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Category: General

Corporate Inversions

[ 39 ] November 23, 2015 |


Another giant corporate merger so that American corporations can escape American taxes:

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said on Monday that it had struck a $160 billion deal, including debt, to merge with Allergan, the maker of Botox, in one of the biggest takeovers in the health care industry.

The agreement would also be the biggest deal in what has been a banner year for mergers, driven in part by consolidation in the health care and pharmaceutical sectors. Merger and acquisition activity worldwide surpassed $4 trillion as of Thursday, for only the second time since Thomson Reuters began keeping records in 1980.

The deal is the latest — and the largest — to be aimed at helping an American company lower its taxes by reincorporating overseas, a practice known as a corporate inversion.

President Obama has called inversions “unpatriotic.” His administration has tried to crack down on the strategy this year, with the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announcing additional rules last week meant to further restrict the practice. The United States government has already lost billions of dollars in tax revenue from inversions, particularly in recent years.

Of course, corporations don’t care about patriotism unless they can wring profit from it. Their only loyalty is to cash. Democrats have introduced bills to stop corporate inversions, but of course they have gone nowhere in a Republican Congress ready to serve as the lapdog of industry. This Economist piece is flawed but gets at the two major issues. First, we have a relatively high corporate tax rate that nobody pays because of the endless loopholes. Those loopholes should be closed and perhaps a lower overall rate is a reasonable compromise if they are in fact closed. Second, the U.S. attempts to tax all corporate profit regardless of what country it was generated in. Other nations don’t do that, incentivizing American companies to limit their ties with the U.S. The problem here isn’t a mean American taxation system, it’s a matter of enforcement, as well as other nations not taxing corporations enough, which admittedly we can do nothing about.

Perhaps this Pfizer deal will move the needle on this issue a bit, but I doubt it.


The Deep Thoughts of Scott Adams, SUPERGENIUS

[ 125 ] November 23, 2015 |


Beth alluded to this below, but I cannot resist making fun of Scott Adams’s complaints about how women rule the world:

When we get home, access to sex is strictly controlled by the woman.

Um, as Beth’s linkee observes, “Er, dude, that’s how sex works. Both sex partners have to agree to it, otherwise it’s rape. And men have veto power when it comes to sex just like women do.” But this is just standard-issue “you buy her a Big Mac with fries and she WON’T EVEN PUT OUT” misogynist whining. Things proceed to get more idiosyncratically sexist:

If the woman has additional preferences in terms of temperature, beverages, and whatnot, the man generally complies.

If women always get their way on temperature, I’m pretty sure it’s news to them. But at least temperature is a common good that affects both people in a room and is subject to negotiation and compromise. The thing about how women always get their way with beverages, though, is really weird. In my understanding, it is entirely possible for people to consume a particular beverage while — at the same time, even! — someone else consumes a different beverage. Also, I may be unique in this regard, but I must say that while people are guests in my home, I try to accommodate their beverage requests irrespective of their gender or whether I am interested in having sex with them. How can I ever escape the iron grip of the matriarchy?

If I fall in love and want to propose, I am expected to do so on my knees, to set the tone for the rest of the marriage.

Um, yeah, not really. I have even heard rumors that some agreements to marry involve mutual discussion, and in some vanishingly rare cases may involve proposals by women.

This pretty much speaks for itself:

So if you are wondering how men become cold-blooded killers, it isn’t religion that is doing it. If you put me in that situation, I can say with confidence I would sign up for suicide bomb duty. And I’m not even a believer. Men like hugging better than they like killing. But if you take away my access to hugging, I will probably start killing, just to feel something. I’m designed that way. I’m a normal boy. And I make no apology for it.

I find the causal logic here both unpersuasive and highly disturbing. Although perhaps America’s epidemic of firearm violence is really the product of uppity women who will not even let men dictate their beverage choices.

Crazylinks: Monday Edition

[ 49 ] November 23, 2015 |

  • Scott Adams is not a normal boy.
  • Lana Del Rey is a new conservative icon. No, really.  Aside from this being the usual bonkers conservative culture war crap, this column is also horribly written. I confess I’m used to men masturbating over their own writing but I’m pretty sure Stephanie Edelman needed a cigarette after writing dreck like this: “They scream and clap and gaze transfixed when Lana graces the stage, a David Lynch-like vision of loveliness, and haunting in her incarnation of Americana nostalgia.” Now, while admit that Lynch has a certain je ne sais quoi, I’m not sure I’d want to look like him if I were a female-presenting woman.
  • MST3K is back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • You want dino erotica? Well, I don’t have it! But I do have a Chuck Tingler erotica title generator, which is possibly better!


Today in Reasonable Conservatives

[ 5 ] November 23, 2015 |


Remember when Mitch Daniels, Reasonable Conservative, was a thing when pundits were talking about Republican presidential candidates? Those were good times. Well, Daniels is now president of Purdue. There have been a lot of racist incidents during his presidency:

Last December, more than 150 Purdue students marched to Daniels’ office in a “Purdue Can’t Breathe” rally. The year before, hundreds of students chanted, “Mitch, let’s face it/It’s time to deal with racists.”

Students of colors have told stories about others on campus hurling racial epithets at them and even physically assaulting them. There were also more high-profile incidents, like when someone scrawled the N-word across a picture of Dr. Cornell Bell, a prominent African American academic and advocate for minority students, or when the words “white supremacy” were written in the Black Cultural Center. Two anonymous Twitter accounts dedicated to mocking Asian students at Purdue also elicited protests. In 2012, the FBI announced that Purdue had reported the second largest number of hate crimes on campus, including five incidents of racial bias in one year.

The 2013 protests demanded the administration take specific actions to improve the culture on campus, including doubling the number of minority faculty and students in the next years, requiring racial sensitivity workshops for faculty, and creating a zero-tolerance policy that results in expulsion for racist acts. The 2014 rally followed up with more demands, saying Daniels was too slow to act.

So his response to the protests at Yale and Missouri? Congratulations on his own great leadership.

With that kind of leadership, maybe Daniels should write a book about how his brand of leaderocity and leadertude can inspire a whole generation of leadership studies students! Because being a university president is nothing but an exercise in self-promotion and justifying your own actions to make yourself look good.

Oh White People

[ 102 ] November 23, 2015 |


My god….

In a new poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on Tuesday, a whopping 43 percent of Americans told researchers that discrimination against whites has become as large a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minority groups. And an even bigger share of Americans — 53 percent — told pollsters American culture and “way of life” have mostly changed for the worse since 1950.

First, there are some real and large differences in the way that different groups of Americans answered those two questions up above. Half of white Americans — including 60 percent of the white working class — told researchers that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. Meanwhile, 29 percent of Latinos and 25 percent of black Americans agreed. White Americans feel put-upon and mistreated — and large shares of non-white Americans do not seem to have any knowledge of the challenges that white Americans say they face.

This is the base of the Trump voter and rise of proto-fascism in the United States in the last few years. White people frankly want a return to their romanticized vision of the white dominant past in ways that would not look unfamiliar to supporters of Hitler and Mussolini. Race has always been a zero-sum game for many American whites and periodically large numbers of whites enter into a period of full-fledged racial hysteria, even if to the rational community who can look at any number of metrics, this makes no sense. I will however say that the numbers of the white working class are particularly important because the economic insecurity of an outsourced and automated economy, the effects of which are swept under the rug by the many proponents of unrestricted globalization, are very real. I have said for a long time that if you want a stable society you have to have good paying jobs. Without those jobs, racial and religious prejudice becomes even more powerful than it usually is. That is part of what we are seeing in this recent rise of proto-fascism. It’s scary and should make us rethink a lot about the society we want to build before it’s too late.

Battery Recycling and Toxicity

[ 8 ] November 23, 2015 |


One does not want to live around a lead battery recycling facility:

In the wake of a growing lead pollution investigation in neighborhoods around the now shuttered Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, state toxics regulators have ordered a second lead battery recycler in nearby Industry to test soil outside its property for lead contamination.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has given Quemetco, Inc. until the end of the month to submit a schedule for testing, beginning with a half-mile radius around the facility at 720 S. Seventh St. Each day, the plant processes up to 1.2 million pounds of scrap and lead.

As with Exide, testing may eventually stretch up to a mile away from the plant if initial findings indicate the possibility of wider spread contamination.

Dot Lofstrom, a division chief overseeing cleanup programs at DTSC, said the soil testing around Quemetco comes in part because of growing pollution concerns around Exide. In August, her agency announced lead dust from the Exide may have fouled as many 10,000 homes.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t really get into the demographics of the neighborhood. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a poor neighborhood of color.

This also gets to the point that while we think recycling is a great thing, it’s very much a out of sight-out of mind thing and in fact the wages of recycling are really nasty for both workers and nearby residents.

Fair and balanced

[ 13 ] November 23, 2015 |


Earlier today I wondered how the media are going to handle the tricky situation created by the fact that the front-runner for the GOP nomination is both a racist demagogue and a pathological liar. How many “journalists” will surrender to the professional bad habit of framing brazen no-two-ways-about-it lies as “controversial” statements, about which there can be a variety of legitimate opinions?

Consider this nugget from Cory Bennett of the Weekly World News Hill:

However, the percentages do, in some ways, align with Department of Justice (DOJ) findings from several years ago. A DOJ study released in 2011 reported that 93 percent of black homicides were committed by other blacks between 1980 and 2008.

In 2014, that figure was roughly 90 percent in 2014, according to the latest DOJ numbers.

The category tweeted out by Trump that doesn’t fit with DOJ statistics is “Whites Killed by Whites,” which Trump’s tweet indicated was 16 percent.

According to the department’s 2011 report, 84 percent of white homicides were committed by whites between 1980 and 2008. That number was 82 percent in 2014.

Contrary to Bennett, the category of interest here is “whites killed by blacks,” which Trump’s tweet claimed made up 81% of all murders of whites (the true percentage is a sixth of that).

Trump’s claims are true “in some ways,” in the trivial sense that they contain assertions that nobody has ever questioned, along with the crazy lies that should be the exclusive subject of journalistic commentary, because it’s the crazy lies that are newsworthy.

In other words, claiming that Trump’s racist lies regarding this subject “in some ways” reflect the actual facts is no different than saying that the claims of Holocaust deniers “in some ways” reflect reality, because after all, as deniers argue, a lot of Jews did die as a result of harsh conditions in labor camps, as opposed to being directly murdered. It’s just that the other stuff about how millions weren’t gassed and shot in an extermination campaign happens to be false.

This Doesn’t Change the Fact That Vince Foster was Killed to Cover Up Whitewater

[ 23 ] November 23, 2015 |


Inside the Clinton faux-scandal factory:

On Wednesday evening, a link appeared in red on the Drudge Report: “NOT FUNNY: Hillary Goes After Comedians for Making Fun of Her …” It led to a story put out by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has played a key role in the perpetuation of the Benghazi investigation. The piece said that a staffer from Hillary Clinton’s campaign threatened Jamie Masada, founder of the Laugh Factory chain of comedy clubs, over a video compilation of Hillary jokes on the Laugh Factory website. “Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording,” Judicial Watch said. In short order, right-leaning sites including NewsBusters, NewsMax, Mediaite, the Daily Caller, and the Daily Mail aggregated the accusation.


So I called him. Masada told me that on Nov. 11, he got a call from a man named John—he doesn’t remember the last name—who sounded “distinguished, like an attorney.” John said he represented the Clinton campaign. He asked Masada “who had put him up” to posting the video. In a menacing voice, he told Masada, “This is not good for your business.” John then asked for the email or phone numbers of the five comedians who were featured in the video. “I told him, ‘Eff you,’ and I hung up,” says Masada.

How does Masada know that John was actually from the Clinton camp? He doesn’t. “I’m glad I’m not in politics or any of that stuff; you might know more than I do,” he says. “Maybe it was a prank, I have no idea. Was it real? Not real? I have no idea. He didn’t call back, that’s all I can say.” Nor is Masada sure how Judicial Watch even heard about the call. “The way I understand it, it’s because one of the [Laugh Factory] employees told a couple of people,” he says.


What we have here is a small-scale demonstration of how the Hillary smear sausage gets made. It starts with a claim that’s ambiguous at best, fabricated at worst, and then interpreted in the most invidious possible light. The claim is reported in one outlet and amplified on Twitter. Other outlets then report on the report, repeating the claim over and over again. Talk radio picks it up. Maybe Fox News follows. Eventually the story achieves a sort of ubiquity in the right-wing media ecosystem, which makes it seem like it’s been confirmed. Soon it becomes received truth among conservatives, and sometimes it even crosses into the mainstream media. If you watched the way the Clintons were covered in the 1990s, you know the basics of this process. If you didn’t, you’re going to spend the next year—and maybe the next nine years—learning all about it.

Of course, Doug Henwood finds this story fascinating and would like to subscribe to its newsletter. I wonder if it will be reported as fact in his forthcoming book or it will have to wait for the second edition.

Talking Jessica Jones with Graphic Policy Radio

[ 80 ] November 23, 2015 |

As part of my ongoing mission to talk about the politics of the Marvel Universe whenever possible, I did a guest appearance on Graphic Policy‘s podcast (a fine production which you should all be following) to talk about Netflix’s new Jessica Jones show. For those of you who haven’t binged on the entire thing, don’t worry, each episode only covers one episode – on this initial outing, we’re discussing the pilot, “AKA Ladies Night.”

America’s Got Fascists: This fall’s hit reality TV show (now also known as “reality”)

[ 86 ] November 23, 2015 |


Scott notes that yesterday Donald Trump appropriated a fake graphic created by a neo-Nazi, who had made up some wildly false crime statistics for the purpose of racist fear-mongering.

It was a busy weekend for Trump. On Saturday at a Birmingham, Alabama, rally some of his supporters beat up a black protester, and Trump suggested the victim was only getting what he deserved. He also had this to say:

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Yesterday, he doubled down on this claim on ABC’s This Week:

There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George [Stephanopoulos]. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.

In response to this toxic nonsense, Stephanopoulous politely demurred, merely noting that “the police say it didn’t happen.” (The relevant exchange takes place between 6:45 and 7:32 here).

Notice that even the Snopes takedown linked above tries to rationalize Trump’s behavior somewhat, by noting that people often think they remember seeing things that didn’t actually happen. (That’s true, but presidential candidates should probably be held to a higher standard, especially if they’re using their demonstrably false “memories” — if this isn’t just a pure lie from Trump, which is more likely — to incite racial and religious hatred and violence).

The media are in a tough spot here, because both the informal propaganda apparatus and a good part of the base of one of the two major parties has decided that a racist demagogue who lies pathologically about everything ought to be president. This means coverage of this person has to be “balanced,” which in turn means you can’t just point out over and over again that Trump is a racist demagogue who lies pathologically about everything, because that wouldn’t sound very balanced now would it?

. . . see also Dylan Matthews.

Today In Racist Demagoguery

[ 65 ] November 22, 2015 |


The Donald:

Going back to at least Barry Goldwater’s “constitutional” opposition to civil rights and the strident “law and order rhetoric” of the early 1960s, the Republican Party has specialized in racist dog whistles. But Republican front-runner Donald Trump doesn’t do dog whistles. He specializes in train whistles. Consider the tweet he just sent out with bogus statistics on crime. According to the tweet, 81 percent of murdered whites are killed by blacks. In fact, that’s the reverse of the truth. Most people are killed by members of their own race because crime is motivated by proximity and opportunity. As the Huffington Post notes, “According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites.”

By wildly inflating the likelihood of a murderer of a white person to be black (an exaggeration of nearly sixfold), Trump is catering to the worst sort of racism. Perhaps the icing on the cake of this anti-black outburst is that the source of information cited in the tweet—the “Crime Statistics Bureau” of San Francisco—doesn’t seem to exist. What remains to be seen is if the Republican Party and the other candidates will repudiate this crude and dangerous race-baiting.

I think we can pretty safely conclude that the wished-for repudiation ain’t happening. And, of course, the media is ready with “shape of the world, both sides differ” stories.

And then there’s this:

Donald Trump is not directly inciting violence. But violence is happening at Donald Trump events — with some frequency. It’s alarming that Donald Trump is not saying, repeatedly, that this is wrong and needs to stop. It is even more alarming that after the August hate crime, and after the repeated incidents at Trump events since then, Trump is willing to say that “maybe he deserved to be roughed up.”

A disturbing postscript: if the Trump campaign had had its way, the incident in Birmingham wouldn’t have been witnessed by a journalist at all. It wasn’t easily visible from the “pen” where reporters were being held during the event; the CNN reporter had managed to slip into the crowd. In the past week, the Trump campaign has started tracking down reporters outside the “pen” and forcing them to return there — and after the CNN reporter taped the fight in Birmingham yesterday that’s what happened to her. The campaign’s attempt to keep reporters from witnessing Trump events from the perspective of attendees is worrisome in its own right. It’s especially worrisome when what’s happening in the crowd at those events could involve someone getting roughed up.

Trump is leading in the polls because in all this, he’s not an outlier within his party. It’s the inevitable song that was going to be played on Nixon’s piano. “Mainstream” Republicans are more likely to one-up him than repudiate him.

…The racist fake stat Trump re-tweeted came from an explicit fan of Hitler. The parody novel we’re living in continues to be a little too on-the-nose.

Labor’s Decline and Fall

[ 20 ] November 22, 2015 |


Above: Sewing workers strike, 1937

If you haven’t read Rich Yeselson’s discussion of why organized labor has declined so far from its postwar height, you should do so. It’s a pretty right-on analysis that combines how mechanization and efficiency has undermined unions throughout the developed world with the unique political scene of the United States that has led to a much more fundamentalist hatred of unions among employers than Europe (which the sociologist Kim Voss notes in her comparison between the U.S., Britain, and France extends back to the Knights of Labor era in the U.S.) that has created a political scene in this nation that has always made it harder for unions to succeed. The the South has always had outsized political influence here makes it all the harder.

With the brief exception of the late 1930s followed by the anomalous period of the Second World War when the government needed the active support of unions to maximize military production, labor has never had a juridical and statist presumption that it should institutionally survive, let alone flourish. For much of its history, and to this very day, the courts, business, and conservative media and politicians have sought to diminish labor’s power, if not crush it outright. With the exception of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (which opponents immediately sought to undermine and whose legal fate was unresolved for two years), there has never been a statist framework in the US that explicitly sought to ensure labor’s institutional viability across the branches of the federal government and state governments. And without that statist presumption, unions had to confront what historian Nelson Lichtenstein has labeled a special form of “American exceptionalism”: “the hostility managers have shown toward both the regulatory state and virtually all forms of worker representation.” Lichtenstein goes onto note that the absence in the U.S. of “self regulation or cartelization” found in Europe and parts of Asia. Decentralized “competitive disorder” made non-rationalized wage and benefit increases imposed by firm-by-firm unionization (rather than the sectorial model of collective bargaining found in Europe in which the extra cost burdens of unionization was socialized across economic sectors) a great threat to companies and triggered a particularly vicious, sometimes violent, response. The brief period of labor’s zenith did not diminish the desire of its enemies to undermine it—on the contrary, it was a persistent provocation: a reminder of the power business had lost and wished to regain. Thus when, via the decline in manufacturing and a corresponding loss of political influence, unions weakened in the 1970s, the business class seized that moment and, by the construction of politically and intellectually influential think tanks and a massive increase in their congressional lobbying, counter-mobilized to crush them. It only took a decade or so of labor’s increased vulnerability to prove how wrong Eisenhower’s benign notion was that “only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries” wished to bust American unions. In fact, the entire business class of the United States, large and small companies alike, wished to bust American unions and when, given a chance to do so, seized it.

The structural reasons for union diminution, i.e., trends in political economies that affected the entire advanced world, are well known, if sometimes distorted and misread under the rubric, “globalization.” Yes, millions of first world jobs in manufacturing and mining have disappeared since the Second World War. Manufacturing and mining jobs peaked in 1953 at about a third of total employment. After a steady decline through the 1973-74 recession, they briefly returned to a 22% figure in 1978, but a steady decline from there accelerated in the 21st century. Today, manufacturing represents fewer than 9% of all jobs (although productivity increases make manufacturing a significantly larger share of GDP). Many of these jobs did go overseas. But many others were just lost to productivity gains. In mining, for example, there are, perhaps 80,000 jobs today compared to over a half million—almost all of which were unionized–in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Coal provided close to 2/3rds of our energy then—making the imperious president of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, one of the most powerful people in the country, Now, coal provides under a third of our energy and, as climate change policy becomes more pressing, it is an industry which, like tobacco, has taken on an anti-social cast.

Very much worth your time.

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