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Archive for June, 2011

Random Soccer Notes: 2011 World Cup, US Open Cup, and Relegation

[ 8 ] June 28, 2011 |

USA 2-0 North Korea.

I watched the first half on line, then the ESPN page crapped out on me.  The US did not look great in the first half, but according to what I’ve read, they settled down in the second and took control of the match.  The Koreans have a ready excuse of course; part of the side were struck by lightening on June 8, which allegedly caused this 2-0 defeat three weeks later.

The US Open Cup (the American version of the FA Cup) has its third round proper beginning tonight.  It’s a misnomer to call it an “open” cup, however.  Whereas the English FA Cup is a true open competition, including all teams from the top nine tiers of the pyramid as well as selected teams from the 10th tier, the US Open Cup has a complicated qualifying system based on leagues / tiers in the American “pyramid“.  To wit, the MLS only has eight entrants in the Cup, with the top six sides automatically qualifying based on the league table, the rest go through a mini-tournament to qualify for the remaining two slots.

In effect, the tournament is limited to 40 teams (contrasted with the 762 who entered the 2009-10 edition of the FA Cup).  While there are also four qualifying rounds for the English cup, they’re not seeded nor based on a number of slots per league / division, although the higher divisions enter the competition in later rounds.

That said, the competition still does produce interesting matches, like tonight, the Seattle Sounders (who are the current cup holders and have won it the past two seasons) face the Kitsap Pumas of the USPDL, the fourth tier of American soccer.  They don’t have to travel far, as the Kitsap side are based in Bremerton, WA, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle.

Finally, River Plate were relegated from the Argentinian top tier for the first time, breaking a 110 year string in the top league.  They have more top flight championships than any other team in Argentine soccer; it would be analogous to the New York Yankees being relegated to AAA.  (I’d say Manchester United, but they were relegated in 1974).  This has not quite been met with the approval of their supporters.



[ 16 ] June 28, 2011 |

Off to Barcelona for a week. Blogging could be reasonably light, though I have some prepared posts to drop on you (including several Most Prominent Politicians posts).

If anyone has recommendations on excellent things to do in Barcelona, particularly places to eat, hear music, drink, markets to buy fresh food (we have an apartment and would like to cut costs by cooking at home some), and out of the way tourist attractions (I can find the Gaudi stuff myself), I’d really appreciate it.


[ 24 ] June 28, 2011 |

Over the past two weeks I have driven thousands of miles, attended two bachelor’s parties, witnessed two weddings, and gained six pounds.  I’ve been only periodically in touch with the inter-tubes during the time, so please forgive the paucity of blogging.  Home by Wednesday night, with luck. Some random stuff I don’t have time to blog about:

Don’t be surprised by a couple more posts of this nature while I clear out the Google Reader backlog.

This is taking the myth of the gritty gutty white kid without great natural talent who excels by trying harder . . .

[ 72 ] June 28, 2011 |

. . . a bit too far.

In high school, Tim Tebow was the #1 ranked quarterback prospect in the nation.

The Civil Libertarian Split

[ 4 ] June 28, 2011 |

Jeff Rosen makes some good points in his piece about the divisions within the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc. But I think he misses an important one: the way in which the George W. Bush-appointed “minimalists” are substantially worse on civil liberties issues than Scalia and Thomas. Precisely because they have (an admittedly sporadic) interest in broader legal theories, on issues of less central importance to them Scalia and Thomas have a libertarian streak that Roberts and especially Alito never have.

An excellent example was visible last week in another confrontation clause case. Bullcoming v. New Mexico applies the principles established two years ago in Melendez-Diaz. The latter case established the principle that the Sixth Amendment experts who submit evidence on behalf of the state are required to testify in court if called upon by the defense, and the former found that simply sending an analyst who wasn’t involved in the testing is insufficient. On the merits, I think both cases are correct — it’s unclear how a constitutional right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him” doesn’t include people who produce forensic evidence for the state, and complaints that it will prove too costly are 1)as Scalia says in Melendez, probably overstated and 2)prove too much, since the enforcement of all rights costs money. Scalia, in particular, has always been good on these issues, while Alito and Roberts have been standard-issue Republicans.

For our purposes, what’s interesting about these cases is the lineup: Scalia and Thomas were in the majority with Ginsburg and either Souter/Stevens or Obama’s appointees, while the W. Bush appointees were (of course) in dissent along with Kennedy and Breyer, the most statist Democratic appointee. In addition to providing further evidence that Alito and Roberts are the very worst justices on the Court from a progressive standpoint, they’re also examples of how Kennedy’s alleged “libertarianism” is overstated somewhat by Rosen; it’s very erratic in criminal procedure cases.

The I.W.W. and Alternative Unionism

[ 43 ] June 28, 2011 |

Adam Kader has a nice article on the I.W.W. organizing of Starbucks.

That might sound weird. The I.W.W? Didn’t it disappear 80 years ago? Well, more or less. It’s always been there with a very small membership but the people I’ve known involved in the organization seemed to romanticize the past more than understand how to organize in the present. As a scholar of the I.W.W., I have always found little from its past that is particularly helpful in present labor struggles. The historical Wobblies proved utterly ineffective in running an effective organization or maintaining a union after a rare victory (such as in Lawrence, Massachusetts).

But forget about the past. What can the new I.W.W. tell us about organizing? The Starbucks campaign builds upon 2 key tenets of the old I.W.W. with great relevance to the present. First, it organizes industry wide. Understanding that one shop within the larger Starbucks empire has little meaning, the I.W.W. seeks to build solidarity between workplaces in order to build solidarity and gain additional power.

Second, the Wobblies focus heavily on worker education. One of the real weaknesses of the modern labor movement is a lack of emphasis on educating workers about their own workplace, how unions fit into a larger economic and social justice world, and building workplace democracy. The I.W.W. model is better than the AFL-CIO on all these fronts. Here there is real potential for unions outside the AFL-CIO structure to build quality organizations. The I.W.W. is rebuilding worker education centers and emphasizing larger ideas of workplace justice in its Starbucks campaign.

This alternative strategy makes a lot of sense given the continued failure of the AFL-CIO strategies of workplace organizing since 1980. Harold Meyerson had a recent piece exploring SEIU door-to-door campaigns that have nothing to do with organizing a specific workplace, but rather seek to build a larger coalition of the poor and unemployed. Given corporations’ goal of returning us to the Gilded Age, it makes a lot of sense to start revisiting older forms of labor tactics as a response.

It’s true that pre-New Deal unions always had a tremendously difficult time succeeding. It took government intervention on the side of workers to make unionization happen for most. But that intervention would not have happened were it not for 50 years of agitation by workers determined to improve their lives. It’s time to start rebuilding multiple forms of worker and poor person organization to best prepare for the brutal struggles ahead, struggles that some day may convince the government again to care about working-class people.

There are good reasons for the AFL-CIO to exist and be workers’ most powerful voice. But the big organization has always fought vociferously against alternative models of unionization. This is a mistake. There are multiple models of unionization, each with strengths and weaknesses. This most certainly includes the AFL-CIO, whose weaknesses has made it quite unprepared to deal with the modern globalized economy. I don’t know whether the renewed I.W.W. really represents a workable alternative, but I am certainly happy to see it and the Starbucks workers try.

Equality Has A Party, And It Ain’t the GOP

[ 97 ] June 28, 2011 |

As Malaclypse notes, the great Patrick Neilsen Hayden has a perfect response to the idea that opposing marriage discrimination has become a bipatrisan cause:

Cranky moment. Over on Twitter, our Abi retweets a tweet by the generally excellent George Takei. In case Twitter is failwhaling, I’ll reproduce his remark: “Same-sex marriage was passed in NY by a Republican-controlled Senate. Equality has no party, freedom no partisans.”

George Takei is a guy who spent a big part of World War II in American concentration camps, and emerged to be a huge advocate of more democracy and equal rights for everybody. He was on Star Trek. He helped get LA’s new subway system going. He recorded this. His Totally Awesome Human Being credits are, well, astronomical.

But this is bullshit. “Same-sex marriage was passed in NY by a Republican-controlled Senate.” Yes, by 29 out of 30 Democratic state senators and 4 out of 32 Republicans. “Equality has no party?” That’s not what the numbers say.

Don’t mistake my political outlook. In New York State, just as at the federal level, the Democrats are nothing better than the party of the sane billionaires. “Let’s not actually kill everyone and take their money, let’s keep them alive and healthy and in a state of eternal indenture to the powerful” is their idea of progressivism. But you know something, it’s actually better than “let’s kill everyone and take their money.”

And you know something else? 29 out of 30 Democratic state senators voted for SSM. 4 out of 32 Republicans did. And Takei is claiming that “equality has no party.”

Great way to treat your friends.

Great way to treat the people that actually worked on this year after year. Want to look at how many times the (Democrat-controlled) New York Assembly passed SSM?

No, let’s lionize the four Republicans who “bravely” changed their minds, after a covert group of Republican donor billionaires promised to defend them from their bigot constituents, as documented in this terrific New York Times story. Profiles in courage. Yeah, let’s put these guys on stamps, instead of the people who actually worked for this when it wasn’t safe to do so.

More than one person in my corner of the twittoblogoverse has mordantly observed that 5-to-10 years from now, right-wing Republicans will be claiming that they passed same-sex marriage over Democratic opposition. They will indeed. And idiotic, sentimental, pudding-headed nonsense like this tweet from George Takei (who is generally more awesome than I will ever be in a million years) is what will enable them.

Exactly right. We’ve already seen this movie with the “liberal northern Republicans who were being excommunicated from the party supported civil rights, so actually conservatives supported civil rights too” routine.

The Long Reach of the Dawes Act

[ 26 ] June 28, 2011 |

One of the worst laws of the late 19th century was the 1887 Dawes Act. Allowing the government to gut the Indian reservations by providing small allotments to individual Native Americans and selling the rest of the land to the highest bidder was part of the long-term project to destroy Native American life and culture, along with Indian schools, language eradication, ending of hunting rights, etc. Allotment reduced Indian held land from 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act ended the allotment period.

This attack on Native American life is widely considered one of the darkest shadows of American history.

Even today, the Dawes Act’s effects screw over Native Americans. Alleen Brown has a powerful, must-read story at In These Times on how the splitting of the land in a haphazard way has created a nonfunctional property system that still makes it extremely difficult for individuals on the reservations to develop their land or even find out what specific piece of land they actually own.

The bureaucratic system birthed from fractionation makes it almost impossible for Indians to actually live on or develop land they officially own. Owners’ options vary, but they are invariably complicated because so many people hold title to the same piece of land. Any tribal or individual decision on land use has to be agreed upon by at least 50 percent of a tract’s owners. (The average allotment has 17 owners, but some have hundreds.) And, as Redthunder discovered, buying out co-owners is complicated by banks’ unwillingness to deal with land held in trust by the government.

Cris Stainbrook is the executive director of the Minnesota-based Indian Land Tenure Foundation, which seeks to put all reservation land back under Indian control and management. “Indian people are smart enough to do this stuff. But the amount of persistence it takes is so far beyond what non-Indians have to go through, you can’t even imagine,” he says.

For example, Pine Ridge’s land exchange program, to which No Braid applied, requires no fewer than 12 back and forth interactions among various tribal and governmental offices.

We might regret the European conquest of the Americas. We lament Columbus and Custer, smallpox and alcohol. Many of us support increased Native American sovereignty, whether it be Indian gaming or Makah whaling. We see (falsely for the most part but that’s for a different post) that Native Americans were proper stewards of the land that we whites should emulate.

Despite all this lip service, we remain unwilling as a society to deal effectively with the long-term economic and social problems on the reservations. We don’t make it a national priority to hook up the Navajo reservation to the electrical grid, to provide jobs at Pine Ridge, or to solve the land quandaries of the Dawes Act.

It’s hardly the job of paternalistic whites to claim the right to solve all Indian problems. However, for all the talk about the history of Native American-white relations, even under Democratic presidents it has never been a government priority to provide the economic or political support to give Indians the opportunities they want. Instead, most people on the reservations live forgotten about by the government and most Americans, with few job opportunities, little decent food, and continued confusion over the land that is their birthright.

The Lessons of Albany

[ 22 ] June 28, 2011 |

I have some reflections on the belated passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York. The two most important are that 1)the belief that achieving policy victories through legislation will insulate them from backlash is silly, and 2)while the arc of history might bend toward progress, even in the medium term substantial progress on same-sex marriage is far from certain, and to a frightening extent rests on the shoulders of Anthony Kennedy.

Victor Davis Hanson gets paid

[ 97 ] June 27, 2011 |

To write stuff like this.

As a student of the past, the learned professor is no doubt well aware that every ruling class has needed its toadies and flatterers, its court eunuchs and its Hoover Institute Fellows, its . . . but really, what’s the point? Still this particular bit of magisterial toga-tugging caused me to cast my eyes toward the heavens, in expectation that a just deity might feel impelled to cast a Parthenon-sized asteroid in VDH’s general direction:

Reduce much of what Barack Obama says, advocates, and tries to implement and you find a particular kind of despised but uniquely American species in his cross-hairs: upper-middle class, making $200-800,000 a year, employed as a professional or small business person, living in the suburbs or small town America, children in non-Ivy League private and public colleges, a nice house, perhaps a vacation home, boat, 2-3 nice cars, residing outside the east and west coasts without an aristocratic pedigree, for whom food stamps are as much an anathema as is Martha’s Vineyard or Costa del Sol.

Oh put-upon “upper middle class” cultivator of your own vineyard! Oh globe-trotting emeritus being read to by a boy!

Just for the heck of it, I calculated the total monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit a four-person household, consisting of one adult and three children, is eligible for in Colorado, assuming the parent of the children works full-time and earns ten dollars an hour, has a monthly rent of $800, pays $100 a month in utilities, and has no other sources of income. The answer is $474 a month. This is the massive redistribution of income that so offends our classical scholar, as he wrinkles his nose in distaste at the leveling immorality of nations — countries far less wealthy than the United States — where it is taken for granted by literally all respectable political opinion that it is not acceptable for people to starve because they happen to be poor.

Since Hanson is so fond of ancient texts, perhaps he should review this one:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”


[ 70 ] June 27, 2011 |

John Wayne, John Wayne Gacy, what’s really the difference?

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a thing for John Wayne. In an interview yesterday with Newsmax, she said she wants to live in “John Wayne’s America.” And in the Iowa town of Waterloo today, where she announced her presidential candidacy, Bachmann told Fox News, “John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.” But unfortunately for historically challenged Bachmann, as the Washington Times points out, the John Wayne born in Waterloo is John Wayne Gacy, the notorious serial killer who murdered 33 teenage boys and young men, not the iconic Western actor.

Your Republican Party ladies and gentlemen!

The Court and Violent Video Games

[ 12 ] June 27, 2011 |

I basically endorse Adam’s take on today’s other big decision, in which the Supreme Court struck down a California law restricting the commercial availability of violent video games to minors. While I tweeted a joke about how Cornell’s Legal Information Institute included only the good parts of Breyer’s dissent (which can actually be read here), he does in fact have a valid point about the longstanding American violence/nudity double standard. (As Dwight Macdonald said in his review of Psycho, “Our censors…see nothing wrong in showing with intimate, suggestive detail a helpless woman being stabbed to death, but had Mr. Hitchcock ventured to show one of Janet Leigh’s nipples, that would have been a serious offense against morals and decency.”) It’s just that the right answer is to level up to more free speech rather than leveling down to less.

In addition to Breyer splitting with his liberal colleagues, the fissures among the Court’s conservatives were also evident. Thomas, consistently applying the radical views about the applicability of the Bill of Rights to minors that recently led him to the conclusion that the Fourth Amendment permits the arbitrary strip-search of teenage girls by state officials, dissented because of his belief that freedom of speech “does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians.” Scalia — by his own admission a “faint-hearted originalist” — brushes off Thomas in a footnote.

This case is also another example of Alito and Roberts’s disinterest in grand theory, rejecting both Thomas’s originalism and seeking a more “minimalist” approach than Scalia’s preference for clear rules. George W. Bush’s appointees agreed that the California law was unconstitutional but wanted a narrower approach that would permit further state experimentation, an argument Scalia has some fun with. The majority is right to reject this approach for its chilling effects on free speech, although I wish they could also see the similar chilling effects and arbitrary censorship that has resulted from trying to apply balancing tests to evaluate state regulations of obscene materials.

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