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New Innovations in Union Busting

[ 21 ] March 12, 2016 |


Stephen Greenhouse on the new right-wing effort to crush unions: astroturf door-to-door campaigns.

For several months, Shawna Murphy, a home-based childcare provider in Seattle, had received a stream of emails, letters and robocalls – some two dozen of them – telling her she had the right to stop paying union dues.

Then early one afternoon, while the six children in her charge were napping, a man with a briefcase knocked on her door. At first Murphy thought he was a lawyer, but then she realized he might be a state inspector of childcare providers. So she opened the door.

“He said there’s this supreme court case that will impact me, and he pulled out this leaflet and told me that I don’t have to be part of the union and don’t have to pay union dues,” said Murphy, a member of the Service Employees International Union. “I told him, ‘I’m a proud supporter of the union, and you can leave now.’”

The man was one of the many foot soldiers in a highly unusual offensive against public-sector unions in the US north-west. A conservative group, the Freedom Foundation, has dispatched activists to visit the homes of more than 10,000 childcare and home-care workers in Washington and Oregon to advise them that under a two-year-old supreme court decision, they can opt out of paying union dues.

Tom McCabe, chief executive officer of the fast-growing foundation, funded by a web of conservative groups, said: “My goal is to provide freedom to union members and to give them a choice about whether or not they want to belong to a union.”

But labor leaders and their progressive allies say the group’s goals go far beyond that. Washington state in particular has passed union-backed progressive legislation recently, enacting a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a law that will allow Uber drivers to unionize. They say the Freedom Foundation’s unorthodox tactics are part of a grand plan to weaken unions and their treasuries, sap their political influence and ultimately flip Washington and Oregon from Democratic to Republican.

The idea that Washington and Oregon are going to turn Republican is laughable with or without unions, but when you have this kind of money behind you, why not try it? And it is a real threat to unions. The uphill battle the Koch Brothers face is that they have turned most of the easy states to right-to-work. Doing so in states where you have entrenched liberalism like Washington and Oregon is a real uphill battle. I’d say they have a somewhat better chance in a state like New Hampshire or Rhode Island or maybe even New York where you have Democratic legislators with very little commitment to Democratic Party values. In any case, with the money they have, they are a real threat and if you can overturn labor legislation in Wisconsin and Michigan, you can do it anywhere under the right circumstances.


Kudos, Speaker Boehner…

[ 94 ] March 12, 2016 |

This looks very much like a man who is deliriously happy that he’s no longer part of a colossal shitshow:


[ 51 ] March 12, 2016 |

Director Mike Norris, son of Chuck Norris, Issues Call To Fearful Angry Meatheads To Stay Mad Even Though The Scary Black Man Will Soon Leave The White House

Oh, sorry, that’s my translation. Here it is in the original American.

Director Mike Norris, son of Chuck Norris, Issues Call To Action To Protect America’s Freedom

Dallas, Texas (March 1, 2016) – AMERIGEDDON, coming to theaters nationwide May 13, 2016, has been described as “the movie the establishment doesn’t want you to see.”

By Mike Norris, at least. But why would he lie? It continues.

Showing what happens when a not-so-future U.S. government conspires with the United Nations to stage an attack on the energy grid, AMERIGEDDON depicts a country ruled by martial law in which citizens are stripped of their constitutional rights and their guns. A group of patriots fight back and rescue the country from slipping into irreversible chaos.

So. Like Red Dawn, only the totalitarianism is coming from inside the house?

AMERIGEDDON’s release in an election year is not coincidental. The film illustrates a dystopian future all patriots must guard against and is a call to action to preserve the Second Amendment and stop executive rule by fiat. Director Mike Norris, son of Chuck Norris, asks for like-minded Americans to support the film.

I think Mr. Norris needs to clarify. Can patriots support the film by protecting the Only Amendment that Matters and staging an armed insurrection stopping executive rule by fiat or do they also have to go see the movie?

And can they bring their pet guns?

Executive Producer Gary Heavin believes the film’s message warning is timely. “We made a movie that is fun to watch but it is based in reality.

Are you ready for the reality? I doubt it.

In AMERIGEDDON, survivors of an EMP attack on the United States must live in a state of martial law led by the United Nations. American soldiers must decide whom they serve, second amendment rights are curtailed and food, water and survival become our primary concerns—unfortunately, these are all likely scenarios resulting from a very real threat,” said Heavin.

A threat so mind-numbingly horribobble that Mr. Deadbeat Heavin can’t specify it, because the truth would kill everyone dead. Or people wouldn’t go see the movie. Either way it would be bad.

For his wallet.

“I believe if we can entertain while we inform, more people will wake up; and if we hope to restore our freedom we must share the truth with as many people as possible.”

At least those True Patriots willing to shell out $12 on or after May 13. Until then the patriots will just have to keep their gunpowder dry and hope they have enough freedom left to go see the movie once it comes out. It would be kind of funny if Obama and Moon launched Operation Jade Tukrguns on the 12th.

And now, for the really scary bit.

AMERIGEDDON is the first of a series of planned films and television projects to help protect the country’s freedoms.


Obama ’16!

[ 438 ] March 12, 2016 |


Yglesias is right. The 22nd Amendment is terrible and is preventing Democrats from nominating the only clear candidate for the presidency in 2016, President Barack Obama. Although I have my criticisms of the president, especially around education and trade, he is very, very, very good at his job. Easily the best president of my lifetime, Obama has learned, through hard lessons in the first three years of his presidency, just what the Republican Party is and how to fight them. He is very good at foreign policy, has learned that appointing the right people to key positions is the best way to make change in the country right now, and knows the limitations of his power.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is a Martha Coakley-level campaigner with a once-brilliant campaigner for a husband. My hesitation to get behind the Sanders campaign with as much fervor as pretty much every other socialist in the United States rests on two basic assumptions. The first is his competence to run the government. I still worry about that, but who can tell. The second is his ability to get elected instead of a right-wing extremist, which covers any of the Republican candidates. But I no longer see this as an issue because Hillary Clinton is utterly horrible at her job. The last two days have seen her amazingly stupid statement about the Reagans and AIDS, which is not only historically incorrect and offensive, but good lord, many gay men absolutely love Hillary! How could she get this wrong? And then you have her statement about the protests last night, which Shakezula eviscerated. I mean, how on earth does one run for the Democratic nomination in 2016, a nomination where your most important constituency are African-Americans, who in fact have come out for you in huge numbers, and this is your response?

The number of ways that Hillary Clinton is better than Barack Obama is zero. That includes on policy, messaging, and campaigning. How she is this incompetent floors me. I still have worries about Bernie Sanders, but he is simply a better campaigner than she is and better at messaging as well. I mean, this is some first-class Grade A trolling right here.

And while we are not electing a Hilarious Troll in Chief, this sort of thing motivates supporters and places complex issues in stark terms for voters. Hillary is not capable of any of this. That’s becoming blindingly obvious. And while I don’t think she would lose to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, I think Bernie Sanders’ odds are just as good at this point. We can worry about what happens with the governance in November. Barack Obama is still the best candidate imaginable, but since that’s not possible, Bernie Sanders is the best choice we have.

Hillary Clinton is Peyton Manning

[ 52 ] March 12, 2016 |


Or rather “Peyton Manning.”

Peyton Manning was a very bad quarterback last season. Not “not great,” not “mediocre,” but very bad. He was the worst starting QB in the league. The Broncos ended up winning the Super Bowl anyway, because they had an awesome defense, great special teams, Brock Osweiler, and a huge amount of luck in close games.

For most of the season, a lot of Denver fans were in various levels of denial about how a quarterback named Peyton Manning could be this bad, especially since the team was winning. If his name hadn’t been Manning, it would have been a lot more obvious that he was in fact terrible.

Hillary Clinton had better hope the metaphorical equivalent of Von Miller is on her side, because she’s not very good at this.

. . . and of course she does have the equivalent of the Denver defense on her side, in the form of both the significant structural advantage Democrats currently have in presidential elections, and in the fact that the GOP seems destined to run the equivalent of the Matt Millen-era Detroit Lions against her.

Which is all great, because she’s pretty bad at electoral politics.

Protesting Trump

[ 129 ] March 12, 2016 |


I thought this tweet summed up why the anti-Trump protests in Chicago had to happen and have to keep happening.

We are facing a real crisis in this country. That crisis is that a fascist is going to be the Republican nominee for president. Donald Trump is openly calling for violence against protestors. Sometimes sitting at home and worrying about the future of the nation while making sure you vote or even getting out the vote and working for a campaign is not enough to create political change or save our rights. Sometimes it takes direct action. The ACT UP comparison is apt, especially the day after Hillary Clinton idiotically lauded the Reagans on their actions concerning the AIDS crisis. This is a moment for direct action, as it was in the 1980s when thousands of people were left to die on the street because they were gay. There has been a lot of liberal hand-wringing over protesting the Trump events. But I have to ask those who oppose those protests, at what point do you stand up and act against fascism? When do we directly confront those who feel they have the license to beat or even kill protestors?

It’s not as if there aren’t legitimate reasons to worry about the implications of confronting Trump in this way. Won’t Trump supporters then do the same to Bernie or Hillary events? Maybe. And no doubt Trump will use his media savvy to take advantage of it, but that’s going to happen anyway. Will it turn off so many people that it somehow places Trump in the White House? No, I cannot imagine that happening. His supporters love him but everyone else in the nation hates him and that won’t change. Still, you never know.

But there are specific circumstances here that justify direct action, which I stated above. I don’t think I would support this kind of action against a Ted Cruz event. Say what you will about Cruz, and lord knows there’s plenty to say, he has not called for mob violence against those who oppose him. Trump has. Either that is confronted or it grows.

It’s quite likely that people will die in the course of this campaign. Between the masses of angry whites who carry guns and a candidate encouraging violence, for the first time since probably the 19th century, I expect to see murder during this campaign. These are the times in which we live. We can cower to it or we can confront it directly. Last night, the protestors in Chicago chose the latter. Good for them. I hope people continue confronting this great danger to the future of American democracy.

And of course:

I hate Illinois Nazis too. That’s why we have to protest them.

Dear H. Clinton

[ 86 ] March 12, 2016 |

I read your statement on the Trump rally that wasn’t.

I’m a little concerned that if a family member is murdered by a racist I will not be able to melt hearts in a statehouse and get a flag removed, which I didn’t know would be required of me, thanks for the heads up. (And do you perhaps mean the bond hearing that took place in a court house?)

As an aside, and perhaps this is not very gracious of me, but if nine black people have to be gunned down in a church by a non-uniformed racist and then their families have to behave in a way that causes [certain] people to clasp their hands before their breast and say “Aawww,” in order to get an traitor’s flag removed, that is not what I would call a victory.

However, to my question:

I don’t think I’d be able to melt hearts by methods that are currently viewed as acceptable. So could I use a flame thrower instead?

Alinsky in the broom cupboard with a giant papier-mâché puppet

[ 52 ] March 12, 2016 |

You will never in a million years guess the identity of one of the culprits behind last night’s Dump Trump protest in Chicago.

Need a hint?

You know, we’ve seen for seven years a president who often at times of crisis, has sought to divide us, sought to divide us on ethnic lines, on religious lines, on class lines. America’s better than this. We don’t have to tear each other apart.

Still can’t guess?

I mean, President Obama has spent the last eight years dividing Americans along haves and have-nots, along ethnic, racial lines, gender lines in order to win elections. I think this has gone to the next level here, and we’re seeing the consequences of it.

Rubio also believes some of the protesters were paid, so maybe he thinks Emperor General George Soros is involved as well.

Book Review: Alan Taylor: The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

[ 15 ] March 12, 2016 |

Alan Taylor’s Pulitzer Prize winning history of slavery in Virginia during the American Revolution and Early Republic is truly outstanding.

The American Revolution created a rhetoric of equality that contributed to emancipation in the North but in the South and especially in Virginia, where so many of the Founding Fathers originated, it created a society of white male freedom that deepened its tyranny over slaves. Abolition of primogeniture meant that younger heirs had increased property rights, which led to a greater division of property, usually of the human variety. Slave families were torn apart at much higher rates than before the Revolution and while some owners might try to avoid that, most did not care, justifying their actions by dehumanizing Africans as quasi-animals who did not really suffer.

Post-revolutionary Virginia society recommitted to slavery after brief discussions of manumissions and owners developed a bifurcated understanding of their slaves. Individually, they demeaned and condescended to them, thinking them largely harmless and feeling themselves secure. Owners could develop close relationships with slaves, including sexual relationships that would produce additional property for the master. Even something like friendships could develop, although entirely at the behest of the owner. On the other hand, owners expressed outright terror at the collective slave population, an internal enemy that at any moment would rise up and kill all whites. That fear grew every more salient after the success of the Haitian Revolution and the establishment of a nation out of a slave revolt. Even though Haiti and Virginia had very little in common, including that Haiti had very few whites while in much of Virginia the slave population wasn’t even a local majority, the fear of a slave revolt grew and grew. Yet Virginians argued that they could only be free if they enslaved Africans. Believing that the races could never live together in harmony (which to be fair was widely believed in the North as well), the choices for Virginians were slavery or the mass deportation of slaves. But with most of their capital wrapped up in slaves, emancipation and deportation schemes were politically dead on arrival, not to mention woefully underfunded even as proposals. Virginia would continue committing to slavery as the basis of white freedom.

Slaves themselves were ready to run at the first opportunity, if not revolt and kill their masters. Nothing motivated them more than the breakup of their families through sale or gift. After the Revolution, slave sales increased rapidly as debt-bound Virginian planters found a great market for their excess labor as the nation expanded to the west and invested in cotton. What war did was give them a chance to escape their hellish lives. That first happened in the American Revolution. But it would be the War of 1812 where thousands would take tremendous risks to save themselves and their families, often with astounding success.

The centerpiece of the book is the War of 1812. Taylor portrays the war as a true civil war “between kindred people sharing the same language and cultural heritage,” (184) a war not too different than the American Civil War of the 1860s in that regard. It was a civil war for the Irish immigrants that had fled to the United States to escape British rule but were then impressed on British ships, a near civil war between Federalist New England and the Jeffersonian South, and of course a civil war between the African and European population of the South. The British were disgusted by southerners, who they saw as huge hypocrites for wailing on about liberty while enslaving Africans. Said Captain William Stanhope Lowell of the Royal Navy:

Republicans are certainly the most cruel masters, and the greatest tyrants in the world towards their fellow men. They are urged by the most selfish motives to reduce every one to a level with, or even below themselves, and to grind and degrade those under them to the lowest stage of human wretchedness But American liberty consists in oppressing blacks beyond what other nations do, enacting laws to prevent their receiving instruction and working them worse than a donkey. (139-40)

During the war, the British Navy discovered as it sailed the Chesapeake and surrounding bays that luring slaves away from their masters was a good military strategy. The British knew where the support for the war was located and wanted to punish those Jeffersonians. The slaves could help them do that because they knew the waterways and terrain. But the slaves had a demand–the British had to help them rescue their families as well. While at first the British bemoaned this, they soon embraced it because black troops were so effective and because taking more slaves directly impacted the enemy. 3400 Virginia slaves fled to the British during the war and nearly every one of them experienced a better life than they had in slavery, even as they left friends and family behind. Taylor provides powerful stories throughout this section of how slaves freed themselves and then went back to free their families, or how they tried to free themselves and failed and were caught and punished. The British organized escaped slaves into the Colonial Marines, which proved an effective combat unit that gained a tremendous amount of respect from British officers, which were dealing with desertion problems from their Irish soldiers.

This doesn’t mean that the ex-slaves lived easy lives in the years after their freedom. They often faced intense discrimination, especially in Nova Scotia, where racist governors and populations resented their presence. But in Trinidad, where many of the Colonial Marines ended up, they flourished, even as locals worried about the influence of these ex-slaves on those still in bondage. Reports from the late 1810s noted the rapid progress made by the ex-slaves in creating economic self-sufficiency. Their problem of being primarily men and lacking partners was somewhat solved when the British started delivering women off intercepted slave ships in Trinidad to live with the Americans. Over time, a culturally distinctive people developed out of these communities. Moreover, they repeatedly asserted their rights and their freedom, often in letters to their ex-masters. Virginians tried to convince themselves that their slaves were duped and that their lives were better on the plantation, but this of course was totally rejected by the ex-slaves themselves.

So by the time of Nat Turner’s revolt in 1831, the Virginia slaveholders were already afraid of their own internal enemy, even as they repeatedly denied the problem in public to northerners. But in their letters to each other, they constantly worried about rebellion that would kill them all. Nat Turner of course was an anomaly, the only time in Virginia that a slave revolt had the explicit goal of massacring whites. Moreover, the inability of the nation to protect white Virginia’s human property during the war led Virginia politicians to develop a radical states-rights argument that manifested itself to frightening results during the Missouri statehood crisis in 1819. That was eventually put to rest with the Missouri Compromise, but of course reappeared ever more frequently until Virginia succeeded from the union in 1861.

Mostly I’ve run down Taylor’s story and argument, but I also want to stress the book’s readability. I have stated before that we are in a golden age of historical writing, with professional historians writing excellent texts for a general audience that tell tough stories. Count The Internal Enemy as another of those books. Taylor weaves a very strong narrative through focusing on a few leading white Virginian families, particularly that of St. George Tucker, and including the words of slaves whenever possible, which was often in their letters to Virginia after escape. Those letters survive because owners submitted them to the government for compensation when the British finally paid some money in the 1820s to get the U.S. to stop harassing it about the escaped slaves. It’s the kind of book you could give you dad if he likes to read about George Washington and you want to challenge him a little bit. It was a great choice for the Pulitzer. I highly recommend this book to all readers.

The Donald and the Siege of Chicago

[ 271 ] March 11, 2016 |


It strikes me that this kind of thing is likely to get worse before it gets better.

And the band played on

[ 301 ] March 11, 2016 |

“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation. When before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that too is something that I really appreciate with her very effective, low key advocacy but it penetrated the public conscious and people began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this too.'”

Via Dan Savage

Clinton has apologized for her remarkable amnesia on this topic:


[ 40 ] March 11, 2016 |


Five years today since the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent nuclear power plant disaster. Some links for this anniversary.

The power plant is still leaking radioactive substances into the ocean, although obviously at far lower rates than immediately after the quake.

The mixed international impact of the nuclear disaster, at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

We still lack basic answers to health and environmental questions around Fukushima’s impact.

A defense of nuclear, noting that no one directly died from Fukushima and that Japan is now replacing that nuclear power with coal. Here’s another, similar argument. I think these arguments are more than a little optimistic and ignore the mental health impact of those who had to move from their homes. Suicides need to be part of the death toll.

Building new nuclear plants is really risky and probably a poor idea.

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