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Dem pickups: PA
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One, Two, Three Strikes--You're Out!

We have suggested a couple of times that developments on the organized labor front are shaping up to be a big part of the story of the Biden presidency. There were a couple of important stories on that front this week.

First up, chronologically, is a sports labor story: Minor League Baseball (MiLB) has, rather rapidly, been unionized. The players voted for the move last week, and this week Major League Baseball (MLB) officially recognized the minor leaguers as a collective unit. That was a bit surprising, as MLB tends to fight these things tooth and nail.

Minor league unionization is a pretty big sea-change, as there had been efforts to make it happen for decades, but without result. Part of the problem was the players, who skew both conservative and uneducated. Those are the two groups least likely to see the benefits of unionization. Part of the problem was MLB which, as noted, tends to work hard to undermine these sorts of things. And part of the problem was, for lack of better term, public sentiment. It didn't cost MLB much to interfere with organizing efforts, as many people believe that all minor leaguers are incredibly lucky, and are being paid real money to play a "child's game." This ignores the fact that the playing conditions at some levels of MiLB are very rough, while the players at every level other than AAA are paid peanuts, often far less than minimum wage (and even that is only 7-8 months per year).

Joe Biden ran as a pro-labor president and, not surprisingly, celebrated the news:

Congratulations to our country’s Minor League Baseball players on a historic, swift, and overdue organizing victory, and to @MLB and @MLBPA for taking this critical step. Every worker is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect – on the job and on the field.

— President Biden (@POTUS) September 10, 2022

Note that Biden is nearly 2 years into his term, and has yet to be suspended by Twitter or to have a label slapped on one of his tweets. Clearly he's doing something wrong.

This said, while the President is pro-labor, he's not generally pro-strike. That's especially true if the strike in question is likely to screw up supply lines, and to upset the already shaky American economy. The looming strike of rail workers, which was described as "inevitable," was one such strike. It would have shut down shipments of goods across the country, and would surely have upset the economic apple cart in a serious way, particularly if the strike lingered. Almost 40% of American freight is transported by rail for at least part of its journey.

It appears that the crisis has been averted. With Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg taking the lead, and the President himself taking an active role, a deal was hammered out at the last minute after round-the-clock negotiations. Not all of the details have been announced, but union members will get an immediate 14% raise and will receive back pay and other bonuses that total about $11,000 per person. The rank-and-file still has to ratify the deal, but there aren't too many people that turn their backs on a big pay raise and a five-figure check.

It is hard to know if this victory will help boost Biden's approval ratings, since "we avoided something bad" usually doesn't please voters as much as "we did something good." Still, it might help him, particularly with organized labor. And he's definitely still on the upswing; in the newest AP-NORC poll, released yesterday, his approval jumped 9 points from last month, to 45%. That's still underwater, of course, but to be in the mid-40s by the start of fall (next Thursday) seemed inconceivable this summer. Could he actually get above water by Election Day? That's a tall order, but it's not impossible at this point. (Z)

Cannon Rules in Trump's Favor, Again

It is getting difficult, to the point of impossible, to avoid the conclusion that Judge Aileen Cannon is in the bag for Donald Trump. Recall that she was not only appointed to the bench without much relevant experience (albeit with an impressive CV), her confirmation was also rushed through after Trump's reelection bid had failed. It's almost as if the former president knew he might be doing some venue shopping post-term, and he wanted to make sure there was a promising option to choose.

As you might gather, the Judge ruled Thursday on the various matters before her, and gave an almost unqualified victory to Trump. She approved his choice for special master, Judge Raymond Dearie (though the Department of Justice said that Dearie is also acceptable to them). More significantly, Cannon said that she would not be modifying her previous order, and that the classified documents would be subjected to special master review. Her verbiage strongly implies that Trump might be right that the government is lying about everything.

This is, of course, nonsense. And Cannon's ruling was once again flayed by legal experts across the spectrum. Here is a selection:

As Tribe points out, this will head to the Eleventh Circuit so fast you might well hear the sonic boom. The consensus is that the Department of Justice will file its appeal sometime today, probably in the morning.

There was a little bit of additional Trump legal news yesterday. To start, it was revealed that his lead lawyer, Chris Kise, received a $3 million retainer, with the check coming from Trump's Save America PAC. This confirms three things we already knew, or suspected: (1) Kise is being paid millions; (2) Trump, given his reputation for stiffing people, could only get a capable attorney if he paid up front and (3) Trump is using his PAC as a personal piggy bank. This news might also tell us Trump can't afford to pay the money himself, but that's just speculation.

Trump also appeared on Hugh Hewitt's show, and made statements that are... somewhat contradictory. On one hand, the former president declared that he could not imagine being indicted because he's "done nothing wrong." At the same time, he said that even if he is indicted, it wouldn't affect his plans to run for reelection. Further, speaking of the possibility of an indictment, Trump warned: "I think if it happened, I think you'd have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we've never seen before. I don't think the people of the United States would stand for it." Trump has never used dog whistles, instead preferring dog bullhorns. And so, anyone and everyone realizes that what he's saying there is, "If I am indicted, I want my supporters to make 1/6 look like a tea party." Well, actually, it was a tea party. We mean the other kind of tea party.

Trump does not pound his chest like this and ask his base to take to the streets unless he's getting desperate. So, we think that threat reveals a lot more truth than his claim that he believes he won't be indicted. (Z)

Evel DeSantis Unveils His Latest Stunt

We're not sure if Evel DeSantis works better or, maybe, Ronny Knievel. Either way, it makes sense to use a stuntman's name, since that is the activity that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) spends most of his time on.

Knievel's... er, DeSantis' latest stunt isn't entirely his own creation. You might say it was brought to you by the popular circus duo of Ronny and Greg, with the Greg being Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX). Abbott is the one who dreamed up the idea of loading undocumented immigrants from Texas onto buses and sending them to Democratic-controlled cities and states. DeSantis' spin on that shtick was to load undocumented immigrants from Texas onto airplanes and to fly them to Martha's Vineyard. Martha's Vineyard is where a lot of rich, elite Democrats have homes, including—surely not coincidentally—former president Barack Obama. Oh, and keep in mind that the immigrants in question came from Texas, not Florida. That's going to be very relevant later.

It's not surprising that DeSantis and Abbott are doing this, as this particular stunt is apparently very popular with the voters whose support they are courting. A new poll from the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas reports that 80% of Republicans and 22% of Democrats in the Lone Star State are in favor of the scheme. There hasn't been a poll of Floridians thus far, but presumably the numbers would be similar.

Of course, using human beings as props is very cruel, particularly for two men who claim to be Christians. And DeSantis, as is par for the course for him, appears to have upped the cruelty. The 50 people who were relocated were not told where they were going or, apparently, that they were going to be loaded onto planes. Further, they were given maps that allegedly provided instructions for getting from the Martha's Vineyard airport to a place where there was "work." Instead, the destination on the map is a parking lot. The folks in the Vineyard scrambled to make sure that the unexpected arrivals all had food, beds and toiletries.

At this point, perhaps you're thinking what we were thinking: Is this legal? We answered a question last weekend about whether or not this counts as human trafficking. Our answer was "no," because human trafficking statutes all include references to "profiting" from the trafficking. But perhaps we were hasty in our assessment. DeSantis certainly hopes to profit politically from all of this. And we would guess he will send out one or more fundraising pitches that allude to his "immigration policy." So, he could be profiting financially.

And it if it's not human trafficking, then maybe it's kidnapping. Here is the U.S. code governing that particular crime. It's pretty complicated, but the fact that DeSantis' stunt seems to be a case of someone who "seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward" a person, he could be in violation. Especially since "reward" is more open-ended than "profits." And we're not the only ones who had this thought. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has already asked the Department of Justice to consider a kidnapping investigation.

Needless to say, the DoJ isn't going to let us know what they're thinking until it's time for them to make a move in court. However, the White House is certainly discussing possible litigation against Abbott, DeSantis and Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ). So, this bears watching.

Meanwhile, recall that the migrants in question originated in Texas. What this tells us, first of all, is that DeSantis couldn't even scrape together enough people in Florida to fill the planes. That alone speaks to how very much this is a silly stunt rather than a serious attempt to address a serious problem. Beyond that, however, the money that paid for the airplanes came from a $12 million dollar fund demanded from the Florida legislature by DeSantis. The enabling legislation includes this passage:

From the interest earnings associated with the federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund (Public Law 117-2), the nonrecurring sum of $12,000,000 from the General Revenue Fund is appropriated to the Department of Transportation for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, for implementing a program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state consistent with federal law. The department may, upon the receipt of at least two quotes, negotiate and enter into contracts with private parties, including common carriers, to implement the program.

Emphasis is ours. DeSantis was well aware of this condition, and so had the planes make a brief stop at a small airport in Florida before continuing to Martha's Vineyard. He clearly thinks that is enough to satisfy the terms of the law. However, a jury might not agree, and might instead see that as ironclad proof that he knew about the law and was deliberately flouting it.

Donald Trump got away with so many things that he got careless, and his carelessness may be coming back to haunt him. DeSantis seems to be making the same mistake, except before he has the powers of the presidency available to help him clean his messes up. We'll see if it comes back to haunt him. In any case, this story does nothing to change our view that he is a reprehensible and very dangerous man. As (Z) observes in the lecture for this week (which he's given 100 times), a scholar generally tries to withhold judgment when evaluating public figures, but there are also some people whose behavior is immoral by the standards of any generation. That would seem to describe Evel DeSantis to a T. (Z)

F That

Donald Trump is kind of like a James Bond villain. Actually, that's true in more ways than one. But the particular way we're thinking about here is his tendency to tip his hand, affording his would-be victims the opportunity to prep their response. In the movies, the bad guy always ties 007 up to some death machine, explains his entire plan for world domination, and then leaves the room without bothering to make sure the death machine does its job (spoiler alert: It never does).

In Trump's case, he's tipped his hand by announcing his plans, should he return to the White House, to purge the vast majority of federal employees using "Schedule F," and classifying them as being involved in making policy. Then, he could absolutely pack the entire bureaucracy with loyalists. The former president unveiled this plan very late in his first term. As a purely tactical matter, why didn't he wait? If he believed he was going to stay in office, there is little difference between November 2020 and January 2021. And if he left office, he could have kept this scheme under his hat—well, under his hair—until his triumphant return to power.

But now, everyone knows what the plan is. And so, yesterday the House passed the Preventing a Patronage System Act. All the Democrats voted for it, and so did six Republicans. We do not know what will happen when the bill heads over to the Senate, of course. However, the optics of voting against could be bad for the Republicans. More importantly, a loophole that could be used to pack the bureaucracy with Trump fanatics could also be used to pack the bureaucracy with AOC clones, or Black lesbians, or the staff of The Huffington Post. Our guess is that Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) & Co. will come up with 10 votes just to forestall that possibility.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Senate and 10 votes, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who isn't Black but who is a lesbian, announced that a bill protecting same-sex marriage won't come up for a vote in the Senate until after the election, but that as long as it waits until then, it will get 10 Republican votes. She's undoubtedly not making this up out of thin air, which means that there are either Republicans who are up this year and don't want the vote to be used against them, or there are Republicans who aren't up this year but fear the vote could haunt the Party, or some of both. Our guess is that it is the latter. Specifically, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is retiring this year, told reporters that, "If I wanted to pass that and I was the majority leader and I wanted to get as many votes as I could possibly get, I'd wait until after the election to have the vote." Presumably, the votes that are more easily available after the election include the vote of one Roy Blunt, who is a loyal solider and doesn't want to give Democrats or far-right Republicans ammunition to use over the course of the next 2 months.

Oh, and if readers want to propose which James Bond villain Trump is most like, and why you say so, we would certainly run some of those. Just remember that Fat Bastard was actually in the Austin Powers movies, not the Bond films. (Z)

Bolduc Discovers 2020 Election Wasn't Stolen

It turns out that abortion isn't the only issue where aspiring Republican officeholders can flip-flop so fast it makes your head spin. They can also do it on "stop the steal," as newly minted New Hampshire U.S. Senate nominee Don Bolduc just demonstrated.

Previously, Bolduc was unreserved in his declarations that the 2020 election was fraudulent and that Donald Trump had been wrongly deprived of the presidency. But yesterday, appearing on Fox, he said: "I've come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this: The election was not stolen. Elections have consequences and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country." That is what we call the Full Sherman.

How did the retired general come to this realization? He explains that he has "done a lot of research on this." We can imagine exactly what he researched. First, he probably determined that the primary ended on Tuesday, and that the general election campaign began on Wednesday. Then, he probably looked up the numbers, and discovered that Republicans (especially Trumpers) are in the minority in New Hampshire and that Biden won the state by more than 7 points. Those two facts certainly turn "stop the steal" from a winner into a loser.

Can this possibly work? Will Bolduc's "come to Jesus" moment win over more moderates/independents than it costs him Trumpers? We seriously doubt it. If he was a more experienced or more skilled politician, we would give him a little benefit of the doubt, and assume he has some evidence that shifting gears is a good idea. But we don't believe he has such evidence, and instead we would guess he's counting on the logic of "What are the Trumpers going to do? Vote for Sen. Maggie Hassan (D)?" If that is his thinking, he is forgetting about the possibility of people just staying home on Election Day, or voting third party.

Given Bolduc's fervency, we assumed that he was a True Believer, and that he really had convinced himself the election was stolen. But it would seem we were wrong. That raises the question of how many other True Believer candidates for office are just faking it. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania? Dan Cox in Maryland? Kari Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona? Maybe all the stop the stealers are just putting on a show. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude: Phony Ballots, Real Criminal Charges

Republican politicians, on the whole, are obsessed with voter fraud. Or they claim to be, at least (see above). They believe, or claim to believe, that the Democrats are swinging election results with fake ballots, or with real ballots from ineligible voters. Anyone who follows the political news knows, of course, that documented incidents of fraud are rare, and that those incidents that have turned up in the Trump Era have almost invariably involved Republican fraudsters.

This week, yet another case study presented itself. Jason Schofield is the Republican Board of Elections commissioner of Rensselaer County. And he decided that the best way to help secure a Trump triumph was to cast as many ballots for The Donald as was possible. Given his office, Schofield was able to acquire identifying information for numerous voters, which he used to apply for absentee ballots in their names. The fly in the ointment is that the absentee ballot has to be signed. And when Schofield tried to secure the necessary signatures, it clued the victims (whose identity was being stolen) as to what was going on. So he was arrested, and this week was arraigned on 12 counts of unlawful possession and use of a means of identification. He faces up to 5 years in the hoosegow, and up to $250,000 in fines.

It's good to see someone getting pinched after abusing their position of power and (allegedly) committing multiple acts of fraud. When the incident also leads to yet another national news story about how Republican concerns about voter fraud are basically a sham? That's when we move into schadenfreude territory.

Meanwhile, when these rare cases of voter fraud do turn up, why is it nearly always Republicans who are perpetrators? The obvious answer is that Donald Trump has set a tone that says "We're being screwed, and it's acceptable to do unethical things to even the score." However, we wonder if there isn't something more than that. Most voters, Democratic and Republican, are clever enough to recognize that the risk-reward analysis just does not work out here. A person who tries it will get way into "at risk of being charged with a crime" territory without getting within a country mile of "actually changing the outcome of the election" territory. Perhaps these stories are a reminder that Trump is exploiting Americans of the sort who are not capable of thinking through even simple problems like this. Certainly, "build the wall" is another notion that doesn't stand up to even the tiniest bit of critical scrutiny. (Z)

This Week in Freudenfreunde: Her Majesty's a Pretty Nice Girl

Queen Elizabeth II will be laid to rest on Monday. So, we think it's apropos to share this story from her life, brought to our attention by reader G.C. in South Pasadena, CA.

Elizabeth, as many readers will know, tried to do "normal person" things when possible, including driving her Range Rover, riding horses, and taking long country walks. A big part of the reason that she summered in Balmoral was that she could do more of these things during the part of the year where the weather in the U.K. is... well, not good, but less bad.

On one of her walks, the Queen was accompanied by just one bodyguard, Richard "Dick" Griffin. And as the pair strolled through the hills, they encountered an American tourist. Doing his best to confirm the stereotypes of American tourists, the tourist did not recognize the royal. He asked the Queen where she lived, and she answered "just over the hill," neglecting to include "in the giant palace." The tourist then asked Elizabeth if she had ever met the queen, and she replied: "I haven't, but Dick here meets her regularly."

Not surprisingly, the tourist was thrilled to be that close to someone who had rubbed elbows with the royal family. So, he asked the little old lady to take a picture of him together with Griffin. She obliged. Then, Griffin asked if the tourist might not also like to take a picture with the little old lady. The tourist said that was agreeable, and Griffin snapped the picture.

After tourist had headed on his merry way, the Queen said to Griffin: "I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he shows those photographs to friends in America and hopefully someone tells him who I am."

There is little tolerance for political figures who let their hair down. Jimmy Carter tried it, and all it did was undermine his legitimacy as president. So, stories like this tend only to see the light of day once the person is out of office and/or dead. That's really too bad, a lot of people feel like their government is out of touch and doesn't understand them (this is a major driver of Trumpism), and a few things that humanize a monarch or a president or a prime minister might help to defray that sentiment a bit.

Have a good weekend, all. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

On one hand, those numbers for Ohio and Wisconsin jibe with our senses of those races. On the other hand, Civiqs is an OK pollster, but not a great one, and they are based in California, and so can hardly claim to have their fingers on the pulse of the Midwest. As to the Oklahoma poll, of course the Republican is leading over the Democrat. The last time Oklahoma sent a member of the blue team to the Senate, Bill Clinton was in the middle of his first term. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Ohio Tim Ryan 45% J.D. Vance 48% Sep 10 Sep 13 Civiqs
Oklahoma-special Kendra Horn 40% Markwayne Mullin 52% Sep 02 Sep 07 Sooner Poll
Wisconsin Mandela Barnes 48% Ron Johnson* 49% Sep 10 Sep 13 Civiqs

* Denotes incumbent

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