What Is Gerrymandering, and How the Supreme Court’s Decision Will Impact Congress

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court declared last week that federal courts could not intervene when it comes to the act of partisan gerrymandering—widespread voter manipulation affecting a number of states.


Susan Collins Is an Asshole

Susan Collins Is an AssholePhoto: Getty

Maine Senator Susan Collins, the dictionary definition of “Olde-Timey Moderate Republican,” is making headlines today for her announcement that she won’t vote for Donald Trump. Wow—give her a fucking medal, why don’t we?

Today’s date is August 9, 2016. Donald Trump has been actively running for president for more than one full year. You have finally decided now that you will not cast your vote for Donald Motherfucking Stupid Trump, as president of these United States? As acts of moral courage go, this is right up there with stopping for five seconds to hover vaguely on the edges of a crowd that has gathered around an accident victim after dozens of other people have already called 911.

Even people who scarcely pay attention to politics at all have been well aware for months now that Donald Trump is a loudmouthed xenophobic racist know-nothing anti-intellectual nationalistic opportunistic neo-fascist aspiring dictator who combines pathological narcissism and fierce ignorance with a dangerous craving for power. Even Donald Trump supporters understand this. This is old news. This is the guy. This is the Republican candidate for president, and he hasn’t changed a bit since he began this awful nightmare campaign, except to reinforce his own toxic nature at every turn. Casual viewers of cable news know this. Kids kicking outside of 7-Eleven know this. Everyone knows this.

Yet Susan Collins, a sitting U.S. Senator for two fucking decades, would have us believe that it has taken her all these months of tortured waiting and deep consideration in order to arrive at the obvious conclusion that Donald Trump is a stupid dickhead who should not be President of the United States. Let me tell you something: a mule should not be President of the United States. I know this without observing the mule in action for a year. Making such a determination about Donald Trump is just as easy.

Despite citing many grotesque things Donald Trump did and said many months ago, Collins’ published explanation says that—against all common sense—she continued to hold out hope that “we would see a ‘new’ Donald Trump” who would “develop more thoughtful policies.” That hope lasted, we are led to believe, until this week. Is Susan Collins dumb as hell, or a liar? One or the other must be the case.

Susan Collins have you ever seen The Apprentice? That’s the guy your party nominated for president. Same guy. The exact same. No big change.

Deciding not to vote for Donald Trump fourteen months into his campaign does not make you a hero. It makes you woefully late. It means that you tolerated everything Donald Trump did until now. It took this long to reach your breaking point. Not when he called Mexicans “rapists.” Not when he said he would ban Muslims from entering America. But now.

There is no way for this to be true unless you are an asshole—big time.


Donald Trump Is a Republican

Donald Trump Is a RepublicanPhoto: Getty

One of the major themes of the just-concluded Democratic National Convention, and especially of the reaction to the convention, was that the party was, as the New York Times put it, “Eager to Woo Republicans.” It was the fullest expression of the Democrats’ effort to assemble a unified front against Donald Trump. Two nights after the populist and socialist Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, so did the plutocrat and sometime Republican Michael Bloomberg.

The same night Bloomberg spoke, President Barack Obama gave an address about national unity and harmony, crafted as a response to Trump’s message of rage and fear from the Republican convention.

“[W]hat we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican,” Obama said. The same claim could be found from Obama’s committed opponents, in the #NeverTrump realm of Republican Twitter, after he spoke:

It is strange to hear that the speech given by the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, delivered at the Republican National Convention, was not Republican. Donald Trump was onstage in Cleveland because 14 million Republican voters had put him there. Presented with a broad field of other possible nominees—senators, governors, a business executive, two medical doctors—the Republican Party overwhelmingly chose Trump. What does that make him if not Republican?

But the charge that Trump is not Republican isn’t meant to be factual. It’s aspirational. The Republicans are one of the two major parties between which government in this country is divided. It is alarming to see one of those parties, half of our political system, being led by a loudmouthed buffoon, a fraud and liar, running openly on a platform of cruelty, fear, self-aggrandizement, xenophobia, and white nationalism.

It is, however, entirely consistent with the party that nominated him. Donald Trump is the product of half a century of Republican strategy and ideology. Republican voters nominated him because he’s what generations of Republicans have been guided by and encouraged to vote for.

Nothing about Trump is outside Republican mainstream precedent. It’s just that it’s never all been assembled so blatantly in one package before. One complaint about him, from the right, is that he’s not a sincere conservative at all, but a morally lax East Coast elitist who only started opposing things like abortion and gun control so he could pander to right-wing voters in flyover country. That’s probably true! It’s also true of the Bush family.

And as with the Bushes, once he put the mask on, it fit. Trump’s apocalyptic law-and-order speech in Cleveland may not have been what Erick Erickson’s anonymous House Republican wanted to hear, but it was hardly unfamiliar. It was a direct update of Richard Nixon invoking “cities enveloped in smoke and flame” and “sirens in the night” at the 1968 convention, with some 1996 Patrick Buchanan thrown in.

His performance in the role of the indispensable Great Man, the television-personality cult that led to him bellowing “I alone can fix it” and “I am your voice,” is essentially a self-started version of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project and the accompanying party mythology. His confusion about basic facts and his accompanying reliance on untrue parables—lying so brazenly that it’s not clear whether his grip on reality is slipping—likewise mark him as a definitively Reaganesque figure.

But Reagan, the story goes, was sunny and positive. That depended on who you were. But if Trump’s specific combination of belligerence and laziness doesn’t quite match Reagan’s style, it closely echoes the outlook that got George W. Bush elected, running against the Clinton-Gore nerds and their endless hard work for big government.

Does Trump go out of his way to take contemptuous potshots at his enemies? So did Antonin Scalia, from the Supreme Court bench. Is Trump dredging up the most toxic racist elements in American thought, in the name of opposing political correctness? So did would-be apostate pundit Andrew Sullivan, now interrupting his warnings about Trump’s danger to call Black Lives Matter a fraud. Is Trump playing dangerous games by lifting coded messages from anti-Semites? Listen to the nasal, mocking “liberal voice” right-wing radio has deployed for decades.

Americans have been warned that if we tolerate Trump’s crude and dangerous whites-only campaigning now, it could come back later, with a more smooth and polite candidate speaking to his base. This gets the history backward. We already saw the mannerly version of the Trump campaign in 2012, with Mitt Romney complaining about the parasitic “47 percent” demanding government handouts. Eighty-eight percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were white.

Trump is just targeting that demographic even harder. That effort is aided by his party’s long-term effort—running from state and local Republican officials up through the Republican-appointed arm of the Supreme Court—to suppress black voter turnout.

Mitt Romney doesn’t want to admit that. Many other respectable Republicans likewise are disavowing Trump. And the Democrats decided to humor them in it.

The result was a peculiar lapse in the logic of the convention’s message. The Democrats reminded voters of how much the public admires Barack Obama and appreciates his presidency. The Democrats also let viewers know that the party sympathizes with the public’s anger at the government’s failure to give people the help they need.

But the argument connecting those premises—that the Republican majority in Congress has blocked the president you love from helping you as much as you deserve to be helped—went mostly unexpressed. Instead, Hillary Clinton declared that she “will be a president for Democrats, Republicans, and independents...for those who vote for me and those who don’t.”

It was a fine sentiment. It was the same sentiment people liked hearing from Barack Obama, before the Republicans took to heckling him when he addressed Congress, shutting down the government to try to defund his legislation, and eventually denying him the power even to have his appointments considered. After eight years in which Republicans’ admitted policy goal was to spite and thwart the president, in the hopes of defeating him, it seemed a little misplaced.

Whether or not the Democrats denounce the Republican majority, though, it still exists. And Donald Trump—angry Donald Trump, anti-immigrant Donald Trump, curdled with his hatred of Obama—is ready and eager to lead it.

The Words That Emerge From Donald Trump’s Mouth Seem to Bear Little Relation to the Reality in Which We Live

The Words That Emerge From Donald Trump's Mouth Seem to Bear Little Relation to the Reality in Which We LivePhoto: Getty

Native English speaker Donald Trump has given yet another interview to the New York Times. He would be better off not speaking, considering the sentences he forms of his own free will.

The headline of the Times story that came out of this interview was “Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies From Attack.” Based upon a full reading of the interview transcript, though, a headline that more fully captures the totality of Trump’s statements might be “Donald Trump: Alladlighfghfughflukshgfluhglujhfjknf.”

It is worth noting, by the way, that Trump clearly went on and off the record during the course of the interview, presumably with the consent of the Times reporters interviewing him, David Sanger and Maggie Haberman. The transcript is dotted with ellipses that likely indicate the points at which Trump went off the record. For example:

TRUMP: No. I came away with a lot of knowledge. I respect both men…

SANGER: Tell us how you’d capitalize on that. On the record, tell us how, in the case with Mexico.

I wonder what Donald Trump said in his excursions off the record??? I guess we’ll never know.

The good news is Trump said many other valuable things that serve as powerful examples of his fitness for the Presidency of the United States.


David, I have statisticians, and I know, like if I went to Pennsylvania, I say, “Give me the statistics on what is going on with respect to manufacturing.” Numbers — 45, 55, 65, I have states that are so bad. New England.

On His Friend Who Builds Plants

I have a friend who builds plants, that’s what he does, he’s the biggest in the world, he builds plants like automobile plants, computer plants, that’s all he does. He doesn’t build apartments, he doesn’t build office space, he builds plants. I said to him the other day, “How are you doing?” He goes, “Unbelievable.” Oh, great, that’s good, thinking about the United States, right, because he’s based in the United States. So I said, “Good, so the country is doing well.” He said, “No, no, not our country, you’ve got to see what I’m doing in Mexico.” He said: “The business there is unbelievable, the new plants we are building. People moving from the United States.” That’s what he does. One-story plants. You understand?

On Cyber

SANGER: We’re under regular cyberattack. Would you use cyberweapons before you used military force?

TRUMP: Cyber is absolutely a thing of the future and the present. Look, we’re under cyberattack, forget about them. And we don’t even know where it’s coming from.

SANGER: Some days we do, and some days we don’t.

TRUMP: Because we’re obsolete. Right now, Russia and China in particular and other places.

SANGER: Would you support the United States’ not only developing as we are but fielding cyberweapons as an alternative?

TRUMP: Yes. I am a fan of the future, and cyber is the future.

On Optimism

HABERMAN: What do you think people will take away from this convention? What are you hoping?

TRUMP: From the convention? The fact that I’m very well liked.

This November, cast your vote for the guy who said all this stuff.

GOP Congressman: Non-White “Sub-Groups” Have Contributed Less to Civilization

During a discussion of the Republican party’s overwhelmingly white leadership on MSNBC, birther congressman Steve King chimed in on Monday to remind everyone that white people are very good (perhaps even better??) compared to “other sub-groups of people.”

“This whole ‘white people’ business does get a little tired,” said King. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where these contributions that have been made by these categories of people that you’re talking about—where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?”

After other panelists objected to King’s obviously suspect generalization, host Chris Hayes quickly tried to move on, saying, “On cable news, we are not going to resolve the relative strengths of various strands of civilizational prowess.” Which is a shame, really, because it’d be interesting to see where King was going with that.

In June, King told Politico it was “racist” to want people of color on American currency, explaining that President Obama is “trying to identify people by categories, and he’s divided us on the lines of groups.” Since then, it appears King has learned how to do it all by himself.

UPDATE 7:40 P.M.: On Twitter, Chris Hayes said he was “pretty taken aback” by King’s comments and may have made “the wrong call in the moment.”

Newt Gingrich, a Plump Little Racist, Cares Nothing for the U.S. Constitution

Newt Gingrich, a Plump Little Racist, Cares Nothing for the U.S. ConstitutionNewt and the demon that haunts him: AP

On Fox News last night, Newt Gingrich said that the U.S. should “test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported.”

Just a reminder that Newt Gingrich is a real scumbag.

[Here you can read the text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution]

Peggy Noonan’s Advanced Reporting Techniques Explain Her Success

Peggy Noonan's Advanced Reporting Techniques Explain Her SuccessPhoto: Getty

Peggy Noonan, a keen scientist of the political sphere, once predicted Mitt Romney would defeat Barack Obama based on the fact that she saw a bunch of his yard signs. She brings the same eye for meaningless detail to the shores of Olde Englande.


You may have read “polls” and “analysis” and all manner of “expert” commentary about Britain’s potential “Brexit” vote to leave the EU. But see—this is why we have journalism. So that the Wall Street Journal can send Peggy Noonan all the way to Olde London Towne to investigate what is really happening. Though other great minds, like Thomas Friedman, have pioneered the “just ask the cab driver” technique of investigative reporting, few are able to extract such a penetrating level of insight as Peggy:

My conclusion from four days in London talking to both sides, Leave and Remain, is that in spite of recent polls showing gains for Leave, no one knows what’s going to happen. Everyone has the eye-twitching expectation the voters will deliver a surprise, they just don’t know which one. My anecdote is that a London cabbie told me that for eight days he’s been asking his passengers where they stand: “37 Leave, 18 Remain.” That didn’t make sense—London is assumed to be heavily pro-Remain—but he showed me the yellow notepad on which he kept score.

He showed you the actual notepad? Damn.

Uline, Where the Boss Wishes Employees Watched More Fox News

Uline, Where the Boss Wishes Employees Watched More Fox News

People who work for privately owned companies—even very big ones—are often subject to their bosses’ political whims. For employees of a major Midwestern industrial company, that means regularly being preached to by owners known as the Illinois version of the Koch brothers.

If you’ve moved any time in the last few decades, there’s a decent chance you packed up with boxes made by Uline— “the leading distributor of shipping, industrial and packaging materials to businesses throughout North America.” The company, which employs more than 4,000 people and takes in billions in revenue annually, is owned by the husband and wife team Richard and Liz Uihlein. Richard, a self-described “conservative Republican” and advocate of “limited government and free markets,” is an Illinois political power player who has donated millions of dollars to national Tea Party candidates and super PACs.

Liz Uihlein acts as the company’s president, and shares her husband’s politics. In fact, she shares them with all of her employees and customers alike. Uihlein regularly posts “From the President” newsletters (which are archived on the company website) that feature her personal musings on important issues of the day. Not just how much time her grandkids spend on their phones, but also how “Government Regulations Are Costing Us All.” Or a bizarrely fearful screed on helping the homeless:

Uline, Where the Boss Wishes Employees Watched More Fox News

Or this, on federal spending, which resembles an email that has been forwarded many times:

Uline, Where the Boss Wishes Employees Watched More Fox News

Or this complaint about energy efficiency mandates:

Uline, Where the Boss Wishes Employees Watched More Fox News

Or this bold lament that her employees do not spend more time watching Fox News:

Uline, Where the Boss Wishes Employees Watched More Fox News

In their free market absolutism, loathing for government programs, and cheerleading for right wing propaganda, these internal corporate communications from Uline bear a passing resemblance to the internal corporate communications at Menards—another large, privately owned Midwestern firm with thousands of employees and an extremely conservative boss.


Know any other firms where management likes to shower workers with political opinions that are in direct opposition to their economic interests? Email me. Sharing is caring.

Trump Vows to Ban Immigration From Basically Everywhere

Trump Vows to Ban Immigration From Basically EverywherePhoto: AP

In a speech today, amid lots of other incoherence, Donald Trump articulated a newly expanded version of his xenophobic “ban Muslims” immigration policy. Consider the implications of this statement:

Trump said in his speech. “When I am elected,” Trump said in his speech, “I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.”

Last December, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” In a long and illustrious year full of insane and repugnant statements by Donald Trump, that was the single most insane and repugnant statement by Donald Trump. Let us be very clear: he is now calling for an expansion of this insane and repugnant policy.

Trump says he would block immigrants coming from any “areas of the world” with a “history of terrorism” against not only the US, but also “our allies.” You may want to peruse this list of some of America’s most awkward allies. Under a Trump presidency, we can expect not only a blanket ban on Muslim immigrants, but also on immigrants from any nation that is antagonistic with Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. Sorry, India—no immigration! Sorry, Israel—stay out! And add to that any nation whose citizens have ever committed violence against Ethiopia, Honduras, or Kyrgystan! It is not long before our list of allies and enemies folds in on itself like a black hole. Besides being embarrassingly xenophobic and utterly stupid, this policy proposal is self-defeating on its face. The fact that he ends it by saying “until we understand how to end these threats” guarantees that the policy will have no expiration date, ever.

And, of course, if we bar anyone from coming here from a place with “a proven history of terrorism against the United States,” we will be shutting down immigration from one nation in particular: the United States.

Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing PropagandaIllustration by Jim Cooke

Tens of thousands of workers at America’s third-largest hardware chain are trained in more than customer service. They are trained in the conservative trickle-down economic zealotry that animates their billionaire boss.

Menards is the largest privately owned home improvement chain in America. Its owner is John Menard, Jr., famous for keeping “a tight rein” on the smallest details of his company’s operations. His net worth of more than $10 billion makes him the richest man in Wisconsin, and one of the 50 richest people in America.

Menard, Jr. holds strong right-wing political beliefs. He donated $1.5 million to a group backing Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker, during Walker’s contentious battles against the state’s organized labor forces. After Menard was forced to pay a $1.7 million fine in the 1990s for illegal dumping of hazardous waste, one state official says Menard told him he “just didn’t believe in environmental regulations.” More recently, a Menards spokesperson announced that the company did not plan to open a new store until Obama was no longer president.

No one suffers the brunt of John Menard, Jr.’s conservative beliefs more directly than his own employees. Menards’ virulently anti-union policies stand out even in an industry full of anti-union corporations. The company was recently sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board for violating labor laws after it was revealed that the company had required managers to sign contracts stating that they would forfeit more than half of their pay if employees formed a union on their watch.

But Menards is not satisfied with merely having a non-union work force. Documents provided to us by a Menards employee show that the company conducts what can only be describe a systematic indoctrination into conservative political beliefs, under the guise of its “In-Home Training Program” (IHT).

The IHT is an online training course for Menards employees. It is supposed to be a sort of continuing job education program that expands and updates the skills of Menards workers—by training them to work in different departments throughout the store, for example. The program is not mandatory, but participation in it is strongly encouraged by the company. Menards closely tracks how many employees are using the program, and incentivizes employees and managers to keep that number high. Employees are offered small rewards for completing sections, and there are even competitions between stores to see who can get the highest participation level. Below is a screenshot from a company newsletter that went out in April, the entire purpose of which is to share how many employees are using the IHT in each store and region, and to encourage more of them to do so.

Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

What makes Menards’ employee training program unique: It is not at all limited to job skills. In fact, it includes multiple sections dedicated to extolling the virtues of free market capitalism, bemoaning taxes, and instructing employees on how to become advocates of political beliefs that mirror those of the boss who will not allow them to unionize.

Embedded below are four separate courses from the “Civics 101" section of the Menards IHT. The first two sections, “Introduction to American Civics” and “Modern US Politics,” are a combined 122 pages of the sort of American history that appears in outdated textbooks in our nation’s more neglected middle schools. The official Menards version of U.S. history dwells on the Revolutionary War; includes the full text of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and George Washington’s farewell address; gives exhaustive details of how each branch of government works and what federalism is; and even has the trusty old “How a bill becomes a law” flowchart.

It is in course three, “American Job Security,” where Menards’ right wing beliefs really begin to shine. It begins with a cartoonish fearmongering chart about our national debt, in which the low-debt “Path to Prosperity” is in a welcoming green hue, while the cliff-like “Current Path” is in a foreboding red. The very first paragraph lets workers know that if they have any employment problems, they should blame not John Menard, Jr., but the federal government:

What affect does Washington have on job security? In truth, everything. Unemployment numbers can be tied to economic policies. These policies are the rules and regulations that we covered in the previous course. These policies often make it more difficult for business to create jobs and force an increase in unemployment or underemployment. Therefore job security - your personal security for your Self Governing Will of independence and to ‘make your way’ in the world - is inevitably tied to American civil policy.

Having established that regulation is the enemy, the course launches into a primer on Adam Smith and then an extended lionization of Andrew Jackson, who—despite his imperialist massacres of native Americans to steal their land—was “loved by the common people,” especially when he paid off our national debt.

The material continues to pound away at the free market gospel for page after page. “A government dedicated to individual liberties is one that understands that private property is to be protected, not taken or taxed,” it says. “Government does have a role to play, but we must remember that taxes always limit freedom.” This is all presented as fact:

Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

The material takes a detour to pillory cap-and-trade rules for limiting air pollution and bailouts of private companies, and then reprints in full an essay by Herman Cain entitled “Economics & the Basis of Prosperity.” Later, there are a series of the sort of charts that are used to celebrate trickle-down economics, with titles including “Tax Cuts Attract Capital,” “Bottom 95 Percent Pays Less Than the Top 1 Percent,” “High Corporate Taxes Make the US Uncompetitive,” and, best of all, “Rich Pay More Than Their Fair Share.”

Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

In case it isn’t clear:

Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

The last of these four training courses, “Action,” instructs employees on how to contact elected representatives and write letters to newspapers to spread the free market gospel they have just absorbed.

Not to generalize, but this seems like the sort of content more suited to a multi-billionaire business owner than to his working class employees. We asked Menards for comment on these sections of the IHT, and what involvement John Menard, Jr. may have had with them. They have not replied, but we will update this story if they do.

If even half of Menards employees participate in the IHT program, that is more than 20,000 workers who are being rather forcefully fed right wing economic doctrines by their billionaire employer. At the end of the fourth course, the document drives home the need for (business-friendly) individualism: “As a citizen of the United States of America, you should personify your own self governing will and protect your opportunity for free enterprise by educating yourself of the topics (past, current, and future), and then making your voice and vote heard.”

As long as your voice is not asking for a union.

Menards Employee Training Documents

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