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Archive for July, 2015

IP in the TPP

[ 32 ] July 31, 2015 |

J-31 fighter prototype at the Zhuhai airshow. By 天剣2 – Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at some of the logics for why the US is pursuing a hard line on IP in the TPP:

One of the biggest ongoing arguments in the TPP negotiations (as far as we know, anyway) remains the question of how far the United States can push the other signatories to adopt its views on intellectual property law. The contentious points revolve around the ability to undertake criminal legal action against IP violators. “The U.S. wants the standards for damages to be very high, and to go beyond TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) obligations for injunctions and the destruction of infringing goods,” according to James Love of Knowledge Economy International. The United States has also pushed for increasing the ability of government to undertake criminal legal procedures against intellectual property infringers.

What’s at stake? The criminalization of IP infringement in a multilateral agreement would give the United States legal teeth for enforcing its preferred system of intellectual property protection across the world.


Deflategate prediction

[ 54 ] July 31, 2015 |


Stephanie Stradley has a good summary of the current state of the legal issues in the deflategate matter (Btw was there a handy suffix for scandal neologisms prior to Watergate? And will we ever come up with another one? I suppose the persistence of the -gate formulation is another tribute to the power of baby boom demographics).

TL;DR: The NFL’s case is pretty shaky from the perspective of labor and employment law, physics, and economic common sense.

That may help explain why Tom Brady has decided not to pursue an injunction, which could have put his quarter-season suspension into limbo for the life of the litigation, which, given the number of lawyers involved and their billing rates, could well have lasted until Brady was kicking it on a beach somewhere permanently with Giselle. (Miss Flite, in re Jarndyce v. Jarndyce: “I expect a judgment. Shortly. On the day of judgment.”)

Reckless prediction: The parties will settle on a one-game suspension, after somebody finally convinces Roger Goodell that he isn’t paid $44 million per year to shoot himself and The League in their collective feet.

GOP War On Women Update

[ 89 ] July 31, 2015 |

B6d2HiVCAAIskn7.jpg large

  1. Mike Huckabee wants to send abortion back to the states…with federal troops!  You know, I’m almost beginning to consider the possibility that the Republican desire to overrule Roe v. Wade may not be motivated by a principled commitment to federalism. 
  2. Meanwhile, in our glorious laboratories of democracy, some forced childbirth for you.
  3. Jeb! Bush didn’t get the memo that Planned Parenthood is new Klan in a timely manner.
  4. Erick Erickson is not a crank. 

The Importance of Fetal Tissue Research

[ 123 ] July 31, 2015 |

MItch McConnellAbove: America’s Most Radical Feminist

I can’t say I was persuaded by arguments that I should stop supporting abortion rights because of the NEW VIDEO EVIDENCE that abortion clinics perform abortions. Is it wrong to collect fetal tissue for research? Of course not:

For five years, I watched my best friend die of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a terrible disease that causes one’s muscles to waste away. First he struggled to walk, then to speak, then to breathe. One tube pushed air into his lungs; another pushed nutrients into his stomach. Toward the end, he could only move his eyes. ALS does not affect the brain; through it all, he remained perfectly aware of his slow-motion torture. After years of suffering, he died of respiratory failure, his body skeletal and ravaged, his mind alert to his suffocation until the last moments of life.

There is currently no cure for ALS. There will be some day. And that cure may very well be derived from stem cells taken from aborted fetuses.

I can’t help but remember that fact when I watch the videos, taken by undercover anti-abortion activists, of Planned Parenthood technicians discussing how to preserve fetal tissue to be donated for research. The graphic images of aborted fetuses are meant to disgust me, to convince me that abortion is a barbaric act of killing. But I don’t see death in these videos. I see hope.

OK, but it’s still true that only the most hardcore Trotskyist would support a policy as radical as fetal tissue research:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fast-tracked a bill to defund Planned Parenthood on Friday because of an undercover video of a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing the donation of fetal tissue after abortions. But McConnell was one of many Republicans who voted to lift a ban on fetal tissue donations after abortions in 1993 — the very move that legalized Planned Parenthood’s actions.

Support Salon Unionizing

[ 54 ] July 31, 2015 |


Salon’s writers are forming a union. Salon won’t recognize said union to this point. There is an internet campaign to publicize this. If you are on Twitter, please send messages to @Salon with the hashtag #SalonUnion to support this effort.


[ 235 ] July 31, 2015 |

1961+Topps+Whitey+FordAbove: CHEATER!  Smash Hall of Fame Plaque! Vacate World Series Championships Immediately!

Unfrozen Caveman Sportswriter Bill Plashcke, everyone:

It turns out, Tom Brady’s cellphone wasn’t the only thing that was destroyed.

So, too, was any remaining shard of belief in his competitive integrity, every last piece blown to smithereens with 10,000 text messages and one giant lie.

Does anybody still believe the NFL’s most celebrated player didn’t purposely deflate footballs in an attempt to gain an advantage during last season’s NFL playoffs?

Does anybody still think his legacy should not include the word “cheater”?

Brady was actually lucky Tuesday when the NFL upheld his four-game suspension. In the wake of the league’s accompanying revelation that Brady ordered the destruction of a cellphone that was one of the centerpieces of the investigation, he is fortunate Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t double the penalty to eight games. Or more.


Let us return to the Wells Report, for this rather crucial point:

It’s possible that the actual numbers suggest no tampering at all. Which could be the biggest problem with the 243-page report.

Here’s where we try (key word: try) to take something that’s pretty complicated and make it somewhat understandable.

First, the officials had two pressure gauges available — and those pressure gauges generated very different measurements.

One gauge had a Wilson logo on the back. The other didn’t. One had an obviously crooked needle. The other didn’t.

The gauge with the Wilson logo and the longer, crooked needle typically generated higher readings, in the range of 0.3 to 0.45 PSI.

The measurements taken at halftime of the AFC title game by the two available gauges demonstrated this reality. Here’s the gap in PSI for each of the 11 Patriots footballs, based on the two gauges: (1) 0.3 PSI; (2) 0.35 PSI; (3) 0.35 PSI; (4) 0.3 PSI; (5) 0.35 PSI; (6) 0.35 PSI; (7) 0.45 PSI; (8) 0.45 PSI; (9) 0.4 PSI; (10) 0.4 PSI; and (11) 0.45 PSI.

Second, referee Walt Anderson doesn’t recall which gauge he used to measure PSI at the start of the game.

The absence of a documentation regarding the air pressure in the Patriots footballs prior to kickoff can be justified by Anderson’s clear recollection that he ensured each ball was set to 12.5 PSI. However, Anderson doesn’t clearly recall whether he used the gauge that generates the higher measurement or the one that generates the lower measurement.

This is important, of course, because the evidence that the Patriots were using underinflated balls is rather underwhelming. And second, it makes clear that everyone considered the rulebook inflation levels a trivial issue before an organization tired of repeatedly getting the crap beaten out of it by a much better team decided to whine about it. (Although, in fairness, the time they spent whining about the inflation levels of footballs in a game they lost 385-7 was time they weren’t spending trading first-round picks for sub-replacement-level running backs, so perhaps it reflects a determination to do something to improve the team that doesn’t involve falling ass-backwards into Andrew Luck.) The refs can’t even be bothered to measure the levels of the footballs correctly, and we’re going to pretend that this is an offense serious enough to warrant a 4-game suspension and forfeited first round draft picks, rather than the fine the rules actually mandate? And Brady should get an extra four games because he wouldn’t allow the league to go on a fishing expedition through his cell phone because it didn’t have the goods to prove that he even committed the offense for which he was given a vastly disproportionate punishment? Please.

Would I be surprised to find out that Brady sought an edge by using footballs inflated to under the legal limit? Of course not. And also, offensive linemen who try to get away with marginal holds are worse than Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot put together and should have CHEATER branded on their foreheads. Can I have my LA Times column now please?


Conservatives Win Another Round in the History Wars

[ 77 ] July 30, 2015 |


Given that ETS is a greedy corporation (don’t let the non-profit College Board confuse you, it’s technically a client of ETS but ETS is who runs the test operation) that has a facade of academic professionalism over a core of profit-making, it’s hardly surprising it would cave to conservatives over the new AP U.S. History standards:

Some of the main criticisms of the guidelines, conservatives voiced, were less emphasis on the founding fathers and more emphasis on slavery. The guidelines also included earlier American history that included violence against Native Americans and mentioned the growing influence of social conservatives. There were also complaints that World War II was not emphasized enough, but military victories will be given more attention in the new standards. Mentions of slavery will be “roughly the same” as previous standards, according to Newsweek.

Conservatives also took issue with the framework’s description of the term “manifest destiny.” The definition, according to The Daily Caller:

The idea of Manifest Destiny, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was based on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority, and helped to shape the era’s political debates.

AP American history courses in particular became a political battleground when the College Board released new guidelines in October 2012. According to Talking Points Memo, the public controversy started with Larry Krieger, a retired history teacher. Then The Republican National Committee noticed Krieger’s remarks and campaigned against the new framework. The RNC asked Congress to stop funding the College Board, saying it “emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

After the issue picked up momentum, more and more state legislators got involved in decrying the new guidelines. An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to ban AP history class and Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) introduced legislation “prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.” In Colorado, students protested the new standards and soon after, the Jefferson County school board cancelled a review of the standards.

In September of last year, Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon who is now running for president, said “most people” who take the course would be “ready to sign up for ISIS.”

With the potential for states to opt out, there was no way these standards would continue. ETS/College Board have pushed for years for the AP test to become something closer to a universal test (often leading to a huge waste of money as students who have no business taking the test are forced to do so; trust me, I graded these exams for 3 years). Even this year, the test responded to initial criticism by being a conservative talking point, with the Document-Based Question being about the rise of conservatism that according to my friends grading the exam encouraged test takers to talk about how government is terrible and does nothing right. Now the standards will revert to right-wing ideas of American exceptionalism. This is a bad thing. It also shows once again how much interpretation of history matters and why issues like the Confederate flag are so important. Historical interpretation is a war between liberals and conservatives. And conservatives usually win the institutional side of that war.

Minnesota in One Image

[ 229 ] July 30, 2015 |

It’s nice when an entire state can be summed up by a single letter to the editor.

South Dakota Racism

[ 70 ] July 30, 2015 |


I’ve long said that the most underrated state in the U.S. in terms of horrible racism is South Dakota.

Such was the case when a group of academic achievers from the Lakota tribe were rewarded for their good work with a trip to a minor league hockey match in Rapid City, South Dakota. The third through eighth grade students from the American Horse School were with their middle school teacher Consuelo Means when she overheard adults in the the executive suite above them asking some of the young girls where they were from. The teacher was understandably concerned about seemingly drunk strangers talking to little girls and asked that the men leave the children alone.

The men didn’t listen, instead, they continued to talk to the children. When the team scored the men told the children they should shout later because they were “from the Rez.” The teacher immediately went to look for security to ask for help. When she returned, beer was dripping on her head. The men were dumping it on the children. She told other chaperones what was happening and they attempted to intervene. That’s when the men allegedly shouted to the group to go back to “The Rez.”

The children were silent on the drive back to the Pine Ridge Indian ​Reservation, one young girl crying.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate for [the men] to be talking to my students,” Consuelo Means, the middle school teacher explained to ThinkProgress. “We’ve been there five years and nothing like that’s ever happened.” While she completed an incident report for the stadium security, law enforcement was never contacted.

That event was back in January. One man is being charged for disorderly conduct but didn’t even bother showing up at the first day of the trial. It’s South Dakota in a nutshell. Also, in all the discussion of race in this country it’s remarkable to me how Native Americans are hardly ever talked about, almost an afterthought at best.

Also, here’s the Facebook page for the cartoonist who produced the above image.

In Sight

[ 62 ] July 30, 2015 |


The Times has a piece up today on a point I made at last night’s Out of Sight event–the power of video technology to stir outrage is tremendous. Police brutality toward people of color is not a new thing. Police have been oppressing African-Americans pretty much since their arrival in the future United States in 1619. Not only was oppression of black and brown people written into the law, but police violence toward them has often been expected and tolerated and even celebrated by much of the white community. African-Americans, Native Americans (the American Indian Movement was founded in Minneapolis explicitly around the issue of police brutality) and Latinos have long fought this. But now they have a new weapon–video technology. We saw the first incident of this power with the recording of the beating of Rodney King. Today, between everyday citizens recording police brutality with their phones and cameras in police cars and on police officer’s bodies, we (and by this I largely mean white people who simply have no idea what happens in relations between people of color and the police on a daily basis) see over and over again the horrors of the routine treatment of African-Americans by the police. This gives us tremendous power. The videos do not mean that police are going to stop committing police brutality–at least not yet. We can see that on the videos themselves. But it does provide us a tremendous tool to bring this brutality to people’s attention. There probably is not a Black Lives Matter movement without it. We can read about violence and we can forget about it after shaking our heads. Or we can see it and be disgusted and outraged. The visual power of witnessing terrible oppression is so incredibly powerful for social change.

It’s not just police brutality either. Consider the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. We know that domestic violence is a huge problem in our society and that in violent sports like football, boxing, and MMA, it’s an even greater problem. Yet most people ignored these stories in celebration of their favorite athletes until we saw what Ray Rice did. He may well never play again. Yet when there isn’t video, as there usually isn’t, we don’t act against these people, i.e. Floyd Mayweather.

For that matter, look at the Triangle Fire, where I start my book. The power of change there originated not with the number of deaths. There were all sorts of similar or even worse workplace disasters during the era, especially in mining but also in other textile fire factories. In 1910, a fire killed a few dozen apparel workers at a Newark sweatshop. No one of importance saw it so no one did anything. But at Triangle, rich people saw the people making their clothing die and that created a political movement that led to major changes in workplace safety and fire and building safety codes, part of the broader struggle to tame American capitalism during the 20th century.

Video knowledge scares those in power. That’s why agribusiness is pushing so hard in the states to pass ag-gag laws that would criminalize video knowledge. Animal rights activists getting jobs in factory farms are recording the truly horrible treatment overworked and underpaid and poorly trained workers give to animals that includes beatings and sexual abuse, in addition to the standard caging of animals in incredibly inhumane conditions. These videos have done a lot to publicize the terrible conditions of the meat industry. That scares agribusiness. Rich people profit if we can’t know what they do. The ag-gag bills have largely been unsuccessful so far but they are frightful, for if agribusiness can criminalize footage of their factories, why can’t all industries do the same? They want to make sure we consumers have no idea what is happening on factory floors. Moving factories abroad or to isolated parts of the United States accomplishes much of that, but the power of video and the internet severely undermines it, making the need to criminalize knowledge the next logical step for corporations.

Meanwhile, so long as we can have video access of these crimes against people of color, against workers, and against animals, we need to celebrate it. This is a technological advancement with real power to fight the injustices of the world. We can see that by what’s happening on our streets right now.

“The Market For Ostensible Leftists Who Despise the Democratic Party Above All Else Is More Limited Than We Thought”

[ 124 ] July 30, 2015 |
Photo of the first real liberal in American politics since Dick Nixon by Gage Skidmore.

Photo of the first real liberal in American politics since Dick Nixon by Gage Skidmore.

Hmm, where will we go for the news that Obama is the third term of the Reagan administration now?

Oh, right, Harper’s. And I assume Salon has begun the thawing of Matt Stoller…

Every Race Needs Its Fred Thompson

[ 110 ] July 30, 2015 |


Chait on the failure of the campaign of America’s Foremost Civil Libertarian and the True Progressive Alternative in 2016 to even get off the canvas:

David Weigel and Ben Terris report the campaign’s explanations for its lack of success, which Paul and his minions gamely present as a shrewd long-term plan. Is it bad that Paul has fallen out of the public debate? No, no: “they insist there is minimal downside to being out of the media glare six months before the Iowa caucuses.” Paul, they report, has skipped two Citizens United “freedom summits” and the RedState Gathering. But that’s okay, Paul says, because, “The message of his state supporters is the message from the campaign: Anyone doing more than Paul is probably phoning it in at his real job.” If there’s one thing voters will reward, it’s a sterling record of Senatorial vote-attendance.

Paul is presenting his failure to attract attention as a reflection not of his love for spring break but rather a principled aversion to campaign high jinks. The candidate recently offered, with a touch of pathos, that he would not set himself on fire to compete with Donald Trump — but he’s not above cheeseball antics like setting the tax code on fire.

Perhaps Paul’s problem is that he started off setting things on fire, and, since his election in 2010, has spent his half-decade in office tamping down the flames to make himself acceptable to the party Establishment. Paul’s highest priority has been rendering himself acceptable to the Republican elite, by trimming his positions on issues like Israel and defense spending. Instead of bringing together activists and the Establishment, he has failed to reassure the latter, and bored the former. Paul has no principled aversion to facilitating the influence of the very rich over the political system. He’s just lazy and bad at it.

I think this is right. Paul never had any chance of winning the nomination because the deviations from conservative orthodoxy that briefly made him the darling of people on the left desperate for any pretext to urge people to vote against Democrats have no serious constituency within the Republican Party. Abandoning most of these idiosyncrasies to appeal to actually existing Republican voters hasn’t worked, but maintaining them wouldn’t have worked either. He was always going to be drawing dead against orthodox reactionaries like Walker and Rubio and Jeb!

What’s made his campaign epically disastrous rather than a mere eccentric also-ran is his lack of interest in fundraising and stroking rich people — you know, the stuff that modern campaigning consists of. You can be quarter-hearted about that stuff and win federal elections as a Republican in Kentucky, but competitive campaigns are another matter. And the combination of his disinterest and his abandonment of the quirks that once made him the most overrated politician in America is particularly pathetic. If you’re going to run an unserious vanity campaign, you might as well stick to your alleged principles rather that tossing them overboard to attract voters you’re not going to make any serious attempt to attract anyway. Unless your commitment to these principles was puddle-deep in the first place, of course.

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