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Trump Could Easily Win

[ 262 ] July 25, 2016 |

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Yes, I know that the fundamentals are against Trump, like they are against any Republican candidate. But if there’s one thing we should take from the Republican National Convention, it’s that the racist disaster of it did not hurt him at all. The rapidly changing 538 forecast is scary, not because Trump is receiving a major post-convention bump right now, which is expected, but because there is literally nothing he could do that would convince most Republican voters not to vote for him. All the racism, all the complaining among the Republican elite about him, it all means nothing. The New Yorker story about the guy who actually wrote The Art of the Deal exposing what a complete psychopath that Trump is, it means nothing. Trump joking about having sex with his daughter and his history of womanizing, it means nothing to voters who talk about morals and sin.

In the end, I don’t see how this election looks much different than 2012, in that while it is likely that the Democrats will win, it’s far from guaranteed. It’s probably going to rely on the same close states that it usually does. Even an extremist racist unstable candidate like Donald Trump is going to win 45 percent of the vote. It’s going to be a fight to finish, perhaps not only for this election but for the future of the republic given Trump’s complete disdain for democratic norms. All hands on deck.

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The Convention

[ 298 ] July 25, 2016 |

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Watching a few minutes of Bernie Sanders’s speech to his supporters made me very worried about this convention. Not because of Sanders. But because many of his die-hard supporters who are at the convention hate Hillary. When he brings her name up, they still boo. What Clinton needs is a convention that is united and shows stability going forward into the election. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Bernie can’t control these people and they have no intention of being controlled. Some are probably going to jeer Hillary Clinton during her acceptance speech on Thursday. I think we are going to see a really divisive four days with a media narrative about an untrustworthy Hillary Clinton that can’t unite her party, even though the actual Bernie supporters sitting at home watching are rapidly coming around to voting for Clinton. This is very much not good news going forward to the last three months of this horrible election year.

DWS

[ 205 ] July 25, 2016 |

DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL, speaks at the Democratic National Committee's Womens Leadership Forum Issues Conference in Washington, DC on September 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I guess I am just amazed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s determination to address the convention, even though she knows she is going to get booed and shouted down. I imagine she sees herself as a righteous figure and I’m sure she knows this is the pinnacle of her political career, but why would you put yourself through this for nothing? And why would the Clinton team be OK with this?

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 41

[ 16 ] July 24, 2016 |

This is the grave of Thurlow Weed.

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Thurlow Weed was a political kingmaker of the Whig Party. Born in 1797 in New York, Weed became involved in politics at a young age, first supporting DeWitt Clinton and then John Quincy Adams. He was elected to the New York state assembly in 1824, becoming a leader of the Anti-Masonic Party. He took over a series of newspapers and effectively became the boss of the New York Whigs during the 1830s. He was a major player in a series of Whig presidential nominees–Henry Clay in 1832, William Henry Harrison in 1840, Zachary Taylor in 1848, and Winfield Scott in 1852. He was originally close to Millard Fillmore so had hopes when Taylor died that Fillmore would see his policies through, but the new president proved quite susceptible to southern influence and Weed grew distant from him. With the Whigs’ collapse, Weed moved into the new Republican Party and worked to elect John C. Fremont in 1856. Typically for Weed’s ambitions, this ultimately failed. Weed was very close with William Seward and hoped to get him the 1860 Republican nomination. When Abraham Lincoln won it instead, both Seward and Weed were disappointed but supported the nominee. After the Civil War, like Seward, Weed turned far to the right, becoming an important supporter of Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policies, which effectively made him politically irrelevant by 1868. Weed lived until 1882, but had little political pull after this.

Thurlow Weed is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.

How Stepped Pyramids Screwed Us Over, or, Respect to the Lurkers

[ 121 ] July 22, 2016 |

Aerial photo of Portland

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, the worst possible outcome for you tonight was watching Donald Trump’s speech to the Republican National Convention.

Wait, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president? What?

Anyway, tonight was the Portland LGM meetup. Thanks to Anna in PDX for setting it up. Good to meet Amanda in the South Bay. My old friend Solid Citizen was of course there because what would an Oregon meetup be without him? Stepped Pyramids pledged his (I think?) attendance. But Stepped Pyramids was a total no show. Probably couldn’t escape the Trump speech. We were devastated.

What was most interesting though is that almost everyone who came to the event said “oh, I’m sorry, I’m a lurker. I never comment.” It was a whole event full of lurkers. Which was great! I know that most of our readers never comment. So this thread goes out to them. Thanks so much for reading, even if you never comment. We really appreciate it. It was awesome to meet some of you.

So this is an open thread for lurkers. Obviously the most appropriate response is for this thread to get 0 comments since lurkers don’t comment. But if anyone wants to start, now’s a good time. But no pressure!

Portland Meetup Reminder

[ 25 ] July 20, 2016 |

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Hey Portlandia,

Quick reminder that there is an LGM meetup on Thursday evening. We are going to have dinner at 6:30 at Cha! Cha! Cha!, a Mexican restaurant at 5225 N. Lombard. We will then move at 7:30 to the Chill n’ Fill bar next door at 5215 N. Lombard, which has beer, cider, and wine on tap. If you are interested in the dinner and didn’t mention it in comments, do so in order to get an approximately correct reservation. Or just show up for drinks.

Good News in Human Rights

[ 29 ] July 20, 2016 |

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El Salvador’s terrible 1993 law granting amnesty to everyone involved in the government’s horrible terror campaigns of the 1980s was recently overturned by a court, giving some hope of bringing the guilty to justice.

Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan is dead or maybe he could be brought to trial for war crimes too.

Why the Police Need Unions

[ 196 ] July 20, 2016 |

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You can disagree with the police unions’ political positions. You don’t have to support their ideas or their positions. You don’t have to respect the police. But I refuse to accept arguments from the left that the police should not have unions. Jeff Spross has more on why the police need unions.

Cops are workers, too. They are workers put in an almost impossible position. And they need a union to stand up for them.

Go down the standard list of proposed police reforms — more accountability for bad cops, body cameras, demilitarization, more federal monitoring, civilian oversight, transparency, and so on. They’re all worthy, but what they all have in common is getting police to behave better within the role of “police” as we already conceive of it; namely, as the state’s enforcers of law and order, whose primary tools are the threat of violence and the ability to throw people into cages.

What these reforms don’t deal with is the possibility that our society has rendered this role an impossible one to pull off in any sort of successful, functional, or healthy manner.

Cops must deal with everything from gang violence to drug addiction to mental illness to domestic abuse to helping single parents to broken taillights and speeding cars. They respond so often with violence and incarceration because those are the tools we train them to use. They are no more immune to racism than any other human institution in American society. And of course the well-being of cops themselves often resembles what you’d find in veterans from a war zone.

Meanwhile, America’s long history of racism has left many black American communities deeply damaged. And poverty and crime go hand in hand. So when cops are shoved into the role of what is often privileged white society’s sole institutional interaction with black Americans’ world, and left with nothing but violence and incarceration as their tools, of course racism still permeates the way they operate.

Our society has pulled out of supplying the resources, the institutions, and the personnel that could support cops in handling this societal breakdown. “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” said an exhausted David Brown, Dallas’ police chief, in the aftermath of the killing of five cops at a protest march. “Policing was never meant to solve all of those problems.”

Can anyone be surprised when police unions bristle and revolt at reforms aimed at drawing even greater virtue out of cops in the course of performing very difficult tasks? Cops wield an immense amount of power in our society. But that abstract privilege does not change the lived experience of being a cop, which is what the police and the unions that represent them draw upon when deciding how to defend themselves. We can’t just keep trying to make the police better-armed saints in the very places where the injustices of U.S. society collide the hardest. Nor can we assume that combating racism is merely a matter of enlightening individual cops or their departmental culture.

Getting rid of police unions will do precisely nothing to solve any problem with the police the left has. All it will do is make the lives of the police worse and make these problems harder to solve. If you believe that unionbusting is the answer, you need to examine where you are coming from on this. And you need to answer the question of how this will solve the problems of police brutality and racist violence.

Palm Oil Horrors

[ 2 ] July 20, 2016 |

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Because I would do literally anything other than watch 1 second of the Republican National Convention, I’m going to assume that at least some of you hold the same policy. So if you want to learn more about the terrible things going on in the world and why we need to fight it, here’s a new animation on the abuses in the palm oil industry, which is in many of the food products you buy everyday.

Prayers

[ 122 ] July 18, 2016 |

This was the prayer offered as the benediction to today’s session of the Republican National Convention.

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Blue-Green Alliances

[ 11 ] July 18, 2016 |

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There’s a lot of tension between parts of the labor movement and the environmental movement right now. This can often be painted too broadly. Basically, the building trades hate environmentalists for not supporting building every dirty power project and the UMWA hates environmentalists for supporting restrictions on coal. But there are lots of unions with perfectly fine relationships with environmentalists, even if the big public sector unions like SEIU, AFSCME, and AFT could do much, much more to represent the interests of their members in supporting a clean, sustainable environment with plenty of recreational opportunities. But even within those hostile unions, it’s not as if there isn’t room to work with environmentalists on issues where their interests coincide. And this is one of the lessons of so-called blue-green alliances. It’s not as if unions and environmentalists have to agree on everything. They may never be a force marching together for combined ecological and economic justice. Rather, this sort of alliance-building is going to be dependent on the given issue. And that’s OK so long as there is enough dialogue to allow that alliance to happen when it can. That’s what groups like the BlueGreen Alliance try to do. And we are seeing it pay off with both labor and greens outraged over Flint, which has shamefully fallen out of the headlines in the last 2 months.

When you think of an environmental hero, a plumber might not be the first person who comes to mind. But the BlueGreen Alliance gave its “champion” award this year to the union representing plumbers and pipe fitters. The big reason: people like Harold Harrington, of the United Association local 370 in Flint, Michigan. He says during the lead in water crisis there, his members volunteered to go door to door and replace faucets and water filters in people’s homes. “We replaced 650 faucets, just because the filters wouldn’t fit the old faucets. And they’re carbon filters, so they do remove lead,” he says.

Leaders in both the environmental and labor movements say the country could prevent more public health disasters like Flint, if old infrastructure is fixed or replaced — like leaky drinking water pipes, and natural gas pipelines. And at the same time, the repairs would create jobs. Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club. He gives the example of new regulations in California to fix old gas pipelines. They were passed in response to a four-month leak of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – in Aliso Canyon, in southern California. “And there will be lots of jobs and there will be a cut in the pollution from these pipelines,” says Brune.

We need a lot more of this. New infrastructure building is the kind of agenda that should create broad agreement on the left. First, this nation really, really needs it. Second, it would be a huge spur to the economy. Third, that new infrastructure could create a far-more sustainable network of power and transportation than we currently have. But even when that’s not available, working together over issues of the relationship between the environment and everyday people is the kind of thing that can bring unions and greens together.

I have long stated that environmentalism ultimately hurt itself by focusing more on wilderness and wildlife preservation over the broad-based anti-pollution measures that made it politically popular in the 1960s and 1970s. There were lots of good reasons for that–the fact that the Clean Air Acts and Clean Water Acts were so successful that the obvious need for stronger laws diminished, the growth of conservatism making it necessary to defend laws in the courts instead of push for new laws, and the wealthy people funding environmentalism who wanted campaigns around wilderness, rain forest protection, and wildlife protection. Add to this the deindustrialization, outsourcing, and automation transforming the American economy and making working people scared of supporting environmentalism because their employers were threatening to move their jobs overseas (which they were often planning on doing anyway) and the political calculus for environmentalism changed rapidly. Yet this is unfortunate and needs to change. Building alliances around environmental injustice and infrastructure is at least a starting point.

Organizing Seattle Uber Drivers

[ 41 ] July 18, 2016 |

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David Bensman has a really great piece on how the Teamsters are taking the lead on organizing Uber drivers in Seattle and how doing so has relied on the kind of community effort necessary for organizing in the modern day. It’s taken building not only union power but connections within immigrant communities, working with politicians, and building alliances with environmentalists and community activists. This is the sort of campaign that can make a long-term difference and as Uber has begun facing political pushback for its exploitative model, is highly necessary. And how bad are things for drivers now that Uber has flooded the market?

Since Uber and Lyft came to town and recruited ten times the number of drivers that had been issued licenses under the city’s regulatory taxicab regime, earnings of all drivers have tumbled. While Uber started out allowing drivers to keep almost the same amount per mile driven as the regulated taxi drivers were getting, it has since cut that rate from $2.35 to $1.35 per mile. Now Uber drivers charge lower fares, and they get the lion’s share of the business. But with their low mileage rate, they have to work seven 12-hour days each week to make enough to live in the expensive metropolitan region. Mohammed, a somali driver I met near the Al Aqbar mosque that was the first to allow drivers to hold organizing meetings, told me that he knew driving such long hours was dangerous. “But what choice do I have?” he asked. “I have to pay for my car, my apartment, to put food on the table.”

Mohammed told me he pays $600 per week for the car Uber pressured him to lease from Toyota. He also pays the company $1.40 per passenger as a “safe rider fee,” though he can’t figure out what he or his passengers are getting for the money, since background checks are minimal and fingerprinting is unknown. On the day I visited the airport parking lot, Uber drivers waited 40 minutes, on average, before they got a call to pick up a passenger. Some days are better, Mohammed informed me; by now the drivers know when the planes are landing, and they try to time their arrival at the airport to minimize their wait. But even when they time it right, their earnings are limited; a ride from the airport to town only nets them $16, and there’s no tipping. Worse, a recent company-imposed pooling policy requires drivers to pick up multiple passengers at different places to take them to common destinations at severely reduced fares. This “innovation,” communicated to drivers through Uber’s app, really has the drivers grumbling.

Licensed-cab taxi drivers probably have it worse. At nights and on weekends, millennial customers use their Uber app. As a consequence, most licensed drivers work an early shift, from 4:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon, seven days a week. Driving cab number 718, a Somali driver who was afraid to give me his name told me that before Uber arrived, he used to be able to make a decent living driving eight hour days. Now he has a choice; he can drive seven 12-hour days or he can reduce his lifestyle. He’s moved to a cheaper apartment and settled for straitened circumstances. He’s philosophical about his change of life, but he doesn’t think it’s right. “I don’t mind competition,” he told me. “Competition makes everyone play their best game. If you are skilled and have a good strategy, you can win. But this competition is unfair. Uber doesn’t pay the standard mileage rate, its insurance is no good, and it makes its drivers work unsafe hours. This competition you can’t win.” Another driver, an Ethiopian, made the other choice, working seven 12-hour days. “My kids think I’m an ATM machine,” he told me. “I never see them.”

This is total exploitation. There’s nothing wrong per se with having more cabs on the road. There is something very wrong in driving workers into poverty and pooling profits at the top.

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