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Category: General

The Paradox of Contemporary Republican Rule

[ 276 ] March 27, 2017 |


I have a couple of major takeaways from the glorious failure of TrumpCare. The first is that while Trump and Ryan are both bad at their jobs, the failure of Republican health care anti-reform was was probably inevitable:

Many of the juicy postmortems have focused on failures of leadership on the part of President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan. And, indeed, both seem in over their heads in ways that will complicate passing the Republican agenda going forward. Ryan’s alleged mastery of policy was revealed as a complete fraud, and Trump’s various efforts to persuade recalcitrant lawmakers were ineffective. But it’s extremely unlikely that even stronger leadership could have gotten a replacement for the ACA passed. The votes were never going to be there.

The reason the votes weren’t there is simple: The proposed legislation was unimaginably terrible. And this isn’t just because it was a hastily cobbled together mess that even wonks sympathetic to conservative health-care ends generally wouldn’t defend. The central problem is that taking health insurance away from more than 20 million people and making insurance worse and/or more expensive for those who retain it in order to pay for a massive upper-class tax cut is an idea with no popular constituency. To pass a statute that would directly affect the lives of many voters and was supported by less than 20 percent of the public would have been political suicide.

As University of California political scientist Paul Pierson has shown with extensive evidence, repealing major social programs is enormously difficult, even in political systems with fewer barriers to changing the status quo than the American one. The weak Republican leadership didn’t help, but particularly given the relatively small Republican House majority and the even narrower margin they had in the Senate, the AHCA was probably always destined to be stillborn.

This should give liberals a new appreciation for what Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid were able to achieve when they passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Democrats needed the vote of each and every one of their 60 senators. That meant Reid and Obama needed the support of more than a dozen moderate Democratic senators from red states. But they also needed the plan to maintain support from liberal senators who were well aware that the ACA fell short of the universal systems common to other liberal democracies (even though it was a substantial improvement on the status quo). Last week’s GOP debacle is an excellent illustration of how quickly attempted compromises can unravel from both ends. Both the left and right of the Democratic caucus deserve a great deal of credit for holding together under intense pressure to give up in 2010.

The quick collapse of TrumpCare portends very serious short-term problems for the Republican caucus, who appear likely to accomplish less than many people (including me) anticipated. Does this mean that this Republican coalition is doomed? I don’t think so:

From a Democratic standpoint, the optimistic take would be that this trainwreck represents a GOP coalition in its death throes. Just as the repeated failures of the Democratic Party to reach a consensus and enact its agenda under Jimmy Carter signaled the collapse of the New Deal/Great Society coalition, the failure of Trump and Ryan to execute what has been a rallying cry for Republicans for seven years could signal the cracking up of the Reagan coalition.

This is certainly possible. But I think reading a major realignment into the failure of RyanCare would be premature. I think it’s more likely that, despite this failure, the Reagan coalition will remain resilient. Comprehensive health-care reform has always been extraordinarily difficult. Harry Truman’s proposal for national health insurance never got off the ground, but this didn’t mean the New Deal coalition was dead. The failure of Bill Clinton’s health-care plan, which was similar in some ways to the failure of the AHCA, although the process was much more serious and protracted, did not end the liberal aspiration to attain universal health care. And given the extent to which both Congress and state legislatures are structurally titled in favor of the Republican Party, they have little incentive to moderate despite this failure.

The Democrats just won a major battle. But the war is still on.

The failure of the Freedom Caucus to play ball is a product of our current polarization, combined with the structural advantages Republicans have in national elections. Most Republicans, including virtually all of the most right-wing elements in the House and Senate, have completely safe seats, and the party can win national elections with a relatively homogeneous coalition. The leadership has no real leverage over the far right, so they can render the government dysfunctional if they want to — and they do! — but (unlike Republicans during the New Deal or Democrats after the election of Reagan) the party has no real incentive to move to the center because it was almost always be competitive in House elections and in a majority of statehouses, and it’s nearly impossible for any major party to be permanently shut out of the Electoral College. And, in addition, if Republicans get hit by a wave in 2018 it will be whatever moderates are left and not the Freedom Caucus that pays the price. So I see the failure of TrumpCare as a reason to be more optimistic in the short term, but not necessarily in the medium term.



[ 12 ] March 27, 2017 |
A large ship anchored and at rest near a shoreline.

HIJMS Tosa. By Shizuo Fukui – Kure Maritime Museum, (edited by Kazushige Todaka), Japanese Naval Warship Photo Album: Battleships and Battle Cruisers

Some thoughts on the possibility of arms control in the Indo-Pac:

In the National Interest, Thomas Mitchell proposes a new Washington Naval Treaty to arrest the arms race in and around the South China Sea. Mitchell argues that a carefully calibrated treaty could reduce tensions across the region by eliminating security dilemma dynamics (the security of one state breeds vulnerability in others) and by guaranteeing a sphere of influence for each major partner. Although I believe that the Washington Naval Treaty system was more successful than is commonly understood, I have serious reservations about any contemporary conference.


[ 50 ] March 26, 2017 |


Sure, defeating Andy Puzder’s nomination to be Secretary of Labor was a good thing. He is a truly terrible human being. But during a week where the headlines were rightfully dominated by the huge Republican defeat on health care, hearings for the new nominee, Alexander Acosta happened and on policy is going to be nearly as bad as Puzder.

The disturbing takeaway was that Mr. Acosta would not defend the new overtime standards, which are desperately needed. By government estimates, 4.2 million workers earning salaries between $455 and $913 a week would become newly eligible for overtime if the regulation took effect. By more liberal estimates, another roughly eight million workers who are currently denied overtime on the basis of their job duties would have a stronger claim to it under the new rule’s clear and updated standards, including millions who live in states that went for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Acosta’s answers to questions about other worker protections were also troubling. He would not commit to upholding a Labor Department rule, set to take effect in April, that would require financial advisers to put clients’ interests first when giving advice or selling investments for 401(k) rollovers or other retirement-related transactions. Nor would he commit to enforcing a rule to protect construction workers from carcinogenic dust.

Mr. Acosta tried to justify his evasions by citing directives from Mr. Trump to review and possibly roll back pending rules before moving forward with them. But that dodges the issue. It is important to know what he thinks, because it would be his job to educate and influence the president on labor-policy matters. His reticence at the hearing suggests he will — or already does — embrace the Trump administration’s demolition approach to sensible regulation.

The difference for American workers between the special moral repugnancy of Puzder and the everyday banal awfulness of Acosta is not going to be that much. And that banal awfulness is something that will unite all Republicans, regardless of whatever civil wars they have over other issues.


[ 129 ] March 26, 2017 |


The case of Whiteclay, Nebraska makes for an interesting moral dilemma perhaps worth discussion. It’s probably the worst town in the nation. It literally exists strictly to provide alcohol to the Lakota, who have banned it on the reservation. There is nothing else there but liquor stores. This makes it basically a colonial outpost. There are now calls coming from both activists at Pine Ridge and legislators in Nebraska to crack down on this hellhole, where Lakota drink until the pass out on the side of the road or in a field. The impact of alcohol on indigenous populations is of course tremendous and horrifying and exists in the context of attempted genocide and a lack of hope or work. But as many Lakota point out, this isn’t actually going to stop the drinking. People will find alcohol. We know that prohibition isn’t effective, no matter the drug. So what to do about Whiteclay? I don’t know.

This is also relevant, although the sound is a bit low.

The Resistance

[ 71 ] March 26, 2017 |


Weigel has a good summary of how grassroots resistance stopped TrumpCare. It wasn’t a strategy coming out of Congressional Democrats. It was everyday people, getting in the streets, protesting, disrupting town hall meetings, holding mock town hall meetings for congresscritters who wouldn’t do them, and overwhelming phone lines with calls opposing the bill that made this happen. And that’s what will do more than anything to continue defeating Trump and Ryan. We need more protest. We need more campaigns. We need more political activism. The success going forward for the left will be the ability to build on this victory through using the same tactics on other bills, starting with the budget. Let’s make it happen.

How the Graspingly Ambitious Hillary Clinton CLEARED THE FIELD Because it was HER TURN

[ 529 ] March 26, 2017 |


When people say that Clinton and/or the DNC “cleared the field,” I’ve never been entirely sure what this means, if it doesn’t just mean “Clinton, like everyone trying to win a presidential nomination, tried to receive endorsements and raise money, and did this very well.” One obvious problem with the narrative is that if there was another candidate who didn’t run and had a serious chance of winning, it was Joe Biden. And…how do you muscle a sitting vice president out of the race, exactly?

The answer is that nobody did:

“At the end of the day, I just couldn’t do it,” former Vice President Joe Biden said about running a campaign to be president. “So I don’t regret not running. Do I regret not being president? Yes.”

In Colgate University’s Sanford Field House, University President Brian W. Casey opened the Kerschner Family Global Leaders series lecture question-and-answer panel with Biden by asking if Biden regrets not running to be president

“On a college campus I will never, never do anything other than answer the question completely unvarnished and straightforward,” Biden said. “The answer is that I had planned on running for president. And although it would have been a very difficult primary, I think I could have won.”

Biden said he had a lot of data collected and was fairly confident that as a Democratic party’s nominee, he could have won.

Emotions grew as Biden detailed his son Beau Biden’s battle with brain cancer and Beau’s wishes that his illness remain secret. Beau, among other people close to Joe Biden, wanted the former vice president to try to become the next commander in chief.

“I didn’t run because no man or woman should announce they’re running for president of the United States unless they can look the public in the eye and promise you they can give you 100 percent,” Biden said.

I don’t know about you, but I find “I didn’t run because my son was dying” a rather more plausible explanation for why Biden didn’t run than “Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz conspired to prevent his candidacy through [unspecified mechanism.]”

The other interesting, although unanswerable, question is whether Biden would have won had tragedy not struck and he had entered the race. I do think that, given the Republican candidate and how the Electoral Map played out, that there’s a strong argument that he would have been a better candidate in the general. Do I think he would have beaten Clinton? I don’t have access to his data, but I don’t see it. The path to beating Clinton was from the left, like Sanders, but with more longstanding connections to crucial party constituencies. Biden is a dead ringer for Clinton ideologically, and if anything he’s closer to financial industry. The most crucial Democratic primary voters didn’t know that Trump would be the nominee and none knew that the election would come down to 100,000 votes in the rust belt. He also has some real weaknesses as a candidate that have manifested themselves in two primary runs that went very badly.

He wasn’t the VP in 1988 or 2008, of course, and I’m not saying it’s impossible that he would have won the nomination, but…it’s not an obvious path. And if there was anybody else out there with a more viable one, I don’t see him or her, and AFICT neither do the people strongly committed to the THE FIELD WAS CLEARED narrative.

…one additional point: I am also struck by how many people think that it is simply self-evident that the larger a primary field, the better. I would say that this is an…interesting year to be making this assumption. Particularly since the people most inclined to complain about how Clinton CLEARED THE FIELD also tend to be the most strongly committed to the proposition that the Republican candidate was so world-historically awful any other Democrat would have beaten him easily.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 76

[ 171 ] March 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody


Born in 1846 in frontier Iowa, the family moved to Kansas in 1853, where Cody’s father became involved in the Bleeding Kansas conflict, on the side of the abolitionists. He gave a speech and then was stabbed twice by a slavery advocate. In 1857, he traveled to Cleveland to gather anti-slavery advocates to come to Kansas, but ill and not recovered from his stabbing, he died on the trip. This forced young Bill to go to work, at first on wagon trains and then as a scout helping guide the Army to Utah where a Mormon revolt was feared. He claimed to kill his first Indian on this trip, but who really knows. Forgive me if I’m not trusting Buffalo Bill’s autobiography as the purest distillation of truth.

In 1860, Cody, still only 14, moved to Colorado to mine gold. But on the way, he joined the Pony Express and found work with it. He wanted to join the Union Army in 1861, but was too young. He worked with a freight caravan delivering supplies to Fort Laramie until 1863, when he was old enough to volunteer. He served as a teamster with the 7th Kansas Calvary. He was discharged at the end of the war but then reenlisted in 1868 after working for the Kansas Pacific Railroad. By this time, he western experience was becoming extremely valuable and he as named chief of scouts. He was a scout both in the U.S. military’s genocidal campaigns against Native Americans and for hunting parties of rich men. He also shot bison to feed the military and then the Kansas Pacific workers. He killed about 4200 bison in 1867 and 1868 and earned his name “Buffalo Bill.”

In 1869, Cody is just this guy. He’s 23 years old and has worked his whole life. He isn’t really exceptional in any way. But eastern readers and Europeans were increasingly fascinated by the American West. The romance around western conquest was just getting under way. And those readers needed heroes. That year, a writer named Ned Buntline met Cody and then made up a bunch of stories about him to feed the eastern dime novel market. This made Cody famous. Cody himself was happy to take advantage. In 1872, he started taking to the stage to capitalize on his fame, ridiculous as said fame was. Other western “heroes’ joined him over the next few years, such as Wild Bill Hickok. There they reenacted supposed events such as Cody killing Indians. By most accounts, the quality of the acting was atrocious, but the American public didn’t care and the shows sold out everywhere. In 1882, this evolved into Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, his classic act. For decades he toured the U.S. and Europe. Show performers like Annie Oakley became famous on his tours. After the subjugation of the Lakota, Sitting Bull joined briefly as well, reenacting the conquest of his people and his way of life for a little money and food. This is almost the most depressing thing imaginable. Anyway, Cody became famous and he became rich. In 1895, he founded the town of Cody, Wyoming and bought a huge ranch nearby. He hoped to take advantage of the growing tourist traffic into Yellowstone and the town indeed became prosperous for that reason, as it remains today. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the show’s popularity began to wane; finally Cody could no longer pay the bills and the show was foreclosed upon in 1908.

By this time, Cody had a pretty severe drinking problem but he was useful to others. He moved to Denver, where he was kept by local elites to trot out for various events in exchange for booze. He wasn’t poor yet, but his fortune had dwindled to about $100,000, which is about 1.8 million today. But it was a fraction of what he had twenty years earlier. He died in Denver in 1917.

Buffalo Bill wanted to be buried in Cody, Wyoming, which he founded. But Colorado wasn’t about that have that. There was more money to be made of the corpse. He was buried on top of Lookout Mountain, near Golden, overlooking the Plains. Stories were made up that he wanted to this. Then to make sure Wyoming didn’t steal the corpse, they parked a tank next to the grave.


Then in 1948, after the American Legion in Cody offered $10,000 to anyone who brought his body back to Wyoming, the Colorado National Guard stood armed watch over the grave. There are people in Wyoming who believe to this day that he was secretly buried there.

Of course Buffalo Bill has been portrayed in film and television only about a zillion times. He’s been played by Paul Newman, Roy Rogers, Charlton Heston, Joel McCrea, Peter Coyote, Stephen Baldwin, and J.K. Simmons, among many others. And naturally enough, he appeared in at least 22 early silent films.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Buffalo Bills is the stupidest name in the history of professional sports, as Cody had no connection with the city except for performing a few times there.

Buffalo Bill Cody is buried at Lookout Mountain, Golden, Colorado.

“Don’t take my word for it, don’t believe me. Do your own work, your own thinking.”

[ 228 ] March 26, 2017 |


What a country:

Several dozen people assembled outside the White House Saturday to demand an investigation into the unfounded Internet rumor known as “Pizzagate.”

Wearing T-shirts and holding banners defending the conspiracy theory — which falsely linked Hillary Clinton to an alleged child-sex-trafficking ring operating out of a D.C. pizza parlor — protesters took turns climbing onto an elevated stage in Lafayette Square to demand politicians and mainstream news media take their claims seriously.

“I don’t have any doubt that Pizzagate is real,” said Kori Hayes, a corrections officer who drove with his wife and three kids to Washington from Middleburg, Fla., on Friday night for the event. “But nothing is being said about it.”

The demonstration came a day after the widely debunked conspiracy theory suffered two further blows.

On Friday, a North Carolina man pleaded guilty to weapons and assault charges in connection to an ill-fated attempt to expose the alleged sex-trafficking operation.

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, admitted traveling to Comet Ping Pong in Northwest Washington on Dec. 4, anticipating a violent confrontation over his personal investigation of Pizzagate. He entered the restaurant holding an assault rifle, prompting a panicked evacuation by workers and customers. Welch fired the rifle at least once while searching for evidence of child sex abuse. After finding none, he surrendered to police.

Also on Friday, Alex Jones, a conspiracy-loving media personality who pushed the Pizzagate narrative, apologized for his role in spreading the viral story.

Alex Jones is a cuck!

Meanwhile, if like me you were curious what the “code words” in the Podesta EMAILS! that revealed a secret pedophile ring were, here you go:

My question: by troofer standards of evidence, what pizza menu doesn’t reveal a secret pedophile ring?

People who are not Steve Bannon less impressed by Steve Bannon than people who are

[ 119 ] March 25, 2017 |

Hairy-nosed half ogre Steve Bannon to the “Freedom” Caucus:

Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.

Freedom Caucus to Bannon: Pppfffbt:

One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

Sending skeevemeister Steve to do anything except frighten small children or lick coke off the mirror goes on the rapidly growing list of tRumpian rake steps.

The Freedom to Die if You Can’t Buy Caucus wasn’t moved – or amused – by Tangerine Nightmare’s attempt to get them to Yes. What Bannon is supposed to have got that the tRump ain’t got is beyond the ability of a mind of at least moderate intelligence to fathom.

As an aside, do take a second to read this concise deflation of the Trump as Deal Meister myth.

Back to the article

Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.

Why go with a complex explanation when the simple one will do? You gotta do it is all Bannon had. He and his boss lacked the intelligence to realize that was not going to do the trick.

What’s next: White House officials plan to plunge ahead with ambitious tax reform, but they know it’ll be harder now. As one of the lessons learned, look for the White House to drive the truck on tax reform


– to set the policy and work the members from the beginning, undercutting Ryan. So the border adjustment tax, a favorite of Ryan but viewed skeptically at best by the White House, is less likely to be part of Trump’s tax reform bid.

I do hope so. I can think of few things more likely to cause dyspepsia and tension headaches in the Republican House and Senate than a tax reform bill with tiny spray-tan fingerprints all over it. Perhaps that’s what he was working on during the meetings he had at out his golf course in Virginia today. Perhaps he’ll learn from yesterday’s clusterfuck. And perhaps my unicorn will come in the mail today.

Elite 8 Open Thread

[ 27 ] March 25, 2017 |


Pretty entertaining weekend of basketball here. No one is going to complain about a Gonzaga-Xavier matchup in the West unless you are an Arizona fan and who likes those people anyway. South Carolina-Florida is a random matchup in the East featuring the rare game between two conference teams. I am rooting for South Carolina primarily because they beat Duke. What better reason do you need? Kentucky-North Carolina will of course be excellent. And then there is Oregon-Kansas. No one is giving Oregon a chance here. And it’s a very tough game. Kansas is playing great ball and the game is in Kansas City. This is the kind of game where Oregon losing Chris Boucher could really hurt them. Kansas is favored by 7 and that seems about right to me. That said, don’t read too much into Kansas slaughtering Purdue on Thursday. It’s not that often that teams play that perfect in consecutive games. And Oregon actually hasn’t had a real great game in the tournament. If they can get hot from the outside, they do have a real chance. I’m not saying it’s going to happen because I don’t think it will happen. But it wouldn’t be a huge shocker if it did.

Also, congrats to the 10th seeded Oregon women’s basketball team for making their first ever Elite 8, with the right to be massacred by UConn on Monday. Beating Duke along the way makes it even more sweet.


Happy Triangle Day!

[ 29 ] March 25, 2017 |


Triangle Fire Day is such a happy time. Good thing we have learned so much and we treat our workers with respect, allow them to work in safe workplaces, give them a voice on the job, and generally allow them to live a dignified life, unlike those savage times of the past.

“The supply chain isn’t going just to Bangladesh. It’s going to Alabama and Georgia,” says David Michaels, who ran OSHA for the last seven years of the Obama administration. Safety at the Southern car factories themselves is generally good, he says. The situation is much worse at parts suppliers, where workers earn about 70¢ for every dollar earned by auto parts workers in Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Many plants in the North are unionized; only a few are in the South.)

Cordney Crutcher has known both environments. In 2013 he lost his left pinkie while operating a metal press at Matsu Alabama, a parts maker in Huntsville owned by Matcor-Matsu Group Inc. of Brampton, Ont. Crutcher was leaving work for the day when a supervisor summoned him to replace a slower worker on the line, because the plant had fallen 40 parts behind schedule for a shipment to Honda Motor Co. He’d already worked 12 hours, Crutcher says, and wanted to go home, “but he said they really needed me.” He was put on a press that had been acting up all day. It worked fine until he was 10 parts away from finishing, and then a cast-iron hole puncher failed to deploy. Crutcher didn’t realize it. Suddenly the puncher fired and snapped on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.

Now Crutcher, 42, commutes an hour to the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., where he’s a member of United Auto Workers. “They teach you the right way,” he says. “They don’t throw you to the wolves.” His pay rose from $12 an hour at Matsu to $18.21 at GM.

In 2014, OSHA’s Atlanta office, after detecting a high number of safety violations at the region’s parts suppliers, launched a crackdown. The agency cited one year, 2010, when workers in Alabama parts plants had a 50 percent higher rate of illness and injury than the U.S. auto parts industry as a whole. That gap has narrowed, but the incidence of traumatic injuries in Alabama’s auto parts plants remains 9 percent higher than in Michigan’s and 8 percent higher than in Ohio’s. In 2015 the chances of losing a finger or limb in an Alabama parts factory was double the amputation risk nationally for the industry, 65 percent higher than in Michigan and 33 percent above the rate in Ohio.

Korean-owned plants, which make up roughly a quarter of parts suppliers in Alabama, have the most safety violations in the state, accounting for 36 percent of all infractions and 52 percent of total fines, from 2012 to 2016. The U.S. is second, with 23 percent of violations and 17 percent of fines, and Germany is third, with 15 percent and 11 percent. But serious accidents occur in plants from all over, according to more than 3,000 pages of court documents and OSHA investigative files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Feel the Freedom!

The Official Presidency of Domestic Abusers and Rapists

[ 23 ] March 25, 2017 |


I too am shocked that President Pussy Grabbing Fascist would create fascist policies that facilitate the crimes of domestic abusers and rapists.

Latinos in Los Angeles are making dramatically fewer reports of rape and domestic violence amid a climate of fear over increased immigration enforcement, according to the city’s Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Since the beginning of 2017, reports of rape among the city’s Latino population have declined by 25 percent, compared to the same period last year. Domestic violence reports have dropped nearly 10 percent. According to statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, no other ethnic group experienced a comparable decrease.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Beck said there was a “strong correlation” between the Trump administration’s new immigration rules, which empower federal agents to more aggressively deport those without documentation regardless of whether they’ve committed a serious crime, and the deflated numbers.

“Imagine a young woman—imagine your daughter, sister, mother, your friend—not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” he said during an appearance with Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The Pew Research Center estimates that the Los Angeles metro area has one million undocumented immigrants, more than any other area in the country except New York. In a press release, the LAPD cautioned that while “there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized.”

And hey, when the fascist shock force known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement starts arresting women at their domestic violence hearings, turns out it will stop women from protecting themselves through the legal system. I wonder how many women Trump will kill because of this. A feature, not a bug, no doubt.

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