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Last Minute Thanksgiving Meal Advice

[ 9 ] November 24, 2014 |

David Chang speaking some truth:

One small consolation is that turkey skin is delicious—no more so than the skin of other birds, but still, it gives you something to look forward to. Peel it off the bird, press it between two baking sheets, and bake it at 350 for twenty to thirty minutes, by which time it will crisp up like delicious crackers made out of meat.

It’s what to do with the white meat that’s the real ball-breaker. I would say feed it to your dog, but maybe your dog knows better than your friends and family? Ideally you’ll use this holiday to judge whether your family members are good people or not. Will they trust you to make Thanksgiving a way better holiday by dispensing with the Rockwell painting once and for all? Put them to the test.

One time I tried to go all Korean Pilgrim Hero, and I turned a gigantic stupid turkey into a couple of roulades, which is French for “delicious meat logs.” It went like this: I splayed the skin out. I pounded the breast meat into cutlets and laid them over the skin. Braised leg meat, stuffing (with lots of thyme and mirepoix), and some super-gelatinous turkey stock went in the middle. I used plastic wrap to torque these assemblages into roulades. Then I roasted them low and browned them in butter and bird fat to crisp the skin before serving. They were good, sure. But you know what I should have done? Gone to KFC and bought a shitload of chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, gravy, and corn. I can’t imagine any turkey tasting as good as KFC.

Dark meat chicken from KFC for me. I can make better mac and cheese though so that can be the homemade part of the meal.

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Black Friday Strikes

[ 13 ] November 24, 2014 |

Why do Wal-Mart workers keep using one-day strikes as a protest tool? Largely because they don’t have any other tools that are likely to work:

One-day strikes don’t shut down the workplace like iconic strikes of yore did (and some workers, like Chicago teachers, still can). But if done right, they can accomplish some of what those walkouts did: Embarrass companies, estrange them from their customers, and engage fellow workers and the broader public by disrupting business as usual and creating a public spectacle. Instead of halting production, they anchor broader campaigns of political, media, legal, and consumer pressure aimed at getting management to budge. “It’s showing them that enough is enough,” says Venanzi Luna, one of about 60 employees who joined a Nov. 13 California walkout backed by OUR Walmart, the non-union workers group closely tied to the United Food & Commercial Workers union. OUR Walmart insists its protests are paying off, pointing to a series of announcements by the retailer that address policies—from minimum-wage pay, to part-time scheduling, to accommodations for pregnant workers—that have been rallying cries for the campaign.

It’s entirely possible (I’d say probable) that this pressure is what is causing Wal-Mart to slightly move the dial toward a dignified life for its workers. But the end game is really hard to see for this movement. A wide-scale strike is really not possible without 100 times more active support for Wal-Mart workers than it presently has, in no small part because there are so many locations and workplaces. Even if everyone in one store went on strike, if the other nearby stores didn’t follow, Walmart would easily swat it away. Given this situation, the 1-day strike makes a lot of sense with continued pressure throughout the year that keeps the Wal-Mart workers’ situation in our consciousness and hopefully leads to some sort of eventual larger transformation of workers’ lives. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt when Wal-Mart embarrasses itself.

In other words, these actions are indicative of both the problems American workers face in 2014 and the potential organizing actions to alleviate those problems.

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Profiles in Courage

[ 37 ] November 24, 2014 |

Man of principle Andrew Cuomo refuses to say that human-caused climate change exists, wants to avoid “political debate” on the issue.

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“You made a bear!”

[ 6 ] November 24, 2014 |

spikeundoit

Not quite, Spike — I just wrote an Internet Film School column about the Thanksgiving episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the AV Club.

Sample:

Thanksgiving is a holiday that allows filmmakers to get back to the medium’s theatrical roots. No elaborate sets are required — just a table and some people who know each other so well they decided to come together once a year rather than interact regularly. It is a chance for film to scale back its visual ambitions and look like a play without stumbling into the stodgy stage direction of an old episode of Masterpiece Theatre. Only unlike those film adaptations of dramatic works, there is a natural quality to the limitations placed upon a film that happens on Thanksgiving. Everyone looks like they’re in the same place not because the theater couldn’t afford better sets, but because everyone is trapped in the same confined spaces by strained familial bonds. Because if ever there were a time and a place for families to fall apart, it’s Thanksgiving.

Families fall apart all the time — I consider “families falling apart” to be a genre, and Noah Baumbach the current king of it — but never as spectacularly as they do during Thanksgiving. Perhaps as alluded to above, it is because of the artificially pressurized atmosphere the holiday creates. People who don’t particularly like each other are yet again forced to make extended displays of false joviality in order to please the one family member who actually cares about everyone. Sometimes that character is a doting mother, sometimes a dying father, or in the case of the “Pangs” episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, an empty-nested Chosen One whose surrogate family is on the brink of collapse…

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China’s Perspective on the Gulf War

[ 2 ] November 24, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest:

In 1991, Chinese military officers watched as the United States dismantled the Iraqi Army, a force with more battle experience and somewhat greater technical sophistication than the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Americans won with casualties that were trivial by historical standards.

This led to some soul searching. The PLA hadn’t quite been on autopilot in the 1980s, but the pace of reform in the military sector had not matched that of social and economic life in China. Given the grim performance of the PLA in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union, something was bound to change. The Gulf War provided a catalyst and direction for that change.

 

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“Barry didn’t bring corruption to D.C. He changed who benefited from it.”

[ 10 ] November 24, 2014 |

A very good summary of the career of the late Marion Barry by Adam Serwer. One of many telling details:

Johnson resisted that impulse and appointed Walter Washington, who was easily defeated by Marion Barry in the city’s second elections in 1978. Rep. John McMillan, the Dixiecrat who chaired the House Committee on the District of Columbia until 1973, sent Washington a truckload of watermelons to “celebrate” his receipt of Washington’s first city budget. McMillan “treated the city as if it were his plantation and turned the District Building into a fiefdom for his own patronage jobs,” applying “applied taxes to construction projects at the behest of the white business community,” Jaffe and Sherwood wrote.

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That Term “Due Process,” I Do Not Think…

[ 112 ] November 24, 2014 |

A Bill Cosby HOT TAKE:

But just because we don’t live in that utopia, we don’t then get the right to trash our venerable tradition of due process and simply eliminate the protections against false accusations or faulty memories.

Exposing anyone to a lifetime of liability because we feel sorry for a woman who says she was ashamed to tell that sordid tale of date rape, or a man who only found the courage to admit he’d been sexually violated in the sacristy 30 years after the fact, is as fundamentally un-American as you can get.

This is just 100% pure nonsense. Nobody is arguing that Bil Cosby is not entitled to due process rights. There is no “statute of limitations” on when people can discuss the bad behavior of others. Obviously, accusations of bad behavior may or may not be credible, but given the number of accuser in this case (some of whom made the complaints formally and contemporaneously), the point is essentially moot here. The chances that all of these women are lying are infinitesimal.

Flowers attempts to address this:

I’ve studied the claims of the women who say they were drugged by Cosby and then raped, and they all seem to follow a pattern: the women were either interns or mentored by the actor, went to his room to discuss some project, had a drink (or several) and then woke up after he’d allegedly attacked them.

They sound so similar that I’m reminded of the McMartin preschool case where children were coached to tell the sordid tales of being raped by their teachers. That story, which never gets the attention it deserves, turned out to be false. Lives were destroyed by opportunistic psychologists, parents who were naive enough to believe them, and a flock of media vultures who fed on the carcass of manipulation and lies.

Other than the notable lack of coaching, criminal prosecution, and children, the Cosby case and the McMartin case are exactly the same! The comparison is not merely specious but offensive and insulting. What evidence is there that these women are being “coached?” By who? The fact that their independent stories are similar is being used to impeach their credibility is, however, very special.

Rebecca Rose deals with similar arguments being made by Richard Stellar so I don’t have to.

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What Would John C. Wright Write Like if He Were a Libertarian-Brogressive Type?

[ 93 ] November 23, 2014 |

He’d write like this:

 

I watched a few videos by Gamergaters and that general camp that had a bit of anti-woman bite to them. The infamous “five guys” video about Zoe Quinn keeps saying that her sex life is not an issue, but also keeps implying that she is a slut. One guy who made an anti-Sarkesian video talked about how most women these days are “unmarriageable sluts,” in an offhand comment. In my mind, that’s a long way from misogyny. It could just be taking a shot at someone you don’t like, trolling, or venting some frustration. It could be that both guys are frustrated with their love lives. Maybe they simply oppose sexual promiscuity. I don’t know, but they aren’t going on and on about how rape victims often deserve it or how domestic violence is often justified, which is what a misogynist would do. And I’m desperately trying to make a mountains out of molehills here. To leap from a nasty comment to supposing the hatred of all women is to get swept up in the idealist and puritanical thinking I described earlier. People aren’t perfect. They get angry and say mean things. Acrimony between the genders is normal. Men are pigs. Women are gold diggers. Men are liars. Women are sluts. You say tomater, I say tomata.

I’ll pay you a bajillion bitcoins if any of you can make it though the whole thing. Karen?

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Sunday Linkage

[ 30 ] November 23, 2014 |

Some random Sunday evening thoughts:

 

 

 

 

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On Realignment

[ 132 ] November 22, 2014 |

It’s not wrong to suggest that the Tyrion of Game of Thrones is different than the Tyrion of Song of Ice and Fire, or even that these differences are not all for the better. But this is surely problematic:

The problem, however, with making Shae love Tyrion is that it trivializes his story. He is no longer a tragic character — he is loved. In the context of the show this is believable, since Peter Dinklage is a handsome man, and his subsequent scarring in battle could be considered sexy. (It’s absurd that Sansa is so repulsed by the idea of sex with him, in this context — sure, he’s not the man of her dreams, but after the traumas she’s experienced, you would think her fantasies could realign to accommodate a difference in height.)

Emphasis added. The claim being made here is that, in context of the traumas that Sansa has experienced, including most notably the butchery of her father, mother, and brother at the hands of Tyrion’s immediate family, it’s unreasonable to think that Sansa’s fantasies could not “realign to accommodate a difference in height.”

Frankly, I don’t think that’s the problem. And to its credit, the televised version doesn’t ever, to my recollection, imply that Sansa’s revulsion towards Tyrion is even remotely physical.

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Immigration policy and the rule of law I

[ 42 ] November 22, 2014 |

Scott addressed the most glaring flaws with Damon Linker’s column the other day, but I want to discuss another one: his invocation of his commitment to “the rule of law” as a reason to oppose this executive action:

The rule of law is far more about how things are done than about what is done. If Obama does what he appears poised to do, I won’t be the least bit troubled about the government breaking up fewer families and deporting fewer immigrants.

As Scott said, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny first and foremost because the case that Obama is operating outside the law is simply incorrect, as Russell Arben Fox, who holds a view congenial to Linker’s, has acknowledged in comments. But there are additional reasons to be troubled by it. I confess I’m increasingly dubious of the way the rule of law is used in political debates; Judith Shklar’s observation that the rule of law “may well have become just another self-congratulatory rhetorical devices that grace the utterances of Anglo-American politicians” rings true to me, especially with an “and pundits” added. But let’s consider it more carefully. The conception of the rule of law advocated here is one that appears to only apply to how the different parts of government relate to each other, and not how the government relates to the governed. This is consistent with an old and venerable tradition—one that predates liberalism and democracy—in ‘rule of law’ thinking; that the rule of law is satisfied when the monarch (and his agents) operate in a manner consistent with the law, whatever that may be.

But the rule of law is an essentially contested concept, and there are other uses of it in circulation. In a liberal and democratic world, we have some very good reasons to care about how the law governs not just the interaction of different parts of government with each other, but how it shapes the interactions of the different parts of government with the governed. Jeremy Waldron:

There may be no getting away from legal constraint in the circumstances of modern life, but freedom is possible nevertheless if people know in advance how the law will operate and how they have to act if they are to avoid its having a detrimental impact on their affairs. Knowing in advance how the law will operate enables one to plan around its requirements. And knowing that one can count on the law’s protecting certain personal property rights enables each citizen to know what he can rely on in his dealings with other people and the state. The Rule of Law is violated, on this account, when the norms that are applied by officials do not correspond to the norms that have been made public to the citizens or when officials act on the basis of their own discretion rather than norms laid down in advance.

On this account, it is difficult to square existing immigration law with the rule of law: it authorizes the deportation of many millions of current settled residents, while a) explicitly authorizing significant administrative discretion, and b) only appropriating the resources for a small fraction of those eligible to be deported in any given year. As Ilya Somin puts it,

To the extent that the rule of law is in jeopardy here, it is because the scope of federal law has grown so vast that no administration can target more than a small percentage of violations, thereby unavoidably giving the president broad discretion.

In other words: when statutory law is simply too vague, broad, or general to authorize a predictable pattern of governance as written, the rule of law is enhanced when administrators prioritize and systematize with administrative law, assuming they do so in a manner consistent with the spirit and general intent of the law and other constitutional norms.

I’ve written about Joe Carens excellent work on the political theory of immigration here before. One of his smarter pieces of non-ideal theory is this defense of what he calls the ‘firewall’ requirement for states that have a population of irregular migrants. Carens assumes for the sake of argument that states have the right to deport such individuals. However, insofar as they’re not deporting them, they ought to have a number of basic legal rights and protections in common with residents in general. This can be framed as a matter of basic human rights, as Carens does, but it’s also a rule of law issue—for one’s life to be governed predictably by law one must have access to the parts of the state that provide for various protections. But the threat of deportation cuts of access to what the rule of law provides:

The fact that people are legally entitled to certain rights does not mean they actually are able to make use of those rights. It is a familiar point that irregular migrants are so worried about coming to the attention of the authorities that they are often reluctant to pursue legal remedies and protections to which they are entitled, even when their most basic human rights are at stake….States can and should build a firewall between immigration law enforcement on the one hand and the protection of basic human rights on the other. We ought to establish a firm legal principle that no information gathered by those responsible for protecting and realizing human rights can be used for immigration enforcement purposes. We ought to guarantee that people can pursue their basic rights without exposing themselves to apprehension and deportation.

Carens’ firewall does not, unfortunately, exist (although many municipal governments have moved in this direction) and Obama’s executive order doesn’t create it. But for those eligible, it contributes to the same goal; it makes it more possible and likely that they’ll have reasonable access to the predictability and protections that the rule of law affords.

While we can acknowledge its important role in the history of the concept, it’s difficult for me to see any good reason for the use of a strictly formal concept of the rule of law indifferent to the nature of government/governed interaction today. It is the character and quality of those interactions that cause me to care about government in the first place. Linker’s clumsy attempt to use the rule of law against the Obama administration in this case highlights the shortcomings of that particular version of the concept.

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How to Embarrass Yourself as a University Administration

[ 73 ] November 22, 2014 |

Graduate students at the University of Oregon are threatening to strike over the university not giving their demand of paid family leave. You can read the details of the bargaining in quite a bit of detail here. It is nearing the end of the quarter at UO, so the graduate students have as much power as they are going to have because all the grading needs to get done. So how did the university administration respond? Pretty much in the most embarrassing way possible, sending deans and directors this leaked memo concerning what to do if they had to give the finals without their TAs.

1. Consider whether the final exam can be reformatted so that it can be graded easily (e.g., Scantron or multiple-choice). Please note that the reformatted final exams should have an equal level of rigor as originally planned.

2. To provide proctor coverage for exams, please use the teaching function strategies above.

3. Provide students with the following options:

a. Forgo the final and take the grade they had going into the final

b. Take the final, but receive an “X” (missing grade) until such time that the finals can be graded

Give everyone Scantron exams! Now that’s education. Let’s not even get into the issue that students forced to take multiple choice exams do significantly worse because there is no partial credit (which is why it is basically impossible to fail a history course unless you don’t turn assignments in or never show up). In fact, let’s just forget about education entirely. Give the students their current grade without a final! Hire some scabs to serve as TAs! Make a mockery of your entire pedagogy!

Really, shouldn’t the University of Oregon just allow students to choose their own grade? That’s only fair way to deal with a labor conflict.

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