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Unpaid Internships

[ 9 ] April 24, 2014 |

Indeed, unpaid internships should be illegal. Stolen labor is never acceptable.

A True Republican Hero

[ 73 ] April 24, 2014 |

Wondering why conservatives are so inclined to admire lawless freeloader Cliven Bundy? Here’s another good reason:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
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“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Nobody could have etc.

Chicken Plays Baseball

[ 7 ] April 23, 2014 |

Tonight’s Pathe film shows a psychological experiment from 1960 revolving around teaching a chicken to play baseball. Sound is lost.

Really, this chicken would be in the upper half of the players who have graced a Cubs uniform in the last century.


[ 14 ] April 23, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat:

Is an Asian NATO possible?  Before answering that, we need to think about what we mean by “NATO.”  If we mean a military alliance designed to deter or repel a large regional aggressor, then some sort of agreement triggering military action under certain circumstances might be possible.  If we mean “NATO” as we have come to understand the activist collective security organization, then we have a long way to go.

America’s Most Enduring Monument to Failure

[ 65 ] April 23, 2014 |

Wrigley Field turns 100! 

The Friendly Confines turn 100 years old today, on the anniversary of the first game Chicago’s Federal League team played there in 1914. The Cubs moved in two years later; the ivy was planted and the outfield bleachers installed in 1937. The place has been a mecca of baseball ever since. Wrigley’s history isn’t exactly pretty: it is now officially 100 years absent a championship, and the Cubs haven’t won so much as a National League pennant in nearly seven decades. Wrigley is marked more by despair — curses of Billy Goats and Bartman and god knows what else — than it is by anything other than hope that the next season will be better.

Has any venue in the history of modern professional sports witnessed such an egregious litany of failure? If the Cubs were a nuclear power plant, they’d be a Chernobyl; if they were a fighter plane, they’d be the Brewster Buffalo; if there were an NFL draft bust, they’d be Ryan Leaf; if they were an American President, they’d be James Buchanan. I suspect that the misplaced adoration of Cubs “fans” for the Wrigley Relic has played some role in this hapless history, leading to a “Hell, why bother putting a decent product on the field” attitude in team management. If the few actual baseball fans of the north side of Chicago had any sense, they’d march on Wrigley and burn it to the ground.

All Nude Atheists All the Time

[ 161 ] April 23, 2014 |

Let me say right up front I’ve normally got zero problems with nudity in art. Art featuring nudity can be innocuous, it be beautiful, it can be tasteful,  it can be sexy, it can be erotic, it can be challenging. There is a place for nudity in art, absolutely. I even enjoy some cheesecake/pinup/erotic art if it’s clever. But when it comes to nudity that’s pretty obviously there to titillate I think there’s a time and a place, and that place is probably not the American Atheists National Convention art show.

As much as I enjoy the idea of Neil DeGrasse Tyson winking impishly at onlookers as they take in all the sexy booby goodness next to the ultra-serious portraits of clothed atheist men, I think this juxtaposition is jarring, to put it mildly. Where is the pantsless portrait of Christopher Hitchens no one is surely screaming for? Why isn’t Carl Sagan shirtless and breaking a misty sweat while he sucks on an ice cube? “WHY?!” screams fives of people. I mean, this picture says a lot, and most of what it says isn’t good.

Here is a link to the painting (POSSIBLY NSFW!!) that is mostly cropped out of the bottom left corner. Are you aroused? Confused? Aroufsed? Yeah, uh…I’m not quite sure what to make of it either. But whatever you make of it, I hope you agree that maybe this wasn’t the best place to showcase the piece.

Listen, there’s a reason why there is very little sexy/nudieness in my art: it’s because I don’t want that to be the focus of my pieces. In this one I painted the yoke over the stock model’s breasts.



Why did I do this? Was it because it found her two-sided sideboob objectional? No, not at all. I thought the original stock was gorgeous as is. But the truth is that I feel like sometimes even a little bit boob will make a piece boob-centric, and I didn’t want this piece to be–even a little bit–about boobs. (Also I have a fetish for ruffles/ruffs/yokes.)

It’s clear that some of the convention art focuses on women in a way that is objectifying. And it wasn’t the time or the place for that.

In Your Heart You Know He’s Right

[ 146 ] April 23, 2014 |

A reminder of the loveliness of the Goldwater campaign.


From Ludlow to Upper Big Branch

[ 14 ] April 23, 2014 |

I have a piece up at Bill Moyers’ site connecting the exploitation that led to the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 with coal companies exploitation of labor and degradation of nature today:

In recent years, American mining companies have undermined the effectiveness of many of these reforms. West Virginia mandates that the state legislature must approve all environmental regulations, making meaningful regulation all but impossible. The companies managed to influence the scientific testing of black lung claims. Miners suffering from black lung need to have their cases confirmed by doctors, but a single pro-coal scientist at Johns Hopkins University denied all 1,500 cases he saw between 2000 and 2013. After the Center for Public Integrity exposed this travesty — winning a Pulitzer Prize in the process — Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung testing program.

Today, mountaintop removal mining reshapes West Virginia and Kentucky, dumping millions of tons of contaminated soil into valleys, poisoning waterways and sickening residents. Coal companies claim it is the most cost-effective process, but it forces the long-term costs of mining onto local communities. It poisons waterways with mercury, lead, arsenic and selenium. Improper storage of coal waste also leads to polluted waterways. A Duke Energy coal ash leak in North Carolina earlier this year turned at least 27 million gallons of water in the Dan River into a toxic soup, polluting the water source for Danville, Va.

In 2010, 29 miners died at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, the nation’s deadliest mine explosion since 1970. Don Blakenship, CEO of the mine’s owner, Massey Energy, had long fought against safety and environmental regulations. The mine’s operation was officially and notoriously unsafe, having racked up over 500 safety violations in the year before the explosion. After the disaster, Massey denied time off for miners to go to their friends’ funerals. Blankenship called the explosion an “act of God” and denied all responsibility.

Upper Big Branch was a non-union mine. The coal companies have managed to reduce the UMWA to a shell of its former strength by closing union mines while investing in new non-union mines in the West, and automating jobs that allow them to lay off union members. And when workers lack a voice to fight for their own safety, the results can be disastrous. The UMWA only has 75,000 members today, down from 500,000 in 1946 and 240,000 in 1998. In 2006, an explosion at the non-union Sago Mine in West Virginia killed 13 miners, but the mine was only fined $71,800 for safety violations. Robert Murray, owner of the non-union Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah blew off the safety violations his operation received in 2006 as trivialities. The next year a mine collapse killed six miners and, later, three rescue workers searching for their bodies. When the UMWA criticized Murray’s safety record, he told family members of the dead, “the union is your enemy.” The coal industry is now fighting to reduce the already limited inspections of its mines.

The UMWA struggles to keep up its fight against black lung disease. The number of miners afflicted with the illness has risen in recent years, especially among younger miners. Fifty-two percent of the 113,000 mine dust samples turned into government regulators by coal companies since 1987 exceeded federal standards. Seventy-one percent of the miners who died at Upper Big Branch had already developed the lung lesions that are typical of black lung.

Like John D. Rockefeller Jr., a century ago, Blankenship, Murray and other coal mining CEOs destroy lives and ecosystems without consequences.

Sotomayor and Equality

[ 120 ] April 23, 2014 |

Yesterday’s affirmative action case is a close question, but Sotomayor’s dissent is perhaps her strongest work yet.

In addition, as Liptak notes, Sotomayor also had an excellent response to Roberts’s smarmy, ahistorical Parents Involved tautology:

We have seen this reasoning before. See Parents Involved, 551 U. S., at 748 (“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”). It is a sentiment out of touch with reality, one not required by our Constitution, and one that has properly been rejected as “not sufficient” to resolve cases of this nature.

Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process. And although we have made great strides, “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.”

Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society—inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities. See Gratz, 539 U. S., at 298–300 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (cataloging the many ways in which “the effects of centuries of law-sanctioned inequality remain painfully evident in our communities and schools,” in areas like employment, poverty, access to health care, housing, consumer transactions, and education); Adarand, 515 U. S., at 273 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (recognizing that the “lingering effects” of discrimination, “reflective of a system of racial caste only recently ended, are evident in our workplaces, markets, and neighborhoods”).

And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”

In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter. [Some cites omitted]

Serwer has more.

I’m just going to leave this headline in the post and let you savor it…

[ 85 ] April 23, 2014 |


Prosecutors: Cuckolded husband’s tape proves Dinesh D’Souza knew he broke campaign laws

So much to savor! So very, very much!

Getting around the Puget Sound is about to get even more difficult

[ 52 ] April 23, 2014 |

This is not surprising, but quite devastating. The higher than expected sales tax receipts will probably prevent cuts from going all the way up to 17%, but the 14-15% cuts will still be devastating. While changes to the final cuts are inevitable, something approximating the coming carnage can be viewed here. Some thoughts:

1) I’ve wished some transit nerd somewhere would come up with some sort of ‘transit use per transit system quality’ index. Obviously transit modeshare is highest in those cities with the most advanced systems like New York and DC. But for a system that consists almost entirely of slow, stuck in traffic buses, Seattle has pretty impressive numbers (nearly twice the modeshare of transit in Portland, for example). I very much hope this isn’t the beginning of a death spiral; a “worse service–>fewer choice riders–>less political support for transit—>worse service” feedback loop. But I’m far from confident it won’t be.

2) Anyone who voted no has no business pretending they’re not a fan of Tim Eyman. This vote completes what he started in 1999—destabilizing transit funding by making car ownership artificially cheap. Furthermore, anyone who voted no has no business pretending climate change is something they care about in any meaningful way, as forcing thousands of cars onto the road in exchange for a trivial tax cut.

3) Anyone asserting confidently what the ‘no’ vote really tells us about what ‘the people’ really want needs to shut up, at least until we have some more and better data. First, it’s a special election with low turnout. Obviously one of the most important pieces of missing data is how many people voted primarily no because they didn’t like the regressive flatness of it. Depending on how much the vote totals tighten, if that number is between 7-10% of no votes that’s enough to get us to a tie. I would like to believe that’s the case, as it would bode well for the future and confirm my frustration and anger with the dysfunction in Olympia, but I’m not going to assert it must be true because I want it to be so. In particular, I hope Sound Transit won’t overreact and water down the ask for ST-3 in 2016. The electorate in a presidential election will be much, much more pro-transit than this.

4) I really hope this factors into the current negotiations Murray* is engaging in with TNCs and taxis; the arbitrary cap on TNC cars on the road was a bad policy prior to devastating transit cuts, and it’s even worse now. One in six Seattle households is currently car-free, and the city should be doing what it can to encourage that number to grow, not shrink. Implementing these two changes simultaneously goes against all kinds of environmental and land use concerns the city claims to have.

5) From what I’ve been told, Metro seems to think late night service cuts are a good place to start, because of relatively low ridership numbers. I can see where this is coming from, and it’s not like I’ve got a good, politically viable plan for how to figure out cuts with the least amount of  pain, but: not all ridership numbers are equal. Late night service does at least two very valuable things: it allows mostly poorer people with irregular-hour service jobs to, well, keep those jobs, it takes drunk people off the road. In other words, the rides provided by a 11:30 PM bus are higher stakes than the average ride. Whatever metric goes into how to distribute the final cuts, I hope it doesn’t just look at raw ridership numbers.

6) Speaking of which, people are going to lose jobs over this, and they’re going to be the kind of people with very little by way of a cushion when it happens. We’ll pay for a lot of these cuts indirectly, through social services. As 40% of this money was going to road repair, and Olympia seems committed to roads bills that are heavily tilted away from basic maintenance, and toward shiny new “screw the future and invest in cars for another century” roads projects, we’ll also pay through the back door for this vote through increased car repair costs.

7) Metro is going to try to combine these cuts with some common-sense restructures that will make service more efficient, and hopefully minimize the impact of the cuts. They have to do this, and many of the restructures they want to do would be worth doing in a service hours-neutral environment. Still, this is dangerous: previous restructures (such as West-Seattle/Ballard 2012, in light of ‘rapidride’ service introduction) have produces never-change-anything “save my stop” backlashes and prove quite politically difficult, but have been retroactively supported by the communities they serve. In other words, people were skeptical but have eventually bought into them. But under current circumstances, they restructures will be combined with service cuts. Will users and communities stung by the cuts make the distinction between the cuts and the sensible, efficiency-increasing restructures? I doubt it.

8) I don’t celebrate the death of traditional journalism as a general matter, but I’m going to make an exception on the day the Seattle Times bites the dust.

*Murray seems to have his head on straight about the idiocy of the caps, but his tenure in Olympia shows he’s not anywhere near the deal-maker he imagines himself to be.

That’s O. Henry, Professional Oracle, to you sir

[ 9 ] April 23, 2014 |

Call it a modern day version of “The Ransom of Red Chief,” if you must.

Fox News and its resident God-botherers would have you believe that it was the fact that the child sang a spiritual that led to his release, but just listen to that boy sing.

It ain’t his angelic voice that earned him his freedom.

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