Erik Loomis Is Wrong About Sanders and Politics

Erik LoomisI really like Erik Loomis. He’s a brilliant academic and I’ve learned a whole lot about the labor movement from him. But he really annoyed me yesterday with this article, So What Would Happen if Bernie Sanders Won? For one thing, it is part of the genre that I’ve come to despise: “I love Bernie Sanders but…” Give it a rest. If you want to support Clinton or Martin O’Malley, support them! They are both fine candidates. The Democratic Party is truly blessed to have such fine candidates. And out of a dozen and a half Republicans, they can barely find someone who isn’t a bigot.

Erik Loomis begins by noting that the most important thing the president does is make appointments. And Sanders’ grand rhetoric has made Loomis believe that this means that Sanders is as clueless about this as Barack Obama was. Well, maybe. What I think is what I’ve been saying for months: from a practical standpoint, there wouldn’t be much difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years! He does know the system a lot better than Obama did when he came into office. It is presumptuous of Erik Loomis to simply assume (and that’s all he’s doing) that Sanders is going to be lackadaisical about this like Obama was.

Now if Loomis wants to say that the whole Democratic base will be disappointed with Sanders, fine. That’s kind of like saying that after a storm, the sun will come out.

But this isn’t Erik Loomis’ big complaint about Sanders. No, the big problem will be that “his base would almost certainly abandon him within a year.” You see, “The left has learned nothing since 2008.” Really?! Was the left all excited about Obama? I don’t remember that. I remember the left thinking that he was a standard variety centrist Democrat — just like Clinton, although mildly more liberal. Actual leftists thought his “hope and change” rhetoric was a joke. They didn’t think or expect much of him and they were fully satisfied.

Now if Loomis wants to say that the whole Democratic base will be disappointed with Sanders, fine. That’s kind of like saying that after a storm, the sun will come out. Everyone is always disappointed with their politicians, because that’s what politics is like. But you will notice that even all those Obama true believers from 2008 still showed up to vote for him in 2012. So liberals will be disappointed with Sanders within a year? And that matters why? Liberals will be disappointed in Clinton on the same time scale. Who cares? This is not an argument for Sanders or Clinton or Donald Trump for that matter.

The truth is that by election day, the Democratic base will be very happy about their candidate — whomever it happens to be. So it is going to take a little time for the base to become discourage. Is it supposed to go something like this? Clinton steps into office, and makes a middle of the road budget deal with the Republics. The entire Democratic base, having such low expectations of her (but still managing to drag themselves out to have elected her) will rise up and cheer, “She’s living up to our low expectations! Hooray!”

As for the almost daily articles that liberals write complaining about Democratic politicians? Well, this is called content creation. It’s an industry. Things that people would have just groused about in private now show up on Huffington Post because God knows nothing more 12 hours old is ever worth reading.

I’m a Sanders supporter. But I have real concerns about him. His association with socialism scares me a bit. His age scares me even more. Yet I will almost certainly vote for him because I think he is the best candidate for the things that I care about. I have no problem with people disagreeing. But the fact that if elected, Sanders will disappoint the Democratic base — just like every other president ever — is stupid.

Do you know what Erik Loomis’ article reminds me of? Something he would just grouse about in private if he didn’t feel that he has to keep the content flowing at Lawyers, Guns, & Money.

Global Warming and How Trends Work

Global WarmingNot that facts matters, but The New York Times reported, 2015 Was Hottest Year in Historical Record, Scientists Say. Of course, as any actual scientist will tell you — even a lowly one like me who scrapes out a living filling the internet with crap — one year don’t mean a thing. Of course, in context, it’s in “Oh my God, we’re all going to die!” territory.

It reminds me back to last year, Seth Meyers Fails on Global Warming. You may remember that Ted Cruz was on Late Night With Seth Meyers. He claimed that there had been no global warming for the last 17 years. It’s a little strange, right? I mean, 17 years? Not 15 years or 20 years or even a dozen years. It’s too precise. And all it meant was that 17 years ago, we had a really hot year. Here’s the graph:

Yearly Average Surface Temperatures

Of course, this is not how trends are calculated for temperatures or anything else. You don’t look at the first year and then the last year and then divide them by the numbers in between. That gives the first and last years all the weighting and absolutely nothing for all the years in between. It’s not valid scientifically. And Ted Cruz and everyone else who uses this trick knows it isn’t true. Look at the graph: is there any question but that there is an increasing trend?

What’s more, look at 1973. It was a hot year for that time. Let’s compare it to 1985 — the middle of three very cool years. Oh my God! Global cooling! Of course during that period there really wasn’t a trend either way. Let’s look out to 1992 — it’s basically the same temperature as 1973. No global warming! But you can see very clearly that there was a 0.5°F increase in global temperatures over that two decade period. And what about going from 1970 to 2015 — a 45 year period. Clearly, there is an enormous increase in temperature.

Scientists could use this kind of nonsense too. They could say that temperatures were increasing much faster from 1992 to 1998 by starting with a very cold year and ending with a very hot year. Of course, they don’t. This is because scientists aren’t in the business of deceiving people. They aren’t in the business of coming up with any old theory that will justify the Saudi royal family continuing to cling onto power and that the Koch brothers continuing to give political donations.

But now we have the hottest year on record. I can assure you that there will be years a decade or two out that will be colder than last year. And Ted Cruz and George Will and Charles Krauthammer (or their replacements) will make the same argument. “There has been no global warming since 2015 because last year was an unusually cold year.” This really annoys me because it means that there is literally no data that will change their minds. Now they will say that just one hot year doesn’t mean a thing. And they’ll be right! But then they’ll wait for one cold year and suddenly one year will be all that it will take to prove that global warming is a hoax.

Afterword: Global Warming Ignorance

My father is almost fanatical about global warming. But many years ago, after my mother had died, he was involved with this woman who was a Fox News addict and something of a conspiracy theorist. And I was having dinner with them and global warming came up. And they said, “You don’t believe in that, do you?!” And then something was said about Al Gore and I did not push the point. I’m not one to think much of my (or anyone else’s) PhD. But I was shocked that I could spend a decade of my life doing nothing but studying this stuff, and these two old farts thought they knew more than I did because someone on television told them it was so. Here’s a rule of thumb: a bunch of smart people can be totally wrong about something. But it’s a good idea to know why they think something and not just assume they are as ignorant as you are.

Morning Music: Tupelo

The Firstborn Is DeadWe move on to “Tupelo” off the second Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, The Firstborn Is Dead. It’s quite a good album. It’s even kind of a blues album, including a very odd song called, “Blind Lemon Jefferson,” but it’s not really a song I quite get, so we are going to skip it. But the whole thing sounds quite a lot like Tom Waits. This may explain why I have such a strangely ambivalent opinion of Cave. I love his music yet I don’t get that excited about it. It probably doesn’t help that I really have to work at understanding the lyrics.

The perfect example of this album is Train Long-Suffering. It’s got a real old folk feel to it. But as usual, with that distinct Nick Cave sound. That’s the thing about him. He’s so him. But as is often the case, I find myself gravitating toward the work that Cave himself didn’t write.

“Tupelo” is a song by Barry Adamson and Mick Harvey. Nick Cave wrote the lyrics, but they don’t much matter. It just sounds so damned cool. Tupelo:

Anniversary Post: Unions and the United Mine Workers

Coal MinersOn this day in 1890, the United Mine Workers was formed when the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No 135 and the National Progressive Miners Union merged. These were in the days when unions were quire literally illegal. And this is, to some extent why people always associate unions with violence. Labor organizers and members were commonly murdered. So you might wonder why it is that people don’t get more behind unions today. After all, they are legal — just largely legally neutered.

One reason that does not explain why people don’t get behind unions is that things are so great now. They aren’t. Income inequality is as bad as it ever was. The reason that I find most compelling is that people are used to the way it is now. For one thing, the power elite are a whole lot better at getting their message out. But more important: things have gotten worse inch by inch where most people today don’t know that it was ever different.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, people still remembered what it was like to have an agrarian lifestyle. Now that’s not to say that it was great. People were still poor. But I’ve felt that the big issue has never been wealth; the issue is control. And if you look at happiness, what you find is that people get happier the more wealthy they are — but only up to a certain point. And I think this is just because when you are in the upper middle class, you feel like you are in control of our life. (Although as Barbara Ehrenreich documents in Bait and Switch, that’s mostly an illusion.)

Unions have never been primarily about money. They too have been about control. Why did unions push for the minimum wage? It didn’t affect them. They didn’t earn the minimum wage. But it was about providing a sense of control for all workers. It was also about providing a sense of solidarity. And this, above all else, is what the power elite cannot abide. Because the power elite know that if working people band together, the power elite are powerless. And this is why unions must be destroyed.