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“Stop Hitting Yourself”: The Ballad of Pat McCrory

[ 63 ] September 21, 2016 |
Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory introduces candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis (R-NC) at a campaign stop in Raleigh, North Carolina October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4C3VE

Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory introduces candidate for U.S. Senate Thom Tillis (R-NC) at a campaign stop in Raleigh, North Carolina October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS) – RTR4C3VE

Shorter Pat McCrory: “Don’t blame us for the moral and economic disaster we’ve inflicted on North Carolina. If liberals didn’t act to protect civil rights, we wouldn’t have to pass discriminatory legislation.”

Fortunately, it’s increasingly looking like McCrory will be a one-term anti-wonder, and let us hope he takes Richard Burr down with him.


This Day in Labor History: September 21, 1908

[ 9 ] September 21, 2016 |


On September 21, 1908, the Industrial Workers of the World met for its 4th annual convention in Chicago. This convention would reshape the struggling nascent organization, moving it clearly from an intellectuals’ movement to a workers’ movement.

Founded in 1905, by 1908 the IWW hadn’t really done much of anything and its future was murky. This is not to blame the IWW. This is the fate of most new activist organizations. It’s fairly easy to start an organization. But giving it shape and guidance, dealing with difficult personalities, and deciding not only what course of action to take but what ideology will guide that action is always difficult. That’s especially true for the early twentieth century left, where a panopoly of intellectual currents and factions could all fight for control of a given movement. Given that the 1905 convention brought in everyone from the Western Federation of Miners to Eugene Debs to Lucy Parsons, it did not originate with any clear ideological formation.

This does not mean the IWW was completely moribund in 1908. It did have a few adherents and they were organizing workers. In 1907 for instance, the IWW arrived in Portland, Oregon and started an organizing campaign among the city’s timber workers, largely over issues of better pay. It was put down fairly quickly by a combination of employers and the American Federation of Labor, already identifying the IWW as a threat even as it had no real interest in organizing on an industrial basis. IWW miners had also organized the mines of Goldfield, Nevada until the mine owners conspired with Nevada politicians and Theodore Roosevelt to crush them.

But the leadership of the IWW was in flux. The controversial socialist Daniel DeLeon wanted to control the IWW. DeLeon wanted to be the American Lenin. In 1892, he became the editor of the Socialist Labor Party’s newspaper The People. This put him in a position to become the leader of the SLP. Once this happened, he hoped to springboard to be the head of a labor organization. He first tried to take over the dying Knights of Labor, then the American Federation of Labor. He had little support for either. DeLeon then decided to create a parallel labor organization called the Socialist Trades and Labor Alliance in 1895. When the IWW formed in 1905, DeLeon saw an opportunity to control the labor movement. He wanted to turn it into an adjunct of the SLP. But he received resistance almost from the first from the rank and file, especially the western workers who made up the core of IWW support, concentrated in the Western Federation of Miners. Those workers believed the state was their enemy and that political action was worthless. DeLeon wanted to create a leftist alternative to the Socialist Party and focus on political action. He kept introducing political questions into the IWW’s annual conventions, greatly irritating other Wobblies. All of this led to a lot of dissension in the conventions and little being accomplished.

In late 1907, the feud erupted openly, as DeLeon attempted to sabotage a call from James Connolly, the future Irish martyr who was working as an IWW organizer in New York, to launch a large recruiting drive in New York City. DeLeon took over the meeting by shouting about how Connolly was a traitor to the SLP. So by the time of the 1908 convention, most Wobblies were ready to be rid of DeLeon.

Another group attended this convention for the first time. Out of Portland, a group of radicals decided to hop trains and head to Chicago. This became known as the Overalls Brigade. Led by an organizer named John Walsh, these 19 workers headed east, organizing along the way. They held 31 meetings, sold more than $175 worth of IWW literature and $200 in IWW song sheets. They had complete contempt for DeLeon and for his own elitism about revolutionary theory that was supposedly above the head of the average worker. These were men who believed in industrial organizing, direct action, and taking on capitalism in a total war. They brought that spirit of direction action to the convention floor, singing their songs, and providing a bulwark of rank and file opposition to DeLeon. The Overalls Brigade opened the convention by singing “The Marseillaise” and convention leaders openly asking them to lead the fight against DeLeon.

Others joined the anti-DeLeon fray. IWW intellectuals like Ben Williams wanted this dealt with now because they believed the future of the IWW depended upon deciding just what its ideological stances were, especially around the role of direct action, industrial organization, and politics. DeLeon was ousted in a procedural vote because he did not represent a local which he claimed to represent. The delegates then debated the role of politics in the IWW. This was more closely divided than the decision to oust the difficult DeLeon. Some wanted to keep the political clause in the IWW constitution to give it a patina of respectability that would discharge claims it was an organization of anarchist bombthrowers. But in a 35-32 vote, the delegates did eliminate the reference to political action. Although what the IWW believed in was not really articulated at this point (and in fact, the IWW would always be awfully cagey about their actual ideological details), the emphasis on direct action was in the ascendant. Like the AFL, their diehard enemy, the IWW would refuse to play in politics, believing the state to be a class war enemy of workers’ rights. This demonstrates the sheer hopelessness that workers had for state action during the Gilded Age. The only thing that both union federations could agree on was that the state was worthless for guaranteeing anything for workers. The IWW was still not a stable organization after the 1908 convention, but it had eliminated the internal divide that would prevent it from moving forward with organizing workers and fighting class warfare.

The Overalls Brigade would return to the Northwest and bring their radical direct action to the workers of the Northwest, first with the Spokane Free Speech Fight and then with a decade of worker empowerment, strikes, and challenging the timber industry, police, and political leadership of the Pacific Northwest until they were crushed in a maelstrom of violence during and after World War I.

DeLeon went on to bitterly attack the IWW, especially for the “slum proletariat” that had taken over the convention and removed him. He died in 1914, failing in his effort to become Lenin.

This post relied on Melvyn Dubofsky’s classic We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World.

This is the 193rd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

What I tell you three times is true

[ 171 ] September 20, 2016 |

Donald Trump, in keeping with the finest traditions of the GOP, does minority outreach with both middle fingers raised.

“We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever.”


“You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They’re worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities,” Trump said Tuesday. “And I say to the African American communities and I think it’s resonating, because you see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African Americans. They’re going, like, high.”

It’s not the poll numbers that are high. But note how he masterfully (SWIDT?) assures his audience (which, forgive me, but I’m going to assume was predominantly white) that yes, those people are all safely confined tucked away urban hell holes and they really are savages who spend all of their time black-on-black criming one another.

I guess any African-Americans spotted outside of the inner city should be ignored as hallucinations or better yet, chased off because they don’t belong there!

White Men Are the New Soccer Moms

[ 230 ] September 20, 2016 |


It’s odd how the arbitrarily selected Demographic That Matters This Election never involves poor people of color:

What about white men, specifically? Their privileged status as the soccer moms of this election cycle is, in itself, somewhat puzzling. As Lynn Vavreck has noted, the most significant political shifts from 2012 to 2016 have come not among white men but among white women, who are supporting Hillary Clinton much more strongly than they did Obama a remarkable shift of 8 percentage points.

In contrast, Trump has made no gain at all among white men relative to Romney’s performance, doing a few points better among those without college degrees but 5 points worse among those with college degrees. (Notwithstanding that fact, the New York Times, characteristically, put white men in the headline of Vavreck’s piece.)

The real appeal of focusing on white men is that doing so facilitates a facile juxtaposition of real economic experience and an apparent political response — support among white men for the Republican Party and for Trump in particular. Thus, for example, political scientist Howard Rosenthal grounded an account of why “white men love Donald Trump so much” in a detailed exposition of the decades-long stagnation of their real incomes.

But when he turned to the question of why “white men relocated to the GOP” in response to this prolonged income stagnation, Rosenthal pivoted seamlessly from hard economic data to pure symbolism, blaming “a shift in the Democratic Party’s platform” rhetoric from social welfare programs to social identity. The 2016 Democratic platform, he noted, “has many economic references to women and people of color” — rhetoric that Rosenthal somehow parses as “an implicitly negative position on the relative economic fortunes of white males.”

Perhaps many white men see it the same way. As Christopher Achen and I have argued, voters’ choices are often more about “validating their social and political identities” than about concrete policies and economic interests. Symbolic appeals (or perceived slights) are likely to be especially potent in hard times. But it seems worth asking: Does “implicitly negative” partisan rhetoric have any bearing at all on the actual economic fortunes of white men?

I’ll set the over/under for stories in major newspapers in which reporters visit rust belt cities and can’t find any women or people of color for the remainder of the campaign at 200.

Rules Based Orders

[ 2 ] September 20, 2016 |
Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt - Hugo Grotius.jpg

Hugo Grotius. By Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt – Public Domain,

My last two pieces at the Diplomat have delved into what it means to establish and defend an international “rules based order.”  Part I:

The steps that the United States and its partners take in the South China Sea (and elsewhere) to build multilateral understandings of, and expertise in, appropriate maritime procedures help constitute the thing that many refer to as “the rules based order.” Indeed, the usefulness of establishing multilateral maritime norms in Southeast Asia depends, to great extent, on whether there’s any value at all to constructing this “rules based order.”


And part II:

Generally speaking, the idea of a rules based order goes beyond these minimal injunctions, and tries to describe appropriate rules of state behavior. This includes appropriate forms of competition; prohibitions that states will face censure if they break. Such orders are invariably value-laden, reflecting the interests and nature of the states that establish them. And it is in these more complex versions that the most interesting debates over the existence of mutually-agreed orders happen.


Actual Foundation Scandal

[ 181 ] September 20, 2016 |


Another major scoop from Farenthold:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.

In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.

The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.

In conclusion, some donors once emailed Huma Abedin asking for favors and didn’t get them, so Both Sides Do It but Clinton Is Worse.

The Party of Ideas (TM)

[ 24 ] September 20, 2016 |
An outtake from the Paul Ryan photo shoot that was inspired by his Facebook photos showing him working out with P90X creator Tony Horton

An outtake from the Paul Ryan photo shoot that was inspired by his Facebook photos showing him working out with P90X creator Tony Horton

You know how incomes are finally rising for those at the bottom of the economic ladder? The Republicans plan to fix that with some deeply thoughtful policy innovation from everyone’s favorite Very Serious policy wonk, Paul Ryan.

Ryan’s agenda includes the normal conservative priorities: deregulation of the financial industry and fossil fuels, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s cost reforms and coverage expansions, increased military budgets, and deep cuts in spending for poor people. As always, the plan’s centerpiece is a massive, debt-financed tax cut that disproportionately accrues to the very rich. What’s new and different is just how disproportionate it is.

A typical Republican tax cut will give about 40 percent of its tax cuts to the richest one percent. Ryan’s plan, according to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, will give three-quarters of its tax cuts to the richest one percent in the first year. And that’s only because the cuts are slowly phased in. By 2025, the highest-earning one percent will enjoy 99.6 percent of the tax cuts. The remaining 0.4 percent will be divided up among the other 99 percent of the country. The new Paul Ryan tax cuts make the Bush tax cuts look like socialism.

I look forward to Ross Douthat’s next column on how Paul Ryan is really a reformicon bent on helping middle-class families at heart.

Conservative SM

[ 175 ] September 19, 2016 |

Conservatives have been complaining that the internet is unfair to conservatives since about two seconds after AOL pressed its first disk. (Halp halp! These search results contain information that conflicts with my world view!)

And because the internet (or some aspect of it) is plainly out to get them, they’ve been threatening to build their own special conservatives-only, no lieburuls allowed internet and leave. But they haven’t. Now, a new social media platform by conservatives, for conservatives and of conservatives could lead to an exodus.

To the great consternation of conservatives, the Obama years have demonstrated, if there was any doubt, where the political sympathies of social-media giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter really lie.

Cody Brown wants to do something about that.

Brown is the founder of Codias (co-DIE-us), “the social network for conservatives,” which launches today. “There’s been a historic divide between technology and politics, particularly for the conservative movement,” he says. “We hope our platform will begin to fill this void.”

Codias advertises a “revolution in your hands.” “Tired of losing the culture?” the website asks on its homepage. “We equip conservatives for modern political warfare.” For Brown, “it’s a means for conservatives to find and communicate with each other and mobilize each other to achieve common objectives, and really for the first time.”

Codias (the person, not the platform) has worked on Rick “Santorum” Santorum’s campaigns and is also the founder of Codias, not the platform or the person:

an organizational design company that designs and builds startups for entrepreneurs and candidates

I can’t get the site to load. That may be my computer deciding that a trip to NRO is is enough stupid for one day, but it could be that every conservative in America has gone stampeding over there. Which … would be a shame. Because that would really piss off the liberals.

I think Rod Dreher may have self-radicalized on the internet

[ 156 ] September 19, 2016 |

Rod is upset with the Pope again. But this time, it’s not for suggesting maybe we should treat gay people a little more like human beings. The Pope’s error is taking the wrong parts of the Bible–those that seem to call for a course of action Dreher deems unwise– seriously. Dreher’s disdain for the prospect of even a modest increase in the Muslim population in the realm of historic Christendom is so intense he simply can’t make heads or tails of what Pope Francis could possibly even mean. Rod reads a report of some recent comments from Pope Francis on the refugee crisis:

Pope Francis has encouraged Europeans to welcome refugees, calling authentic hospitality “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.”

And responds with utter befuddlement:

What on earth is he talking about? It may be right for Europeans to welcome refugees — I don’t agree, but it’s a debatable point over whether or not charity requires Europeans to take that risk– but to say that welcoming over a million Muslims into Europe is “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism” is at best absurd propaganda. Who can possibly believe this? The same people who believe that “diversity is our strength”?

An explanation of why the Pope’s statement is obviously wrong is not forthcoming, as he shifts gears to garden-variety scaremongering and angry denunciations of commenters.

I wouldn’t claim to know precisely what Pope Francis meant in the passage in question, but taken at face value it straightforward enough. Here are some statements that range from ‘obviously correct’ to ‘plausible’:

1. There are already around 20 million Muslims residing in the EU, a number far larger than the total population of Syrian refugees.
2. Insofar as terrorism is a serious threat in Europe, it’s largely through people already residing there.
3. Radicals who wish to recruit their fellow Muslims to the terrorist cause find that a widespread perception of hostility and bigotry to Muslims in European countries helps their cause.
4. Turning away refugees in desperate need because of their religion and/or country of origin makes Europeans look like anti-Muslim bigots to their existing Muslim populations.

Now, I have no idea if this strategic wager is correct; I don’t have the kind of detailed knowledge of patterns of radicalization that would allow me to have an opinion worth a damn. But it’s entirely plausible, and it’s clearly not ‘at best absurd propaganda.’ It’s remarkable that Rod is so committed to avoiding a path that Pope Francis, correctly, recognizes as required by basic decency in general and basic Christian decency in particular that he can’t even consider the possibility that such a path might also be a practical as well as compassionate and decent.

The kicker:

The more things like this happen, the more sense Trump’s idea to halt Muslim immigration for the time being makes. What a crazy year when Donald J. Trump makes more sense on anything than a Pope.

As you let that sink in, keep in mind two things. First, this statement is written by a man who has spent much of the last several years trying very hard to convince anyone who’ll listen that it’s contemporary liberals who’ve become an unprecedented threat to religious freedom. Second, as recently as just a few months ago Dreher routinely expressed horror and dismay at the rise of Trump, and what that rise meant for conservatism, and how evangelical acquiescence to Trumpism was evidence of a deep sickness in American Christianity and the Conservative movement. Watching Dreher, predictably, come home, it occurs to me that perhaps Trumpism is best understood not so much a betrayal or failure of politicized evangelicalism, but a return to its 1970’s roots.

Maybe Americans Are Getting Smarter

[ 133 ] September 19, 2016 |


We are all pretty pessimistic right now. There’s just about a 50/50 chance the next president of the United States is going to be Donald Trump. That’s beyond frightening. But perhaps that’s entirely mitigated by Americans beginning to turn their backs on the horror of pumpkin beer.

As I chronicled in a February 2016 article, brewers were caught completely off-guard late last year when sales of the once cultish style rotted away like a jack-o-lantern on a tropical Christmas afternoon. The problem: overproduction, oversaturation, underwhelming craft growth and overly hot autumn temperatures. Those woes were caused, in turn, by increased volume at established breweries, new breweries trying to cash in on the craze, fewer drinkers entering the market, and, well, climate change. For the first time, mass quantities of pumpkin beer sat on the shelves months past their sell-by date and a lot of breweries, wholesalers and retailers lost money. Many declared sudsy pumpkins a dying trend and decided to cut production this year.

Now it’s mid-September. Most craft brewers have finished their 2016 pumpkin run and trucked it out to their distributors.

Did they cut production? Yes — many of them drastically. That is, if they produced any pumpkin at all.

“Ithaca [Brewing] has discontinued its pumpkin, as has Shock Top (an Anheuser-Busch InBev product),” says the owner of an East Coast AB InBev distributor who didn’t want to use his name. “We knew the market had kind of hit the wall last year.”

Samuel Adams produced one instead of two pumpkins this year. Pumpkin powerhouses Harpoon Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing and Shipyard Brewing all produced less volume, as did four Philadelphia-area breweries contacted at random.

Maybe some of these breweries like Southern Tier, who once made their name on very solid beer in a variety of styles only to plunge whole hog into super sweet holiday beers based on the success of their terrible Pumpking, will start focusing on good quality beers again.

As for Trump and the decline of pumpkin beer, well, you win some, you lose some.

The Wall

[ 126 ] September 19, 2016 |


The entire conversation around immigration in this country, specifically immigration from Mexico and Central America, is broken, but the entire rhetoric around the Trump’s border wall is incredibly stupid, as Casey Walker points out.

It is a political moment that compels me to relate this history. There is currently a candidate for president — an unserious person, but a serious contender — whose opening campaign gesture, and most common applause line, is a broadside against Mexico and Mexicans that ends with a vision of a border wall. Donald Trump promises he will build an enormous border fence, spanning the entirety of the 2,000-mile boundary-line between the United States and Mexico. And he asserts that Mexico will pay for it.

As Trump regales his followers with this dream, he does not appear to recognize how much wall already exists. He seems not to know, or not to care, that in San Diego a border wall already extends beyond where the land ends, hundreds of feet into the Pacific Ocean. In many of the most populous cities along the border, there are in fact two walls, patrolled day and night, with a no-man’s-land in between. There are concrete-filled steel beams a dozen or more feet high. There are deceptively stubby panels of rusty siding that belie the electronic eyes all around and the Border Patrol vehicles perched on nearby hillsides.

And I can tell you that across those lands where no wall exists, there is the desert where I grew up, where daytime summer temperatures regularly top 125 degrees Fahrenheit, where the sand feels like it might at any moment turn to glass. Should a migrant become lost, should his hired guide abandon him, the cost in crossing these deserts is death. It is worth reading the accounts of the first boundary commission surveyors, who were given the unenviable task of marking the material line agreed to on paper in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. The surveyors found the land they traveled through inhospitable, treacherous, confusing, and nearly unmappable. “Much of this country, that by those residing at a distance is imagined to be a perfect paradise, is a sterile waste,” they wrote, “utterly worthless for any purpose than to constitute a barrier or natural line of demarcation between two neighboring nations.” I will be the first to defend the stark beauty of the desert, to dispute the notion that it is only a sterile waste. There are ocotillos and Joshua Trees, bighorn sheep in the rocky hills, and tortoises so hardy that one has to imagine they possess a stoic wisdom. But that the Mexican-American borderland is brutal to the disoriented and unwanted and alone — that is beyond dispute.

To be precise, then, it is not a wall that Trump wants, but additional walls, walls that would extend through landscapes where crossing the lines demarcated in the official paperwork already kills people. Every serious analysis of Trump’s proposal has concluded that the additions he describes would be prohibitively expensive to build. They would be impossible to maintain. And his wall would almost certainly be ineffective as a deterrent to the immigration he wishes to prevent — many people who desire American citizenship settle here initially simply by overstaying a temporary visa. All of these facts are so obvious they feel tedious to recount. And yet here we are, in a political moment where the transparent unworkability of Trump’s border vision is not enough to disqualify it, or its speaker, from mainstream political discussion. The social and political reforms the United States must undertake with respect to immigration have complex dimensions — but these are not the questions that Trump addresses. Trump’s border wall can be refuted on a bumper sticker: It is a lie.

Of course it’s a lie. But white people LOVE this lie. And not white people in Arizona and Texas either. It’s white people in Nebraska, in Iowa, in Mississippi, who love this lie because even if they don’t know any Mexicans, the mere existence of the Spanish speaking option being stated to them when they call the pharmacy is an unthinkable outrage against their racial privilege. When I lived in Albuquerque, there was a profile in the paper of one of the yahoos who had decided to become a Minutemen. He was from Alabama and he was motivated to protect his nation from the evils of Mexico when–and I swear this is what he said–he was at his favorite buffet in Birmingham and heard people speaking Spanish.

That is who this border wall would be for.

“American Horror Story:” Where Are We Now? Oh, Roanoke

[ 41 ] September 19, 2016 |

American Horror Story is a show with a mixed record. On the one hand, I think it’s one of the boldest, most transgressive shows on the air. I think it’s far scarier than most R-rated horror movies. I think it’s artful, I think it’s beautiful to look at. I think sometimes it overreaches. And recently I feel it crossed a line by depicting a brutal rape (and extraordinarily gory murder scene). (TRIGGER WARNING FOR MY STORIFY BELOW.)

If you read the Storify you’ll see I missed seasons 3 and 4. Three I missed because the witches’ coven didn’t interest me as much as past settings and because it aired the year I was taking care of a toddler by myself while hubby was overseas. I attempted to watch Season 4 but was so freaked out by the punch-you-in-the-face-scary clown murdering someone in broad daylight I could not make it past the first episode. Don’t know if I’ll ever go back to try again. This is what I mean by overreaching. Sometimes AHS’ violence, sex, and mixing of the two is downright traumatizing.

Currently, I’m watching season 6, which seems promisingly to be the perfect balance of the off-the-charts signature AHS creep factors and poignant psychological drama. I am also streaming season 5. Its premiere episode knocked me on my ass, and frankly I’m not sure how I feel about it. It will be interesting comparing and contrasting these two seasons as I go forward.

Any of you watching AHS? Have thoughts?

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