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Direct Action Protest: It Works

[ 59 ] December 4, 2016 |


The following characterization does not by any means describe all LGM commenters, or even a majority. But there is certainly a strong group of people around here who look down on direct action protest as a mode of political action, arguing that political organizing needs to primarily happen within the electoral system and that getting out the vote, finding strong Democratic Party candidates, and the like are a better form of political action. I certainly do not deny the importance of doing these things and working within the political system, but there are many types of political action that work toward justice and we need activism both inside and outside the political system in order to make that happen.

One critical example of why protest is needed is on pipeline issues during the Obama administration. Obama is an example of the farthest left candidate Democrats have elected since at least 1964 but who still is between disappointing and outright awful on a number of issues. His administration has been inclined to support pipeline construction that has received the ire of both environmentalists and the people living near it. In two cases now, government plans to build pipelines have been defeated by direct action. The first was the Keystone XL Pipeline, organized by Bill McKibben and his movement. And now we have a second example of protest changing pipeline construction, with months of action in North Dakota finally getting the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the path for the pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota.

The decision is a victory for the several thousand camped near the construction site, who’ve said for months that the four-state, $3.8 billion project would threaten a water source and cultural sites.

The pipeline is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. According to a news release, Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said her decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

This is a great example of cross-racial organizing making a huge difference. This was members of the Standing Rock Sioux taking the lead in demanding their rights on the land that should rightfully belong to them combined with hundreds of largely white protestors serving to bring more publicity and media attention to the protests. This was not without tension between the indigenous and white activists on the ground, but with tensions also rising between the activists and the government, the latter caved. There is no room within traditional political organizing to stop this sort of project from being constructed. It requires people putting their bodies on the line. After January 20, those sorts of actions are going to require even more of this type of activism, because a Trump administration Corps of Engineers is far less likely to respect the human rights of protestors.

So, yes, channeling activism within the electoral system is critically important. So is supporting direct action around whatever struggles pop up at a given moment. We need both. Both work. We need more of both, especially during the next 4 years.


Aging in Place Bleg

[ 47 ] December 4, 2016 |

Question for everyone:

My parents are entering a situation where fairly significant remodeling of the house is in order for them to be able to stay there as they age. My parents aren’t all that elderly, but my mother has mobility issues and it’s a small mid-century house with the limitations for wheelchairs and the like that such a house presents.

Like many of us, these aren’t issues I have thought about all that deeply because why would I until I need to. But then that day comes. My primary question for everyone here is how they have dealt with these issues for their parents, their partners, and themselves. More to the point, are there programs where the state helps with some of the remodeling and the like because it keeps people in the house and out of other, significantly less desirable, facilities.

Luckily none of this is any sort of immediate emergency. But it’s something that needs managing and before my parents make financial decisions to do all of this themselves, I’d like to explore whatever opportunities there are at there, if any. If it matters (and it probably does since it’s the US and we can’t have nice things), they live in Oregon. And rather than me bumble around and try to figure this out, I remembered that have unusual access to crowdsourced knowledge at my fingertips. So I’m taking advantage.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 60

[ 1 ] 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

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.”

Lighthearted (If Heavygutted) News

[ 25 ] December 2, 2016 |

In more amusing news than most of what we are seeing in the world these days, I’m glad the person in charge of the great 70s Dinner Party Twitter feed has published a book based upon it.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 136 ] December 2, 2016 |


Example #1: The execution of former Jets running back Joe McKnight.

Ronald Gasser, the man authorities say shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight, was released from custody overnight without being charged, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office authorities said Friday morning (Dec. 2).

Gasser, 54, has not been formally charged, said JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato. Investigators are consulting with the district attorney’s office on the decision whether to formally charge Gasser, Fortunato said.

As the investigation into McKnight’s death continues, Fortunato asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact department homicide detectives at 504-364-5393.

McKnight, 28, was shot about 3 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 1) at the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown. A witness, who declined to give her name, said she saw a man at the intersection yelling at McKnight, who was trying to apologize. The man shot McKnight more than once, the witness said. She said he shot McKnight, stood over him and said, “I told you don’t you f— with me.” Then the man fired again, she said.

He murdered an unarmed man execution style and the cops just let him go. That my friends is what you call a racist nation with a racist “justice” system allowing for whites to kill black people and be treated with kid gloves. Maybe he and George Zimmerman can go on the road together.

Example 2: Trump giving white men the room to do whatever they want to Muslims.

Three men physically attacked a Muslim teenager at a Manhattan subway stop on Thursday night while shouting the name of the President-elect, police told the New York Daily News.

Police said the unidentified 18-year-old victim was waiting alone for the uptown 6 train at the 23rd Street and Park Avenue station when three young men approached her shouting “Donald Trump.”

Officers told the Daily News that they followed her onto the train, continuing to shout Trump’s name and allegedly calling her a “fucking terrorist.” The men, who the victim said appeared intoxicated, also allegedly told her to “get the hell out of the country” and said she didn’t “belong here.”

When she did not respond, they ripped her purse off her shoulder, breaking the strap, and attempted to pull off her hijab, police said.

What is terrible here is also that no one intervened and stood up for this woman. When we see this, we must do the right thing, even if that places us in physical danger ourselves. When we cower in terror, understandable as this may be when it happens, we enable fascists to act ever more boldly, leading to increasingly horrible crimes. I know it’s easy for me to sit here and write this and I’m not trying to act as a keyboard warrior. I’m just saying we all have to figure what we are going to actually do in these situations if we see them. And some people are doing the right thing and intervening.


[ 65 ] December 2, 2016 |


The chances of a recession are pretty high in the next 4 years, just looking at historical trends. Given the incredible length of time it took for jobs to recover after the last recession, a trend that has been vastly increasing in recent recessions, we as a nation are really not ready for the next one. Now imagine what a recession looks like with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Is it too early to start drinking?

White Privilege and the Democratic Party Elite

[ 85 ] December 2, 2016 |
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., center, and Senate Democrats gather outside the Capitol to urge Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House Republicans, to break the impasse on a funding bill and stop the government shutdown that is now in its second week, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Washington. With so many furloughed federal workers living in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs outside Washington, senators from those states made special pleas. At right is Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. At far left is Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., center, and Senate Democrats gather outside the Capitol to urge Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House Republicans, to break the impasse on a funding bill and stop the government shutdown that is now in its second week, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Washington. With so many furloughed federal workers living in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs outside Washington, senators from those states made special pleas. At right is Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. At far left is Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

This story about the racial makeup of top Democratic staffers in the Senate is more than a little dismaying:

“They are all so phony,” the staffer told me. “Every time I hear any of the Democratic senators, including my own boss, talk about diversity, I cringe, because it’s all one big lie. That they’ve been allowed to enjoy this reputation as a party that values diversity, while doing next to nothing of substance to align their actions with their words, is expert-level deception.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The staffer went on to detail a private network of conversations being held by staff members of color in the U.S. Senate which they half-jokingly call the “Underground Railroad.”

“Democrats in the Senate use demographics as their excuse for the fact that they only have one African-American member in their ranks. They’ll tell anyone who listens that they wish this wasn’t the case and to the untrained ear, it sounds true. It isn’t. The Senate looks just the way want it,” the staffer told me.

I must admit that I had also bought the lie — hook, line, and sinker — that only two current U.S. Senators out of 100, Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Tim Scott, a Republican, were black because state by state demographics just made it too hard for African-Americans to win statewide elections.

“No, that’s not it. Of course demographics are a factor in every election, but the Senate looks the way Senators want it to look. Let me prove it to you.”

What I learned next made my jaw drop.

“Do you know how many black Chiefs of Staff exist in the Senate? The whole Senate? One. Out of one hundred chances they had to hire a black chiefs of staff, they hired just one African-American,” the staffer said in disgust.

“But hold up, hold up,” the staffer continued. “I haven’t even given you the punchline yet. Guess who the one black Chief of Staff works for?”

“Who?” I asked — having no idea what the answer was.

“Tim Scott,” the staffer replied. “The lone black chief of staff in the entire United States Senate works for South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott. His office may be the most diverse in the entire Senate.”

That’s, um, not good. And while I have no way to access the educational backgrounds of Senate staffers, it takes no great leap of faith to expect that many of them come from elite schools and wealthy families that basically recreate the aristocratic class in Washington, on Wall Street, and in every other bastion of power in America. While you’d expect this from Republicans, it’s deeply dismaying but not surprising from Democrats. This is how white privilege works. You say you are for greater diversity and for greater opportunities for people of color. And your probably are. But then in your personal hiring practices, you are part of the problem.

2016’s Dumbest Argument

[ 97 ] December 2, 2016 |


That title suggests a high bar. As you might expect though, an essay in The Federalist is going to be able to clear it. And here we have this pablum telling liberals to stop whining about the electoral college. This is mostly just dumb for all the reasons you expect. And then this pops up about the Three-Fifths Compromise. Because, you see, it discriminated against slaveowners:

How does a specialist in constitutional law miss the word “compromise” in “three-fifths compromise”? How does one of America’s most-cited legal scholars fail to consider that five-fifths (that’s one) and three-fifths weren’t the only options available?

It wasn’t pretty that day around the Constitution. Northern and Southern states fought bitterly over how to count slaves, who couldn’t vote, in population numbers. Since population numbers determined legislative power, Southern states of course wanted to count slaves like they counted everyone else. Abolition-conscious Northern states wanted to eliminate slaves from population counts completely.

Northern states argued that if Southern states could count their property (slaves), Northern states could count theirs (horses, chickens, etc.). Because executive fiat by phone and by pen had not yet been invented, the two sides had no choice but to compromise. That’s why it’s called “the three-fifths compromise.”

As Reed points out, the three-fifths compromise “discounted” the value of slaves relative to white men, but it enhanced the power of slaves relative to white men in reducing by two-fifths the South’s power to preserve slavery legislatively. The Electoral College set the stage for legislative abolition of slavery, so you can say it was about slavery if you want, but tell the whole truth.

Yes, that is tragic to only allow the South to count slaves at 60 percent of a human when in fact the law did not even consider slaves human in any legal way! And this only allowed the Slave Power and their northern sympathizers to control nearly the entire federal government between 1789 and 1860! Why can’t you libs tell the whole story!!!!

On Tuesday, the last speaker in the amazing series of speakers I co-organized this fall at the University of Rhode Island on the theme of Inequality and the American Dream was on campus. This was the great Jelani Cobb. He noted that in fact after Reconstruction, southern whites actually benefited from Jim Crow more than they had from slavery. African-Americans couldn’t vote during either period, but during Jim Crow, apportionment counted 100 percent of black people instead of 60 percent. Thus the control of the South over the government after Reconstruction was at least as entrenched as during slavery. That’s effectively what this Federalist piece is longing for, even if it gives it a soft sell under the guise of modern Americans being stupid whiners. Finally, southern white men had their deserved power. And sadly, that’s the goal for all too many whites in Trump’s America.

I do not recommend searching for additional mangoes here.

British Music Humor

[ 44 ] December 1, 2016 |

This should be true and not satire.

Mary Fisher, owner of the Demon Bean in Kilburn, took desperate measures after an infestation of laptop-wielding ‘digital nomads’ threatened her business.

She said: “They’d sit there, typing away, not buying anything. I had to take desperate measures, so I put on Liege & Lief by Fairport Convention, the one band it is not possible to like in an ironic way.

“There is nothing remotely cool about Fairport and their sincere evocations of the English folk tradition, combined with equally unfashionable rock elements.”

Freelance digital marketer Francesca Johnson said: “It is impossible to do my job without feeling zeitgeisty, and beardy warbling about fields and blacksmiths is the least zeitgeisty thing on the planet.

“If they got in some nomadic Tuareg synth players to beef it up a bit, I could get behind this. As it stands, it is everything I hate condensed into an earnest, six-minute stomp.

“I bet everyone who likes this voted for Brexit.

“Fortunately, there are another 40,000 cafes in walking distance where I can blog about Italian horror film chic while nursing a single espresso for five hours.”

I would totally go to this cafe. And I’d buy a cup of tea.

Sanctuary Cities and the Courts

[ 49 ] December 1, 2016 |


Noah Feldman argues that decades of conservative federalism will now help liberals on issues like sanctuary cities.

President-elect Donald Trump says he will make “sanctuary cities” help deport immigrants by taking away their federal funding if they don’t change their policies. The good news is that he and Congress can’t do it — not without violating the Constitution.

Two core rules of federalism preclude Trump’s idea: The federal government can’t coerce states (or cities) into action with a financial “gun to the head,” according to Supreme Court precedent developed by Chief Justice John Roberts in the 2012 Affordable Care Act case. And federal officials can’t “commandeer” state officials to do their work for them under a 1997 decision that involved gun purchases under the Brady Act.

Behold the revenge of conservative federalism: Judge-made doctrines developed to protect states’ rights against progressive legislation can also be used to protect cities against Trump’s conservative policies. Ain’t constitutional law grand?

As you may recall, Roberts’s landmark opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius both upheld Obamacare and gutted it at the same time. Roberts voted to uphold the individual insurance mandate as a permissible use of Congress’s power to tax. But he simultaneously struck down the Medicaid extension except insofar as states might choose it voluntarily.

The ACA as written threatened states with eventual withdrawal of essentially all their Medicaid funding unless they agreed to the extension of the program to millions of new patients.

Roberts analyzed the issue by saying that, under the spending clause of the Constitution, Congress can’t create a funding condition that is unrelated to the original funding purpose and is so coercive that it amounts to a “gun to the head” of the states. Roberts’s doctrine applies with full force to Trump’s threat to pull cities’ existing funding if they remain sanctuaries by declining to cooperate with federal officials to enforce immigration law.

Well, maybe. The problem is taking conservative arguments in good faith. What is to say a newly conservative Supreme Court won’t just change its mind for cases that help conservative positions? While it’s possible that Kennedy wouldn’t go along with some of that, if Trump gets to name 2 or more justices, the likelihood of the Court being more hacktackular than it already is goes up tremendously. I guess the liberals can use the federalism arguments in its favor and that’s great for the time being. But that’s no guarantee of anything at all.

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