the internet. I busted my ass to be one of them. I’ve skated every day since I was three years old to be one of them. I’ve persevered through Juniors roster cuts, Alaskan bus rides, Advanced Dynamics exams, and — yes — fights, to be one of them.

But I’m one of them. And that means a lot to me.

Scott’s role in the NHL — the one-dimensional enforcer — is postmaturely becoming an obsolete one. But that’s not the fault of the hard-working pros occupying the role. And while the campaign to vote for him as an All-Star captain was a little silly, it’s not nearly as silly as the league first making insulting phone calls and then pressuring his team to trade the guy 4,000 miles away to preserve the Solemn Integritude of a profit-taking exhibition game. (I mean, I’ve been an obsessive hockey fan since I have living memory. I watch a lot of hockey. I haven’t seen a second of an All-Star game since the first Bush Administration. This is actually the first interesting thing to happen to the All-Star game in, well, ever. If I had a Neilsen monitor I might actually watch it.) And note that the fans were already stripped of the ability to vote for anything but the captains, and to the extent that the John Scott movement represents a thumb in the eye to the many pompous sportswriters who demand that the fans have their vote taken away to preserve the Solemn Integritude of a profit-taking exhibition game I approve heartily.

…for a real Coyotes-related scandal, how about the possibility of Arizona taxpayers getting bilked for yet another stadium for the team with the second worst attendance in the league?

19th Century Loomis

[ 47 ] January 31, 2016 |

This is how you solve a problem.salad

Women Are Gross Idiots–Let’s Celebrate!

[ 8 ] January 31, 2016 |

My inaugural post was a post about much I love Bridesmaids and how I didn’t think women would truly achieve parity with men in the genre of comedy if we weren’t allowed to be gross and stupid. Well, apparently I’m not the only one out there who thinks that because it’s never been a better time to be a gross idiot woman. Bridesmaids was just the beginning. Now if we want to watch women behave like disgusting morons we have Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, Another Period (where women get to act like old-fashioned gross idiots in fancy dresses!), and now…Idiotsitter. Which I don’t want to to overhype it by saying is the best show ever made. But it did feature two women in tuxes taking a dead bloody coyote in a tux to a funeral so it might actually be the best show ever made. I don’t know. I just know it’s a great time for women in comedy and it’s a great time to be alive. Please watch Idiotsitter.

Jacques Rivette

[ 13 ] January 30, 2016 |

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The French master died at 87. R.I.P.

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