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Memories of Rubber

[ 4 ] July 1, 2016 |

This is a really powerful piece about how indigenous peoples in South America have integrated the horrors of the rubber baron era into their oral histories and storytelling style.

“After he had put them into a deep sleep, the tigre negro entered the camp and killed them all, slashing their throats. It sucked the blood out of them. Only one saved himself by hiding in the forest. From there he heard his companions screaming. That’s how the tigre negro killed the rubber tappers.”

I heard that story from my father when I was a boy, sitting on the palm wood floor of our house on the island of Sarapanga in the Marañón River in northeastern Peru. With smoke from my father’s pipe wafting around us and the river flowing by just meters away, the tale of the tigre negro (literally black tiger, a reference to the black jaguar) capped his late-afternoon storytelling, after which he’d send us off to bed.

Years later, I heard it again as I visited villages with my colleagues from Radio Ucamara, a small station in the port town of Nauta. The members of the radio station staff (including myself, one of the authors, Leonardo Tello) are of the Kukama people, the Native group that predominates in villages along the lower Marañón. The station primarily serves Kukama communities.

When I first listened to it as an adult, the story struck me as odd. The reclusive jaguar is a selective predator, taking only the prey it needs. But gradually, the tale of the animal that slaughtered humans and drank their blood revealed a terrible truth. The tigre negro was not a feline of the forest but something more sinister—a metaphor for a rubber baron. The story captured the living memories of an era when rubber, the once-precious natural latex that drove the Amazonian economy, led to the death or forced displacement of thousands of Indigenous peoples. That reality is as vivid now as it was a century ago when the rubber boom was at its peak.

“Indigenous mythic histories are often non-linear. They’re not necessarily chronological. They may not be concerned so much with telling exactly what happened but with trying to socialize the events of the past so they can be placed into collective memory in ways that make sense within the Indigenous world view,” says anthropologist Jonathan D. Hill of Southern Illinois University, who has collected stories about the rubber boom era in Venezuela. “I think that’s a healing process.”

Very much worth your time, for the story itself and to learn more about just what terrible things the arrival of capitalism did to indigenous peoples worldwide.


Trump/Tebow ’16!

[ 63 ] July 1, 2016 |


This is just too perfect:

Did Donald Trump violate IRS rules, by using a charity’s money to buy himself a signed football helmet?

Four years ago, at a charity fundraiser in Palm Beach, Donald Trump got into a bidding war at the evening’s live auction. The items up for sale: A Denver Broncos helmet, autographed by then-star quarterback Tim Tebow, and a Tebow jersey.

Trump won, eventually, with a bid of $12,000. Afterward, he posed with the helmet. His purchase made gossip-column news: a flourish of generosity, by a mogul with money to burn. “The Donald giveth, and The Donald payeth,” wrote the Palm Beach Daily News. “Blessed be the name of The Donald.”

But Trump didn’t actually pay with his own money.

Instead, the Susan G. Komen organization — the breast-cancer nonprofit that hosted the party — got a $12,000 payment from another nonprofit , the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Trump himself sent no money. (In fact, a Komen spokesperson said, Trump has never given a personal gift of cash to the Komen organization.) He paid the bill with money from a charity he founded in 1987, but which is largely stocked with other people’s money. Trump is the foundation’s president. But, at the time of the auction, Trump had given none of his own money to the foundation for three years running.

I’m not sure what’s better, Trump’s scam or Trump going crazy to get that Tebow jersey and helmet. Too bad Tebow isn’t 35, he’d be Trump’s VP!

Friday Linkage

[ 17 ] July 1, 2016 |

By Mathew Brady (1823–1896) – The Photography Book, Phaidon Press, London 1997. ISBN 0714836346

Heading to Israel-Palestine tomorrow for a week-long academic excursion.  Blogging will be light and Holy Land themed.  Some reading for your pleasure:



You Can Go Broke Underestimating the Intelligence of the American Public

[ 73 ] July 1, 2016 |


Seeing the Daily Show‘s typically unfunny and also sexist-missing-the-point reaction to the Supreme Court’s abortion rights decision Monday was…well, actually, I can’t fairly say “typical” because after a few tries watching Trevor Noah I don’t even consider watching it anymore, and subsequent reviews don’t suggest that I’m missing anything.

It seems worth noting that Samantha Bee was 1)never even seriously considered as a replacement for Jon Stewart by Comedy Central and 2)Full Frontal is not just destroying Noah’s Daily Show aesthetically but also in the ratings. Whether this explained by the sexism reflected by whoever runs the show’s Twitter feed or just garden-variety incompetence, I can’t tell you.

Meanwhile, in another example of the American public showing better judgment that might be expected of nation in which Donald Trump was a non-zero chance of running for president, Fox Sports’s attempt to compete with ESPN by hiring as many reactionary trolls as possible is failing miserably. Im sure adding Skip Bayless to All Takes Matter will turn things around, though!

Critical Questions from The Economist

[ 121 ] July 1, 2016 |


The Economist, as in touch with the struggles of everyday people as always, asks a critical question: Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds? The article claims that it’s about the exploitative conditions of their production, but let’s face it, it’s not. If it were, maybe there would be declines in chocolate and fish consumption due to their use of child and slave labor and a movement to promote Bangladeshi apparel workers’ unions. Of course none of that is happening in any way that affects the industry. The answer is that young people have no money because of a horrible economy, terrible student debt loads, and no good, stable future in an outsourced, franchised, automated, downsized, quarterly profit economy. So they aren’t buying diamonds. But getting at those issues would be far too close to home for The Economist. Better to just wonder about the declining fortunes of the diamond industry.

Save America’s Pastime–From the Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay?

[ 40 ] July 1, 2016 |


Did you know baseball evidently needs saving? From what, you might ask? Is it from sluggers using specific drugs that challenge the records of the heroes current sportswriters had when they were kids? Is it from Clayton Kershaw going on the DL? Is it from the horrors of the Yankees winning the World Series? No. Evidently baseball needs saving from the oppressive measures of the Fair Labor Standards Act. But what, you say? Major league players are millionaires! Indeed. This is about making sure that minor league players don’t receive proper compensation.

Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky introduced the “Save America’s Pastime Act” late last week. The bipartisan legislation—Bustos is a Democrat, Guthrie a Republican—proposes to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and create a specific exemption for minor league baseball players (who are not unionized) so that they are explicitly not guaranteed the minimum wage, and thus not allowed overtime pay.

Minor leaguers are professional athletes, so they’re never going to get widespread sympathy from the public, but MiLB’s wage structure is set up such that that they can barely earn a living while playing baseball. At best, they can break even. It’s tricky to conceive of sports jobs on hourly terms, since the responsibilities of a professional athlete extend so far beyond simply clocking in and out on game days, but minor league baseball players live all of the round-the-clock lifestyle of MLB players, just without getting the pay to justify it.

The bill alleges that MiLB players need their wages locked in at poverty level and that if players start getting paid at least as much as fast food workers, grassroots minor league baseball is at risk:

If the law is not clarified, the costs to support local teams would likely increase dramatically and usher in significant cuts across the league, threatening the primary pathway to the Majors and putting teams at risk.

This is bullshit. Major league owners pay the salaries of their farm teams. MiLB teams don’t need attendance revenue to pay their players, the money comes from the top. As ESPN noted, bumping every minor leaguer’s pay by $5,000 would shake out to 5 percent of Justin Verlander’s salary. MLB made $8 billion in revenue in 2013 (the number is certainly higher now). But the “Save America’s Pastime Act” isn’t about saving money, and it certainly isn’t about saving America’s pastime.

If you are asking why a Democrat like Bustos would be involved in such a horrible piece of anti-worker legislation, the answer is pretty simple. Her father in Major League Baseball’s chief lobbyist. The entire justification is completely ridiculous. Major League Baseball is going to support a minor league system because they require a minor league system to prepare players for the major leagues. The idea that teams in Missoula and Batavia are going to fold because the Yankees and Dodgers have to pay the minimum wage to the players does not hold up to even the first bit of scrutiny.

Outside of the grotesque nature of the arguments for this rather Orwellian named bill, Grant Bisbee explores just how despicable it is by thinking of the minor leaguers themselves. Basically, minor leaguers develop no job skills for the future. If they sign out of high school, they spend their traditional college-aged years learning nothing but to hit and field and pitch. If they do go to college, they probably leave after 3 years without a degree and spend their post-college years, when their friends are starting to find stable jobs and figure our careers, learning nothing but to hit and field and pitch. Most of them will never see a 40-man roster, not to mention actually playing in the major leagues. Far less will become wealthy. For most, this is a career dead-end. This bill is about making sure a 26 year old outfielder with a .700 OPS in Chattanooga doesn’t get paid if he goes to visit a nursing home in a team event, not about protecting players, the minor leagues, or baseball itself.

…Bustos has since withdrawn her support of her own bill in what Bill Shaikin calls “a flip flop monumental even by Washington standards.” Honestly, this is enough that her constituents should seek to primary her out of a job in 2018. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is doubling down and saying that minor league players aren’t really employees–they are creative class people like artists and musicians. Yeah, that makes as little sense as it sounds.

Needs MOAR Newt!

[ 97 ] July 1, 2016 |

Please, please, please let this be true:

In addition to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Donald Trump’s campaign is vetting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, The Washington Post reports. Five sources requesting anonymity told The Post that both men have been asked by the attorney managing Trump’s vetting process to answer a questionnaire and hand over everything from tax records to personal files to books and articles they’ve written.

These would both be superb choices from a “this trainwreck needs more cars” perspective, the most salient one when evaluating Donald Trump’s VP candidates. Newt, a pioneer in “who needs a campaign to campaign” politics, would be a perfect fit. But I’m all for a particularly high publicity Chris Christie Ritual Humiliation Tour too, not least because it might cause Trump to invest even more resources in New York and New Jersey.

Then there’s the (possibly non-existent) next tier:

The sources said at least half a dozen other people — including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — are also being looked at as viable options, but it’s unclear how far along they are in the vetting process.

Sessions would, if anything, be a better choice than Newt. He can host the Republican Party’s very first Calhoun-Thurmond dinner.

Lookin’ for a hot take baby this evenin’

[ 66 ] June 30, 2016 |

Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot!

It is not surprising that Sanders embraces the policies of failed socialist and quasi-socialist governments from decades past. Nor is it that surprising that Trump, whose views on everything are a strange mishmash of gut reactions, prejudice and emotion, finds them appealing. But it is stunning that serious conservative Republicans who are devoted to free-market ideas are backing Trump, looking the other way and crossing their fingers. The cost of doing so is now clear: Trump will transform the GOP into a protectionist, nationalist party. The logical choice for this new party’s vice president is obvious — Bernie Sanders.



Kaine, Non

[ 123 ] June 30, 2016 |


I think this really should be the end of the line in terms of Tim Kaine as VP pick:

Sen. Tim Kaine legally accepted more than $162,000 in gifts when he served as lieutenant governor and governor of Virginia..

The disclosures have been publicly available for years, but they could be under some scrutiny now, since Kaine has been floated as a possible vice presidential pick for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Virginia Democrat disclosed the gifts from 2001 to 2009, according to reports filed by the Virginia Public Access Project, which Politico reported.

Most of the gifts were for travel to and from political conferences and events. Accepting gifts is legal under Virginia’s lax ethics rules, and Kaine’s aides pointed out there was no suggestion of official favors in return, and he has exceeded the reporting requirements.

“During his eight years as lieutenant governor and governor, Sen. Kaine went beyond the requirements of Virginia law, even publicly disclosing gifts of value beneath the reporting threshold,” a spokesperson told Politico. “He’s confident that he met both the letter and the spirit of Virginia’s ethical standards.”

They were apparently legal, but these gifts are not good politics. They open lines of attack against one of Clinton’s major vulnerabilities. Given that there are numerous other viable candidates and risk-aversion is Kaine’s major selling point, Clinton should pass.

#NeverTrump: Never Stop #NeverTrumping

[ 216 ] June 30, 2016 |


Don’t kid yourself: this perennially effective and powerful movement is brimming with seriousity this time:

Republicans opposed to Donald Trump are plotting a last-ditch effort to deny him their party’s nomination at the convention in Cleveland.

A coalition of delegates, lawyers, rules experts and PACs has formed in what participants say is the most coordinated effort to date to dump Trump from the Republican ticket.

You have to love the “what participants say” line. “Today, Geno Smith, Bryce Pretty and Christian Hackenberg gathered in what participants say is an impressive collection of quarterback talent.”

The organizers are confident of success and say they’re being underestimated.

I am confident that this is impossible.

“This is a laser-guided bomb aimed right at the foundation of the Trump campaign,” said Beau Correll, a Virginia delegate and central figure in the opposition movement.

Oh. And…who?

But despite the gains the groups say they’ve made in fundraising, staffing, coordination and media attention, few are taking their efforts seriously.

Why, despite the gains participants say are being underestimated, are people not taking #NeverTrump seriously? Who can deny their formidable roster of talent?

Conservative media figures Erick Erickson, Steve Deace and Bill Kristol have begun joining the conference calls for the coalition and are fanning the flames in editorials and on the airwaves.

Dammit, I used the Jets QB line too early.

Anyway, as hard as it is to imagine a group of people with this track record of success in #NeverTrumping from succeeding, surely there’s a plan B?

Colorado conservative activist Regina Thomson, who runs a PAC called Free the Delegates, is organizing a floor fight irrespective of the Rules Committee’s decision.

Thomson is overseeing an effort to convince delegates that they’re already unbound. She is talking to delegates about parliamentary rules and how to protest on the convention floor if their representative doesn’t cast a vote in accordance with their wishes.

Another group, called Delegates Unbound, led by GOP strategist Dane Waters, is overseeing a national lobbying campaign focused on contacting delegates before they arrive in Cleveland to urge them to vote their conscience.

Hard to see this not working? But, just as a backup, I have some activists who enjoyed enormous success with a similar approach that #NeverTrump should probably be in touch with.

Alas, the LAMESTREAM media feels compelled to allow party bosses to deny this political tidal wave:

Many Republicans interviewed by The Hill privately grumbled about the effort, describing it as a tiny band of disgruntled delegates engaged in a vanity project that would destroy the party if it were successful.

They believe the likeliest end game is that a few skirmishes break out on the convention floor but are quickly extinguished.

Omitted from the article: any mention of an alternative candidate to Trump. I can help! Some participants say that a certain former associate of Kristol’s is tanned, very rested, and ready as she’ll ever be. Hard to imagine that juggernaut being stopped.

There Can Can Be Only One Fewer

[ 98 ] June 30, 2016 |


The field of lying, cynical pro-Brexit hacks chasing the Tory leadership Dave referenced below has been reduced by one:

Boris Johnson has unexpectedly ruled himself out as a candidate for Britain’s next prime minister, after the justice secretary, Michael Gove, sent shockwaves through Westminster with a last-minute bid for the Conservative leadership.

Gove had been chairing Johnson’s leadership campaign, after the two men worked shoulder to shoulder in the campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

But with just hours to go before formal nominations closed at noon on Thursday, Gove announced that he no longer believed Johnson was the right man for the job, and that he would launch his own bid to be the next prime minister.

Build All of the Ships

[ 12 ] June 30, 2016 |
2008년9월27일 해군 세종대왕함기동 (1) (7193823614).jpg

ROKS Sejong the Great. By 대한민국 국군 Republic of Korea Armed Forces – 2008년9월27일 해군 세종대왕함기동 (1), CC BY-SA 2.0,

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at the South Korean shipbuilding industry:

The Korean shipbuilding industry has plunged into a deep crisis. The three biggest shipbuilding firms—Daewoo, Hyundai Heavy, and Samsung Heavy—posted record combined losses in 2015, and 2016 looks no better. Combined with a major accounting scandal and ongoing concerns about the viability of the market, South Korea could face a major shift in the viability of one of its most important industries.

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