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IWW History Project

[ 9 ] January 23, 2016 |

Ettor_IWW_barbers_strike

If you have a few minutes, checking out the IWW History Project at the University of Washington is well worth your time. It contains a lot of great visuals, maps, timelines, etc. The labor historian James Gregory:

The IWW History Project is now live. Based at the University of Washington, the online project reveals in new ways the rich history of the Industrial Workers of the World during the formative years, 1905-1935. The project has many dimensions, but at the center are interactive maps and datasets that show the geography and density of IWW activism.

One set of maps locates more than 1,800 strikes, campaigns, arrests and other acts of persecution, allowing us to see year by year or month by month where the IWW was active. Another set of maps and charts shows the locations of more than 900 local unions. The maps are linked to chronological yearbooks of events that are based on data collected from the Industrial Union Bulletin, Industrial Worker, Solidarity and other sources.

These visualizations bring surprises and invite new understandings about the radical organization. The scope of activity is one surprise. IWW local unions were found in more than 350 towns and cities, in 38 states and territories of the United States and five Canadian provinces. We are familiar with some of this geography–the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, the Northeastern textile belt—but seeing the density of activity in Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, and Ohio is eye opening. So is the IWW’s place in New York City which hosted dozens of unions and many strikes, including one by the Macaroni Workers Industrial Union No. 301. The city was also home to seventeen IWW affiliated newspapers published in seven languages.

Macaroni Workers Industrial Union No. 301 would a pretty good band name.

This is a really great resource. I look forward to using it myself.

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With a 9 mm and a 3 piece suit

[ 43 ] January 23, 2016 |

Trump – When he’s right, he’s right.

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

(I assume it is understood that Somebody = A person who is or appears to be the sort of person Trumpites hate.)

Statements like that explain things like this.

Personally I think “V.D. for Trump!” has a nice ring to it, but IANATCM.

And When He Sees His Reflection, He’s Fulfilled

[ 155 ] January 23, 2016 |

michael_bloomberg_face

Shorter Mike Bloomberg: “Attention Bernie Sanders supporters: vote for Hillary Clinton or the country will get the Donald. Although maybe I’ll run anyway and get a MANDATE to force Congress to send an amendment repealing the Fourth Amendment to the states.”

Has Tom Friedman written his annual “a president who is a few ticks to my left is not good enough, we need a third party candidate who agrees with me about everything” column yet? Maybe he would be Mayor Rich’s VP choice. If he’s too busy I’m sure Matt Miller is available.

Foreign Entanglements: Desert Storm Revisited

[ 1 ] January 23, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, Brian Laslie brings the beard game:


Also, if you’re so inclined you can still write in Foreign Entanglements for best International Relations podcast in this year’s Duckies…

The apprentice

[ 73 ] January 23, 2016 |

trump/palin

There’s nothing to whipping a fool. Hell, fools were made to be whipped. But to take another pro, even your partner, who knows you and has his eyes on you — that’s a score.

The Grifters

This makes me sort of sad:

Sarah Palin’s political action committee has begun fundraising off the former governor’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president. An email sent Wednesday from SarahPAC calls Palin’s backing of the Republican frontrunner “historic” and touts itself as planning to “continue endorsing anti-establishment candidates who will not play politics as usual.” And then the call for donations: “In order to get Sarah to political events to support endorsed candidates we need your help to fundraise her travel.” According to Politico, the fundraising email is especially unusual because presidential campaigns typically foot the bill to travel their surrogates to campaign events.

[emphasis added]

Palin’s PAC is of course a straight-up grift:

What did SarahPAC spend most of its money on, then, in the third quarter? Many of the same consultants she has used all along — for speechwriting, fundraising, logistics and research. There’s even someone paid to consult on “coalitions.” Travel, presumably for Palin, is part of the equation; a PAC like this is useful for keeping a high profile nationally without having to pay those pesky airline and hotel tabs out of personal funds. And the PAC sent $10,885 to HarperCollins — publisher of all three of Palin’s books — for “books for donor fulfillment.” That wasn’t the only book purchase by the committee: A lump sum of $13,000 was listed as being spent for “lodging, SUV rental, books for donors.”

Palin’s net worth is probably in the tens of millions, which is admittedly chump change in comparison to her new best friend’s immense fortune (That Donald Trump isn’t even picking up Palin’s Iowa travel tab is on one level the very definition of chutzpah — or as Ted Cruz would put it, “New York values” — but on another it can be seen as a sort of perverse gesture of mutual recognition that one grifter makes to another).

Anyway what makes me melancholy is the thought of all the gullible, poorly informed, eminently exploitable people these two utterly shameless thieves have ripped off with their various brands of (needless to say, perfectly legal) thievery. It’s very easy for progressives to have nothing but contempt for the sort of people who send $20 out of their social security check to Sarah Palin, but that contempt should be leavened with the realization that the personal and political fortunes of people like Trump and Palin are built on the ruthless exploitation of the sort of ignorance, fear, and desperation that Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and their ilk have spent years cultivating, while getting rich themselves.

This Day in Labor History: January 23, 1973

[ 2 ] January 23, 2016 |

On January 23, 1973, the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers went on strike against Shell Oil. This strike gained unusual supporters. Environmentalists came out hard against Shell and in support of OCAW. This came about in part because of the progressive leaders of OCAW leaders, particularly Tony Mazzocchi, OCAW legislative director. This case shows the very real potential for alliances between labor and environmentalists when the two movements have meaningful conversations and act in solidarity with one another.

By the late 1960s, many unions responded to growing scientific literature about the health effects of industrial labor by demanding federal action and demanding action from employers to clean up their workplaces. On the federal level, this led to the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Companies resisted doing anything about these workplaces. The AFL-CIO under George Meany generally was typically indifferent, but a number of industrial unions, including the United Steelworkers of America, took the lead on making environmental demands. No union led on this issue more than the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers. Tony Mazzocchi and his assistant Steven Wodka believed that inspiring rank and file activism on environmental issues was key for unions to keep workers safe. This was especially important for the OCAW because its members were exposed to radiation and reports were coming out during these years about just how unsafe those radioactive workplaces were. It started to reach out to other unions working on environmental issues, like the nascent United Farm Workers, fighting over pesticide exposure.

Said Al Grospiron, OCAW president:

Organized Labor must emphatically support environmental efforts and must never get into the position of opposing such efforts on the grounds of economic hardship. Our position must be that nearly all polluting facilities can be corrected without hardships to the workers and that in those few cases where corrections are not possible new job opportunities or compensation must be provided for the workers.

The OCAW also worked with environmental organizations. Calling for the workplace as the first line of defense for the environment certainly got the attention of greens. Environmental Action worked with unions to get OSHA passed. Other environmental organizations were however only tepidly in support, frustrating the OCAW. They reprinted a Stewart Udall editorial in the union newspaper, lambasting greens. Udall said, “Environmental groups act act as if the blue collar worker does not exist. Their lack of concern for the workplace–their failure to even recognize it as an environment–is the most glaring defect in their young movement.”

ocawlogo

OCAW and other unions felt OSHA far too weak and continued to push for worker-led safety and environmental committees that would go farther than the weak and slow government oversight the law created. This continued to help build relations with environmental organizations. Shell Oil had long animosity toward both unions and environmentalists. OCAW decided to target Shell because of the company’s power and the union’s need to stand up to the biggest bully on the block. But it knew that it could not defeat this company alone. It needed consumer help. For that, it build on its relationships with environmentalists, arguing that if Shell didn’t care about polluting workers’ bodies, it wouldn’t care about polluting the environment.

So a week after OCAW went on strike, on January 30, 11 of the nation’s largest environmental organizations announced their support for the strike and urged a nationwide boycott of Shell. This included the relatively conservative Sierra Club, which had by this time kicked the radical David Brower out of office and reverted to its traditional moderate stance. But the radicalism of the time had caught up to Sierra Club, which was concerned about attracting new members. It held two conferences with labor in the early 1970s, which helped create connections that convinced it to join the boycott. It took until March for Sierra Club to join and that included the threat of unions creating an anti-environmentalist coalition, which was already happening in the building trades. But join it did, putting its significant muscle behind the action.

strikers73

This alliance did not come that easy in the rank and file of both labor and greens. A lot of environmentalists had absolutely zero interest in working with unions. Particularly during these years, environmentalism was seen as above politics and unions were most certainly not. Middle-class greens might well oppose unions and they didn’t see why their dues money should be spent working with workers. Sierra Club especially saw many angry letters from its members who opposed the boycott, saying the workplace was not an environmental issue. But Sierra Club leadership held to its position.

By April 1973, Shell sales in the U.S. had dropped 20-25 percent. But ultimately, OCAW did not have the resources to win this strike. It was paying out large sums in strike benefits and was rapidly losing money. Many rank and file workers wanted to end the strike. A Texas local negotiated an independent settlement, defying OCAW leadership. It included a few tokens for the union, including morbidity statistics the union wanted. There was no way the international could stand up to this and the strike ended on June 4.

shellunfair73

The strike was not exactly won. But OCAW’s new contracts following it almost all had much stronger health and safety clauses. The strike also helped solidify the coalition with environmental groups. Many groups now claimed a long-term commitment to workplace health and safety. In the spring of 1975, labor and environmentalists formed Environmentalists for Full Employment that fought for the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill. During the Carter administration, blue-green alliances reached their peak, as I discuss in the lumber industry in Empire of Timber. On workplace health, pollution, and other issues, labor and environmentalists worked together in exciting ways.

At the same time though, deindustrialization was destroying the American working class and their unions. Companies began openly claiming that if environmental laws were passed, they would close company doors and move to a new state or out of the nation. Often these were lies, but sometimes companies followed through. Job blackmail began to turn the declining unions against their green allies because the rank and file was so scared for their jobs. The OCAW resisted job blackmail to a significant event, as did the International Woodworkers of America until 1987. But many unions did not. In the early 1980s, the OSHA/Environmental Network, an attempt to unite labor and greens against Reagan’s attacks on both, had some local successes in rebuilding coalitions, but mostly it quickly faded, as did the conversations between the two movements. There have been periodic attempts to revive these alliances to the present. But as we have seen over coal mining and the Keystone XL Pipeline, when workers feel their jobs under attack, especially in the absence of good jobs for working people throughout the United States, they will attack environmentalists. It’s unfortunate but understandable. Ultimately though, the more we understand about attempts to build these coalitions, the better chance we have to build them in the future over issues such as pollution, green energy, and climate change.

The information for the OCAW strike comes from Robert Gordon, “Shell No! OCAW and the Labor-Environmental Alliance,” in the October 1998 issue of Environmental History. Other parts of the post come from my own research and writing.

This is the 169th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

2016 Political Predictions, A Little Late

[ 8 ] January 23, 2016 |

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 12.17.38

We at LGM have a long, glorious tradition of boldly making predictions that inevitably don’t pan out.  I’ve always tried to avoid this particular game, given the risks are high and the potential payoff the opposite.  However, over the Christmas break, the political reporter for the local paper asked me to send him some predictions, which resulted in this article. When it ran in print (which the university forwards me) it was with the pictures above: Hillary Clinton, Tudor Evans (the leader of Plymouth City Council, awarded an OBE in the New Year’s List), and yours truly.  I expect electoral ramifications for the two politicians portrayed alongside the shambolic academic).

Below, I reproduce the email I sent to Sam about said predictions.  Consider it the director’s cut of what ultimately ran in print (very lightly edited for the LGM audience).  Feel free, indeed obligated, to mock me in 11 months.  Note that the first two are about local issues that probably will not resonate with the broader LGM audience.  Also note the fine line I walk as an academic who is also a member of and activist with the Plymouth Labour Party. Tudor is a friend of mine, and indeed as part of a seminar series I run with the School of Government here I had the honor of introducing him this past Wednesday, which marks the first, and perhaps only time I’ll have introduced an OBE.

Sam,

Here we go. A mix of local / national / intl. Hope this helps.

1. Plymouth City Council elections in May. With LAB on 28, CON on 26, and UKIP on 3, it’s technically NOC, but (and I’m sure you agree) from all accounts the coalition (of sorts) is working harmoniously. The best target ward for a Labour add is probably beyond them, while Labour have two very marginal wards (and that’s putting it charitably) to defend in order to retain the current 28 seats. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that I don’t see Labour adding seats, so the best that Tudor Evans (Leader of Plymouth City Council and the Labour group) can hope for is retaining the status quo.

That said, empirically the opposition party gains seats and councils in local elections, so it’s possible that Labour can get some momentum behind them and pick up one of the current Conservative wards. However, the best bet is Peverell, which is a long shot. The paradox faced by Labour is this would ordinarily be their year, but both locally and nationally they’re protecting the massive gains made in 2012.

In pure sporting terms, I’d rather be Ian Bowyer (Leader of the Conservative opposition) than Tudor Evans going into the local elections. The Conservatives can play offense, while Labour is on the defensive. Regardless of the outcome, Labour will be electorally well positioned for 2018.

Finally, while both Tudor Evans and Ian Bowyer applaud the pragmatic, positive working relationship between Labour and the Conservatives on the council thus far, the budget next month could play havoc with that.

2. Again, locally, a major issue will continue to be transportation. The pressure to re-open the airport will get play, but continue to be kicked into touch, to Cllr Bridgeman’s dismay. There’s always the possibility of another storm causing havoc with Dawlish (we’re fortunate that Storm Frank didn’t cause more trouble than it did), but even if it gets wiped out again, expect the national government to say a lot of soothing words, and do nothing.

The national government will renew Trident as scheduled in 2016 which will give a boost to local economic confidence. Likewise, it should negate what is perhaps Plymouth Labour’s biggest vulnerability – the personal position of Jeremy Corbyn in opposition to Trident. Locally, Labour can already say that the official position of the Party is for renewal, but the concerns on the doorstep are real.

3. At the end of 2016, Jeremy Corbyn will still be the leader of the Opposition, and it will still be known as the Labour Party. While there is predictable friction between the Progress (Blairite) wing of the party and Momentum, do not expect the Opposition to fracture the way it did in the 1980s. Momentum might be agitating, but they’re no Militant Tendency. Corbyn’s massive electoral mandate garnered in the leadership election this past September will get him through 2016 easily. This remains true even if Labour
lose councils and councillors in the local elections, because, again, Labour have to defend the massive gains that they made in 2012.

4. David Cameron will claim that he has comprehensively renegotiated Britain’s relationship with the European Union. In reality, what will result is little more than symbolism (either dropping or giving Britain yet another opt out regarding the “ever closer union”), with anything practical existing only at the margins – perhaps an understanding that EU nationals in the UK can not automatically qualify for
benefits without being in work in Britain for a specified period of time. However, should a referendum on EU membership be held in 2016, Yes (i.e. remain members of the EU) will win, and this will partially deflate UKIP’s bubble.

5. But UKIP will not entirely go away. The support for UKIP transcends the single issue that it was founded on, and it’s tapped into a much deeper fear and concern about slipping standards of living for the middle and lower classes and the seeming powerlessness that national governments have in warding off the perceived injustices of globalisation. While the bogeyman is immigration, the deeper fear and motivation for said fear is real and legitimate. This explains the continued existence of the far right across Europe (and the far left for that matter) as well as the popularity of both Bernie Sanders (Democratic candidate for President) and Donald Trump in the United States.

6. 2016 is of course a Presidential election year in my home country, and everybody here wants to know about Donald Trump. I’m not going to make him the odds on favourite to win the Republican nomination – he’s slipped a bit in the polls in the past week – but whereas in 2012 between August and January there were four different candidates leading the Republican polls, by this stage Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee, was ahead by 12 points. Today (5 January) Trump is ahead by 15.5%. Ted Cruz might win Iowa, which could knock back the Trump bandwagon, but the latter is currently leading healthily in New Hampshire. It looks more likely now than a month ago that Trump could take the GOP nomination, but I still put the odds at slightly better than 50%.

That said, come November, Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States.

Black Reconstruction

[ 43 ] January 22, 2016 |

blackreconstruct

A good essay reminding us how vitally important W.E.B. DuBois’ slave general strike thesis that he delineated in Black Reconstruction remains today.

Slaves freed themselves. With this majestic assertion in 1935, W.E.B. Du Bois all but cemented Black Reconstruction as one of the most influential American history books of the twentieth century. At the time of its publication, it was widely denounced. Writing from the depths of the Great Depression, and amidst a burgeoning black communist internationalism, Black Reconstruction was Du Bois at his finest. By deftly applying classical Marxist analysis to a population so often overlooked by its orthodoxies, Du Bois’s general strike thesis emerged not only as a historical corrective, but as a stark critique of Western philosophy and modern academic inquiry itself. It brought together the study of class with the study of race and foreshadowed what we now call intersectionality. Yet, it also sat on the shelf for decades until, like so many great masterpieces, it was dusted off well after its creator’s death and celebrated only in Du Bois’s absence. As the great American poet/sometimes performance artist Kanye West reminds us: “people never get the flowers when they can still smell them.”

Du Bois’s insistence on black people as a revolutionary proletariat during the Civil War pointed to a glaring hole in both Marxist theories surrounding slavery and the more general study of African Americans by professional academics. Yet even as he bemoaned the neglect of black people within the intellectual annals of modernity, Du Bois paradoxically worked outward from a deep grounding in German Romanticism, classic liberalism, and traditional political theory. As a seminal figure in what Columbia University Professor Robert Gooding-Williams has since branded “Afro-Modern Political Thought,” Du Bois’s general strike thesis continues to cast a long shadow over contemporary historiography and black intellectuals alike. It also represents a place where Du Bois’s often-bemoaned elitism seems to fizzle away into oblivion. Eighty years later lessons still abound in Black Reconstruction. This is true not only for scholars working on postemancipation America, but for today’s diverse cohort of intellectual historians who are constantly at risk of ignoring the next Du Bois in their midst.

And DuBois won this debate, as today his thesis is expanded upon, but nearly never rejected. Unlike the bogus theories of the Dunning School, DuBois is influential nearly a century later.

Matt. 7:28-29

[ 51 ] January 22, 2016 |

Your attention please,

Merrill Matthews, Ph.D. (M n’ M to his friends), of the illustrious IPI has made a very important discovery about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton that will change your life. (No, not that IPI. Or that one. The one in Texas.)

Here’s the Tl;dr if you’re heading out for a night on the town: “Using my superior intellect I shall confound all Democrats this spiffy logic switcharooni.”

His theory, that is his, runs as follows. (Hem, hem!)

1. The Democratic party has become excessively left-leaning and Bernie Sanders is the Leftiest Democrat of Lefty Democrats. Because he sucks.

The wonder isn’t that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is doing so well against Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s that he isn’t blowing her out of the water everywhere.

That’s because Sanders epitomizes the “new Democratic Party”—that is, the party that embraces all things left.

What are all things left? Fortunately he made a list so you don’t have to trouble your purty little head thinking about it.

Health care reform;
Wall Street bashing;
Big government defenders;
Tax the rich;
Anti-business fervor; and because SMALL GOVERNMENT BIG FOREIGN POLICY isn’t a contradiction if you shout it loud enough
Neutered foreign policy.

F’rinstance –

Wall Street bashing. Clinton has taken to bashing Wall Street, which is ludicrous because Hillary Clinton is Wall Street.

She was a senator from New York, where she and Bill regularly wined and dined Wall Streeters, many of whom are lefties.

But, wait. If one of les Choses Gauche is bashing Wall Street, why are lefties on Wall Street? And why does Dr. Matthews care?

Is this something to do with self-flagellation?

Goldman Sachs paid her $675,000 for speeches, part of $2.9 million she’s received from various banks and financial institutions.

Oh, and the Clinton Global Initiative’s offices are about four miles from Wall Street.

See, it is incisive insights such as the fact that things on the island of Manhattan are within a few miles of other things on the island of Manhattan that set Dr. Matthews apart from other right wing hacks who peddle their gelid right wing crap as white hot libertarian merde. A quick peek at a map reveals that the Clinton Foundation is near many places, several of them famous. Alas that he did not take the time to share more of his thoughts on the proximity of things to other things, I bet it would have been amusing.

The Democratic Party, by contrast, has soured on big financial institutions, part of a newfound contempt for big banks and the wealthy people who run them. But Democrats are late to this bash-the-banks effort; Sanders has been doing that for decades.

2. So we see in letters assembled into words and sentences (sorta) that Hillary Clinton, by contrast, also sucks. But her suckitude is dirty rotten sell-out suck, not the pure All Things Left varietal.

3. Now for the stunning conclusion that will make your head spin right off your neck if you don’t hang on to your jaw.

The Democratic Party of 2016 is much more aligned with Sanders than Clinton. I may disagree with just about everything Sanders wants to do, but he’s a principled and consistent liberal politician.

Since Democrats believe that most of the country is with them, the most honest thing they can do is vote their convictions and give Sanders the nomination.

Consternation, Uproar! The gob is completely smacked by that logic switcherooni. Or it would be if I weren’t laughing at the bit where the resident scholar for a right wing org that insists it’s non-partisan tries to instruct people on the meaning of honesty.

And Then There Was Farley

[ 98 ] January 22, 2016 |

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runners

Silver joins the Campos Express, even if he’s with Lemieux on the half-hearted skeptics car:

I’m in the midst of working on a long review of the book “The Party Decides,” so we’ll save some of the detail for that forthcoming article. But the textbook on Trump is that he’d be a failure along virtually every dimension that party elites normally consider when choosing a nominee: electability (Trump is extremely unpopular with general election voters); ideological reliability (like Sarah Palin, Trump’s a “maverick”); having traditional qualifications for the job; and so forth. Even if the GOP is mostly in disarray, my assumption was that it would muster whatever strength it had to try to stop Trump.

[…]

You can find lots of other examples like these. It’s the type of coordinated, multifront action that seems right out of the “The Party Decides.” If, like me, you expected something like this to happen to Trump instead of Cruz, you have to revisit your assumptions. Thus, I’m now much less skeptical of Trump’s chances of becoming the nominee.

The lesson, as Silver says, is not that the party has “decided” for Trump. Many of the stop-Cruz crowd are presumably hoping to end his hopes in Iowa and then get behind whatever non-Cruz politician seems in the strongest position after New Hampshire.

But it’s also hard to see how this will work, simply because party elites still haven’t decided about anything. Some factions of the party who would prefer Generic Republican Hack to Trump or Cruz will make it their top priority to stop the latter (this is particularly likely with anyone who’s had to work with him directly), while other factions of the party will make it their priority to stop Trump, like Frankenstein trying to strangle his monster.

And let’s say some scenario effectively eliminates Cruz (loses Iowa, finishes behind Jeb! and Christie in New Hampshire) or Trump (loses Iowa to Cruz convincingly, loses or barely scrapes by in New Hampshire and then loses to Cruz in South Carolina.) Why are we confident that Republican elites will rally around any one alternative? Although he shows no signs of getting off the canvas Jeb! still ranks higher in the 538 endorsement ranking than Rubio (and Rubio’s failure to generate more party enthusiasm than Jeb! although the latter’s campaign has been a 6-month faceplant is, in itself, damning of his abilities as a candidate.) Unless New Hampshire results are a lot different than the polls, its primary figures to neither knock any of the Generic Republican Alternatives out of the race of give them a triumph. It’s hard to see elites who have been reluctant to rally around Rubio doing so unless he starts doing a lot better in New Hampshire. And of course if the Cruz wins Iowa and does OK in New Hampshire and Trump wins New Hampshire easily — which I still think is the most likely scenario — then both will remain in the race for a while and consolidation behind a Generic Alternative both probably becomes less likely and has a good chance of being futile even if it happens.

I frankly have no idea who wins this, but I am pretty confident that it won’t shake out along “The Party Decides” lines.

Real v. fake legal arguments

[ 151 ] January 22, 2016 |

cruz

I have a piece on the difference between various strains of “natural born citizen” arguments:

A skill all lawyers need to develop is the ability to distinguish between a real legal argument and a fake one. A real legal argument isn’t necessarily a winning argument: rather, it’s an argument that could be expected to have some actual chance of winning the day, given various (realistic) assumptions regarding whatever authority figures will end up deciding whether the argument is right or wrong.

Arguments that Barack Obama wasn’t constitutionally eligible to be president were always fake legal arguments through and through, because there was never the slightest possibility that any federal court was going to accept such an argument. The reason no court would even consider those arguments is that they were all based on an obviously false, and indeed classically paranoid, claim: that Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii.

The argument that Marco Rubio isn’t eligible to be president because his parents weren’t U.S. citizens at the time of his birth– a lawsuit making this argument has just been filed in Florida – is also a fake legal argument. There is essentially no support for this position in American law. It’s the kind of claim, in other words, that can subject a lawyer to sanctions for bringing it. (Orly Taitz, the most indefatigable of the Obama “birthers,” was fined $20,000 by a federal court for bringing a similarly ridiculous claim).

The situation regarding Ted Cruz is completely different. The argument that Cruz isn’t a natural born citizen within the meaning of Article II of the Constitution, and is therefore ineligible to be president, is absolutely a real legal argument. Indeed, the argument that he is eligible, despite being born in Canada, is quite technical, convoluted, and far from compelling.

More on the VPAF

[ 2 ] January 22, 2016 |
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21PF USAF.jpg

By USAF – National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo 050322-F-1234P-001, Public Domain.

I was on BBC Business World last night, talking Vietnamese fighter planes. Folks seem excited by the notion of selling Typhoons to Vietnam…

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