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Sweet Crude (now with unborked comments)

[ 25 ] January 16, 2016 |

I know this makes me a bad capitalist, but I’m struggling to dredge up any concern over the ongoing oil glut. I read passages such as this:

Just a couple of years ago, producers and petro-states were making vast fortunes drilling and pumping relentlessly to fuel expanding middle classes in Asia, Latin America and Africa. But suddenly they are producing more than anyone needs at a time when China and other rapidly growing economies, once hungry for energy, are pulling back.

The extra oil has sent the price of crude into a tailspin, down more than 70 percent over the last 18 months.

That, in turn, has helped depress stock markets around the world, as investors worry about global growth. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is off around 8 percent in just the first two weeks of the year; European shares are down even more. Chinese stocks have dropped 20 percent from their December peak, putting the market in bear territory.

“What was once viewed as a gift is now viewed similarly to the gift of the monkey’s paw,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service. “Global financial damages trump the benefits of cheap oil at anything under $30 a barrel.”

I see the words. I understand what they’re supposed to mean, but for some reason I keep interpreting them as “Oh woe! A fucked up system that is based on the exploitation of the planet and people and helps further concentrate wealth into the mitts of a dwindling number of plutocrats is in peril!! Everybody panic!!!”

No. I can’t. Not just like that. Especially since the solutions appear to be increased demand for the stuff or … unpleasantness.

On the supply side, if tensions erupting between Saudi Arabia and Iran lead to armed conflict or an insurrection, the excess production could quickly disappear.

Oh, I’m sorry. My placard reads “War is NOT the answer,” I’ll make a correction.

The boom in Iraqi oil production faces multiple threats, including Islamic State terrorism. The government is falling behind in its payments to international oil companies, water is running low for pumping to revive aging oil fields, and northern Kurdish fields are short on pipelines.

Ha, yes. Because if I were going to draw up a list of 10 countries that haven’t been made to suffer enough due to violence and greed for oil, Iraq would be in the top five.


Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not able to care.


The Long Arm of Bakke

[ 38 ] January 16, 2016 |


I originally missed this Sigal Alon piece in The Nation on how the discourse of diversity helped kill affirmative action. She rightfully sees Bakke as laying the groundwork for the evisceration of race-based college admissions soon to be eliminated entirely in Fisher.

 The Bakke case is often looked upon as the landmark ruling for legitimizing race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Justice Powell set the stage for what came to be known as the “diversity rationale” for race-conscious admissions policies—the argument that having a diverse student body in postsecondary institutions serves a compelling government interest because “the ‘nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure’ to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation of many peoples.” Race-conscious admissions, then, are permissible because, when narrowly tailored, they serve this substantial educational interest.

 The Bakke ruling shifted the rationale for affirmative action from reparation for past discrimination to promoting diversity. This, in essence, made the discourse about affirmative action race-neutral, in that it now ignores one of the key reasons for why we need to give an edge to minorities. Today the University of Texas, Austin, when defending the consideration of race and ethnicity in admission decisions, cannot say that this practice is needed because of persistent racial inequality; because minority students do not have the same life chances as white students; because there is extensive racial discrimination in the labor and housing markets; because students who study in poor high schools have less chances for learning and lower achievements; or because growing up in poverty impedes your cognitive development. The only argument at the disposal of UT Austin in defense of its admission practices is that it needs a diverse student body to enrich the educational experience of privileged white students.

Today, the fate of affirmative action rests solely on the Court’s endorsing diversity as a compelling societal interest. The oral arguments in Fisher this week demonstrate the fragility of this situation. Chief Justice Roberts questioned the educational benefits of racial diversity, asking, “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?… I’m just wondering what the benefits of diversity are in that situation?”

Of course Roberts is too secure in his own privilege to see that in fact there is value in having a diverse classroom, even in physics. Science may indeed matter differently to people from different backgrounds. Shocking! Of course, had the Court rejected Bakke‘s case entirely, Texas would have had a lot sturdier legs to stand on than just diversity. Even if Powell was OK was diversity as a principle, he rejected the key civil rights element of affirmative action.

But then Powell was named to the Supreme Court by Greatest Liberal of All Time Richard Nixon so I don’t see the argument’s value. I’ll bet that conservacrat Barack Obama wouldn’t name defenders of affirmative action to the Supreme Court!

Meanwhile, in sweet Virginia

[ 35 ] January 16, 2016 |

Admit it, if you were asked to name a current cause of voter disenfranchisement, you’d say voter identification requirements. You would, wouldn’t you? Having to show identification in order to vote prevents minorities/poor people from voting, you’d say. It’s like a poll tax or literacy requirements, you might add.

According to three Trump supporters, you’re wrong.

The lawsuit, filed this month in the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of three pastors who support Trump, stems from the state Republican Party’s decision in September to require voters to sign a “statement of intent” before taking part in the primary.

The pledge, already on ballot instructions printed across the state, reads: “My signature below indicates I am a Republican.”

In you’re in a hurry here’s the Tl;dr: Three whiny opportunistic neo-con greedbags who walk around waving Bibles are now pretending to be the defenders of freedoom because they can’t have their way. You know, the usual.

But the details are, as so often the case when dealing with the right wing, impossible to fabricate.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs — African American pastors Stephen A. Parson, Bruce L. Waller Sr. and Leon Benjamin — argued that the pledge will discourage minority voters and those who are poor from casting ballots. They also said that confusion about the pledge will lead to long lines at the polls, imposing a “burden of fear and backlash” that amounts to a literacy test for uneducated voters.

So that’s three family sized sac des verges, heavily salted. For here or to go?

Because – and perhaps this is crazy – I think that if one were truly concerned about laws that disenfranchise voters in Virginia, especially minority/poor voters in Virginia, one would be protesting the state’s voter identification law.

Further, anyone who supports Trump and claims to give half a damn about minority/poor people ought to have his tridlins plucked out for being a filthy liar and hypocrite.

Wait, it gets better; You must take a gander at these wankers. It can’t be worse than contemplating Lieberman’s smug first thing in the morning. (Maybe.)

In 2012 Parson, along with Benjamin and other conservative black pastors, supported Romney, Cantor and Allen because he was “pro-life, anti-same-sex-marriage, pro-prayer in schools, pro-entrepreneurship and pro-business.”

In 2015 he was forced out of the church he founded 30 years ago for fiddling with the funds and was later sued by the same church as part of the proceedings in its divinely-inspired bankruptcy. No wonder he’s a fan of Trump.

I did say you couldn’t make up this stuff.

Fortunately the case was heard by an activist judge, who advised plaintiffs to wait until it was foggy and then go play hopscotch on I-64.

In her decision, U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that voters would suffer “irreparable harm” by signing a party affiliation statement before receiving a ballot on Super Tuesday, as Trump’s supporters argued.

Now let’s hope it doesn’t get to the Supreme Court. I’d hate to see what Roberts would do with this.

This Day in Labor History: January 16, 1961

[ 5 ] January 16, 2016 |


On January 16, 1961, lettuce workers in the Imperial Valley of California walked off the job in one of the first modern actions of agricultural worker militancy that would eventually lead to the rise of the United Farm Workers and other farmworker unions in the 1960s and 1970s.

Imperial Valley lettuce growers, like farmers across the Southwest, made their profits off very low wages. From the very beginning of agribusiness in this region, farmers relied on inexpensive transient labor, usually by people of color. This labor could be white, as it was during the Great Depression. But mostly it was Mexicans and Filipinos. The Chinese primarily worked on the railroads and in the cities and the Japanese tended to buy their own farms at first opportunity, often on land abandoned on white farmers. The Filipinos took over much of the agricultural labor in the early 20th century, but the ending of Filipino immigration after the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934 meant that the long-term answer for farmers would be Mexicans. These concerns are the primary reason why agricultural labor was excluded from both the immigration acts of the 1920s that effectively ended immigration from eastern and southern Europe but did not affect the Americas, as well as the National Labor Relations Act and Fair Labor Standards Act, the core labor legislation of the New Deal. The entry of the U.S. into World War II threatened farmers’ cheap labor force even more and thus the government created the Bracero Program with Mexico. This really allowed the farmers to exploit workers like never before.

For the AFL-CIO, the bracero program was a threat to American labor. In 1959, the federation created the Agricultural Workers Organization Committee (AWOC). This organization, largely made up of Mexican and Filipino-Americans and eventually led by the great Filipino-American labor leader Larry Itliong, sought to force the Department of Labor to eliminate bracero labor by having small numbers of domestic
workers call strikes at farms. This could work because braceros were banned as scab labor in the agreement with Mexico. Moreover, there was some greater public sympathy with farmworkers at this point because of the recently aired Edward R. Murrow documentary special “Harvest of Shame,” which aired in November 1960.

The strike itself began because the growers, seeking to maximize their profits, decided not to pay wages at the agreed upon set wage. Farmworkers do have one advantage to other striking workers and that has to do with the spoilage of produce. If they stay out long enough, farmers simply lose their entire crop. On January 16, AWOC called its workers out to force the farmers to pay the agreed upon wage and not use braceros. It started using its strategy of taking advantage of the bracero strikebreaking provision. At one farm, striking workers rushed in to disrupt the camp, a riot started, and a cook and two Mexican workers were injured. This led to both a raid upon union headquarters in Brawley, California where over 40 unionists were arrested and demands by the Mexican government to get its citizens out of these farms. The DOL pulled 2,052 Mexican citizens from California farms, including over 1,000 from the Imperial Valley lettuce farms, leading to the growers objecting and finally a meeting with Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg. But AWOC and the DOL led to a serious disruption in the Bracero Program.

But this did not mean that AWOC would win the strike. The major goal of the Kennedy administration was to solve the strike, not end the Bracero Program, even though the 1960 Democratic Party platform had a plank calling for its end. The meetings led by Goldberg and Undersecretary of Labor Willard Wirtz mediating between the growers and labor were fraught with problems because leading union participants were not even invited and the growers refused to sit down with labor. The growers began raising pay rates quietly to convince workers to not strike while Goldberg and Wirtz decided that if a field was not being picketed at a given time that the braceros could continue to work. Given the limited resources of AWOC (and the United Packinghouse Workers of America, which was also representing some workers), winning the strike was impossible. They couldn’t picket 40,000 acres of lettuce at once. This pleased the growers greatly. The Imperial Valley News wrote, “Growers are not said to feel that Secretary Goldberg is more sympathetic to his cause than was his predecessor James Mitchell.” Of course Goldberg came from a Democratic administration and Mitchell had served under Eisenhower. Once again, the actual actions of the Kennedy administration proved to be less than liberal.

AWOC received a lot of bad publicity for its aggression toward braceros and George Meany shut it down later in 1961, possibly at the request of Arthur Goldberg who had long hated radicalism in labor and who had played a major role in the CIO expelling communist unions in 1947. Meany never really supported AWOC anyway and had mostly created it to cut Walter Reuther from using his people to organize farmworkers. But AWOC would soon revive playing an important role in early farmworker organizing, especially among the Filipinos that would play an underrated role in the early history of the United Farm Workers. This was helped by AWOC head Norman Smith, an old CIO organizer, refusing to hand over money from his treasury that he had never told Meany about. Moreover, the ambivalence to outright hostility these unions would have to undocumented workers after the end of the Bracero Program in 1964, including from Cesar Chavez himself, would repeat the actions of AWOC in 1961.

This strike did not lead to a union victory exactly. But when Kennedy renewed the Bracero Program later in 1961, he publicly stated he ordered Goldberg to correct the abuses and protect the wages of American residents in the fields. In fact, Goldberg then raised the minimum wage for braceros in the California fields to $1 an hour at a time when the national minimum wage was $1.15. he also sent 57 more inspectors to the California farms to monitor the program and ordered the restoration of the piece rates the lettuce growers had violated. UPWA director of west coast operations Bud Simonson later noted, “It looks like we won the Imperial Valley strike of 1961 after all.”

The 1961 strike it was in many ways the first real moment that showed growers what they would have to face as the 1960s and 1970s went on: worker militancy combined with public sympathy and greater anger over poverty that would force agribusiness on the defensive like never before, eventually leading to union recognition for at least some farmworkers.

The material from this post comes mostly from Frank Bardacke, Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. Each and every one of you should read this fantastic book. Some is drawn from Mae Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, another highly worthwhile book.

This is the 167th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

“We could have gotten zero.”

[ 44 ] January 16, 2016 |


Joe Lieberman is definitely a man who can afford to be made to look ridiculous, and in his position as head of the NoLabelsUniteForUnity081216 floating circle jerk this will happen with even greater frequency than usual:

We had no idea when we started out down this road how many candidates would make the Problem Solver Promise,” said No Labels’s co-chairman and former U.S. senator Joe Lieberman, a longtime Democrat from Connecticut who retired as an independent after losing his party’s primary. “Today, six have! I’m glad we got six. We could have gotten zero.”

Rarely have I been more amused to see people acting this pathetically. We’ve gotten six people to agree to our meaningless plan for fiscal responsibility! And the most recent is a particularly YOOOOOOOOOOOOGE get, whose commitment to Fiscal Dignitude is reflected by his plan to use upper-class tax cuts to add eleventy trillion dollars to the deficit!

Via Pierce, who observes:

The Jon Huntsman Campaign Memorial Function Room at the Stupid Café is one of our most popular features. It’s nearly always booked, usually by the weekly luncheons of the various No Labels/Third Way/Both Sides Suck cosplay organizations that have sprung up. It’s no surprise, then, that the man for whom the room was named, and his incredibly irrelevant lollipop guild, booked the room for their annual awards. And, boy howdy, did they put on a show.


In his next life, Joe Lieberman is going to come back as a spittoon.

Happy Birthday

[ 24 ] January 15, 2016 |

In Chicago, a number of people gathered to mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday in a suitable manner.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hosted the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast Friday amid growing calls for his resignation and backlash surrounding the annual event.

The breakfast celebrating King’s life is in its 30th year, but some notable black leaders will be sitting this one out, as dozens pledged to boycott in their belief that King’s life and legacy has not been honored on the streets of Chicago.

Writing exercise – Hand-wring in the nut graf … Go!
Surely this was not what the late Mayor Harold Washington envisioned when he hosted the first MLK breakfast in 1985. The event was a target for protest groups calling for the resignation of Chicago’s current Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Whatever “this” means. (And don’t call me Shirley.) The event did not go off sans hitches:

The advertised guest speaker, author Isabela Wilkerson who boycotters asked not to speak, did not appear. The crowded ballroom included many seniors, some who say they were invited within the past 24 hours.

“I did mine yesterday. Got your invitation yesterday? Yeah,” said Richard Lackey, a breakfast guest.

Mayor Emanuel shows his understanding of the situation:
“This was not about me. It’s about Dr. King, his life and his life’s work,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Mayor Emanuel just wants you to focus on the photo op. related to a dead black man.

No, not that one, y’ fool!

Pollution, Past and Present

[ 30 ] January 15, 2016 |


Air pollution, Louisville, 1943

The history of pollution goes back a long time:

First it was wood fires in ancient homes, the effects of which have been found in the blackened lungs of mummified tissue from Egypt, Peru and Great Britain. And the Romans earn the dubious credit of being perhaps the first to spew metallic pollutants into the air, long before the Industrial Revolution.

“We saw the harmful effects of air pollution even in Roman times,” says Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and author of the textbook Air Pollution and Global Warming: History, Science, and Solutions.

The residents of ancient Rome referred to their city’s smoke cloud as gravioris caeli (“heavy heaven”) and infamis aer (“infamous air”). Several complaints about its effects can be found in classical writings. “No sooner had I left behind the oppressive atmosphere of the city [Rome] and that reek of smoking cookers which pour out, along with clouds of ashes, all the poisonous fumes they’ve accumulated in their interiors whenever they’re started up, than I noticed the change in my condition,” wrote the philosopher and statesman Seneca in A.D. 61.

Roman courts considered civil claims over smoke pollution 2,000 years ago, notes Stephen Mosley, a lecturer at the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University who has written extensively about the history of air pollution. The jurist Aristo declared, for example, that a cheese shop could not discharge smoke into the buildings above it.

The empire even tried a very early version of the Clean Air Act. In 535, then Emperor Justinian proclaimed the importance of clean air as a birthright. “By the law of nature these things are common to mankind—the air, running water, the sea,” he wrote.

Later, smelting to create lead and copper came along, fouling medieval air. Analyses of ice cores from the Arctic reveal that extraction and smelting on the Iberian Peninsula, England, Greece and elsewhere increased lead in the environment by a factor of ten.

Pollution is also with us today, often for the most nefarious and morally bankrupt reasons. Like in Flint:

But emergency managers, particularly the ones appointed by Governor Snyder (a Republican) have been far more focused on cuts for their own sake, particularly crushing unionized public sector workers. The idea to temporarily use Flint River water while another pipeline was being constructed was one of those cost-saving measures.

It was immediately obvious that the water was filthy, and residents loudly protested that it was cloudy, smelled bad, and tasted worse. General Motors stopped using the water because it was literally corroding their machinery. But Snyder and his handpicked head environmental official Dan Wyant studiously ignored the problem — despite internal warnings of lead poisoning as early as July of last year — until an outside scientific study demonstrated extreme levels of lead in Flint children. In late December — over a year after the water switch — Snyder finally apologized and Wyant quietly resigned.

Now Snyder has already been forced to pony up over $10 million to switch the Flint water system back to the way it was before (hooked up to Detroit, basically), and the city is asking for some $50 million more to replace lead pipes. But that’s very likely only the beginning. Flint’s population is roughly 100,000, and several families have already sued state and local officials over the lead issue. It’s unclear so far how badly the city’s children have been poisoned, but it’s a pretty safe bet the state will end up spending tens or perhaps even hundreds of millions on settlements.

And that’s where a moral atrocity becomes an economic self-kneecapping. Aside from the cost of settlements, children are the major portion of the future’s economic capacity, which depends critically on their ability to function normally. Destroying their brains with heavy metals will rather impede their ability to get the jobs and pay the taxes that will get Flint on a sound fiscal footing.

Returning poor Americans to lead exposure is basically the upshot of Republican governance; no doubt Rick Snyder sees the real problem here as the ability of citizens to sue over this. The temerity of anti-government Snyder now begging President Obama for federal relief would be LOL material if it wasn’t so serious and if it all wasn’t part of the drowning government in a bathtub so long as I don’t need strategy of Republicans. See here:

“Mistrust in government is at a heightened level,” Snyder, a Republican, said in a request dated Thursday and released to The Associated Press.

Huh, I wonder why that would be? No doubt Republicans will spin all this as why government doesn’t work and waltz into another couple of terms in the statehouse in Lansing.

The Hackery Never Stops

[ 152 ] January 15, 2016 |
Dumb and Dumber (Screengrab)

Dumb and Dumber

H.A. Goodman is a national treasure:

I recently had the great pleasure of appearing on the Benjamin Dixon Show, where I explained that Bernie Sanders could easily win a landslide victory in 2016. If you enjoyed my latest article on the subject, just watch my discussion with Benjamin Dixon.

Benjamin Dixon is becoming a national presence, and I thank him for giving me the opportunity to explain why my conscience will only allow me to vote for Bernie Sanders, and not Donald Trump or Clinton.

Also, although I didn’t mention this alternate scenario, the FBI might give Bernie Sanders a landslide victory in 2016. Not many people understand the severity of hackers in other countries attempting to hack into a Secretary of State’s private server (a server that Wired stated was a “Security Fail”), and along with the man who set up Clinton’s server pleading the Fifth, we’re nowhere near an ending to this saga. It could easily derail Clinton’s campaign.


I don’t write for Facebook likes, but that Huffington Post article is currently at 726,000 Facebook likes and on its way to 1 million.

Remember, we’re only talking about an article on Bernie Sanders, not a music video. Its popularity is a testament to an immense undercurrent of nationwide support ignored by media and pundits. Only Bernie Sanders could catapult an article on politics to almost 1 million Facebook likes.

On June 29, 2015, Clinton still enjoyed an enormous 58.4% advantage, while Sanders had surged to a whopping 15.9%. On that day, I wrote a piece titled Why Bernie Sanders Will Become the Democratic Nominee and Defeat Any Republican in 2016. The article quickly surged to 157,000 Facebook likes.

On July 6, 2015, Clinton still had a gigantic 57.8% advantage, while Sanders had increased only to 16.8%. Two days later, I wrote a piece in The Hill titled Sanders’s integrity and honesty worth more than Clinton’s billions. It garnered 114,000 Facebook Likes.

No, I don’t write for Facebook Likes, and some of my better writing hasn’t even been noticed by readers. One of my best articles is titled Dick Cheney’s 1994 Gulf War Interview Proves Why Jeb Bush Can’t Blame Obama or Intelligence Failures that earned only 103 likes and one comment. The article did result, however, in a Ring of Fire appearance explaining how Dick Cheney destabilized the Middle East.

This “Facebook likes” methodology is highly compelling, but I’m afraid I’m going to need more data from college straw polls before I’ll be fully convinced.

To go higher on the web publishing food chain, get a load of this #Slatepitch. You might be tempted to click and see if the article is better than its transparently idiotic and offensive headline. Trust me: it’s not.

Why Treason in Defense of Slavery Monuments Matter

[ 47 ] January 15, 2016 |


Every now and again, someone wonders why I care so much about monuments to those who committed treason in defense of slavery 150 years ago. The answer is of course that those monuments are actually monuments to white supremacy and influence racists today, including Dylann Roof when he shot up Denmark Vesey’s church. Now that New Orleans is seeking to take down several monuments that reinforced white supremacy, a number of white people are going ballistic, going to show just how much these things really do matter. Jarvis DeBerry for the Times-Picayune

If the monuments weren’t a big deal, tens of thousands of people (the overwhelming majority of whom don’t live in the city) would not have signed a petition to keep them standing.

If the monuments weren’t significant, there wouldn’t have been people who drove from great distances to stand outside City Hall and wave Confederate battle flags in protest.

If the monuments didn’t really matter, there wouldn’t have been standing-room-only crowds in the City Council chambers when an ordinance to remove the monuments was being discussed.

If the monuments were nothing more than a meaningless part of our cityscape, then the contractor who has been hired to eventually remove them wouldn’t be fielding death threats or threats from other business owners to never work with that contractor again.

But city officials said in federal court Thursday morning that that is what has happened. An attorney for H&O Investments of Baton Rouge says his client has withdrawn from the job because the lives of the company’s employees have been threatened and other businesses have threatened to cancel their contracts with the company.

Somebody’s dialing in death threats because a statue to Robert E. Lee might fall? Other business owners are saying we can’t be your friend anymore because you’re removing Jefferson Davis from his pedestal?

Exactly when did these monuments start mattering to so many people?

The answer, obviously, is that they have always mattered. They were a big deal when they were erected. They’re a big deal now. And at now point in the meantime has their presence been insignificant.

Monuments to Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are the American equivalent of monuments placed up after the fact to Nazis and Soviet leaders. They represent power intended to oppress others. Naturally the oppressors don’t like their symbols coming down. They never do. It is indeed our duty to take these monuments down.

The Many Mistakes Leading to the Malheur Takeover

[ 126 ] January 15, 2016 |


Above: The Sewage of the West

The takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by the sewage of the West going Galt has gone on so long now that it’s almost dropped out of the news except for all the dildos they’ve received by nice people thinking of their sexual health. It’s quite touching.

The short-term problem is that the lackadaisical effort by law enforcement, going all the way up to the Obama administration, of dealing with these people does nothing but empower these people to continue in their actions, threatening government officials, and committing violent acts across the West. Like everything else in the United States, this is largely explained primarily by race, as black, Muslim, or Latino groups would probably be dead by now. But angry whites after Waco and Ruby Ridge has spooked federal large enforcement to be fearful of acting in any forceful way against violent whites, even to the point of just shutting off the power or blocking the entrance to the wildlife refuge. It’s pathetic. It’s also dangerous.

There are several longer-term problems too. The first is that Republicans actually empower right-wing paramilitary activities and terrorism. This is hardly unknown to the left. But the extent to which they force the government to not investigate right-wing groups is remarkable.

Daryl Johnson once worked in the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that studied the threats posed by antigovernment groups. His former office was shut down more than five years ago.

But when members of an armed group took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last week, Mr. Johnson was not surprised.

In 2009, the former analyst wrote a report that warned of a growing antigovernment movement and the possible recruitment of returning military veterans that could “lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists.”

His words drew fierce criticism from Republican lawmakers and conservative news media, labeling the report an unfair assessment of legitimate criticisms of the government. The document was retracted after Janet Napolitano, who was then the Homeland Security secretary, apologized to veterans, and the Extremism and Radicalization Branch was quietly dismantled.

Former Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who was then House minority leader, criticized Ms. Napolitano for the department’s failure to use the term “terrorist” to describe groups such as Al Qaeda, while “using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”

After the criticism, the Homeland Security Department reduced the number of analysts who studied domestic terrorism that was unconnected to foreign threats. Last September, Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary, created the Office for Community Partnerships in order to counter violent extremism. The office works with local communities and focuses on both domestic and foreign threats, the department said.

But Daryl Johnson, who is now a security consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, said the focus of the community partnership office is different from his former branch at Homeland Security. “It has nothing to do with putting together intelligence, analysis or law enforcement,” he said.

It’s not as if the government doesn’t have the capability to deal with these people. But when you have one of the two major political parties openly embracing fascism, it’s hardly surprising that it would intimidate the other party into not investigating those fascist groups. The mistake DHS made was letting Republicans push it around.

There’s an even longer-term problem, which is the disaster that is federal grazing policy, as this western rancher states.

The current system dates to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which split the open range into smaller allotments, each with specific regulations called operating instructions. While this and subsequent environmental policies have codified the land management process in a manner suitable to bureaucratic oversight, approaching the Western landscape like this takes the landscape out of context. Thus, the current system does not support effective management, land health or ranching. Limiting ranch management practices on federal lands to rigid regulations does not allow for the flexibility that healthy ecosystems require. Both commercial ranching in big, arid country and wild ecosystems function best on a large scale. As a result, the allotment system — meant to prevent overgrazing, rein in monopolistic ranching and establish the grazing rights of smaller ranchers — has been a huge source of contention. With smaller scale ranchers now protesting the original basis for jurisdiction and billionaires again putting together huge spreads, environmentalists are unhappy, people are out of work, and the land is suffering. No one is winning.

A landscape management framework that assesses the components of the big picture and how they work together (which a few ranchers and federal agency personnel have been able to implement in spite of bureaucratic obstacles) promotes flexibility among grazing allotments, allowing ranchers to better accommodate seasonal changes, forage growth, and wildlife. This way, when things like wolves, wildfires, and recreational interests collide with ranching, creative solutions can be a reality, not a dream.

Grazing cattle on federal land is never going to be completely ecologically sound. There are ways however to continue this human traditions of doing so while mitigating the ecological impact. But, as is not really surprising given how a large bureaucracy like the U.S. government works, we are failing to do so.

But while this is a story very much grounded in the larger political problems of our time, it’s also a story that is very much about natural resource economics and the fears these communities face as their lifestyle is becoming economically irrelevant to the point that the environmental impacts are no longer worth it for many policymakers. To say the least, I was not surprised to read this editorial by the Charleston Gazette-Mail that filters the entire situation through Obama’s supposed War on Coal. The editorial writer doesn’t even understand the situation–there are basic mistakes like claiming this is about the government running roughshod over private property rights and “coercing private ranchers to sell” when in fact this is about the private use of public property–but that doesn’t matter for my larger point that the decline of extractive economies have created anti-environmentalist, anti-government messaging throughout the nation, whether in the Pacific Northwest logging towns, the ranges of the arid West, or the coal mines of Appalachia.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the Malheur is special and sensitive place. The offices occupied by the idiots are full of Paiute artifacts and there are concerns about looting. The Bundys say they aren’t interested in that, but given the, how shall we say, lack of discipline among their “forces,” it’s not like some racist white guy who wants to make some bucks couldn’t steal some of those and sell them on the all too active black market for archaeological artifacts. At least some locals are more actively pushing back against these people, which is good, but given the level of anti-government sentiment in eastern Oregon over wolves and other ranching issues, I remain skeptical that they don’t have real sympathy among many in the area.

Update: The police finally arrested one of the idiots today. They arrested him for driving a stolen government vehicle. Where was he? Safeway of course, buying supplies. Unfortunately, the police missed another person who was already in the Safeway. Not sure how–just go find the bearded guy in the Cheetos aisle. Really, if police want to arrest these guys without violence, just stake out area convenience stores, particularly around their Slim Jim supplies.

Are you eager to be employed at a job that requires 1000 hours of work for zero pay?

[ 31 ] January 15, 2016 |


If so, here are a couple of great opportunities:

Communications Internships

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS), a 501(c)(3) higher education association, represents 179 American law schools and is located in downtown Washington, D.C. Its communications department is seeking interns to support the communications and media outreach program.

The communications interns will work 15-20 hours per week during the school year and full-time during the summer at our Dupont Circle headquarters office. These are unpaid internships.

Desirable skills are: strong writing ability, knowledge of media and event planning, computer skills, and general web skills. Commitment to meeting deadlines is essential.

Tasks include: developing content for new website, for example, researching and summarizing news stories about legal education, contacting members for website content; alpha testing the new website; assisting with social media content and strategy; media and experts database development; press relations; and assisting with strategic communications planning including drafting Powerpoint presentations for association’s board.

Please send resume and cover letter via email to:

James Grief
Director of Communications

Law Student Internships

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS), a 501(c)(3) higher education association, represents 179 American law schools and is located in downtown Washington, D.C. AALS is seeking law student interns to work on research and writing projects related to our mission of improving legal education. Candidates must be current J.D. students. These are unpaid internships.

The law student interns will work 15-20 hours per week during the school year and full-time during the summer at our Dupont Circle headquarters office, and will work directly with Professor Judith Areen, Executive Director, and Professor Regina Burch, Associate Director. Interns will have the opportunity to interact with other law school professors and deans through their work with AALS committees and the AALS leadership team, as well as to participate in AALS sponsored meetings and conferences. Interns will be encouraged to present innovative approaches to the projects introduced by our staff and to general issues facing legal education today.

Specifically, interns will assist committees of law professors through legal research and writing on topics related to legal education, for example, the value of a U.S. legal education; and will research AALS workshop topics such as financial aid for law students, creating bibliographies and summarizing the law and policy considerations related to the topic. Also, interns will assist with developing white papers, other website content, and materials for AALS programs, for example, by researching and documenting innovative curricular programs in legal education and the American Bar Association standards related to those programs.

Interns must be available to work during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9-5:30, though specific schedules (days of the week and time of the day) within these hours are flexible.

Interested students should send their resume and cover letter to for consideration. Please include your schedule of availability!

17.5 hours per week during a 30-week school year, and 40 hours per week during a 12-week summer adds up to just over one thousand hours of labor, with a generous European-socialism-style ten weeks of unpaid vacation, to go along with the unpaid but non-vacation part of the year.

The AALS had just under $5.8 million in revenue last year, almost all of it coming in form of membership dues from law schools, which themselves are largely comprised of student tuition. So the lucky winners of the competition for these positions will not merely be working for free: they’ll have already paid their employer for the privilege of doing so.

Law prof Susan Westerberg Prager, the executive director of the organization during the previous five years, did not volunteer her time: she was paid $459,221 by the organization in FY2013, $465,242 in FY2012, and $468,676 in FY2011.

Maybe she quit because they kept cutting her salary.

The justification for these sorts of unpaid jobs is that “internships” provide invaluable experience and a foot in the door to rich kids being supported by their families hard-working young people who can look past quotidian considerations like acquiring food and shelter while living in one of the most expensive cities in America.

Also, the beauty of being a “non-profit” organization like the AALS (and all the law schools who belong to it) is that even the extremely weak limitations on exploiting intern labor that apply to for-profit enterprises pretty much don’t apply to you.


Currency Manipulation and the TPP

[ 9 ] January 15, 2016 |


Even if you believe that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will bring benefits to the United States outside of the wealthy, the widespread practice of currency manipulation by the Asian nations included in the TPP is likely to counter those benefits. Robert Scott has a good report about this at the Economic Policy Institute:

Currency manipulation could nullify the benefits of the TPP.

Purchases and holdings of foreign-exchange reserves (broadly defined) would have a direct impact on exchange rates and trade flows in the TPP.

China, as the world’s largest currency manipulator, could affect trade in the TPP in at least two ways. First, as a result of relatively weak rules of origin, the U.S. and other countries would be vulnerable to increased imports from China through the TPP. Second, currency manipulation by China could influence other TPP members to adjust or manipulate the value of their currencies, in order to remain competitive with China, and thereby nullify some or all of the benefits of the TPP to the United States.

Japan is also an important currency manipulator, and this manipulation is the leading cause of the U.S. trade deficit with Japan, which displaced 896,600 U.S. jobs in 2013.

Models that have assumed full employment to evaluate the effects of the TPP and past free-trade agreements should not be used to evaluate the potential demand-shifting effects of currency manipulation on the members of the TPP.

Even if the TPP were a true free-trade agreement it would likely be hard on noncollege-educated American workers, who make up more than two-thirds of the U.S. labor force. Growing trade with low-wage countries is one of the leading causes of the increase in U.S. income inequality. The TPP is likely to reinforce these trends.

The TPP isn’t principally about free trade—it’s about providing increased protection for intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical makers, software vendors, and others, and stronger property rights for foreign investors, which encourages outsourcing, job losses, and a further decline in labor’s share of national income.

Finally, the TPP would likely result in growing trade deficits, trade-related job losses, and downward pressure on the wages of the majority of U.S. workers.

The TPP is simply disastrous for most Americans. But that is unlikely to stop its passage in Congress since even many Democrats buy into neoliberal rhetoric about unrestricted globalization, despite the massive amount of evidence of how free trade agreements have devastated the American working and middle classes without bringing many of the promised benefits to the working classes of globally poor nations like Mexico, Honduras, and Bangladesh.

If you are into destroying the middle class while providing extra protections for powerful corporations and creating non-state courts that allow corporations to escape state power, the TPP is for you. Unfortunately, that includes President Obama.

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