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Turnin’ Mountains Into Oceans Puttin’ Baseballs on the Moon

[ 7 ] October 13, 2015 |

Revenge is a dish best served in the upper deck 430 feet away.



[ 41 ] October 12, 2015 |


Amazing and beautiful:

University of Texas students announced a plan to openly carry dildos in response to a new “campus carry” law that takes effect next year.

The Facebook page for the group Campus (DILDO) Carry has since been flooded with abuse, which moderators are leaving in place to show the kind of aggressive hostility open carry zealots display when they find out they’re being mocked.

The group was founded in protest of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R)’s signing of S.B. 11, a so-called “campus carry” law which says “license holders may carry a concealed handgun throughout university campuses, starting Aug. 1, 2016.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, the #CocksNotGlocks protesters intend to openly carry brightly colored sex toys on campus in protest.

“You’re carrying a gun to class?” wrote group founder Jessica Jin on Facebook. “Yeah well I’m carrying a HUGE DILDO. Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play.”

Jin invited like-minded protesters to join the group on Aug. 1, 2016 — the first day of fall semester — for a group “strap in.”

This is literally the best possible response one could have to the rise of guns on campus. Open mocking. Of course that doesn’t mean one or all of them isn’t going to be shot. But what else are you going to do. Waving a giant dildo in the face of a gun nut sounds fantastic. Of course these women are taking all sorts of misogynistic abuse from idiots and gun freaks.


[ 32 ] October 12, 2015 |

Interlocking USC Logo.svg

There’s no doubt that the Oregon football program is currently a mess, what with…. Hey, look over there!

USC has fired coach Steve Sarkisian, the school announced Monday.

“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement.

“I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.

“Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being.”

On Sunday, Sarkisian was asked to take an indefinite leave of absence. Haden said Sunday it was “clear to me that he was not healthy.”

To be fair to USC, there was no evidence whatsoever that Sark was hitting the sauce (via Lemieux):

What emerged is a portrait of a man who favored Patron Silver tequila or Coors Light and frequented a handful of Seattle-area bars, typically accompanied by staff members, and didn’t hesitate to drink — early — while traveling.

During a stop at a rib joint in Nashville in January 2013, for example, Sarkisian and three assistants ordered four shots of Patron Silver, four shots of an unspecified liquor and five beers. The coach cashed out at 11:53 a.m.

I respect the late morning drinking, but tequila and Coors Light?

Deep Thoughts, By Christopher Hitchens

[ 71 ] October 12, 2015 |


LGM prides itself on its fairness and balance. It only seems right, then, that Erik’s thoughts below opposing imperialist genocide be paired with the profound views of another important public intellectual, the late Christopher Hitchens:

My old comrade David Dellinger, hero of the antiimperialist movement, telephoned the other day to tell me of the fast he was undertaking to protest the celebration of racism, conquest and plunder that impended on Columbus Day. I am as respectful of my elders as any ancestor-worshiping Iroquois, and David has been to prison for his beliefs more times than I have had hot dinners, but a hot dinner – with steak frites, cheese and salad and a decent half bot. of something, all complete – was what I urged him to go and have. Break your fast, old thing, I beseeched; 1492 was a very good year.

I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister. It is risible in the same way that all movements of conservative anachronism are risible, and reminds me of Evelyn Waugh’s complaint that he could never find a politician who would promise to put the clock back. it is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred.


One need not be an automatic positivist about this. But it does happen to be the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift. Not all changes and victories are “progress!’ The Roman conquest and subjugation of Britain was, I think, a huge advance because it brought the savage English tribes within reach of Mediterranean (including Ptolemaic and Phoenician as well as Greek and Latin) civilization, whereas the Norman Conquest looks like just another random triumph of might.

The very dynasty that funded Columbus put an end to Andalusia in the same year, and thus blew up the cultural bridge between the high attainments of Islamic North Africa and Mesopotamia and the relative backwardness of Castilian Christendom. Still, for that synthesis to have occurred in the first place, creating the marvels of Cordoba and Granada, wars of expansion and conversion and displacement had to be won and lost. Reapportioning Andalusia according to “precedent” would be as futile an idea as restoring Sioux rights that are only “ancestral” as far back as 1814. The Sioux should be able to claim the same rights and titles as any other citizen, and should be compensated for past injury. That goes without saying. But the anti-Columbus movement is bored by concepts of this kind, preferring to flagellate about original sin and therefore, inevitably, to brood about the illusory counterpart to that exploded concept-the Garden of Eden.

Forget it. As Marx wrote about India, the impact of a more developed society upon a culture (or a series of warring cultures, since there was no such nation as India before the British Empire) can spread aspects of modernity and enlightenment that outlive and transcend the conqueror. This isn’t always true; the British probably left Africa worse off than they found it, and they certainly retarded the whole life of Ireland. But it is sometimes unambiguously the case that a certain coincidence of ideas, technologies, population movements and politico-military victories leaves humanity on a slightly higher plane than it knew before. The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into “America” inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and thus deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born.

And, hey, I bet David Irving thought 1492 was a very good year too!

As I’ve said before, whatever his merits as a prose stylist and literary critic, as a political thinker he was incoherent and puddle-deep. When he reached the right conclusion his arguments were just as driven by personality considerations and self-consciously “provocative” contrarianism as they were on the many occasions when he reached terrible ones.

[Via Jeet Heer]

Indigenous People’s Day

[ 115 ] October 12, 2015 |


Normally I would wish you all a Happy Genocide Day, remembering the 523rd anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in Hispaniola and immediately seeking to enslave the Taino people, starting a 500-year process of genocide of Native Americans throughout the Americas, a process that arguably still continues in many nations and which none of the modern nations in the Americas have dealt with properly, including the United States. That we celebrate Columbus Day is utterly offensive, since not only are we celebrating a horrible human being, we are also celebrating a very stupid one, who by all account should have died on the ocean and who was pretty much the only person who didn’t immediately realize what he had found.

I could go into so much detail about what this genocide entails. And I have on many occasions. There’s almost nothing in American history that didn’t either contribute to genocide or build on it. That includes both the American Revolution and the Civil War, which were utterly disastrous for Native Americans, a story that is told far too rarely. The Civil War led to the development of tactics by Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan used against tribes like the Comanche and Blackfeet in brutal ways that subjugated them. The American Revolution was very much about the abilities of whites to move across the Appalachians and take land, much of which happened through maximum brutality. Most Native American tribes fought with the British in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812 and with the French in the French and Indian War because they knew what their fate was if the English colonists/Americans were allowed to move west. They lost and the nightmare happened indeed.

There’s a lot of people on the left talking about these issues today. Unfortunately, they tend to talk about indigenous issues only on this day. By and large, when we think about racial problems in this country, it is overwhelming about African-Americans and then to some extent about Latinos. This makes some sense I guess–Native Americans are a small part of the population and live primarily in states far from media markets, and often in quite rural areas within them. Still, they suffer from the same racialized system of poverty, structural inequality, and police violence that African-Americans do. Red lives also matter. Given the historical weight of the genocidal project of colonization, we need to center these concerns much more in a daily analysis of American racial issues.

Luckily, there is a more positive movement going on that supports calling October 12 Genocide Day. A growing number of cities are referring to this day at Indigenous People’s Day, which is appropriate and a positive step. There is nothing about Columbus worth celebrating, but reappropriating that day to remember the people he killed and those who were killed by his successors in American exploration and colonization both affirms those people and is a productive way to discuss this history. Of course, this will probably never happen in a place like Providence with a large Italian population that celebrates Columbus as a hero that somehow relates to their community. But like pushing back against neo-Confederate interpretations of the Civil War and Reconstruction, these are decades-long fights that can make a positive difference in society.

“Our Model is the Trapezoid”

[ 102 ] October 12, 2015 |


“Outsider” and “Establishment” alike, Republican candidates support rubes being separated from their money:

Much has been made of the fact that the two leading contenders in the Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, lack any experience in elected office. Much less attention has gone to something else the two men share: a history of entanglements with companies that have been rightly criticized for hawking get-rich-quick schemes to the broke and desperate. The business model, which is perfectly legal, is called multilevel marketing.


Of course, common sense would say people realize their chances of achieving millions of dollars in sales via these companies aren’t exactly high. There can’t be that many people who want to buy and sell large amount of vitamins, weight-loss supplements, cellphones, cleaning supplies, energy drinks, and other staples of the MLM business, right? But common sense, never in abundant supply in the best circumstances, all too often flies out the window when people are broke, desperate to get ahead, or simply unhappy with their current work or life situation. And the promises that companies like ACN peddle, sometimes with an extra push from someone like the Donald, can begin to sound pretty good.

So why haven’t the other Republican presidential candidates called Trump and Carson on this stuff? Well, bashing the multilevel marketing business model isn’t good for another business—raising money running for political office. Supporters of Mitt Romney’s presidential runs have included honchos from companies like Amway, Nu Skin, and Xango, yet another health care supplement company. Before Scott Walker withdrew from the 2016 race, Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, along with two other family members, gave $25,000 apiece to Walker’s political organization Our American Revival. They’ve also provided financial support to Jeb Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise.

And maybe the other candidates see nothing to criticize here. It’s not like economic magical thinking isn’t rewarded in Republican politics. Remember that thing about raising revenue by cutting taxes?

Have you ever sat through an Amway pitch? I have. It’s a weird experience; I especially liked the bit where the guy told me to write down my expected future expenses and triumphantly noted that my future necessarily depended on me being able to badger my friends and family to purchase inferior cleaning products, purchased by me for only a modest upfront expense.

I have a fascination with all manner of these legal and quasi-legal cons in part because I spend my undergrad and first grad years in Montreal, when the unemployment rate was well north of 10%, and my French was mediocre. I spent a summer selling sports memorabilia over the phone, a morning generating leads for people pitching some sort of worthless but expensive jewelry, and two epically horrible days inside the “salesmen compensated only by commission sell poor people $2,000 vacuum cleaners” racket. I should probably write about that some time. Meanwhile, the Harper’s story about Mary Kay is really good.

Call the Rule

[ 76 ] October 12, 2015 |
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Ruben Tejada #11 of the New York Mets is carted off the field after sustaining an injury in the seventh inning on slide by Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 10: Ruben Tejada #11 of the New York Mets is carted off the field after sustaining an injury in the seventh inning on slide by Chase Utley #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

David Schoenfeld on the pivtoal play in game 2:

This is the reward you reap as an industry. Chase Utley’s “slide” that sent Ruben Tejada out on a stretcher with a fractured fibula in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers Division Series was within the boundaries of how the game is played and called by the umpires but also clearly dirty and malicious. Just a few weeks ago, everybody fell all over themselves saying Chris Coghlan’s slide that sent Jung Ho Kang to the sidelines for the season wasn’t dirty. So this is what baseball deserves for letting this nonsense linger 45 years after Pete Rose destroyed Ray Fosse 38 years after Hal McRae crushed Willie Randolph and just a couple of years after they actually did move to protect catchers in home-plate collisions: A stinking heap of controversy, angry baseball fans across the country, casual fans turned off by obvious rules lunacy and a crucial playoff game that turned because baseball has been too gutless to call this the right way.

Look, there was a time when this is how baseball was played, when John McGraw and the famous Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s played baseball with spikes up, looking to draw blood whenever possible. Of course, it also was a time when players would frequently fight umpires or even jump into the stands and brawl with spectators. The remnants of those times still exist today, whether it’s that “eye for an eye” mentality in intentionally throwing at batters or runners sliding viciously into middle infielders at second base, even if they’re several feet off the bag, several feet past the bag or barreling in more like Kam Chancellor on a running back than a baserunner sliding into a bag.

A new rule would be easy to write: The baserunner must slide directly into the bag. This is how the game is played at the high school and college level, and nobody suffers their manhood as a result. Slide hard, but slide safe.

Now, I can even say that Utley’s slide did break the rules and that, in fact, not only should he have been called out (Tejada not touching the bag is another issue completely), but the batter should have been called out, as well.


Deliberately and willfully? Again, yes. CALL THE RULE. IT’S ALREADY ON THE BOOKS.

All correct.

Utley, as you probably know if you care about such things, has been suspended. Schoenfeld applauds the decision, and I agree that Torre probably picked the best of his bad options. Still, I can understand Utley and the Dodgers thinking they’ve been given an unfair ex post facto punishment. Utley’s slide was illegal by the letter of the law, but while assertions that the rule is never enforced are obviously false it’s fair to say it’s not called more than it’s called. I personally have no problem with consequences being taken into account in the disciplinary process — a major issue in the NHL in particular — but some people disagree.

Let’s step back and consider the more unambiguous way in which the umpires blew the play. The neighborhood play is, by rule, unreviewable. Utley should have been ruled out. The defense of the umpires is that they’ve developed an informal norm where it’s not a neighborhood play if a throw pulls the pivot man off the bag. In the abstract, there’s a logic to it — it’s not a neighborhood play if the pivot man isn’t able to touch the bag because of a bad throw rather than because he’s trying to avoid a sliding runner. But as applied in this case, it’s absurd — Murphy’s toss wasn’t perfect, but it left Tejada in a situation where he could touch the bag, but in his haste to avoid the runner, Tejada messed up the footwork. If that’s not a “neighborhood play,” the term has no meaning. And, of course, this is why the umpire’s kludge makes no sense. I mean, I’ll never say never as long as Phil Cuzzi is employed by MLB, but in general plays are only going to be challenged when the pivot man is close enough to the bag to make a play, because if a fielder is pulled so far off the bag by a bad throw he can’t get near the bag the runner is almost always going to be called safe. The umpires have just decided not to enforce the rule.

So what we have here is a real mess. Utley’s slide was, by the letter of the law, illegal, but most such slides are not ruled illegal in the field because it’s been decided that in most but not all cases throwing a block to interfere with a fielder while not even making any effort to touch the bag is GOOD HARD CLEAN AMERICAN BASEBALL LIKE THE GAME IS SUPPPOSED TO BE PLAYED. (As a commenter noted, Utley didn’t do something really bad like stay in the batter’s box for an extra second after homering or not run full speed on a pop up in a meaningless game or look excited after a strikeout while being Latin American.) Alongside of this, umpires have developed another norm that second baseman have to be given a sporting chance to avoid contact, so in some but not all cases runners are called out even if the pivot man fails to touch the base while trying to avoid the runner. The replay rules reflect these norms, but it’s been blown up because for reasons I can’t explain umpires won’t apply the neighborhood play to challenged calls.

As with most cases in which the umpires take it upon themselves to unilaterally change the rules, the situation is a complete mess. Runners have no idea what slides are legal; pivot men have no idea when they have to touch the bad when trying to turn the double play. The best solution, as Schoenfeld says, is to forget all of these arbitrarily enforced kludges and just further clarify the rule and enforce it properly. Players have to slide directly into second and cannot start their “slides” as they arrive at the bag. Slides that don’t conform to these rules result in both runner and batter being called out, and in egregious cases an illegal slide can result in a suspension. Pivot men have to touch the bag and if they don’t the runner is safe. If this rule is perceived as resulting in too many double plays, then it’s another excellent reason to institute Bill James’s proposal of limiting unsuccessful pickoff throws to two. This would have the salutary effects of increasing pace by limiting a tedious play and placing more value on speed. Can anyone dispute that it’s better to avoid double plays by having runners try to steal second rather than having them try to injure second basemen?

LGM at the Movies: The Martian

[ 188 ] October 12, 2015 |


I don’t go to many movies these days, so it takes a combination of factors to pull me into a theater. The Martian managed to do so by combining a genre I like, with a director who produced two of the best films in that genre, with a lead actor who is often in good films, all combined with almost uniformly strong reviews.

This post is an expression of genuine perplexity. I thought The Martian was a really bad movie.

It’s as if Ridley Scott took the last two minutes of the original version of Blade Runner — the preposterous happy ending that he was supposedly forced to tack onto the movie by the studio — and blew it up into a two and a half hour gazillion dollar exercise in box office cynicism. The movie is a kind of endlessly extended version of one of those corporate advertisements that features a relentlessly cheerful and exquisitely multi-cultural cast, whose point is to give the viewer the vague feeling that MegaCorp Inc. is all about making the world a better place as opposed to maximizing shareholder value.

The Martian doesn’t feature any actual Martians, but it also doesn’t contain any recognizable human beings. The characters here make Star Wars look like a Bergmanesque foray into psychological realism: the closest the movie comes to gesturing towards any kind of complexity is when the head of NASA says a couple of things that might be interpreted as questioning whether it makes sense to spend untold sums to launch a likely-to-fail mission to rescue one person. Any risk that the film might veer into the gravitational field of even an extremely distant reality is soon quashed, and we’re back to the equivalent of a Coke commercial with very expensive special effects.

One special effect Scott omits is anything beyond the bare outline of the paint by number plot that would get a viewer to care about the fate of Matt Damon’s character. Here is the sum total of what we learn about him (spoiler alert): he’s a botanist, he hates disco music, and he loves his parents. Of course he’s also incredibly resourceful and blandly heroic, but these are not so much revelations as pure generic conventions, that could spew from the MacBook of the laziest Hollywood hack, and apparently did.

Per Rotten Tomatoes, the critical consensus regarding The Martian is that it’s “surprisingly funny,” which is true if you find jokes about how science nerds are clumsy and disco music sucks funny, as opposed to excruciatingly hackneyed.

The only interesting thing about this movie is the question of why it’s getting so much critical praise. That the 77-year-old Scott seems to be completely out of ideas is sad but predictable, as is the fact that he’s now the kind of director that a studio can trust with a gigantic budget, knowing that he’ll boil the necessary pots to “win” the box office battles.

In The Invisible Bridge Rick Perlstein suggests that the sudden renewed popularity of Horatio Alger novels in the wake of the Watergate indicated a longing in the public for the supposed verities of a supposedly simpler more innocent time, and that this same desire eventually helped get Ronald Reagan elected. Perhaps a similar explanation helps account for why, at the height of the new gilded age, The Martian is being praised to the skies.

The Nuisance Suit Problem

[ 43 ] October 12, 2015 |

The ability of deep-pocketed plutocrats to financially punish media organizations that are critical of them is chilling:

The case in question involved the liberal magazine Mother Jones and Frank VanderSloot, a GOP mega-donor (who, judging by his name, may also be a villain in a long-lost Charles Dickens story). You can read MoJo’s recap of the case here, but the quick-and-dirty summary goes like this: In 2012, VanderSloot sued MoJo for defamation over a piece about his company’s support for a pro-Romney super PAC that also happened to mention his history opposing gay rights. MoJo fought back. VanderSloot lost.

Well, he lost technically, that is. Because before MoJo was vindicated by the judge (who made clear in her decision that she was not a fan of the magazine, might I add) it had to spend, in its telling, “at least $2.5 million defending ourselves.” For a guy like VanderSloot, who reportedly is worth something north of $1 billion, that’s chump change. But that is a lot of money not only for normal people but also for most small or mid-size publications, especially ones that focus on somewhat niche topics like public policy.

There’s another element of the story that you should know, too. At first, VanderSloot’s response to MoJo’s post was to simply have his lawyers send a huffy letter that pointed out some minor errors. MoJo made the appropriate corrections and figured that was that. But then MoJo broke Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comment, which many people believe sunk the GOPer’s chances of becoming president. It was only then that VanderSloot, who was a national finance chair for the Romney campaign, decided to sue. As they say, you can draw your own conclusions.

There’s a reason inequality reproduces itself.

We Could Use Another Lewis Hine Today

[ 10 ] October 11, 2015 |
Tipple Boy, (see Photo 150) Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, W. Va. Witness E. N. Clopper. Location: MacDonald, West Virginia.

Tipple Boy, (see Photo 150) Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, W. Va. Witness E. N. Clopper. Location: MacDonald, West Virginia.

Child labor in the early 20th century


Child labor in the early 21st century

Lewis Hine’s photographs of child labor were wonderful and did a lot to change the world. This is a great collection of the photographs. My only concern with such a collection is that child labor still produces a lot of our products today and we don’t know it, so I wish this was mentioned. For instance:
It took a 4-year fight by the Harry Potter Alliance to ensure that chocolate produced for Harry Potter-themed products was not produced by child labor.

Children are picking your fruits and vegetables in Mexico.

Human Rights Watch did an entire report last year on the use of children on tobacco farms in Virginia and North Carolina.

We have senators such as Tom Cotton who want to repeal child labor laws in the U.S. today.

I could go on. Child labor is not a thing of the past, especially with the globalized production system that has outsourced so much formerly American production to poor nations so that employers can take advantage of the exploitative labor conditions Americans spent the 20th century fighting to end. That includes child labor. We need Lewis Hine’s around the world, letting us know of these horrors.

Structural Racism and Unincorporated Communities

[ 15 ] October 11, 2015 |


Laura Bliss has been writing an excellent series on the struggles of unincorporated communities in the San Joaquin Valley. The latest is on the inability of many of these communities to access potable water. Effectively, what you see in many parts of the West and South are African-American and Latino communities pop up in relative proximity to larger and more white settlements, but they are outside urban boundaries. That means no or few services because cities neither want to incorporate these communities nor try to help them. Instead, they are seen as moochers, slackers, losers, i.e., white stereotypes of people of color. At the core of this is of course the structural racism that played a large role in the original building of many of these communities and why they remain marginalized today.

In Matheny Tract, Calif., the sour odor of sewage is especially strong in the morning — and so is the irony that residents can’t connect to the system it represents.

The poor, unincorporated community of roughly 300 homes sits adjacent to the city of Tulare, population 61,000. A single, dusty field is all that separates Matheny Tract’s mostly African-American and Latino residents from Tulare’s recently expanded wastewater treatment plant. Though Tulare’s sewer system is more robust than ever, Matheny Tract residents must use septic tanks, since they are not part of the city. For a dense settlement, this spells trouble.

“People can’t always afford to pump out their tanks, so sometimes they overflow,” says Vance McKinney, a 59-year-old truck driver and community leader. “I’ve watched children jump over ponds of sewage to get to school in the morning.”

The leaching tanks are likely responsible for the fecal bacteria that’s been found in the shallow community wells from which Matheny Tract gets its water. Nitrates, probably from fertilizer runoff from surrounding farms, have also been an issue. Right now, the biggest problem is naturally occurring arsenic, exacerbated by an ever-shrinking volume of groundwater — partly a result of excessive pumping by farmers in the midst of California’s record-breaking drought.

Though residents can shower and clean with the water, it is undrinkable. For McKinney and his wife, that translates to spending an average of $160 on bottled water every month.

The invaluable David Bacon has also written about this.

More on Paul Theroux, The Greatest Monster in Known History For Caring About American Workers

[ 174 ] October 11, 2015 |


As soon as Dylan Matthews flagged Paul Theroux’s editorial in the New York Times as a monstrosity for caring about the fate of the American working class, I knew it was inevitable that the Voxxers and associates would gang up on him. It started with Annie Lowrey. She made the very perceptive point that in fact Mississippi is not exactly like Zimbabwe. Wow, you mean Theroux might have made a rhetorical point? That’s what you want counter here? Obviously, Mississippi is not literally as awful as Zimbabwe.

But what’s far worse is her response to the poor of Mississippi:

Nevertheless, Theroux, in his travels, repeatedly asks people in low-income communities in the South whether the Clinton philanthropies have done anything to help them. “It really bothers me that Clinton does so little here,” one woman tells him. “I wish he’d help us. He’s in Africa and India, and other people are helping in the third world and those countries. We don’t see that money. Don’t they realize our people need help?” Not in the way that people in Zimbabwe do, lady. Not even close.

Really, that’s your response? Not, “you are poor and you have a legitimate claim that American policy has made you downwardly mobile. We should do something about that. Let’s think about how, starting with taking your concerns seriously.” No. The response is ideology hoisted upon this woman from 30,000 feet, as if Lowrey is outraged a worker would actually be concerned about her own poverty. And it’s “There’s someone far away who is poorer. Your only hope of having a job or attracting help is to become poorer than them. Let’s see how you do.” There are so many other ways to respond to the struggling American working class but the apostles of globalization in mainstream Washington media are blind to them all. And for solutions to this poverty, Lowrey is again unable to understand anything about the American working class:

Rather than stealing back a shoe manufacturing plant, in other words, train Americans in faster-growing sectors like nursing and information technology, and give better support for the laid-off and the long-term unemployed.

First, it’s amazing she uses the same language of jobs being “stolen” from China that Americans talk about when they lose their jobs overseas. This just reinforces the idea that globalization is a zero-sum game, with the American elite class openly rooting for poor Americans to lose. She then just falls back on the same cheap “solutions” that are always discussed and are totally disconnected from people’s lives. The idea of training Americans in fast-growing sectors runs up against at least one big problem–it assumes that everyone can and should go to college. And that’s just flat unrealistic for millions of high school graduates (and non-graduates) every year. Apostles of globalization always talk about education as the solution, but we already know from the struggles of recent college graduates that there aren’t massive number of jobs at the end of the rainbow, especially jobs that allow you to pay off the student debt. There are many, many Americans who are simply not cut out for college. Less than 50 percent of my cousins, nieces, and nephews have gone to college. What are they supposed to do? There’s also lots poor people in Mississippi who can’t simply just be retrained into a decent job. We have to have good-paying jobs for people who are not college graduates. If we want a stable society, working people have to be able to live decently whether or not they have a college education.

Yet this obvious point is simply dismissed out of hand. Moreover, a lot of those IT jobs are going to be outsourced themselves in future years, as will many other currently middle-class jobs. There’s little reason a lot of that can’t be done overseas. As for better assistance, how is that going to happen with this Congress? It’s not. The jobs are actually disappearing right now and the former employees are actually poor right now. Calling for slightly better benefits is not an acceptable response given that this simply is not going to happen. Meanwhile, it serves as a cheap cover for people actively rooting for American jobs to disappear.

Like Yglesias, Matthews, Klein, etc., Lowrey pushes an ideological point counter to the supposedly data-driven journalism these people are about–that capitalism as it is presently practiced is awesome for the world’s workers and thus it’s OK if Bangladeshi workers die on the job since that nation is rising a bit economically because of the apparel industry. Nothing is ever mentioned in any of these articles about the actual struggles of developing world workers. Nothing is ever mentioned about how Vietnamese and Bangladeshi and Honduran workers feel exploited and are fighting for a more equitable system, one that gives them a job and ensures that they don’t die from the factory collapsing upon them. Nothing is ever mentioned about how the Rana Plaza workers were scared to go inside their own factory because they could see the cracks in the walls or about how when they resisted going to work, they were told they would be docked a month’s salary if they refused. Lowrey could talk about the complexity of these issues and ground her ideology about globalization in the lived experience of workers to say “there are some good things here and there are some really bad things here and maybe we can do better on the latter.” No, that never comes up. It’s literally, “globalization is awesome for the developing world.” And the analysis from this group of Washington friends is never any deeper than that.

And of course Vox itself was not going to let this go. Charles Kenny was tasked with producing the ideological uniformity of that publication on this issue. There’s little more of interest here except for a bit more discussion about the long-term economic poverty of the South and for talking about wonderful Lowrey’s take was, without noting the obvious conflict of interest that she’s the editor’s spouse. But read it for more of the same if you want.

Meanwhile, one can actually talk about issues of global poverty and American poverty in complex ways that lay out ideas to help workers around the world. That was my goal in Out of Sight. Jeff Spross does the same in The Week. First, he dismisses Lowrey’s points as the ideology they are. Building off those awful dismissive lines she writes to the lady in Mississippi, he rebukes her:

I don’t know what the term is for the class-based equivalent of “mansplaining,” but those last two lines exemplify it. I am all for placing the least of these at the center of our moral calculus — but not to shrug when the not-quite-least-of-these wind up under the bus.

Lowrey points out that the $30,000 per person Mississippi’s economy generates every year is far higher than Zimbabwe’s $1,700, which is a fair point. But this is also why inequality is of much greater importance in the developed world: That $30,000 is an average, and thus can hide vast differences in distributions. Mississippi’s Gini coefficient — a measure of inequality — is one of the highest of any state in the country. Plenty of Mississippians get way less than $30,000 a year.

More importantly, these sorts of comparisons are part and parcel of the American preference for “absolute” poverty measures. But impoverishment is a social relation as much as an economic relation. As Adam Smith pointed out, a linen shirt is “strictly speaking, not a necessary of life.” But day-laborers in Smith’s day still couldn’t interact in public or seek work without one. There are plenty of present-day examples of this same dynamic.

It boils down to what economic spaces and resources you can access. Because everyone’s income is someone else’s costs, that access is inevitably determined by the relative gap between incomes. This is precisely why calculating “real” incomes is such a fraught and tricky business. So yes, the poor in Zimbabwe are worse off than the poor in America. But that comparison between two utterly different social contexts is not as illuminating as one might think. And it certainly doesn’t justify calling on Americans to ignore their own immediate experience in favor of viewing all economic matters from 30,000 feet.

Right. And that’s what Lowrey, Matthews, Yglesias, Klein, etc., do. They have no ability to talk about poverty in the United States or in Bangladesh with any tactile feel, nor do they see this as a problem. This is how you get column after column defending the current system of globalization by saying it’s OK for Bangladesh to have weaker workplace safety laws or calling Theroux a moral monster for caring about actual workers in the United States or Lowery telling off a woman who wants a job. Anything below 30,000 feet is just noise to them. And that positionality leads to people making terrible policy. Spross continues by stating that it’s not an either/or for workers in the US and the developing world:

What’s infuriating is there is a third way. The mid-century socioeconomic order in the U.S. was not the only way to ensure the gains of economic growth are broadly shared. Strong unions, a large welfare state, universal health care, progressive taxation, monetary and fiscal policy focused on full employment, criminal justice reform, smarter benefits policy, and smarter trade policy would all combine to keep the American economy egalitarian while we open up to trade with the rest of the world. The zero-sum trade-off between the U.S. and China is not a fait accompli.

The smart and respectful way to carry out this conversation would be to acknowledge Theroux’s anger (and the anger of his interview subjects) as justified, then move on to how their economic errors lead them to some morally queasy conclusions they don’t need to hold. To his credit, Vox’s Charles Kenny basically pulled this off, though even he couldn’t resist beating Theroux for failing to be a good universalist. Lowery merely waved at more education and moved on.

The point is to connect their anger and their mobilization to concrete ideas and proposals — in this case, to the third way of an egalitarian America helping to lift up the global poor. This will require respect and engaging people where they are, plus a recognition that we’re all flawed. And it will require making sure the not-quite-least-of-these know that we’re committed to their dignity and livelihoods, too.

Yet again, we already know from their many writings during American strikes that Matthews and Yglesias have never seen a labor struggle they would actually support. I don’t know about Klein and Lowerey but I can guess it’s mostly the same. Ultimately, this group of writers is really uninterested in helping workers gain power over their own lives, whether through American unions or protesting on the streets of Dhaka and Hanoi. They generally support good social policy emanating from Washington that will have a positive affect on most Americans, like the ACA, but it extends no further. And if these people rise up and go on strike or talk about the real poverty in their lives, they are told that it’s OK for their nation to have worse safety regulations (and presumably then for their employers to dragoon them to work) or that it’s worse for those people over there, so sit down and be happy with that.

And what kind of response is that?

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