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The Origins of Modern Christian Symbolism in the United States

[ 40 ] March 16, 2015 |


Kevin Kruse excerpts his new book on how corporations created the public symbols of modern Christianity as part of their mobilization against the New Deal. It’s a must read, as is no doubt his book:

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.

The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this campaign they were wedded in pointed opposition to the “creeping socialism” of the New Deal. The federal government had never really factored into Americans’ thinking about the relationship between faith and free enterprise, mostly because it had never loomed that large over business interests. But now it cast a long and ominous shadow.

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology’s appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns. Generous funding came from prominent businessmen, from household names like Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, E. F. Hutton, Fred Maytag and Henry R. Luce to lesser-known leaders at U.S. Steel, General Motors and DuPont.

In a shrewd decision, these executives made clergymen their spokesmen. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew noted, polls proved that ministers could mold public opinion more than any other profession. And so these businessmen worked to recruit clergy through private meetings and public appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve special attention.

From this alliance between preachers and capitalists comes most of the ideas that right-wing Christians today cite about why this is an overtly Christian nation and why socialism is a sin. It’s toxic and it’s powerful. Kruse pushing the timeline of this alliance back from the 50s into the 30s is really important in understanding its deep roots.

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Chip Kelly, SuperGenius: The Trolling Stage

[ 39 ] March 16, 2015 |

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Either Kelly has a great sense of humor or Eagles fans should be even more terrified that he’s been put in charge of personnel:

Chip Kelly’s first offseason at the controls has been full of twists and turns. The latest? The Eagles worked out quarterback Tim Tebow this morning, a league source confirmed.

Adam Schefter was first with the news.

Hmm. Well, in his only season as a regular in 2011 Tebow actually had a higher QBR that year than the injury-prone QB that Kelly just spent draft picks and more than $10 million in cap space to acquire,although neither could match the peerless Sanchize. So, really, Tebow does seem to be the kind of QB Kelly seems to be looking for — why not sign him?

Yes, yes, Bradford did improve all the way to merely “below average” in 2012 — a level Tebow will never get near — but I’m still not really convinced that “collect as many shitty overhyped failed 1st round QBs as possible” is going to be a path to victory no matter how good Kelly is with the xs and os.

…looks like Kelly is sticking with only two bad former first round picks for now.

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The Bailout of the Health Insurance Industry Continues

[ 34 ] March 16, 2015 |

DoctorAbove: Someone please stop such horrifying events

Why couldn’t Obama have just let private insurers wither away like they were totally going to?

More than 16 million Americans have gained insurance coverage as a result of President Barack Obama’s health care law, the administration said Monday as the White House prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the law’s signing.

In releasing the latest estimates, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell called it “the largest reduction in the uninsured in four decades.”

Hopefully the Supreme Court will intervene soon to help to stop our national nightmare!  When I hear the Solicitor General argue that the purpose of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was to provide more affordable and highly regulated insurance to as many people as possible rather than to make esoteric points about federalism I feel like I’m looking through the looking glass. This can’t possibly describe the thinking of the libertarian crackpots who drafted and voted for the law.

In addition, I hope the Supreme Court won’t be swayed by traitors like Matt Mead, who’s surely hiding Sylvia Burwell’s secret plan to get the Wyoming legislature to establish a state exchange.

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Abolish the Senate

[ 148 ] March 16, 2015 |

It’s difficult to see the down side.

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ACA Trooferism: The First Time as Farce, the Second Time as Farce

[ 26 ] March 16, 2015 |

still-of-kevin-costner-and-wayne-knight-in-jfk-(1991)-large-picture“If the federal government intervenes in the economy in any way, the Moops will overrun us all. Haven’t you seen that documentary about what they did to Rearden Steel?”

The satirical novel we’re all living in continues to be a little on-the-nose:

The latest legal argument attacking Obamacare is literally a joke.

In 2012, officials from seven states penned a letter that, at least on its face, appears to be a very long list of requests for information from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In reality, however, the letter was a kind of prank that state officials played on HHS, according to one official who signed onto the letter. The letter, in other words, was not actually a request for information. It was an attempt to “spoof” a similar request that HHS made of the states.


That claim by Tanden prompted Michael Carvin, the attorney for the plaintiffs in King, to cite the states’ letter to HHS. That letter includes, among many other inquiries, a request that HHS identify the specific legal authority that permits it to “administer premium tax credits” in the federally-run exchanges that HHS is required to set up in states that elect not to operate their own exchange. Thus, if the letter is read as an earnest request for information, it seems to suggest that the state officials who signed it had doubts about whether these tax credits are authorized by law.

But here’s the problem: the letter wasn’t an earnest request for information. According to Tim Jost, a health policy expert and law professor at Washington and Lee University, the letter was a “joke.” The states, Jost explains, “got what they thought was an unreasonable demand from the feds and they sent back a letter that mirrored the request they got from the federal government.”

A state official who signed the letter, who spoke to ThinkProgress on condition of anonymity, confirmed Jost’s understanding.


If anything, Carvin’s attempt to bolster his case by unwittingly citing a practical joke is a microcosm for King v. Burwell as a whole. The central premise of Carvin’s argument is that a few words of the law can be read out of context in a way that sabotages much of the rest of the law. Once those words are read in their proper context — a context that includes a passage defining the word “Exchange” so that state-run and federally-run exchanges will be treated identically under the law — Carvin’s entire argument falls apart.

Oh, sure, you laugh now. But you haven’t seen how Carvin’s reply will make devastating use of the typographical arts! He has a letter that proves that President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Prime Minister, and co-writer of “Blurred Lines” Jonathan Gruber told the states to say that their serious query was a joke!

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Monday Links

[ 188 ] March 16, 2015 |
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This Will be the Longest 18 Months Ever

[ 38 ] March 16, 2015 |

When I see that many people are pretending to take a ludicrous-on- -its-face story written by Ed Klein seriously…can we just have the election now please?

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Are Seattle Restaurants Closing in “Record Numbers”? (Spoiler: No.)

[ 98 ] March 15, 2015 |

Since the initial story about Seattle restaurant closings is making its way through the right wing blogs at the moment, prompting one wingnut outlet to declare that Seattle restaurants are closing “in record numbers,” let’s take a loot at the actual evidence provided in the story that launched the chain reaction. Before we begin let’s note despite long having one of the highest minimum wages in the country, while being located in one of only a handful of states with no ‘tip credit’ for wages, Seattle still manages to have the highest density of restaurants anywhere in the country, except for San Francisco and the greater New York City area.

What’s the evidence? The Seattle Magazine article that started this game of telephone identified four (4) restaurants that have closed or will close between February and May 2015. (A 5th restaurant is seeing its award winning chef resign to move to Spain; the alleged relevance here is unclear.) Included in these four restaurants is one that remains open at its original location, shifting its focus back to their original model, another is owned by one of Seattle’s most successful and celebrated restaurateurs, who continues to own five thriving establishments and is in the process of opening two new restaurants. The owner of the third closing restaurant  (easily the most over-hyped Indian restaurant openings I’ve ever seen), identifies the reason for closing as a poor fit between format and location, which seemed pretty obvious to me when they opened. The space the fourth restaurant occupies will be immediately replaced by another new restaurant.

What isn’t included is any analysis to suggest openings are failing to keep pace with closings. Given the short typical lifespan of a restaurant and the size of Seattle, we should expect annual openings and closings to be in the hundreds in a typical year. Identifying four closing restaurants over a four month period is evidence for the thesis in the same way finding a bunch of Democratic voters who don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton is ‘evidence’ her campaign is in trouble. Indeed, the right wingers are hoping you don’t read the original article, which closes by refuting its own highly speculative thesis:

Despite these serious challenges, however, brave restaurateurs continue to open eateries in Seattle, which, remembering basic supply and demand, also naturally accounts for closures we’ve already seen and more that will come. Capitol Hill alone is carrying on an unprecedented dining boom, and in mid January, Capitol Hill Seattle announced that Nue, Chris Cvetkovich’s modernist global street food joint, was the neighborhood’s 100th food and drink opening in three years.

Other major Capitol Hill additions from the last few months include Stateside, (Eric Johnson’s long-awaited French-Vietnamese outpost), Tallulah’s (Linda Derschang’s [of Smith and Oddfellows] casual neighborhood café) and Serious Pie Pike (Tom Douglas’s third location of his pizza joint, now open in the new Starbucks Roastery). Moreover, just this week on the Hill, we’ve got news of Lisa Nakamura opening the Gnocchi Bar in the Packard Building on 12th Avenue (formerly the Capitol Hill D’Ambrosio Gelateria Artigianale) at the end of March.

Those keeping score at home will note that the article identifies more restaurants opening than closing.

I have no idea what impact, if any, Seattle’s minimum wage increase will have on total employment in the restaurant industry. It’s well worth watching, because knowing at what point more aggressive minimum wage increases have this kind of impact may be useful for shaping future policy. It’s also important because business owners and ideological opponents of the minimum wage will lie and obfuscate to create a false impression of negative impacts, whether they exist or not.

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Sunday Art Whine

[ 45 ] March 15, 2015 |

The problem with doing art in dribs and drabs is that by the time you actually finish the piece you may fall out of love with it. I started this with that new love/hot and bothered feeling…but because I have so little time to really sit down and focus on a project I find that–increasingly–I’ve just lost interest by the time the piece is wrapping up.

“Some Day”

I think this piece is cute, I guess, but really I kinda just feel like *fart noise* about it now. Maybe in time I’ll fall back in love.

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Chip Kelly, SuperGenius

[ 62 ] March 15, 2015 |


I can understand why the Eagles gave Chip Kelly control over personnel if it was between that and losing him. And the first major trade he pulled off was good: dumping an extremely expensive running back who was mediocre last year and getting a very good linebacker (albeit one coming off a year lost to injury) is a terrific trade. And as someone who would rather see the Bills win than any other AFC team, it’s awesome to see them once again try to build an offense around a large financial or draft pick investment in the running game, because 1974 is bound to come back anytime now.

The problem is that the rest of Kelly’s moves could come right out of the playbook of any hapless Browns/Bills/Jaguars hack:

In all, Kelly is committing a lot of money to his running backs. Let’s assume that Mathews’s deal eats up about $4 million in cap space this year. Assuming that it has a roster bonus, Murray should come in at about $9 million. The Eagles already have Sproles on their cap at $4.1 million. Even if they cut Chris Polk, that means about $17 million in cap space is committed to running backs.

The only team that even comes close to the Eagles on running back spending would be the Vikings, who have $18 million committed to backs this season, but $15.4 million of that money belongs to Peterson, who is likely to be released or traded. Otherwise, nobody else is spending more than $10.9 million on running backs, which leaves the Eagles as an enormous outlier in terms of how they’re choosing to use their cap space.


Here’s the simplest way I can put this: Pretend, for a moment, that the Raiders or the Jaguars or the Browns made this exact same pair of moves. They would be the laughingstocks of the league, fools making the same stupid mistakes that bad franchises always make. The Eagles understandably aren’t being painted with that brush because Kelly has earned a certain level of credibility as a forward-thinking coach. With the moves Kelly has made this offseason, that credibility is on the line.

Kelly may very well make these signings work, but the Murray deal is a classic example of what bad teams do in free agency. Two years from now, we may very well look back at the past 72 hours in Eagles history as the moment when Kelly sealed his status as the next Bill Belichick. We also may look back at it as the time when Kelly sealed his fate.

This kind of investment in running backs in 2015 is really stupid. It would be bad even if the spending was on backs of proven durability as well as high performance, because the position just isn’t important enough to contemporary NFL offenses. But of course Matthews hasn’t been an elite RB since 2011 and can’t stay on the field, and while Murray is very good (although probably not as good as he looks running behind Dallas’s offensive line), has an extensive injury history and Garrett handled him like Billy Martin handled his starting pitchers in his one healthy year last year. Paying Murray a top-of-the-market contract after a 500-touch season is about as good a gamble as getting in on the subprime mortgage market in 2006.  These are two bad contracts that are much worse in tandem than either one would be individually.  And the contract Kelly offered Frank Gore was no prize either — let’s just say the organization that did land Gore thought that Trent Richardson was worth a 1st round pick.

And that’s just the beginning. As Barnwell says, paying a corner who looks perfectly solid playing across from Richard Sherman in Pete Carroll’s defense as if he’s Darrelle Revis is a bad investment. But at least Maxwell can play. If anything, I think Barnwell is underselling how atrocious the Bradford trade is. There are three rather obvious problems with the deal.

  • Bradford has an onerous contract.
  • Bradford can’t stay on the field.
  • Bradford has been dogshit on those increasingly rare occasions when he does make it onto the field. His career QBR of 40.7 would rank him 26th among NFL QBs last year, behind human replacement level Kyle Orton (42.6) and also behind luminaries such as Ryan Fitzpatrick (55.3) and and Brian Hoyer (43.1).

Now, yes, Bradford does figure to look better going from offenses run by the likes of Brian “talent sees the next generation and flees in terror” Schottenheimer and (Josh McDaniels – Bill Belichick) to an offense run by Kelly. Let’s generously say the difference is worth 20 points of QBR. This would land him…somewhere between Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles under Chip Kelly. The upside of the move, in other words, is that Kelly will get the same performance he was getting from much cheaper players he already had. And, of course, given Bradford’s history it’s likely that the Sanchize will end up taking a healthy share of the snaps this year anyway.  On this trade, perhaps the best analogy isn’t the Bills or Raiders but Tony Reagins. The Rams got rid of one of the worst contracts in the sport and landed a probably better player and a net improvement in draft position out of the deal (and probably would have been even better off taking the 1st rounder Kelly remarkably offered.)

Kelly’s reputation as an offensive supergenius actually does have some merit.  But the fact that he can make the Nick Foleses and even Mark Sanchezes of the world look competent is all the more reason not to massively overpay offensive talent (or “talent” as the case may be.)  It’s hard to imagine Kelly matching the level of success attained by his one-time college rivals Carroll and Harbaugh until he works with someone in charge of personnel who (unlike himself) has some idea what he’s doing.

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Why Does Douthat Think the Poor Exist?

[ 242 ] March 15, 2015 |


You guessed it–too much sex!

That idea makes some people on the left angry. As they see it, it’s money and only money that Murray’s Fishtown and Putnam’s hometown lack and need. And it’s unchecked capitalism and Republican stinginess, not the sexual revolution, that has devastated working-class society over the last few decades. Fight poverty, redistribute wealth, and you’ll revive family and community — it’s as simple as that.

Actually, it’s not quite that simple Ross, but whatever. The sexual revolution is responsible for today’s poor! Why? Who knows! In Ross’ world, the fact that the poor have cable and cell phones is why they aren’t actually poor. They are lazy, shiftless, and too horny. In other words, Douthat is in many ways the prime columnist of the New Gilded Age, blaming the poor for their own poverty by taking an elitist, paternalistic, and strongly disapproving view of working class moral behavior. All they need is religion, sobriety, and to listen to their betters and Horatio Alger lives.

But only if their betters also live moral lives. Which they are not because of too much sex.

The post-1960s cultural revolution isn’t the only possible “something else.” But when you have a cultural earthquake that makes society dramatically more permissive and you subsequently get dramatic social fragmentation among vulnerable populations, denying that there is any connection looks a lot like denying the nose in front of your face.

But recognizing that culture shapes behavior and that moral frameworks matter doesn’t require thundering denunciations of the moral choices of the poor. Instead, our upper class should be judged first — for being too solipsistic to recognize that its present ideal of “safe” permissiveness works (sort of) only for the privileged, and for failing to take any moral responsibility (in the schools it runs, the mass entertainments it produces, the social agenda it favors) for the effects of permissiveness on the less-savvy, the less protected, the kids who don’t have helicopter parents turning off the television or firewalling the porn.

Sure, the “cultural revolution” (nice touch Ross) isn’t the only possible something else. In fact, it’s not even remotely connected to modern poverty. But let’s ignore that only possible part of the equation for me to shame people for sex, rich or poor. Meanwhile, let me go back to my mythologized vision of the 1950s that exists in only my brain.

Finally, what did Leonard Cohen do to deserve citation in this column?

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The 16th Century

[ 42 ] March 14, 2015 |

Welp, this exists. From 1555.


I’m not sure, but I’m guessing this is a Protestant attack upon nuns. Time period certainly fits. As much as I hesitate to ever link to Reddit, there are people here who do seem to know what they are talking about that at least suggest it’s a commentary on how much nuns want sex.

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