Subscribe via RSS Feed

Graffiti in the National Parks

[ 41 ] May 3, 2016 |


One of the bad sides of social media’s domination over the universe is that has incentivized graffiti and stunts that promote individuals or allow them to show off to their friends by desecrating monuments and places of natural beauty. There was the graffiti artist a couple of years who decided to make her mark in national parks across the country. There was the Chinese tourist who decided to write his name on the Temple of Luxor in Egypt. Now we have this terrible incident in Arches National Park when a couple of idiots decided to go hog wild and carve their names so deep into the delicate rocks of the region that it can’t be fixed.

Graffiti etched into one of the popular red rock arches in Utah’s Arches National Park may be too deep to be repaired, the park’s superintendent said on Thursday.

The vandalism, which was discovered by park staff last Saturday and includes names and numbers, spans about six feet on the so-called Frame Arch, park superintendent Kate Cannon said.

The site of the graffiti is near a hiking trail to one of the park’s main attractions, Delicate Arch, a 64-feet high sandstone structure that has been known to draw hundreds of visitors at a time.

Authorities have not yet identified any suspects, Cannon said. In a post on their Facebook page, park officials appealed to the public for information that would lead them to the culprits.

Defacing a national park can lead to a sentence of six months in prison and a $500 fine, according to the website for the U.S. Department of Justice.

How about 50 years in Supermax for something like this? What’s really frustrating is that this took so long that others must have seen it. How could you not intervene if you saw this? Walking up and punching them would be a good start.


The Ultimate Trump Supporter

[ 68 ] May 3, 2016 |


A friend posted this on Facebook the other day. It is an excerpt from Brenda Elsey, “Cultural Ambassadorship and the Pan American Games of the 1950s” just published in the International Journal of the History of Sport.

“The death knell of the Pan-American Games may have sounded in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 8 July 1979. at evening, the Brazilian women’s basketball team entered the gymnasium to begin their practice. To their surprise, the US men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight barred their entrance. Knight claimed that the Brazilians arrived early and asked a police officer to eject them. The Brazilian women reported that Knight called them ‘prostitutes’. When the officer refused to eject the Brazilian squad, an altercation ensued. According to the police officer’s testimony, Knight punched him on the left side of the face and yelled, ‘get your dirty hands off me, ni**er’. The officer arrested Knight, but sports delegates orchestrated his release in time to coach the men’s final game. Knight justified his behaviour as a patriotic reaction to the anti-Americanism among the rest of the continent. A judge convicted Knight of assault in absentia and sentenced him to six months in jail. Knight refused to appear in court for the trial or sentencing, stating, ‘the only f__king thing they know how to do is grow bananas’. Puerto Rico’s delegate to the International Amateur Basketball Federation, Genaro Marchand, called Knight, ‘an ugly American’. Despite his behaviour, Knight received support at home. The president of Indiana University refused his resignation and he continued to coach the US Olympic basketball team.”

In other words, Bobby Knight is the perfect Trump voter.

Why #NeverTrump Was Never Going to Work

[ 175 ] May 3, 2016 |

The party is coalescing around the nominee:


International Man of Principle Bill Kristol is getting the message:

“I mean, I guess never say never. On the one hand, I’ll say #NeverTrump, and on the other hand, I’ll say never say never.”

Watching the #NeverTrump crowd move into the Trump camp as his nomination becomes ever less evitable is going to be highly entertaining.

…when he’s right, he’s right:

The key to a more egalitarian society is for everyone to go to elite colleges

[ 129 ] May 3, 2016 |


Now nobody actually comes right out and says this, for the obvious reason that it sounds pretty idiotic when you say it out loud. But a lot of people sort of believe it anyway:

Higher education, once seen as the nation’s great leveler, has become a guardian of class division and privilege in America. At the country’s most selective schools, three percent of students come from families in the bottom economic quartile, while the top economic quartile supplies 72 percent. A high-achieving poor student is only one-third as likely to go to a competitive school as her wealthier counterpart.

If you’re actually interested in attacking class distinctions, as opposed to looking for tips on exactly what you have to do to get Cameron and Abigail into the most selective preschool in the area, you will notice that there’s something rather disturbing about the math in this paragraph. To wit: a “rich” kid (broadly defined) is twenty-four times more likely to go to a selective college than a “poor” kid (broadly defined.)

Is this because selective colleges are discriminating against poor kids? Well obviously they are, in the sense that their selection criteria result in schools with essentially no poor kids (again, “poor” here is a term of art, meaning lower middle or working class, as well as actually poor). What to do?

It doesn’t seem as if closing this gap should be so difficult. Some 30,000 low-income high school seniors in America each year are top students but don’t go to selective schools, or to college at all. Catharine Bond Hill, a prominent economist who studies equity in higher education, found that the share of low-income students at highly selective colleges could rise by 30 to 60 percent with no decrease in academic quality.


About 3.3 million people graduate from high school in the USA every year. 30,000 is less than one percent of that total. So, based on current entrance criteria, the hypothetical creation of a perfectly egalitarian system of admissions, in which SES had no effect whatsoever on an applicant’s chances of admission to a selective college, would result in an increase of what is essentially a statistical handful of “poor” (sic) kids getting into such schools. (If currently 3% of students at selective colleges are “poor,” a 30% to 60% increase in this figure would result in between 3.9% and 4.8% of all students at those colleges falling into this economically ecumenical category).

Also, too:

Getting a bachelor’s degree is the best way to escape poverty.

Wait, are we talking about selective colleges, or just college? Apparently the former:

Talented students should go to the best college they can — and not just for the career advantages later. A student who could get into a top school is nearly twice as likely to graduate there than if she goes to a noncompetitive school. The top colleges are the only ones where students of all income levels graduate at the same rates. The reason is money: Selective colleges are richer. They can afford to provide specialized counseling and lots of financial aid. And running out of money is the most common reason people drop out.

Again, nobody ever says “let’s make society more equal by sending more people to selective colleges” because, you know, math: The overwhelming majority of Americans (conservatively, 95%) can’t go to selective colleges, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS FOR A COLLEGE TO BE SELECTIVE.

Indeed a large majority of Americans won’t graduate from college, period — one third of adults have college degrees, up from 5% in 1950 — because among other things college functions as a signaling mechanism and a purveyor of positional goods (i.e., degrees) and as college degrees become more common the signal becomes fuzzier and the goods become less valuable (by definition).

In sum if your egalitarian social theory is that the way to attack social inequality is to send more poor kids to Vassar — or indeed any college — you need a better theory. But that theory is what passes for social criticism on much of what passes for the liberal left in contemporary America.

This Day in Labor History: May 3, 1965

[ 39 ] May 3, 2016 |

On May 3, 1965, Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky, Richard Kallweit, and Clark Richart bought a 7-acre piece of land north of Trinidad, Colorado. This would become known as Drop City, among the first and most important of the countercultural communes that dotted the American landscape during the late 1960s and 1970s and continuing, in a much diminished form, to the present. While itself not a particularly important day in American labor history per se, we can use this date to serve as a window into how work was organized in the counterculture, which is a meaningful topic on the subject.

Both then and now, there is a stereotype that hippies avoided work. The reality was far more complicated. Sure, many in the counterculture relied heavily on the welfare state to supplement their income. But most, including many of those who qualified for state benefits, valued hard work very highly. What the counterculture by and large rejected was work within the system of corporate capitalism. They weren’t going to be The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, for instance. They didn’t want to work for wages, be union members, go into middle management. But there are many forms of work. Many in the counterculture wanted to labor for themselves, often in the beautiful nature of the American West, either regenerate both the natural world and themselves through labor. One chapter in my book Empire of Timber, details the Hoedads, a group of countercultural reforestation workers in the 1970s. These people took up some of the hardest work imaginable–planting trees on the steep slopes of the Pacific Northwest. Both men and women engaged in this work that was often back-breaking. They felt they were contributing to a more just and sustainable natural world by planting trees while working for themselves outside of capitalism. This work did not make them very much money, usually less than minimum wage, and it was extremely strenuous. But it was work nonetheless.

In the communes, the work was often quite different but was still work. People such as Stewart Brand promoted countercultural work norms through the Whole Earth Catalog, focusing on self-sustaining economic and environmental projects that promoted people working for themselves. In 1971, the Whole Earth Catalog sold over 1 million copies. Believing that rural spaces were unspoiled, unlike the polluted corporate cities, many young people sought to establish themselves in the country, working on the land. The problem with this is that this work was tremendously hard and most were not ready for it. Disasters struck frequently. Communes would save money and buy a piece of relatively expensive farm equipment and then ruin it because they didn’t know how to use it. They would build unstable structures that would collapse. That they eschewed many western farming methods and instead sought authentic Native American practices, often attempting to contact Native Americans to show them the way did not help their material conditions much. Poverty was often the result. But being in touch with the earth through planting seeds by hand, harvesting farm animals, weaving, or planting trees was work well worth the effort for thousands of people during the years, despite the economic hardships they often faced.

But for all the potentially world-changing implications of countercultural work norms, one thing that is striking is how gender traditional it all was. The counterculture broadly speaking, and certainly many if not most of the communes, internalized traditional gendered work norms. In the communes, men did most of the outdoor labor of constructing buildings, killing hogs, or plowing fields, while women both planted seeds in those fields and worked inside the buildings, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children. Women who tried to lay bricks with men reported being ignored and facing huge social pressure to return to the house. Over time, this did begin to fade in some communes, with men being forced to take on some childcare and women doing more physical farmworking tasks.

But this depended on the commune. On The Farm, in Tennessee, founder Stephen Gaskin, considered a guru by many of his followers, set up a traditional gendered world. Because Gaskin believed in the sacred power of women’s reproductive yin and men’s creative yang, Gaskin created a sexual division of labor that largely replicated an idealized past of what was considered 19th century rural gender roles. Quickly realizing that they were in over their heads in terms of the physical creation of community and self-sustainability, 12-14 hour work days with highly specialized roles became common. When they couldn’t make enough money, men hired themselves to local farmers for cash. Women on the other hand created collectivized childcare and worked in cottage industries, financing the enterprises, cooking, farming, taught in the commune’s schools, and other tasks deemed feminine because they were seen as reproductive. In particular, the commune valued midwives as the highest form of female labor and they often played important social and political roles in these groups. Gaskin’s teachings reinforced these ideas, calling men “knights” that needed to protect and provide for women. There was an attempt to reject an unproductive animalistic masculinity in exchange for what be called the creation of the New Age sensitive man, but the gendered norms remained powerful and deeply connected to labor.


By the late 1970s, the commune movement was fading fast for a variety of reasons. Hippies were becoming old people and out of touch with the youth, or at least that’s how both the hippies themselves and young people saw it. Continued hardship and poverty was not appealing to a lot of men and women who were highly educated and even if they had taken a decade off from the rat race, still had Vassar or Columbia degrees and a lot of racial and cultural capital they could turn into future careers as lawyers or other professions. The revolutionary work ideas of the commune movement would largely go untapped, but their influence can be seen today in the organic farming and DIY work movements, both of which remain vital.

I borrowed from Tim Hodgdon, Manhood in the Age of Aquarius: Masculinity in Two Countercultural Communities, 1965-1983 and Ryan Edgington, “‘Be Receptive to the Good Earth: Health, Nature, and Labor in Countercultural Back-to-the-Land Settlements,” published in Agricultural History in the Summer 2008 edition, to write this post.

This is the 177th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Today in the War on Culture

[ 42 ] May 3, 2016 |


Let’s just say that Edroso’s roundup of conservative reactions to Prince 1)starts with Steve Sailer and 2)the examples arguably get worse. And — hey, it’s about Prince, there has to be some choice material left on the cutting room floor — he didn’t even get to Maggie Gallagher’s discussion of Prince’s “secret Christianity.” It’s true — if he wasn’t a member of America’s most oppressed minority, he might have, say, written a song about his faith called “The Cross” and put it on an immensely influential million-selling record. Or he could have put a religious song called “God” on the b-side of one of his most popular singles. But, in America, Christianity is forced into the closet by big POLITICALLY CORRECT.

As an antidote, I’ve very much been enjoying Pitchfork’s retrospective reviews. Maura Johnston on 1999 and Nelson George on Sign O’ The Times are particularly recommended.


[ 13 ] May 2, 2016 |
A large submarine travelling on the surface of the ocean.

“HMAS Rankin 2007” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman James R. Evans – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Some Monday links for your reading pleasure…

Eagle Cam Shows Nature in Real Life

[ 92 ] May 2, 2016 |

This is one of my favorite stories in some time. People love watching cute animals. Except that those cute animals are often brutal, whether they are male ducks engaging in what to humans looks like gang rape of female ducks (I have witnessed this with my own eyes and it was horrifying) or osprey that attack their own young, or some bald eagles snacking on little Fluffy.

Cat owners have been warned of the dangers their feline companions face when venturing outdoors after video emerged of bald eagles feasting on the body of a dead cat near Pittsburgh.

Footage from a live web camera mounted at the Hays bald eagle nest, located a few miles from the center of Pittsburgh, showed the eagles serving up the cat to hungry eaglets. Concerned cat owners bombarded the local Audubon Society about why the eagles had preyed upon the cat.

“After reviewing the footage, we believe that the cat was dead when brought to the nest,” the Audubon Society of western Pennsylvania in a statement. “While many may cringe at this, the eagles bring squirrels, rabbits, fish (and other animals) into the nest to eat multiple times each day.”

“To people, the cat represents a pet but to the eagles and to other raptors, the cat is a way to sustain the eaglets and help them to grow. While seeing a cat in the nest was difficult for many, we’re hopeful that people will understand that this is a part of nature, and nature isn’t always kind or pretty.”

In other cat news, here’s a cat who has not been eaten by eagles. His name is Torvald, he was born under my house in Albuquerque on May 1, 2003 and he turned 13 the other day. You can see he is already entering his teenage punk phase.


I know some people like this site because we don’t post cat pictures very often. Well, tonight’s an exception.


[ 83 ] May 2, 2016 |


Although I’m only a casual follower of the big Euro soccer leagues, I’m impelled to note what is in waging terms probably the most improbable upset in major sports history, as Leicester City won the English Premier League today, after Chelsea came back to fight Tottenham to a bloody 2-2 draw.

Leicester City, which was in the English third division less than a decade ago, and which little more than a year ago was dead last in the EPL and seemed certain to be relegated, was (were?) given 5000-1 odds by the London bookies at the start of this season to win the league.

Now hindsight is 20/20, but when a 5000 to 1 shot comes in that strongly suggests those odds were, ex ante, completely out of wack. Again I’m just a casual fan, but Leicester was the 14th-best team in the league last year in terms of points (and they were better than that in terms of goal differential, which is probably a better indicator of underlying quality). Anyway, the idea that it’s a 5000 to 1 shot for the 14th best team in one year to win the league in the next is obviously absurd on its face.

The 14th best team in the EPL is roughly equivalent to the 20th best team in MLB or the NBA or the NFL, in terms of distance from the top. Now obviously a whole bunch of things have to break right for for a 75-87 team to have the best record in baseball the next year. It’s quite unlikely — but quite unlikely as in 50-1 or maybe even 100-1. But 5000 to 1? That’s more like a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament winning the whole thing.

Yes I’m aware that only four clubs have won the EPL over the course of the last 20 years, and that the analogy with American major professional sports is inexact for a variety of reasons (in particular there are far fewer rules designed to maintain some sort of competitive parity in big time soccer leagues than there are in American major sports leagues.). But still — 5000 to 1? That kind of miscalculation should have put some bookmakers out of business.

All that aside, it’s a great story.

There Should Be Plenty More Where This Comes From

[ 92 ] May 2, 2016 |

If you vote for Kelly Ayotte or Mark Kirk or Rob Portman or Ron Johnson or Rob Portman etc. etc. you’re voting for Trumpism. He’s the Republican candidate and they own him. This is a point that the Democratic campaigns in swing states need to make effectively and relentlessly.

The Authoritarian Mind

[ 127 ] May 2, 2016 |


I can’t describe the worldview of Roger Goodell and his apologists any better than Goodell does himself:

As the NFL continues to bask in the glow of a narrow, 2-1 appeals court victory in the #Deflategate imbroglio, Commissioner Roger Goodell is now defending his handling of quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension by attacking the NFL Players Association.

“I understand when there is a defense of any violation . . . that is part of the game, we all understand that nobody wants to discipline,” Goodell told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike, via Dan Werly of “I understand the union’s position. The union’s position is to eliminate discipline. That is what they do, we are going to protect the player, right or wrong. And I get that, that is understandable, go at it. My job is to protect the game. We are not going to relent on that, we are not going to compromise at all.”

That’s an incredibly cynical view of the union’s role, and an apparent attempt to counter NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith’s recent explanation on PFT Live about the union’s commitment to fighting for its players. But the union isn’t trying to ensure that players suffer no consequence for wrongdoing. The union wants any consequences to be fair and consistent and within the confines of the labor deal. The union also wants the process that determines those consequences to be fair.

Well, there you go. To Goodell, either you believe that Roger Goodell should have the unilateral, virtually unreviewable authority to issue any punishment to any team or player for anything, or you think that nobody should ever be punished for anything. If you believe in such concepts as “due process” or “proportionate punishments reasonably knowable ex ante” or “judges should not serve as their own appellate adjudicator” or “league officials should not leak prejudicial and false information about people they’re targeting to their court stenographers” it’s because you’re opposed in principle to any rules or punishment at all. If Trump decides to counter Cruz by naming his first Supreme Court nominee, he’s got his man.

I recommend the rest of Florio’s post as well. Since I’ve been guilty of unwarranted criticism of the union for this in the past, I should note that he’s persuasive that there was nothing the NFLPA could plausibly have done about this, even knowing the likelihood that a commissioner would eventually massively abuse his powers. The NFLPA is far from being in an equal bargaining position, the league flatly refused to consider placing more restrictions on the commissioner’s Article 46 powers, and short of a strike that almost certainly wouldn’t have worked anyway it’s not clear what could have been done about it. That the system is bad, though, doesn’t let Goodell off the hook: he has been far worse than his predecessor, which is why he didn’t want Tagliabue anywhere near Ballghazi although he could have let him review it like he did with the New Orleans bounty scandal.

On a related note, Jonah Keri has a good column about some of the reaction to the Dee Gordon suspension. You would think that a draconian suspension for a first time offense would be enough. But for a lot of people, no — it’s outrageous that there’s any appeal process! The team should be able to void his contract! It never ends.

Vote Suppression Laws Work

[ 15 ] May 2, 2016 |


Whatever disarray the Republican Party might be in at the national level, Republican statehouses are able to pass policy initiatives that quickly fulfill their goals:

Thirty-three states now have ID laws, at least 17 of them — including Texas — requiring not just written proof of identity, but requiring or requesting a photograph as well.

Most research suggests that the laws result in few people being turned away at the polls. But a study of the Texas ID requirement by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy released in August found that many more qualified voters, confused or intimidated by the new rules, have not tried to vote at all.

“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”

A second study, by the University of California, San Diego, concluded in February that the strictest voter ID laws — those that require an identity card with a photograph — disproportionately affect minority voters.

After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.

Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.

Moreover, Dr. Jones of the Baker Institute said, “The confused voters said they would have voted overwhelmingly for Gallego.”

The laws are designed to stop racial minorities from voting, and they work. In other words, exactly the kind of law the 15th Amendment empowered Congress to address.

In its last twenty years, the Supreme Court has issued some opinions that combine self-refuting logic with horrible results — Bush v. Gore, the Medicaid holding in NFIB v. Sebelius. Shelby County certainly belongs near of not at the top of that list.

Page 1 of 2,27312345...102030...Last »