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Should Obamacare be repealed?

[ 66 ] May 20, 2016 |

So read the subject line of an email that Paul Ryan sent me. Well, not me, but somebody who has a name awfully similar to mine. I was an early adopter of gmail, so I’m blessed (or cursed) with an email address that is basically, you know, my name. There are apparently a ton of other Brockingtons out there, unrelated to me, who accidentally use my email address instead of their own to sign up for stuff (or do it purposefully for whatever reason, which given that this happens often is probable in some instances). My favorite by far was the time when I was serving as a bridesmaid several years ago at some stateside wedding. I should have crashed it; I’d have looked pretty good in that dress.

The email from the Speaker of the House includes a “survey”, which I reproduce below. This reminded me of Ross Perot’s infamous TV Guide “survey” from the 1992 election. This isn’t the first time in this election cycle that I’ve received email from the GOP (virtually every campaign team in the primary race — aside from Trump’s, strangely enough — have emailed me mercilessly) and when I have the opportunity to screw with their propaganda data, I’ve done so.

“So sue me.”
— President Obama

Dxxxxx . . .  —

President Obama taunted conservatives when we expressed concern over his executive overreach. And when we sued him in federal court to protect the Constitution’s separation of powers, President Obama called it “a stunt.”

Now President Obama is eating his words.

Last Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Obamacare violates the Constitution by granting spending power to the Executive branch.

Daniel, I need to know if you stand with me in the fight to repeal Obamacare.

Should Obamacare be repealed?

ID: xxxxxx
ZIP CODE: XXXXX
RESPONSE:
 MISSING

The House represents you, the people. And if you want Obamacare repealed, it’s my obligation to you to make sure I do everything in my power to make that happen.

House Republicans need to hear from you immediately: should Obamacare be repealed?

Should Obamacare be repealed?

Yes

Thank you,

Speaker Paul Ryan

 

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Why Did #NeverTrump Fail?

[ 199 ] May 20, 2016 |

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For multiple reasons, but if you had to boil it down to two variables there would be 1)collective action problems and 2) the alternative candidates were lousy:

The persistence of coordination issues at this stage suggests a key facet of Republicans’ predicament. Failures in the nomination stage can be attributed to slow movement, incorrect interpretation of what the Iowa results meant for Rubio, and, later on, an overemphasis on being against Trump rather than for another candidate. But the overarching theme here is that bargaining has broken down because, in many cases, no one has anything that anyone else wants.

This is the principle that unifies several of the different coordination failures. First, elites’ inability to successfully signal to the voters that they were supposed to line up behind Jeb, then Rubio. Elites coordinated, and voters didn’t care, as one of my party politics students observed. Second, this helps explain the inability of candidates to coordinate to stop Trump.

[…]

You could probably pinpoint the start of the #NeverTrump movement as the publication of the National Review issue dedicated to declarations against the candidate. The NeverTrump folks really got going after Super Tuesday, when Trump swept the contests and Rubio had an especially disappointing night (sorry, Minnesota caucuses).

In a lot of ways, the #NeverTrump effort looked the most like a coordinated movement within the party of anything that happened in this nomination season. But it forgot something: a candidate. Rubio stayed in the race for two more weeks, and the elephant in the room (no, I will never tire of that pun) was that the polarizing and widely disliked Cruz was the most viable alternative. Furthermore, what did the NeverTrump movement have to offer potential supporters? What kinds of credible threats could it make?

More Planes!

[ 25 ] May 19, 2016 |
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Mitsubishi F-2, By Marine Cpl. Ashleigh Bryant. Public Domain

 

Some more ruminations about air forces at the Diplomat:

Let’s take the United States as a baseline (although the U.S. arrangement is one of the most unusual in the world, most people are familiar with the basic dynamics). As of December 2015, the United States operated 13,655 aircraft; 5,062 in the Air Force, 4,759 in the Army, 1,249 in the Marine Corps, and 2,585 in the Navy. Between the USAF, USMC, and USN, the United States flies 2,838 combat aircraft (fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft), constituting 21 percent of the total fleet. The rest of the U.S. air forces consist of helicopters and a wide array of support aircraft, including the transport and tanker aircraft necessary to deploying and maintaining vast overseas operations.

 

Different Nations Have Different Standards for Allowing Workers to Yawn–And That’s OK!

[ 79 ] May 19, 2016 |

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Above: More beneficiaries of free trade

As I posted about in January, Nike is no longer allowing the Workers Rights Consortium to monitor its Vietnam factory, ending its tradition of allowing for independent monitoring. The WRC has released a report evaluating the plant and it is not favorable to the company.

In the e-mail list sending out the report to supporters, this is the summary:

In spite of Nike’s refusal to assist the WRC, the organization has obtained initial findings through interviews with Hansae employees. These findings, described in further detail in the new report, are, frankly, quite damning. The labor rights violations—all violations of university codes of conduct—identified at the factory include:

Reckless management practices that endanger workers’ health, including extremely high production quotas, forced overtime, and insufficient rest breaks

Excessive heat on factory floors, which has led to many workers fainting from exhaustion at their work stations

Verbal harassment of workers, including yelling, swearing, and profane insults

Degrading restrictions on workers’ use of the factory’s toilets

Denial of legally-guaranteed sick leave

Firing of pregnant workers

Draconian and abusive restrictions such as forbidding workers from yawning

These findings are a stark contrast to Nike’s claim that the October strike was over a “miscommunication.” The gap between the reassuring portrait Nike has painted of this factory and the harsh reality revealed through worker interviews underscores the importance of independent monitors such as the WRC. Nike must be pressed to allow the WRC to conduct an onsite inspection of the factory so that its investigation can be complete and that our universities can obtain full knowledge of the working conditions at this collegiate supplier.

Forbidding workers from yawning. Let that sink in for a moment.

Clearly, we should defend globalization as a fundamentally just system making workers’ lives better! Why bother doing anything about the actual oppression of workers, like firing pregnant workers, banning workers from yawning, or having their factories collapse upon them? Different nations have different standards for yawning, and of course for factory safety, and that’s OK!

The Verizon Strike Continues

[ 23 ] May 19, 2016 |

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The Verizon strike continues without an end in sight.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam is baffled. Recently, he walked up to a picket line and told striking workers, “This makes no sense to anybody. To be honest, I’m not sure why you’re out here.”

Well, it makes sense to me. Let me explain why I’ve joined nearly 40,000 workers on strike from Massachusetts to Virginia.

For the past 16.5 years, I’ve worked as a Customer Service Representative at Verizon’s Customer Sales and Service office in Bloomsburg, PA. I take calls from customers and handle everything from setting up payment to transferring telephone service. I love my job. My mom is a Verizon retiree, and our family is proud to be part of the team that has made this company so successful.

Yet Verizon is treating us like nothing more than numbers on a spreadsheet. The company is planning to close our office and relocate us to Scranton without any consideration of the working families who have put down roots in Bloomsburg. That’s about 65 miles away, or a three to four hour commute every day.

That’s not only a lot of time in the car, but a lot of time away from my family. I have two stepsons, ages 11 and 15. I help them with homework every night, and you can find me cheering at every one of their swim meets and after-school events. Commuting to Scranton means I would be gone before the kids got up and maybe home for an hour before they go to bed — if I’m lucky. I already work a lot of overtime, as much as seven hours each week, because we’re so understaffed. Sometimes, Verizon asks us to work weekends.

I can’t simply pack up my entire life and move to Scranton. My husband and I have joint custody of our boys, which means we can’t just move them out of their school district. Given the choice between giving up custody and commuting, I’ll always choose commuting. We’re looking after my husband’s mother, who recently had open-heart surgery and can’t drive. My mother, who lives just a few miles from me, also needs our help getting to doctor appointments and the grocery store. This is what family does. We’re each other’s strength. We lean on and support one another.

Obviously none of those things matter to Verizon executives. Part of the issue is also outsourcing American jobs overseas, which Verizon is doing as fast as it can.

The two unions involved, the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, say they cannot accept Verizon proposals that would allow additional outsourcing of call center workers to the Philippines and Mexico, greater use of nonunion contractors, and the assignment of employees to other cities for up to two months at a time.

When one of the strike leaders went to the Philippines to visit one of the call centers, he found out real fast how intimidation and violence are used with overseas workers, a story the above link starts with. Of course, Verizon won’t take responsibility because they naturally enough use contractors instead of directly employ the Filipino workers. The strike is having some economic impact and Verizon stock prices are falling because of declining orders for its Fios product, directly related to the strike. This is a good thing. The Obama administration is now getting involved. Normally, federal interference worries me and it still does here, but I certainly have more faith in Tom Perez than any Secretary of Labor in my lifetime.

In any case, give the strikers a Solidarity Honk as you drive by, if nothing else.

As a Democrat, I Cannot Contain My Fear at This News

[ 107 ] May 19, 2016 |

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All Democrats are now quaking in their boots.

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Koch has pledged “tens of millions of dollars” to help bankroll the campaign of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, according to a source within Johnson’s campaign.

Koch’s money will be made available should Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, secure his second consecutive Libertarian Party presidential nomination, the source said.

The Libertarians will select their presidential ticket during the party’s national convention later this month in Orlando.

When asked about Koch’s eight-figure pledge to support Johnson, a source close to David Koch did not deny that such an agreement is in place.

It would be very, very, very sad if this was true. As a Democrat, I truly fear 5-10% of Trump’s vote being siphoned off in critical states.

Thursday Links: Now with Frogs!

[ 123 ] May 19, 2016 |

  • Matt Taibbi’s obituary for the Republican party–while I’m sure premature–is still must-read. “If this isn’t the end for the Republican Party, it’ll be a shame. They dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters. They bred in their voters the incredible attitude that Republicans were the only people within our borders who raised children, loved their country, died in battle or paid taxes. They even sullied the word “American” by insisting they were the only real ones. They preferred Lubbock to Paris, and their idea of an intellectual was Newt Gingrich. Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to Romney and Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates, all with the same haircut – the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.”

     

  • Lindy West on trolls and body positivity.
  • This photographer takes amazing photos of “lost frogs.”
  • I’ve been meaning to write a post about the term “friendzone” and how much I hate it because it’s dumb and fictional. But some meanie on twitter beat me to it. Please check out this thread.
  • Here’s my latest piece, “Metamorphosis.”

A Strawman Appropriately Repurposed

[ 191 ] May 19, 2016 |

strawman

Ross Douthat finds the “smug style of American liberalism” guff news he can use:

THE rise of Donald Trump, and with him a white-identity politics more explicit than anything America has seen in decades, has created an interesting division on the political left — over the question of what, if anything, liberal politics ought to offer to people who seem bigoted.

On the one hand there are liberals determined to regard Trumpism as almost exclusively motivated by racial and cultural resentments, with few legitimate economic grievances complicating the morality play. From this perspective, the fact that Trump’s G.O.P. has finally consolidated, say, a once-Democratic area like Appalachia is almost a welcome relief: At last all the white racists are safely in the other party, and we don’t have to cater to them anymore.

On the other hand, there are left-wingers who regard Trump’s support among erstwhile Democrats as a sign that liberalism has badly failed some of its natural constituents, and who fear that a Democratic coalition that easily crushes Trump without much white working-class support will simply write off their struggles as no more than the backward and bigoted deserve.

I like how the left-wing gadfly Fredrik deBoer framed this issue: “What do you owe to people who are guilty of being wrong?” It’s a question for liberals all across the Western world to ponder, given the widening gulf between their increasingly cosmopolitan parties and an increasingly right-leaning native working class.

He definitely gets where deBoer and Rensin are coming from. And between the three of them, they have collectively identified zero liberals who share the set of beliefs (“white working class Trump voters have no legitimate economic grievances and we should not try to help them materially”) attributed to them.

I won’t repeat my previous arguments about this in full, but to summarize: nobody (well, not literally, it’s a big internet and I’m sure someone in a comments section somewhere is saying something dumb, not nobody of any influence) is saying that because racism a major factor in Trump’s support that federal economic policy should not try to help Trump voters. The argument is against the pundit’s fallacy that if you materially help the kind of working class voters in states like West Virginia that now support Trump and Republicans for federal office they will immediately start voting for liberal Democrats for federal office. But, of course, the fact that (for example) greatly expanding Medicaid hasn’t helped Democrats even in the red states that have taken the expansion like Kentucky doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, and I defy you to name me one liberal Democrat who thinks otherwise.

In addition, although people like Rensin and deBoer can’t see it because this is more about their hatred of liberals than any kind of serious political analysis, the fact that white supremacy constitutes a factor (not a monocausal factor, but a factor) in explaining white working class support for Trump is also a powerful argument against 90s-era DLC gestures to the right, which didn’t stop West Virginia and Kentucky and Tennessee from going deep red either. To the best of their ability, Democrats in federal office should strengthen the safety net and expand access to health care and expand labor protections and increase regulation of business where necessary because it’s the right thing to do. Doing so doesn’t guarantee electoral victories, but not doing it doesn’t guarantee electoral success either.

One other example in the liberals=neoliberals=conservatives trend that I hope will not persist in the same volume after the primaries are over:

As Bouie says, it’s an impressively layered strawman — pretend to believe that racism is about individual morality rather than structural inequality, so that you can falsely attribute to left-liberals a belief that if working class voters have racist beliefs the government shouldn’t do anything for them. As an alternative, one could argue with actually existing liberal arguments, but I guess that would be too much work.

11 White Reactionaries

[ 72 ] May 19, 2016 |

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If you like Sam Alito, you’ll love who Donald Trump would nominate to the Supreme Court. In conclusion, not a dime’s worth of difference!

Pat McCrory Seems Nice

[ 119 ] May 19, 2016 |

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North Carolina governor Pat McCrory’s embarrassing signature of the state’s transgender bathroom law is fitting for a man who has hated gay people his whole public life.

McCrory has rejected LGBT anti-discrimination measures every chance he’s had in his 25 years in public office. He voted down a Charlotte ordinance in 1991 as a city council member, opposed another one in 2004 as the city’s mayor, and now, as governor, he just made it illegal for localities to pass these kinds of protections.

“We have laws in our Constitution which forbid discrimination based on race, gender and religion,” McCrory said after opposing the 1991 measure. “Beyond that, no other group should be given special status, and this community is often wanting special status.”

He had a chance in 2014 to offer protections to LGBT government workers, when he signed an executive order barring discrimination against state employees. But he specifically left them out, keeping the order limited to discrimination based on “race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age disability and genetic information.”

He hasn’t just opposed anti-discrimination measures. As the mayor of Charlotte, a post he held from 1995 to 2009, McCrory defended a local YMCA for rejecting a gay man’s application for membership. The club turned away local resident Tom Landry in 2006 when he tried to join with his partner and son. Landry wrote to McCrory about it, and he wrote back, “Thank for letting me know about your situation in trying to secure a membership at the YMCA. The YMCA has every right to set their membership criteria, but as you found, Charlotte has many options for health club memberships, including the Jewish Community Center.”

McCrory was also no fan of the Charlotte Gay Pride Festival. As the city’s mayor in 2005, he said it wasn’t appropriate to have the parade in a public place. He suggested the LGBT celebration “belongs in a hotel.” That same year, he refused to write a welcome letter to leaders of the Human Rights Campaign when they hosted a large dinner in Charlotte. He said later that he had the right “not to show any visible support” for the LGBT rights group.

The governor has even gone after local theater productions. In 1996, as mayor, he pressured the Charlotte Repertory Theatre to tone down the nudity and gay themes in its production of “Angels in America,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the AIDS crisis. “The Pulitzer Prize does not give you license to break the law,” McCrory said at the time. The theater had to obtain a court injunction to continue with its show.

Wendy’s Boycott

[ 130 ] May 18, 2016 |

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On the issue of consumer boycotts, the general rule should be that if affected workers are calling for it, then it’s something we should support (the UFW grape boycott) and if it’s consumers calling for it without consulting the workers, we should probably find out what the workers think about it first (people saying we shouldn’t buy clothes from Bangladesh when the workers there say that doesn’t help them). So therefore I endorse the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ call for a boycott against Wendy’s, the only one of the 5 largest fast food chains not to sign on to the CIW’s Fair Food Program and a chain that has switched to incredibly exploitative tomato suppliers in Mexico after that program was implemented throughout Florida. The CIW has done this once before, a successful boycott that forced Taco Bell to join the program and set off the rush of all the other big fast food companies except Wendy’s also agreeing.

The CIW recently picked up a major endorsement of its Wendy’s boycott from the Presbyterian Church, which was also a critical supporter in the Taco Bell fight.

But the church’s support for the Fair Food movement extends well beyond the Wendy’s campaign. Indeed, the PC(USA) was among the first to endorse the Taco Bell boycott back in 2002, far before the Coalition had won agreements with now 14 corporations and before those agreements had made possible the implementation of the Fair Food Program. The church’s unwavering support was catalytic, generating endorsements from many other religious denominations for the boycott over the years and dramatically expanding the base of committed consumers. With its Louisville headquarters just across town from those of Taco Bell parent company Yum! Brands, the PC(USA) engaged executives, hosted massive rallies, animated and mobilized thousands of its members, and its representatives served as a guarantor of the CIW talks of that led to the first-ever Fair Food agreement in 2005.

By answering farmworkers’ invitation to work in partnership, the PC(USA) played a crucial role in the realization of the simple — but then seemingly improbable — vision cast by farmworkers: an agricultural industry free from abuse and exploitation. Fourteen years and fourteen agreements with corporations later, the farmworker-designed Fair Food Program is transforming the day-to-day working conditions of tens of thousands of farmworkers — not only here in Florida tomato fields, where the Program began, but now also in Florida strawberries and in six northern states.

“For so many years the PC(USA) has acted with fortitude and love in the Campaign– standing with us through thick and thin, speaking out consistently and courageously, and matching their words with deeds,” said CIW’s Gerardo Reyes Chavez. “Together, we know that it is not a matter of if Wendy’s will join the Fair Food Program, it is only a matter of when. And with the church’s support, we hasten the inevitability of that day.”

And unlike many other boycotts, Wendy’s actually is the only fast food chain I ever eat at, when I am on the road and need a fast meal. So this one actually is going to force me to find other options. Not McDonald’s though. Because really, who likes a burger that tastes like nothing?

Trump’s True Base

[ 136 ] May 18, 2016 |

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Interesting Jacobin essay on Trump’s real base of support:

What does it mean that Trump has done well among middle-income and higher-income voters but not the most-educated? This suggests that his real base of support is small-business owners, supervisory and middle-management employees, franchisees, landlords, real estate agents, propertied farmers, and so on: those who are not at the executive pinnacle of corporate America (who largely have MBAs and other similar degrees) and those who are not credentialed professionals (doctors, lawyers, and the like), but the much wider swath of those people whose livelihood is derived from independent business activity or middle-band positions in the corporate hierarchy.

This corresponds, of course, to the classic scenario in which the petty bourgeois — the middle class whose ownership of small parcels of property does not protect them from vulnerability in the business cycle and the need to exact self-exploitation — experience worry and insecurity following a financial crisis and economic slump, making them receptive to right-wing authoritarian solutions and scapegoating of ethnic-racial minorities.

The presumptive Republican nominee is running into flak from his party’s own leadership, particularly the powerful Chamber of Commerce faction represented by Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan which seeks to bring him to heel on trade and immigration. These tensions are likely to be papered over, perhaps by backroom assurances by Trump that it’s all for show, but they are reminiscent of the classic tensions between big and petty bourgeois — or, in American terminology, big and small business — in central European politics during the worldwide slump of the 1930s.

Although he resists releasing his tax returns, most likely because they might show his wealth to be less than claimed, Trump offers “art of the deal” business savvy as his answer to capitalism’s problems.

A malfunctioning bourgeois politics can be solved, this projects, by a billionaire megalomaniac who will suspend his class’s self-interest because he cannot be bought, a scenario particularly attractive to a small-business mentality that resents taxes, minimum wages, and “red tape” and seeks someone who knows “the real world.” Those who have run their own little domains are prone to seek answers in a strong leader.

The great shock of 2008 left a punctuation mark in popular psychology. A less-than-persuasive economic recovery and lower rates of unemployment have not altered a situation in which most of the population feels itself to be scraping by, still fears business failure or the scythe of unemployment, is uncertain about retirement, groans under student and consumer debt, and waxes pessimistic about their children’s prospects. The entire population apart from the super-rich top one percent has suffered flat or declining incomes across four decades.

Such conditions breed not only anxiety but resentment, explaining the appeal of Trump’s bellowing about Mexicans and Muslims. The significance of this development is not to be minimized. Not since the campaigns more than four decades ago of George Wallace, the Alabama segregationist, has such naked bigotry attracted such mass support in American presidential politics. Then it was a desperate, declining revanchism. Now its popularity is fresh and gaining.

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