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Category: General

“Barack Obama Knows What He’s Doing. I Will Put A Stop to That.”

[ 73 ] February 6, 2016 |


Given the viable alternatives, Marco Rubio is probably the best shot the Republicans have of re-taking the White House. This could be problematic for Republicans in that he’s essentially a few gallons of stale air in a suit. The best you can say for Rubio’s catastrophic debating performance tonight is that, unlike Rick Perry, he at least was able to memorize his one talking point:

Marco Rubio went into repetition mode during Saturday night’s debate, going back to the same line over and over again to defend against comparisons to Barack Obama.

“Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing,” the Florida senator said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to change this country.”

Rubio would go on to reiterate that argument, nearly word-for-word, several times over the course of a single exchange with Chris Christie, who said that Rubio’s inexperience mirrored Obama’s. “This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing…” Rubio continued again before Christie interjected to accuse Rubio of being overly scripted.

The performance came after a week in which Christie insisted the senator is wedded to his talking points but can’t get beyond that, and the New Jersey governor pounded that point as the two argued.

“There it is, the memorized 25-second speech,” Christie said. “There it is, everyone.”

This has been Christie’s primary mode of attack against Rubio for a while. Indeed, people have made fun of him for being a mindless, robotic talking-point reciter for years. The fact that Rubio would fall into this trap anyway is pretty astounding. And if I was going to mindlessly repeat one talking point, I can’t see the value of this one.

Whether this will hurt Rubio much, I can’t say. But this could become a legendary debate disaster on a par with Perry’s, and given that his second-place standing in the New Hampshire polls isn’t exactly robust, this could be Excellent. News. for Trump and Cruz. It’s also Excellent. News. for the Democratic Party either way.

…Elias has more among similar lines.



[ 37 ] February 6, 2016 |

DB Wilson’s xB Toaster – Lakewood Observer

Toyota will undergo a marque down in August.

It’s official: Toyota’s ostensibly youth-oriented brand, Scion, will come to an end this year. Starting this fall all Scion models will be re-badged as Toyotas instead, the company announced today.


But Scion had long suffered from a product drought. For most of its history, it only had three or four models in the entire range, and has gone inexplicably long without any crossovers, currently the hottest and highly profitable segments in car-dom.

I am not a fan of crossovers so I don’t consider staying away from them a mistake. But I agree that the line ranged from eh to meh. The only Scion that stands out in my mind is the early xB “BoxTer,” a car so much like a young child’s drawing of a car that you had smile as you rolled your eyes at it.

This article accurately diagnoses Toyota’s extreme constipation as the cause of death.

What fools these motors be.

Michigan’s Marie

[ 33 ] February 6, 2016 |

Today in the New Gilded Age, I present you with the cake Michigan’s governor, who you may remember from such hits as “lying about my support for right-to-work laws” and “utter indifference about the citizens of Flint being poisoned by the town’s water supply” — presented to his wife:

Well, the level of craftsmanship is impressive! Give Snyder this, when it doesn’t involve something as trivial as “poor African-American children dying of lead poisoning” and something more up his alley like “celebrating his family’s pursuit of Veblen goods,” he can really get the best work out of people.

Zika and Latin America’s War on Women

[ 31 ] February 6, 2016 |


As we discussed the other day, we don’t really know what the heck is going with the Zika virus. We do know that it is causing a variety of health problems in different places that are very bad. The most prominent is microcephaly, where babies are born with exceptionally small heads. If this is as real as it seems it might be, this could be a generational-defining virus. Several Latin American nations are advising women not to get pregnant. Oh, OK. Among the other problems here, such as placing the entire burden for this on women, is that abortion is illegal in almost all Latin American countries, often with harsh punishments involved. This includes Brazil and El Salvador, both of whom have made this recommendation to women. In Brazil, it seems that there is a push to use this as a way to weaken the nation’s harsh anti-abortion laws, with at least one judge saying he’d make exceptions in this case. But in El Salvador, no.

And some countries, like El Salvador, forbid abortion in all cases, even when the mother has been raped or her life is at stake. Despite the public health recommendations to avoid pregnancy, deputy health minister Eduardo Espinoza told Buzzfeed News that the government will have to uphold the anti-abortion laws, “whether we like it or not,” but noted the public health crisis may trigger a debate that could revise the law. But experts seem skeptical that the anti-abortion laws, which have been repeatedly passed by mostly-male governments in Catholic countries, will be changed any time soon.

Human rights organizations condemned the government recommendations to avoid getting pregnant, saying that it’s unfair for poor women to have to assume such an enormous public health responsibility in the face of laws that make it impossible for them to do so. “You’re asking women to make a choice that sounds logical from a health perspective, but it’s not a real choice,” says Tarah Demant, senior director of the Identity and Discrimination Unit at Amnesty International. “It’s putting women in an impossible place, by asking them to put the sole responsibility of public health on their shoulders by not getting pregnant, when over half don’t have that choice.”

Of course since these laws are about punishing women for sex, contraception is hard to come by as well. So I guess those sluts will just have to care for their shrunken head babies for the rest of their lives. Serves them right for opening their legs. This, sadly, is an accurate summary of how many in Latin America will feel about the situation.

Who Pollutes and Where Do They Pollute?

[ 4 ] February 6, 2016 |


Important new research here on the connections between major toxic polluters and where they site their factories:

We ask the following questions:
(I) Are producer disproportionalities present and consistent across the study area?
(II) Are particular communities (low income and/or those of color) disproportionately impacted by producers who generate a disproportionate amount of pollution?

Our findings suggest affirmative answers to both these questions. Using public data and open-source software, we assess industrially based exposure estimates and proximate socio-demographic characteristics on a polluter-by-polluter basis across the continental United States. We find a highly skewed distribution of polluter-based harm generation with fewer than 10% of the nearly 16 000 study area facilities generating greater than 90% of estimated exposure (question (I)). When describing the socio-demographic exposure profiles, we show that although polluters are likely to disproportionately impact poor and nonwhite communities, these disproportionalities become even more pronounced when considering the smaller group of facilities who generate the majority of exposure risk (question (II)). We refer to this small group of disproportionate generators as toxic outliers.

An implication from our study is that these two sides of disproportionality are connected in a ‘double disproportionality’ framework. This type of connection has both applied and scholarly significance. First, double disproportionality would predict that industrial impacts overall, and in EJ communities specifically, would decrease if toxic outliers could be compelled to reduce their emissions. Second, double disproportionality adds to our understanding of how society’s polluter-industrial complex works by explicitly incorporating measurable power dynamics. Future studies should consider disaggregating polluters rather than looking at polluters in the aggregate.

In other words, to fight against environmental injustice might actually be more about targeting individual companies who are especially horrible than fighting the aggregate of all polluters. Very interesting policy implications here.


Historicizing Flint

[ 5 ] February 6, 2016 |


If you are looking for some good long reads this Saturday, check out this forum on placing the Flint water crisis in historical context, featuring some of our leading environmental historians, as well as economists and an engineer. There are essays on the history of environmental injustice in Flint, the history of lead pipes, and the toxicity of American infrastructure. Really good stuff.

Saying the Quiet Parts Loud, Ted Cruz is a Putz Edition

[ 79 ] February 6, 2016 |

Not that “New York values” itself was exactly subtle in its anti-Semitic overtones, but Ted Cruz has decided to remove all doubt:

At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had “upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks,” said: “For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, it’s the height of chutzpah.” Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase “New York term,” exaggerated the guttural “ch” to more laughter and applause.

But “chutzpah,” of course, is not a “New York” term. It’s a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using “New York” as a euphemism for “Jewish” has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.

I assume that at tonight’s debate Cruz will clarify that there are some “New Yorkers” he likes, like Sheldon Adelson, Avigdor Lieberman, and Yigal Amir.

Let me also add, #NotallCalgarians:


Hillary and Henry

[ 256 ] February 6, 2016 |


Pareene nails why Hillary Clinton citing Henry Kissinger is a problem–she just doesn’t understand the Democratic primary voter very well.

The point I’m making here is not, [Glenn Greenwald voice] HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTS A WAR CRIMINAL. (Trust me, I know Kissinger isn’t moving many votes in New Hampshire.) It’s that Hillary Clinton exists in a world where “Henry Kissinger is a war criminal” is a silly opinion held by unserious people. Her problem? Lots of those silly and unserious people want to wrest control of the Democratic Party away from its current leadership, which is exemplified by people like Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders’ critique of Clinton is not that she’s cartoonishly corrupt in the Tammany Hall style, capable of being fully bought with a couple well-compensated speeches, but that she’s a creature of a fundamentally corrupt system, who comfortably operates within that system and accepts it as legitimate. Clinton has had trouble countering that critique because, well, it’s true. It’s not that she’s been bought, it’s that she bought in.

This isn’t some damning revelation of the secret “true” Clinton beneath the surface. Hillary Clinton is a liberal. (One problem afflicting our online discourse is that many of her dimmer fellow liberals in the press keep being baffled at Clinton opposition from leftists who extensively criticize the institutions of American liberalism. This is also why the Sanders-started semantic argument over the term “progressive” was so deeply stupid.) But she’s also plainly a member of a Democratic Party establishment that a large—and, I think, growing—number of would-be Democratic voters reject as unrepresentative of the principles and interests of non-wealthy Americans.

These people may indeed be “unserious,” in the sense that Clinton’s theory of “progressive change” is more realistic—that it, it has a better chance of leading to policy changes that have tangible positive outcomes for large groups of people—than Sanders’ theory of bottom-up “revolution,” at least in our current political climate. But no one is satisfied with the current political climate, and lots of people are looking for leaders who seek to fundamentally reshape it, not work within it.

Such a trajectory for her is hardly surprising. Between coming out of the DLC of the 80s and 90s that sought to isolate the McGovernite hippies in the Democratic Party after the disasters not only in 1972 but also 1984 and 1988 in order to appeal to business and centrist Americans, as well as the fact that she’s simply been in a global leadership class for a very long time, her being unable to adjust well to her left flank seems almost inevitable. This doomed her in 2008 and it may very well doom her with an even more cranky left in 2016. She does exist in a world where Henry Kissinger is a respected figure. That obviously is unacceptable to the left. The problem for her is that the left is a pretty big part of the Democratic Party these days. Combined with her lack of good answers on the economic troubles of the American working and middle classes, it just adds to her troubles.

The 2016 GOP Primaries In A Nutshell

[ 87 ] February 5, 2016 |

Scocca puts it perfectly:

1. Donald Trump can’t really be the nominee, because his candidacy is a bizarre and unsustainable media phenomenon.

2. Ted Cruz can’t really be the nominee, because he is incredibly loathsome to the normal human beings who vote for president.

3. Everyone else who could be the nominee is currently being beaten by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

This is the Escher staircase that Jeb Bush is trudging up. He has to believe he can’t lose to Trump. He has to believe he can’t lose to Cruz. So he can’t believe that he can’t win.

My guess is still that Rubio will to some extent break the knot by finishing ahead of Cruz and clearly ahead of Christie and Jeb! in New Hampshire. Things are at least trending in a “Party Decides” direction. But given how long Rubio has run behind Cruz and Trump, considerable skepticism about his candidacy remains justified.

Why the TPP is Terrible, Part the Millionth

[ 11 ] February 5, 2016 |


The Trans-Pacific Partnership was officially signed by the negotiating countries in Auckland a couple of days ago. This received almost no news coverage, although it will when it goes up for ratification in Congress. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka reminds us why the TPP is so awful and something that we must demand our politicians vote against:

From the outset, the AFL-CIO provided detailed and substantive suggestions for improving this agreement and evidence to support our positions. On everything from labor enforcement to investment rules, we offered a path forward. Unfortunately, our policy recommendations were ignored, as were those from the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and manufacturing sectors. That’s what you get from secret negotiations driven by corporate and investor interests.

There are countless ways the TPP would be disastrous for working people. Here are a few of the most egregious.

After much talk about labor standards, the TPP falls woefully short. It retains the totally discretionary nature of enforcement and does nothing to streamline the process so labor cases will be addressed without delay, leaving workers with no assurance of improved conditions. The “consistency” agreements negotiated with Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei don’t add any responsibilities beyond the current labor chapter and give Vietnam five years to come fully into compliance, even though it will receive the benefits of the TPP immediately. There is no deal to address longstanding labor problems in Mexico that have not been remedied despite 20 years of efforts to enforce NAFTA.

The TPP would take a sledgehammer to American manufacturing. The auto rules of origin are so weak that a car or truck made primarily in China or another non-TPP country would still qualify for trade benefits. Popular “Buy American” rules are watered down, requiring the U.S. government to treat bidders from every TPP country as if they were American. Finally, the lack of any enforceable currency manipulation rules means foreign nations can continue to cheat U.S. companies and workers. These features make the TPP an outsourcing deal, not a trade deal.

To add insult to injury, more than 9,000 new foreign companies will be empowered to bypass U.S. courts and access a private justice system — investor-state dispute settlement — that allows them to hold U.S. federal, state and local government decisions ransom. Let that soak in for a minute. Wal-Mart’s Japan subsidiary could sue Seattle for denying a building permit. ExxonMobil’s Vietnamese affiliate could come after the United States for rules and regulations that protect our air and water.

The TPP is also a giveaway to Big Pharma, expanding monopoly rights that will allow drug companies to further drive up costs for patients. These rules are far worse than the ones in the Peru, Colombia and Panama deals negotiated by former President George W. Bush. Doctors Without Borders says the TPP would “jeopardize people’s access to affordable medicines.”

We’ve been down this road before. The Wall Street and Washington elite always tell us that this time will be different. The truth is these trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. We see the shuttered factories. We visit towns that look like they are stuck in the past. We talk to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field — but Congress has been slow to fund and authorize those programs. From NAFTA to CAFTA to Korea and now the TPP, these agreements have continually put profits over people. By driving down our wages, they make our economy weaker, not stronger.

There is almost nothing good in this agreement for working people. It’s also worth noting that the labor movement in nations like Vietnam oppose the TPP as well, fearing it will make it much harder to improve conditions in their factories and sweatshops. The TPP is great if you are an elite of any of these nations or a corporate head, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. For the rest of us, such as those who want to protect our environment or labor conditions and don’t want those protections thrown away in an extra-legal court system or those of us who think that American workers who don’t have access to college educations should be able to have a good job that allows them to live a decent life or those of us who believe that Vietnamese and Malaysian workers need to have their rights expanded, the TPP is a complete disaster.

Unfortunately, because of President Obama’s support that is combined with key Democrats in west coast states with large ports that send and receive products to Asia, the TPP is almost certain to past. It would be nice if pressure was placed on relevant senators to make them fear for their political lives if they vote for the TPP, but between the 6-year election cycle for them and the lack of primary options from the left, there’s really little hope here. It was fast-track where the real decision was made. We will be living with the consequences for a long time.

Finally, the TPP is another in a seven decade series of defeats on major bills for organized labor. On everything from Taft-Hartley in 1947 to overturning parts of T-H in 1966 to the failure of a meaningful Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill in 1978 to NAFTA to the TPP to many other labor bills, the reality is that organized labor has never had the political power to win or defeat bills that were inimical to its most dear interests. Even when labor had more power than it does today, the combination of Republicans and conservative (or pro-business, which is not always the same thing) Democrats was always enough to beat it, at least since 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was the last comprehensive labor bill to become law in the United States. That’s a very long time.

That’s where the money is

[ 169 ] February 5, 2016 |

hrc and gs

I have a piece on Hillary Clinton’s tin ear in regard to questions regarding the relationship between her personal finances and the financial industry:

“That’s what they offered,” she explained on Wednesday, when asked why she accepted $675,000 from Goldman Sachs alone. That response carried an unfortunate echo of bank robber Willie Sutton’s explanation for why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” he supposedly said. (This in turn brings to mind Bertolt Brecht’s remark that robbing a bank is nothing compared to founding one.)

Clinton could have protected her purportedly progressive bona fides in two ways. First, of course, she could have not taken the money. There is something disgusting about the spectacle of someone who was already wealthy far beyond the imagining of ordinary Americans continuing to accept what she claims were unsuccessful attempts to bribe her, even as she was on the eve of launching a presidential campaign supposedly dedicated to protecting the interests of those ordinary Americans against the depredations of the very masters of the universe funneling millions of dollars into her personal bank account.

Alternatively, she could at least ask voters to hate the game, not the player.

“Yes, it’s a rotten system through and through,” she could have said. “The revolving door that allows politicians to rotate out of office, take huge fees from people trying to win their favor, and then rotate back in, is absurd and wrong. I plan to do my best to make sure that in the future people can’t do this, because I know after seeing it from the inside just how corrupt it is.” (This, by the way, is not too different from what Donald Trump has been saying, which helps explain his popularity, since it’s so obviously true).

Instead, Clinton is taking the line that this is just how the system works (and will apparently continue to work), but that for unspecified reasons she happens to be the kind of person who can be trusted to defraud the people whose money she took.

That she believes this is a satisfactory response provides a glimpse into the extraordinary complacency and self-satisfaction of our elite political class in general, and of Hillary Clinton in particular. (It also helps explain the remarkable success of Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign).

Clinton would do well to contemplate the words of the English writer G.K. Chesterton, in response to the claim that rich politicians cannot be bribed: “The rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.”

How Abolitionists Taught Their Children About Slavery

[ 13 ] February 5, 2016 |


Rebecca Onion highlights some pages from Lewis Tappan’s anti-slavery children’s magazine that he ran in the late 1830s.

Because the American Anti-Slavery Society favored complete and immediate emancipation, writes historian Christopher D. Geist, The Slave’s Friend was sometimes shockingly blunt in its depiction of slaveholding. “A frequent theme of The Slave’s Friend was the total cruelty of the slaveholders,” writes Geist. The magazine’s stories told of slaveholders who cropped enslaved people’s ears and chained them in attics or lashed them for the smallest of offenses.

Many pages of The Slave’s Friend equated cruelty to animals—imprisonment, physical torment—with enslavement of people, suggesting that Christian sympathy, when properly felt, would lead a person to be humane to both animals and the enslaved. This kind of imagery, writes historian Spencer D.C. Keralis, “is ubiquitous in abolitionist writing in general, but particularly prevalent in texts marketed to children.”

Issues of The Slave’s Friend were included in the society’s mailings of abolitionist publications to Southern states. In 1835, the magazine’s third issue reached the post office in Charleston, South Carolina, along with other abolitionist literature for adults. Pro-slavery citizens seized and burned the delivery, immolating The Slave’s Friend along with its more mature cousins.

Pretty interesting.

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