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Viva Sandino!

[ 63 ] February 26, 2017 |


Glad to see Republicans repudiate the horrific policies of Reagan toward the Sandinistas!

“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Vice President Mike Pence told the Republican Jewish Coalition on Friday night. Meanwhile, Pence’s Twitter account was sending an entirely different message: America stands with Nicaragua.

The person managing Pence’s Twitter account mistakenly tweeted that “the world will know America stands with Israel 🇳🇮 ” and “Under @POTUS Trump, we will stand with Israel 🇳🇮 ” except, there’s one problem: that’s not Israel’s flag. The person tweeting used the Nicaraguan flag in both tweets, which vaguely resembles the Israeli flag if you squint and are completely ignorant of world politics.

If there’s one thing you can say about this administration, it’s that it’s bigly competent.


Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 72

[ 38 ] February 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of Joseph Story.


Born in 1779 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Story graduated from Harvard in 1798 and was admitted to the bar in Salem in 1801. In 1805, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature as a Jeffersonian, a difficult victory in this Federalist stronghold. He very briefly served in Congress, from December 1808 to March 1809, and then returned to the Massachusetts legislature, where he was elected Speaker in 1811. In November 1811, James Madison selected him to serve on the Supreme Court. He was only 32 years old. He would remain there until his death. He is still the youngest person ever selected to the Court.

As a justice, Story would develop into a conservative defender of property rights during an age of industrialization. He became closely aligned with John Marshall, even though he had been a Jeffersonian before this. He fought hard for the supremacy of the Supreme Court over the state courts, not an established fact at this time. It was the Virginia courts that rejected Story’s rulings, again an irony given his background. Overall, his view was one of expansive federal powers, particularly in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee. And in later cases such as Charles River Bridge, when Roger Taney and the Democrats had taken over the court, Story became the chief dissenter, supporting the rights of nascent corporations consistently. Today, he is most famous for ruling for the self-emancipated slaves in the Amistad case. In 1829, he also took a job teaching at Harvard. There, he wrote Commentaries on the Constitution, one of the most important early books on interpreting the Constitution. He died in 1845, the last old-school Early Republic figure in government.

Although you don’t get a lot of obscure Supreme Court justices appearing in film, retried Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun played Story in Amistad.

Joseph Story is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spoke at the dedication cemetery in 1831.

Republican States Rights Doctrine

[ 90 ] February 23, 2017 |


Spicer really laid out Republican states rights doctrine today in about 3 seconds. First, he was asked about transgender people and bathrooms.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the White House had rescinded guidance to public schools on transgender students’ access to facilities that match their gender identity because it ought to be a “states’ rights” issue.

Spicer also pointed to a federal judge in Texas who blocked implementation of the Obama administration’s guidance last August. Obama had instructed the Department of Education to instruct public schools not to discriminate against transgender students.

“It’s a states’ right issue. And that’s entirely what he believes,” Spicer said, referring to President Donald Trump, “that if a state wants to pass a law or rule or an organization wants to do something in compliance with the state law, that’s their right, but it shouldn’t be the federal government getting in the way of this.”

A mere few minutes later, he was asked about states that had legalized marijuana.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.

“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.”

It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.

And there you have it. States’ rights for policies that President Bannon and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III when states do something they like, full-throated federal repression when states do something they don’t like. Why, it’s almost as if “states’ rights” is not a principle!

Today in Trump’s America

[ 106 ] February 23, 2017 |


White people feel emboldened to kill people of color in Trump’s America.

A Missouri man is accused of shooting and killing an Indian immigrant engineer he thought was Middle Eastern and wounding two others after shouting “get out of my country” and opening fire.

Adam Purinton was arrested after fleeing Austin’s Bar and Grill, a suburban Kansas City restaurant that was packed Wednesday night when he allegedly blasted off several rounds at 7:15 p.m.

Cops arrested the 51-year-old at an Applebee’s hours later in Clinton, Mo., some 80 miles away after they were able to negotiate with him over the phone early Thursday morning.

The fatal victim was identified by the Kansas City Star as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an aviation engineer at technology company Garmin whose Facebook page says he is from Hyderabad, India.

Surprised ICE doesn’t sign this guy up.

The American Gestapo

[ 99 ] February 23, 2017 |


Above: Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents

ICE is the American version of the Gestapo and they should be demonized as such, individually.

An undocumented woman in desperate need of brain surgery has been forcibly removed from a Texas hospital — and her relatives in New York fear she could lose her life, a family representative said early Thursday.

Sara Beltran-Hernandez was detained after trying to migrate to the Big Apple from El Salvador without proper documentation in November 2015, family spokeswoman Melissa Zuniga told the Daily News. Beltran-Hernandez has been held at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas ever since, as her Queens-based family members have tried to petition for her asylum.

Earlier this month, Beltran-Hernandez, 26, began complaining about severe headaches, nosebleeds and memory loss. Last week, she collapsed and was subsequently taken to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with a brain tumor and determined that she needed surgery.

But Zuniga told The News that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents forcibly removed Beltran-Hernandez from the Huguley Hospital in Fort Worth on Wednesday evening.

“They had her tied up from hands and ankles,” Zuniga said. “She was brought in a wheelchair and is not being given treatment even though her nose continues to bleed and she has told them her head is exploding.”

Beltran-Hernandez had been put on a surgery waitlist over the weekend, according to Zuniga. But when Beltran-Hernandez’ relatives called on Wednesday night, the surgery was suddenly off the table.

“ICE was preparing paper work to get her back to the detention center,” Zuniga said.

We need to find out who these terrible human beings and confront them. We need to make working for ICE so shameful for these people that they quit. More directly, we need to take radical action to stop this. Maybe I don’t know what the right path is, but we need to do something. This is horrifying and despicable and we cannot allow it to continue.


[ 290 ] February 23, 2017 |


Watching Glenn Greenwald desperately fling his hands and talk VERY LOUD to dissemble from his role in electing Donald Trump through funneling everything about Hillary Clinton the Russian propaganda arm known as Wikileaks gave him throughout the election is pathetic. Only Greenwald and Katrina vanden Heuvel know the real truth–that by focusing on Russian interference in American elections, that we are engaging in a NEW COLD WAR that makes any criticism of Glenn NEO-MCCARTHYISM! If you don’t believe this YOU ARE A DESPICABLE LIAR!!!! AND A REDBAITER YOU JOE MCCARTHY YOU!!!*

No one should ever take Glenn Greenwald seriously again. He’s a malevolent force of pure self-righteousness who simply refuses to consider that he is part of a problem instead of the only truth teller of whatever topic he chooses to write about.

*Post written in classic Greenwald all-caps blog commenting style. I hope my imitation is acceptable to you.

Today in Republican Priorities

[ 96 ] February 22, 2017 |


These are nice people.

Under CEP, schools or school districts where 40 percent of the student body directly qualifies for free meals (via food stamps or other nutrition assistance or welfare programs) may offer those meals free to all students. The school is then reimbursed at a variable rate, according to the percentage of low-income students […]

Despite these successes, however, CEP is not universally beloved. The program has attracted particular ire from House Republicans, who attempted to reform the program in their version of last year’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. They believe CEP unfairly subsidizes the meals of kids who could afford to pay full price, at enormous cost to taxpayers, and have advocated for a 60-percent threshold to determine a school or district’s eligibility. Although they were ultimately unable to raise the CEP threshold in the last Congress, they now have a Republican president, in addition to a congressional majority.

Can’t create dependency in those lazy 7 year olds! If they want to eat, they need to work! Sadly, this is not far from established conservative doctrine.

Party Involvement

[ 169 ] February 22, 2017 |


Given the skepticism many LGM commenters consistently express over protest, you may be warmed to note the huge increase in involvement within local Democratic Party politics.

All across the country, party meetings that had once been sleepy affairs, dominated by Robert’s Rules of Order and a handful of graying activists, have become standing room only. The overflowing crowds have sent stunned party regulars scrambling to find new venues, while the surge in interest, and the coinciding fundraising boost, is enabling local chapters to hire staff and build infrastructure in previously unthinkable ways. On the national level, Democratic politicians have been rushing to respond to the sudden outpouring.

“I’m as busy this year as I was at any time last year in the heat of a huge election,” said Mark Fraley, chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Party in Indiana.

Fraley said he received 65 emails in a single weekend from people requesting to become precinct chairs, a thankless job that normally requires begging and pleading to get someone to fill. The county party has restructured and added five deputy chairs to channel all the energy, and created six new committees.

“What’s very different is that it’s made the party younger. Young people never really wanted to have as much of a meaningful part in the Democratic Party infrastructure. Now that doesn’t seem true anymore,” he said.

The story follows with a bunch of examples of individual activists and their stories.

Of course, we need both protest and political engagement. Do one or the other. But do something!

Preventing Panic?

[ 139 ] February 21, 2017 |


As the Trump administration seeks to implement precisely what he said he would do and deport every undocumented immigrant in the country (although somehow I think the Irish undocumented immigrants won’t quite be treated the same as those from El Salvador and I wonder why that is….), it tries to claim that it wants to prevent panic while destroying lives and families. OK. Because what it is really doing is Making America White Again.

The new policies represent a sharp break from the final years of the Obama administration and could reverse a reduction in the number of deportations in President Barack Obama’s last years in office.

After deportations reached a record high of 434,000 in 2013, pressure from immigration advocates prompted the Obama administration to implement new guidelines that focused enforcement on hardened criminals. The number of people deported in 2015 was just over 333,000, the lowest number since 2007.

Kelly’s new DHS policies considerably broaden the pool of those who are prioritized for deportations, including undocumented immigrants who have been charged with crimes but not convicted, those who commit acts that constitute a “chargeable criminal offense,” and those who an immigration officer concludes pose “a risk to public safety or national security.”

The Trump administration “is using the specter of crime to create fear . . . in the American community about immigrants in order to create an opening to advance the indiscriminate persecution of immigrants,” said Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, deputy vice president at the National Council of La Raza. “This administration is saying, ‘Now, everybody is going to be a priority,’ and the devil may care.”

DHS officials emphasized that the guidelines in Kelly’s memos are focused on carrying out Trump’s vision and that they hew closely to the language of the executive orders. And they said the secretary has written the memos to abide by federal immigration laws established by Congress.

It is my feeling that ICE agents should be seen as people committing crimes against humanity. If you choose to deport people for a living, you are a major cog in an unjust machine. These are the active enemies of everything that you should hold dear about this nation. And they deserve to be treated with utter contempt by everyone who knows them. There are plenty of other law enforcement or public safety jobs they could hold. This is the most despicable possible job. Shun them as racist thugs.

Ellison or Perez?

[ 364 ] February 21, 2017 |


Above: Idiotic bullshit

I have stated several times that the DNC race is an overheated attempt to relitigate the primary at great damage to the party. It barely matters who the head of the DNC is. The idea that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was the greatest enemy to democracy since Benito Mussolini was so ridiculously out of proportion to what was actually going on that it should have led everyone involved to rethink their lives. However, in the end, as much as I absolutely think Tom Perez is a wonderful leader and the greatest Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins, I have to support Keith Ellison for this role. That’s for two reasons. First, I’m uncomfortable with the people who have gotten behind Perez, in particular remnant conservative elements who seem to think that a Muslim as DNC chair would turn off voters. No. That’s a failure of leadership and Islamophobic. Second, the energy is behind Ellison. He represents a more leftist future for that party that I feel will energize voters. But again, maybe it doesn’t matter because both candidates are great and both are avoiding following New York Times stories about white men voting Republican as policy preferences. Steve Phillips:

If progressive whites are defecting because they are uninspired by Democrats, moving further to the right will only deepen their disillusionment. But if the next D.N.C. chairman can win them back, the country’s demographic trends will tilt the field in Democrats’ favor. As Mrs. Clinton’s popular vote margin showed, there is still a new American majority made up of a meaningful minority of whites and an overwhelming majority of minorities. Not only is there little evidence that Democrats can do significantly better with those white working-class voters who are susceptible to messages laced with racism and sexism, but that sector of the electorate will continue to shrink in the coming years. Nearly half of all Democratic votes (46 percent) were not white in 2016, and over the next four years, 10 million more people of color will be added to the population, as compared with just 1.5 million whites.

Keith Ellison, a D.N.C. chairman candidate, has a proven record of engaging core Democratic voters rather than chasing the elusive conservative whites, and the party would be in good hands under his stewardship. (Thomas E. Perez, the former labor secretary, has less electoral history, but his reliance on political superstars such as the strategist Emmy Ruiz, who delivered victories for Democrats in Nevada and Colorado, is encouraging.)

Whoever prevails as chairman must resist the pressure to follow an uninformed and ill-fated quest for winning over conservative white working-class voters in the Midwest. The solution for Democrats is not to chase Trump defectors. The path to victory involves reinspiring those whites who drifted to third-party candidates and then focusing on the ample opportunities in the Southwest and the South.

Mrs. Clinton came closer to winning Texas than she did Iowa. She fared better in Arizona, Georgia and Florida than she did in the traditional battleground state of Ohio. The electoral action for Democrats may have once been in the Rust Belt, but it’s now moving west and south.

Either candidate will pursue these voters as the base of the future. So in the end, I’m good either way. And you should be too.


[ 18 ] February 21, 2017 |


The consensus is that Alexander Acosta is a less horrible choice for Secretary of Labor than Andy Puzder. But that doesn’t mean he is good:

Even though Acosta is a more mainline conservative than Puzder, labor groups have a lot of policy concerns. Obama’s Labor Department pushed through a number of policies, including executive orders that used the federal government’s contracting power to elevate wages and increase labor protections for federal contract workers, rules that doubled the salary threshold that qualifies workers for overtime pay, and required retirement advisers to act in their clients’ best interests.

The department also sought to address employee misclassification, increase corporate responsibility for franchisees and independent contractors, and aggressively pursue labor law violations in sectors with vulnerable low-wage workers. Republicans and their allies in the business community have been gunning to wipe away that work from the get-go. With Puzder’s nomination, Obama labor alums were concerned that a GOP Labor Department would succeed in doing so. Republicans are hoping that Acosta will be equally dedicated to rolling back Obama’s labor legacy. As Bloomberg BNA reports, conservatives further hope that a Republican DOL will go on offense to scrutinize the legality of labor union affiliates like the Fight for $15 and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, both of which actively lobbied against Puzder’s nomination.

As more information emerges on Acosta, don’t count on unions and other progressive groups to take his confirmation lying down. They still see the labor secretary confirmation as an important opportunity to hold Trump to his campaign promise to be a president for working Americans. “Together, workers will stay in the streets to demand a labor secretary who is a champion for working people and fights to represent their interests in our economy,” Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement.

With Republicans wanting a national right-to-leech law very, very badly, Acosta being less egregiously awful than Puzder may not matter too much in the end, although this certainly would not pass a Senate filibuster if it still exists. In any case, it’s going to be a long, bad 4 years for American workers.

Automation and Working Class Displacement

[ 346 ] February 21, 2017 |


This piece on automation in the Permian Basin oil fields is telling for both why companies want to automate all their jobs and why this is disastrous for working-class Americans. A few bits:

In the land where oil jobs were once a guaranteed road to security for blue-collar workers, Eustasio Velazquez’s career has been upended by technology.

For 10 years, he laid cables for service companies doing seismic testing in the search for the next big gusher. Then, powerful computer hardware and software replaced cables with wireless data collection, and he lost his job. He found new work connecting pipes on rigs, but lost that job, too, when plunging oil prices in 2015 forced the driller he worked for to replace rig hands with cheaper, more reliable automated tools.

“I don’t see a future,” Mr. Velazquez, 44, said on a recent afternoon as he stooped over his shopping cart at a local grocery store. “Pretty soon every rig will have one worker and a robot.”

Oil and gas workers have traditionally had some of the highest-paying blue-collar jobs — just the type that President Trump has vowed to preserve and bring back. But the West Texas oil fields, where activity is gearing back up as prices rebound, illustrate how difficult it will be to meet that goal. As in other industries, automation is creating a new demand for high-tech workers — sometimes hundreds of miles away in a control center — but their numbers don’t offset the ranks of field hands no longer required to sling chains and lift iron.

And despite all the lost workers, United States oil production is galloping upward, to nine million barrels a day from 8.6 million in September. Nationwide, with a bit more than one-third as many rigs operating as in 2014, production is not even down 10 percent from record levels.

Some of the best wells here in the Permian Basin that three years ago required an oil price of over $60 a barrel for an operator to break even now need about $35, well below the current price of about $53.

Much of the technology has been developed by the aviation and automotive industries, along with deepwater oil exploration, over more than a decade. But companies drilling on land were slow to adapt until oil prices crashed and companies needed to get efficient quickly or go out of business.

All the big companies, and many smaller ones, have organized teams of technicians that collect well and tank data to develop complex algorithms enabling them to duplicate the design for the most productive wells over and over, and to repair valves and other parts before they break down.

The result is improved production and safety, but also a far smaller work force, and one that is increasingly morphing from muscle to brain power.

Pioneer Natural Resources, one of the most productive West Texas producers, has slashed the number of days to drill and complete wells so drastically that it has been able to cut costs by 25 percent in wells completed since early 2015. The typical rig that drilled eight to 12 wells a year just a few years ago now drills up to 16. Last year, the company added nearly 240 wells to its Permian Basin inventory without adding new employees.

The problem with automation is not its existence per se. After all, the search for greater efficiency has existed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The problem with automation today is that as opposed to previous eras where automation might cause short-term displacement but would absorb those unemployed workers in other jobs in a booming industrial economy, today’s era of automation leaves no hope for equally good work in an economy where work itself is being phased out. There might be space for a few workers who can adapt to tech-oriented jobs, but many of these workers cannot. This will likely cause massive social problems. There simply are millions of Americans who will never go to college. They do not have that ability or desire. There has to be good jobs that pay well for them. If we get rid of all of these jobs, as it seems that we are, then what is the future for them?

This is why I think the Trump election may be seen in the future as the first of the Automation Era. The lack of economic opportunity creates desperation, hatred, and appeals to radicalism. It leads to a greater embrace of racism, ethnic nationalism, and violence. Of course Trump has no real answer for these workers in terms of reversing automation or creating a welfare state where the loss of work doesn’t matter. But he very much had an appealing message for white working class voters who long for the better days of the past mythologized or not (and it’s a little of both) in ways that include, but is not exclusive to, stable jobs that paid well and allowed the movement of workers into the middle-class. Yes, that’s racialized too. But it also doesn’t mean that they are wrong about their own position in the economy. The endless amount of data that demonstrate growing income inequality, working-class stagnation, debt, and the fact that nearly all the economic gains of the last 20 years have gone to the 1 percent are very real things. Unemployment may be low right now, but that doesn’t mean that the economy is doing well for working people of any race. It’s not. It means they can get a low-paying job. Or probably 2 or 3 of those low-paying jobs. Working on an oil rig is not a fun job. The Permian Basin in shockingly hot and awful (I would argue it is the single worst place in the United States). This is dangerous labor. There might be good reason to automate it. But it also pays well. And when you are trying to feed your family, you will sacrifice a lot to make that happen. If you don’t feel like you can feed your family, you will do anything to lash out at those who you think are causing your life’s problems. While we might want them to do that lashing at their employers, that has proven fleeting in American history. It’s going to be others they lash out against.

These are very hard questions. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know we have to find a future for working-class Americans of all races where they are paid well for dignified labor, whatever that might be. I have no problem with Universal Basic Income except that everything in American history says that people will largely reject it as a welfare program that is unrelated to work and therefore creates dependence. UBI strikes at core American mythology. So I don’t think it is feasible or even if it is, it isn’t good enough. We need a real jobs plan to put people to work. That might mean some industrial protectionism, even while we do not reject globalism in much of our society. It almost certainly means a massive green infrastructure program that ensures that our wind energy future is built from union-made, American-produced steel. That’s just a start. But we have to support and articulate that future. Because a world without decently-paid working-class jobs is a disastrous, awful, horrible world of massive instability. You don’t want to live in that version of the United States. And you are just beginning to find out why.

In a related point, you may also find this interesting, but I found it kind of wanky.

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