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Fake Canadians

[ 31 ] September 16, 2014 |

Normally I would oppose Americans pretending to be Canadian citizens, as the existence of the northern menace is a threat to us all. But I will make an exception for ex-slaves claiming Canadian citizenship while enlisting for the Union in the Civil War so that if they were captured, they would not be returned to slavery.

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Every Man A Law Unto Himself

[ 37 ] September 16, 2014 |

A lower court applies Hobby Lobby in a principled manner:

Citing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court’s decision last June holding that the religious objections of a business’ owners could trump federal rules requiring that business to include birth control coverage in its health plan, a federal judge in Utah held last week that a member of a polygamist religious sect could refuse to testify in a federal investigation into alleged violations of child labor laws because he objects to testifying on religious grounds.

Admittedly, the original was a “we reserve the right not to apply this principle in if it produces policy results we don’t like” Alito “minimalist” special, so who knows what will happen. But the burden in this case is much more substantial, and there seems to be a less restrictive means of achieving the state interest, so I’m not sure why the claim wouldn’t be valid. The Supreme Court just created a huge mess. (And, again, RFRA was a dumb law in the first place.)

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Tribal Casinos and Labor Law

[ 79 ] September 16, 2014 |

Native American tribes are trying to use their sovereign status to avoid U.S. labor law in their casinos:

After the Saginaw Chippewa fired a housekeeper at the Soaring Eagle casino in 2010, the Michigan tribe found itself at the center of a national legal battle over the reach of U.S. labor law and the sovereign rights of Native American tribes.

The housekeeper, Susan Lewis, was fired for soliciting union support among workers at the casino in central Michigan. She challenged her dismissal before the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, which ordered the casino to reinstate Lewis.

The Saginaw Chippewa refused, saying the NLRB, which oversees union elections and referees private-sector labor relations disputes, had no right to meddle in tribal business.

Four years later the tribe is fighting the NLRB in one of three nearly identical court cases whose outcomes could be felt throughout the $28 billion tribal casino industry.

At issue are two long-held legal principles. One is the right of private-sector workers to band together and pursue union representation, as embodied in the 1930s National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which the NLRB oversees.

The other is tribal sovereignty, which has been affirmed by Supreme Court decisions going back to the 1820s.

Tribal law is tremendously complicated and I am no expert. What I do understand suggests that with federal labor law, the tribes might have to comply due to their “domestic dependent nations” status as proclaimed by John Marshall. Were it state law, then they would have a much better case because state sovereignty over indigenous land is less clear. Plus, there is a long history of U.S. labor law already applying to workers on reservations, including OSHA.

But this is just the same kind of capitalist avoidance of basic rights for workers that Vegas casinos or apparel manufacturers or anyone else engages in. And the arguments are equally absurd:

But if the NLRB gets its way and unions move in, potentially raising the Soaring Eagle’s operating costs and eroding its profits, “the impact on the tribe and its governmental services would be, in a word, devastating,” said the tribe in a brief filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The casino is “critical to the political integrity of the tribe,” the brief said. The tribe, which does not tax its members, receives 90 percent of its income from the casino.

Ha ha ha ha, what a funny joke. Or it would be if it wasn’t trying to seriously make this argument. This is the same overheated anti-union rhetoric we’ve heard from Henry Clay Frick, Walmart, and countless others. In many ways, this case is not all that dissimilar on principle from Israel/Palestine. Native Americans’ historical oppression does not give them the right to oppress others.

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Casey‘s Original Sin

[ 59 ] September 16, 2014 |

I have a piece about the new 72-hour waiting period for women seeking to obtain an abortion that passed over Nixon’s veto in Missouri.

There are regulations that are worse in terms of arbitrarily limiting abortion access.  But few are more nakedly indefensible.  Mandatory waiting periods don’t even take the superficial form of legitimate health regulations; they just make the “women are not rational moral agents” subtext of abortion restrictions text.

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SEK discusses Guardians of the Galaxy, Marx Brothers on Graphic Policy Radio

[ 39 ] September 16, 2014 |

If you’re interested in what I have to say about Guardians of the Galaxy, I was a guest on Graphic Policy Radio radio talking about it last night.

I made a number of claims about the film, foremost among them its indebtedness to mid-period Marx Brothers films.

I also said quite about something I kept calling “old-school sci-fi wonder” — though I have no idea why I became so wedded to that phrase — and Parks and Rec, because anytime I have the opportunity to discuss Parks and Rec, I will.

UPDATE: I forgot many of the interesting tangents we went on, e.g. What would a science fiction film that wasn’t anthropocentric actually look like, and would it ever get made? (For example, can you imagine a film version of an Iain M. Banks novel?)

AND ALSO: All of the “Bert Macklin, FBI” stuff on Parks and Rec — his deep commitment to his flights of fancy — always reminded me of what Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes would’ve grown up to be like, so Guardians of the Galaxy struck me like a “Spaceman Spiff” serial.

AND ALSO, AGAIN: A discussion of abusive relationships, in which I noted that “it’s a really weird thing to be talking about in the wake of the Ray Rice incident, but this was an abusive relationship, but also very clearly love. I think this is something that gets glossed over in popular culture — yes, let’s condemn people who abuse their loved ones, but don’t make it so that people don’t love the ones they beat, that’s where the pathos is, that’s where the humanity is…We tend to like to simplify things when we’re demonizing people. And I think the film did a really good job of showing that love exists in an abusive relationship — and God, is anybody recording this?”

Check Out Pop Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with graphicpolicy on BlogTalkRadio
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Thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum I: Electoral Ramifications

[ 78 ] September 16, 2014 |

On Thursday, the Scots go to the polls to decide whether or not Scotland will leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country. This issue has been dominating British politics for the past few weeks, especially following the unexpected and rather dramatic tightening of the polls, following months of a seemingly unassailable No lead. This post briefly examines the future electoral ramifications for the remaining United Kingdom should Scotland vote for independence (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland).  I’m also writing a follow-on post that considers what we should expect on Thursday, the constitutional ramifications of both a Yes and No outcome, as well as the political and international ramifications of Scottish independence.

First, the eligible electorate is an interesting question, with the primary criterion being residence in Scotland.  Any British citizen resident in Scotland can vote, as well as residents of Commonwealth countries (with “indefinite leave to remain” in the UK, which is the British version of the green card), EU citizens resident in Scotland, and a few others. As a student of turnout, the voting age has been lowered to 16 for the referendum, which is intriguing. However, while a French (or German, or Polish, or Lithuanian, or Jamaican, or Canadian) citizen resident in Scotland is eligible to vote in the referendum and help determine whether or not Scotland becomes an independent country, Scots living in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or New Zealand can not.

For the rest of Britain, an independence vote has the potential for a significant electoral ramification. For the past two years, aggregate polling has suggested that the Westminster election in May 2015 will result in a clear Labour majority. Today, assuming a uniform swing (which isn’t a safe assumption), Labour stands to enjoy an outright 44 seat majority, based on polling numbers of 32% Conservative, 36% Labour, 8% Liberal Democrat, 15% UKIP, and 5% Green. Note, the swingometer UK Polling Report uses is crude, and lumps in the UKIP support with “others” (including the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens, Respect, et al.) hence might underestimate UKIP’s seat share resulting from the election. Furthermore, I suspect that the resulting majority will be smaller than 44 seats, more along the lines of 20-30 (which is where it has been estimated for most of 2014). Nevertheless, those numbers are available, so let’s use them: out of 650 MPs, the Tories would win 256, Labour 347, LibDems 21, Others, 8, and Northern Ireland distribute their 18 seats across four or five parties.  Eliminating Scotland’s 59 MPs, and extrapolating using the 2010 seat distribution north of the border, a resulting House of Commons would have 255 Tories, 306 Labour, with 10, 2, and 18 remaining for the other three categories. Given a majority in a 591 seat Commons would require 296 MPs, Labour would still retain a thin, yet outright, majority.

Since 1974, Scotland has only marginally swung an election three times, but the feeling amongst Labour Party members is that independence would be a significant impediment to a working majority following the 2015 election.  The table blow lists the Labour governing majority (if one existed), the seats in Scotland and their percentage of the House of Commons, the number of Scottish seats that went Labour and the number that went Conservative.  The only elections where eliminating the Scottish seats would have changed the outcome were both 1974 elections, and  2010. In the first 1974 election, the Labour government that formed was a minority government (indeed, while the Conservatives “won” the popular vote, they had four seats more than the Conservatives. Take away Scotland’s 71 seats, of which 40 were Labour, the Conservatives end up not with an outright majority (only seven seats short) but with 15 more seats than Labour. Encouraged by strong polling numbers later in 1974, the Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, called a snap election, which resulted in an outright Labour majority of three entire seats. Again, remove Scotland from the equation, Labour have 278 seats to the Conservative’s 261, which would have resulted in a minority Labour government. Finally, the results of the 2010 election, minus Scotland, would have resulted in an outright Conservative majority: the Tories only lose the one seat, while Labour loses 41 and the Liberal Democrats 11, resulting in 306 Tories, 217 Labour, and 46 LibDems. This would have saved both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats the ignominy of serving together in a coalition.


Election Labour Maj. Scotland Seats / PCT Labour Scot Tory Scot
2010 -39** 59 / 9.1% 41 1 (+11 LD)
2005 67 59 / 9.1% 41 1
2001 167 59 / 9.1% 56 1
1997 179 72 / 10.9% 56 0
1992 -21 72 / 11.1% 49 11
1987 -102 72 / 11.1% 50 10
1983 -144 72 / 11.1% 41 21
1979 -44 72 / 11.1% 44 22
1974oct 3 71 / 11.3% 41 16
1974feb -17* 71 / 11.3% 40 21

 

While Scottish influence on Westminster elections since 1974 have been marginal (February 1974 would have resulted in a minority Tory rather than minority Labour government, October 1974 results in a minority rather than slim majority Labour government, and 2010 becomes an outright Conservative rather than Con-Lib coalition government) Labour are justifiably concerned. Losing Scotland and the safe 40-odd seats there comprises roughly 13% of the MPs that Labour require to form a majority in the Commons. That’s roughly equivalent to the blow the Republican Party would face should Texas finally secede from the Union: the 38 Electoral College votes that Texas faithfully delivers to the GOP represents 14% of the 270 that they need for a presidential victory.

Eliminating Scotland from the future House of Commons electoral calculous might result in a marginal effect on the size and stability of any resulting Labour government. Should Labour only win 2015 with a 20 seat majority, once the elected Scottish MPs become unemployed and pack their bags to go live in their newly independent country, the extant Labour government becomes based on a fragile minority which can’t be expected to long survive a vote of confidence.

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I Wish!

[ 32 ] September 16, 2014 |

Keri:

There are a million moments that shape a team’s season. Given all of the pitches that miss by an inch, grounders that take a bad hop, and long drives that curve just foul, harping on one particular play might seem unfair. Still, there’s no sugarcoating what happened Sunday afternoon, when Ned Yost quite possibly pissed away the Royals’ season.

I wish he had.  But let us be frank: after tonight the Mariners ain’t making the playoffs.  Congrats Kansas City on breaking the drought.  And let us also be clear that when a team is for some reason is running the ridiculous Kendrys Morales out every day at DH during a pennant race — because who doesn’t need a DH who hits .218 without much power who would swing if the pitcher threw the ball into centerfield — it pretty much deserves what it gets.   Jose Vidro, come back, all is forgiven.

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The NFL’s Principles Strike Again

[ 182 ] September 15, 2014 |

The Minnesota Vikings received some praise for deactivating Adrian Peterson on Sunday for betting the hell out of his son.

Then the Vikings discovered that they have no rushing attack without him. The Patriots easily disposed of Minnesota.

So even though if anything Peterson’s actions look worse now than they did late last week, the Vikings have reinstated him for this Sunday’s game. The justification for this is, uh, weak.

It has nothing to do with him as a football player. It has to do purely with the facts that we have, that have been presented to us.

The first sentence is bunk. The second sentence is correct because the facts that have been presented to the Vikings is that they are bad without their best player.

….Also, Jim Harbaugh is a giant hypocrite.

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Hack of the Day

[ 6 ] September 15, 2014 |

Stuart Taylor Jr. 

Some bonus hackery from the archives. 

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The Cultural Turn

[ 86 ] September 15, 2014 |

Interesting article on how Democrats are now using cultural issues to hammer Republicans in much the same way Republicans did effectively until very recently against Democrats.

In Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado, important swing states, Democratic senators contending with a sour climate for their party have used debates to hammer their Republican opponents on issues related to contraception and women’s rights. Those efforts may carry them only so far in a year when Republicans have more paths to winning control of the Senate than Democrats have to keeping it.

Republicans’ attempts to parry attacks also reveal how the ground has shifted. Their challengers in the three states have fought back with proposals to sell birth control pills over the counter, a pivot that not long ago might have enraged religious conservatives who were concerned about enabling promiscuity. But there is little indication of that now, nor any broader sign that the right is being motivated by Democrats’ push on social issues.

“We cannot assume that we still live in Mayberry,” said Russell D. Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Clearly American culture has changed a great deal.”

Just as striking is what is barely being discussed: same-sex marriage. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican, simply changed the subject to the economy when he was pressed about a federal judge’s decision striking down his state’s ban on same-sex unions.

Now Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, who succeeded Mr. Allard in 2009, is running a campaign courting female voters by emphasizing the culture wars. Along with an array of outside liberal groups, Mr. Udall has pounded his Republican challenger, Representative Cory Gardner, on abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage.

When he had the opportunity to ask a question at the first Senate debate last weekend, there was little doubt about what Mr. Udall would raise.

“When it comes to a woman’s reproductive rights and women’s health, how can women and families trust you?” the senator asked.

Mr. Gardner countered by airing a commercial featuring him speaking to a group of women in which he vowed “cheaper and easier” access to birth control pills.

Mr. Udall narrowly leads Mr. Gardner in polls, and Colorado Republicans say that if Mr. Udall’s cultural assault is successful, it will represent an ominous sign about their party’s ability to win statewide.

“If he can’t win this in this environment and against this incumbent, I shudder to think when we are going to be able to win one,” said Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado Republican chairman. “This election, in many ways, is going to determine whether Colorado has really shifted blue.”

Turns out that taking crazy extremist positions may not be sustainable for long-term political viability. Who knew. And really, if Republicans start losing Colorado consistently, which is quite likely, their political base has really eroded. The only states we can argue are maybe becoming more Republican at this point are the Great Lakes states, but the prediction of them turning to the Republicans permanently is going on 35 years old now. This is why Republicans are so desperate to stop minorities and college students from voting. The only way they can win is to reduce the electorate.

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Scotchtoberfest Revisited

[ 71 ] September 15, 2014 |

Gotta love this:

I particularly enjoy it because I’ve always found the following exchange evocative of the kind of baroque post-nationalism that the Scottish referendum represents:

Groundskeeper Willie: Now the kilt was only for day-to-day wear. In battle, we donned a full-length ballgown covered in sequins. The idea was to blind your opponent with luxury. [Bart ties a set of balloon to his kilt, making it fly off with them and show his buttocks, which makes everyone gasp.] Aah, ’tis no more than what God gave me, you puritan pukes.

Principal Skinner: Congratulations, Simpson. You just fell for our sting and won yourself three months detention. There’s no such thing as Scotchtoberfest.

Groundskeeper Willie: There’s not? Ya used me, Skinner! Ya used me!

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Airpower Over Vietnam?

[ 18 ] September 15, 2014 |

For the National Interest this week, a brief reappraisal of the promise and failure of airpower in Vietnam:

Effectively, the Obama administration has decided to rely on airpower in its efforts to limit the catastrophic, ongoing chaos caused by the Iraq War. Thinking about the operation against ISIS in these terms almost inevitably evokes similar thoughts about previous catastrophic wars. For example, could airpower have won the Vietnam War, or at least limited the extent of our defeat?

Certainly, lots of people believed so at the time. While the United States Air Force may have viewed the Rolling Thunder campaign as sub-optimal, given its desire to attack a much wider range of targets, the commanders at the time viewed it as an opportunity to show that the service could win a war on its own. Taking a look at the strategic, tactical, and joint aspects of the use of airpower in Vietnam, we can get to an answer of “Maybe, but…” with an emphasis on the “but.” The United States could have used airpower more effectively in Vietnam than it did, but even the most efficient plans likely could not have saved the Saigon regime.

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