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Which One of You Stinkers Wrote this Parody Opinion Piece for The Washington Post?

[ 39 ] June 29, 2016 |


“Jim Ruth,” probably

Jim Ruth?” Yeah, right. Fess up, LGMers.


For many of us, Trump has only one redeeming quality: He isn’t Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t want to turn the United States into a politically correct, free-milk-and-cookies, European-style social democracy where every kid (and adult, too) gets a trophy just for showing up.

Which one of you imps went through a checklist of wingnut bugaboos and talking points and put them in the most Onion-esque configuration possible? FESS UP.

Members of this new silent majority, many of us front-wave baby boomers, value hard work and love the United States the way it was. We long for a bygone era when you didn’t need “safe spaces” on college campuses to shelter students from the atrocity of dissenting opinions, lest their sensibilities be offended. We have the reckless notion that college is the one place where sensibilities are supposed to be challenged and debated. Silly us.

Stop. My sides.

Who’s to blame for the Trump phenomenon? There’s culpability on both sides of the aisle for the absence of bipartisanship that fueled his rise. The left blames the policies of a fragmented, delusional, right-wing GOP. But the left bears responsibility, too.

OK, nobody’s come forward to confess to punking The Washington Post yet? You’re scamps. 

So why then would rational, affluent, informed citizens consider voting for The Donald? Short of not voting at all — still an option some of us are considering — he’s the only one who appears to want to preserve the American way of life as we know it. For the new silent majority, the alternative to Trump is bleak: a wealthy, entitled progressive with a national security scandal in her hip pocket. In our view, the thought of four to eight more years of a progressive agenda polluting the American Dream is even more dangerous to the survival of this country than Trump is.

Well, anyway, good job. It was a fun read. Thanks for the laugh, “Jim Ruth!”

So come Nov. 8, you’ll find many of us sheepishly sneaking into voting booths across the United States. Even after warily pulling the curtain closed behind us, we’ll still be looking over our shoulders to make sure the deed is shielded from view. Then, fighting a gag reflex, we’ll pull the lever. We hate Donald Trump. But he just might get our vote.



[ 12 ] June 29, 2016 |


SEK: You got me how?


SEK: How so?


SEK: Should I be worried?


SEK: Jesus Christ — peed all over what?


SEK: My “round paper”?


SEK: Whereabouts?


SEK: The bathroom?


SEK: You peed all over my “round paper” in the bathroom?


SEK: So I need to buy more toilet paper?


SEK: You would be so be disappointed, if only you knew…

What are the meanings of “working class” in America today?

[ 189 ] June 29, 2016 |


This question is inspired by David Brooks’ latest pseudo-anthropological musings regarding the subject. (A curious feature of this column is that it’s obvious Brooks is discussing the white working class, but he never acknowledges this).

There’s now a rift within the working class between mostly older people who are self disciplined, respectable and, often, bigoted, and parts of a younger cohort that are more disordered, less industrious, more celebrity-obsessed, but also more tolerant and open to the world.

Trump (and probably Brexit) voters are in the first group. They are not poor, making on average over $70,000 a year. But they perceive that their grandchildren’s world is quickly coming apart.

Now obviously the phrase “working class” has multiple meanings in American politics and culture, but defining a cohort that has an average household income of $72,000 (about 30% above the national average) as working class stretches any plausible definition well past the breaking point. And Brooks’ cavalier use of the term underlines how amorphous this concept — a key one in contemporary political discourse — can be.

Anyway, what does “working class” mean in America today? I haven’t studied this question systematically or even thought about it much, which is probably representative of how most Americans think, or rather don’t think, about class matters in general. So these suggestions are very much off the cuff: (Note that the point here isn’t to describe the “real” working class, which strikes me as a pretty meaningless endeavor, but rather to suggest what the most widely held views of the concept are).

(1) No college degree, especially no four-year degree. It’s difficult or impossible to be working class if you’re a college graduate (The status of an associate’s degree is somewhat ambiguous in this regard.) In fact that’s probably the single biggest function of college in American culture: to work as as an all but formal class sorting mechanism.

(2) Working a job that doesn’t make much money and doesn’t confer much social status, with those involving significant physical labor or heavily managed customer interaction being the prototypes.

(3) Renting rather than owning one’s residence.

(4) Little or negative net worth.

All of these are of course subject to lots of exceptions, caveats, and gray areas, and it’s certainly possible to be considered working class while not fitting into one or even more than one of these categories. But it’s a start. Thoughts?

. . . In what ways is the concept of working class captured by the white collar/blue collar/pink collar/schema? Can a white collar job be working class?


[ 29 ] June 29, 2016 |


As a historian, microfilm is the single greatest invention in human history. You haven’t lived until reading five decades of a union newspaper on microfilm. You should learn more about its history.

Post-Brexit Labour: Our Own Omnishambles

[ 238 ] June 29, 2016 |


I was planning on writing about something else this morning, like strategies to avoid Brexit, political and constitutional dilemmas of the same, or the soul-crushing reality of being a life-long Mariners fan (where life-long is measured in the life of the franchise and not me).


As expected, the vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by the Parliamentary Labour Party easily passed, 172-40, or 81% of sitting Labour MPs (who voted; there were a handful of abstentions and even several “soiled ballots” — so roughly 75% of Labour MPs are on record as opposing the leader).  This follows the resignations of two-thirds of his shadow cabinet, and all the various positions have yet to be filled (and considering when one adds in parliamentary private secretaries and junior shadow ministers, simply stated, there might not be enough Corbyn supporters remaining in Parliament to fill all the roles). Indeed, this morning the SNP has stated that it will request to be named the official opposition (no link, as this is just breaking):

A bit more on the news we mentioned earlier that the Scottish National Party will today ask to be declared the official Oppositon at Westminster.

They say their leader Angus Robertson enjoys more support than Jeremy Corbyn.

There are 56 SNP MPs – but only 40 Labour MPs have expressed support for Mr Corbyn.

They also say they are able to fill all the relevant shadow posts to the government, unlike Mr Corbyn.

They point to Parliamentary rules which say the official Opposition must be “prepared to assume power.”

A source said: “We have looked at Erskine May (the Parliamentary rule book) and will put it to the Speaker that the Labour Party no longer meet obligations to remain as the official Opposition.”

The expected response from the Corbyn and Momentum corners are that none of these MPs ever supported Jeremy, so this shouldn’t be a surprise and holds no democratic legitimacy. This is partially true.  It’s no secret that a significant share of the PLP were wary of Corbyn’s leadership, and a core of those on the right and center of the party took themselves out of contention for shadow cabinet positions (which troubled me; the shadow cabinet would have been more effective and representative had Liz Kendall and / or Yvette Cooper taken a role for the sake of the party). And yes, a significant group of MPs have been dreaming of a coup against Corbyn from September, so to some degree this was long in the cards.  However, from what I’ve heard, the majority of the PLP were firmly in the center — not knee-jerk hostile to Corbyn, and willing to give him time and a chance. It stands to reason that anybody who agreed to serve in the shadow cabinet was at minimum open minded about Corbyn’s leadership. It’s one thing to accept that a disaffected core existed on the right of the PLP hoping for this moment, but it’s another thing entirely to explicitly and publicly lose the support of 2/3rds of your own shadow cabinet.

As I stated yesterday, it’s close to impossible to lead an effective opposition, government, or even a marginalised political party if an overwhelming majority of your MPs are rebelling against your leadership. The response of Corbyn and his supporters is to hang on and cite the democratic mandate of the 251,417 (59.5%) votes he received in last summer’s leadership election. As I don’t shy away from stating, I was one of those 251,417.

However, there’s an alternative narrative of democratic legitimacy that is not likely to be warmly received by Corbyn’s supporters.  As MilitantlyAardvark said in comments yesterday: “A decent case could be made that MPs are elected by the people of their constituency and therefore represent a broader and more genuinely democratic section of Labour voters than the relatively small number of party members.”  This narrative is also here in The Guardian:

A defiant Mr Corbyn tonight brushed off the thumbs-down that four in five colleagues gave him, by reciting the rulebook which puts the leadership decision in the hands of the members who he believes remain as loyal as ever, although – amid such chaos – can that be assumed? More fundamentally, the rulebook becomes immaterial when there is no ability to do the basic job. The rules of a charity may, for example, put the appointment of a chief executive in the hands of the trustees, but that chief executive will not be able to function if the staff all want him out. And in the Corbyn case, the option of replacing “the staff” does not exist without showing contempt to the electorate, since they are not mere party functionaries, but MPs elected by 9.3 million Labour voters. And if the election comes this year, there would be no time to go for wholesale reselections to pick a new slate of Corbynite candidates, even if Mr Corbyn had not solemnly promised to avoid this unwise course.

That’s right. The PLP were elected by 9.3 million voters in May 2015. These people are (or at least should be) significantly more important to the operation of a major political party with aspirations (however dimming) of one day again returning to government.

That argument has not nor will it make any headway amongst the core Corbyn support.  Reviewing the discussion in the various pro-Corbyn and Momentum groups I belong to in social media, the tenor is that any criticism of Jeremy is apostasy. The PLP is the enemy (aside form the 40 who voted confidence) including those who once served in the shadow cabinet but have since resigned. It’s fascinating to read. And depressing. Politics in a democracy requires the building of coalitions, of compromise, of reaching consensual outcomes. Jeremy’s core support doesn’t appear to reflect this reality or even accept its legitimacy.

Unlike the Leave Campaign, the Corbyn team and supporters have a plan should he be allowed to stand, and win, the forthcoming leadership election:

“We will offer the most radical leadership reform package ever,” said one insider. “Reselection, recall, a lock on leadership elections that only members can remove. We will bring it.”

This is elaborated upon here. It’s difficult to say if this is really the plan, or wishful thinking taking the shape of rumour.  It would help solve the dilemma I wrote about yesterday, that if we’re going to allow the leader to be elected by, and only by, a direct vote of the membership, the elected leader needs the PLP on side. Having Corbynistas take control of a majority of the Constituency Labour Parties, and force re-selection of candidates for Parliament, is a means to this end.  It will result in bad blood, and could possibly result in a fundamental split in the party, where Corbyn and Momentum have control of the name and machinery, while the PLP breaks off to form another SDLP SDP (or even join the Liberal Democrats), presumably dragging a share of their CLP supporters with them.

Regardless of how this ends up, if there’s a snap election between October and December, there’s probably not enough time to seize control of enough CLPs, nor will there really be enough time for a proper leadership election to progress. Last summer’s leadership election took three months from the close of nominations to the declaration of the winner.

Effectively, the Labour Party has defaulted on its job to be an organised opposition to the equally disorganised Conservatives precisely when the country needs precisely that.

Late Stage Out of Sight Publicity

[ 5 ] June 28, 2016 |


A year after its release and long after anyone actually bought the book, there’s still a little bit of Out of Sight buzz here and there. Laura Clawson from Daily Kos asked me to do a Q&A about the book. Here’s one of the questions:

LC: You make the case against the boycott impulse of saying “well, I personally just won’t shop there.” What’s wrong with that and how do we get past it to take action that will put real pressure on companies to change?

LOOMIS: The problem with individuals choosing to boycott companies for a given behavior like using sweatshops is that it doesn’t really accomplish anything for the workers involved. Kalpona Akter, a leader of the Bangladeshi apparel workers movement, has explicitly asked westerners not to boycott the factories. These workers need jobs! If we decide to go buy clothing at the thrift store, we might make ourselves feel good and morally righteous for not supporting an exploitative system, but the reality is that we are doing nothing to change corporate behavior. What we have to do is organize to demand the companies making this clothing be held accountable for their actions. That’s what workers want.

There is an exception to my position on the boycott and that’s when the affected workers ask for one. The United Farm Workers most famously used the boycott during the grape strikes of the 1960s and 1970s. In other words, being an ethical consumer means learning about what workers need and want from you and trying to accomplish those aims to help them, not to make yourself feel good.

Real pressure on the companies can come through movements like the United Students Against Sweatshops, who organized on college campuses in the 1990s to force colleges and universities to contract for their school-sanctioned clothing under ethical guidelines. USAS is still around today. Reinvigorating these sorts of movements that use our power in the organizations to which we belong—schools, churches, social clubs—to place pressure on apparel companies or other industries that use child labor or forced labor or sweatshop labor is how we start to make that change. There are already groups like the Harry Potter Alliance doing this sort of work, in this case on Harry Potter-themed products like chocolates that are produced without child labor.

There will also be talks in the fall at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania and Eastern Washington University, if anyone is around those areas. And I can give a talk at your college and/or university and /or social group for a shockingly low price!

Foreign Entanglements: #Brexit Breaks Bad

[ 26 ] June 28, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, I spoke with Nick Clark about the consequences of Brexit.  There’s also a bit on Game of Thrones at the end.

Unfortunately, the video on both feeds froze.  The audio is fine, though.

Today in the Party of Calhoun

[ 127 ] June 28, 2016 |


It’s nice that Congressional Republicans tried to use the Zika funding bill for the all-important goal of reversing the ban on flying the Confederate flag in national cemeteries.

Previewing the Next Term

[ 33 ] June 28, 2016 |

I am no Supreme Court expert, but this preview of the next term looks promising, primarily because of what the Court is not going to hear. First and most importantly to me, the Court refused to rehear Friedrichs, meaning that the anti-public union fanatics have to start over at the lower courts. So that’s one piece of good news. The second is how apoplectic Sam Alito is that the Court refused to hear a case that will almost certainly reject religious liberty arguments that would allow pharmacists to choose whether they distribute birth control. He’s already whining about the future of the Court and his precious religious liberties that apply only to right-wingers seeking to oppress women or gays. Maybe he should go ahead and flounce off the court.

Sports Obits

[ 36 ] June 28, 2016 |


  • Buddy Ryan, R.I.P. Almost certainly the greatest defensive coach in NFL history.  It’s not just that the mid-80s Bears have a strong claim to be the best NFL defense ever, his Eagles teams were also among the greatest defenses ever. As a head coach, he was just another guy — not a complete disaster like LeBeau, but too much of a one-way coach to be really good. As a defensive coach, he was extraordinary.
  • Pat Summitt, R.I.P. A truly remarkable trailblazer.

Why Kennedy Broke

[ 64 ] June 28, 2016 |

Anthony Kennedy

I have a piece at Democracy explaining why Kennedy finally agreed to put some teeth into Casey:

Many state legislatures got the message and passed an increasing array of regulations, the most insidious of which were targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP). TRAP laws resembled medical regulations, but their real purpose, in singling out abortion clinics despite the relative safety of the procedure, was to create burdens for these clinics, making it difficult or even impossible for them to operate. Texas HB2, an issue of contention in Hellerstedt, is a classic example. Texas placed requirements on facilities and doctors that would have closed more than half of the states’ already relatively small number of clinics, regardless of actual safety concerns.

It was this sort of practice that almost certainly pushed Kennedy back toward the liberal faction of the Court. Facing a brutal interrogation at oral argument, the medical justifications offered by Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller were almost farcically thin. It’s telling that the dissenting opinions in Hellerstedt focused primarily on procedural questions, and offered only cursory and half-hearted attempts at defending the sham justifications offered by Texas in support of its statute. The Texas regulations are not about protecting women’s health. They’re about trying to restrict, and eventually eliminate, abortion access.

And unlike in Carhart II, not only were the justifications weak, the effects were broad-ranging. Nobody with any commitment to reproductive rights could overlook a statute that shut down large numbers of clinics based on alleged medical justifications that (as Justice Breyer’s opinion showed in painstaking detail) were an insult to citizens’ intelligence. If Kennedy thought liberals were being untrue to Casey during its first decade, it was now being undermined by conservatives. Republican legislators were in fact using Casey to eliminate the rights Casey sought to protect, and it’s not surprising that Kennedy refused to go along.

Plenty of objections can be launched at Casey from both the left and right, and rightfully so. But it’s clear that Kennedy takes the compromises in this decision very seriously. It’s not surprising that state legislatures took his previous opinion as a green light to attack abortion rights, but it’s also not surprising that the pendulum is now swinging back. By demanding that state legislatures provide real medical justifications for regulations that substantially restrict abortion access, the Court has restored needed teeth to Roe. Kennedy’s past deference to anti-abortion interests has now turned to skepticism, and, for supporters of reproductive rights, this is excellent news indeed.

More Hellerstedt commentary from Lithwick, Filipovic, Greenhouse, and Carmon. Emily Crockett explains why it will be difficult for some of the clinics to re-open, which is one reason to reject Alito’s longstanding efforts to create procedural shields against effective challenges to arbitrary abortion regulations. And it’s worth noting that Donald Trump has been silent.

“The demand for the larger apartments with baths far exceeds the supply”: Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (IX)

[ 7 ] June 28, 2016 |


As a response to growing labor unrest, in 1916, major corporations decided to create the National Industrial Conference Board to undertake investigations of their own to show how much families needed to live, labor conditions, and the like, from a pro-business perspective. The Wilson administration valued this effort and used it during World War I to support various economic plans. That gave it greater legitimacy, despite the corporate taint. This is its 1919 study on the cost of living in Fall River, Massachusetts. It’s doesn’t explicitly try to undermine unions, although certainly the companies opposed the unions trying to organize the city’s large textile mills in the years before those employers would move to the South to avoid unionization. It mostly just presents facts and figures about the cost of living, changing prices of goods over time, and other raw economic data. Kind of interesting as a primary source, not that exciting as a read.

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