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The Assassination of Keith Ellison by the Neoliberal Coward Tom Perez

[ 339 ] February 27, 2017 |

chuck-schumer

It seems clear that Keith Ellison and Tom Perez made a deal in advance to immediately make the runner-up the #2 at the DNC. Given their ideological similarities and the fact they apparently work together well, this makes the gap between the actual stakes of the outcome of the DNC race and the apocalyptic morality play being written as an alternative set of facts about it even greater. But the fantasy universe in which Perez and Ellison represent massively different visions of the party they will somehow impose on it through some unspecified mechanism is going strong:

In fairness, unlike some formulations, this seems to leave open the possibility that some liberals can also be on the left and favor policies that advance the interests of the working class. But even confined to mainstream liberals within the Democratic Party, this analysis is absolutely bonkers. Mainstream liberalism “does not include poor people of any kind” and their vehicle for purging any voices for the poor out of the party was..the most effective and left-wing Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins? The most important legislative achievement of the last Democratic Congress and president was a massive expansion of the public health care program for the poor. Was the Medicaid expansion race-not-class because it wasn’t constructed to exclude many people of color, like the Real Working Class Liberalism of the New Deal? What was the objective of Medicaid expansion, if “center-liberalism” has abandoned the interests of the poor entirely?

Needless to say, the Medicaid expansion is not the whole story of the Obama administration, and there are many ways in which its economic policies were inadequate. The most recent Democratic platform was the most attuned to class interests of any in decades, but there remains plenty of room for critique. This, however, isn’t Rensin’s argument. His argument is that the interests of the poor have been entirely abandoned by the Democratic Party, and his central evidence for this theory is the selection of one left-liberal with a strong record on class issues over another for a position that does little-to-nothing to set the ideological direction of the party. OK.

And the analysis becomes even more incoherent when you consider that Ellison had plenty of support from “center-liberalism.” The Manichean alternative history of the DNC race not only ludicrously casts Tom Perez as a Thatcherite, it also apparently casts Chuck Schumer as a left-not-liberal class warrior. It’s incomprehensible on any level.

People for whom it’s never not 1996 notwithstanding, the Democratic Party is clearly moving to the left, as it should be. What the priorities of this coalition should be when it gets the chance to govern and how to get it in a position to govern remain pressing questions with plenty of room for disputation. But the DNC race will barely merit a footnote when this history is written, and distorting the players to try to transform it into a desperate Last Battle for the Very Soul of the Democratic Party is deeply strange.

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Aftermath

[ 68 ] February 27, 2017 |


So that was crazy.

In other news:

 

Oscars No. 89 Open Thread

[ 162 ] February 26, 2017 |

I’m not watching but the Twitters informs me that Mahershala Ali has won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight.

Here’s a list of nominees and winners that will be updated as they’re announced. Consider this your open thread to discuss the 89th Academy Awards.

Leak investigation springs a leak (Update – A Spicey Shot & Chaser)

[ 109 ] February 26, 2017 |

Sleepless Spice is trying to catch sources of White House leaks. Can tracking collars and body cams that can’t be turned off be far behind?

Spicer called staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the leaks, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, was a violation of the Federal Records Act.

Suddenly he cares about laws?

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could
ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

A cunning plan. No one would ever think to delete incriminating info or communicate with reporters in some way that wouldn’t be on their phones at all.

And now, the punchline.

Spicer asked to review both his staff’s government-issued and personal cell phones, the sources said. He also specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media, one source said.

I hope that one day in the near future these unsung heroes get the thanks they’re due.

Update – Perhaps Spicer should shut up and let the leakers handle everything.

https://twitter.com/ArmsControlWonk/status/835980882116771840

Bill Paxton

[ 72 ] February 26, 2017 |

Bill Paxton has died, after complications from surgery.

Paxton seemed to have been in a thousand movies and TV shows, making him a sort of second-string Kevin Bacon, who appeared with him in Apollo 13, and probably a bunch of other things as well.

I remember him best as Hudson, the cowardly Marine who is given the best lines in James Cameron’s Aliens, and as the earnest husband juggling several wives in HBO’s Big Love, a cheesy but strangely compelling series about polygamy among suburban heterodox Mormons in Salt Lake City.  He was also in Titanic, although I can’t remember who he played.  I do have a painful memory of him in Twister, one of the worst big budget movies ever.   An actor who everybody knows but somehow never quite becomes a real movie star, and who then dies on the day the Academy Awards take place, is something out of Woody Allen movie, or maybe a Raymond Carver story.

 

 

#StupidestPresidentEver tries to box clever

[ 245 ] February 26, 2017 |

SAD!

TrumpPerez

Viva Sandino!

[ 66 ] February 26, 2017 |

Screen-Shot-2014-07-26-at-8.53.30-AM

Glad to see Republicans repudiate the horrific policies of Reagan toward the Sandinistas!

“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Vice President Mike Pence told the Republican Jewish Coalition on Friday night. Meanwhile, Pence’s Twitter account was sending an entirely different message: America stands with Nicaragua.

The person managing Pence’s Twitter account mistakenly tweeted that “the world will know America stands with Israel 🇳🇮 ” and “Under @POTUS Trump, we will stand with Israel 🇳🇮 ” except, there’s one problem: that’s not Israel’s flag. The person tweeting used the Nicaraguan flag in both tweets, which vaguely resembles the Israeli flag if you squint and are completely ignorant of world politics.

If there’s one thing you can say about this administration, it’s that it’s bigly competent.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 72

[ 39 ] February 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of Joseph Story.

IMG_1789

Born in 1779 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Story graduated from Harvard in 1798 and was admitted to the bar in Salem in 1801. In 1805, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature as a Jeffersonian, a difficult victory in this Federalist stronghold. He very briefly served in Congress, from December 1808 to March 1809, and then returned to the Massachusetts legislature, where he was elected Speaker in 1811. In November 1811, James Madison selected him to serve on the Supreme Court. He was only 32 years old. He would remain there until his death. He is still the youngest person ever selected to the Court.

As a justice, Story would develop into a conservative defender of property rights during an age of industrialization. He became closely aligned with John Marshall, even though he had been a Jeffersonian before this. He fought hard for the supremacy of the Supreme Court over the state courts, not an established fact at this time. It was the Virginia courts that rejected Story’s rulings, again an irony given his background. Overall, his view was one of expansive federal powers, particularly in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee. And in later cases such as Charles River Bridge, when Roger Taney and the Democrats had taken over the court, Story became the chief dissenter, supporting the rights of nascent corporations consistently. Today, he is most famous for ruling for the self-emancipated slaves in the Amistad case. In 1829, he also took a job teaching at Harvard. There, he wrote Commentaries on the Constitution, one of the most important early books on interpreting the Constitution. He died in 1845, the last old-school Early Republic figure in government.

Although you don’t get a lot of obscure Supreme Court justices appearing in film, retried Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun played Story in Amistad.

Joseph Story is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spoke at the dedication cemetery in 1831.

It Starts Here

[ 130 ] February 26, 2017 |

1462275386337_the-4-best-towns-in-delaware-for-lgbt-families-featured

Just one data point, of course, but still encouraging:

MIDDLETOWN, Del. ― This is what democracy looks like.

It’s been a chant that has animated marches and protests around the country since the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated president, but it’s been more aspirational than descriptive. On Saturday, in a state Senate district in Delaware that stretches from Middletown to Newark, the voices in the streets turned into votes in the ballot box.

In the most expensive special election in Delaware history ― a contest to decide which party controls the state Senate ― Democrat Stephanie Hansen was on track to annihilate her Republican rival on the back of extraordinary turnout.

The last time her opponent, John Marino, ran in this district, in 2014, he lost by just 2 points. Hansen’s 58-42 percent victory over Marino on Saturday ensured that Democrats will maintain control of the state Senate. It also notched a big Donald Trump-era win for a new generation of Democratic activists shocked into action by the November election.

There were roughly six billion DEMOCRATS ARE DOOMED stories written after the 2016 elections, with an urgency heightened by an undemocratic electoral system awarding the election to the popular vote loser. Of course, the same stories were written about Republicans in 2009, when they got 163 electoral votes, lost 21 House seats and were reduced to 40 Senate seats, and had full control of 14 state legislatures. Part of what happened since then might be explained by superior tactics and organizing by the Republican Party. But the much larger factor is that all things being equal being the presidential out party is an advantage elsewhere, and that goes double when the incumbent president is as unpopular as Trump. Regaining this structural advantage doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s a major opportunity.

Our lips are sealed

[ 160 ] February 25, 2017 |

Should ignorance about women’s bodies stop a man from inventing things to be used on women’s bodies? Of course. Does it? Pbbbfffft.

This time it isn’t a law. It’s U.S. Patent 9,539,077, brainfart of Daniel A. Dopps. (The document contains a few line drawings of what may be a woman’s genitals. Or maybe they’re contour maps of Minas Tirith. It’s hard to say.)

Method for alternatively resisting and permitting menstrual flow

Abstract

A method for controlling menstrual flow including sphincterally contracting and expanding labia minora having left and right labium minuses, such anatomical structures moving to a closed position upon each sphincteral contraction or to an opened position upon each sphincteral expansion; adhering and disjoining the labia minora, each adhesion securing the labia minora at the closed position, the disjunctions freeing the labia minora for opening movement; and resisting and permitting menstrual flow, the resistance occurring on sphincteral contraction and adhesion, and the permission occurring upon sphincteral expansion, each adhering step disposing a hydrophobic and bio-compatible adhesive selected from acrylic adhesives, polyisobutylene adhesives, and silicone adhesives, and each disposition step utilizing an applicator selected from brushes, swabs, rub-on sticks, roll-on applicators, pump sprayers, aerosol sprayers, squeeze tube applicators, bottle applicators, and finger applicators.

Yes, it is exactly as appalling as it sounds. This weird and very stupid person has some very wrong ideas women’s bodies. He thinks women can flap their labia minora open and shut, that labium minuses is an actual term and that women should reward him for his ignorance.

Mensez feminine lipstick is a natural patented compound of amino acids and oil in a lipstick applicator that is applied to the labia minora and causes them to cling together in a manner strong enough to retain menstrual fluid in the vestibule above the labia minora where the vaginal opening and urethra exit.

Mensez, for the woman who likes to have her body mansplained to her.

The Mensez compound is instantly washed away with urine, which releases the menstrual fluid along with the urine into the toilet every time a woman urinates. No pads or tampons are needed. Safe, secure and clean.

I am reminded of a joke a friend told during a slumber party when I was in 5th grade. It involved the human penis. In the joke human penises had bones in them. We thought it was the funniest thing we had ever heard until our hostess’ mother burst in and told us penises don’t have bones in them and to stop being silly. Then that became the funniest thing we had ever heard. However, Dopp, an adult person who has medical training, is more ignorant about female anatomy than a bunch of 5th grade girls were about male anatomy. Where’s my friend’s mom when you need her?

“It will be thoroughly tested and improved,” adding that “It makes more sense than putting the plug up there,” and that “we’re using the vagina like a bladder just like tampons do.”

I’m beginning to get an idea of where his fascination with glue comes from. As the article notes, that’s not how this works. Any of it.

And of course he’s a raging (unglued) asshole.

Several women have suggested that Dopps is a misogynist, and that a man shouldn’t make products for women without firsthand knowledge of female anatomy.

He easily corroborated this charge in a response to one visitor’s comment on the Mensez Facebook page, in which he explained that “[Y]ou as a woman should have come up with a better solution than diapers and plugs

Diapers.

but you didn’t. Reason being women are focused on and distracted by your period 25% of the time, making them far less productive than they could be. Women tend to be far more creative than men, but their periods that [sic] stifle them and play with their heads.”

Periods make the ladies crazy and useless so it is up to Dr. Dipp to use his superior, uncluttered by menstrual cycles boy-brain to help us out. His invention won’t stop or shorten the duration of a period, but somehow smearing a hypothetical blood-sweat-lubricant-but-not-urine-proof glue on our nether bits will unstifle us. Perhaps the irritation would inspire us to create a utopia where people like Dopps are allowed – after careful training and under close supervision – to clean out the filters at a sewage/energy conversion plant.

After three years he’d be given a brush.

The Gorka Dissertation, Part II

[ 66 ] February 25, 2017 |

I

JDCIn my prior post, I tried to make clear that you don’t need to get very far—less than twenty pages, in fact—into Gorka’s dissertation to recognize its academic shoddiness. Something like 7% of it is a cut-and-paste job from an earlier article. In of itself, that’s not a problem. But the article came out 3-4 years before the dissertation, and Gorka couldn’t be bothered to change the text or update the data to reflect that gap. The first twenty pages also reveal a pattern that persists throughout the entire thesis: Gorka is not big on citations, especially scholarly ones. Moreover, the citation practices are, shall we say, lax. For example, here’s footnote 10:

The sarin gas attack executed on the Tokyo metro by Aum in 1995 was in fact preceded by several unsuccessful biological agent attacks prepared by the private laboratories the cult had established with millions of dollars of its funds. For a journalistic account of the history of the cult see David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshal: “The Cult at the End of the World”, Arrow Books, London, 1996. For a scholarly and detailed analysis see the relevant section in Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman and Bradley A. Thayer: “America’s Achilles’ Heel: nuclear, biological, and chemical terrorism and covert attack”, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1998 [emphasis added]

In fact the discussion of Aum Shinrykio appears to be spread over multiple chapters. Along these lines, footnote 20 reads “CNN even showed footage of al Qaeda experimentation that involved the gassing of dogs.” That’s it. In fact, getting an appropriate citation isn’t that much of a challenge. But, at least, a reader can be thankful that he provides references at all. The section called “The New International Scene” runs from pages 19-23. It contains myriad empirical claims—such as the countries within which Al Qaeda had affiliates in 2001—and analytical ones—that Al Qaeda launched 9/11 against the United States to divide it from its allies,  or that “the Arab and Muslim world still has a perturbed relationship to the question of modernity” (21)—none of which are sourced in any manner. The only such reference, involving the number of CIA officers who spoke Pashto on September 11, is to “author’s discussion with Marine Colonel who had served in Afghanistan as a covert paramilitary operator within the CIA, Summer 2004” (2007, 22 fn18).

I stress this lack of citations not merely because it amounts to poor scholarly practice—if anything, the typical dissertation suffers from too many citations—but also because it reflects the bloviating tone that runs throughout. The lack of references creates the impression that Gorka is passing off every insight—from the shopworn, the clichéd, and the banal to the unoriginal but tendentious—as his own.

Some examples:

Here it may be too early to prove the existence of a large-scale trend, but with the second and successful attempt against the World Trade Centre (WTC), – following the earlier truck-bomb attempt in 1993 – al Qaeda at least, has demonstrated a determination to attack highly symbolic targets. This author believes the logic behind this tactic is clear. Terrorism is, like guerrilla warfare, always the tool of choice of weaker actors that cannot win a stand- up fight against their nation state adversary. As a result they will rarely, if ever, be in a position to exact lethal damage to the vital interests or functioning of the state they have pitted themselves against. This is why fear has to be the overarching goal, a fear which can be directed as a tool in applying greater and greater political pressure upon the targeted authorities until policies are changed. In this inculcation of fear, the attack of universally recognisable symbols – such as the Pentagon and WTC – is invaluable, especially in this age of live, global cable and satellite news services. Thanks to the likes of CNN, NBC, BBC, etc., Osama bin Laden was able to send his message of fear to as wide an audience at possible in the fastest time imaginable. Add to this last element of media exploitation, the recent rise of media outlets which challenge the ‘white man’s’ news monopoly, e.g. Al-Arabiya and al Jazeera Television, and we now have channels which in fact may be favourable to the terrorist and act as a force-multiplier in the globalisation of his message (2007, 18).

It is interesting to note that despite the beacon-like example that modern Turkey represents, here too there have been significant developments recently toward a revitalisation of a national identity that relies far more on religion than would otherwise even have been imaginable during recent decades. This resurgence can in part ironically be explained by the negative way in which the European Union has delayed talk of Turkish EU membership (2007, 22 fn17).

Globalisation as a process is not new. Many an ancient empire can be seen as a form of (limited) globalisation. Even so, the fact that globalisation is now occurring in an environment of interconnected market economies and the spread of one specific model of nation-state structuring, namely market democracy, means that an actor wishing to exploit the inherent weaknesses of the democratic model, such as a the religious terrorist, has a broader environment in which to operate. Additionally the attitude of many people nominally belonging to the faith community of Muslim fundamentalism may be swayed by interpretations of the current trends to globalisation that exacerbate the centuries old question of Islam’s relations to modernity and the West. Lastly, the fact that the pre-eminent exponent of globalised terrorism at this time has chosen to restrict his actions very much to attacks aimed against just a handful of Western nations (UK, US, Spain) results in the fact that existing alliance frameworks may be severely weakened by differing assessments as to whom has most to fear from “Transcendental Terror”. Within the previously united western world there is now no agreement on whether or not this is a significant new threat that applies to all of us. In part, the problem is that man has a propensity to judge others based upon himself. As a result it is very difficult to believe in, let alone comprehend, an adversary who thinks in a fashion so contrary to our own. We tend to posit our rationality, even our morality, onto the other. Additionally, many of America’s European allies are more inclined to resolve dispute and potential conflict through diplomatic and political means, rather than through the use of force (2007, 24).

The basics needs of a human being are quite easy to identify: shelter, sustenance and community. The importance of the first two is also simple to explain. As a biological entity, without protection from the elements and food and water, we will not function and quickly die. The relevance of the third requirement is superficially obvious, but on closer examination more complex. There are, of course, the economies of scale that come from living in a cooperative group. As our ancestors who did not have the use of firearms well knew, it is quite difficult to hunt and kill a large animal by oneself. Likewise to fish the seas in an efficient fashion or even to build a sizeable home is a faster and easier a task when done in the company of others. But there are also the psychological and societal benefits of not living the life of a hermit or recluse. Man craves friendship and companionship and finds fulfilment in living within community. If this were not the case, given all the benefits of technology, we could in fact choose to live in total isolation from one another today, but we do not. Then there is the more practical profit that accrues with regard to safety in numbers.

It has been said more than enough times that the history of Mankind is the history of conflict. Respect for one’s territory, one’s chattels and even one’s right to life was never a given. There have always been, and will always be, those that threaten our very existence or livelihood. As a result, the need to be able to defend oneself and one’s family has always been apparent. Such defence is easier when done in numbers than individually or just by family unit. In modern terms, this is the function of providing security (2007, 27).

This last bit of banality opens a section entitled “The Evolution of National Security.” Gorka presents one of the diagrams for which, if nothing else, he deserves all the credit due to him.

It-hurts

Gorka (2007, 28) did not think this through.

In conventional language, shifts in scale from “micro” to “macro” are shifts in size: smaller to larger. As best I can tell, Gorka is trying to tell a temporal story here: the evolution of security is a story about the increasing scale of the object that needs to be secured. The result is a mess. As he writes:

It is not the purpose of this dissertation to provide a lengthy discussion of this evolution, to enumerate the dates when one macro level gave way to another.  In gross terms we can speak, however, of a chain of security being tied first to the tribe or clan, then to a village and, or, religious community, and further to the local landowner unit, followed by a kingdom or empire, or a city-state until we arrive at the modern object of macro-security, the nation-state’ (Gorka 2007, 28).

There are a bunch of problems with this, but the most obvious goes something like this.

Here is the Neo-Assyrian Empire:

640px-Map_of_Assyria

Here are some empires in around 750 AD:

height_of_omayyad_caliphate_cropped

Over the past three millennia, there have been many empires that are much larger in scale than national-states. Indeed, empires—along with federative and confederative polities—constitute some of the most time-honored ways of organizing large, heterogeneous political communities. It makes no sense to call “nation states” a more “macro” stage in security evolution than these forms.

Regardless, Gorka next briefly discusses Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles—for just long enough to tell us that “while there is much to commend the work… it does have its distinct flaws, flaws that it shares with a majority of recent treatise that have proclaimed the death of the nation-state, somewhat prematurely” (2007, 30). This allows him to open his next section (“The Westphalian Inheritance”) with a paragraph that gives me hives.

It is often far too easy to take for granted the system of governance and administration in which we today live. If one does not professionally study modern history or the evolution of international law, one could be forgiven for thinking that the current system of independent nation-states has existed for much longer than it has in fact existed. The truth is that as a concept we can describe its evolution as being quite recent in historic terms. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is taken by most commentators as introducing the foundations for the creation in the West of a system in which the objects were states, bodies that were independent of each others – although which could ally with one another – and into whose internal affairs it was not allowed to become involved, a system in which sovereignty would eventually become paramount26. Later, as this concept evolved and as the individual allegiances of the people would shift from local landowner or royal house, to a professional political elite defined around a national identity, the state would evolve further into the nation-state, with is fundamental aspects of citizenship and nationality.

26In fact it was the sacrosanct nature of sovereignty that would later lie behind the creation of the ‘balance-of-power’ system that would be so important to Europe in following centuries.

Again, no sources. None. Zero. And while “most commentators” may have once believed this, it’s wrong. Westphalia had nothing to do with the foundations of the state system. At least if Gorka had been troubled to cite some of the (very smart) people who argue that it did—even if erroneously—he would come across as less of a pretentious blowhard. The footnote is just the icing on the cake. The balance-of-power system did not render sovereign sacrosanct, because it was premised on moving territory around to maintain the balance of power. The inhabitants of what would later be called “Belgium” certainly did not appreciate being placed under the rule of the United Netherlands for the sake of blocking future French expansion.

All of this amounts to a belabored way of making a rather simple argument: almost all states are organized to defend themselves against military aggression, to police their territory, to engage in espionage, and to protect themselves against espionage. Moreover, Gorka contends, the western allies oriented those capabilities against the Soviet Union and its clients. With the end of the Cold War, things are so much more complex and uncertain, what with the cyber, and the environment, and the terrorism. Add a few footnotes, and we’d have pretty much all we need to move forward.

Thus Gorka returns us to terrorism. Or, more accurately, he summarizes a very few sources to tell us nothing original about conceptual issues related to the study of terrorism. But he does supply us with this wonder of a passage: “One more avenue that takes us out of the abstraction of mere words is a pictographic representation of the mechanics of terrorism. By resorting to a Venn diagram-like approach, it may be easier to understand the dynamics at work between the various subjects and objects of political violence [emphasis added].”

A Venn Diagram-Like Approach (Gorka 2007. 47)

A Venn Diagram-Like Diagram

Now, to the uninitiated, this may look merely like a simple flow chart. So I’ve created a diagram to help make sense of it:

WTF

Locating Venn Diagram-Like Diagrams: a Venn Diagram

 

That’s the end of Part II. I still haven’t gotten to the ‘good stuff’. 150 or so pages to go.

And Now, We Can Move Onto Elections Involving Real Power

[ 580 ] February 25, 2017 |

Tom Perez, an excellent Labor Secretary and head of the Civil Rights Division from the left of the party, will be DNC Chair. Keith Ellison, an excellent and influential member of the House from the left of the party, will be Deputy Chair, and as a bonus will get to remain in Congress. This is good, and is an illustration of the extent to which the party has moved to the left over the past 20 years. Of course, Ellison as Chair would also have been an excellent outcome. Either way, ignoring people who wanted to use a contest for a procedural position as a means of re-litigating the primaries and hence had a felt need to smear the candidate they believed to be a Hillary/Bernie proxy is sound practice.

…and they say Wikileaks never breaks important news!

Wait until the emails revealing that Bernie Sanders secretly supported Hillary Clinton for president are revealed!

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