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Category: General

The TPP: Another Tool to Exploit Women

[ 12 ] March 21, 2016 |


Rep. Louise Slaughter on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership is another tool to exploit women:

But something that has gone overlooked and under-discussed is the fact that the TPP will tie the United States to countries that do not value the rights of women.

One of those countries is Brunei Darussalam. Even while Brunei was participating in the TPP negotiations, that country was passing laws that harm women. Brunei’s new penal laws proscribe imprisonment for women who have an abortion or who have a child out of wedlock. The penalty for being found guilty of adultery or extramarital sex is flogging or death by stoning. Rather than condemn these repressive acts, the TPP would bring the United States in partnership with Brunei, a country that adopted Sharia law in 2014, causing condemnation from human rights groups.

The case of Malaysia is just as distressing. That country has a troubling and well-documented history of slave labor and serious human trafficking abuses. Every year, millions of people are forced into unpaid labor, with teenage girls forced to become domestic workers in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Sadly, many also suffer sexual abuse or are driven into Malaysia’s sex trade, and mass graves were also recently discovered.

For years, Malaysia was on the list of worst countries for human trafficking but has shown no real progress in changing its ways. According to our own State Department’s 2014 trafficking report, Malaysia “made limited and inadequate efforts to improve its flawed victim protection regime,” and authorities there detained victims for over a year in some cases, all while decreasing trafficking enforcement.

In May 2015, authorities near the border with Thailand discovered 139 bodies in shallow graves, most likely the remains of trafficked migrants trying to escape persecution in Burma and Bangladesh. Yet, just a few short weeks later, the State Department actually upgraded Malaysia’s status. Questions have since been raised about whether this was done because the fast-track bill passed by Congress said the administration couldn’t rubber stamp any trade agreement with countries in the worst trafficking category.

Appallingly, just a month after the administration rewarded Malaysia with this upgraded trafficking status despite its abysmal record, authorities found dozens more bodies in the Malaysian jungle.

The Malaysia reclassification is one of the single worst foreign policy outrages of the Obama administration, really putting the lie to the idea that the TPP is about helping the world’s workers. When you give Malaysia all the benefits up front in exchange for vague promises about reform, you can’t actually expect that reform to happen. What Slaughter didn’t mention and should have is women working in the sweatshops and how the TPP will contribute to their exploitation through a globalized labor regime that gives corporations the opportunity to sue countries for raising their labor standards while not granting women any legal path to ending the routine unsafe working conditions, sexual assault, forced birth control, low wages, and physical punishment while making clothes or other products for Walmart, Nike, Gap, Target, etc.


Two Views on Fast Food and Minimum Wages

[ 159 ] March 21, 2016 |


Turns out if you treat workers like humans, they work better. Who knew!

Turnover is down, and customer service scores are up, company says.

Last year, McDonald’s MCD -0.08% joined a chorus of struggling U.S. companies offering workers pay hikes to help spur a turnaround. And it looks like the move is paying off for the fast-food giant.

The hamburger chain in April announced it would raise the average hourly rate for workers at the U.S. restaurants it owns to $9.90 from $9.01 starting July 2015, with average wages climbing above $10 per hour by the end of 2016. The company also said it would allow those employees to earn up to five days of paid vacation every year following one year of employment. (The higher wages remain very far from the $15 rate many labor advocates are pressing McDonald’s to adopt.)

The raises, which affected only about 10% of workers (the vast majority of McDonald’s U.S. restaurants are franchised), were announced while McDonald’s was developing a plan to shake off a multi-year comparable sales slump and bring people back to its stores.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, who took the helm in 2015, has since moved swiftly, closing hundreds of weak stores, bringing back all-day breakfast, and simplifying the chain’s menu, reducing bottlenecks in serving customers quickly. But improving the customer experience hinges on workers being on board with all these changes, hence the raises.

“It has done what we expected it to—90 day turnover rates are down, our survey scores are up—we have more staff in restaurants,” McDonald’s U.S. president Mike Andres told analysts at a UBS conference on Wednesday. “So far we’re pleased with it—it was a significant investment obviously but it’s working well.”

The move reportedly created friction with franchisees, who hire and pay their own workers, as they felt pressure to match the wage hikes. Still, there are early signs it is paying off: In October, McDonald’s reported its first quarter of comparable sales gains in two years. The company built on that growth with a huge 5.7% increase in the following quarter.

The improvements echo those at Walmart which also offered U.S. workers wage increases that were followed by improved customer service scores.

On the other hand, you have Carl Jr’s automating all the ordering, supposedly because of that dastardly minimum wage. Thus it is evidently the fault of workers themselves they are losing their jobs:

Is he being heartless? No. Just responding to the government’s foolish plans to jack up the minimum wage and put restaurants, hotels, bars and other service industries out of business. “With government driving up the cost of labor, it’s driving down the number of jobs,” said Puzder. “You’re going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants.”

He’s right. That’s why whenever the minimum wage rises above the market-set prevailing wage, jobs are destroyed. Who would pay someone $15 an hour to do a job that’s worth less than that? No one.

This isn’t rocket science or even advanced economics. It’s plain common sense — something that populist demagogues on the left seem to be missing entirely.

This is of course ridiculous. While there may be a point where higher wages could directly lead to automation, the minimal moves toward higher wages over the last couple of years is not freaking out fast food CEOs. Current minimum wages in the large majority of the nation are still below inflation-adjusted minimum wages decades ago. This is just a shunt to find someone to blame for throwing people out of work in order to maximize profit.

But given how much so many people love to do work for Kroger and Safeway while throwing grocery clerks out of work by checking out their own groceries just so they don’t have to interact with another human being, I’m sure there will no major backlash to Carl Jr’s actions. In fact, I’m sure this will expand. It won’t have anything or much to do with the minimum wage. It’s part of the broader move toward automation. Were there actually a jobs program in this country for people who do not have a college education, I might say that something like a fast food cashier is a job that one might want eliminated. But there are no jobs program. The alternative to the fast food job is nothing. And that’s where the working class is headed because of automation and because of capital mobility. To nothing. Carl’s Jr and your own willingness to embrace automation are part of the reason for that.

Trump and the Rust Belt

[ 123 ] March 21, 2016 |


Can Donald Trump win the Great Lakes region, which is pretty much his only hope of winning the general election? Almost certainly not. The shift in white voters away from Obama would have to be gargantuan.

— In Michigan, where Romney beat Obama by 52-46 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 58-40, an improvement of 12 points.

— In Wisconsin, where Romney beat Obama by 50-49 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 54-45, an improvement over Romney of eight points.

— In Pennsylvania, where Romney beat Obama 54-44 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 58-40, an improvement of eight points.

— In Ohio, where Romney beat Obama by 56-42 among white voters overall, Trump would have to win among them by 58-40, an improvement of four points. (This seems doable, but again, this presumes Trump makes inroads among college educated whites and that the nonwhite spread remains the same.)

“It seems very unlikely that Trump can do so much better than Romney among whites and particularly working class whites in these states,” Teixeira tells me. “The swings are just too big.”

Now, Trump backers might argue that he will also drive up turnout among white voters relative to nonwhites, meaning he would not have to win among them by these margins to prevail. But here is where a demographic trap intrudes: All of the things that Trump might say and do to drive up white turnout — particularly working class white turnout — would also likely drive up nonwhite turnout. So there’s no reason to expect a major boost in turnout from one group and not the other, Teixeira says.

On top of this, each of these states has become less white since 2012. The white percentage of the electorate in these states is expected to fall by about 1 percent and the working-class white percentage by 2 percent. There’s almost no way Trump can win these states.

Kids today

[ 204 ] March 21, 2016 |

Justin Weinberg does a fine job of taking apart a particularly egregious example of the “these kids today” jeremiad from Ron Srigley, identifying virtually all the common tropes deployed in lazy declinist narratives in one short article:

Professors, you were not normal. You weren’t normal back when you were an undergraduate, and you aren’t normal now. Even back then, you cared about stuff (yes I’ll say “stuff”) that most of your fellow students didn’t even ever think about, and now that you’ve spent so much time studying that stuff, writing about that stuff, credentializing yourself in that stuff, and attempting to stake out status in virtue of your command of that stuff, you care about it so much more. But still—just like back when you were a student—most people, including your students now, don’t care about that stuff. This is not new.

So, please don’t write any opinion piece of the “declinist” variety—the kind that complains that things are worse than they used to be—that cites as an example of the phenomena that students just don’t care anymore. For what such an essay really tells us is how unhappy you are that the world has not changed.

A few additional musings.

1. Two of the big changes in college undergraduate degrees in the last half-century:

First, while my industry prefers the positive spin (opportunities to pursue higher education have opened up to a much greater portion of society!), another way to look at it is that a college degree has become a much more important, perhaps necessary, credential for a middle class life.

Second, I’ll leave the precise math to Paul, but college degrees have become considerably more costly than they used to be, particularly in relation to the earnings and resources of many of the people who, understandably, now feel they have little choice but to pay it.

These changes did not occur simultaneously; the first predated the second by roughly a few decades. It was in that intermediate window that many, perhaps most, of today’s college faculty members earned their undergraduate degrees. At risk of succumbing to a bit of the unreliable nostalgia Weinberg rightly warns against, I do feel like there was a bit more of the “I love learning and I’m just here to learn” mentality (it probably is a false distinction; as a person like that I’m sure I sought out and surrounded myself with like-minded people) that makes our jobs so much more pleasant. In that intermediate moment, certainly kinds of optimism and idealism about academia had a plausibility to them that just doesn’t make sense in 2016. If you’ve failed to update your idealism in light of the second change, and judge your students against your anachronistic optimism, that’s your failing, not theirs. Millions of people are now in effect being told “You have to buy this and it’s much more expensive than it used to be.” People in that situation should be expected to ask some hard questions about what they’re buying.

2. I don’t want to directly accuse Srigley of this, knowing nothing about him beyond his bad column, but I really do think there’s a real dimension of egotism and pining for lost hierarchies involved in this particular whine. Most faculty members aren’t so clueless about their students that they actually think it’s particularly likely to have the same kind of love of learning and intellectual pursuit that they do. So what they really want, I suspect, is more convincing performances of that; a kind of ritual affirming the status-ambitions of someone who enjoys going to work every day and playing the brilliant professor. This is an ugly desire, but particularly so in light of (1) above.

3. Srigley doesn’t use the term, so this is a bit of a tangent, but this reminds me a bit of why I get annoyed by lazy “everything I don’t like goes together” style of complaining about changes in university/higher education under the banner of “the neoliberalization of the university.”* I take it that insofar as neoliberal has a clear meaning it implies the application of market-oriented logics, incentives, behaviors, and such to institutions and social structures that historically operated on some alternative, or market-oriented actors descending upon those institutions and altering them for their own purposes. This actually does capture a significant part of what’s gone wrong in higher education; the destructive rise of a self-dealing vampiric upper management class with no allegiance to some of the institutions longstanding values and mission fits well within this narrative, for example. But subsuming “students acting more like consumers” (if there is even a meaningful change here, which I’m not conceding) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. With the caveat that they won’t always do it well and shouldn’t automatically get everything they want, that students are trying to figure out what they want from this and having the courage to voice it should be expected and, frankly, welcomed. There are a lot of aspects of higher education worthy of criticism; overreliance on the metanarrative of ‘neoliberalization’ runs the danger of obscuring our efforts to do so, while affirming some of our less well-earned priors.

h/t John Protevi.

* As he is wont to do, Freddie provides the reductio: anti-racist student protesters who are Doing It Wrong are cast as agents of neoliberalism.

Merrick Garland Will Not be Confirmed in a Lame Duck Session

[ 143 ] March 21, 2016 |


For reasons that really should be obvious:

But what if Hillary Clinton wins in November and brings a Senate majority on her coattails (or Trump’s anti-coattails)? Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a former head of the Judiciary Committee himself, has suggested that Garland could be confirmed by the lame-duck Senate after an election. And there’s a superficial logic to it — Garland is about the best nomination Republicans could reasonably expect from a Democratic president (particularly considering that Garland is 63, about a decade older than the typical contemporary nominee), so why not take what you can get?

But, on closer inspection, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is not happening. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the second-most powerful Senate Republican, popped Hatch’s trial balloon, and he will almost certainly prevail.

One daunting problem a Senate majority that theoretically wanted to confirm Garland would face is a very compressed time frame. Even relatively streamlined Supreme Court nomination processes generally require more time than a lame-duck Congress would have. Only a very focused Senate with a strong consensus in favor of confirming Garland could move a nomination that quickly through the famously sclerotic chamber.

And there’s no way the will and consensus will be there. Tea Party senators will almost certainly oppose confirmation for any nominee, period. Cornyn’s opposition in itself would probably be fatal. And not all of the likely opposition will come from the Republican side of the aisle. Democratic senators who would either prefer a more liberal nominee than Garland or who believe that president-elect Clinton is entitled to make her own selection are also likely to gum up the works. I doubt there would be a majority in favor of confirming Garland in a lame-duck Senate, and even if there was, the large minority opposed to it would almost certainly do what the Senate does best: stop that majority from acting.

And, again, this is not necessarily even irrational from a Republican standpoint. Even assuming that a Democratic Senate majority would blow up the filibuster and get a Clinton nominee confirmed, it’s probably not hugely important to most Republican senators whether Garland or someone marginally more liberal than Garland gets confirmed, and it’s certainly politically preferable for Republican senators with a wary eye on primary voters that any Democratic nominee get confirmed without Republican support.

And of course after the piece was in the can McConnell announced his opposition to a lame duck confirmation.

To put it another way, any Republican voting to confirm Garland, and hence votes to TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY and to KILL BABIES, risks a primary challenge. On the other hand, in a lame duck confirmation there’s no political upside for the GOP; Krik, Ayotte, Grassley et al. have either survived despite the obstruction or already lost. And in return for something that’s politically all downside and no upside, what are you getting in return? A judge who’s like the one Clinton would nominate, only a little older and maybe a little worse on Fourth Amendment issues from a conservative perspective. Maybe to Orrin Hatch, who’s 81 and cares a lot about this stuff, that’s a deal worth making. But for most members of the Republican conference, if you think they’d take that tradeoff you just don’t understand how they operate. Combine that with the fact that a lot of Democrats would prefer for Clinton to name her own nominee, and a lame duck confirmation is Not Happening.

Bacon: 2 bspencer: 0 … ‘n’ More

[ 129 ] March 20, 2016 |
      • Last weekend I cracked an egg in some piping hot bacon fat. Some of the fat splattered all over my fingers, giving me an incredibly ugly, painful burn. Today I was pulling some bacon out of the toaster oven using only a kitchen towel as an oven mitt when it began to feel too hot, so I abruptly put it on the kitchen counter. Again, piping hot bacon fat splattered on my hand, causing an incredibly painful burn. It’s depressing learning at the age of 43 that cured meats are smarter than I am.




    • Travel photos are better with toy dinosaurs. Like, no duh.



    • Area Man Denies Padme Lakshmi–Famous, Beautiful Model, Author and TV Personality–His Manly Essence is a great Onion headline. But it’s not from The Onion.



I wish I had made this up, but I’m just NOT.THAT.CLEVER. hence my struggles with cured meats. Anyway here’s…
GamerGate: The Musical!

Did Hillary Clinton Defeat Bernie Sanders on Trade?

[ 404 ] March 20, 2016 |


Hillary Clinton’s campaign is claiming it beat Bernie Sanders on trade, or at least an article at Tiger Beat on the Potomac makes this claim. Typical of said publication, it just lets the Clinton campaign serve itself what it wants to hear.

Clinton’s position of supporting trade deals in general but rejecting the current version of a deal based on specific objections, her campaign said, was more in line with the position of a majority of Democratic voters today than Sanders’ blanket moral opposition to trade deals overall.

It also helped to insulate her from attacks from Sanders and the left — but the bigger question remains of whether it will protect her in a potential fall matchup against Donald Trump, who blames free-trade deals for gutting the US economy.

“Voters agree that we have to compete and win in a global economy and that means we have to make things in the United States that we can sell to 95 percent of the world’s consumers who happen to live outside of the United States,” said Clinton’s senior strategist, Joel Benenson. “What the data from the exit polls says is these voters were more aligned with her fundamental view of trade.”

This is really self-serving. Later in the article, the author cites an AFL-CIO spokesperson that Clinton would not have won in Ohio if she did not come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That’s probably right. She needed to do that. That’s just basic politics, even though I have no doubt in my mind she would gladly sign the bill to enact it. So I guess if beating Bernie Sanders on trade means coming closer to his position in order to win a few more votes, then sure, she won on the issue.

But the idea that her victories earlier this week is a sign that the American voter really believes in the current trade system that led to NAFTA and the TPP is just a bunch of hot air. And this is just absurd:

“What this Midwest sweep showed,” said Jonathan Cowan, a former Clinton administration official who is president of the moderate think tank Third Way, “is that the trade issue in a Democratic primary has been dramatically overhyped. Clinton demonstrated she was the one who would restore the basic bargain for growth. That has big implications for the party and governing and for the fall.”

Cowan is just flat out wrong. The trade issue has been central to the entire Bernie Sanders phenomenon. Hillary Clinton might defeat that phenomenon. She almost certainly will, thanks to her structural advantages, his late campaign start, and his inability to reach parts of the Democratic base on issues other than trade and the economy. But this hardly means it’s time for Third Way hacks to pat themselves on the back and start working for a Grand Bargain with Republicans that will gut the social safety net in exchange for circus peanuts. If these people are smart, a point very much in doubt, they will realize that the left-wing rebellion within the Democratic Party on trade, the minimum wage, and economic inequality, has likely only just begun. There will be continued demands for a higher minimum wage (which I believe would be a very early priority of President Hillary Clinton), for trade deals that help American workers instead of export their jobs overseas, and for broad-based measures to reduce income inequality. Hillary Clinton didn’t win North Carolina and Florida or Ohio because voters thought she was right about trade. She won for entirely legitimate reasons, but not because the Democratic base really believes in this supposedly nuanced but what is rather a political opportunist position on trade.

In any case, a candidate with massive structural advantages that forced her late-rising challenger to cede many states because he didn’t have the resources to compete in them, which is implicitly admitted in the article, did not somehow defeat the left-wing insurgence on trade. At most, she co-opted just enough of it to win the primary. And that’s fine from a political perspective. That’s what a candidate is supposed to do. But let’s not start bragging about it because it’s not something to brag about. It’s something to take seriously because large swaths of the Democratic base are demanding action on these issues more than they have in a half-century. Taking that seriously and incorporating those critiques into governance is a lot smarter.

The Fight for $15: A History

[ 23 ] March 20, 2016 |


This is a good history of how the Fight for $15 started, how SEIU has promoted it, and the impact it has had on American political life.

The groundwork for the movement was laid in 2011, when the Occupy movement started drawing unprecedented attention to the growing chasm between haves and have-nots. Around the same time, the Service Employees International Union launched a campaign called Fight for a Fair Economy.

The SEIU, which represents 2 million health care, janitorial, and other service workers, formed a coalition of 15 labor and community groups to reach out to low-wage workers and address concerns such as job creation and foreclosures, then running rampant through working-class communities.

Advocacy groups around the country were also stepping up efforts to help struggling residents. One of them, New York Communities for Change, started surveying low-income residents about affordable housing and other issues. Many of the most destitute — and vocal — people they met worked in fast food.

These cooks and cashiers were not teenagers working part time for extra cash, but parents struggling to feed their children. Some had worked in fast food for years, while living in public housing and relying on food stamps.

“It was a really a flashbulb to us,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change.

But the size and scope of the fast-food industry — employing close to 3 million people, according to the US Census — was beyond NYCC’s abilities, Westin said, and he sought help from SEIU, a frequent partner.

That initial fall 2012 meeting attracted about 40 workers. Twice that many showed up to the next one. This time, the conversation revolved around forming a union and how much money it would take to survive, said Kendall Fells, an SEIU organizer.

The fast-food workers decided $10 an hour wasn’t enough, and $20 an hour didn’t seem possible. So they settled on $15.

At the third meeting, they set a strike date: Nov. 29, 2012. And early that Thursday morning, a week after Thanksgiving, 200 fast-food workers took to the streets of New York City. Many of them walked off their jobs, risking being fired and losing what little income they had.

“The individual courage of these few hundred workers making a bodacious demand galvanized the next stage of the national conversation about inequality,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU.

Demonstrations soon spread to Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and beyond. A year later, a one-day strike calling for $15 and a fast-food workers’ union took place in more than 100 cities, including Boston.

Darius Cephas got involved in early 2013, when an organizer walked through the door of the McDonald’s in Dorchester where Cephas was working. Cephas, 24, had been working since he was a teenager to help support his younger sisters and mother, who had a stroke when he was 18. On his McDonald’s wages, he said, he sometimes couldn’t afford to eat.

Cephas quickly became a leader in the movement, using his days off to recruit Boston workers to join the cause and traveling to Europe and Brazil on the SEIU’s dime to spread the word to workers and elected officials.

Cephas still makes low wages — at McDonald’s and at a Dollar Tree discount store in Hyde Park. But he now has something he previously had little of — a voice, and respect. “I’m actually going to be a part of history,” he said. “My name’s going to be remembered.”

There’s more. But a couple of points here. First, this probably doesn’t happen without the support of SEIU. There is a labor journalist world that hates SEIU with enormous passion–they see SEIU as worse than no union at all. Sometimes they have good points, but usually, like this terrible Arun Gupta article which claims that *GASP* SEIU is behind the Fight for $15 and interviews a bunch of anonymous organizers about this fact and how it is a “problem,” they let their internal hatreds get in the way of understanding how change happens. In fact, SEIU was and is absolutely critical to this in terms of using its significant organizational advantages, particularly its experienced organizers and money, to promote this movement.

Note also how being involved in such a movement can empower people in ways they never could have imagined, like Darius Cephas. This is the story of organizing–people who never felt they have a voice in fact can develop a very powerful voice. This is a wonderful thing.

Finally, I love that the $15 demand was basically just splitting the difference between $10 and $20. And that’s fine. Creating a rhetorically powerful demand is more important in creating change than all the economists’ studies of what a proper minimum wage should be in 2016. Those studies can sometimes be used to support said demands, or not. But the catalyst to change is a catchy slogan and people willing to work for that slogan more than anything academics or think tanks will ever do.

Lot to chew on in this history. Be a lot more to chew on as it continues to develop.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 24

[ 12 ] March 20, 2016 |

This is the grave of Bob Marshall, New York Jewish elite, socialist, forester, and wilderness advocate.


A truly fascinating individual, Marshall grew up in the Jewish community of New York and Syracuse, where his father was a constitutional lawyer and champion of getting persecuted Russian Jews to move to the United States. His father was also an early naturalist and frequently took his children into the forests, where he worked in organizations to protect the Adirondacks and Catskills. His son Robert, always known as Bob, embraced the forests. He decided to become a forester in his teens, went to Syracuse and majored in forestry, and while there became a charter member of the Adirondack Mountain Club. He started working as a forester in 1925 in Montana and traveled around the West working the rest of his life. By this point, his father had died and he became independently wealthy. He continued to work and instead used that money to try and create social change. As early as 1930, he published influential essays on the need for wilderness. While after World War II, the Forest Service would be strongly opposed to wilderness, during the 1930s, there was enormous internal controversy within the agency between foresters who wanted to serve the timber companies and radicals who wanted to completely rethink the government’s relationships with the forests, regulate timber companies, ban clearcutting, and promote wilderness. And while the former side of this debate won after 1940, the latter foresters became influential in building environmentalist thinking after the war.

He actively identified as a socialist as early as 1932, writing, “I wish very sincerely that Socialism would be put into effect right away and the profit system eliminated.” He became Washington, DC chairman of the ACLU, promoted federal funding for scientific research, worked with tenant rights organizations, and co-founded The Wilderness Society in 1935. He fought against racially discriminatory hiring practices within the USFS and promoted the forests being used for recreational opportunities instead of strictly for timber company interests. Unfortunately, he had a bad heart, which did not run in his family, as his brother lived to the age of 96. He had a heart attack on a train from Washington to New York in 1939. He was 38 years old. His estate of $1.5 million went to promote wilderness, socialism, and civil liberties. In his honor, after the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, the Bob Marshall Wilderness was created in Montana.

Bob Marshall is buried at Salem Fields Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

Conservative Political SUPERGENIUS Designs Brilliant Strategery

[ 184 ] March 20, 2016 |

I must say that, as a liberal, I am very, very scared right now:

The names of a few well-known conservatives have been offered up in recent days as potential third-party standard-bearers, and William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, has circulated a memo to a small number of conservative allies detailing the process by which an independent candidate could get on general-election ballots across the country.

Among the recruits under discussion are Tom Coburn, a former Oklahoma senator who has told associates that he would be open to running, and Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who was suggested as a possible third-party candidate at a meeting of conservative activists on Thursday in Washington.

First of all, as a liberal, let me note that I’m very scared that Republicans will discover the secret that running third party vanity campaigns is how you really effect change in the United States. They would really BULLY PULPIT the OVERTON WINDOW on STEROIDS that way. Even more terrifying is the possibility that this candidate will be the slightly more refined version Ted Cruz or a man who proved that you can be far too dumb to win a nomination twice captured by George W. Bush, now featuring glasses. And, most terrifying of all, having this third party run by the unerring political mastermind Bill Kristol? Yikes. If they bring Mark Penn aboard, we’re really cooked. I would be very, very angry if they tried something like this.

Saturday Night Open Thread

[ 51 ] March 19, 2016 |

It’s Saturday night. That means it’s time for alcoholic monkeys. Talk about whatever you want.

But, But, Look at This Snowball!

[ 38 ] March 19, 2016 |


Climate change. It’s undeniable. Unless you are so blinded by hippie hate or oil money that you can’t help it.

Above-average temperatures were widespread across the globe in February, making it another record-breaking month — with the highest departure from average on record. Combining land and ocean surface temperatures from thousands of measuring stations, NOAA announced this week that the global average temperature for the month was 2.18 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Read the full report here.

According to the monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the December-February temperature was also the highest for the season and highest departure from average for any 3-month period on record.

The globally averaged land-surface temperature for February was 4.16 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, breaking the previous record set in 1998 and 2015 (tied) by 1.13 degrees Fahrenheit. The globally averaged sea-surface temperature was 1.46 degrees Fahrenheit above average, also the highest for any February on record.

Data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab shows that the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during February was 800,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, making it the third-smallest February Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in the 50-year period of record and smallest since 2002. The North American snow cover extent was the 13th smallest on record while the Eurasian snow cover extent was fourth smallest.

Arctic sea ice extent also set a record low for the month, and Antarctic sea ice extent was the sixth-smallest in the satellite record, dating back 38 years.

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