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Archive for November, 2011

The future: A lovely vacation in Spain

[ 38 ] November 26, 2011 |

It’s pretty hard to set a new standard for “dumbest argument about climate change,” but this may just pull off that difficult feat.


Via Henry Farrell. (Who also notes the evolution of the post tags)


Stopping Keystone

[ 7 ] November 26, 2011 |

While the nation’s attention has been focused on Occupy Wall Street, Jane Mayer wonders whether the really important American political movement of 2011 has not actually been the Bill McKibben led movement to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. I wouldn’t go so far as to downplay the importance of OWS, but there’s no question that environmentalists led a fantastic campaign against all odds to stop a project that seemed in the bag. Its long-term future is unknown; McKibben thinks he’s won but the decision has only been postponed until after the election. Still, it’s hard to regain momentum on big projects when they’ve been halted. In any case, it’s a tremendous story that demonstrates how to play the inside game of Democratic politics, the protest game, and how to bring in local constituencies that normally oppose environmentalism but don’t want their own areas denigrated, in this case Republicans in Nebraska who feared the pollution of their groundwater.

Pastoral Capitalism

[ 13 ] November 26, 2011 |

Outstanding Louise Mozingo op-ed on how office parks contribute to sprawl and how any rethinking of urban spaces needs to place limitations on the growth of “pastoral capitalism,” as she calls it. In conclusion:

All three steps — a halt to agricultural land conversion, connecting dispersed employment centers with alternative transit, and encouraging downtown development — are needed to create renewed, civic-minded corporate workplaces and, in the process, move toward sustainable cities. Even leaving aside climate change, very soon the price of energy will make the dispersed, unconnected, low-density city-building pattern impossibly costly. Those jurisdictions and businesses that first create livable, workable, post-peak-oil metropolitan regions are the ones that will win the future.


How Gilded Age Corruption Still Poisons Our Civic Life

[ 54 ] November 25, 2011 |

Joshua Holland on the history of how corporations became “people.”

During the 19th century, however, the robber barons, aided by a few corrupt jurists deep in their pockets, took the concept to a whole new level in the United States. According to legal textbooks, the idea that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as you or I was codified in the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. But historian Thom Hartmann dug into the original case documents and found that this crucially important legal doctrine actually originated with what may be the most significant act of corruption in history.

It occurred during a seemingly routine tax case: Santa Clara sued the Southern Pacific Railroad to pay property taxes on the land it held in the county, and the railroad claimed that because states had different rates, allowing them to tax its holdings would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The railroads had made the claim in previous cases, but the courts had never bought the argument.

In a 2005 interview, Hartmann described his surprise when he went to a Vermont courthouse to read an original copy of the verdict and found that the judges had made no mention of corporate personhood. “In fact,” he told the interviewer, “the decision says, at its end, that because they could find a California state law that covered the case ‘it is not necessary to consider any other questions’ such as the constitutionality of the railroad’s claim to personhood.”

Hartmann then explained how it was that corporations actually became “people”:

In the headnote to the case—a commentary written by the clerk, which is not legally binding, it’s just a commentary to help out law students and whatnot, summarizing the case—the Court’s clerk wrote: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The discovery “that we’d been operating for over 100 years on an incorrect headnote” led Hartmann to look into the past of the clerk who’d written it, J. C. Bancroft Davis. He discovered that Davis had been a corrupt official who had himself previously served as the president of a railroad. Digging deeper, Hartmann then discovered that Davis had been working “in collusion with another corrupt Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Field.” The railroad companies, according to Hartmann, had promised Field that they’d sponsor his run for the White House if he assisted them in their effort to gain constitutional rights.

Lemieux would be somewhat better qualified to speak on this matter than myself, but Field has always seemed to me one of the nation’s worst Supreme Court justices, especially considering his long tenure on the court.


[ 31 ] November 25, 2011 |

Poor Sam Brownback, an 18 year old is being mean to him on Twitter. And it really bothers his staff.


[ 12 ] November 25, 2011 |

What are you doing with all of your leftover turkey? When I was growing up, I knew turkey leftovers well. We’d get a big turkey for Thanksgiving and then eat the leftovers for like 3 weeks. Then, my Dad’s work always gave us a Christmas turkey. So we’d start the ritual all over again. From November 24 or so until about January 15, we ate a lot of turkey.

It is therefore with great joy that my parents never tried this recipe for Jellied Turkey Pineapple Loaf recommended in a 1950s cookbook by noted chefs the Poultry and Egg National Board. I provide this for you all. A public service as it were.

Jellied Turkey Pineapple Loaf:

Pineapple Layer:

1 package lemon gelatin
¾ cup hot water
1 cup pineapple juice, drained from a No. 2 can crushed pineapple (2½ cups)
1¼ cups well-drained crushed pineapple
½ cup grated carrot

Turkey Layer:

1 package lemon gelatin
1 chicken bouillon cube
¾ cup hot water
1 cup cold water
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup finely chopped cooked turkey
1 cup finely diced celery
¼ cup sliced stuffed green onion
½ tsp. salt, or more

Pour hot water over lemon gelatin. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in pineapple juice, pineapple and carrot. Blend and cool until mixture is thickened. Pour into a 1½ quart mold. Chill until set. Pour turkey layer on top. To make turkey layer: Dissolve the gelatin and the bouillon cube in the hot water. Add cold water stirring constantly. Cool until mixture is thickened. Add remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt. Pour mixture over top of set pineapple layer. Chill until firm. Turn out of mold on lettuce or other greens. Serve with salad dressing. 8 to 10 servings.

If this doesn’t sound tasty enough for you, there’s also a recipe for a scrumptious turkey mousse!

Did Paterno et al. Do Enough?

[ 34 ] November 25, 2011 |

The answer is, in fact, perfectly obvious:

But none of the principals involved here are corporate lawyers. None of them has any ethical duty of confidentiality toward Penn State and certainly not toward Sandusky. They have absolutely no ethical, moral or legal basis for not immediately dialing 911 after witnessing the rape, or hearing about it secondhand. Grad students have no professional obligations against disclosure. There is no football-coach privilege. The ethical football coach can and often must disclose your failure to give 110%.

And Sandusky’s alleged conduct doesn’t even implicate the school. He was an individual. His alleged crimes are individual criminal felonies. Indeed, his crimes only began to implicate Penn State after Penn State officials chose to sit on their hands for years on end. If a corporate lawyer walks into the company bathroom and sees the VP of Marketing raping a child, that lawyer calls the cops.

It’s not uncommon for the media to oversimplify complex moral questions. But in the Penn State case, too many people are just obfuscating very straightforward moral questions.


[ 59 ] November 24, 2011 |

I thought everyone might need their feelings reassured for Thanksgiving. Luckily, the Denver Westword has provided us with some extra-special classroom posters from 1973. Now, let’s all gather around and talk about our feelings.


I recommend drinking.

A better way? Setting the plane and the book on fire with the gasoline from Dad’s lawnmower.

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

[ 27 ] November 24, 2011 |

Clearly, the increasing price of turkey is all the more reason to heed the sage advice of Calvin Trillin.


[ 45 ] November 24, 2011 |

Whenever you hear a pundit use this word, you can safely tune out, as it’s an even bigger bullshit dump than “leadership” or “bully pulpit.”

The rest of the column, meanwhile, is premised on the idea that the ideas of the Catfood Commission are enormously popular, or at least that Obama could make them popular.   Wrong, and wrong again.

Brokered Conventions!

[ 17 ] November 23, 2011 |

Apparently the fantasy never dies…

PoliSci, the Courts, and the ACA

[ 32 ] November 23, 2011 |

Michael Bailey and Forest Maltzman have a piece up at the Prospect arguing that the best political science modelling suggests that the Supreme Court will uphold the ACA. I don’t necessarily disagree with their conclusion, but I’m skeptical about some aspects of their specific argument. To summarize, 1)I don’t really buy the argument that Kennedy is particularly likely to feel constrained by precedent, and 2)even if I did since he can get around precedents by interpreting them the way a majority of Republican federal court appointees have interpreted them rather than the way Laurence Silberman interpreted them it’s moot. (In addition, we don’t know how Silberman would have ruled if he was on the Supreme Court; one problem with framing this as a conflict between “law” and “politics” is that it’s not bad legal practice for Supreme Court majorities to overrule or narrowly interpret their own precedents, even if one assumes arguendo that Wickard and Raich compel the upholding of the ACA.)

In this specific case, I actually think that straightforward, less sophisticated attitudinal measures tell us the most; Kennedy is more moderate than his Republican-appointed colleagues and is more likely to vote to uphold the ACA than they are, but there are enough competing imperatives that it’s impossible to predict his vote with any confidence. More complex strategic factors may well influence the final vote count and how the opinions are written, but I don’t think they will have much influence on the bottom-line outcome.

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