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GE’s Taft-Hartley Comic, 1947

[ 15 ] September 3, 2015 |

Thanks to Bruce Vail for sending me this hilarious propaganda comic General Electric put out in 1947 during the debate over the Taft-Hartley Act. He asked me to credit the Maryland labor activist Bill Barry in hunting this up and putting it into a PDF file. Enjoy!

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In Other News From the Jerks Who Run American Football

[ 20 ] September 3, 2015 |

The people who run football provide one with such joy.

The NCAA makes Roger Goodell look like a man of principle. As a response to the fear of college football players unionizing, the NCAA’s big schools have begun paying stipends to players so they have live with some level of dignity. Of course the coaches now see opportunities to fine players for whatever they decide is a rule violation. Such as at Virginia Tech:


From the Deadspin piece linked above:

Just look at that bullshit right here. (And note that the scale roughly indexes the priorities of a meathead college football coach—a dirty locker, for example, is apparently more than three times as bad as being disruptive enough in class for an instructor to report it.):

These are fines being thrown at players who, aside from a piddly shit cost-of-attendance stipend—$3,280 or $3,620, depending on whether a player is from out of state or not—aren’t getting any kind of monetary compensation in exchange for their labor. The Times-Dispatch has another photo, in which fines for “improper equipment” are detailed. A seventh offense would have cost a player $1,600.

Tommy Tuberville, head coach of Cincinnati, is talking the same game as Virginia Tech. This is ridiculous, especially when the players have no means to appeal these fines except for the same people who are fining them. Also, where is the money going? Who is accountable here? In other words, these players need a union.

Speaking of bullshit, let’s go back to our old friends who run the NFL. You know what I hate about the NFL? All the meaningless cross promotions for the military and breast cancer that don’t actually do anything but make the NFL look all awesome and patriotic and pro-woman when it is only interested in making money and has an enormous problem with its violent game bleeding over into widespread domestic abuse.

Deadspin again broke open just how bankrupt all this is. The St. Louis Rams pulled a stunt where they surprised one of their cheerleaders with her husband just returned from the military. Oh, everyone is just so happy, right? The Rams look so good! The NFL looks so patriotic! Well, about that… Turns out the husband was not only serving in the less than dangerous combat zone of Korea but that he is, wait for it, a Busch! And the cheerleader? A former aide to Laura Bush and the daughter of a well-known right-wing Illinois political family. The couple had their wedding ceremony at the Vatican. In other words, this was a stunt that in addition to the usual military pablum was designed to serve powerful and wealthy families of the area. Big deal, right? But on top of it, the cheerleader’s mother is running as a Republican for state representative in Illinois and is using the video of this to promote her political career.

It makes sense that an NFL team would go out of its way to do something special for a member of one of the most powerful families in America instead of, say, a local grunt who’d served in a combat zone, because these reunions really aren’t orchestrated and televised for the benefit of the soldiers and families involved. They are done because cozying up to the military is a good way for the NFL to market itself as a noble civic endeavor while making some extra money, and because the American football-loving public loves a chance to share in a bit of un-earned catharsis—watching two smiling, photogenic soldiers embrace in relief is a great way to forget about all the bodies that have piled up. If a given reunion happens to basically be a viral political ad—and given that Candace Ruocco Valentine is not only the member of two connected families and a former White House intern but has pursued or is pursuing both a JD and a doctorate in public policy analysis, one suspects that this moment may be shared on some campaign page of her own before too long—it’s hard to be too put out. That is, after all, what they all are.

Between this and the Brady case, that’s the NFL for you in a nutshell.

Kentucky’s Petty Orval Faubus Arrested By U.S. Marshalls

[ 176 ] September 3, 2015 |


A Kentucky judge fails to recognize Kim Davis’s sacred right to get paid while refusing to do her job and obstruct the rights of the citizens she represents based on arbitrary whim:

Federal District Judge David Bunning held Kim Davis, the county clerk who has become a national symbol of anti-gay animus for her resistance to marriage equality, in contempt of court on Thursday. According to Dan Griffin, a reporter for local news station WSAZ, she was led out by U.S. Marshals. The judge reportedly said that financial sanctions were not enough to ensure her compliance with the law.

Yes, that’s the son of deserving Hall of Famer and consummate winger Jim Bunning who sent her to prison. I have no problem with this — she’s violating the law, it will be impossible to remove her from office, and if wingers want to try to turn this extremely unsympathetic figure into a martyr good luck and so what.

The Failure of a Clown

[ 69 ] September 3, 2015 |


It’s fitting that Roger Goodell’s biggest failure, the one that could well end up permanently lessening the considerable power he and NFL owners have traditionally held over the NFLPA, was born out of the stupidest scandal in the history of the NFL, and perhaps all of sports. This is precisely the kind of defeat that someone as impotent and hollow-headed as Goodell deserves.

While we’re here, can we stop with the “he always made money for his partners” crap? The NFL was an immensely profitable enterprise before Goodell got there and will be when he leaves. The idea that he’s worth $40 million or so above replacement is a particularly egregious example of the cartel reasoning that results in massively overpaid executives.

…the great Charles Pierce is great on this, needless to say.

Bad News For Slavering Authoritarians

[ 201 ] September 3, 2015 |


A lot of people resent the Patriots, because they’re really good. It’s nice to think that the Patriots beat the crap out of you every time they play you not because they’re smart enough not to do stuff like trading first round picks for sub-replacement level players at positions of marginal importance, but because they CHEAT. The grossly dishonest leaks that created the Ballghazi tempest in a thimble was hence welcome news for many. The Wells Report, however, confirmed two problems for people excited about the suspension doled out to Tom Brady. First, the NFL’s evidence that Brady was guilty was farcical. And second, even if one assumed that Brady and the Patriots were guilty, all precedent and the substantive importance of the offense plainly mandated a punishment somewhere between a sternly worded letter and a modest fine, not a four game suspension.

What’s a Patriots hater with enough of an authoritarian streak to want them treated with patent unfairness to do? Focus on the broad authority given to Goodell under the collective bargaining agreement. Try to switch the discussion from whether the NFL had adequate evidence or whether the punishment was fair given the offense to the question of whether Goodell had the formal legal authority to impose it. The implication that if a punishment is formally authorized it therefore cannot be arbitrary or capricious or unjustified is transparently wrong and dangerous, of course, but since defending Goodell’s punishment on the merits is impossible, what option do you have?

Well, too bad for authoritarians who retreat to formalism:

Judge Richard M. Berman has nullified the NFL’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady for his role in the Patriots’ ball deflation scandal. Pending an appeal (which is a very real possibility, given the implications for the NFL’s disciplinary process going forward), Brady will start on opening night one week from tonight.

More after I have a chance to read it, but this is excellent news. Even if you hate the Partiots, an employer being stopped from imposing a patently unfair punishment on an employee is a good thing.

…perhaps the most important part of the ruling going forward is Berman’s argument that reliance on the conduct detrimental clause was “legally misplaced.” Goodell and his apologists essentially relied on an argument similar to that used by the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, using the conduct detrimental clause to override the other collectively bargained procedures and punishments. For good reason, Berman rejected this approach.


[ 11 ] September 3, 2015 |
Battleship Study - BB65 - Scheme 4 - (1940 Studies).jpg

“Battleship Study – BB65 – Scheme 4 – (1940 Studies)” by Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the National Interest continues what amounts to the book tour for The Battleship Book:

In the early 1940s, the U.S. Navy still expected to need huge, first rate battleships to fight the best that Japan and Germany had to offer. The North Carolina, South Dakota, and Iowa class battleships all involved design compromises. The Montanas, the last battleships designed by the U.S. Navy (USN), would not.

Incidentally, the listed January release date for the Battleship Book on Amazon is not correct; we remain on schedule for a late September release.

You Didn’t Build That Extremely Tacky Thing

[ 73 ] September 3, 2015 |


If you’d like to be extremely rich, being born extremely rich is highly useful:

“It takes brains to make millions,” according to the slogan of Donald Trump’s board game. “It takes Trump to make billions.” It appears that’s truer than Trump himself might like to admit. A new analysis suggests that Trump would’ve been a billionaire even if he’d never had a career in real estate, and had instead thrown his father’s inheritance into a index fund that tracked the market. His wealth, in other words, isn’t because of his brains. It’s because he’s a Trump.

In an outstanding piece for National Journal, reporter S.V. Dáte notes that in 1974, the real estate empire of Trump’s father, Fred, was worth about $200 million. Trump is one of five siblings, making his stake at that time worth about $40 million. If someone were to invest $40 million in a S&P 500 index in August 1974, reinvest all dividends, not cash out and have to pay capital gains, and pay nothing in investment fees, he’d wind up with about $3.4 billion come August 2015, according to Don’t Quit Your Day Job’s handy S&P calculator. If one factors in dividend taxes and a fee of 0.15 percent — which is triple Vanguard’s actual fee for an exchange-traded S&P 500 fund — the total only falls to $2.3 billion.

It’s hard to nail down Trump’s precise net worth, but Bloomberg currently puts it at $2.9 billion, while Forbes puts it at $4 billion. So he’s worth about as much as he would’ve been if he had taken $40 million from his dad and thrown it into an index fund.

In all fairness, I am compelled to observe that Trump has come out against the carried interest loophole, one of the most indefensible parts of the United States Code.

Let’s Get Government Out of the Business of Enforcing Government Laws

[ 79 ] September 2, 2015 |

There is nothing in this world that says “small government” more than the idea that local government officials should be able to enforce law based on whim and personal preference:

“There never should have been any limitations on people of the same sex having contracts, but I do object to the state putting its imprimatur to the specialness of marriage on something that’s different from what most people have defined as marriage for most of history,” he explained. “So one way is just getting the state out completely and I think that’s what we’re headed towards, actually. Whether or not people who still work for the state can do it without the legislature changing it is something I’m going to leave up to the courts exactly how to do it.” Paul has previously said that he is “not a legal authority on that.”

Paul’s unrealistic plan to remove marriage from the laws has been part of a strategy on his part to avoid affirming marriage for same-sex couples without actively working against marriage equality. For example, back in 2013, he said that even if states continued issuing marriage contracts, if the debate on same-sex marriage continued for another couple decades, he hoped opponents might “still win back the hearts and minds of people.”

Paul’s support for Davis’ refusal to comply with the law seems consistent with his hope that supporters of marriage equality might still be convinced to change their minds. “I think people who do stand up and are making a stand to say that they believe in something,” he said, “is an important part of the American way.”

The idea that government should get out of marriage is unrealistic, but hardly irrational. The idea that selective enforcement of law based on whim somehow follows from this idea is just weird. It becomes less weird, I suppose, in context of Rand’s need to push past 1% in GOP Presidential primary polling.

Area Commenter Places Unwarranted Faith in Lanny Davis

[ 39 ] September 2, 2015 |

Beloved commenter Denverite did not believe that the recent email Lanny Davis sent to Hillary Clinton revealing him a a particularly pathetic drooling lickspittle was real. To his credit, he offered to put a championship bet on the Blue Jays or Seahwaks on my behalf if they turned out to be real. Well, how about that Josh Donaldson?

For future reference, anybody considering making a Lanny Davis wager should understand this: if a story about him sounds too good to be true, it’s probably true. It might be generally sound policy to distrust stories that seem a little too on-the-nose, but Lanny is never not on the nose. He’s a character written by Aaron Sorkin to represent a morally repugnant D.C. kiss-ass but then rejected for inclusion in The Newsroom because he’s too broadly conceived and his dialogue isn’t credible. We veteran Lanny Davis watchers would never make this mistake.

ATI Lockout

[ 2 ] September 2, 2015 |

Last week, I wrote about the ATI lockout of their union mills. Wanted to highlight this issue once again. The United Steelworkers held a big rally in Pittsburgh yesterday to pressure the company to end the lockout and negotiate a fair contract with the union. The lockout and union-busting could devastate the steel towns that rely on the wages of union members for businesses to survive. That’s the theme of this USW-produced video, focusing on a pizza shop owner standing with the USW because it’s in his own financial interest to do so (also because he knows it’s the right thing to do). Check it out.

The Enemy Within

[ 10 ] September 2, 2015 |


I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of The Enemy Within (in Britain it is going by Still the Enemy Within). This is a powerful documentary on how Margaret Thatcher busted the coal miners’ unions in the 1980s. If this is of interest to you, I highly recommend hunting down a copy, perhaps through getting your library to purchase one if possible. Told strictly through the eyes of the miners and their wives, along with video clips of Thatcher and other conservatives, the film is a very useful document for understanding the decline of the postwar labor movement, which was far more than just an American phenomenon. I am far from a scholar of Europe so I can’t speak with any real authority about the claims the workers make, but they certainly believe they were really very close to winning what turned out to be a catastrophic loss to a government seeking to destroy their union, which was the backbone of the British left. But the workers claim that had the other unions shown solidarity and walked off the job in support, as opposed to empty words and some money or if all the British mines had joined the strike (Thatcher intended to split the miners by giving a few choice mines some extra money while seeking to bust the other unions) that they could have defeated the government and perhaps the worst parts of Thatcherism broadly. Even though this is a depressing story, the film also shows how solidarity between groups with little in common with miners (elite students, gay and lesbian activists) was created, how women stepped out of traditional gender roles during the strike, and how personally empowering the strike was for at least some workers. I suppose, as a non-Europeanist, I would have liked a bit more context about Thatcherism and about what happened to the interviewed workers after the end of the strike, but those are pretty minor complaints. I’d check the film out if I were you.

Katrina and Solidarity

[ 15 ] September 2, 2015 |


My good friend Jacob Remes has an interesting piece up at the Atlantic. You may remember him from his entry in the This Day in Labor History series on Davis Day in Canada. He is a historian of disasters and working-class solidarity. We read chapters of each other’s book drafts and I can guarantee you his new book is very provocative and you should read it. His Atlantic piece effectively summarizes his major theme–that the state often fails citizens in natural disasters and that in response, a sort of anarchist solidarity naturally appears that provides mutual support and which the state soon seeks to undermine. Again, it’s provocative and we don’t necessarily see eye to eye on every point. But there’s no question that strong community ties make a big difference in post-disaster life and that planning for strong communities is a really underrated strategy for dealing with disasters, something that a world dealing with climate change needs to take a lot more seriously.

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