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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 65

[ 27 ] January 8, 2017 |

This is the grave of Carl Pohlad.

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Born in 1915 in Des Moines, Carl Pohlad moved to California to play junior college football. He was discovered by none other than Bing Crosby, who convinced him to go to his alma mater Gonzaga University in Spokane to play football, even though he was in his late-20s already. He then fought in World War II beginning in 1943 where he was supposed to be part of the Normandy invasion until he got poison oak. But he was wounded later in the war and won the purple heart and silver star. He had already gotten involved in business even before he played football, starting to make money by foreclosing of people’s farms during the Depression. After the war, he became a major banking investor and from there a general businessman involved in any number of ventures that made him a billionaire.

In 1984, Pohlad bought the Minnesota Twins, one of the most pathetic franchises in the game. But under his ownership, they won the World Series in 1987 and again in 1991. He spent resources to resign stars like Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek instead of letting them to go free agency. But as the price of baseball players grew, Pohlad became a stingy owner, dooming his team to being terrible. His sense of public service over profit was never strong. When the state of Minnesota balked at paying for a new stadium, Pohlad started looking to bail. He nearly sold the team to a businessman with the intention of moving it to Charlotte in 1997. And then in 2001, he volunteered to have his own team contracted in Bud Selig’s idiotic contraction plan. This led to howls of fury from Minnesota fans. Moreover, this was a pure profit motive from Pohlad, who would have received between $125-250 million for it, more than the team was worth. Moreover, Pohlad had lent $3 million to Selig, giving a strong and probably accurate impression that a quid pro quo was in action here. Selig was forced to give up his idea but Pohlad defended the move to the end of his life in 2009.

Of course, Pohlad tried to avoid paying estate taxes by transferring most of his ownership in the Twins to his son before he died. This led to an IRS suit against the family that was eventually settled for far less than the family should have paid.

Pohlad has never been a character in a film or on TV. Maybe someday there will be a show on the sheer greed of billionaire sports owners.

Carl Pohlad is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oddly, he is buried right next to Paul Wellstone. The number of famous people with no connection buried next to each other in this nation is bizarre, including Andrew Carnegie and Samuel Gompers. When I wrote the Wellstone post last week, I neglected to mention that the lake in the background, which you can also see above, is Lake Calhoun. Because for some reason Minnesota felt the need to name a lake after John C. Calhoun. Unfortunate that Wellstone has to overlook a lake named after such a terrible human. More fitting for Pohlad.

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Can the Koch Brothers Purchase Americans Changing Their Minds About Environmental Protections?

[ 24 ] January 6, 2017 |

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Don’t know, but we are about to find out.

The Kochs, whose use of their fortune to promote climate-change denial research has angered environmentalists, are quietly courting new allies in their quest for a fossil fuel resurgence: minorities.

Since its start in the spring of 2016, Fueling U.S. Forward has sent delegates to, or hosted, at least three events aimed at black voters, arguing that they benefit most from cheap and abundant fossil fuels and have the most to lose if energy costs rise.

Fueling U.S. Forward is “dedicated to educating the public about the value and potential of American energy, the vast majority of which comes from fossil fuels,” the group says on its website. “We’ll talk to people of diverse backgrounds — industry employees, small-business owners, community leaders and low-income families — and share their stories.”

The group has seen early results from its outreach.

“Policies that subsidize electric vehicles and solar panels for the wealthy raise energy prices and harm the black community,” read recommendations adopted by delegates at the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Ind., in August. The event brought together African-American political groups and counted Fueling U.S. Forward among its sponsors.

“We’re standing up for poor, underserved communities,” said Linda Haithcox, executive director of the National Policy Alliance, which organized the convention. She said her group’s funding from Fueling U.S. Forward and other energy groups had not affected its position on energy.

In a statement, Charles Drevna, president and chief executive of Fueling U.S. Forward and a former vice president at Sunoco, the company behind the Dakota Access oil pipeline, confirmed that the group was supported by Koch Industries, among other backers. “I am proud to help Fueling U.S. Forward promote the importance of domestic oil and natural gas to making people’s lives better,” he said.

You’d like to think these groups won’t take Koch money, but LOL at that.

Fueling U.S. Forward is a more emotional campaign. “How do we start winning hearts and minds?” Alex Fitzsimmons, the Fueling U.S. Forward spokesman, wondered in a Facebook Live broadcast he hosted with Mr. Drevna in August at the RedState Gathering in Denver.

Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, a nonprofit that works with low-income and minority neighborhoods on environmental issues, called the campaign “an exploitative, sad and borderline racist strategy.” He pointed to the falling costs associated with renewable energy, which he said made shifting away from reliance on fossil fuels a winning proposition for everyone.

In seeking to change hearts and minds, Fueling U.S. Forward addresses a greater conundrum for the Kochs, their private empire — which generates an estimated $100 billion in sales a year — and the wider fossil fuel industry.

I don’t know whether it will as successful as the hearts and minds campaign of the U.S. toward South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but the catastrophe of climate change will certainly be comparable or worse to the death toll of that war. But hey, there was so much corporate profit to be made in both!

Have to Protect the Fee-Fees of the Fascists

[ 108 ] January 6, 2017 |

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The GOP once again proves itself as the party of true debate and open ideas. None of that POLITICAL CORRECTNESS here. See Duncan Hunter, last seen using campaign dollars to fly his pet rabbit, which led to the failed House Republican effort to fillet the House Ethics Office last week. He gets very sad if someone says bad things about the police.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) on Friday removed a painting hanging in the U.S. Capitol, which depicted Ferguson, Mo. police officers as animals shooting black people.

Police organizations around the nation had blasted the art as offensive and had asked Speaker Paul Ryan to remove it in a letter Tuesday. The painting was selected by Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) as part of the annual U.S. Congressional Art Competition.

“I took it down when I walked by and gave it back to Lacy,” Hunter told POLITICO. Asked about blowback from Clay, the Congressional Black Caucus or Democrats, he scoffed: “Blowback from what? Taking a down a painting that depicting policeman as pig? No, I’m not.”

The topic had surfaced in a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Friday. Reps. Billy Long (R-Mo.) and David Reichert (R-Wash.), a former cop, “talked about how disrespectful it was to men and women who served in uniform,” Hunter told POLITICO in a short phone interview when asked about the matter.

The acrylic painting on canvas, created by David Pulphus, shows police officers in uniform holding up guns at black men. One has the face of a boar; another what looks like the face of a horse. The black man being aimed at appears to have the face of a wolf, while onlooking pedestrians in the background hold up signs that read “stop kill,” “history” and “racism kills.”

Some lawmakers asked Republican leaders if they could remove it. Someone suggested that perhaps Clay could ask the student who made it to hang a different painting. Hunter then removed the painting himself, unscrewing it from the wall and dropping it off with staff in Clay’s office.

The House’s annual art competition allows each lawmaker to choose a student’s artwork to hanging in the Cannon Office Building tunnel that connects the Capitol with members’ legislative offices.

Clay, who is African American, represents Ferguson, Mo., where Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by police. The town became a hotbed of discontent when protests turn violent following the shooting.

Blue Lives Matter people. Criticizing our police for the wanton shooting of black people is like burning the flag. Both should be made illegal. Fascism is all that can save us from the horrors of art.

What Can the Trump Administration Do About the Horrors of Birth Control?

[ 110 ] January 6, 2017 |

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At the very least, it can appoint a woman to lead White House health care policy who recently wrote this lovely piece in the very serious publication that is The Federalist, titled, “Ladies: Is Birth Control the Mother of All Medical Malpractice.”

When Catholic Family Planning is the only legal birth control policy in the United States, America will truly be great again.

This Day in Labor History: January 6, 1909

[ 7 ] January 6, 2017 |

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On January 6, 1909, oral arguments before the Supreme Court concluded in the case of Moyer v. Peabody. The decision by the Court on January 18 gave official approval for the state militia or National Guard imprisoning people without the benefit of habeas corpus during a time of insurrection, the definition of which was of course left vague. This was one of many anti-worker Supreme Court decisions of the Gilded Age that made it extremely difficult for unions to operate with any sort of effectiveness.

In 1902, the Western Federation of Miners was organizing mill workers in Colorado City, Colorado. One company placed a spy among the organizers. This led the employer to fire 42 union members. Tensions rose at the mill and in February 1903, the WFM called a strike. Colorado governor James Peabody was an anti-union extremist who would use any method to eliminate the WFM, which had outraged employers in 1894 with an overwhelming victory in the state’s mines. Throughout Colorado that year, several strikes took place. Peabody worked with employers and private detective agencies such as the Baldwin-Felts, Thiel Agency, and of course the Pinkertons. Peabody called out the Colorado militia in response to the Colorado City strike, leading miners in Telluride and Cripple Creek to walk off their jobs. Mass arrests of strikers began that fall. Among those arrested was Charles Moyer, president of the WFM. Moyer had done nothing more than travel to Telluride to support the strike and sign a poster denouncing the mass arrests. He was then arrested for desecrating the American flag. This ridiculous charge allowed him to be released the next day, but he was immediately rearrested without any charges.

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The strike was soon crushed by Colorado and Peabody’s forces, but Moyer fought the obviously unconstitutional arrest he faced. He petitioned for a write of habeas corpus to a Colorado court. He received it but the Colorado attorney general refused to honor it. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that his constitutional rights had not been violated by his arrest for supporting a strike. He then appealed to the U.S. District Court based in Missouri. These judges overturned the state court and granted him the writ once again on July 5, 1904. This finally forced Peabody to let Moyer out of jail. Moyer wanted full exoneration so he took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It eventually accepted it, with oral arguments taking place on January 5 and 6, 1909. By this time, Moyer had survived the framing of he and Big Bill Haywood for the 1905 murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, thanks to the extremely shoddy case and the defense skills of Clarence Darrow leading to the rare court victory for unions during these horrible years.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the decision for the unanimous court. The decision completely ignored whether the strike was an insurrection. It gave the governor complete discretion in making this determination, effectively saying that if the governor called out the National Guard, there was in fact an insurrection. He wrote, “But it is familiar that what is due process of law depends on circumstances. It varies with the subject-matter and the necessities of the situation.” And while it makes some sense for law to have limited flexibility dependent upon the particulars of a given situation, in this situation Holmes was giving employers and their bought politicians carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to labor unions. So long as there was an insurrection, then the governor could call out the state militia or National Guard and have them act accordingly. He left open the possibility than an exceedingly lengthy time behind bars might be open to another challenge but that was not what Moyer was after. This decision also avoided any of the sticky constitutional questions–since the states cannot declare war, can the executive of a state declare a state of war to exist? But as was common for Holmes, he found ways to exclude ideological or racial minorities from full citizenship; unfortunately, he was frequently joined in the Gilded Age Supreme Court by his colleagues.

Holmes’ decision in Moyer v. Peabody helped to radicalize the labor movement, especially in areas that had already seen the iron fist of state violence. With Holmes giving governors the right to use violence at will, moderate unionists had a harder time telling workers that capitalism might work for them. The Industrial Workers of the World would build their case for radical syndicalism upon this point, up to the point where the IWW was itself crushed by massive state-sanctioned violence, including the government allowing employers to do what they wanted to unions and with government crushing workers defending themselves against that violence.

The case was so shoddy that the Court largely ignored it. In 1932, it revisited the ability of a governor to unilaterally decide to call a strike an insurrection, when in Sterling v. Constanin, it decided that the governor of Texas doing the same as Peabody was not constitutional. That is until 9/11. Then the Bush administration was all over it because of the possibility to justify indefinite detention whenever the government declares a state of insurrection. It was heavily discussed in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and remains an extremely threatening decision to workers today as Republicans seek to return the nation to the Lochner years. And the Moyer v. Peabody years as well.

Although Charles Moyer eventually broke from Haywood and the IWW, he remained deeply involved in union politics for many years. He was in Hancock, Michigan when the Italian Hall disaster took place in 1913 and rallied the WFM in nearby Calumet to take care of their own, although this had the effect of telling impoverished survivors to not take much needed charity. While in Calumet, he was beaten and deported from the town while bleeding from his wounds. The state did nothing to find who did this to him. He continued to lead the former WFM, now Mine, Mill, until 1926, dying in obscurity and largely forgotten in 1929.

This is the 206th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Welcome!

[ 65 ] January 5, 2017 |

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I am happy to announce that we have a new writer with the keys to the LGM kingdom. Melissa Byrnes is an associate professor of history at Southwestern University who specializes in Islam, human rights, and migration from north Africa to Europe. She is finishing a book on post-1945 community activism for North African rights and welfare in the suburbs of Paris and Lyon.

You may remember her from her two guestposts after the Paris terrorist attacks of 2015. Here is the first and here is the second. For now, until you all wow her with your amazing commentary or whatever, she plans on being an occasional poster, but you never know when someone will find an opportunity to have an audience for dead horses or American graves or condiment authoritarianism. Her first post will be this evening or tomorrow, so please welcome our new writer!

NAFTA Has Been Awesome for Mexico????

[ 20 ] January 5, 2017 |

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Of Emperor Tangerine’s many ridiculous statements, none is perhaps more out of touch with reality than his tough talk toward Mexico because they have just eaten our lunch since NAFTA, with life getting so much better there at the expensive of Americans. This is about as true to the lived experiences of Mexicans as the Trump Tower taco salad.

But here in Mexico, there is an increasing belief that Nafta, despite drawing an enormous amount of investment to the country, has been a big disappointment.

“At the end of the day, as a development strategy, it should have led to higher sustained growth, generated well-paid salaries and reduced the gap between Mexico and the United States,” said Gerardo Esquivel, an economist at the Colegio de México. “It has remained well below what was hoped for.”

Mexico’s economy has grown an average of just 2.5 percent a year under Nafta, a fraction of what was needed to provide the jobs and prosperity its supporters promised. More than half of Mexicans still live below the poverty line, a proportion that remains unchanged from 1993, before the deal went into effect.

Wages in Mexico have stagnated for more than a decade, and the stubborn gap between the nation’s rich and poor persists. A majority of workers in Mexico toil in the obscurity of under-the-table jobs at workshops, markets and farms for their survival.

New technologies, meanwhile, have cut many jobs while increasing productivity, which is good news for businesses but a blow to the work force.

“Mexico is seeing exactly the same phenomenon as in the United States,” said Timothy A. Wise, a research fellow at Tufts University. “Workers have declining bargaining power on both sides of the border.”

In part, Nafta’s failure to achieve its potential falls on the Mexican government’s shoulders, experts say. Rather than use the agreement as a launching point to grow and invest in many sectors of the Mexican economy, successive governments viewed the trade deal as a silver bullet for the country’s economic woes.

All of this is not lost on Mexicans, despite their government’s defense of Nafta. A recent poll by Parametría, a respected Mexican pollster, found that more than two-thirds of respondents believed that Nafta had benefited American consumers and businesses, while just 20 percent believed it had been good for them. The poll, consisting of 800 interviews in people’s homes, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

“There is a grand narrative in the United States that Mexico was the great winner of Nafta,” said Fernando Turner Dávila, the secretary of the economy and labor in the industrial state of Nuevo León. “Meanwhile, here in Mexico, they only see the benefits, which are glorified. They never see the downsides, much less talk about them.”

And certainly my own experiences in Mexico do not counter these ideas, not with people in small communities going years without seeing their families because American agricultural policy dumps corn, beef, and pork on the Mexican market, making it impossible for people to farm and forcing them to migrate to the United States for work. Free trade policy has led to as bitterness in Mexico as the United States. Not surprisingly, like in the US government, it’s as much about failures of the Mexican government to plan for what NAFTA would do as about trade itself.

But Nafta was not necessarily the problem. Much of the misstep, experts say, was the Mexican government’s belief that the agreement would be enough to transform the economy all by itself. Thinking of the trade deal as a panacea, the government failed to come up with a broader policy or make the investments needed to use the trade agreement as a lever to transform the whole economy.

Investments in research and development, for instance, have failed to materialize in both the public and private sectors. Government spending on infrastructure has dropped to its lowest level in seven decades, experts say, leaving an unreliable network of ports, highways and even internet connections across the country. Burdensome regulation and corruption stifled investment, while the nation’s banks lent far less than their Latin American peers, leaving small companies to scramble for credit.

Even where Nafta is succeeding, it is not pushing wages up, or creating enough needed jobs.

Similarly, the US government has assumed that free trade would take care of the problems that trade would cause. To say the least, it has not, especially in our older industrial communities. There is nothing per se wrong with significant trade between nations or even necessarily the outsourcing of jobs, if the social and economic safety net is there to ensure that conditions remain good for those who lost their jobs and international regulations to ensure that people overseas are not exploited. Both the American and Mexican governments have failed miserably on these issues.

The Man With No Shame

[ 65 ] January 4, 2017 |

Mitch McConnell has no concept of the word “shame.”

The Beltway Continues to Delude Itself that the Republican Party is Hopeless Divided

[ 96 ] January 4, 2017 |

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Hey, it’s yet another essay claiming that Republicans are about to face a civil war.

How much of the GOP agenda is Trump really willing to expend political capital on? He must know he wasn’t voted in to enact Medicare reform, an idea without a constituency that is nonetheless near to Ryan’s heart and central to his thinking.

“he must know” LOL

Trump also promised not to let people die on the street during his presidency. How will he square that with an Obamacare repeal that puts an industry-friendly scheme in its place?

Because he won’t give a shit?

Or what about industrial policy, this practice of the government intervening to help manufacturing-sector workers, which Trump has fully embraced in practice before even taking office? Does anyone think Trump will stop attempting to keep manufacturing jobs here, even though doing so flies in the face of free-market orthodoxy his party embraces?

Or we could just look at the absurdity of the Carrier situation to see how this is going to go.

Deals can be hardened out of small-ball disagreements. But we are talking about major, fundamental disagreements. There is a looming Republican schism and it’s about more than Trump’s lack of philosophical mooring. It is about two very different visions of what the GOP should be.

There aren’t two very different versions of what the GOP should be.

Ryan rose in the Republican ranks by being an attractive, articulate ideologue in a party that was supposed to be all about ideology. The Trump-Bannon formulation of how the GOP should work, however, is not really ideological at all. It’s about getting better results for certain economic and demographic groups, presumably at the expense of others.

Paul Ryan, Serious Ideologue. Plus he’s so sexy!

Like most ideologies, modern conservatism insists that it contains the best set of policies for everyone: rich and poor, white and black, and so on. It’s difficult to know how many people actually believe all that, but it’s been the central message of the GOP for decades.

Bannon, meanwhile, has a habit of describing politics as a zero-sum game between competing groups, namely working- and middle-class Americans versus an ascendant elite class. And the populism Bannon talks about is, in a sense, neither left nor right, and instead all about serving the interests of the downwardly-mobile.

Yes, the congressional GOP has not been about a zero-sum game the last 8 years. Nope. Not at all. That’s why Merrick Garland is on the Supreme Court.

It goes on to claim that Steve Bannon and Paul Ryan have completely different beliefs, yadda, yadda. Anyway, I would ask how long Beltway hacks would continue to delude themselves with this premise, but we all know the answer is into eternity.

….I have been informed that the writer of this dish of boiled hack is the son of none other than Peggy Noonan. The meritocracy is strong indeed. And presumably he is very well-mannered.

Trump: As Sweet as a Delicious Putin Lackey

[ 38 ] January 4, 2017 |

I guess it’s not surprising that the Russians would see Trump as one of their own, an appealing figure to sell whatever.

State Action on Coal

[ 23 ] January 4, 2017 |

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Since the Trump Administration is going to SAVE COAL!!!, I wonder how it will respond to the western states refusing to allow coal development in the ports required to ship it overseas.

Washington state dealt a blow Tuesday to the last remaining coal export terminal proposed along the West Coast, throwing the viability of the project into question.

The state will not allow the developer to build the terminal’s loading docks on state-owned land, outgoing Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark announced, citing the developer’s failure to answer questions about the structure of the loading dock, as well as questions about the overall financial viability of the project. Last year, Arch Coal — a minority stakeholder in the project — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after slumping coal production.

The land is currently leased by Northwest Alloys, which had requested a permit from the Washington Department of Natural Resources to lease the land to Millennium Bulk Terminal, the developer behind the proposed export terminal.

Goldmark’s decision is yet another blow to the future of fossil fuel exports along the West Coast, which was once viewed as the gateway between the coal mines of Montana and Wyoming and the coal markets of Asia. In 2010, the West Coast had six proposed coal export terminals, which combined could have handled 100 million tons of coal annually. But staunch community opposition, combined with declining coal consumption worldwide, have made those projects less and less viable in recent years.

Today, the Longview terminal is the last remaining coal export terminal proposed along the West Coast — making it a crucial target both for environmental activists opposed to expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and for fossil fuel and labor interests, who argue the terminal would bring much-needed economic stimulus to an area of Washington plagued with chronically high levels of unemployment.

Due to the scope of the project, the terminal would require approval at several levels — city, state, and federal — to ultimately move forward. The Washington Department of Ecology is currently working on the final version of its Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be released sometime in the coming year. If approved, the first phase of the terminal could come online as early as 2020.

I’m sure Rick Perry will have a brilliant solution to this barrier to coal domination of America if he can remember which federal agency he heads.

The Cuomo Gambit

[ 76 ] January 3, 2017 |

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a point during a meeting on tax cut proposals in the Red Room at the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Cuomo has proposed cutting the state’s corporate income tax from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and eliminating it altogether for upstate manufacturers. He also has proposed paying more state aid as an incentive to any of New York’s 10,500 local governments that impose hard 2 percent spending caps and cut their costs by consolidating services with other towns, villages, cities and counties. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Here’s the thing about Andrew Cuomo. He will happily veto a bill that would grant the poor legal services and then just a few days later announce a plan for free college tuition at New York public universities for any family making less than $125,000 a year. What’s going on here? The short of it, I think anyway, is that Cuomo really wants to the be the presidential nominee in 2020. At the same time, he has no interest in challenging the power dynamics of the nation. He is a Clintonites Clintonite. So embracing middle-class rhetoric and middle-class welfare state expansions that get a lot of big publicity is something he can very much get behind while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to challenge Wall Street, the criminal injustice system, or the Republican Party. And in case you say that the free college tuition will help the poor too, we should remember that Cuomo is going to nothing useful to help improve the possibility that the poor and people of color are actually going to go to college. It will help a few, but it will not change a system that inherently discriminates against people with the least power in our society.

It’s completely fine for the left to get behind expanding free college tuition. Supporting this initiative is absolutely something I will do. But Andrew Cuomo is still a complete non-starter for the Democratic nomination and let’s be careful not to give him too much credit and legitimize his ambitions.

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