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Archive for August, 2013

The Month Liberal Blogging Died

[ 36 ] August 31, 2013 |

Dan Nexon joins TBogg and David Roberts in announcing their departure from blogging in August.

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President seeks Congressional authorization for military action

[ 238 ] August 31, 2013 |

John Yoo protests unconstitutional delegation of presidential power.

Alas, No NFL Team Has the Vision To Make Skip Bayless A GM

[ 127 ] August 31, 2013 |

Oddly, NFL organizations don’t seem to be as convinced as much of the media that JUST WINNING FOOTBALL GAMES by doing stuff like willing opposing running backs to run out bounds is a repeatable skill. And it’s also puzzling that Bill Belichick seems to be letting such details as “there isn’t the slightest reason to believe that Tim Tebow is an NFL caliber running back or tight end” prevent him from trying to convert him into a running back or tight end.

Well, one day perhaps in NFL front office will discover sophisticated analytical techniques like averaging together Tebow’s one season as a horrible regular with two seasons where he was used as either a red-zone gimmick or barely at all. Until then, I here the Washington Post is looking for editorial material and they’re willing to drop their standards well below Marc Thiessen…

#WaPoPitch: G. Todd Baugh Was Right!

[ 163 ] August 31, 2013 |

Of all of the ideas out there that are potentially worth discussing, the Washington Post thinks that this is one of them:

As protesters decry the leniency of Rambold’s sentence — he will spend 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16 — I find myself troubled for the opposite reason. I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized. While I am not defending Judge G. Todd Baugh’s comments about Morales being “as much in control of the situation” — for which he has appropriately apologized — tarring and feathering him for attempting to articulate the context that informed his sentence will not advance this much-needed dialogue.

Karasik goes on to argue that the statutory rape of students by teachers should be treated the same way as sexual relations between teachers and students who are both adults — i.e. as a firable offense but not a criminal one. The argument gets more and more bizarre from there:

The point is that there is a vast and extremely nuanced continuum of sexual interactions involving teachers and students, ranging from flirtation to mutual lust to harassment to predatory behavior. Painting all of these behaviors with the same brush sends a damaging message to students and sets the stage for hypocrisy and distortion of the truth.

There is indeed a continuum of objectionable sexual behavior between adults and adolescents. And as far as I can tell there’s no state where “flirtation” or inappropriate fantasies are treated as a criminal offense comparable to sexual assault so I have no idea what “broad brush” she’s talking about.

If religious leaders and heads of state can’t keep their pants on, with all they have to lose, why does society expect that members of other professions can be coerced into meeting this standard?

This is so incoherent I don’t even know what exactly she’s trying to argue. Is she saying that child molestation by religious leaders should also not be criminalized because in some cases the law was flouted? What does the fact that some heads of state have consensual affairs with other adults have to do with 50-year-olds having sex with children who are too young to meaningfully consent? To the extent that it means anything this would seem to be the pedophilia-apologia equivalent of the old “torture is no different than fraternity hi-jinx” routine.

I can’t really say much more about this argument — which is essentially an even more deeply weird version of Baugh’s argument — than Lithwick and McCombs already have. So please read them. The only thing I’ll add is that it’s particularly senseless to give a particular exemption to teachers who have sex with underage students. Since they’re exploiting another power relationship in addition to age, if anything teachers (like religious leaders) who are statutory rapists are guilty of worse offenses.

I guess in the divorce with Slate the Post got custody of the terrible contrarian arguments? Only “repeal statutory rape laws” is a substantial degeneration from “Creed is an awesome band.”

The Difference is Negligible

[ 299 ] August 31, 2013 |

I don’t want to alarm or upset anybody, but I have changed my avatar. I will no longer be Louise Belcher, but instead will be what is essentially a distillation of Louise Belcher–a bunny with a chainsaw.

Please make a note of it.

Speaking of avatars, let’s talk nyms. I confess to being curious about everybody’s. (I also confess to not figuring out c u n d gulag’s nym for an embarrassingly long time.) Tell everybody how your nym came to be!

The Ramen Century

[ 53 ] August 30, 2013 |

We live in an era of ramen.

That palm oil is central to ramen makes me sad because I’ve seen Malaysian jungle turned into palm monocultures and it is incredibly depressing. But not if you are poor.

For Potato-Lovers Only: No Irish

[ 83 ] August 30, 2013 |

I was looking for a recipe for red-cooked pork and this blog was the first search result that popped up. I used the recipe, yes, but I kept clicking and reading. The site is great fun–all the entries are well-written, friendly, fun and really, really informative.

Whenever I read about the authentic cuisine of other countries I’m always reminded of how woefully ignorant most Americans are of the “real” food of, well, the world. For instance, I had no idea that the potato was so prevalent in Chinese cooking. Sure, it’s a relatively new addition to the cuisine, but I bet you didn’t know people were stir-frying julienned potatoes and serving them al dente. And I bet you didn’t know that as cucumbers mature, they yellow…and the Chinese use them in soup!

It’s all pretty damn interesting. Go take a look.

Just for fun: What are your favorite potato dishes?

Fixing the Rust Belt Through Immigration

[ 89 ] August 30, 2013 |

Jeff La Noue has an interesting piece about how to “fix” the Rust Belt cities. Using Toronto as a model, he asks why the Canadian side of the Great Lakes is booming and the American side is in a decades-long slide. There are complex reasons for this. I am not this site’s resident Canadian, but among Toronto’s clear advantages over Toledo or Buffalo is that Canada doesn’t have an east coast chock full of interesting cities. Halifax might compare to Portland, Maine but it doesn’t compare to Boston, while Montreal is a different beast.

Anyway, he points to the Rust Belt cities making themselves welcome homes of immigrants as key to Toronto’s success:

Hogtown, yes, that is Toronto’s nickname from its frontier days, is comprised of (just a shade under) 50 % foreign born. This 49+percent immigrant population comprises half of Toronto’s 2.6 million people and a metro area now over 5.6 million. In 1950, Toronto was just slightly larger than Cleveland and about 700,000 warm bodies less than Detroit’s population. Today there are more foreign born Torontonians than the combined populations of Detroit and Cleveland. Toronto attracts Asians. Cleveland’s Asia Town strategy is a streetscape project! I am not exactly sure if it involves actually adding Asians. Toronto does not have better weather, natural resources, or geographic advantages than probably any of America’s big city population losers. It’s booming economy relies on “innovation and the development of ideas to create wealth” according to Invest Toronto. Toronto understands immigrants are a central ingredient to their success. It starts with a friendly immigrant portal for getting started in Toronto!

Cleveland, Detroit, etc. would be forever changed if they made their primary revitalization strategy to be a top American “port of entry.” (The Feds would have to approve and cooperate) Cities need new people and immigrants to America have a centuries long tradition of creating or finding opportunity.

Even better, many immigrants would be excited to come if it came with an expedited US green card (even if it required a start out in a Rust Belt City provision) . Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit boomed with the help of immigrants from eastern Europe before WWI, and African-american migrants from the American South in WWII. It is time to avoid native protectionism and tailor a policy to bring new waves of immigrants that would be eager to call themselves Clevelanders et al. Looking across the lake to Toronto is the first step.

Again, I think that Toronto being the financial capital of Canada is probably more important, but the point is valid.

It’s also very much worth noting how capitalists respond to the problems of Cleveland by pushing a failed corporate agenda that promotes their own investment interests. He links to a piece by Sandra Pianalto, President of the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, who argues that what the city really needs to reinvent itself is–wait for it–Rheeism! (for more info about the Cleveland version of this, see here)

This is patently absurd as a way to fix the city. I know that according to Rhee and Rahm Emanuel and all the other school reform charlatans teacher unions are a unique evil, but holding back the entire city of Cleveland from becoming a booming metropolis like Toronto is really quite impressive. But regardless of what one thinks about education issues, that’s so far from a solution to the problem that it’s laughable. Yet as Thomas Frank mentioned in his essay on academic capitalism, the solution for these people is ALWAYS more capitalism, more privatization, more magical hand of the free market.

La Noue’s idea of opening these cities up as immigrant hubs makes a lot more sense. I’m sure older red-blooded Americans like Mr. Horvath and Ms. Wojcik might oppose their cities being taken over by immigrants who just won’t assimilate to our ways, but these concerns are of course misplaced.

Seamus Heaney

[ 14 ] August 30, 2013 |

R.I.P.

My favorite is From The Frontier Of Writing:

The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent
down cradled guns that hold you under cover

and everything is pure interrogation
until a rifle motions and you move
with guarded unconcerned acceleration—

a little emptier, a little spent
as always by that quiver in the self,
subjugated, yes, and obedient.

So you drive on to the frontier of writing
where it happens again. The guns on tripods;
the sergeant with his on-off mike repeating

data about you, waiting for the squawk
of clearance; the marksman training down
out of the sun upon you like a hawk.

And suddenly you’re through, arraigned yet freed,
as if you’d passed from behind a waterfall
on the black current of a tarmac road

past armor-plated vehicles, out between
the posted soldiers flowing and receding
like tree shadows into the polished windscreen.

This One Goes Out to All the LGM Trolls

[ 102 ] August 30, 2013 |

How to make pink pancakes, a recipe from 1786.

What pancake recipes do you think our trolls use?

Optimism?

[ 65 ] August 30, 2013 |

John Logan has five reasons you should be optimistic about unions this Labor Day.

First, most Americans hold favorable views of unions. According to a June 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of Americans hold favorable views of labor unions, a 10 percent increase from the number in the same poll conducted two years earlier. This is first time since January 2007 that a majority of the public has viewed unions favorably. 80 percent of “liberal Democrats” hold favorable views on unions. Women, minorities and youth – key groups for organized labor — hold the most pro-union attitudes. There is no straightforward relationship between public approval for unions and union growth, but the labor movement must figure out how to bring into its fold the majority of Americans who like unions.

Second, bucking national trends, union membership in California increased by a whopping 110,000 members in 2012, even as it fell by 368,000 nationwide. Much of the increase in California, which has the nation’s largest number of union members, was among healthcare workers and Latino workers. In several other states with growing Latino populations, membership grew more modestly, but these states may soon follow California’s lead.

Third, some of the nation’s most vulnerable workers have been standing up for decent wages and working conditions. Wal-Mart workers and warehouse workers under contract with Wal-Mart have gone out on strike around the country. Port truckers in L.A. and Long Beach voted to unionize, as did carwash workers in L.A. and New York, and taxi drivers in New York. Following the examples of New York, Hawaii enacted a domestic worker “Bill of Rights” and California may soon do the same. Fast food workers — most of who are adults working for little more than $10 per hour — have walked off the job in New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Seattle. They won’t be able to bargain with their employers anytime soon, but few would have predicted their brave job actions last year.

Fourth, after years of Republican obstructionism, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a full compliment of five members for the first time under the Obama administration. The NLRB election system provides weak protection for workers’ right to organize, and its influence has been severely constrained by the courts, but it remains an important bulwark against recalcitrant employers who violate workers’ fundamental rights.

Finally, as demonstrated by next week’s “open convention,” the AFL-CIO and its affiliates are more flexible, imaginative, and inclusive than ever before. They have embraced the struggles of domestic workers, carwash workers, Wal-Mart workers, fast food workers and others. They have formed deep alliances with the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Sierra Club, religious organizations, and other groups that support basic justice for American workers. And they have played a key role in lobbying for federal legislation that benefits all workers – healthcare reform, equal pay legislation, immigration reform, an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick leave.

Other than maybe active growth in California, I’m not sure any of this means all that much in terms of growing union power. A functional NLRB is a good thing, making meaningful, alliances is very important (although what that means in terms of concrete results I’m not sure), and I’m certainly glad fast food workers are standing up for themselves. But sweet icing can’t cover up a cake poisoned by nearly a half century of capital mobility, ideological attacks on unions, and corporate regulatory capture.

Blank Checks and No Balances

[ 83 ] August 30, 2013 |

Some thoughts on the depressing fact that one of the areas where strong congressional oversight is most needed is one area in which the president has the freest hand:

Whatever one thinks of the constitutional issues, Congress’s abdication of responsibility is a bad thing. The current institutional equilibrium has led to a perverse place where it’s enormously difficult for the president to appoint people to fill minor executive branch positions but he can bomb anything he likes with almost no prospect of congressional pushback. This is the wrong way around. Even if Congress thinks it’s washed its hands of responsibility through inaction, the legislative body shares the blame if there’s an attack on Syria that goes badly.

Particularly striking is the contrast with Great Britain, where the normally deferential Commons learned its lesson from Blair’s behavior on Iraq and decided not to take Cameron’s word for it. An attack on Syria would also be nearly unilateral in terms of allies, making it an even worse idea than it is already.  And while I understand the logic of the executive needed a much freer hand in military affairs given the inefficiency of congressional procedures and the potential need to reply in the case of emergencies or immediate threats, this obviously has nothing to do with Syria.

This point from the Matt Duss piece I link to is also crucial:

The first case is fairly easy to dismiss. Supporters of military intervention tend to place a great deal of weight on “credibility,” which is almost exclusively defined as “a willingness to bomb something.” As this argument goes, the United States needs to use deadly force to maintain its table image, to use a poker term. If we get caught bluffing, other players will be more likely to call or raise us in the future. But there’s just not a lot of real-world evidence that one’s table image is so easily lost or maintained. As political scientist Jonathan Mercer, author of Reputation and International Politics, wrote in Foreign Affairs in May, it’s impossible to know what conclusions America’s adversaries will draw from specific action or inaction. “They might think that Obama has no credibility, that he is, in fact, resolute, or that he is driven by other U.S. interests. Whatever conclusion they come to will be driven by their own beliefs and interests.”

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