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This Day in Labor History: August 15, 1914

[ 30 ] August 15, 2015 |

On August 15, 1914, the Panama Canal opened, completing one of the great engineering projects of the time, one that recreated racialized labor norms of the United States in Panama while also demonstrating how sanitary reforms could save workers lives. It also served to connect the imperial empire of labor the United States was building around the world.

Much of the story about the Panama Canal is well-known, including how Theodore Roosevelt worked with the French company that had originally hoped to build a canal to hew Panama off of an uncooperative Colombia in order to acquire the canal rights, a classic act of imperialism in now two nations who would long bear the brunt of American interventionism. To some degree, the brutality of building of the Canal is known as well and this post will expand some of your knowledge on these points.

The first real transportation labor in what would become the Panama Canal took place in the 1850s, when Chinese and African laborers died by the thousands building railroads in the area that later became the Canal. The French were heavily involved in these early projects, as they would be in the first attempt to build a canal that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific in the 1880s. The French particularly targeted the impoverished island of Jamaica for the workers on this project, running advertisements showing Jamaicans returning from Panama with great riches. This was an effective advertising scheme but certainly didn’t represent the reality for those workers. Approximately 20,000 workers, mostly Jamaicans, would die in the first effort to build a canal. Most of these workers died from disease, as the canal was built upon tropical swamps rife with mosquitoes and with enormous rates of malaria and yellow fever. Hygiene was horrible and significantly contributed to the death rate. The West Indians only earned 10 cents a hour and less than 20 percent of those who lived lasted more than a year. Ultimately, the first effort to build the canal would fail in the face of the engineering problem and deaths, but with such great poverty throughout the Caribbean Basin, it wasn’t because the French couldn’t find workers.

When Roosevelt stole Panama from Colombia in 1903, he was determined that a canal succeed and wanted to learn from the French mistakes. Once again, the workforce was primarily West Indian. The Jamaicans remembered what had happened twenty years ago and largely refused to go, so the U.S. targeted Barbados, whose citizens would make up nearly half the total workers who labored on the Canal during its construction. To say the least, the natural conditions that had plagued workers in the 1880s hadn’t changed. Poisonous snakes were rampant. The rainy season created six months of mud. The original housing was the falling apart workers’ housing the French had built. The hygiene was still terrible. In 1906, 80 percent of the Panama Canal labor force was hospitalized for malaria. By this time, doctors were learning more about tropical disease, but continued to believe that people of African descent were uniquely capable of resisting it and so applied none of the new medicine to protect these workers. Yet with poverty still dominating the region, tens of thousands of workers from around the Caribbean and Central American flocked to Panama for work.


The U.S. hoped to build on the French failure to build a canal through the application of newly discovered sanitary principles, even if they held on to their racialized beliefs about African workers. Sanitary engineers descended upon Panama to make the landscape livable. Draining standing water to protect against malaria, paving streets, screening windows, quarantines of the sick, preventing the fecal contamination of water, and other measures were used to protect against epidemic disease. This all built on the work of Walter Reed and other physicians to fight against avoidable death during the U.S. conquest of Cuba, which killed a lot of troops. In fact, Reed was in Panama to expand upon this work. The doctors forced the Army Corps of Engineers to give the black workers better living quarters because pneumonia was moving through the cramped housing at tremendous speed. The death rate for black workers plummeted from 18.8 per 1000 in 1906 to 2.6 in 1908 thanks to these changes. Even in the harshest conditions and with the most despised and exploited workers, basic sanitary reforms could save the lives of thousands.

Racial discrimination was also rife, with the U.S. determined to hold the segregation line in its empire as it was at home. So in its new colony of the Philippines it was strictly segregating many parts of life while doing the same in Panama. Not only were white workers paid better but they were paid in gold, while non-white workers were paid in Panamanian currency. Those workers were crowded into cramped barracks while white workers lived in conditions that would be acceptable in the US (not that this was necessarily a high standard in 1910). Mess halls for the non-white workers did not have chairs. Conditions for whites improved quickly after 1905 when a 75 percent turnover rate convinced the canal builders of the need to make whites want to be in Panama. They received increasingly luxurious housing, received cold-storage facilities to improve their diet, paved roads, baseball teams, YMCA recreational facilities, and all the other amenities that would later be associated with the company unionism of the 1920s. Black workers would eventually rise somewhat in the labor hierarchy because of the need for labor, but racial discrimination would remain stark.

Panama Canal Workers

The work was far more dangerous for the West Indians than the whites, largely because the former was in charge of the dynamiting. Dynamite was always dangerous to deal with because it could be placed incorrectly or not explode, thus creating a hazard later. The worst single workplace death incident in the building of the Canal was on December 12, 1908, when prematurely exploding dynamite killed 23 workers. There was also significant labor discontent, with black workers protesting the unfair treatment they received at the hands of the Americans and local Panamanians outraged at the division of their new country by the U.S. But the overwhelming number of poor workers meant that meaningful work stoppages never occurred.

Ultimately, the opening of the Canal would allow the products of American imperialism around the world to move around the planet at a much faster rate, connecting rubber workers in Asia with fruit workers in Colombia and miners in Montana.

I consulted David McBride, Missions for Science: U.S. Technology and Medicine in America’s African World, in the writing of this post.

This is the 154th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

World’s Smallest Violin

[ 75 ] August 15, 2015 |


Boy, it sure is sad to see Erick Erickson whining about anger on the right from Donald Trump supporters.

But I know we cannot beat Hillary Clinton with this level of anger. We won’t be able to draw people to our side and our cause like this.

I get the anger. I do. I am angry at the betrayal and the repeated lies from Washington Republicans who say they love children, but won’t even defund Planned Parenthood.

I get the anger of voters who sent men and women to Washington to fight Obama only to give him a blank check and keep Obamacare funded.

But I don’t get this anger. If this is the anger that flows out of Trump supporters, I do not think it is sustainable. Yet it comes daily. It is poisonous to debate, to democracy, and to the soul itself.

More poisonous to the soul than any given Erick Erickson spouting? I doubt it. But won’t someone think of the poor bloviating racist who suddenly finds himself not bloviating or racist enough for his readers? This is sad stuff my friends.

Madam, Could You Direct Me to the Lady Buttplugs?

[ 173 ] August 14, 2015 |

You will know the anti-Target weirdos by their bleeding eyes.


As far as I know adult toy shops do not segregate merchandise by gender. Target has begun following their lead with their children’s toy sections. The rightwing weirdo backlash has been hilarious, but even more hilarious is the dude who created a fake Facebook account just to troll the weirdos.

Ophelia Benson has more. She quotes “Do you only buy a television if it’s a “girl” television? ” Which I know is meant to ZING the rightwing weirdos but now has me slavering me for a pink television. Oops, too late, it’s a thing…and it’s SO SAD.



I think this is a terrific development. Toys are toys, or should be; they shouldn’t be impromptu gender/sexual orientation tests.

Wishes Are Totally Free

[ 61 ] August 14, 2015 |

B6d2HiVCAAIskn7.jpg large

Mike Huckabee has asserted that his 6-6-6 Fair [sic] Tax will create SIX PERCENT GROWTH. Take that, Jeb!! As Chait notes, the logic is impeccable:

The beauty of this is that Bush can hardly call Huckabee’s promise unrealistic or made-up, without having to concede his own promise is also unrealistic and made-up, just less so. Bush has no grounds to argue against Huckabee here. Think about it. You walk into a caucus, you see 4 percent growth sittin’ there, there’s 6 percent growth right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?

The Farrelly brothers indeed captured this well, but let us also recall the inner circle Hall of Fame blog post from Belle Waring:

I think Matthew Yglesias’ response to Josh Chafetz’ exercise in wishful thinking was about right, even if Brad DeLong’s is more nuanced. I’d like to note, though, that Chafetz is selling himself short. You see, wishes are totally free. It’s like when you can’t decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not — be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in Chafetz’ case, he should not only wish that Bush would say a lot of good things about democracy-building and fighting terrorism in a speech written for him by a smart person, he should also wish that Bush should actually mean the things he says and enact policies which reflect this, and he should wish that everyone gets a pony. See?

It is for this reason that Lawrence Lessig’s proposal to resign* after signing one statute is such a tragic missed opportunity. If you can create a SUPER MANDATE by campaigning on a single statute combining several proposals, why stop at 3? Shouldn’t the Citizens Equality Act contain the three promised electoral reforms and the French health care system and a minimum of one clinic providing free abortions in every county and quadrupling of the budgets for civil rights and SEC enforcement and a repeal of Taft-Hartley and a pony for everyone who wants one? The chances of the bill passing would be exactly the same! We have a SUPER MANDATE in which Congress becomes helpless, why waste it? Huckabee knows what he’s doing here. I can’t wait for Trump to guarantee 20% annual GDP growth, funded entirely by the Mexican government.

*In fairness, while on its face the declaration that one will resign after getting one bill pass may seem to reflect a dilettantish attitude rather unattractive in someone purporting to run for president, it must be conceded that it has roots extending to the greatest of American political statesmen:

For reasons that are still debatable, Stern decided this was his moment, too. Stern announced on his radio show he was running for governor. [Howard] Stern had talked with the 600-700-member-strong New York Libertarian Party and would be running as a libertarian.

His platform: reinstating the death penalty, forcing construction workers to work at night and staggering highway tolls to alleviate traffic jams. Once those things were done, he’d resign and let his lieutenant governor — a former former state legislator named Stan Dworkin — take over.

“It doesn’t matter if you find me offensive,” Stern said in his March 22 announcement. “I’ll get out of office before I can really screw anything up.”

Joint Employers

[ 54 ] August 14, 2015 |


There is potentially huge news coming out of the National Labor Relations Board that would reclassify temp workers as joint employees of the company where they are temping, thus stripping away much of the reason why companies want temp workers and making them part of potential union bargaining units.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is widely expected to rule by month’s end that Browning-Ferris Industries, a Houston-based waste-disposal company, is a joint employer of workers provided to the firm by a staffing agency, experts say. As a result, the company would be forced to collectively bargain with those employees and could be held liable for any labor violations committed against them.

Such a decision could hit companies from a host of industries, including hospitality, retail, manufacturing, construction, financial service providers, cleaning services and security.

The expected action would be the latest in a string of major wins for labor groups under the Obama administration, which has already issued several sweeping executive actions on worker protections and wages.

Backers say it is a necessary step to protect a vulnerable class of temporary workers and independent contractors. But business groups fear the decision will wreak havoc throughout the private sector.

“It has the potential to change the entire way businesses operate in this country,” said Rob Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants.

“There are so many business relationships in the economy that rely on companies providing services to other companies,” he added. “So you can imagine that any business sector could be impacted by the decision.”

This could be gigantic and is another example of how the Obama NLRB has issued decisions favoring workers.* The public persona of temp workers that companies like to employ is something like needing to bring in an extra office worker to catch up on some work or replace someone on maternity leave. But as many of you know, that’s not the case at all. Rather, companies use temporary work as one of their many strategies to shield themselves from liability, training, wages and benefits, and unions. They use pliant state legislatures to carve out broader and broader room for temporary work, effectively creating an entirely new class of worker outside of unions’ ability to organize them. So now you have cases like the Toyota plant in Kentucky, to take one of many examples, where you have long-term workers doing the exact same work as the person next to them except that they don’t work for Toyota and they don’t get the wages and benefits of their co-worker. Not only are these workers presently ineligible for unionization, but they create divides in the workforce that benefits employers by undermining solidarity. There’s absolutely no good reason for this system to exist except to benefit corporations. So you have temp workers in the California lettuce fields who have been there for 10 years and who lack the ability to improve their lives on the job. The NLRB seems to understand this and feels a correction is necessary.

*I do find it hilarious however that the reporter claims it is “the latest in a string of major wins for labor groups under the Obama administration.” Except that whole Trans Pacific Partnership thing! But hey, if you take that tiny little issue out of the equation, I suppose it’s true! But then the story itself is pretty hackish, basically just presenting the corporate point of view, including on McDonald’s controlling its franchisees labor policies but shielding themselves from responsibility through the franchise.

What Does Don Verrilli Know About Getting Crucial Conservative Votes in Tough Cases?

[ 20 ] August 14, 2015 |


Yesterday, I acknowledged that there was a at least a strong element of self-criticism in Lawrence Lessig’s rather remarkable concession that he argued at the Supreme Court assuming a theory of judicial behavior that has been discredited for decades because if theory was true it would make him feel bad about his job.  It would be nice if he didn’t forget what he had learned in his future political endeavors, but hey, it’s something.  As sleepyirv pointed out to us in comments, he seems to have forgotten his bellyflop even in the narrow field of Supreme Court advocacy:

Yet it is a measure of the pervasive partisanship that is Washington today that it doesn’t even occur to Obama’s solicitor general to suggest a politically conservative argument to Chief Justice John Roberts’s Court that, if applied honestly, might well yield a politically liberal result. That may reflect a limit in the imagination of the Obama lawyers, or a simple realism about the ideological rigidity of this Court. Either way, it is astonishing. Rather than advancing the one argument that the five originalists on the Court might be able to hear, the government insists on standing with an argument that all five conservatives on the Court have already rejected. And so the government leads the Court to do what most Americans expect it will do anyway: Confirm an ideology, rather than honestly follow a principle that might well track something other than simple ideology.

You have to love the condescension shown towards the solicitor general — it can’t be that he was aware of Lessig’s arguments and decided against using them, it must have been that using these brilliant arguments didn’t “occur” to him.  This is particularly rich given the implication that Verrilli is unwilling to tailor his arguments to appeal to conservatives on the Court.  Admittedly, at the time of writing Lessig didn’t know about the ACA case argued by Verrilli that resulted in Roberts (joined by Kennedy) dismembering the corpse of Adler and Cannon’s argument and declining to even send the widow a corsage, but he had seen Roberts adopt an out-of-left-field argument brought up by Verrilli at oral arguments to mostly uphold the ACA in the first place. The causal role the oral argument played is unknowable, but I think just a little modesty might be in order here.

Still, Verrilli is capable of screwing up like anyone.  Is there reason to believe he left a winning argument on the table here?  Of course not:

  • As sleepyirv, even on its own terms, Lessig’s originalist argument is weak.  The dispute about the definition of “corruption” concerns 20th century judicial doctrine, not the text of the First Amendment.  How the framers and ratifiers of the First Amendment conceived of corruption might be worth noting, but it’s hard to see how it could be dispositive here.


  • If I may be permitted to throw some cold water on the whole “liberal originalist” mode of argument, it seems to me that campaign finance law an area in which originalism is particularly useless.  First of all, there was no single “original meaning” of the free speech clause itself in 1789.  Whether the free speech protected by the First Amendment was something like the (very narrow) English common law standard or something more than that and if so how much more was a matter of substantial political contestation at the time.  And even if there was a clearly identifiable consensus on free speech, it wouldn’t help very much as applied to concrete campaign finance cases in 2013, given how radically most of the relevant considerations (the cost of campaigns, the types of media involved, the size of the constituencies legislators represent) have changed in the intervening 225 years.  I think it would be better to say that Roberts’s narrow definition of corruption is wrong because it’s wrong, not because it arguably contradicts something James Madison wrote in the 18th century.


  • Of course, whether the argument appeals to me is beside the point; what matters is whether it would appeal to the justices.  But why would we think this?  We can forget Alito, a human manifestation of the most recent Republican Party platform.  Roberts and Kennedy have never shown any particular interest in originalism or any other kind of grand theory.  The two self-described originalists on the Court are hardly consistent about it.  And in First Amendment jurisprudence, neither Scalia nor Thomas has shown any particular interest in historical analysis, apart from some narrow exceptions (such as Thomas and speech in schools) where the history lines up very well with their a priori political views.  Lessig’s belief that originalism will be appealing in this context isn’t based on anything specific about the First Amendment jurisprudence of the justices in question, but just on the idea that if the justices are conservative they must therefore find orignalist arguments appealing regardless of the context, an assumption that is transparently wrong.


  • Which brings us to a broader problem — campaign finance is not virgin doctrinal ground, but an area in which the justices have well-established, frequently expressed views.  The idea that Kennedy or Roberts are going to go “Aha! Now that I’ve seen this empirical analysis of how corruption was used by the First Congress I have to admit that my libertarian views are wrong!” is absurd.  I was going to say that this applies the logic of the seminar room to Supreme Court advocacy, although frankly the “this not nearly as clever as I think it is argument will get my colleague to abandon her firmly established view” approach rarely works in the seminar room either.


  • Lessig tries to get around this problem by arguing that there’s no necessary contradiction between adopting his approach and the Roberts Court’s prior cases: “Recognizing “dependence corruption” as a kind of corruption that would empower Congress to act would not undermine the holding in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Citizens United.”  But this is deeply disingenuous.  As I’ve said before, I think the judgment in Citizens United was right: I don’t think the statute authorized the FEC to suppress the showing of Hillary: the Movie, but if it did then it violated the First Amendment as applied.  But what makes the decision such an intense source of controversy is not the narrow judgment of the case, but Kennedy’s opinion, which went far beyond what was necessary to decide the case at hand.  It’s true that a “dependence corruption” justification would not threaten the outcome of Citizens United, but it would certainly undermine the broader foundations of Kennedy’s opinion, and Kennedy would certainly understand this.

The thing is, one some level it’s clear Lessig understands much of this: “[t]hat may reflect a limit in the imagination of the Obama lawyers, or a simple realism about the ideological rigidity of this Court.”  Again, he seems to think that it’s better to be wrong if being right undermines his choice to devote so much of his career to constitutional grand theory.  I assume the millions of people who benefit from the ACA prefer Verrilli’s approach of trying to appeal to the actually existing Supreme Court rather than the imaginary one that Larry Lessig would find cool.  And it’s a little late in the day to pretend that the most basic insights of legal realism are “astonishing.”

What if Ted Kennedy had announced during his 1980 presidential campaign that one of his chief foreign policy advisers

[ 61 ] August 14, 2015 |


. . . was going to be Robert McNamara?

One of the fair-goers asked the Republican presidential candidate during his appearance on the Des Moines Register Soapbox whether he was being advised by Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush’s deputy secretary of defense and the architect of his Iraq War policy.

Jeb Bush tried to spin the question away from his legacy as the son and brother of the last two Republican presidents, but he did so awkwardly.

“Paul Wolfowitz is providing some advice,” Bush said. “I get most of my advice from a team that we have in Miami, Florida. Young people that are going to be … they’re not assigned, have experience either in Congress or the previous administration.”

He continued: “This game, the parlor game that’s played, you know, where you have 25, 30 or 40 people that are helping you with foreign policy, and if they have any executive experience, they’ve had to deal with two Republican administrations — who were the people that were presidents, the last two Republican? I mean, this is kind of a tough game for me to be playing, to be honest with you.”

Mmmm, beer.


[ 70 ] August 14, 2015 |


Should Democrats reject Charles Schumer as Majority Leader because of his position on the Iran deal? I’ve been wondering over the last few days if we’d see a backlash against his coronation because of it. Josh Marshall makes a strong case on why Senate Dems should find someone else.

I would take it a step further. I think Schumer should be disqualified on the basis of this decision alone. In fact, I would personally find it difficult to ever vote for Schumer again as my Senator, though I doubt he’ll lose much sleep over that since he is amazingly entrenched as New York’s senior senator.

I say all this with some regret since I’ve always liked Schumer. And I should make clear that I see fidelity to a President of one’s own party – even on an issue central to his presidency – as a non-issue in this case. The issue is that this agreement is a matter of grave importance. And Schumer’s position is wrong. Indeed, what makes it an issue for me is that it is more than wrong. His stated arguments are simply nonsensical and obviously tendentious. In this case, Schumer’s ample brain power stands as an indictment against him. There are plenty of senators who are voting against this deal because of a combination of bellicosity and partisan fervor. And there are a good number of them who either cannot or do not care to apply a real logical analysis of the question at hand. Let’s put that more bluntly, they’re either lazy or dumb. And of course this general point applies to senators on both sides of the aisle.

But Schumer is neither lazy nor dumb. And that’s why his decision is really unforgivable.

He argues for instance that even if even if the agreement keeps Iran from building nuclear warheads for a decade (false time frame, by the way), this deal makes things worse because the nuclear Iran ten years from now will be a supercharged Iran made more powerful and bold by sanctions relief.

This is a stupid argument.

So why did Schumer oppose the deal? I think he moves in circles, personal and financial, where this deal is simply anathema and he doesn’t feel he can or wants to buck that opinion. He may also believe he can have his cake and eat it too – vote against, satisfy, and stay good with key supporters and not block its adoption. This is actually what I see as the most likely answer. He may also feel uncomfortable enough on this hot seat that he simply won’t look at the logic of the situation.

I can know and frankly I don’t care. The bright line is that he’s smart enough to know better.

I’ve heard some say that this creates tension for him “on the left” in his quest to become Minority or Majority Leader. This is silly pundit talk. This isn’t the public option. This isn’t something supported by the foreign policy “left”. It’s very basic and mainstream and necessary. The fact that the neoconservatives who gamed the country into the Iraq disaster favor it does not change that.

Democratic senators who don’t reconsider support for Schumer as the leader of their caucus are making a big, big mistake. He should be ruled out of consideration for the job.

I know that much about the majority leader is position is largely procedural and that person does not totally control the caucus. And we know that Harry Reid, hardly a leftist, provided capable leadership even on issues where he personally disagreed with most of his caucus. We can also ask whether, were Schumer currently majority leader, whether the fate of the Iran deal would be any different. My sense is probably not since every senator can vote for it. But it is worrisome that on major issues with enormous national and international importance the majority leader would take untenable and dangerous positions that could lead to war and thousands of dead Americans. That’s just irresponsible and there’s no good reason for Democratic senators to vote for him when they have many other very capable options, including Dick Durbin and Patty Murray to name a couple who would like to have the job.

The Labour Party and Paranoia

[ 80 ] August 14, 2015 |


So, the Labour Party lost an election a few months ago. The rhetoric and framing of this defeat are breathlessly disasterous, such as “an awful result“, “catastrophic“, and a “calamity“, among others.  Yet, Labour increased votes (740,787) and share (Labour gained 1.5%) of the national electorate from the 2010 election (while the Conservatives likewise added votes and share, their gain was only 0.8%). This meant that Labour, as is their wont, must dive into a summer’s worth of soul searching and incrimination dressed up as a leadership election.

While Ed Miliband was selected leader in 2010 based on an electoral college system, where MPs, unions, and the membership writ large each had an equal say, the party has switched to a (more or less) one-member-one-vote system, in part to attenuate the power of unions over the selection process. As the link points out, this is ironic, considering it was the union component of the electoral college in 2010 that put Ed Miliband over the top at the expense of his brother.

Of course, it’s not quite this simple. All full party members get a vote, as do members of affiliated unions (who have to register with the party) and anybody who wants to pay £3 to become a “Labour supporter”. To this day, I’m not entirely clear on the purpose of the latter (a revenue stream, or a means to generate data) but it was a half baked scheme not only open to abuse at the margins, but worse, open to the perception of mass abuse.

Enter Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy. The serial back bencher, representing the left wing of the party, received the necessary 35 MP nominations to stand for the leadership literally in the final hour, with many MPs stating that they would not support him, but wanted him on the list to provide for a healthy debate. Given the perception of Corbyn as an unreconstructed, Michael Foot-esque socialist, many on the right believe it’s in their interests to plonk down the three quid and cast a spoiler vote under the banner of “Tories for Corbyn“, thus ensuring the destruction of the Labour Party as a viable electoral alternative, tantamount to submitting a “resignation letter to the British people” (that quote is from Liz Kendall, best described as the Blairite candidate for leader). Stories abound of Conservatives “caught” registering as a supporters, as well as Greens or those on the hard left. The Labour Party is trying mightily to “weed out” the infiltrators, including some high profile cases (such as the comedian Mark Steel, whom the Labour Party decreed as not “supporting their values” even though the party didn’t prevent him from campaigning for Labour in the 2015 election), to several backbench Labour MPs calling for the leadership election to be suspended.

Why?  Because Jeremy Corbyn might actually win this thing. Many of the MPs who nominated him only to broaden the debate are now regretting it, as recent polling suggests that he’ll win the leadership on the first ballot.

This post isn’t about the merits of any of the four leadership contenders; I’m writing that one over the weekend and will post it on Monday. As a full party member, I get a vote, and I know how I’m going to rank all four candidates. Rather, this is about the wisdom of the system. Should Corbyn win, it’s on the back of legitimate members, not a handful of Tories (or Marxists) infiltrating the party as three-quid supporters in order to gleefully cast a vote. The numbers support this assertion; the electorate at the close of registration on Wednesday is 610,753: 299,755 full members, 189,703 affiliated members (via affiliated unions) and 121,295 registered supporters. It’s mathematically possible that the 121K registered supporters, if voting as a bloc, can swing it to Corbyn, but data from the YouGov poll suggest that £3 supporters back Corbyn only marginally more than full members. However, the perception will always be there that the win was illegitimate. Labour have enough trouble as it is framing the debate; this will only serve to compound the problem.

Is it electoral fraud to give Labour three quid to vote for Corbyn? Not at all. Hell, the only Republican I ever voted for was in the 1996 primary in the Washington State gubernatorial election. Polls had Gary Locke well ahead in the Democratic primary, so a bunch of us crossed over to the Republican primary to help nominate state senator Ellen Craswell, a prototypical batshit crazy representative of the religious right, who successfully went on to get crushed in the general election (yet somehow still managed 42% of the vote). Labour have invited such shenanigans, and have only themselves to blame for creating electoral rules that cast a modicum of doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome.


[ 11 ] August 14, 2015 |

IJN battleship Nagato and her all crewmembers.jpg

“IJN battleship Nagato and her all crewmembers” by Unknown – Old Japanese Magazine.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My favorite battleship of all time is HIJMS Nagato, and I wrote about her end for the Diplomat’s 70th year VJ Day festivities:

Nagato served in, and survived, most of the important battles of World War II, with the exception of the Guadalcanal campaign. Because of her symbolic role in the Pearl Harbor attack, the USN made a special effort to find and destroy Nagato in the last months of the war. The Japanese successfully camouflaged the ship, however, and it survived the huge air raids that sank the rest of the surviving battleships of the IJN. Nagato was on hand for the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.

And if you’d like to know more you could, of course, buy my book…

About that McQueary abomination

[ 45 ] August 14, 2015 |

I couldn’t let it pass unremarked upon either.

UPDATE: Al had his own “hot take” too:


[ 17 ] August 14, 2015 |
HMS Nabob

“HMS Nabob” by Hudson, F A (Lt) Royal Navy official photographer – . Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.


I’ve often heard the claim that the Royal Canadian Navy was the third largest in the world at the end of the World War II.  The claim makes sense on its face; the Kriegsmarine and the IJN effectively disappeared upon their surrender, the status of the Regia Marina was in some legal dispute, the Soviet Navy was not particularly large, and the Marine Nationale was early in the process of reconstruction.  Combined with wartime expansion, this would make the RCN a competitor for the third slot behind the USN and the RN.

Turns out that the devil is in the details. This article answers many of your questions about the size of the Royal Canadian Navy, but long story short:

  1. It matters whether you’re talking about VE Day or VJ Day, because the RCN retired ships faster than the IJN had it ships sunk.
  2. The Soviet Navy was a lot bigger in World War II than most people think.
  3. The French, Australians, and Swedes catch up pretty fast.

And so, the RCN can plausibly be ranked as the 5th largest navy on VE Day, behind the IJN and the Soviet Navy.  By VJ Day, the IJN disappears, but the Marine Nationale keeps the RCN in the fifth slot.  By the end of the 1945, the Swedes and Australians take over the fifth and sixth slots.

Sorry, Canada.  Another national myth shattered. Hat tip to Claude Berube.

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