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Pretending to Have a Plan is a Kind of Plan, But Not a Plan to Insure People

[ 132 ] March 2, 2015 |

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I think it’s obvious that the response of federal Republicans and the vast majority of state Republicans should the Supreme Court willfully misread the law and wreck the majority of state exchanges would be “nothing.” As I mentioned last week, Jon Chait disagrees, saying that “Congress probably would be forced to act, and if it fails, many or most states would capitulate very quickly.” He cites this report from Byron York as evidence.

But as evidence that the Republicans will mitigate the damage, this couldn’t be weaker. The piece has to be evaluated in light of the obvious agenda that both York and the people using him have: to game the Court by pretending that siding with the Troofers wouldn’t really do any harm, and to set up to blame Obama for the damage inflicted by Republicans in the judicial and legislative branches. This agenda wouldn’t matter if York had the goods, but he doesn’t. The giveaway is Barrasso’s comment that “[w]e’re not going to help the law, but we’re going to help the people, so they are not left in the lurch.” If you’re not willing to help the law, then people are going to get left in the lurch and people are going to get hurt. And there’s no question about how congressional Republicans are going to resolve this tradeoff.

And just in case there was any doubt, Barrasso, Hatch and Lamar! have an op-ed that makes it as clear as can be that the “plan” is to pretend to have a plan. This is the most they’re willing to pretend to be willing to pass:

We would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period. It would be unfair to allow families to lose their coverage, particularly in the middle of the year.

So, at most, people will get to keep their subsidies until their policy comes up for renewal, at which point the figurative death spirals and the literal deaths will start. The B/H/! plan deals with that with the typical Republican non-proposals: i.e. deregulating state insurance markets. This alternative is abysmal on the policy merits, but it’s beside the point. Republicans wouldn’t pass it, because let-them-eat-state’s-rights works a lot better as rhetoric than as policy put into practice, and in an alternate universe where the GOP would pass it Obama wouldn’t sign it.

And I don’t think there’s even much of a chance that Republicans could even pass a temporary extension. As Kilgore says, the ridiculous inability of Republicans to get the DHS founded should really give away the show here. You could also consider the Republican House immigration meltdown in 2013. Immigration reform has much broader interest-based and ideological support within the party than the insurance tax credits, the level of opposition is not as intense, the political benefits of passing something clear, and they couldn’t pass anything. You think House Republicans are going to put their political careers on the line to “save Obamacare”? Please. It’s not happening. If the Court reverses King v. Burwell, the only question is the scope of the disaster.

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Where has all the money gone? The decline in faculty salaries at American colleges and universities over the past 40 years

[ 160 ] March 2, 2015 |

Once upon a time, I began to look at the financing of law school education in America, and was amazed by what I found. Recently, I’ve been researching the economic structure of American higher education in general. My amazement is growing . . .

Everyone is aware that the cost of going to college has skyrocketed since [fill in any date going back to the middle of the last century]. Why has this happened? This post is about one possible explanation, that turns out not to have any validity at all: increases in faculty salaries. In fact, over the past 40+ years, average salaries for college and university faculty have dropped dramatically.

Salaries have increased, sometimes substantially, for a tiny favored slice of academia, made up of tenured professors at elite institutions, some professional school faculty (business, law, medicine), and most especially faculty who have moved into the higher echelons of university administration. Such examples merely emphasize the extent to which the economics of the New Gilded Age have infiltrated the academic world: the one percent are doing fabulously well, and the ten percenters are doing fine, while the wretched refuse of our teeming shores will adjunct for food.

Numbers:

Average salary for all full-time faculty in degree-granting post-secondary institutions (this category includes instructors and lecturers, as well as all ranks of professors) in constant 2012-13 dollars:

1970: $74,019

2012: $77,301

These figures, of course, give a very incomplete picture of the economic circumstances of the actual teaching faculty in America’s institutions of higher education.

One of the more astonishing statistics regarding the economics of our colleges and universities is that, despite the fantastic increase in the cost of attending them, there are now on a per-student basis far fewer full-time faculty employed by these institutions than was the case 40 years ago. Specifically, in 1970 nearly 80% of all faculty were full-time; by 2011, more part-time than full-time faculty were employed by American institutions of higher learning (note that the former category does not include graduate students who teach).

While comprehensive salary figures for part-time faculty aren’t available, it’s clear that their salaries are on average vastly lower than those of full-time faculty (and of course when it comes to who does the bulk of the actual teaching at many schools, the designations “full-time” and “part-time” have a distinctly Orwellian flavor). If we assume that “pat-time” faculty earn one-third as much as their full-time counterparts — and this seems improbably optimistic, given that the average compensation for part-time faculty for teaching a three-credit course is around $2,700 — that would mean that in 1970 average salaries for college and university faculty were nearly 30% higher, in real dollars, than they are today.

This an astonishing figure, given that, in the last 40 years, tuition at private colleges has more than tripled, while resident tuition at public institutions has nearly quadrupled.

So where has all that money gone? Here are a couple of plausible-sounding answers, often cited by university administrators, which turn out to have little or nothing to do with soaring college costs:

(1) Faculty benefits. While it’s true that the amount universities spent on benefits for full-time faculty members nearly doubled between 1977 and 2011, going from $11,832 to $22,754 (2012$), the vast majority of this per capita cost increase was ameliorated by the replacement of full-time faculty with “part-time” faculty, who of course are almost never eligible for any faculty benefits. (BTW, 70% of the increase in the cost of benefits for full-time faculty was accounted for by employer contributions to the cost of medical insurance plans, meaning that most of this nominal increase in total compensation for full-time faculty went straight into the pockets of third parties, i.e., insurance companies and health care providers).

(2) Back-filling cuts in state support for higher education. Total state support for higher ed in America increased from approximately $42 billion (2014$) to $80 billion between 1970 and 2014, while total enrollment in public institutions of higher education increased from 6.43 million to 14.88 million. This means state support decreased from about $6,550 to $5,375 per student. This is not a trivial decrease, but on the other hand, federal Pell Grants, which didn’t exist in 1970, totaled $33.7 billion in 2012-13. Roughly 70% of this amount went to students enrolled in public schools, meaning that total tax subsidies to public higher education are actually higher now per student than they were in 1970.

In addition, another consequence of the New Gilded Age is that college endowments have exploded: while 18 institutions had endowments of at least one billion dollars (in 2014$) in 1987, 91 had reached that level last last year, while hundreds of others had endowments in the hundreds of millions. (A particularly extreme example is provided by my alma mater. When I graduated in 1982, the University of Michigan’s total endowment was $115 million. As of last June, it was $9.7 billion, which represents a 34-fold increase in constant dollars. Over this same time, undergraduate resident tuition has more than tripled in real terms, from less than $5,000 (2014$) to nearly $15,000.)

It’s clear that, over the past few decades, American higher education has turned into a veritable money-printing machine. What’s also clear is that, with few exceptions, this massive increase in revenue isn’t going to the people who do the teaching in these institutions.

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Dronz! With the Killz!

[ 46 ] March 2, 2015 |
The Reaper returns

MQ-9 Reaper (US Air Force photo)

My latest at the National Interest takes a look at killer drones:

Why kill with drones? States have a few reasons to prefer Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to do their dirty work. From a political standpoint, drones would seem to carry less risk than manned aircraft; even unsophisticated foes can sometimes bring down a jet and take its pilot captive. Freed of the need to keep a human pilot alive and awake, drones can loiter on station much longer than manned aircraft, keeping more careful watch on potential targets.

Some drones kill directly; others facilitate joint military operations. This list looks at five of the most lethal drones that nations have begun to field over the last decade.

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There Is No Constitutional Obligation to Listen to Speeches

[ 169 ] March 2, 2015 |

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Imagine Alan Dershowitz wrote an op-ed demanding that every last Democrat attend Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress.  Now imagine that it’s even dumber than you expected.  Not easy, I know.  Amazingly, you’re still underestimating how dumb it is:

As a liberal Democrat who twice campaigned for President Barack Obama

One line in and virtually any chance of a decent argument is gone. He doesn’t even have the decency to throw in an apocryphal cocktail party.

I am appalled that some Democratic members of Congress are planning to boycott the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3 to a joint session of Congress. At bottom, this controversy is not mainly about protocol and politics—it is about the constitutional system of checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Right — it’s not about Dershowitz’s substantive belief in the near-infallibility of the Israeli state. It’s about neutral principles of constitutional law. That sounds plausible!

Under the Constitution, the executive and legislative branches share responsibility for making and implementing important foreign-policy decisions. Congress has a critical role to play in scrutinizing the decisions of the president when these decisions involve national security, relationships with allies and the threat of nuclear proliferation.

It’s nice that Dershowitz is taking advantage of his emeritus status to re-read some junior high civics textbooks. Alas, none of these trusims bears the slightest relevance to the question of whether members of Congress are obligated to attend the speech of a public official they believe is trying to undermine American foreign policy.

Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program.

Are we going to get to points that are actually in any dispute at some point?

Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu

Finally! Alas, once we leave banality we leave defensibility.

What the president objects to is not that Mr. Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say. This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Not only should all members of Congress attend Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, but President Obama—as a constitutional scholar—should urge members of Congress to do their constitutional duty of listening to opposing views in order to check and balance the policies of the administration.

This is absolutely insane. Congress has the authority to invite speakers. Individual members of Congress can support the choice of speaker and the content of the speaker’s message. The president can object to the choice of speaker and the content of the speaker’s message. Individual members of Congress can object to the choice of speaker and the content of the speakers message, and express this view by not attending. Members of Congress have no explicit or implicit constitutional “obligation” to listen to any particular speaker. There is absolutely no “intrusion” on congressional (or presidential) powers going on here. There are public officials expressing opposing views.

By the way, if members of Congress has an obligation to “listen to opposing views,” does Congress also have an obligation to invite a political leader who is critical of Israeli policy? All previous evidence suggests Dershowitz will forget his “principle” that all views must be presented within a given forum as soon as the alternative view differs from his.

Fortunately — after reiterating his banal and irrelevant assertions that Congress has authority over some aspects of foreign policy — Dershowitz can’t even get through the op-ed without making it clear that he doesn’t believe his own bullshit:

One should walk out on tyrants, bigots and radical extremists, as the United States did when Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and called for Israel’s destruction at the United Nations.

So one has a solemn obligation to listen to a foreign leader’s views unless Alan Dershowitz finds them particularly objectionable. This is, in its own way, a kind of “principle,” but it has nothing to do with free speech or checks and balances or the separation of powers.

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House of Cards and Direct Job Creation Policy

[ 42 ] March 2, 2015 |

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It’s pretty rare that pop culture and my dissertation intersect, so when President Frank Underwood announced his “America Works” proposal in the first episode of the third season of Netflix’s House of Cards, my ears definitely pricked up. In the show, President Underwood proposes (on the Colbert Report!):

“a new jobs program we’re calling America Works…this is a fundamentally different look at how to solve the problem of unemployment. It has the size and scope of the New Deal…This is about putting people to work and avoiding the entitlements entirely…”

This program, aimed at creating “full employment within two years” through investing in Federal “infrastructure…expanding the military, and partnerships with our friends in the private sector,” comes with a price tag: “500 billion dollars to put [10 million] people to work” coming out of “Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, every entitlement program that’s sucking us dry.”

So let’s examine President Underwood’s new initiative, shall we?

Read more…

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Is the NCAA Cartel Defensible? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 130 ] March 1, 2015 |

Paul’s thread yesterday contained some defenses of the exploitation of athletes by NCAA rules.  These defenses were, of course, rife with factual errors, non-sequiturs, and transparent illogic because all defenses of the NCAA cartel are. 

But there are also a lot of good comments, and I think this point by Pseudonym is particularly important:

The real question at issue isn’t whether they should be compensated but whether they should be barred from being compensated, and by a national cartel with a monopoly on the path to professional status.

Apologists for the NCAA cartel tend to assume that they’re advocating for athletes being treated like other students. But this is completely untrue. What they’re defending is in fact a set of unique and extraordinary burdens being placed on athletes. Virtually no other students are banned from receiving compensation from voluntary third parties, and this is because it won’t make a lick of sense. Why on earth shouldn’t a music student be able to take a paying gig or a journalism student sell a story? Similarly, we don’t claim that scholarship students working as RAs or in the bookstore can’t be compensated, or that staff and faculty who get tuition vouchers for family members don’t need to be additionally compensated for their work. These rules aren’t about ensuring that athletes are “really” students or whatever; they’re about attempting to preserve competitive balance. And this isn’t a good reason to allow athletes to be exploited, even before we get to the fact that the NCAA doesn’t have anything remotely resembling competitive balance even with these rules.

Like most NCAA critics, I’m not arguing that student-athletes are employees subject to minimum wage laws solely for being members of teams. I’m saying that if either colleges or third parties want to pay them market value for their services, they should not forbidden from making the deals. This allows us to quickly dispense with non-sequiturs about the cross-country team or (even sillier) the Dungeons&Dragons club. Most athletic events and intramural activities don’t produce any revenue, so there’s not going to be any money for the participants beyond scholarship money, and that’s fine with me. There might be some cases in which a rich donor really wants an alma mater to have a great cross-country team and offers recruits cash on the barrelhead. And that’s fine with me — I don’t see why donors can give money to universities that enable them to hire a new Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Under Dean For Proactive Strategic Dynamism but should be prohibited from giving money to athletes directly.

Finally, defenses of the NCAA tend to be rife with a rhetorical technique we’ve discussed recently: someone with an indefensible position changing the subject to an allegedly superior alternative that isn’t actually on offer. The obvious problem for NCAA apologists that Paul’s post raises is why athletes should be forbidden cash compensation — not only by universities but by third parties — because of the Noble Ideals of Amateurism and the Sanctity of the Groves of Academe while everybody else involved with the NCAA is allowed to fill up wheelbarrows full of cash and deposit them in university-provided cars and drive off to get a university-provided oil change. One answer is to say that all of the other NCAA-related profit-taking should be stopped. The obvious problem is that it’s not going to be, and in the meantime we have to treat athletes based on the system as it is. If coaches start getting paid like associate professors of English and the NCAA gives its games to networks for free while banning advertising and ticket prices are capped at $10, we can talk about whether scholarships are adequate compensation. (We still don’t need to talk about bans on third party compensation, because these are just terrible policy under any possible system of college athletics.) Until then, players should not be forbidden from getting any compensation they’re able to negotiate.

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Rising Oceans

[ 48 ] March 1, 2015 |

Welcome to the future:

Sea levels across the Northeast coast of the United States rose nearly 3.9 inches between 2009 and 2010, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Arizona and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The waters near Portland, Maine, saw an even greater rise — 5 inches — over the two-year period.

While scientists have been observing higher sea levels across the globe in recent decades, the study found a much more extreme rise than previous averages. Such an event is “unprecedented” in the history of the tide gauge record, according to the researchers, and represents a 1-in-850 year event.

“Unlike storm surge, this event caused persistent and widespread coastal flooding even without apparent weather processes,” the study’s authors wrote. “In terms of beach erosion, the impact of the 2009-2010 [sea level rise] event is almost as significant as some hurricane events.”

At least we are taking climate change seriously and are ready to do what it takes to save our coastlines…

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NAWIC

[ 21 ] March 1, 2015 |

A couple weeks ago, Miriam and Elisha attended a National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) builder’s workshop at their elementary school.  For me, this offered the opportunity to drop them off for an hour and drink in peace.  For them, it meant a chance to enter a school-wide competition with a lot of their friends, as well as to play with Legos.  Neither Miriam nor Elisha are huge Lego builders at this point, although they enjoy playing with things that are already built.  We’ve had a bit more success with Lincoln Logs, which I was surprised to discover still existed.

Each kid received a few Legos, a sheet of aluminum foil,  a piece of string, and instructions to build a project related to the construction industry. Parents were excluded from the cafeteria in order to ensure that the kids worked on their own. There was a lot of variance in how long it took the kids to finish; many were more interested in playing in the gym downstairs than in building. The kids were allotted about forty-five minutes; Miriam took 35, and Elisha was one of the last in the school to conduct an exit interview with the judges.

Initially, Elisha explained to me that she had built a milk machine. This didn’t seem to have much relation to the construction industry (her sister built a mountain), and so I pretty much wrote off her chances.  When we were allowed in the exhibition room, she showed me her entry, and it was hard to tell precisely what it was.

10846075_10155145391210265_3278727000891471822_nAnd so I was surprised when the judges announced that Elisha had won first place in her age group (K-1), and even more surprised when they announced that she had won the overall competition.

Turns out that Elisha’s had thought through her entry in more depth than I had imagined.  She had initially intended to build a giraffe, but decided that it was too difficult and would take too much time.  The backup, a “milk machine,” was actually a milk processing plant, with the foil representing a big pond of milk, the string a pipeline, and the blocks the various stages of processing and distribution.  At the end of the picture you can see crumpled foil being sent out on trucks for delivery.

The engineers in attendance found this explanation particularly compelling.  After raining a variety of gift certificates on Elisha, one of the judges tried to explain the terms “mechanical engineering” and “electrical engineering.” I don’t think that she was paying any attention, having decided that the biggest achievement of the evening was outdoing her sister.

For her part, Miriam’s initial reaction was not positive.  She was irritated that she hadn’t won, and more irritated that her sister had won.  But she held it together; no falling apart. This was a respectable disappointment, focused not on the judges or the structure of the competition, but on an unhappiness that she hadn’t done better.  Over the next few days her attitude evolved, and her sister’s victory became a point of pride in conversation with people outside the family.

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Memorializing Slavery

[ 107 ] March 1, 2015 |

The fact that a wealthy white man would buy an antebellum Louisiana sugar plantation and turn it into a no punches pulled museum on slavery, the first museum dedicated wholly to slavery in the United States (the U.S. has the Holocaust Museum despite no appropriate museum dealing with its own genocidal projects) is remarkable and an obvious must visit the next time I am in the area.

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This Day in Labor History: March 1, 1936

[ 16 ] March 1, 2015 |

On March 1, 1936, Boulder Dam (both prior and later known as Hoover Dam) was turned over to the federal government for operation. Examining the labor of its construction is a useful window into conditions of work during the early years of the Great Depression.

The dream of damming the Colorado River went back to the nineteenth century. Ever since John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition down the river, Americans had saw the water resources of the Colorado River as potentially fueling the growth of an American empire in the desert southwest. As California rapidly grew in the early 20th century and as Arizona and other western states became first tuberculosis treatment sites and then tourist and residential attractions of their own, the need for water grew. A big dam on the Colorado River could provide electricity and regulated water for agriculture though much of the Southwest. The ideal site was Black Canyon on the Nevada-Arizona border.

The employment needs of the Great Depression brought new interest in building the dam. President Hoover responded poorly to the Depression, but the building of Hoover Dam was a useful public works project, even if it did not put a meaningful dent in the nation’s economic problems. Plus whatever credit you might want to give Hoover for even this, the dam was authorized during the Coolidge administration. The government contracted out for its construction with Six Companies. This single company was a conglomeration of building companies that merged to attract the winning bid. The builders had a concrete reason to get the dam built quickly–they would be charged for every day they were late. This would lead to the exploitation of workers and unsafe working conditions. This started with a 2 1/2 year deadline to divert the river.

The dam was authorized in 1928 and construction started in 1930. Doing something as profound as diverting the Colorado River in a tight canyon would require remarkable engineering and a lot of workers. There were 21,000 total workers on the building of the dam over the years. At its peak, over 5000 were laboring on it. If one job experience ties these workers together, it was the heat. The Lower Colorado River is scorching hot. Black Canyon is one of the hottest areas of the United States. In the summer, temperatures reach 120 degrees. Yet in the winter, it can be bitterly cold. Workers made 50 cents an hour, with more for skilled labor. Workplace dangers were ever-present. Blasting through rock to divert the river kept lives at risk. Carbon monoxide was a huge problem. Electrocution was something workers always had to worry about.

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Building Hoover Dam

Entering into this situation was an IWW organizer named Fred Anderson. By the early 1930s, the IWW was a shell of its former self, having never recovered from the oppression of the World War I, changing ideological, political and cultural conditions, and the infighting that destroyed the remnants of the union over the class war prisoner releases in the 1920s. But in isolated circumstances when workers had no other options, the IWW could cause problems for employers. Anderson didn’t make all that much headway with the workers because they were fearful of IWW radicalism and of losing their jobs. Some of the workers had also previously dealt with IWW actions in Idaho (which is probably the state the Wobblies were most relevant in during these years) and had disliked the confrontational strategies of the union. But the companies were scared of Anderson and he, as well as seven other Wobblies, was jailed in Las Vegas on vagrancy charges, which long were used against any working person challenging labor exploitation.

But Anderson’s work and increasing dissatisfaction on the job did lead to workplace organizing and on August 7, 1931, when Six Companies reassigned some tunnel blasters to lower paying work, workers went on strike not only to get those workers their jobs back, but in protest against the working conditions. They demanded clean and cold water and flush toilets and that Six Companies obey the mining laws of Arizona and Nevada. They also wanted a safety officer placed at each tunnel in order to help save workers’ lives. This was pretty risky given it was 1931 and Las Vegas had thousands of people desperate for jobs in a society where Hoover was not doing anything to employ the masses. The bosses rejected all of these demands outright and an appeal to the Secretary of Labor failed as well. The strike collapsed, achieving nothing immediately. But it did convince Six Companies to start providing better water and toilet facilities and to speed up the construction of worker housing, which had lagged significantly and which had forced workers to live in tents in the scorching desert. Interestingly, in the strike, the workers openly distanced themselves from the IWW or any organized union. A strike committee member told a reporter, “We wish to make it plain that the strike has nothing to do with the IWWs or the United Mine Workers. It is a matter distinctly among the workmen on the project. We’re not Wobblies and don’t want to be classed as such.”

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The 1931 strike

The contract with the government only required the Six Companies hire citizens and no “Mongolians,” i.e., Chinese. The first 1000 workers hired were all white. This led the Colored Citizens Labor and Protective Association of Las Vegas to protest in 1931. Caring only about getting the dam built in time to avoid the financial penalties, Six Companies wanted to do nothing that would make workers angry and impede construction. So it made work at the dam de facto white to create racial solidarity and ensure continued work. Finally, 24 African-Americans were hired to work in the gravel pits on the Arizona side of the river, which was the hottest and hardest labor on the project. But African-Americans could not break into these jobs with any more success than this. They also could not live in worker housing and so had to travel over the bad road to their homes in Las Vegas back and forth each day.

The hardest and most dangerous labor took place in the blasting of the tunnels. Ninety-six workers died total on the job, although sometimes death tolls are listed as high as 112 if those who perished before the dam started construction are included (such as those exploring the canyon doing preliminary work). Of those, 46 died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but they were classified as deaths from pneumonia in order to avoid workers’ compensation claims.

The dam was handed over to the federal government two years ahead of schedule. Six Companies would go on to build dams across the West, including Bonneville and Grand Coulee. To what extent not speeding up work and ensuring safer working condtions would have saved workers’ lives will never be known.

This is the 134th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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FattyGate

[ 80 ] February 28, 2015 |

I think it will come as a shock to no one that a movement as misogynistic and transphobic (and, oh yeah, craaaaazy racist) as GamerGate also places A LOT of stock in fat-shaming. Hey! Did you know that all women who oppose GamerGate are fatty-fat-fat non-gamers?

Well, they are.

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“Because I Will Sign a Right to Work Bill, I Could Personally Have Defeated the Nazis”

[ 94 ] February 28, 2015 |

At one time, I was really worried about Scott Walker becoming president. But with each passing day, it’s increasingly clear that this is a person not ready for prime time. Instead, this is Sarah Palin in a tie. Just one of many examples:

In response to a question from an audience member at at the Conservative Political Action conference earlier in the evening, Walker brought up the massive protests in Wisconsin in 2011 over a law he signed stripping public-sector unions of their power to collectively bargain.

“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world,” Walker said. “We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Following the remarks, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote that he took no pleasure in defending the union protesters, but that Walker gave a “terrible response” to the Islamic State question. A spokeswoman for Walker’s political committee later sent Geraghty a statement downplaying the governor’s mention of the protesters.

“Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country face,” the statement to Geraghty from Walker spokeswoman Kristen Kukowski said. “He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.”

In an interview with Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin and John Heilemann after the CPAC speech, Heilemann gave Walker a golden opportunity to deny that he was equating violent extremists with union protesters.

“You’re not actually comparing ISIS terrorists to the protesters in Wisconsin, right?” Heilemann asked him. “You’re not trying to make that comparison in either direction, that the protesters are equivalent to terrorists or that the terrorists are equivalent to protesters?”

“Not by a landmine — by a landslide out there difference, a Grand Canyon-sized difference,” Walker replied. “My point was just if I can handle that kind of pressure, that kind of intensity, I think I’m up for the challenge for whatever might come if i choose to run for President.”

I guess his strategy is to say as many crazy things as possible to win the Republican nomination and then assume the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson will buy him the job with hundreds of millions in negative ads. But there’s way too much he can’t walk back here and thinking about this man facing Hillary Clinton in a debate makes me laugh. Of course, it’s entirely possible his strategy could work.

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