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Archive for February, 2015

FattyGate

[ 80 ] February 28, 2015 |

I think it will come as a shock to no one that a movement as misogynistic and transphobic (and, oh yeah, craaaaazy racist) as GamerGate also places A LOT of stock in fat-shaming. Hey! Did you know that all women who oppose GamerGate are fatty-fat-fat non-gamers?

Well, they are.

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“Because I Will Sign a Right to Work Bill, I Could Personally Have Defeated the Nazis”

[ 94 ] February 28, 2015 |

At one time, I was really worried about Scott Walker becoming president. But with each passing day, it’s increasingly clear that this is a person not ready for prime time. Instead, this is Sarah Palin in a tie. Just one of many examples:

In response to a question from an audience member at at the Conservative Political Action conference earlier in the evening, Walker brought up the massive protests in Wisconsin in 2011 over a law he signed stripping public-sector unions of their power to collectively bargain.

“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world,” Walker said. “We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Following the remarks, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote that he took no pleasure in defending the union protesters, but that Walker gave a “terrible response” to the Islamic State question. A spokeswoman for Walker’s political committee later sent Geraghty a statement downplaying the governor’s mention of the protesters.

“Governor Walker believes our fight against ISIS is one of the most important issues our country face,” the statement to Geraghty from Walker spokeswoman Kristen Kukowski said. “He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership. Those are the qualities we need to fix the leadership void this White House has created.”

In an interview with Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin and John Heilemann after the CPAC speech, Heilemann gave Walker a golden opportunity to deny that he was equating violent extremists with union protesters.

“You’re not actually comparing ISIS terrorists to the protesters in Wisconsin, right?” Heilemann asked him. “You’re not trying to make that comparison in either direction, that the protesters are equivalent to terrorists or that the terrorists are equivalent to protesters?”

“Not by a landmine — by a landslide out there difference, a Grand Canyon-sized difference,” Walker replied. “My point was just if I can handle that kind of pressure, that kind of intensity, I think I’m up for the challenge for whatever might come if i choose to run for President.”

I guess his strategy is to say as many crazy things as possible to win the Republican nomination and then assume the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson will buy him the job with hundreds of millions in negative ads. But there’s way too much he can’t walk back here and thinking about this man facing Hillary Clinton in a debate makes me laugh. Of course, it’s entirely possible his strategy could work.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and International Conceptions of Race in America

[ 2 ] February 28, 2015 |

Interesting essay on the influence of the racial stereotypes in Uncle Tom’s Cabin on German conceptions of American racial issues.

For Jim O’Loughlin, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a popular artefact through which changing concerns about race and nationhood can be understood, because it served as an ‘agent of cultural change for almost one hundred years.’[xi] Since this novel and its adaptations became one of the early examples for the mass circulation of popular culture, this is almost as true internationally as it is in the United States. But the process whereby Uncle Tom’s Cabin was brought to international audiences meant its racist stereotypes were not necessarily accompanied by the original novel’s redeeming feature – its antislavery message. The international cultural memory of American history presented Uncle Tom’s Cabin continues to rely on such stereotypes, which are damaging because of their clichéd contemporary familiarity.

A sense of disconnect therefore exists between the historical evaluation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the contemporary willingness to use ‘Uncle Tom’ as a politicised rhetorical device. A historical lens enables readers to at once understand the novel as a flawed product of its time and an important agent of social change. Stowe’s personal commitment to antislavery went hand in hand with the dissemination of racist stereotypes that were nonetheless common in nineteenth-century America, but the contemporary reiteration of such stereotypes in America and abroad is not an innocuous mistake. History is intrinsic to making any meaning of the phrase ‘Uncle Tom’, so those who mobilise it understand its racist legacy. This does not overlook the historical foundations of such epithets, but in fact shows a willingness to mobilise a history of chattel slavery and racial hierarchy for political gain.

As David S. Reynolds writes, ‘We may hope for a time when America is, in President Barack Obama’s phrase, “beyond race,” when we can erase the negative usage of Uncle Tom because it is inapplicable to social reality.’ Yet Obama himself perhaps most prominently continues to experience the legacy of nineteenth-century popular culture in a way that debunks the myth of a post-racial America. The recent Sony hacks, where executives speculated over whether Obama would like films such as Django Unchained (2012) and 12 Years a Slave (2013), the latter based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 slave narrative of the same name, show how history and popular culture are very much linked to the expression of racism in America.[xii] The Uncle Tom’s Cabin phenomenon, the success of which was intrinsically linked to the expansion of mass culture across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, demonstrates the degree to which national prejudices can be naturalised, rather than critiqued, through international circulation. When transported beyond the United States, the racism within American popular culture has subsequently been used to undermine a president beyond American borders. Uncle Tom’s Cabin remains at the locus of the referential network upon which this political rhetoric continues to be built.

De-tenuring

[ 47 ] February 28, 2015 |

A disturbing proposal out of Tennessee. In response to continued decreases in state funding of higher education, the Board of Trustees has announced cost cutting and revenue raising plans that are terrible for both students and faculty but fairly expected. And tacked on is something very weird and upsetting:

Tenure and post-tenure review process: To be conducted by UT System Administration and with involvement by the Faculty Council, to look at awarding of tenure, post-tenure compensation and enacting of a de-tenure process.

A de-tenure process? First, what on earth does that have to do with the funding crisis? The answer is of course nothing but a university shock doctrine, with the Board using financial problems in order to gain power over professors. What would call for the loss of tenure? It’s unstated at this time, but one assumes the answer is anything that a provost or professor doesn’t want professors to say would be one likely category.

More here as the war on faculty continues.

Profiles in rent-seeking: College athletics edition

[ 176 ] February 28, 2015 |

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The athletic directors and the commissioner of the Big 10 conference are very, very, very concerned about putting the education of their unpaid quasi-professional athletes students who participate in extra-curricular activities first. Very concerned. How concerned? This much:

“While we are comfortable generating multiple ideas about an ‘education first’ approach to intercollegiate athletics in the twenty-first century, we won’t go it alone on any of these matters,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in the statement. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the NCAA Division I governance structure, and to exploring a broad exchange of ideas from both inside and outside of intercollegiate athletics.”

ESPN.com had previously reported that the Big Ten had begun internal discussions about making all or some freshman athletes ineligible, a measure that would have the greatest effect on the current one-and-done climate in college basketball.

Delany, who was getting paid just $1.8 million by the conference two years ago, and who is strongly opposed to college football and basketball players having their salaries raised from their current level of $0.00, was walking back those reports, since even the rumor that the conference was considering such a proposal was already being used against the conference’s football and men’s basketball teams (the two sports that make all the money) by coaches from other, less educationally-serious conferences.

But the conference is very serious about education. How serious? This serious:

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said he believes in the NCAA policy that prohibited freshmen participation before a 1972 reversal.

“I, for one ,as a Big Ten AD, am tired of being used as a minor league for professional sports,” Burke said. “What was right for the NCAA in the first 70 years of its history, maybe we ought to go back and say, ‘What’s changed?'”

Among Big Ten leaders, he said, a consensus exists to “get education back on the proper platform.”

What’s changed? Oh it is a deep and abiding mystery. Or is it?

Gaze upon my balance sheets, ye mighty, and despair:

Salary of Michigan athletic director Don Canham in 1980 (Canham at this point was the most successful AD in the country, having transformed Michigan’s athletic department into the most profitable revenue-enhancing in all of college sports): $54,000

Salary of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler in 1980 (Schembechler had the highest winning percentage of any college football coach during the 1970s): $105,000

You can multiply these numbers by 2.87 to account for inflation.

Salary of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon in 2014-15: $900,000 base, $175,000 in deferred comp, up to $200,000 in performance bonuses.

Salary of new Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh: $7,000,000.

Brandon won’t be collecting any performance bonuses this year, as he pulled off the astonishing feat of doing such an atrocious job that he got several hundred students to march on the university president’s house demanding he be fired, which he subsequently was. He will collect several million dollars in severance pay, however, because The Market. (An amusing account of some of his follies can be found here). My favorite detail of Brandon’s contract is that he and his wife got the free use of dealer-provided cars, with the dealers paying not only for the cars, but for registration and license plates, while the university was left on the hook for insuring the vehicles, as well as for the cost of “routine oil changes.” (BTW Brandon is the ex-CEO of Domino’s Pizza, and had, conservatively speaking, a net worth well into the tens of millions of dollars, before he took a job with a seven-figure salary that also covers the cost of routine oil changes for his free cars).

And Brandon wasn’t even in the top quarter of Big 10 AD pay last year, as the athletic directors at Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin were all pulling down more than one million dollars in base pay alone.

Those salaries in turn pale in comparison to the $3.24 million being paid two years ago to what might — might — be the highest-paid law professor in the land, Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams (Williams also has an appointment on the Vanderbilt law faculty, which should provide a soft landing if the Commodores’ football team’s current streak of five four three two one zero good football seasons in a row should ever be broken. Williams’ salary is largely a product of the sweetheart deals administrative grifter extraordinaire Gordon Gee put in place before he high-tailed it out of Nashville).

Williams was in the news yesterday when he announced that Vanderbilt’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings wouldn’t be suspended, after he was caught advising one of his student-athletes that he would “fucking kill you” if his on-court deportment did not improve posthaste. (To be fair, Stallings explained to ESPN afterwards that his stated intention to kill his own player was merely a figure of speech, and should not have been taken literally.)

In the light of all this, Burke can perhaps be forgiven if he feels that the half million dollars he’s getting paid to be Purdue’s AD this year, not counting up to another $120,000 in “performance bonuses,” is practically a vow of poverty. On the third hand a cynic might point out that Burke has suckled unmolested at the increasingly engorged teat of big time college athletics for the 22 years he’s held his current position, and that he’s seen his own stupendous salary go up by 50% over the past six years alone.

Foreign Entanglements: More ISIS!

[ 3 ] February 28, 2015 |

On this episode of Foreign Entanglements, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and I talk ISIS:

SEK vs. ENT

[ 72 ] February 27, 2015 |

SEK needed to go to an ENT because his right ear is on the fritz. So he went to VERY YOUNG ENT’s office in Prairieville, Louisiana, which may or may not have any bearing on what follows.

VERY YOUNG ENT: (looking at — but not reading — SEK’s medical file) This is a really thick file you have here.

SEK: I do what I can.

VERY YOUNG ENT: (putting down file) So what seems to the be the problem, man?

SEK: My right ear is on strike.

VERY YOUNG ENT: (puts otoscope in SEK’s ear) Whoa, dude, how do you hear anything out of this?

SEK: I don’t at the moment.

VERY YOUNG ENT: I mean, what about ever?

SEK: What about ever what?

VERY YOUNG ENT: What about how do you ever hear anything out of it? It’s like your ear canal is upside down, man.

SEK: It’s not ideal.

VERY YOUNG ENT: And what’s up with your eardrum?

SEK: (looking longingly as his unread medical history) There’s a —

VERY YOUNG ENT: Giant hole in it, man. How’d that happen? I mean —

SEK: Tubes. Many sets of —

VERY YOUNG ENT: You don’t need to tell me. That’s giant — like, giant. How are we even having this conversation?

SEK: (resisting to the urge to say, “What conversation?”) With effort.

VERY YOUNG ENT: No doubt, man, no doubt. So it’s not infected, it’s just —

SEK: Weird?

VERY YOUNG ENT: Very weird. Let me look something up. (leaves)

And that’s where SEK’s story ends, at least for the moment, because SEK is still in the room where the VERY YOUNG ENT left him. After about 30 minutes SEK got so bored sitting in the room that he took out his laptop and wrote this.

SEK isn’t sure whether the VERY YOUNG ENT is coming back, or even if the VERY YOUNG ENT’s offices are even open anymore.

The rest of the story is available at Facebook because sorry, that’s just where people “live-blog” stuff now.

Making Any Art Form More Inclusive Will Probably Only Improve It

[ 39 ] February 27, 2015 |

Amanda Marcotte has a good rant over at Raw Story about how nobody is going to stop game developers from making sexist games. That’s true and I think that’s good–people should be allowed to make sexist games. And games that don’t acknowledge the existence of people of color and LGBT folks. That’s fine. Now, while acknowledging that, it’s important to keep in mind that when you make these sorts of myopic, exclusionary games, you are not guaranteed an audience for them. Aww, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant for a whole ‘nother day and people who don’t understand what censorship is aren’t reading this blog anyway.

For awhile now I’ve had conflicted feelings about my body of work (as an artist). Looking through my gallery, I can’t help but notice that all my models are young, thin, and white. I also manipulate my models quite heavily. It’s an odd sort of manipulation–I’m not making them prettier, I’m making them weirder mostly. I’m playing with proportion, I’m making their heads too big, their waists too small, their shoulders too narrow, their dresses impossibly voluminous. I’m painting their faces to make them look, uh, creepy-glamorous, I guess.  I have every right to use models that are young, thin and white. I have a right to play with proportion the way I do. I have every right to do my weird take on glamor make-up. But if someone wants to offer a critique of my art based on the observations I just made, it will only help it if I listen.

Lately I’ve been pushing myself to change things up a bit, to create the mood I’m after without relying so heavily on my old tropes. I’m exaggerating proportions less. The piece I’m working on now features models slightly younger than I’m used to working with so I’ve decided not to distort their faces or bodies–at all. I simply wasn’t comfortable taking liberties with younger models and was worried about the message I’d send if I’d gone “all in” as I normally do. Do I view this as a limitation? No, not at all. It’s a challenge, and a fun one at that. I’ve already got my workarounds all mapped out, so there will be no magic missing from my canvas in the end. This has got me excited about working with models of color (although they are distressingly hard to find at my hunting grounds) and and of size. Making my art more inclusive is not going to hurt it, it’s going to help it, and it’s going to make me a better artist with more interesting body of work.

To be clear, I have every right to use any sort of model I want and manipulate her how I choose. However, if I make my art exclusionary I will *purposely* be taking money out of my own wallet. Since I’m not a moron, I happily choose diversity. Here’s to challenging myself and giving everybody a choice and acknowledging the existence of a wider range women. This is a good, healthy development that’s going to spur creativity, not stunt it.

King Art of North Carolina

[ 21 ] February 27, 2015 |

Art Pope’s rule as King of North Carolina continues with the closing of centers on North Carolina campuses that deal with social and ecological issues:

The full UNC Board of Governors met in Charlotte this morning and voted unanimously to close three academic centers.

The centers ordered to close are: the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at UNC Chapel Hill; the Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina; and the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at NC Central.

Board of Governors leadership denied that politics played a role.

Dozens of students and others attended the Board meeting and protested the decision. Several spoke out during the discussion and were removed from the meeting. Board Chair John Fennebresque eventually had to recess and move the meeting to another room as protestors shouted and chanted outside the door.

Not political?

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors, which consists almost entirely of Republican appointees, opted Friday to disband the think-tank run by Gene Nichol, a law professor and former Democratic congressional candidate from Colorado.

About two-dozen activists demonstrated against closing the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was created to help launch John Edwards’ presidential campaign. Some protesters were told to leave and led out by UNC-Charlotte campus police.

State university leaders moved to a smaller room, allowing in board members, reporters and staffers and leaving protesters to chant outside.

Nichol has acidly criticized the policies advanced by McCrory and Republican lawmakers. In one 2013 opinion essay, he compared McCrory to 1960s-era segregationist Southern governors because of his support for tougher election laws. Subsequent newspaper opinion pieces included the disclaimer that Nichol doesn’t speak for UNC.

Nichols swiftly responded to the decision, saying in an email to The Associated Press that it was an effort to punish him as the center’s director “for publishing articles that displease the Board and its political benefactors.”

Right.

What Could Go Wrong

[ 10 ] February 27, 2015 |

Good ol’ regulatory capture: Department of Agriculture edition from Tom Philpott:

Their comments focus on three Hormel-associated plants, which are among just five hog facilities enrolled in a pilot inspection program run by the USDA. In the regular oversight system, USDA-employed inspectors are stationed along the kill line, charged with ensuring that conditions are as sanitary as possible and that no tainted meat ends up being packed for consumption. In the pilot program, known as HIMP (short for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points-based Inspection Models Project), company employees take over inspection duties, relegating USDA inspectors to an oversight role on the sidelines.

What’s more, the HIMP plants get to speed up the kill line—from the current rate of 1,100 hogs per hour to 1,300 hogs per hour, a jump of nearly 20 percent. The five plants rolled out the new inspection system around 2002, USDA spokesperson Aaron Lavallee said. That’s when Murano, now on the Hormel board of directors, ran the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. If the privatization-plus-speed-up formula sounds familiar, it’s because the USDA ran a similar experimental program for chicken slaughter for years. After much pushback by workplace and food safety advocates and media attention (including from me), the USDA decided not to let poultry companies speed up the kill line when it opened the new system to all chicken slaughterhouses last year (though it did greenlight turkey facilities to speed up the line from 51 to 55 birds per minute).

All four affidavits offer blistering critiques of the hog version of the pilot program. Three themes run through them: 1) company inspectors are poorly trained and prepared for the task of overseeing a fast-moving kill line involving large carcasses; 2) company-employed and USDA inspectors alike face pressure from the company not to perform their jobs rigorously; and 3) lots of unappetizing stuff is getting through as the result of 1) and 2).

Good times. My only problem with Philpott’s piece is how much it underplays the effect of the speedup on workplace safety. It’s referenced in passing, but like so much when it comes to the food industry, consumers’ interests are privileged above that of workers, when in fact the two are so interconnected that any reasonable analysis can not really separate them. The meat industry is already incredibly dangerous labor and speed-ups always make labor more dangerous, while also of course making inspections less rigorous and with greater likelihood of tainted meat getting to the consumer. Both issues are equally important.

Really, it’s impossible to see what could go wrong with the meat industry regulating itself. That is, if you like killing workers.

Nobody Actually Cares About Federalism, An Infinite Series

[ 44 ] February 27, 2015 |

Responding to Abbe Gluck’s argument that the troofer reading of the ACA violates the clear notice requirement that is now well-settled constitutional law, Ed Kilgore observes:

This argument may or may not have an influence on, or find reflection in, SCOTUS’ decision. But don’t expect the conservatives praying for the plaintiffs to win to read it and say, “Oh, I get it! Never mind.”

Truth is most conservatives value “state’s rights” or “federalism” only when it does not conflict with their more important ideological values, such as capitalism or their idea of Divine Law. This is why they mostly support federal constitutional amendments to override state prerogatives on cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, and when in a position to do so, support federal preemption of state laws and regulations that annoy or inconvenience corporations. Indeed, one example is almost invariably included in those Obamacare “replacement” proposals Republicans say they’d pursue if King goes their way: “interstate health insurance sales,” which is a nice way of saying a preemption of state health insurance regulations so that insurers can race to the bottom-feeding state that lets them do whatever the hell they want.

All true.

The significance of the federalism argument is that it might appeal to Roberts if he’s only weakly committed to gutting the ACA. The clear notice argument would allow Roberts a passive-aggressive escape hatch straight out of the John Marshall playbook: willfully misread a statute, criticize your political opponents, advance long-term institutional goals, but concede to your opponents on the immediate substantive issue. If Roberts is strongly committed to wrecking the exchanges it won’t matter, but if he doesn’t feel strongly the argument might influence him.

I don’t get it

[ 126 ] February 27, 2015 |

dress

Are the people who say this dress is gold and white pulling some sort of internet-wide prank?

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