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The Electoral College: It’s Always Been Bad

[ 72 ] February 15, 2017 |


Above: Birney or Bust

An essay from a historian on how the electoral college facilitates minority rule and should be abolished.

Sixteen years earlier, the defense of majority rule was far less urgent. Not unlike those who blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore’s loss in 2000, or Jill Stein for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, Lincoln blamed a third-party candidate, James G. Birney of the Liberty Party, for Henry Clay’s loss in 1844. Many Whigs, including Lincoln, complained that, by voting for Birney, the antislavery Whigs of New York had made their idea of perfect the enemy of good. James K. Polk carried the country by only 38,000 of 2.7 million votes cast. He won New York by only 5,106. If Birney’s 15,814 votes in that state had gone to the Whigs, Lincoln concluded, “Mr. Clay would now be president, Whig principles in the ascendant, and Texas not annexed; whereas by the division, all that either had at stake in the contest, was lost.”

Lincoln’s counterfactual assessment may have been flawed. In reality, it was Clay’s wavering on the Texas question that probably cost him New York. Furthermore, unlike Gore and Clinton, Clay would have lost the national popular vote (albeit narrowly) even if he had won New York, and with it the presidency—a state of affairs that seems not to have concerned Lincoln.

As a member of the House of Representatives in 1848, while maintaining that Congress best understood the popular will, Lincoln conceded that the president “is elected by them [the people], as well as congress is.” Lincoln had been a Whig candidate for presidential elector in Illinois in 1840 and 1844, and would be again in 1852. (Given that Illinois was a solidly Democratic state, he never had a chance to actually cast an electoral vote.) He was certainly aware that the framers of the Constitution had given the power to elect the president to electors chosen by the state legislatures and not to the people. Yet by 1832—sixteen years before Lincoln addressed Congress on the issue—every state but South Carolina provided for the popular election of electors, a development that created the persistent misconception, or illusion, that the American people elect their president.

Today that illusion is beginning to crumble. The Electoral College has defied the will of a plurality of American voters for the second time in only sixteen years. Despite acting as the representative of the nation as a whole, the president is elected on the same basis as Congress, with each state receiving a number of electors equal to the total number of its senators and representatives, and each (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska) holding a separate winner-take-all election to determine its preferred presidential candidate. In any election for a deliberative body (which the founders intended the Electoral College to be), a political party can win more votes overall and yet find itself a minority if the other party wins more seats but by smaller margins. For example, more Americans voted for Democratic Senate candidates than for Republican candidates in 2016; yet Republicans won 22 out of the 34 seats up for election. Thus the current workings of the Electoral College, with the division of a national election into fifty state elections (plus Washington, D.C.), transfer that potential disparity to the executive branch.

Under Lincoln, democratic government prevailed, with emancipation serving as both a means to that end as well as an end in itself. Over a century and a half later, our new president took his oath on the same Bible Lincoln used and noted that “what truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.” This is a laudable sentiment. It would therefore behoove the American people to consider whether our Constitution has allowed minority rule to become too common to be admissible.

Leaving behind the fact that Lincoln was correct about Birney throwing the election to Polk, the Electoral College has always been horrible.


Stone Cold Sane

[ 153 ] February 15, 2017 |


Today in the annals of #NotTheOnion, we have this column at Fox News.

Donald Trump is stone cold sane.

When a man acquires billions of dollars through complex real estate transactions, invests in many countries, goes on to phenomenal success in television and turns his name into a worldwide brand, it is very unlikely that he is mentally unstable.

When the same man obviously enjoys the love and respect of his children and his wife, who seem to rely on him for support and guidance, it is extraordinarily unlikely that he is mentally unstable.

OK, you say that other than being lies, that’s not really evidence. But what about this?

And when that very same man attracts to his team the kind of intellect and gravitas represented (to name just a few) by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general and commander of the U.S. Central Command, he cannot be mentally deranged. Period. It is a statistical impossibility.

The intellect and gravitas of Mr. “Pyramids Were Built to Store Grain” and the living embodiment of Nathan Bedford Forrest is indeed impressive. Yet, I’m not quite yet convinced that Trump cannot be mentally deranged. But this, now this is indisputable evidence!

Anecdotally, by the way, I have never had one bad Trump experience. Not one. I own several of his ties — all of them of the highest quality. I have stayed in his hotels and never had a single complaint (and I am a born complainer). I have eaten in his New York restaurant — flawless service, excellent food. I own an apartment at Trump Place in Manhattan. Impeccable design, sturdy construction, fabulous amenities. A mentally unstable man would be unlikely to deliver superior products across multiple industries, don’t you think?

SOLD! No one who produces ties can be insane, no matter if he doesn’t actually know how to wear one. This is the strongest argument I have ever heard. It’s also statistically impossible that a man who eats a taco salad can be opposed to Mexican migration!

And now the punchline:

I should note that nothing I am saying should besmirch the reputations of men like President Abraham Lincoln or Sir Winston Churchill, both of whom are said to have fought the ravages of major depression or bipolar disorder. One was instrumental in ridding America of slavery. The other was instrumental in saving the world from tyranny. Mahatma Gandhi, by the way, also reportedly suffered from depression. Psychiatric illness does not, a priori, disqualify a person from rendering extraordinary service to mankind.

Mind you, neither Lincoln nor Churchill nor Gandhi led a nation after becoming a business sensation and television star. That trifecta defines one man: President Donald J. Trump.

I got nothing.

You’d like to think that an article so piss poor, so reeking of desperation, would lead even Fox News readers to question it. But I’m probably naive.

Meanwhile, back in the real world.

Sweet mother of god…..

What Will Get Congressional Republicans to Act?

[ 29 ] February 15, 2017 |


I know, you are saying the answer is nothing. But that isn’t quite true. The answer is making them scared for their jobs. If they fear that repealing the ACA and not standing up to Trump will lead to them losing their next election, many of them will respond. And don’t think that isn’t possible in many districts.

A district going from 29 points to 6 points is a real swing. Mind you, these are the types of elections where Democrats supposedly never vote and of course they haven’t for at the last 8 years. If you were to see a 23 point swing in every district in the country, you have a Democratic-controlled House and Senate in 2019. And while it makes no sense to extrapolate much from a single election, there are real possibilities here. You have very angry and motivated Democrats and increasingly despondent Republicans. So where to turn next? Obviously, people are focusing on the Virginia and New Jersey governor elections. And we should be recruiting candidates for 2018 but Bernie and Hillary partisans have to hurt the nation through their civil war over DNC Chair. Thanks jerks.

But there is a right now election you should be paying very close attention to:

That’s Tom Price’s seat. Trump won this district by 1 point. If Democrats have any chance of winning the House in 2018, it starts right here. This is a must-win district. It’s precisely the type of place that underperforms for Trump–a wealthy suburban district. Luckily, there is a solid candidate and the whole thing should be a referendum on Trump and the ACA, again, given that it’s Price’s seat. Jon Ossoff is the main Democratic running against a boatload of Republicans. Daily Kos is funneling a bunch of money his way. You can too. He’s running explicitly against Trump. Help him out if you can.

And if Ossoff wins, watch Republicans begin to freak out about 2018. Which of course might just mean more voter suppression.

“General Strikes” versus Other, Real, Actions

[ 23 ] February 14, 2017 |


There’s a lot of talk going on around the left right now about a “general strike” to be held on Friday, or whenever another faction says it should be. This is pretty absurd. For there to be a general strike, you have to, you know, have the support of actual workers. Right now, this is just people who want to shut shit down seeing an opportunity to shut shit down without doing the work to make it happen. So expect on Friday to see a hippie on a bicycle riding through downtown while shouting “GENERAL STRIKE!” to bewildered workers.

On the other hand, there is all sorts of rooms for massive actions that actually engage the affected communities. The revival of “Day Without an Immigrant” protests that we saw in Milwaukee this week is very heartening. And I could see it spreading very quickly based in immigrant communities.

According to Washingtonian magazine, a number of local restaurants and other businesses have begun bracing for a national strike on February 16, in which immigrants—particularly those from Latinx communities—have been urged to stay home from work. The grassroots protest has seemingly been organized by word of mouth and across Latinx social media channels.

“One of our delivery men who’s Latino told our kitchen about it, and then it started spreading from there,” Rose Previte, owner of DC’s Compass Rose restaurant, told Washingtonian. “In the kitchen, all but the chef and one line cook are immigrants and asked if they could participate. “My staff was like, ‘We feel this is something we have to do.’ They felt really strongly about it. I was like, ‘Okay, absolutely.’”

While it’s unclear at the moment just how widespread the strike may be both within DC and elsewhere, a video posted to the popular Reforma Migratoria immigration activist page on Facebook calls for participants everywhere to refrain not only from working during the strike, but also shopping, buying gasoline, and sending their children to school.

This is something more along the lines of what such a “general strike” would look like if it happens. I doubt that Thursday you will see much in the way of a mass action in DC or anywhere else. But notice the huge difference here. This is immigrants doing this themselves with a particular aim in mind, spreading the idea through their own communities, and doing the hard work of giving the idea credence. If you are going to see such an event, this is how it happens. The workers are the leaders and the radicals are the followers, basically. The other way around, not really. Lenin was wrong about the vanguard, except in terms of violently seizing power and creating a dictatorship. In a democratic system, the impetus needs to come from below.

Iowa Public Safety Union Solidarity

[ 26 ] February 14, 2017 |


When Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans pushed through their draconian anti-public union law, one of the ways they succeeded is to cleave the police and firefighter unions off of the other public sector unions. This is the also the plan in Iowa. But the Iowa cops and firefighters aren’t going to play the patsy, even though they are as conservative as other cops and firefighters.

And although the legislation would exempt public safety workers like firefighters and police officers from some of the law’s broadest changes, many public safety workers showed up in uniform and rallied alongside the hundreds of other union workers who filled the Capitol.

“It’s not very popular to attack us these days,” said Jon Thomas, a police officer and a member of Teamsters Local 238. “I’m a Republican. I have very conservative values. Most of my coworkers in public safety are Republicans, and there’s plenty of union members who are Republicans. But we didn’t vote to get stabbed in the back while we protect and serve our communities. … The truth is, though, police and fire don’t want (to be) carved out. We stand with our teachers, our snow plow drivers, our public works personnel, our correctional officers and nurses.”

Of course, this is just one officer who is mentioned and I don’t know how deep the police support for resisting this is. But the bill itself is truly horrible, a Wisconsin level that would only allow bargaining over wages. Given how states work, where wages are often the one thing that public sector unions can’t really bargain over, this is the death knell of public unionism in Iowa. And that’s of course the point.

Say what you want about any police officer who votes Republican and then is outraged by Republicans doing what they say they will do, they aren’t any more low information voters than most other voters. The point is to pressure these politicians not to do this. We want the police on our side for this. Stripping the police of collective bargaining rights, as has been the response on much of the left to racist police violence isn’t going to help stop said racist police violence and will take away the one possible path of solidarity between the police and the left.

The DNC Chair

[ 487 ] February 14, 2017 |

I am through with the discussion over the next DNC Chair. While the Democratic Party should be getting ready to win a hopefully wave election in the House in 2018, different factions of the party are relitigating the primary. SO you have this endless back and forth between Keith Ellison and Tom Perez, both excellent candidates and great progressives, which is really just an excuse for angry partisans to hate on each other. This is beyond worthless. We deserve to not control government if we can’t have enough party discipline to just elect someone to what is an overrated position that did not cost Bernie the primary but which should have someone competent in it for once.

Here’s the thing: If you think Hillary Clinton is a horrible person who is the enemy of the Democratic Party, you are the problem. If you think Bernie Sanders is a horrible person who is the enemy of the Democratic Party, you are also the problem. Quit being part of the problem and get to work doing something useful.

….407 comments in and I realize that while I hoped this post would help people rethink their vitriol, it’s actually just given both some Sanders commenters and some Clinton commenters another excuse to be assholes. Again, you are part of the problem. Why not do something useful instead of fight this war?

Treason in Defense of Health Care?

[ 338 ] February 14, 2017 |


I know people are desperate right now and I don’t want to be overly chiding of our commenters. But the discussion in this post about California secession is beyond useless. This is a horrible idea by blue staters who don’t want to face up to the real work of saving the United States from fascism. Any secession by California or anyone else would be a complete and unmitigated disaster for any number of reasons, including the fact that it would lead to a civil war and that even if successful, would lead to tens of millions of people stuck in a right-wing extremist nation. It’s the latest version of “we should have let the South secede,” which, you know, would have left millions of people in slavery. There will never be a good argument for blue state secession. It’s a counterproductive fantasy. Let’s focus on the real work at hand and quit fantasizing. This is your nation. Do what you need to do to make it work.

This Day in Labor History: February 14, 1940

[ 7 ] February 14, 2017 |


On February 14, 1940, a group of Navajos named Scott Preston, Julius Begay, Frank Goldtooth, and Judge Many Children wrote a letter of protest to their congressman, John Murdock of Arizona, against the livestock reduction program pressed upon them by Commission of Indian Affairs head John Collier. Noting how the program would radically transform their economy, driving them into greater poverty, they wrote, in part:

The Navajo Indians are not opposed to grazing permits as such, in fact we believe they heartily approve them if the manner of issuance is fair and the limits are sufficiently high to permit the family to exist.

For instance, in our own district (No.3) the sheep unit is set at 282. If a person has 5 horses, that would be the equivalent to 25 sheep; 1 head of cattle is the equivalent of 4 sheep. A Navajo family will consume 150 head of sheep or more per year depending on the size of the family. In addition to this amount, it is necessary to sell for their staples enough to keep the family from starvation. Then each family must be prepared to meet natural losses. We understand the families with smaller than the maximum are not permitted to raise that limit, but those above must be reduced.

282 sheep units is not sufficient for even the bare existence of a moderate size Navajo family without additional income, and such a policy will mean the impoverishment of the entire Navajo tribe.

The creation of Navajo sheep culture was already a response to the forced transformation of Navajo work culture around raiding and hunting in the face of white domination in 1860s, a phenomenon faced by many tribes during these years. Many tribes faced allotment under the Dawes Act, forced into small farming economies they were not equipped for and losing their lands to whites as part of the larger strategy to dispossess indigenous people of their land, culture, and work traditions.

The Navajo had begun integrating sheep into their work culture in 1598, as Spanish flocks wandered north out of Mexico into what is today the American Southwest, along with other domesticated animals that transformed what was possible for Native American life. While sheep and weaving became very important to Navajo life, it was originally another animal, the horse, that primarily redefined their work culture. Engaging heavily in raiding well into New Mexico, where they, along with the Comanches, made the Spanish colony and then Mexico, as well as the Puebloan peoples who lived there, reside in constant fear, the U.S. put a stop to this when, in 1864, the Navajo were rounded up and forced on the Long March to the Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. There they were dumped for four years and about 25 percent of the population died. Reports of the conditions at the Bosque Redondo went public at the same time that the nation was engaging in Reconstruction and there was enough outrage in that rare moment when white Americans cared enough about people of color to do something to help that the Navajo were allowed to return to a large chunk of their lands, in no small part because it seemed to have no economic value to whites. But in doing so, they had to give up their raiding and horse culture ways. Sheep and weaving became ever more important to Navajo work culture after this.

In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed John Collier as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. For most tribes, this was a breath of fresh air. Collier rejected the corrupt and genocidal policies of the past, attempting to treat indigenous Americans as relative equals and respect their cultural heritage. Collier and New Deal land managers, heavily influenced by the Dust Bowl, saw Navajo sheep herding practices as incredibly destructive to the land and completely unsustainable. They noted the erosion transforming the land, the gullies turning into deep canyons, and the impossibility of this continuing for long. By 1931, the Navajo owned perhaps one million sheep on land with a carrying capacity of 500,000; they had only owned about 15,000 in the 1870s, but their population had also exploded from 8000 people in 1868 to 39,000 in 1930. So Collier acted, even though the Navajo themselves were not brought on board. Collier respected the Navajos, but felt he needed to save them from themselves. In 1934, the first of the sheep and goat slaughters took place. By 1935, the Navajos were actively resisting. People refused to sell their livestock to anyone who would kill them. By 1937, in the face of this resistance, Collier and the Department of the Interior issued a new plan setting a cap on the amount of livestock each extended family could own.

Weaving and harvesting the sheep provided about half the cash for the Navajos and nothing was done to replace that. Much of this loss was gendered. Weaving was the source of women’s income in a matrilineal society. It had provided women with economic authority even as the pre-1864 Navajo economy was forcibly terminated. They controlled their own means of production. Collier and the other New Dealers did not see this at all. Men handled the relationships with whites and so the New Dealers never even spoke to women, nor did they think of asking about them. With control over the means of production stripped away, masculine economic and political dominance was reinforced and the gendered norms of Navajo work and life were transformed.

The irony of this is that Collier was right. The Navajo were vastly overgrazing the land and they refused to admit it. It was absolutely not sustainable. But in the tradition of white northerners pushing their ideas of free labor upon African-Americans in the days after slavery without asking the ex-slaves what they wanted, Collier shoving his reforms down the throats of the Navajo without their consent resulted not only in a transformation of the intersection between work and culture, impoverishing many already poor people, but also created a long-term resistance to environmentalism still powerful on the Navajo Nation today.

The stock reduction program ended as the nation went into World War II and the government had bigger fish to fry. But it also happened in the face of widespread resistance, such as the letter that opens this post. In 1940, the Navajo Rights Association formed to lead the resistance to continued stock reduction. The government started threatening the Navajo with police power if they refused to hand over their livestock, which broke the resistance. John Collier started realizing that there was a problem with his program only in 1941, which was far too late. He relaxed some of the restrictions, but the damage to Navajo work and life was already done. An already poor people were made more impoverished. After World War II, many men would seek to escape that poverty through uranium mining, which would have enormous implications of its own on the health of the miners and work culture of the Navajo people.

The letter that opens this post was taken from Peter Iverson, ed., Dine Letters, Speeches, & Petitions, 1900-1960. You can read the whole letter here. Many of the other details come from Marsha Weisiger, Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country.

This is the 210th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Small City NIMBYism

[ 104 ] February 13, 2017 |


While I suppose democratic participation in urban planning is a good thing, in practice, it leads to a lot of situations like we are seeing in Eugene. Housing prices are skyrocketing there, yet basic and obvious plans to ease housing prices and create decent public transportation systems flail because of NIMBYism. On the latter, the bus district’s efforts to expand their rapid transit bus system stalled in a combination of business outrage over the construction that it would require and right-wing morons hating public transportation. The signs opposing the project on the farms outside of Eugene were particularly hilarious. If anything, the anti-density forces are even more infuriating, as they are usually at least nominally liberals, especially in that city. Here we have a smart development looking to build density in a section of the city that could use it. It’s in an area where you already have some walkability but where you could use a lot more. But oh no. Not In My Backyard!

Coughlin’s land is zoned for “community commercial” use and designated as commercial land in the Eugene-Springfield Metropolitan Area General Plan, the region’s blueprint for growth that designates areas of land for different uses.

Retail stores and restaurants are allowed outright on community commercial-zoned land. Apartments are allowed as long as certain building height, dimension, parking and landscaping standards are met. Buildings can rise up to 120 feet under the zoning guidelines. That’s 10 or 11 stories in a typical high-rise.

But the land is surrounded to the east by single-family houses on lots zoned for low-density use, and to the west by Hilyard Street, a strip of city-owned park land and more single-family houses. South of 18th Street, only the seven-story Cascade Manor retirement community building is taller than Amazon Corner would be.

The city approved Coughlin’s project on Jan. 27 with some minor conditions, requiring him to pay for a crosswalk across Hilyard between 31st and 32nd Avenues, and create dedicated right and left turn lanes to help traffic on 31st get onto Hilyard.

Neighbors quickly appealed, setting up a March 1 public hearing. More than 100 people have written letters to the city, a vast majority assailing Amazon Corner as a bad fit for the neighborhood.

William Collinge, a public health researcher who has lived on Kincaid Street off of 32nd Avenue for five years, said he worries about traffic from the development spilling onto side streets such as Kincaid, Alder and Harris streets as motorists try to get downtown from south Eugene while avoiding traffic from Amazon Corner and Albertsons.

“What people are opposed to is the size and the traffic impact, and the implications of that for the character of the neighborhood and quality of life,” Collinge said. “We’re not anti-growth, we’re not anti-development. We’re in favor of smart growth, smart development that respects that character of the neighborhood.”

“We’re not anti-growth, we’re not anti-development. We just oppose any growth and development that might briefly affect my life or make the city livable for the next generation. We have single-family housing to protect after all!”

Obviously, cities like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco are all dealing with these issues in much more serious situations, where people literally cannot afford to live there, but with enormous homeowner opposition to the density needed to make their city remotely sustainable for most people. In this case, it’s democratic participation undermining a democratic city. And there’s no easy answer in a world where property values are the coin of the realm.

Drain That Swamp!

[ 32 ] February 13, 2017 |


That Donald Trump got away with being the anti-corruption candidate is even more infuriating when that not only does he have a long history of shady dealings and ripoffs, but that the Republican Party is openly pro-corruption.

For decades in its foreign policy and development programs, the United States has pressed for measures to reduce corruption. Its efforts stretched across administrations from President George H.W. Bush to President Barack Obama and were part of a broader foreign policy agenda to promote democracy, accountability and transparency, and to level the playing field for businesses and countries seeking investment. As former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell famously said in 2002, “Capital is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability.”

But in a little-noticed vote last week in the Senate, the United States took a step back from that longstanding commitment to transparency and to the citizens suffering under corrupt, unaccountable governments. The vote of 52 to 47 would scrap a 2010 bi-partisan addition to the Dodd Frank Act, called section 1504. The law, known by shorthand for its two sponsors Democratic Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Republican Senator Richard Lugar (IN), required oil, gas and mining companies that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges to declare to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) payments made to foreign governments in their investments overseas. The change is now on the President’s desk waiting for his approval.

The risks of its repeal are real and deserve attention. For one, by allowing gas, oil and mining companies to bribe with impunity with no effective government or citizen oversight, the Congress is rolling back decades of the U.S.’s commitment to its democracy, human rights and liberal agenda that have been a central part of its foreign policy since President Ronald Reagan. Without SEC oversight, the likelihood increases that indefinite, unaccountable funds will flow to autocratic leaders with which they can line their pockets and the pockets of their cronies, and use those funds to repress their populations. It will also make it more difficult for the U.S. to speak out against cases of corruption internationally and maintain its commitment to anti-corruption treaties like the OECD’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Second, giving resource extraction executives the right to bribe at will behind closed doors places at severe risk the international and domestic commitments many states have to protect their communities from abusive extractive practices. One of those is the International Labor Organizations Convention 169 to which—in the Western Hemisphere alone—Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, among others, are signatories. The convention guarantees indigenous and, in some cases, Afro-descendant communities the right to be consulted when state policies will affect their cultural heritage; that right has commonly been interpreted to include land. Throughout these countries, governments are starting to put in place—in varying degrees—processes to ensure that indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are respectfully consulted over resource extraction investments in the lands that many of them have occupied for centuries.

But hey, Rex Tillerson having to respect the rights of indigenous people in Ecuador is the true outrage! Of course, this isn’t just the world view of the American right. It’s also that of conservatives in nations from Romania to South Korea. But whereas anti-corruption protests led to the eviction of the Korean president and threatens the government of Romania, in the U.S., conservative voters couldn’t care less. And while you might say that this corruption is only for U.S. companies operating in foreign nations, I have absolutely no confidence that a Romanian-type law legalizing at home would move conservative voters to outrage at all. I don’t think they would care. They’d probably support it just because it makes liberals mad. And what higher goal exists?

What Are the Policies the GOP Wants So Much, It is Fine with Foreign Policy Conducted at Trump’s Personal Dinners?

[ 205 ] February 13, 2017 |


What’s a little Russian control of the nation or discussing classified information about North Korea at dinner when you can make sure that California doesn’t give working people retirement security?

An ambitious California law intended to help create retirement security for low-income workers is in the crosshairs of the Trump-era Congress, which is moving to block the state and others from launching programs to automatically enroll millions of people in IRA-type savings plans.

The push is one of the most direct confrontations yet with California and other liberal states by a GOP-led Congress emboldened by President Trump’s election.

The 2016 law being targeted requires employers to enroll 6.8 million California workers who currently have no access to a retirement savings account at work in a state-sponsored plan. Millions more in seven other states that have passed laws similar to California’s would also be enrolled in those states. Many more states are now weighing joining a movement that has been years in the making.

California first took steps toward creating its program in 2012. Other states, including Illinois, have been slowly implementing their own laws, which have been complicated by federal Labor Department rules governing such investment pools.

In its final months, the Obama administration gave states the green light to pursue their vision.

The state laws generally require employers with no retirement plans to automatically invest a small percentage of each worker’s pay in a state-sponsored retirement account. Employers are not required to contribute anything and workers can opt out of the program if they choose.

The first such program was expected to launch this year in Oregon. California and other states were hoping to begin next year.

Now at the urging of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of Wall Street investment firms long opposed to government-sponsored retirement programs that could compete with their own offerings, key Republicans are moving to revoke the federal approval.

“Our nation faces difficult retirement challenges, but more government isn’t the solution,” said a statement from Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), chairman of a House subcommittee on retirement issues who is taking a lead in the repeal effort.

It is difficult to express to everyday citizens how much the Republican Party hates them. But this is what racism and misogyny can accomplish. In the name of white solidarity and keeping a woman and her emotions out of the Oval Office, Republicans can ensure that mass poverty results for those very people voting them in. That it will also impoverish brown and black people just gives them more cover.

Today in the Laboratories of Democracy

[ 78 ] February 13, 2017 |


It’s so nice when the states can try out new frontiers in the Republican war on women for Congress. Oklahoma:

An Oklahoma state legislator, Rep. Justin Humphrey, is pushing a bill that would require a woman to get written permission from her sexual partner if she wants to have an abortion. The Supreme Court already struck down a very similar bill two decades ago, which means Humphrey’s bill would have almost no chance of holding up in court if it ever became law.

So why is Humphrey trying to pass it anyway? He explained his reasoning rather bluntly to Jordan Smith of the Intercept: Once a woman decides to be “irresponsible” by having sex, he said, her body is no longer entirely her own — because she will always be a potential “host” to a pregnancy:

Ultimately, [Humphrey] said, his intent was to let men have a say. “I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” he said. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

Humphrey told Smith that his original intent was to force fathers to pay child support from the moment of conception. That specific language was excised from the bill, he said.

But what remained was the disturbing extension of that logic: If a man and a woman have equal rights and responsibilities over the contents of the woman’s womb, then her womb — her body — is quite literally no longer her own.

And that is of course the point.


A proposed bill in the Tennessee General Assembly seeks to classify children born through artificial insemination as illegitimate children.

Representative Terry Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) proposed HB 1406, which is intended to repeal the current statute regarding children born through artificial insemination.

TCA 68-3-306 provides for the child to be considered the legitimate child of a husband and wife if the child is born through artificial insemination and with the consent of the husband.

“A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.” (TCA 68-3-306)

However, the bill proposed by Weaver, with the Senate equivalent (SB 1153) proposed by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), would repeal that statute and label the child as illegitimate despite the couple being married and both consenting.

I guess I don’t spend enough time in Wingnutstan to understand why artificial insemination is a crime nearly equal to the genocide of tiny groups of cells growing inside a uterus. I’m sure the GOP will soon learn me.

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