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The List That Destroyed America

[ 277 ] May 13, 2015 |

Freddie de Boer’s new piece seems to be getting a lot of attention. What I see is a pretty familiar argument with some familiar problems.

To start with a point of agreement, it is very bad and very stupid to compare critics of Obama’s position on TPP to Emmett Till’s lynchers. The problem is assuming that this random guy is representative of anything. Drawing broad conclusions from the dumb tweets of someone who formerly held a leadership position in the Sacramento Democratic party makes about as much sense as generalizing about “the left” based on Salon letter-writers or the “St. Petersburg Democratic Club.” (Or, to pick another entirely random example, asserting that all liberals really support torture because Alan Dershowitz.) If you find yourself using rhetorical techniques beloved by Glenn Reynolds, it may be time for some re-evaluation.

The basic idea here, which we’ve seen before, is to conflate various objections to Freddie’s arguments so he only has to engage with the weakest one. The idea that Democrats shouldn’t be criticized is, indeed, very dumb. Not very common, but dumb, and if you see the assistant treasurer of the Des Moines Young Democrats saying it feel free to call it out if it floats your boat. The idea that there’s no real difference between Republicans and Democrats because Democrats are bad on issue x, however, is much more problematic. The idea that vote-splitting on the left is a sound tactic for pushing Democrats to the left is equally bad. Pretending that all of the disagreement is over point one conveniently relieves from having to defend the indefensible, i.e. points two and three. And, sorry, noting the fact that the most disadvantaged bear the brunt of the large differences between having Democrats and Republicans in charge of the federal government is fair game.

This is all familiar territory. Much odder is the attack on The Toast, a site as consistently smart and funny as anything on the intarwebs. Freddie alleges that it is “a website that has taken maximum advantage of this Teflon aspect of progressive argument.” I’m not entirely sure what this means, and again the evidence is threadbare. At issue is a quick list by Nicole Cliffe. Now, no writer bats 1.000 (including, God knows, this one), and just for myself I didn’t find it particularly funny. But using it as some kind of culture war totem is hilariously overwrought. In particular, one might want to look at the second tag, although it shouldn’t even be necessary. The list isn’t an attack on the books in question or on white men; it’s observational humor, a form of humor that depends on generalizations. Freddie might also want to consider the fact that many commenters praised in not because they feel pressure from the P.C. police but because they thought it was funny — what humor hits you where you live is going to, you know, vary. Obviously, not everything that Mallory Ortberg writes is pure gold — although there are very few writers with a higher success ratio — but one can disagree that “she’s in a ‘Radiohead recording themselves farting into a paper bag’ rut” without believing that she Should Not Be Criticized. Freddie, alas, is too busy preemptively asserting that nobody (who?) will allow him to criticize Ortberg to cite a single objectionable thing she’s written, let alone explaining why he finds it objectionable.

To return to another point of agreement, I agree that “[o]ne-liners don’t build a movement. Being clever doesn’t fix the world. Scoring points on Twitter doesn’t create justice. Jokes make nothing happen.” After reading all of the preceding paragraphs, however, I’m not sure who does believe this. What I am sure is that editors of The Toast “challenging their readers” in some unspecified way will not fix the world or create justice or make anything happen either, so they should probably keep doing what they’re doing.

Organizing the Silicon Valley

[ 33 ] May 13, 2015 |

Labor has made some positive gains recently in organizing the working-class employees of the Silicon Valley. But what’s really interesting here is the aggressive attitude of labor:

The state’s labor movement has been “very good at being the opposite of Wisconsin,” Paulson said. Unions have traditionally been strong in Wisconsin, but over the past few years a state government has dealt a series of crushing blows to the labor movement, including passing a law restricting collective bargaining for public employees and a law that bans union shops. Labor in California has remained strong enough to make such attacks unlikely, but Paulson said he and others in the movement have tired of focusing so much on simply avoiding disaster.

“Over the last few years, some of us have just said, fuck that,” Paulson told Al Jazeera. “Let’s do what we want to do to fight for workers. And so the state federation of labor in particular decided that we are going to put our resources into organizing. Into real organizing, that is going to result in a collective bargaining agreement at some time or another, and people being in a labor union, and officially having a voice at work.”

The California Labor Federation selected three particular campaigns on which to combine resources: The SEIU-USWW drive to organize Silicon Valley security officers, as well as a UFCW-backed campaign to organize workers at Walmart and a similar Teamster-driven campaign at food processing plants in California’s Central Valley. Every union in the federation is expected to contribute something to those three campaigns, regardless of whether the campaigns have anything to do with their immediate interests, Paulson said.

“Even school employees, we’re going to send them to the Walmart campaign,” he said. “We’re going to send them to food processing and help the Teamsters out in Central Valley. All of us central labor councils, we’ll organize civil disobedience and actions outside of Google and Apple in order to reinforce organizing for security officers.”

After the security officers campaign began to pick up supporters and public attention, the labor movement started throwing itself behind other organizing drives in the Silicon Valley area, according to SEIU-USWW organizing director Sanjay Garla. The most prominent of those campaigns is the Teamsters’ effort to unionize shuttle drivers — but, Garla said, “there’s a lot of talk about how food-service workers are also part of this fight.”

“Everyone sat down and said, ‘How do we back up these security officers that are going up against these major giants?’” he said. “It was really about supporting the security officers, and it’s turning into something more.”

Cajoling all the unions into contributing something for organizing is a good idea and being aggressive is a great one. There can be good reasons to play defense, but labor also must press its advantages where possible. And if it isn’t possible in California, it isn’t possible anywhere.

Arctic Drilling

[ 17 ] May 13, 2015 |

oiled-cormorant-rocky-oiled-shore_exxon-valdez-oil-spill-trustee-council_0

I am extremely disappointed that President Obama and Interior Secretary Jewell decided to open up Arctic oil drilling. Certain environmental conditions are supposed to be met, but as we all know too well, the oil industry is inherently dangerous and terrible accidents occur all the time (Exxon Valdez, BP disaster, Santa Barbara spill of 1969, etc., etc.). That the administration has granted these rights to Shell is even worse given that company’s awful record:

When the Obama administration announced on Monday that it would let Shell drill for oil off the Alaskan coast this year if it met certain conditions, environmentalists were outraged — not just by the administration’s decision to allow drilling, but by its decision to give Shell, in particular, the green light.

They said that the company’s track record in the Arctic should rule out another chance for it. Shell tried to drill in the Arctic in 2012, and the company’s multibillion-dollar drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground. The operator of a drill ship hired by Shell also pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay $12.2 million over shoddy record-keeping that covered up hazardous conditions and jury-rigged equipment that discharged polluted water.

“Shell has already proven itself not up to the challenge of development in the Arctic Ocean,” said Franz Matzner, the director of the Beyond Oil Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But it’s not just Shell. The fact is, there’s no safe way to pursue oil exploration in the frozen wastes of the Arctic Ocean.”

He added, “This is an inexplicable decision to do something that is dirty, dangerous and unnecessary.”

Shell, Europe’s leading oil company, has spent about $7 billion in the Alaskan Arctic over the last decade, and drilled two shallow wells during the 2012 attempt.

But the federal government did not allow the company to reach the deeper oil-bearing formations because the containment dome designed to cap a runaway well had been destroyed in testing.

Shell executives said they had shaken up their Alaska team, putting in new management that would emphasize better management of contractors, readiness for any problems and contingency plans to care for any accidents.

Trust us, we know what we’re doing! Don’t pay attention to our long and terrible history!

Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast: Age of Ultron with SEK, Kendra James, and Arturo Garcia

[ 12 ] May 13, 2015 |
Cropped so you can't see that he's totally flipping yout the fuck off

Cropped so you can’t see that he’s totally flipping yout the fuck off

I apologize for the background noise, but Kendra was in New York City and, it turns out, New Yorkers are very, very loud.

And the Game of Thrones podcast is on the way — as is one about Daredevil. I apologize for the delay, I’m only very behind on everything at the moment.

Bad Arguments

[ 48 ] May 13, 2015 |

james-l-stanfield-portrait-of-the-shah-of-iran-taken-during-coronation-ceremonies-gulistan-palace-tehran-iran

In the world of libertarian economists, Bryan Caplan really isn’t the worst, but arguing that the Shah was “strong on civil liberties” is about the dumbest thing one can possibly say about the history of Iran.

Strong on civil liberties, weak on economic liberties – it almost seems like American liberals should have liked the Shah.

Herpty derpty. What did actual Iranians say about the Shah’s glorious civil liberties? From a 1979 piece written by Iranians in the Harvard Crimson:

SAVAK conducted most of the torture, under the friendly guidance of the CIA. which set up SAVAK in 1957 and taught them how to interrogate suspects. Amnesty International reports methods of torture that included “whipping and beating, electric shocks, extraction of teeth and nails, boiling water pumped into the rectum, heavy weights hung on the testicles, tying the prisoner to a metal table heated to a white heat, inserting a broken bottle into the anus, and rape.”

From Muhammad Sahimi:

The Shah’s regime responded violently in kind, establishing the infamous Joint Committee to Fight Terrorism, which was headed by Sabeti in practice, though it always had a military officer as its figurehead chief. “By 1970,” writes Dr. Abbas Milani in The Persian Sphinx, Sabeti’s “power permeated all facets of Iranian life.” Torture, beatings, show trials in military courts, executions, and even extra-judicial killings were all normal modes of operation for the SAVAK and the Committee. For example, Mehdi Rezaei, an MKO member, was arrested in April 1972 and executed that September at the age of 20, after enduring horrific torture. Ali Asghar Badizadegan, one of the MKO’s founders, was forced into an electric oven according to his comrade Lotfollah Meysami. He was burned so badly that he became paralyzed, and the SAVAK refused to turn over his body after he was executed in May 1972. As Ali Gheissari writes in Iranian Intellectuals in the Twentieth Century, under Sabeti the Committee was also “responsible for the arbitrary detention, interrogation, and torture of many university students during that period.”

Two classmates of mine, Mohammad Ali Bagheri, a pious Muslim, and Hamid Arian, a secular leftist, were lost to the political violence of the era. We were all students at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tehran, having been admitted in 1972 after passing the national entrance examination, or concours. Bagheri was executed by the regime, while Arian was killed in an armed clash with the SAVAK. Four other good young men that I personally knew, all secular leftists, who were a year or two ahead of me in the engineering department, were also killed: Mahmoud Vahidi and Saeed Kord were poisoned in the notorious Evin Prison, while Mansoor Farshidi and Mahmoud Namazi were killed in an armed clash. Numerous other students, including many friends in the engineering department, were imprisoned, beaten, and given long jail sentences.

To comprehend the atmosphere of terror that dominated the political arena at that time, consider the following. The house of a student friend of mine was raided by the SAVAK, and an engineering book was found there that he had borrowed from the engineering department library. In those days, the borrower’s name would be written on a card attached to the back of the book. One of the students who had previously borrowed the book was Nastaran Al-e Agha, an engineering student and a major figure in the Fadaian who was killed on June 22, 1976, in an armed confrontation with the SAVAK. Because the book had been borrowed previously by Al-e Agha, my friend was held in jail for months, just to make sure that there was no connection between the two. Such was the state of terror in the days when Sabeti was at the helm of the Committee and the leading figure in the conflict between the opposition and the Pahlavi regime. His name was identified with a host of brutal acts. He would appear on national television and talk about what had happened every time the regime declared a “victory” against the opposition, and in particular the “terrorist” MKO and Fadaian.

From Darius Rejali:

I remember one distinguished expert who reviewed my work said,
basically, how can Rejali say torture is part of modernity? If that was
true, America would torture too. It really was amazing, in retrospect,
how willfully blind people wanted to be. I grew up in Iran at a time
when the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK, did not hesitate torturing
Islamic and Marxist insurgents. No one thought torture was something
incompatible with cars, fast food, washing machines and other parts of
modern life. I remember talking to a high-ranking SAVAK officer years
after the Shah was gone, and he certainly felt he played an important
role in modernization. It wasn’t the last time I’ve heard torturers say
how important they are in making their country safe for economic
opportunity.

Another point: Everyone forgets that the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979
was the revolution against torture. When the Shah criticized Khomayni as
a blackrobed Islamic medieval throwback, Khomayni replied, look who is
talking, the man who tortures. This was powerful rhetoric for
recruiting people, then as it is now. People joined the revolutionary
opposition because of the Shah’s brutality, and they remembered who
installed him. If anyone wants to know why Iranians hated the US so,
all they have to do is ask what America’s role was in promoting torture
in Iran. Torture not only shaped the revolution, it was the factor that
has deeply poisoned the relationship of Iran with the West. So why trust
the West again? And the Iranian leadership doesn’t.

So right, strong on civil liberties.

The Tory War on Unions and Mathematical Hypocrisy

[ 6 ] May 13, 2015 |

256px-Quintin_Hogg,_Baron_Hailsham_Allan_WarrenThe Conservatives here in the United Kingdom have taken several pages from the Republican Party playbook.  Following an election campaign predicated on fear, they’ve broken the shackles that the Liberal Democrats allegedly constrained them with and are now free to enact their agenda unfettered.

One of the first items is to enact legal hurdles to industrial action.  Instead of a majority of those submitting ballots for a strike action, “a strike affecting essential public services will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members under government plans” with a minimum 50% turnout. To quote the new Business Secretary, Sajid Javid:

We’ve seen, including in the last five years, strike action that took place where perhaps only 10% to 15% of the members of that profession actually voted for it, and that’s not right, it’s unfair, especially when it comes to essential public services.

This is pretty rich considering the Conservatives translated 36.9% of the vote into an absolute majority of the seats in the House of Commons, thus achieving (for the time being) an elective dictatorship in the inimitable words of Lord Hailsham (pictured). Yet, this was based on a turnout of 66.1%.

In other words, the Conservative government has derived its mandate from a mere 24.3% of the eligible electorate.

Again, our Business Secretary:

By increasing the thresholds it will certainly increase the hurdles that need to be crossed, but that’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do.

Uh huh.

The TPP Revolt

[ 53 ] May 12, 2015 |

Warren, Wyden et al. win round one:

In a stern rebuke to President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats rebelled against his trade initiative on Tuesday afternoon and voted against even opening debate on the bill.

Democrats have demanded additional worker protections before they would consider voting to approve fast-track trade powers for the president. Shortly ahead of the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the demands, insisting he would not make any guarantees beyond a vote on the fast-track bill.

The ensuing Democratic filibuster sank the legislation on the Senate floor, 52-45, with 60 needed to pass. Trade proponents in both parties vowed to try to put the pieces back together, but with little more than a week before a Memorial Day recess and several expiring laws still to be addressed, the immediate future of Obama’s trade agenda is uncertain.

Plainly, Obama could have had fast-track — senators have no independent interests or ideological views — but he didn’t. even. try.

Mark Bauerlein responds to his critics…

[ 175 ] May 12, 2015 |

including some fool name “Loomis” or something that doesn’t even sound like a real name.

“Keep reading McCulloch till you understand it”: Why Wickard Was Obviously Correct

[ 107 ] May 12, 2015 |

Wheat_harvest

In comments yesterday, we heard familiar arguments that Wickard v. Filburn was wrongly decided.  But it wasn’t, and attempting to place restrictions based on the federal commerce power based on the arguments raised in Wickard would be a incoherent fiasco, just like all previous attempts to arbitrarily limit the commerce power were.

The facts of Wickard are straightforward:

The appellee for many years past has owned and operated a small farm in Montgomery County, Ohio, maintaining a herd of dairy cattle, selling milk, raising poultry, and selling poultry and eggs. It has been his practice to raise a small acreage of winter wheat, sown in the Fall and harvested in the following July; to sell a portion of the crop; to feed part to poultry and livestock on the farm, some of which is sold; to use some in making flour for home consumption, and to keep the rest for the following seeding. The intended disposition of the crop here involved has not been expressly stated.

In July of 1940, pursuant to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, as then amended, there were established for the appellee’s 1941 crop a wheat acreage allotment of 11.1 acres and a normal yield of 20.1 bushels of wheat an acre. He was given notice of such allotment in July of 1940, before the Fall planting of his 1941 crop of wheat, and again in July of 1941, before it was harvested. He sowed, however, 23 acres, and harvested from his 11.9 acres of excess acreage 239 bushels, which, under the terms of the Act as amended on May 26, 1941, constituted farm marketing excess, subject to a penalty of 49 cents a bushel, or $117.11 in all. The appellee has not paid the penalty, and he has not postponed or avoided it by storing the excess under regulations of the Secretary of Agriculture, or by delivering it up to the Secretary. The Committee, therefore, refused him a marketing card, which was, under the terms of Regulations promulgated by the Secretary, necessary to protect a buyer from liability to the penalty and upon its protecting lien.

For the reasons I stated yesterday, this is really an easy case. The wheat market created collective action problems in an insterstate commodity market. Article I explicitly empowers Congress to address these problems. Quotas on wheat production are a reasonable means of addressing these problems. The act is therefore constitutional as applied to this case.

Critics of Wickard miss the boat because they come to the case as if it is an individual rights cases rather than a case about the scope of governmental power. (It’s not a coincidence that most critics of Wickard tend to oppose federal regulation of the economy; it’s also not a coincidence that Filburn also brought a Fifth Amendment claim. Most of these federalism cases are just libertarian economic arguments in thin disguise.) They focus on whether Filburn, when he grew some winter wheat he intended to consume himself (and some of which he sold, free riding on federal regulations he refused to abide by, and some of which he fed to his commercial livestock), was engaged in interstate commerce at this precise moment. But that’s not the right question. The right question is whether wheat quotas are a reasonable part of a program to regulate an interstate market. They are, and that ends the case in the government’s favor. The federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and it has the powers necessary and proper to regulate interstate commerce. The claim that plenary federal powers to regulate an interstate market cannot be applied to individual cases necessary to make the regulation effective is nonsensical. As Jackson put it, “even if appellee’s activity be local, and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect.'”

At this point, opponents of Wickard will turn to the slippery slope: “I can see the day coming when even your home garden is gonna be against the law!” But Wickard does not actually create an absolutely unlimited federal police power; Lopez did not overrule Wickard. Could Congress apply quotas to a small, noncommercial home garden? Maybe — if it could show that such a regulation was reasonably related to a broader regulatory scheme. Wickard doesn’t tell us, because the quotas were applied to commercial farms and Filburn was a commercial farmer. There’s not really much point in considering whether Congress can apply quotas to small noncommercial home gardens growing legal products, because 1)it’s not going to do this, and 2)in any extraordinary hypothetical circumstance where it would do this it’s likely that the regulation would be justified by a reasonable relationship to a broader regulation of interstate markets.

The slippery slope most certainly does go the other way, however. If the criticisms of Wickard sounds familiar, it’s because they’re exactly like the arguments used to assert that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. “People who do not buy health insurance are not, in doing so, engaged in interstate commerce.” And it’s true! True — and completely irrelevant. The health insurance exchanges are a concededly valid regulation of interstate commerce. Guaranteed issue without a mandate would cause the exchanges to fail. Therefore, the mandate is constitutional even though it does not directly regulate interstate commerce. Article I gives the federal government the powers reasonably thought to be necessary to address problems of interstate commerce. Wickard was correct; the Court’s holding on the mandate in Sebelius was wrong.

And the problems (if you’re not a libertarian, I mean) with the arguments made by Wickard critics don’t end there, and that goes double if you think that it would exceed the commerce power for the federal government to regulate abortion clinics. Having to show that every business was engaged in interstate commerce before occupational health and safety or environmental regulations could be applied would be a disaster. Forcing the federal government to, at a minimum, show that a business was more like Heart of Atlanta and less like McClung before civil rights laws apply would be a disaster. For most Wickard critics, of course, these outcomes would be features, not bugs. But there are a few liberals who would be happy to go down this conservertarian rabbit hole because medical marijuana in California. Thankfully, Stevens et al. were much smarter than that.

I will conclude by turning things over to Akhil Amar:

The most important limit, the one we fought the Revolutionary War for, is that the people doing this to you are the people you elect. That’s the main check. The broccoli argument is like something they said when we were debating the income tax: If they can tax me, they can tax me at 100 percent! And yes, they can. But they won’t. Because you could vote them out of office. They have the power to do all sorts of ridiculous things that they won’t do because you’d vote them out of office. If they can prevent me from growing pot, can they prevent me from buying broccoli? Perhaps, but why would they if they want to be reelected? So if you ask me what the limits are, I’d say read McCulloch vs. Maryland. And reread it. And keep reading it till you understand it. The Constitution is a practical document, it’s designed to work. And the powers are designed to be flexible in order to achieve the aims of the document.

Lawyers Guns & Money: A beer review

[ 38 ] May 12, 2015 |

beer

Awhile back, Erik discovered the existence of a new “barley wine” style beer (whatever that is) named Lawyers, Guns & Money. A request to the manufacturers to provide LGM’s key personnel with free gifts in the form of samples, or risk facing a potentially devastating trademark infringement suit, went nowhere, after someone who shall remain nameless printed out this carefully crafted demand letter on the back of a recycled piece of paper, the front of which turned out to be a letter dated May 31, 1990, addressed to Tim Raines and asking for his autograph.

A subsequent grant application to the Robert Wood Johnson foundation also failed to bear fruit. Last night, one member of the LGM team decided to take unilateral action. After setting up base camp at the Whole Foods Hot Bar at Pearl and 28th in Boulder (demographers have tentatively identified this spot as the single whitest place on Earth), this blogger set out with a party of Sherpas to a nearby liquor store, where according to unconfirmed reports the heretofore legendary beverage could be found.

After setting our pitons, we rappelled, guttered, and philosophized our way to the craft brew aisle. A final assault on the Colorado section proved successful, and we purchased (on sale no less: $10.99 for a four-pack of 12-oz. cans) the heretofore obscure object of desire.

Review: Very good, although perhaps a touch overpriced. 10% ABV is obviously a bonus.

Let’s Get Back to the Good Olde Days, When White Men Were Chosen Entirely on Merit

[ 89 ] May 12, 2015 |

Raging_Abe_Simpson_and_His_Grumbling_Grandson_in_The_Curse_of_the_Flying_Hellfish001

You may remember Joseph Epstein as the purveyor of right-wing identity politics for people who consider Roger Kimball too nuanced and unrepetitive. You may also be aware of the conservative idea that there is only one objective standpoint, that of the white heterosexual straight male. So it may not surprise you to know that Epstein is the man to distill the latter idea into 180-proof self-parody:

Now have we come to the point where we elect presidents of the United States not on their intrinsic qualities but because of the accidents of their birth: because they are black, or women, or, one day doubtless, gay, or disabled—not, in other words, for themselves but for the causes they seem to embody or represent, for their status as members of a victim group?

This is the kind of thing that doesn’t really require refutation. Ditto his whining about the fact that people have the temerity to criticize an essay in which he wrote that “I have said that I think homosexuals curse, and I am afraid I mean this quite literally, in the medieval sense of having been struck by an unexplained injury, an extreme piece of evil luck, whose origin is so unclear as to be, finally, a mystery.” (It should go without saying that the essay is also larded with sub-Allan Bloom complaints about relativism on college campuses that Epstein, like so many others, has already written innumerable times.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate Chait stepping up to the pinata:

Yes, that’s right. America used to elect presidents on “intrinsic qualities” rather than “accidents of their birth.” And this process resulted in the election of forty-three consecutive white men, an outcome Epstein must regard as an extreme coincidence. The last president to be elected on the basis of intrinsic qualities rather than accidents of birth was George W. Bush, whose birth circumstances, Epstein apparently believes, had no bearing upon his career trajectory.

[…]

In a larger sense, of course, the very existence of Epstein’s piece serves to disprove its thesis. If it is still possible for a white man to write an incoherent farrago of self-pity whose only shred of evidence directly undercuts its thesis, and have such drivel thrown onto the cover of a national magazine, then white men are probably still doing okay.

Obama at Nike

[ 91 ] May 12, 2015 |

nike_factory1

I get that President Obama is frustrated with Democratic opposition to his beloved Trans-Pacific Partnership. But his behavior shows just how out of touch he is with the party base on economic issues. First, holding a big TPP event at Nike offices in Oregon is outrageous, but also quite telling. For Obama, Nike is a success story because it creates a lot of high-paying jobs in Oregon while sending all of its production to Vietnam and other Asian countries.

But there are huge problems with the Nike model, even outside of how it treats its workers and the fact that it was a pioneer in outsourcing shoe production. Virtually none of those jobs in the US are blue collar jobs and these are the people most in need of decent employment opportunities. While quite a bit of middle management, design, and other jobs actually could be outsourced (and I suspect will be quite rapidly) probably most well-educated upper middle class Americans are going to do OK going forward. These are Obama’s success stories because there is so much emphasis in conventional wisdom speak about spurring economic creators and innovators. But none of this does anything for the poor. Had Obama spoken at a New Balance factory, which at least makes some shoes still in the U.S., he would come across as less indifferent to the lives of working class Americans who did not benefit from NAFTA nor the many other trade deals of the last 50 years that shipped most blue-collar jobs overseas. Obama doesn’t seem to get that this is where job creation needs to take place, not with the innovators.

Core to the problem here is that while Obama keeps saying the TPP has stronger trade and environmental provisions than previous trade agreements, there’s no evident reason to take this claim seriously or believe it meaningful. First, we still don’t know what the specifics of these provisions are, but we won’t know before fast track is voted on so we have to go with what we have. Second, it’s far from clear whether all the nations involved are on board with said provisions, whatever they may be. Third, it is almost 100 percent positive that these provisions will not include any ability for workers or citizens themselves to go after companies. Since no trade agreement has ever empowered citizens, my guess is that the so-called improvements will likely consist of little more than vague language, but again, we are going to have to wait and see. Combined with the Investor State Dispute Settlement courts that have a strong likelihood of being used by corporations to override governments from taming corporate behavior, and as many have pointed out, the TPP is really more a pro-corporate interest agreement than a trade agreement per se.

And as Elizabeth Warren and Rosa De Lauro write, once fast track is granted, the ability to Congress to stop the process or make any kind of changes to the deal is basically dead. So the TPP must be stopped now.

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