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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 33

[ 3 ] May 29, 2016 |

This is the tomb of James Garfield:

2016-03-23 15.22.20

Garfield grew up in Ohio, raised by his widowed mother. He attended Williams College in Massachusetts, moved back to Ohio and entered politics as a Republican. He served in the Ohio state senate from 1859-61 and then volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War. He rapidly rose to the rank of major general, fighting at Shiloh, among other battles. However, his war service ended in late 1863 when he was elected to Congress in 1862; nearly a year between the election and the start of the next legislative session was the norm at that time. In that year, he also fought effectively at the Battle of Chickamauga. After he left for Washington, he became a protege of Salmon Chase and aligned himself with abolitionists who felt that Lincoln was moving too slow on slavery, particularly in following Thaddeus Stevens’ advice to confiscate the lands of treasonous plantation owners and redistribute them to their former slaves. In the early years of Reconstruction, Garfield continued his alliance with the radical Republicans, hoping to impeach Andrew Johnson and being shocked and angry when that failed.

But by 1870, Garfield was rapidly moving toward a more conservative position. While he supported the 15th Amendment, he did not support the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, critical to Grant’s suppression of the KKK, because he worried about the effect upon habeas corpus. He became a classically Gilded Age hard money supporter, deriding greenbacks.

Like other politicians of the period, Garfield also had shady financial morals. He was caught up in the Crédit Mobilier scandal. Although it did not seem that he directly accepted Union Pacific money, he certainly was aware of the scandal and was personally offered money. At the very least, he knew about the entire scandal as a powerful congressmen and did nothing at all about it. This did not hurt him in the future. He got himself elected to the Senate with the support of the state’s powerful senator John Sherman and quickly became a dark horse for the Republican nomination in 1880. Ulysses S. Grant, who was actively seeking a third term after taking four years off, James Blaine, and John Sherman were the early favorites. When none of the three could win a majority of delegates, support began to move toward Garfield. He won election that fall over Winfield Scott Hancock. Horatio Alger wrote his campaign biography; you already know what Alger emphasized in it.

The major issue Garfield faced as president was the division between the two factions of the party, a division made clear to him as Grant’s supporters refused to support him until the very end. This of course would help lead to his assassination by the disgruntled office seeker Charles Guiteau in 1881. Some have claimed Garfield would have made a good civil rights president, but I am skeptical. He would have been good for African-Americans on patronage and he did propose some educational programs, but the general feeling within the Republican Party for aggressive action to protect black rights in the South was very low in 1881. Even if he had survived the full four years, it’s unlikely any bill would have passed for him to sign and probably not likely that he would have spent much political capital on it, although I guess we will never know.

Garfield’s tomb is big enough but it’s the inside that is really amazing. 1881 was Peak Gilded Age. Money was flowing and Garfield was part of that monied elite by this time. His policies had helped make a lot of wealthy people wealthier. So they went all out for Garfield. I visited the grave before and have been inside, but when I visited this March, the inside was closed. But these pictures other took will do.

spoons12n-1-web

Here is the statue of Garfield inside the tomb, with the sun reflecting on the glorious man, reminding us all of his awesomeness. In the background, you can see the ornnateness of the entire thing, which includes up to the high rotunda. That’s even better seen here:

Final Destination II

Here is the actual grave:

3655236115_f8eb2bbd63

James Garfield is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

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The Extremely Poor and the States

[ 1 ] May 29, 2016 |

poverty-in-america

You want to read Christopher Jencks’ review of a new book on the extreme poor in America. It’s a serious indictment of federal policy in dealing with the poorest of the poor, part of a much broader problem of states having leeway to take federal money earmarked for particular programs and divert it to the general fund if they can find ways not to pay it out.

The most obvious explanation for the increase in extreme poverty between 1996 and 2011 is that jobs were harder to find in 2011, but that is only half the story. Until 1996 single mothers with no income were eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Edin and Shaefer argue that extreme poverty rose after 1996 because Congress replaced AFDC with an even less generous welfare program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Because TANF benefits are much harder to get than AFDC benefits were, parents who cannot find a job are more likely to find themselves penniless.7

Prior to 1996 each state had its own AFDC program, with the federal government paying about half the cost in rich states and far more than half in poor states. States could set their AFDC benefits as high or low as they wanted, but in each state the eligibility rules had to meet a variety of federal requirements, one of which was that all legally eligible applicants were entitled to benefits. A state could not turn away eligible applicants because the legislature wanted to use the money for some other purpose or because a caseworker thought an applicant had loose morals.

All states still get federal money to cover part of TANF’s cost, but they now have more leeway in deciding how to spend such money. They can divert federal TANF funds to programs like financial aid for college students and pre-kindergarten programs, for example. Such programs are worthwhile, but they do nothing to help poor single mothers pay their electric bill or their rent. States also have almost complete freedom to decide what applicants must do to qualify for benefits and retain them. States can also shorten the federal time limit on TANF eligibility.

If states cut the cost of TANF by reducing the number of recipients, they can use the savings for other purposes. That gives state officials a strong incentive to discourage TANF applications. Potential applicants may have to spend weeks applying for jobs before they can apply for TANF. Or they may have to produce documents that they cannot find or do not know how to get. Understaffed welfare offices can create long lines that discourage applications. Many TANF applicants also report having been turned down with no explanation at all.

I am writing a review for another publication that touches on this issue of diversion of federal money and it’s simply hard for me to believe that federalism is an effective form of govenrment. Having this much state control over funding, wages, benefits, educational policy, etc., is disastrous, leading to huge disparities between states on all sorts of matters. The ability to states to exercise this much leeway, basically stealing federal money for its general fund and then justifying cutting taxes on the wealthy is a sign of the deep dysfunction plaguing the United States.

Waste Workers

[ 6 ] May 29, 2016 |

Winter_Weather_Garb_685047e

Tonight, I put out my trash and my recycling. What will happen to it tomorrow morning when the workers come pick it up? Almost no one thinks about this. Especially when it comes to recycling, we are convinced of our own good behavior to an extent that we usually assume that something goods come of it. But the reality is that these are hard, nasty jobs with employers who often heavily exploit the workers and provide highly unsafe working conditions. The Teamsters have organized some waste workers, but many remain unorganized. This report on waste workers in New York, where you have a panoply of private companies who contract with the city and therefore a mix of union and non-union shops, is pretty disturbing.

IN THE BEST SCENARIO, A WASTE collector will suffer chronic back pain, joint fatigue and sleep deprivation. In the worst, his life is what Thomas Hobbes might have called “nasty, brutish and short.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists refuse collection, both public and private, as one of the 10 most dangerous occupations in America based on fatalities, far more than those of police or firefighters. When one accounts for physical degradation and quality of life, the statistics become far more perilous.

New York City’s Department of Sanitation is among the most respected in the country. Its workers, who are Teamsters, work no more than eight hours a day, are paid close to $80,000 a year and enjoy generous benefit packages. They collect 10,500 tons of refuse each day from city residents and institutions.

In comparison, the private carting industry in New York City is a largely unregulated enterprise where more than 100 carting companies, large and small, compete to pick up the refuse of 100,000 businesses. In one night, some 20 trucks from different companies could visit a single city block, bringing with them all the concomitant emissions, traffic and safety concerns.

“AS A WORKER, YOU ARE TREATED like the truck. You are treated like a machine,” said Carl Orlando, a former sanitation worker for Liberty Ashes who says he has worked in all aspects of the industry, from hauling garbage to office work to customer relations. He and several former co-workers have sued the company, accusing it of wage theft and other pay violations.

“There’s no training. There’s no safety meetings. There’s no gear. There is no taking days off. There’s no benefits. They don’t even pay overtime,” he said.

He, like others, stressed that not all private waste companies are the same, and that they vary widely in how they treat workers. But in his experience, the so-called “low-road” companies routinely put workers’ safety in jeopardy.

Like many workers in the industry, Orlando said he was paid for a fixed number of hours no matter how long he worked — something he and others say incentivizes dangerous habits. He said he was paid for a 10-hour day but routinely had to work 12-, 13-, even 14-hour shifts to complete his route.

“You want to get through it as quick as possible, because you don’t want that truck on the road as people are trying to go to work, and you have one truck out there trying to do the work of three,” Orlando said. “I’ve driven all night, didn’t stop for any red lights, went from one side of the street to the other, on the wrong side of the street, and I still couldn’t get it done.”

Wage theft is a common accusation against such companies. Three other workers — Marco Flores, Antonio Santos and Oscar Tudon — filed a class-action lawsuit against Five Star in July 2015 for unpaid wages.

The suit alleges the men “were not paid overtime premium pay for hours worked over forty (40) hours per week, did not receive wages for all hours worked, had meal breaks automatically deducted from their wages regardless of whether they actually took the full break, did not receive prevailing wages when they worked on public works projects, did not receive wage notice or proper wage statements.”

Workers say the companies have other means of skirting their obligations, too.

Juan Feliz worked for Mr. T’s Carting for close to 10 years. In 2013, at the age of 35, he was diagnosed with lung and throat cancer. He now speaks through a voicebox after surgery left a hole in his trachea.

After his diagnosis and first surgery, Feliz said his bosses treated him differently.

“When I went back to the company, I was treated worse than the garbage I was supposed to pick up,” he said.

Feliz said the company asked him to change doctors. Then he said the boss, Peter Toscano, told him he would have to wait for further treatment.

“Toscano said I had to wait until next year because I had exhausted my funds,” Feliz said.

As his medical bills piled up, Mr. T’s Carting suddenly asked Feliz to do something it never had before: take an off-site drug test. He typically took drug tests on site, according to a judge’s ruling.

He agreed to the off-site test, but it was scheduled for a cold day in January. As Feliz tried to get to the facility, he had trouble breathing. Blood started pouring from his tracheal tube, and he canceled the appointment. He rescheduled again, but when he arrived there was a long wait, and he left to pick up his 9-year-old daughter from school.

Mr. T’s fired him, accusing him of refusing to take the drug test. When he tried to collect unemployment, the company rejected his claim. Feliz filed an appeal.

Better conditions for these workers should be part of our civic responsibility. They are picking up our trash and recycling. We owe it to them that they don’t get hurt or die doing it.

Recipe Reviews: New York Times All Feta Edition

[ 20 ] May 29, 2016 |

Recently I tried two New York Times Cooking recipes. They were both terrific.

First up is Greek Chicken Stew with Cauliflower and Olives. Unsure was to why this was called a stew; I think of it more as a braise. It’s not something I’d just pop in a bowl and eat with a spoon. It’s a thick, tomato-based braise. I’d serve it over rice or some other grain or starch.

Anyway, this is a wonderful, healthy, fuss-free “stew” that starts with a base of caramelized onions and builds layers of flavors with the addition of red wine vinegar, olives (I added a tiny bit of brine along with the olives), cinnamon and parsley. It really is a lovely melange of flavors. Feta cheese is an optional garnish but I wouldn’t leave it out as I think it adds a tangy contrast to the stew’s savory warmth. I served mine over rice.

Next up is Roasted Feta with Honey, which is every bit as off-the-chain as it sounds, in addition to being criminally easy to make. Basically you slap some olive oil on a brick of Feta, bake it for awhile, then slap on some honey (the recipe calls for Greek thyme honey; I used plain and sprinkled on some  thyme), and broil it ’til it becomes brown and bubbly and creamy. Finally, you serve it with freshly-ground cracked black pepper. I served mine with crudite and pita chips. It’s heavenly.

 

 

It’s Like, How Much More Mariners Could This Be?

[ 18 ] May 29, 2016 |

Every once and a while, as a Mariners fan you might allow yourself some measure of optimism. It’s Memorial Day weekend, you’re in first place, one of the two other teams you figured would contend for the division has failed to launch, and you have the second-best run differential in the league. Your optimism might cause you to get excited when, down a run in the bottom of the ninth to a dreadful Minnesota team, you get runners on first and third with none out. Then you remember that the Mariners’s ability to find new ways to lose in inexhaustible. Like, say, getting two runners (including the tying run on third with one out) gunned down on an idiotic too-clever-by-three-quarters delayed steal play:

And what’s worst about this is that it deprives me of what otherwise would be a world-historical opportunity to troll Denverite. I didn’t know when a 1,000 to 1 ninth inning comeback would happen, but I did know with absolute certainty that the closer responsible would be on my fantasy team…

Only You Can Save White Mankind

[ 231 ] May 29, 2016 |

Too stupid; didn’t read Pat Buchanan – Skreee! White men are an endangered species! Skreee!

Middle-aged whites are four times as likely as middle-aged blacks to kill themselves. Their fitness levels are falling as they suffer rising levels of physical pain, emotional stress and mental depression, which helps explain the alcohol and drug addiction.

But what explains the social disaster of white Middle America?

His list of reasons includes the economy and stagnant wages (because we all know that non-white America is shielded from the bad economy by welfare); falling marriage rates because that’s also de rigueur for this sort of guff:

Where a wife and children give meaning to a man’s life, and to his labors, single white men are not only being left behind by the new economy, they are becoming alienated from society.

Also furriners tekrjebs.

Things such as lack of access to adequate and appropriate health care didn’t make his list, for some reason.

According to Le Buch, it’s mostly because society no longer does as much to protect middle-aged white men from having to compete with people who are not white men; acknowledges that people who aren’t WM can be super fab and groovy, and sometimes points out that white men haven’t always been very kind to people who committed the grave fault of not being born white men.

In the popular culture of the ’40s and ’50s, white men were role models. They were the detectives and cops who ran down gangsters and the heroes who won World War II on the battlefields of Europe and in the islands of the Pacific.

I have this feeling that RW pundits will be blathering about the popular culture of the 40s and 50s when everyone who remembers it has been dead a few decades. But anyway.

They were doctors, journalists, lawyers, architects and clergy. White males were our skilled workers and craftsmen — carpenters, painters, plumbers, bricklayers, machinists, mechanics.

I know. But this RW reality, a place where the voluntary participation of non-white men in the workforce didn’t start until about three minutes ago and labor performed involuntarily is attributed to whoever was holding the actual or metaphorical whip.

They were the Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton, and the statesmen, Webster, Clay and Calhoun.

Lincoln and every president had been a white male.

No, rilly? However did that happen?

Middle-class white males were the great inventors: Eli Whitney and Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers.

They were the great capitalists: Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and J. P. Morgan. All the great captains of America’s wars were white males: Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant and John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and George Patton.

What has changed in our culture? Everything.

“Everything” does not mean society – still firmly under the control of white men last I checked – grew a bit of a conscience and stopped continually stomping on the faces of anyone who isn’t a white man (or at least, swapped the hobnailed boots for kid-soled dancing slippers and used the non-dominant leg).

Neither does it mean that society began to recognize the accomplishments of those who overcame the face stomping. Everything is no one is thinking of the white children, who are – again, according to The Buchster – ‘orrible little racist creeps with immense egos made of cat ice.

The world has been turned upside-down for white children. In our schools the history books have been rewritten and old heroes blotted out, as their statues are taken down and their flags are put away.

The little dears need their RDA of treason in defense of slavery when they’re growing up or they commit suicide when they get over the hill.

Children are being taught that America was “discovered” by genocidal white racists, who murdered the native peoples of color, enslaved Africans to do the labor they refused to do, then went out and brutalized and colonized indigenous peoples all over the world.

The sinister reason for the well known liberal bias of facts revealed at last. They’re designed to turn white boys into self-destrcutobots once they pass the 4.5 decade mark.

In Hollywood films and TV shows, working-class white males are regularly portrayed as what was once disparaged as “white trash.”

Halp, halp, Larry the Cable Guy is bein’ repressed!

As an aside, I grew up watching such shows as The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. I missed the Honeymooners, but I did watch the cartoon version. (Hint for the youth: WIL-MA!!) Yet RW carping about the less than loving portrayal of Real Americans, especially white men, always seems to treat it as a recent phenomena. Maybe if I checked the archives.

When our cultural and political elites celebrate “diversity” and clamor for more, what are they demanding, if not fewer white males in the work force and in the freshman classes at Annapolis and Harvard?

All three places being the natural and exclusive habitats of white men. Get the USDA to do something about the invasive species STAT!

Oh shit, that’s the government and there are probably non-white unmen somewhere in there as well. Never mind.

Clearly the only solution is to get rid of affirmative action and stick Confederate flags everywhere, before its too late.

Another comment on legal scholarship

[ 88 ] May 29, 2016 |

thesis

The massive increase in the cost of American legal education has been driven largely by a massive increase in the size of law school faculties. (Student-faculty ratios fell by half between 1978 and 2013.) The most common justification for this increase has been that larger faculties allow for lower teaching loads, which in turn allow more law review articles to be written.

The main problem with this justification is that a huge amount of the stuff that gets published in law reviews is “scholarship” in name only. (See for instance this illuminating little tale).

What follows is another example from the flagship journal at a more or less respectable law school. In other words, this is a relatively prestigious publication venue in the context of the 800 [!] or so journals now published by American law schools, and publishing in it is exactly the kind of thing that lower teaching loads etc. are supposed to encourage.

This article’s thesis is that the US News rankings have played a critical role in causing law schools to hike tuition so sharply in recent years. This is because the rankings reward schools in various ways for spending more money, which thus leads to invidious and inefficient forms of competition. So the hypothesis that the rankings have caused tuition increases to accelerate certainly seems plausible.

Anyway, according to the article, “twenty years” of rapid tuition increases have now collided with the sudden contraction in the economic prospects of young lawyers that supposedly began with the Great Recession, to produce the current crisis in legal education.

The article’s author, Victor Gold, was dean of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles from 2009 until last summer, and he doesn’t pass up an opportunity to take potshots at certain people who made his job harder:

Of course, a number of law professors publicly also weighed in on the crisis, achieving national notoriety by accusing legal education of being a scam and charging that law schools were pursuing a failed educational model. While long on critiques, they were short on practical suggestions. One could only imagine the angst these professors suffered every two weeks when they had to cash paychecks produced by what they believed to be such a bankrupt system.

(Citations not provided).

Here’s a practical suggestion: Stop paying law professors to publish useless articles that fail to meet even the most minimal academic standards.

Suppose you were teaching an undergraduate class on the economics of the American health care system, and a student wanted to write a paper arguing for the proposition that the Affordable Care Act has driven up the cost of health care. What’s the VERY FIRST QUESTION you would ask the student? My guess is: Have you compared the rise in health care costs before the passage of the ACA to the rise afterwards? Because if health care costs have risen more slowly since the passage of the ACA, that’s going to be a big problem for your thesis.

But Victor Gold isn’t an undergraduate: he’s the William H. Hannon Professor of Law at Loyola Los Angeles. And it apparently doesn’t occur to anybody, and in particular it doesn’t occur to the editors of the Syracuse Law Review, to ask questions such as, if your thesis is that the US News rankings have played a critical role in causing tuition to go up so rapidly over the past twenty years, have you checked on how fast tuition was going up before the rankings supposedly began to bend the law school cost curve upward? (The annual US News rankings began in 1990, and were first extended beyond 25 schools in 1994).

In fact law school tuition didn’t start shooting through the roof 20 years ago: it’s been climbing steeply for at least 60 years – but the rate of increase has actually declined sharply during the US News era:

Median private law school tuition in 1956: $475 ($4,181 in 2014 dollars).
Median private law school tuition in 1974: $2,350 ($11,285 in 2014 dollars).
Median private law school tuition in 1994: $15,965 ($25,503 in 2014 dollars)
Median private law school tuition in 2014: $43,398

(I’m using 1956 rather than 1954 because I have data for the former year but not the latter. I’m using private law school tuition because about 70% of American law students attend private schools, and because the tuition situation at public schools is more complex, since varying percentages of students pay resident and non-resident tuition at various schools).

Percentage increase in private law school tuition between 1956 and 1974 in constant dollars: 169.9%
Percentage increase in private law school tuition between 1974 and 1994 in constant dollars: 126%
Percentage increase in private law school tuition between 1994 and 2014 in constant dollars: 70.2%

The decline in the rate of increase would be even more striking if we had long-term historical numbers for effective tuition — sticker tuition minus “scholarships,” i.e., discounts off sticker price. This is because the gap between sticker and effective tuition has grown rapidly in recent years. (I estimate that, between 1991 and 2012, effective tuition as a percentage of sticker tuition declined from about 90% to about 80%).

Now these numbers don’t logically preclude the theory that the US News rankings have caused tuition to rise faster than it otherwise would have, since you could always argue that the pronounced slowdown in the rate at which tuition has been increasing would have been even more pronounced if not for the effect of the rankings. This is precisely the argument sophisticated right-wing polemicists make when they grapple with the awkward fact that the rate of increase in medical care costs has slowed under the ACA.

Of course the less sophisticated ones simply ignore the data, and screech that the ACA has caused medical care costs to explode. But I bet – or maybe I’m just hoping — that it would be difficult to get that argument published in a putatively academic journal.

Ammo Bundy & the Whack Snack Attack Gang, Pt. V

[ 143 ] May 28, 2016 |

I feel I have been neglecting Ammo Bundy & the Whack Snack Attack Gang, what are they up to now?

Demanding better pens while in the pen. What else?

Multnomah County did agree to give the defendants more than the standard six hours access to the law library on days when other inmates cancel their visits.

Jail officials said they would also consider giving Santilli and the other inmates access to “a laptop, iPad or similar device to review audio and video recordings.”

Due to an order that they be kept separate, the jail won’t let Ammo and his brother Ryan attend LDS gatherings. However, The sheriff’s office agreed to let them have extra towels to use as kneelers and to wear temple garments under their uniforms.

But the sheriff’s office also denied many requests from the inmates, including access to internet and chairs in their cells, access to other defendants so they can “strategize together” before the trial, unmonitored phone calls, a cordless printer and scanner, more storage space in jail cells, and “real pens.”

Anamylittleponyeranadecepticontransformeranamansionanayacht.

I assume the request for real pens is a reference to the flexible ink pens which are used in jail because … why am I even explaining this?

I can’t tell if the whole thing has Prison Break written on it in big block letters or if they’re just that spoiled. At any rate, they’re suing.

In his conclusion, Arnold said Ammon Bundy may pursue a civil rights lawsuit based upon U.S. Code Section 1983, which guarantees recourse for anyone who has been denied civil rights.

Ryan Bundy wrote a supporting statement. Try to guest which rights he says are being violated. Go on, try.

I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

II. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

III. No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

IV. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Time’s up. Please put down your flexible pens.

“My rights are being violated. My right to life is being violated. All of my First Amendment rights are being violated. My right to freedom of religion is being violated,” Ryan Bundy wrote in a supporting statement. “My Second Amendment rights are being violated. I never waived that right. My Fourth Amendment rights are being violated.

Because – if I understand how Sovereign Citizening works – they believe they have to waive their rights before they can be subject to arrest or trial and then the state has to say “Mother may I?” and then … I don’t know really. I was not raised on the same planet as these people. Yay, me.

David French & the Obama Hiroshima Drama

[ 350 ] May 28, 2016 |

Anyone familiar with David French (the NR scribbler, not the playwright) will be non-surprised to learn that President Obama’s speech at Hiroshima upset him a great deal.

Apparently French thinks Obama should have reminded the people of Japan that during WWII they were a nation of blood-thirsty maniacs who were at least as bad as the Nazis. The president should have tossed in a comparison or three to Islamic extremists. And he ought to have concluded by telling them to feel grateful that the U.S. had seen fit to give it not one, but two lovely nukes.

Time saving tip – Don’t read the article if you’re hoping for French’s opinion on whether the U.S. should have given Germany a nuke, or why a Dresden-style bombing wasn’t good enough for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. French starts off by equating Japan with Germany and then veers into “And those people were coo-coo, ya know.”

Japan’s rank-and-file military fought with a ferocity matched on the European Theater of Operations only by Hitler’s most dedicated fanatics. Japan’s troops fought to the last man, and when its military plight grew increasingly desperate, it launched a suicide-bombing campaign that dwarfs anything ISIS or al-Qaeda have ever imagined, much less attempted.

The nerve! Didn’t they know that the Right Wing Rules of Warfare only allow fighting to the last man and dying to defend one’s country when it is done by Americans?

Even many Japanese civilians demonstrated that they’d rather die than surrender — throwing themselves off cliffs to escape American forces.

How rude! Clearly a nuke or two was needed to teach these people how to behave when approached by enemy soldiers.

In those circumstances, if there was an opportunity to defeat Japan without causing such immense loss — a loss that would have unpredictable consequences for our own people, much less for Japan — should we not seize it? In deciding to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Harry Truman made perhaps the most critical — and wisest decision — of any American commander-in-chief in our history. He saved lives. He ended the great calamity of World War II. And, ironically enough, he even saved Japan — leaving behind enough of a country and enough of a people to allow them to rebuild and re-imagine themselves as the great nation they are today.

But did they ever send a thank you note? Maybe a couple of crates of Pocky? Of course not, because they’re still rude. Shame on President Barack Wimpy Bowing to Foreigners Obama for encouraging them.

Here is the true message of Hiroshima: So long as America remains a great nation, it will rise to defeat great evil, and it will do so with its full power and deepest conviction. That message has been indispensable to keeping our nation — and the world — out of another global conflict for more than 70 years.

Er, yeah. Hooray for the localwar movement?

Certainly the fact that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. spent most of that period waving increasingly more deadly penis extensions at one another had nothing to do with anything. It’s all down to U.S. Resolve and manly fondling of a glistening ICBM right out in public. Americans who forget that message are in danger of passing up an opportunity to frag non-Americans to hell and gone. Oh, la honte!

Bad Arguments of the Left

[ 212 ] May 28, 2016 |

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Normally this sort of thing wouldn’t even be worth linking to, but given the current political battles on the left, I will make an exception. I am as big a believer in the need for socialism as anyone. The working classes should be united against economic exploitation and the class warfare from the plutocrats in the New Gilded Age. However, arguments that the left need to stop paying attention to identity politics in order to fight the class war only adds to the oppression of everyone who is not a white male.

Ultimately, though, the left should seek to move beyond identity politics for the simple reason that it is compatible with neo-liberal economics. Identity politics can co-exist with the corporate boss who makes more money in a week than his cleaner takes home in a year – as long as the chances of being the boss are assigned proportionally among different ethnic groups, sexualities and genders. Individual winners and losers remain as remote from each other as ever; they are simply sorted in direct proportion to their numbers in society. The ultimate aim of identity politics is to ‘tune up’ the elite rather than to abolish it.

By emphasising difference over commonality, identity politics also makes it harder for the left to establish a mass politics based around shared economic interests. By seeking constantly to divide people up into smaller and smaller groups, identity politics forestalls the creation of a sense of unity around issues of economic justice. And because it is obsessed with difference, the divisions are potentially endless.

An assumption that white men invariably occupy an economically privileged position seems to be another unfortunate assumption among those pushing for greater diversity in the professions. Most equality drives today explicitly exclude class. White males are certainly over-represented in many of the most prestigious professions in both Britain and the United States. But this is an over-representation of a very particular class of white male. White men from the working class are not – by a long stretch – ubiquitous in the elite. In fact, they encounter economic hurdles at least as difficult to surmount as the barriers of gender and racial equality faced by their contemporaries.

You may be shocked to know the writer of this article is a white male.

Yes, it’s true that corporations can indeed support gay marriage without hurting their bottom lines. Doing so is still contributing to the reduction of injustice in the world. That’s a fundamentally good thing.

And don’t even get me started on the incorrect use of “neoliberal,” which sadly on the left just means “capitalism” or “rich people” or “things I don’t like” instead of its actual meaning.

These sorts of white male arguments should be shunned and ridiculed, even as we should also fight for economic justice.

The Workers Party?

[ 76 ] May 28, 2016 |

The thing about Trump is that he really is the only presidential candidate in U.S. history who will say literally anything. The danger is that people will take some or all of it seriously, either because some of it touches them where they live even though it is probably a lie or because of blind hatred for Hillary Clinton or just because they are low-information voters. Thus Trump’s claim to make the GOP the party of the workers.

“Five, 10 years from now — different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party,” Trump said in the May 17 interview. “A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Trump reiterated that cutting Social Security would be a “big mistake” for the GOP, remarking that “[c]utting it the wrong way is a big mistake, and even cutting it [at all].”

The presumptive nominee’s views would not appear to have come about through intense retrospection. “My views are what everybody else’s views are. When I give speeches, sometimes I’ll sign autographs and I’ll get to talk to people and learn a lot about the party,” he said, admitting that he had not closely followed past Republican efforts to reform the immigration system.

This is of course the definition of bullshit. Maybe Trump actually wouldn’t sign a bill cutting social security but for the most part, he will sign any bill a Republican Congress sends to his desk. His list of potential Supreme Court nominees consists of not a single one who wouldn’t vote for the plaintiffs in Friedrichs. We already know he has no actual interest in governing. But he knows he can say anything he wants and at least 45% of the voters will go along. So he keeps saying it.

Climate Change and the National Parks

[ 7 ] May 28, 2016 |

hiking

This is a good report on the challenge of climate change for the national parks. How important is this?

Climate change isn’t the first challenge to the wonders that national parks protect. Air pollution, the threat of oil and gas extraction on their borders, budget woes and the arrival of non-native species have all put the pinch on parks. But climate change represents an existential threat the likes of which the National Park Service has never had to deal with.

“Fundamentally, it’s the biggest challenge the National Park Service has ever faced,” Jonathan Jarvis, the NPS director, said. “I put it up there because it fundamentally changes the way we are going to manage our national parks into the future. It’s making us rethink the whole paradigm under which we manage them.”

Strong words. Scary words too.

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