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Schilling for Senate!

[ 95 ] October 18, 2016 |


As a Democrat, let me say how very, very scared I am of Curt Schilling running against Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

In a wide-ranging, three-hour interview, Schilling took questions from callers and said he’ll run against Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, in 2018, but must clear the decision with his wife.

“I’ve made my decision, I’m going to run,” he said. “But I have to talk to Shonda, my wife, and ultimately it’s going to come down to how her and I feel this would affect our marriage and our kids.”

Schilling took issue with Warren opposing a November ballot question aimed at dramatically expanding the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. He said he’s not scared to debate her, noting that the Red Sox defeated the Cleveland Indians when he was a player.

“I’ve beaten the real ones before so I’m not worried about that,” the self-described conservative and Donald Trump supporter said, an apparent reference to Warren’s claims of Native American heritage.

Earlier this year Schilling was fired from his job as an ESPN baseball analyst after comments on Facebook critical of transgender rights. He now has an online radio show.

Of course he would probably beat Martha Coakley in a race where she starts out leading by 25 points.


Now That’s a Conspiracy Theory!

[ 110 ] October 17, 2016 |

If you are going to go conspiracy theory, this is the way to go:

In past years, a Presidential nominee calling women he’s accused of groping ugly liars or a major foreign power allegedly hacking into huge swathes of campaign emails would be Internet-breaking ammo. In this election cycle, that’s a slow news day. As America’s collective bad karma continues to manifest in this strange surreality, we’ve become increasingly un-shockable. It’s been a few weeks since a non-Trump headline has hit this new, higher bar for astonishment. And then Pamela Anderson allegedly poisoned Julian Assange with a vegan Pret a Manger sandwich.

Talk about the start of a great novel!

Republicans and the Court

[ 122 ] October 17, 2016 |

McCain tells Pennsylvania crowd that Republicans will unite against any Supreme Court justice Hillary Clinton nominates. No one should be surprised.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 53

[ 45 ] October 16, 2016 |

This is the grave of Tip O’Neill.


Born in 1912 in Cambridge, O’Neill became involved in politics at a young age, campaigning for Al Smith in 1928. He ran for City Council while a senior at Boston College and suffered his only electoral defeat. In 1936, he was elected the Massachusetts House, starting a long career as a supporter of New Deal-style government programs. He ran for Congress in 1952 and served there until 1987. He was elected Speaker in 1977 after rising through the leadership through the preceding decade. That he called for Richard Nixon’s impeachment at an early point helped raise his profile in the nation. He did not have particularly good relations with Jimmy Carter, but when Reagan took over in 1981, pledged to work with the new president up to an extent, even while often opposing him publicly, which turned out often unfortunately for the people relying on Democratic opposition to the new president’s budget-slashing policies for the environment and working-class. He retired in 1987 and died in 1993.

As part of my mission to make this series even more trivial, I am also starting a new section to document whether an individual has been portrayed in a movie or TV show. O’Neill himself loved the limelight. He starred in an episode of Cheers in 1983 and also appeared as himself in the 1993 film Dave. It does not however seem that anyone has ever played him as a fictional character.

Today, Tip O’Neill working with Ronald Reagan is the wet dream of Broderites everywhere.

Tip O’Neill is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Harwich Port, Massachusetts.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Locker Room Talk

[ 107 ] October 13, 2016 |


Gabriel N. Rosenberg is assistant professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Duke University and the author of The 4-H Harvest: Sexuality and the State in Rural America. His proudest achievement from four years of high school football is that as the starting center he never fumbled a snap.

You already know that Donald Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. And you know that both he and his apologists have responded to this leaked tape by calling it “locker room talk.” In the last few days, jocks, journalists, coaches, and ex-jocks have been rising in defense of locker rooms everywhere to boldly proclaim #NotAllLockerRooms! Many folks seem excited about this response, but it leaves me completely cold.

At the most basic level, this response literalizes “locker room” in a painfully obtuse way. It’s obvious that Trump wasn’t literally engaging in “locker room talk” since he was on a bus. So what is “locker room” a metaphor for? Some research from folks who actually study gender and sexuality could be useful.

“Locker room” is short for male homosocial spaces, particularly those spaces where men are encouraged to exhibit aggression, dominance, and emotional invulnerability. As sociologist C. J. Pascoe notes in her ethnography of a California high school, ritualized bragging about sexual violence is a common way for many adolescent boys to perform masculinity. Pascoe also found that this bragging was consistently validated, countenanced, and sometimes reproduced by authority figures in the school—teachers, coaches, and administrators. Her response to the recent controversy is worth reading in its entirety but I want to foreground this:

“Locker room talk is not ‘just words.’ It is not funny. It is not harmless. And it is certainly not limited to the locker room. This kind of sex talk is a central part of normative masculinity in the global West. It is a way in which some men simultaneously endorse and dodge such endorsement of sexual assault. It is a way in which violence against women and women’s bodies are rendered ‘just jokes’ or ‘guy talk.’ In fact, the girls in my study were often used by young men as props in their competition for status and recognition from one another.”

Parsing whether actual bragging among men in homosocial spaces is identical to or “just as bad” as what Trump said badly misses the point. Bragging need not precisely fit a confession to sexual assault to reproduce the pernicious idea that real men dominate and real women wish to be dominated. Indeed, this is another critical finding of Pascoe and other scholars of American masculinity: talk among boys and men in homosocial spaces contributes to a view of masculinity that makes later sexual harassment and abuse of both girls and other boys more probable.

It’s not surprising, then, that even if one does focus on literal locker rooms, we probably shouldn’t be rushing to defend them. Many locker rooms are awful places! Not only are they where some men brag about sexualized domination in ways that leads to actual sexual violence outside of the locker room; they also happen to be the site of actual sexual violence and harassment in high schools, colleges, and even among professional sports.

I understand the underlying strategic sensibility—I won’t call it wisdom—that parallels the Clinton campaign’s election strategy until recently. Clinton repeatedly claimed that Donald Trump was singularly and historically awful among Republican politicians, such that his campaign represented a departure from the historical appeal of the GOP rather than its natural progression. The strategy gave wavering Republican voters emotional “permission” to dump Trump without feeling like they’d betrayed their party. Similarly, #NotAllLockerRooms offers men an exit ramp from Trump’s violent chauvinism and a way to square masculine identity with a vote for Clinton.

But as many have already noted, this triangulation comes at a serious cost. In the election context, it makes it harder in down-ballot races to tie other Republican candidates to Trump. More broadly, it also makes it harder for people on the left to (correctly) argue that Trump is an expression of the modern Republican party, not a deviation from it. In terms of the politics of sexual assault and Trump’s remarks, this triangulation makes it all the harder to talk about the vile reality of what happens in too many literal and metaphoric locker rooms.

To put it more bluntly, at a moment when Donald Trump is normalizing sexual assault, we are witnessing the obscene spectacle of people rising up to defend the honor of professional athletes. This priority seems, to say the least, misplaced.

Declining Clean Energy Investments

[ 47 ] October 12, 2016 |

Cattle graze near wind turbines that are part of Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group's Gulf Wind Project on Kenedy Ranch south of Kingsville, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 23, 2009. The $787 billion stimulus legislation signed by President Barack Obama includes at least $14 billion in tax breaks for wind and solar electricity and establishes a grant program to help finance projects. When completed, this wind farm will have 118 turbines with a total output of 283 megawatts (MW). Photographer: Eddie Seal/Bloomberg News

Climate change, only the greatest problem facing the world, has received nearly zero attention in the presidential campaign. So it’s easy to forget about it! But the fact that investment in renewables is seriously down worldwide is a very bad thing.

Investment in renewable energy and smart energy technologies totaled $42.2 billion in the third quarter, down 31 percent from the previous quarter and down 43 percent from the third quarter of 2015, a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

Asset finance of utility-scale renewable energy projects fell 49 percent year-on-year to $28.8 billion in the third quarter.

“These numbers are worryingly low even compared to the subdued trend we saw in Q1 and Q2,” Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement.

Chinese investment fell by 51 percent compared with the third quarter last year to $14.4 billion and Japan’s investment was 56 percent lower at $3.5 billion.

In many countries, electricity demand growth is also lower than government forecasts.

“My view is that the Q3 figures are somewhere between a ‘flash crash’ blip and a ‘new normal’,” Liebreich said.

If more transactions emerge, Q3 figures could be revised upwards, but with Q1 and Q2 data down an average 23 percent from the equivalent quarters last year, clean energy investment this year could end up well below last year’s record of $348.5 billion.

Of course, markets change and you can’t take a quarter or two and assume this is a permanent change. But we need not just growing electricity demand to come through renewables, but also the replacement of fossil fuel energy structures with new investments in wind and solar. If that’s not happening and declined investment is something like a new normal as the analyst states, that’s a very bad thing for the planet and all the species who live on it. Including us.

Monetize that Scam!

[ 79 ] October 12, 2016 |


Trump is going to cash in either way.

Facing a tough uphill battle in the last weeks before the election, Donald Trump, newly “unshackled” from his party’s leadership, is offering his voters a fresh way to help him get elected: A “limited edition” Trump Black Card, which does absolutely nothing but remind you that you contributed to his campaign.

For a candidate who loves to hate on elites, this latest fundraising gimmick, promoted in a campaign email to supporters, exudes exclusivity. It’s “non-transferable and “invitation only.” If you contribute a special discounted price of $35, you “activate your Elite Membership.”

The card itself can’t quite make up its mind whether it’s a “Trump card,” which would be a somewhat clever play on words, or a “black card,” connoting a high-end rewards credit card.

And while, yes, the card itself means nothing, the entire right is based upon bilking suckers out of their money. How many would sign up for a Trump card or some kind that was an open grift? Millions. Expect that to happen.

Republican Principles

[ 73 ] October 12, 2016 |


Above: Deb Fischer (R-NE)

I have never seen such principled politicians as the Republicans standing up to Donald Trump.

Three days after calling on Donald Trump to quit the presidential race, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) jumped right back on the Trump train on Tuesday, saying voting for the GOP nominee was “not a tough choice.”

Fischer attributed this head-spinning reversal to Trump’s insistence that he would “never” drop out.

“I plan to vote for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence on November 8,” she said on local radio station KLIN. “I put out a statement…with regard to Mr. Trump’s comments. I felt they were disgusting. I felt they were unacceptable and I never said I was not voting for our Republican ticket.”

RBG: Wrong

[ 112 ] October 12, 2016 |


Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s highly unfortunate comments on Colin Kaepernick are horribly wrong. They also don’t really matter very much as it’s not like she’s likely to be deciding a case where the issues are relevant. It is however worth noting that no one should be touted as a political hero because most everyone holds some really bad positions or says some really stupid things. Including Ginsburg. Should anyone be surprised than an old white person doesn’t really understand what’s going on? No. But we might not want to be getting tattoos of our hero either.

Day is Night, the Sun Sets in the East (ed. Did I Just Watch The Green Berets and Got My Sun Rises and Sets Confused), the Cubs Are Going to Win the World Series, Etc.

[ 122 ] October 11, 2016 |

My personal all-time favorite tweet.

The Wallace Corrective

[ 10 ] October 11, 2016 |


My discussion of Henry Wallace from the other day received a surprising amount of attention around the intertubes. Andy Seal has a response at the U.S. Intellectual History blog, which is a site that should be on the radar of all of you. Seal seeks to correct the historical narrative around Wallace, which my post definitely reflected as I have not done much primary source research into the man.

So, here are a few of the problems I see with Wallace scholarship:

Intellectual histories of the New Deal—even some that are specifically about agriculture, where Wallace had his greatest impact—don’t really include Wallace in their narratives. He’s the boss of the USDA, sure, and the architect of the AAA, but his role is that of a manager, not a thinker or planner. Jess Gilbert’s recent work is a great correction here, but this sentence by Richard Kirkendall is somewhat indicative of the general trend: “Top administrators, especially Secretary Henry A. Wallace, also liked the service intellectual.” Wallace is counted as an administrator, not with the intellectuals.

Large-scale political histories of the New Deal, on the other hand, tend to marginalize Wallace completely, painting him as kind of an outsider in the FDR administration and in the New Deal as a whole—someone who didn’t really fit in with the Washington crowd. That may be somewhat accurate on an interpersonal, cocktail-party level, but Wallace was a considerable force in the New Deal—at least more so, I feel, than he is given credit for by political historians.

This oddball-ization of Wallace is most extensive in much of the biographical treatment of Wallace. Certainly it yields some colorful anecdotes about Wallace’s idiosyncratic habits, but fixation on Wallace’s very un-DC-like personality has led, I feel, to a kind of preemptive dismissal of Wallace as a political actor or intellectual influence on the other power-brokers and intellectual architects of the New Deal. Perhaps my own understanding of Wallace is colored by the recent treatment of Bernie Sanders—just because he seemed so out of place among the Beltway elite, it was presumed that he must be an ineffectual political actor. That judgment, I think, has a few problems with it.

One of the main exhibits in the dismissal of Wallace has long been his unusual, even rather exotic mysticism—or as Loomis put it, his penchant for “following weird religious charlatans who he let influence American policy.” There’s something to that charge, but it is worth saying that U.S. political figures who have been relatively open about the complexities of their religious thoughts and feelings generally have not been treated well by historians, especially not political historians—apart from those, like Kevin Kruse or Darren Dochuk whose research is directly about the interface of faith and politics. Politicians who confess to having an active spiritual life—one that includes extensive self-reflection and active “seeking” or exploration, rather than just a pro forma membership and attendance at a respectable Protestant church—are often treated with a peremptory suspicion. Political historians struggle with religious earnestness.

The historical Wallace seems condemned to be defined by the 1948 Presidential run, rather than his career as a member of FDR’s cabinet. And certainly, as Loomis shows so well, the 1948 campaign had very significant effects both in the short-tem for the left and in the longer-term for the party system; it’s absolutely not wrong to argue that Wallace’s failure in 1948 helped strengthen the two-party system by largely discrediting the idea of a third party in the U.S. Accusations of Communist infiltration in the Wallace campaign helped ratchet up the fear of Communists all over Washington; obviously that would have pretty significant consequences. But the reason Wallace was even running as a third candidate was because of who and what he was during FDR’s administration. By making 1948 so dominant, everything else in Wallace’s career is both overshadowed and foreshadowed by that year, and we can’t get an accurate understanding of his place in the intellectual and political contexts of, say, 1934 or 1942, by always thinking about 1948.

The whole post is pretty interesting. You should check it out.

The NLRB in the Partisan Era

[ 8 ] October 11, 2016 |


I have a new piece up at Democracy Journal about the National Labor Relations Board in the partisan era.

Roosevelt’s advisers intended for the NLRB to be a non-partisan agency; it drew most of its early appointees from government workers. Representing business, labor, and the public equally was in fact a prime goal of many New Deal agencies. The NLRB routinely ruled in favor of unions during these years, leading to conservative members of Congress introducing bills to eliminate the agency. One bill to do so passed the House 258-129 in 1940 before Roosevelt pressured the Senate to kill it. Even with the aim of nonpartisanship, for corporations and conservative politicians, the sheer existence of the agency was an attack on corporate rights.

Roosevelt’s vision of a non-partisan board began to slip during the Eisenhower years, however, when the first member of the business community was appointed. Corporations continued to look to the state to represent its interests over that of workers, even if it had far less power than it did before the New Deal. Unions responded by noting that no unionist had ever served on the NLRB. But corporate America had never accepted the legitimacy of unions, particularly not as an equal counterpart. The Kennedy and Johnson Administration soon after reinstated the tradition of appointing members with no ties to either unions or management. This was, however, short-lived as another Republican, Richard Nixon, would, again, see the board as a partisan agency and name management appointees. But, compared to today, this remained relatively muted through the 1970s.

The modern era of the truly partisan NLRB began in earnest with Ronald Reagan’s first appointee, who was a union-busting management consultant. This was followed later on by a protégé of the staunchly anti-union North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, who had created and distributed both anti-union videos and pamphlets. This broke the façade of neutrality at the NLRB; the Reagan Administration had simultaneously been seeking to gut labor regulations across the board. Bill Clinton was the first President to name union representatives to the NLRB; he appointed three union lawyers, evening out the score while continuing to entrench partisanship. George W. Bush later tilted things sharply back to the right.

Guess what. That partisanship ain’t going away any time soon. And so it becomes absolutely required for organized labor to support Democrats in elections to ensure the functionality of labor law. This is not a good thing in the long run. But in the short term it absolutely makes sense.

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