Archive for Parties

Apr
23

On what streets do they live?

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David Crosby and Graham Nash play Occupy Wall Street on Nov. 8, 2011,. By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Why doesn’t somebody do something?” has become something of a joke question in my house. It’s one of those questions we ask when exasperated over whatever daily outrage comes over the radio, TV, or Web. After hearing the question one too many times, it finally dawned on me that I was somebody. Look at the trouble that’s gotten me into.

A variant of that question is “Why don’t they do something?” That’s an even bigger joke line here, mostly because it evokes that old song from David Crosby. The now-standard rejoinder is, “Who are They? And on what streets do They live?” Maybe we can ask them.

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Last month I brought you the tale of the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council’s online poll for naming a new research vessel:

The NERC announced the online voting contest to name the nearly $300 million boat to be launched in 2019 recently, and the leading vote-getter so far is the simple but silly “Boaty McBoatface.”

Uri Friedman of the Atlantic considers the outcome and what it says about democracy:

The boat, which is really a ship, acquired new significance this week, when a British official suggested he wouldn’t respect the results of an online government poll in which more than 124,000 people voted to christen the country’s new $300-million research vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they’d spoken like a five-year-old.

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Apr
13

Springtime for Pat

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Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Oh, those Producers. It’s springtime in Raleigh. Just not for Pat McCrory. When last we saw North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory he was backpedaling on House Bill 2 (HB2).

Critics now call the so-called “bathroom bill” aimed at his gay and transgender constituents a radical Trojan Horse for eliminating anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. Since McCrory signed the bill passed during a one-day, special session Republicans called in March, prominent businesses began boycotting the state, canceling expansions and conventions there, and national performers such as Bruce Springsteen began canceling concert dates. Projected job losses number well over 1,000. Revenue losses have not been calculated. It’s almost as if … they designed HB2 to fail.

Nah.

The national and international backlash forced McCrory yesterday to sign an executive order aimed at quelling the controversy over the bill he signed just weeks ago:

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This morning the Boston Globe offers a glimpse into President Donald Trump’s America with a mocked-up front page illustrating the kind of stories we could expect if Trump were elected president. Stocks plunge, trade wars loom, and “riots continue” over mass deportations.

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Apr
09

Those corrupt delegates

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Did the 37 states that entered the union after it ratified its constitution become part of a corrupt system?

I ask because two of the biggest brands in the current race for president offer different versions of “purity.” Both offer themselves as outsiders untainted by party corruption. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders sell themselves as immune from being bought by big-money interests. Trump because he has billions of his own and Sanders because, you know, $27 and no super PAC. Both offer themselves as political outsiders, although Trump has the better claim to that. Sanders, the independent who has been in Congress since 1991, offers himself as an alternative to party Democrats.

But a recent story about Trump illustrates the downside of that outsider status when mounting a revolt against the status quo. Trump was flummoxed upon learning that despite beating Ted Cruz in Louisiana, Cruz might come out with more delegates.

Here’s the crux of it:

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Categories : Parties, Strategy
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Apr
08

Chuck Grassley’s coup

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President Obama took Senate Republicans to school yesterday in a speech at the University of Chicago Law School where he taught constitutional law for a dozen years. He spoke on the intransigence of Senate Republicans in refusing to give a hearing to his Supreme Court nominee, Illinois native Merrick Garland:

“If you start getting into a situation where the process of appointing judges is so broken, so partisan, that an eminently qualified jurist cannot even get a hearing, then we are going to see the kind of sharp partisan polarization that has come to characterize our electoral politics seeping entirely into the judicial system …”

“That erodes the institutional integrity of the judicial branch. At that point, people lose confidence in the ability of the courts to fairly adjudicate cases and controversies. And our democracy cannot afford that …”

Video here.

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Apr
05

Those were the days – Not

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Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia — by David Edward Cronin, 1888. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia — by David Edward Cronin, 1888. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Not long ago, Derek Thompson explored the origin myth surrounding Thomas Carlyle coining the term “the dismal science” for economics. Thompson writes:

But Carlyle labeled the science “dismal” when writing about slavery in the West Indies. White plantation owners, he said, ought to force black plantation workers to be their servants. Economics, somewhat inconveniently for Carlyle, didn’t offer a hearty defense of slavery. Instead, the rules of supply and demand argued for “letting men alone” rather than thrashing them with whips for not being servile. Carlyle bashed political economy as “a dreary, desolate, and indeed quite abject and distressing [science]; what we might call … the dismal science.”

Today, when we hear the term “the dismal science,” it’s typically in reference to economics’ most depressing outcomes (e.g.: on globalization killing manufacturing jobs: “well, that’s why they call it the dismal science,” etc). In other words, we’ve tended to align ourselves with Carlyle to acknowledge that an inescapable element of economics is human misery.

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Apr
02

Attacking the cities

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Image National Conference of State Legislatures

While North Carolina’s HB2 anti-LGBT bill has received lots of press attention, it is simply the latest attack by Republican-led state legislatures against cities filled with large blocks of blue voters, the next phase of the Defund the Left strategy. Like Michigan’s 2015 “Death Star” preemption bill (HB 4052) which, as introduced, overrode “all local ordinances governing employers’ relationships with their employees,” but also “any local ordinance that controls minimum wage, benefits, sick leave, union organizing and strikes, wage disputes” and more, North Carolina’s HB2 is its kin. PR Watch looked at the trend back in February:

With Congress gridlocked and a majority of state legislatures controlled by right-wing interests, cities have become laboratories of democracy for progressive policies like a higher minimum wage, LGBTQ protections, or parental leave.

In response, corporate interests and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have increasingly been turning to state “preemption” measures—some of them unprecedentedly aggressive—to override an array of progressive policy gains at the city or county level.

“2015 saw more efforts to undermine local control on more issues than any year in history,” said Mark Pertschuk, director of the watchdog group Preemption Watch.

Last year, state legislatures in at least 29 states introduced bills to block local control over a range of issues, from the minimum wage, to LGBTQ rights, to immigration, according to Preemption Watch. Seventeen states considered more than one preemption bill.

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House Bill 2 (HB2), North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law is drawing lots of fire from inside and outside the state. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach have banned travel to North Carolina for their employees. Apple, Biogen, PayPal, IBM, and the NBA have condemned the law. Plus Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, the NCAA, and others. The press center for the annual High Point furniture trade show announced Monday that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”

Yesterday, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. criticized HB2 as “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.” The Charlotte-based Bank of America was a major player in the financial crisis in 2008, but still figures prominently among the state’s employers. McColl’s criticism will not help McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor.

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New Yorker tells the sad tale of the latest failed experiment in AI. Apparently (I missed it), Microsoft last week rolled out a twitter bot named Tay:

Tay is an artificial intelligent chat bot developed by Microsoft’s Technology and Research and Bing teams to experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding. Tay is designed to engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation. The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you.

Tay is targeted at 18 to 24 year old in the US.

Uh-oh. You don’t have to be Mary Shelley to see where this is going. After barely a day of “consciousness,” Microsoft pulled Tay’s plug.

Anthony Lydgate explains:

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