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Friday Links

[ 5 ] October 9, 2015 |


The Great Patriotic War

[ 25 ] October 9, 2015 |
T34 2.jpg

“T34 2” by Unknown – Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Part of what may become a new series, “Most Horrific Conflicts in All of Human History:”

The war between Germany and the Soviet Union officially began in late June 1941, although the threat of conflict had loomed since the early 1930s. Germany and the USSR launched a joint war against Poland in September of 1939, which the Soviets followed up with invasions of Finland, Romania, and the Baltic states across the following year.

After Germany crushed France, and determined that it could not easily drive Great Britain from the war, the Wehrmacht turned its attention back to the East. Following the conquests of Greece and Yugolavia in the spring of 1941, Berlin prepared its most ambitious campaign; the destruction of Soviet Russia. The ensuing war would result in a staggering loss of human life, and in the final destruction of the Nazi regime.

And if you think that a discussion of the Great Patriotic War would generate a fascinating comment thread, you’d be right.


[ 57 ] October 9, 2015 |

Give a shoutout to bspencer for the new banner.

One can assume that the gentlemen in the picture is not only balancing our obsessions, but also riding a dead horse.

Apropos of nothing except Farley saying we get an image in our posts to get more Facebook attention, and since the banner is already on the site and thus no reason to replicate it, here’s a tune for your afternoon.

I Still Can’t Understand Why Nobody Wants the Speaker Job

[ 200 ] October 9, 2015 |


The House Freedom Caucus seems nice:

Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnaire” which it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin.

For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.


The government will run out of money on December 11. Unless additional funding is approved before that date, the government will shut down.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. This would now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker Of The House.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).

I don’t think much of Paul Ryan, but I do think he’s smart enough to stay away from this job.

I know that this Green Lanternism is not unique to the right per se.   There are people on the left who thought that Congress could have unilaterally ended the Iraq War in 2007 or that the Democratic minority in the Senate could have serially rejected Bush’s Supreme Court nominees.  There are also people on the left who believe that had Obama demanded single payer Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson would have had no choice but to vote for a Medicare buy-in.   But 1)these are generally obscure People on the Internet Somewhere, not the core of the Democratic caucus in Congress, and 2)they at least support the use of completely irrational tactics to advance desirable ends.   The Freeance Caucus’s reason for being is to threaten to destroy the country unless the president agrees to destroy the country.  (And destroy the country not just in the eyes of Democrats but in the eyes of most Republican voters.)

The lesson, as always, is that Both Sides Do It.  Just ask Ron Fournier:

Which brings me back to the para­dox. Most voters and non­voters are dis­con­nec­ted from both parties be­cause the two-party sys­tem is in­creas­ingly loud, angry, mean, po­lar­iz­ing, selfish, vacu­ous, and soul­less. In­side the duo­poly, Trump is everything that base voters hate about the oth­er party.

So why the ap­peal? Maybe it’s be­cause Trump is the best of worst—an ex­ag­ger­ated re­flec­tion of what’s wrong with a sys­tem that val­ues celebrity and cel­eb­rates in­ci­vil­ity. He’s a ca­ri­ca­ture. A car­toon.

Very profound. It’s hard to imagine two public figures more similar than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And remember when the Democrats couldn’t find anyone willing to be Speaker in 2007 because a majority of the Democratic caucus threatened to shut down the government and default on the national debt unless Bush agreed to nationalize the means of production and appoint Mumia as Attorney General and Bob Avakian as Secretary of the Treasury? I’m not sure how we can ever escape the symmetrical problems of our two-party duopoly.


[ 16 ] October 9, 2015 |


This reprint of a 1977 profile of Reggie Jackson is amazing. It goes up there with the Ken Stabler profile. In fact, there should be more reprints of old sports journalism. Great stuff.

All of Your History Stories, In One Fine Collection

[ 50 ] October 9, 2015 |


Like the environmental post yesterday, there are a lot of interesting historical posts I’ve been meaning to talk about. Let’s move through them all at once.

1) Extremely expensive dinners in 19th century America. Turtle for all!

2) In the late 19th century, Christians responded to Satan’s minions practicing “science” by showing how the scripture proves the Earth is flat. Today’s conservatives are slacking off in their anti-science ways. Step it up people. Sounds to me like we might have a new requirement for being elected Speaker of the House.

3) Decolonizing elementary school American history, a much needed phenomenon to teach our children something other than Puritans were awesome and prepare them for the multicultural American of 2015.

4) People sometimes complain when I write about the Civil War and battles over its memory that this is all long ago and doesn’t matter. This is an incredibly myopic view, in no small part because conservatives are fighting this war all the time and they pick their battles wisely, i.e., they force textbook companies to tell conservative history. Such as that slaves were workers brought from Africa to work on agricultural plantations. But not slaves. Don’t mention that word.

Foreign Entanglements: The Crises of the EU

[ 1 ] October 9, 2015 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, I speak with Nick Clark about the several crises currently facing the European Union:

“It Means She’s My Property, And I Own Her.”

[ 119 ] October 8, 2015 |

On the media coverage of Matt Barnes’s alleged assault of Derek Fisher, this. Very much this:

Derek Fisher should have known better than to tread on another man’s turf; dating a woman with whom you share an attraction is a bad move because her ex might disapprove; missing a meaningless practice in the aftermath of being confronted in your girlfriend’s home by her enraged, entitled stalker ex is unprofessional. These are takes that mainstream sportswriters—good sportswriters, smart ones—are putting out there in the Year of Our Lord 2015. All of them are rooted in the idea that Gloria Govan is in some way still Matt Barnes’s domain, that Derek Fisher was breaching protocol by not considering Matt Barnes’s territorial rights. This is fucking deranged.

Here are some plain and obvious truths. Derek Fisher did not do anything wrong by dating Gloria Govan, a grown woman who by all accounts wanted to date him and happens not to have technically extricated herself from a bad marriage that functionally ended over a year ago. Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes are not romantic rivals. Going by the reports, the aggression was not mutual; Derek Fisher went to his girlfriend’s house for the purpose of a peaceful get-together, Matt Barnes invaded the home of his ex for the purpose of doing harm. Neither Gloria Govan’s nor Derek Fisher’s romantic lives are any of Matt Barnes’s damn business. Matt Barnes appears to be a fucking psycho. Sportswriters are lost on all of this shit.

When an accused domestic abuser shows up uninvited at a family party to—as a source put it to the New York Post—“beat the shit” out of someone for the offense of dating his ex, that is not a wacky character up to zany shenanigans. It is not reality TV melodrama or a cartoon or celebrities being silly. It is the behavior of a dangerous misogynist lunatic. It is an act of violent aggression. It is a man forcefully asserting personal property rights over a woman’s home, body, and life. It differs from what Ray Rice did in that elevator by degree, not by kind, and not by all that much. It is not fucking funny.

The Whitest Protest Movement in Global History

[ 258 ] October 8, 2015 |


People who need to reconsider their priorities:

It’s nothing personal, says Ben Ewen-Campen, he just doesn’t think French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir is much of a painter. Monday, the Harvard postdoc joined some like-minded aesthetes for a playful protest outside the Museum of Fine Arts. The rally, which mostly bewildered passersby, was organized by Max Geller, creator of the Instagram account Renoir Sucks at Painting, who wants the MFA to take its Renoirs off the walls and replace them with something better. Holding homemade signs reading “God Hates Renoir” and “Treacle Harms Society,” the protesters ate cheese pizza purchased by Geller, and chanted: “Put some fingers on those hands! Give us work by Paul Gauguin !” and “Other art is worth your while! Renoir paints a steaming pile!” Craig Ronan, an artist from Somerville, learned about the protest on Instagram and decided to join. “I don’t have any relationship with these people aside from wanting artistic justice,” he said. The museum hasn’t commented on the fledgling movement, but a few folks walking by Monday seemed amused. “I love their sense of irony,” said Liz Byrd, a grandmother from Phoenix who spent the morning in the museum with her daughter and grandchild. “I love Renoir, but I think this is great.

On first glance, this is just stupid. But on second, it’s actually pretty offensive because it lampoons those who actually care about social change, trivalizing actual issues, whether one is on the left or right. And I guess that’s fine if they want to–it’s a free country if you are a rich, white, heterosexual male–but these people probably laugh at real protesters and find them worth mocking.

Also, regardless of the merits of the art, Renoir fathered Jean Renoir and anything that led to Rules of the Game cannot be bad.

Environmental News and Notes

[ 44 ] October 8, 2015 |


A bunch of smaller stories on environmental issues that deserve some attention:

1) With buildings collapsing in Oklahoma from the plethora of earthquakes caused by fracking, maybe someone in the state will make the connection and suggest that we need to research these earthquakes before going ahead with the procedure? Probably not.

2) I get that this essay about runners racing on the Grand Canyon trail and throwing their energy packs and water bottles on the trail and defecating around the trail has more than a little bit of the “kids get off my lawn” feel. But the issue is real enough. Are public lands designed for the kind of endurance racing, record setting, and extreme sports that a growing number of people love, even though they can cause real damage and degradation of the land? Or are they for a gentler use? Do societal norms exist on the trail or is it a dog-eat-dog world of extreme individualism? Naturally enough, these questions reflect trends in larger society, as do the sports of choice themselves.

3) Texas water use is totally sustainable. Just keep piping that water to new suburban developments.

4) I’m not sure what Gregg Easterbrook is thinking here. He’s right that we need new environmental legislation to deal with greenhouse gases. But he’s hopelessly muddled in how he thinks that’s going to happen:

But there is a compromise the political world has missed: The Democratic presidential contenders endorse the Keystone pipeline, in return for the Republican presidential contenders’ backing the E.P.A.’s effort to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

This is a classic compromise in which each side gives something and gets something. The pipeline would help ensure American petroleum security; activists of the left should drop the silly pretense that Keystone is some kind of doomsday device. Carbon restrictions on power plants absolutely must come, and are likely to be good for everyone; activists of the right should stop fighting the future.

If the presidential contenders could shake hands on this compromise — even if any pair of two did so — the nation would benefit, and the stage might be set for constructive revisions of environmental laws following the 2016 election. Peace needs to break out on environmental protection. The presidential contenders can prove they are leaders by taking the first step.

This is super dumb. Even if we accept his Keystone argument (and doing so underplays the symbolic importance of it to popular conceptions of environmentalism; given the role of consumers and citizens in shaping American environmental policy over the last 60 years, one must take it into consideration), in what alternative universe does the Republican Party of 2016 agree to this? They are on a race to the intellectual bottom in denying climate change and hating the EPA. Such an agreement assumes that rational politics would not torpedo a given Republican’s chance to win the nomination. “Activists of the right should stop fighting the future.” Oh, OK. Because clearly the environment is the ONLY issue in which they are doing that.

Pesticide Protections for Farmworkers

[ 12 ] October 8, 2015 |


One of the most important and underreported stories over the last few weeks was the EPA setting new pesticide protections for farmworkers.

The new rules, announced by EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and United Farm Workers (UFW) president Arturo Rodriguez, include the following stipulations:

All pesticide applicators will be required to be at least 18 years old, rather than 16;

Whistleblower protections, including for undocumented workers, must be implemented so that farm laborers can safely file complaints over workplace abuse;

Workers or their representatives must be allowed easy access to records involving hazardous chemical exposure.

These are the first new regulations designed to promote farmworker safety since 1992. One reason for that is that the new pesticides developed to protect consumers from pesticide poisoning strike hard and fast, but don’t persist. That means that their entire human impact is on the farmworkers, but consumers were safe. That basically ended the pesticide exposure movement among foodies (the organic movement is different but related, but both focus almost entirely on consumers) and left farmworkers high and dry as far as effective allies go for protecting them from pesticides. We’ll see how effective they are; my guess is an improvement but a lot of workers will still get sick.

Agribusiness is of course furious, with all the expected stated reasons being used to hide the real reason, which is that they don’t mind killing farmworkers if it increases their profits.

I’ll also note how the United Farm Workers, despite being a non-entity among unions and that includes those actually organizing farmworkers, remains the historical touchstone that centers them in narratives of farmworker protection in the present as well. If I was an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee or Coalition of Immokalee Workers, this might annoy me.

Thou Shalt Not Undermine BENGHAZI, The Greatest Scandal There Absolutely Ever Was With the Possible Exception of Steroids

[ 191 ] October 8, 2015 |

Film The Simpsons


Representative Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly took himself out of the race to succeed John A. Boehner as House speaker, apparently undone by the same forces that drove Mr. Boehner to resign.

Mr. McCarthy’s candidacy was damaged when he suggested in an interview on Fox News last week that the House committee investigating Benghazi had the political aim of damaging Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.

As shocked members left the room there was a sense of total disarray, with no clear path forward and no set date for a new vote. Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, said that in dropping out of race, Mr. McCarthy told the room, “I’m not the one to unify the party.”

It’s a real mystery why nobody wants the job of driving this particular clown car.

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