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Why is the Forest Service Restricting Photography in Wilderness Areas?

[ 5 ] October 1, 2014 |

My love of an intrusive federal government is well-known. I think government can indeed do most things better than the private sector. But that doesn’t mean that government is perfect. Far from it. I was hoping that the FDA’s attempts to restrict raw milk cheese imports was the stupidest regulatory standard I would hear of this year. But the Forest Service has it beat:

The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.

Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

Huh? Why?

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions have been in place on a temporary basis for four years and are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.

Close didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”

That doesn’t make very much sense at all. First of all, it’s a non-problem. Second, why does it apply to individuals taking pictures?

Not surprisingly, there is a significant backlash from western members of Congress of both parties:

Rep. Peter DeFazio and three other congressional leaders said Monday they still have deep concerns about the constitutionality of a U.S. Forest Service proposal restricting wilderness photography.

The Forest Service faced nationwide outrage last week over plans to require a permit for photography and filming in vast swaths of the country’s federally designated wilderness areas. Its chief, Tom Tidwell, backed off late Thursday, saying his agency respected the First Amendment and wouldn’t restrict media or amateur photographers’ access.

But the onslaught of criticism has continued.

As written, the proposal would allow special permits to be granted for commercial filming in wilderness only to share information about the “use and enjoyment of wilderness” or its scientific, educational, historic or scenic values.

DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the top leaders in the House Natural Resources Committee, said that requirement was “constitutionally questionable” and should be rescinded.

“We do not believe the Forest Service, or any other agency, should be in the business of determining what type of information can be disseminated to the public,” they said in a Monday letter to Tidwell.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said the provision was just one example of the gaps between Tidwell’s promises Thursday and the Forest Service’s written proposal.

Tidwell told the Associated Press last week that the plan didn’t apply to still photography. The proposal repeatedly says it does.

I’d say there is about a zero percent chance this ever gets implemented. I wish I knew why the heck this proposal was even floated.

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The Republican Party: Where Facts and Evidence Don’t Matter

[ 46 ] October 1, 2014 |

Chait has a good profile of Tom Cotton, quite possibly the next senator from Arkansas. This despite his vote against the farm bill that many Arkansas citizens rely upon:

Yet farm subsidies have lived on. Their survival has nothing to do with any public policy merits. There is no persuasive economic rationale for why the government should write checks to people who operate farms as opposed to textile mills or construction firms or any other business. (Yes, people need to eat, but the market is capable of supplying food, just as it is capable of supplying clothing and shelter.) Farmers are also more affluent than the average American. Since they are overwhelmingly white and conveniently spread throughout nearly every state, their claim to public subsidy has gained some popular legitimacy.

Faced with his controversial vote against the farm bill, Cotton has urgently fashioned himself as an agri-supremacist. He has urged the locals to ignore the judgment of fact-checking journalists who pronounce his ad false: “I don’t think liberal reporters who call themselves fact checkers spent much time growing up on a farm in Yell County growing up with Len Cotton, so I think I know a little bill more about farming than they do.” Cotton’s identity as a onetime farmboy, by this argument, lends him a superiority in any dispute over farm policy that overrides even the facts themselves. Cotton perhaps first developed this epistemological theory while studying philosophy at Harvard.

Cotton goes further still. Molly Ball, in an engrossing profile, reports that Cotton argues against food stamps because its recipients live high on the hog: “They have steak in their basket, and they have a brand-new iPhone, and they have a brand-new SUV.” As an argument against food stamps, this is laughably false: The program offers a benefit averaging $1.50 per person per meal, and its beneficiaries are quite poor.

This is perfect. Evidence doesn’t matter because it’s provided by those outsiders who probably don’t go to church. Growing up in Yell County (a bit too on the nose I think), with that kind of background what can’t one say about policies that effect the good people of Arkansas? That also gives him “credibility” to talk about those big black bucks moochers driving up in their Cadillac and paying for steak dinners with their welfare checks

Mark Pryor might not be anyone’s favorite Democrat. The nation will be worse off when he is replaced by Tom Cotton.

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Violence at Work

[ 4 ] October 1, 2014 |

It’s hardly shocking that the difficult conditions of modern work would lead to a rise in workplace violence as people, who often have access to high-powered weapons, snap. The workers who experience the most workplace violence? Retail sales workers.

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The Shields Trade Today

[ 38 ] September 30, 2014 |

With the Royals making the playoffs, Rany Jazayerli says he was wrong about the Shields+/Myers+ trade. I don’t know if I agree, but the trade is theoretically interesting in terms of team-building. At the time, I think Jazayerli’s analysis was obviously correct. I say this even though I think I’m more of a “flags fly forever” guy than most analytical types. I have no problem in theory with trading major potential when you have a window, but based on what was known when they made the trade they just gave up too much for not enough.

Whether the Royals should have done the trade in retrospect is evidently a more interesting question. (As Jazayerli says, from the Rays’ perspective it remains a no brainer.) Certainly, it did pay off in the short-term as Moore intended. Shields was a very good starter, Davis was extraordinary in relief, and the Royals don’t make the playoffs without both. (One reason I still think the trade was a bad idea at the time is that it’s hard to say that the latter was foreseeable.) What makes the question relatively close is that Myers was injured again and was terrible when he did play. He could still be really good, but there’s reason for concern. It’s not as if he’s an established star and the only question is his health; his lifetime RC+ is 105, which is barely playable in the corner outfield. He needs to develop, and while I think that remains a good bet as Royals fans know it isn’t inevitable, and the time he’s missed with injuries is a concern — his age 24 year will be crucial. Odorizzi looks good, but since most young pitchers can’t handle a 200-inning-a-year workload, from a Royals perspective I don’t mind taking the risk. Whether the trade was a good idea in retrospect will come down to Myers. And at this point, it’s hard to know exactly how valuable he is. He might come out next year healthy and picking up where he left off in 2013 — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him stagnate either. He’s not nearly as valuable a property as he was two years ago after a lost season.

If I were a Royals fan, I probably still wouldn’t want them to have made the deal…but it’s a much closer question than I would have thought. And as Jazayerli says, in that sense I was wrong at the time. And breaking the playoff drought is something that can’t be taken away, and that’s not trivial.

…I will say, though, that if you’re going into “flags fly forever” mode, you really need to hire a minimally competent manager as opposed to, say, Ned Yost.

…a game this good is certainly a point in favor of a more FFF interpretation.

…well, that was something. I’m torn between being happy for the Royals and sympathetic for the perennially snakebit Beane A’s.

 

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German World War I Propaganda Posters

[ 31 ] September 30, 2014 |

Everyone loves American propaganda posters from World War I. Like this one:

us-propaganda-6-jpg

In fact, a selection of these posters are currently on display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, which I will be seeing before it closes.

But what about German World War I propaganda posters? Well, they are pretty interesting:

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This is a plea for rabbit skins to be sent to the military.

Or this one urging the killing of seals for train oil:

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Jesus the Destroyer

[ 44 ] September 30, 2014 |

Found this in the basement of a local church (the girls have music class in the next room):

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The original is by Harry Anderson, finished in 1961. The most common interpretation (based on the title, Prince of Peace) is that the Savior is expressing support for the world-peace-bringing mission of the United Nations (his position on the United Nations Command in the Korean War is less certain). Alternative interpretations include “Giant Jesus Confirms Impotence of United Nations Security Council,” “500′ Nazarene Turns on UN After Slaying Godzilla,” “Enormous Christ Offers to Redeem Sins of Canadian Diplomat Who Double Parked His Dodge Station Wagon.”

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The Michigan football mess

[ 190 ] September 30, 2014 |

Updated below.

On Saturday, Michigan’s beleaguered football coach Brady Hoke decided to start sophomore Shane Morris at quarterback against Minnesota, over fifth-year senior and long-time starter Devin Gardner. In the first half, Morris was very ineffective against a weak team over whom Michigan is favored by double digits, despite the Wolverines’ poor play this season.

Early in the third quarter, Morris injures his ankle. His play goes from ineffective to catastrophic, as the injury appears to grow progressively worse. By early in the fourth quarter, Morris’ mobility seems seriously compromised, yet Hoke makes no move to replace him with Gardner. With about 11 minutes left to go in the game, Morris is subjected to vicious helmet to helmet cheap shot a full second after throwing yet another wild pass downfield.

(The key sequence starts at around 2:30 in the video).

The 80,000 or so remaining fans in the stands and a national TV audience see Morris wobble back toward the huddle, and then appear to be kept from collapsing to the turf by an offensive lineman, who props him up while other players in the huddle signal frantically to the bench, apparently in an effort to get Morris pulled from the game before he suffers yet more serious injuries to his brain. The coaching staff appears to ignore these gestures; in any case Morris runs another play. At this point Michigan’s offensive coordinator starts signaling to Morris to go down to the ground, probably to give the disorganized Michigan sideline enough time to finally put Gardner in the game without incurring a delay penalty.

In any case Gardner enters, and 90 seconds later (in real time) loses his helmet while scrambling. Under college rules he has to leave the game for at least one play unless Michigan uses a time out. Instead of using a time out, the staff tries to insert third string QB Russell Bellomy, but Bellomy can’t find his helmet. Someone then decides to send Morris back into the game instead of using a precious time out (Michigan trails by 23 at this juncture and the game is effectively over). Morris goes in, hands off, and then is replaced by Gardner again, who promptly leads the team down the field for a TD, incidentally producing more offensive effectiveness in one drive than Morris was able to generate all afternoon.

During all of this sequence much of the crowd has been booing loudly, in protest of the recklessness of keeping an obviously injured and probably concussed Morris in the game. Even the usually docile announcers on ESPN express something like outrage and disgust.

After the game, Brady Hoke is asked why he didn’t take Morris out, given the ample evidence that the sophomore QB, who celebrated his 20th birthday last month, had suffered a concussion. This was Hoke’s answer:

I don’t know if he had a concussion or not, I don’t know that. Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn’t want to be he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.

This response helps fuel a firestorm of criticism, to the point where by Sunday evening the story is being reported in the national news media.

Meanwhile, some time between the end of the game and at some point on Sunday (more on the timing of this below), Morris is officially diagnosed as having suffered a concussion by the Michigan medical staff. Remarkably, at his lunch time press conference on Monday, Hoke appears not to be aware of this, even though:

(a) The team practiced on Sunday, and it’s standard for the coaching staff to receive injury reports from the trainers and medical staff after a game and prior to the next practice; and

(b) Hoke acknowledges speaking with Morris on both Sunday night and Monday morning, prior to the press conference.

Hoke says that as far as he knows Morris only suffered a high ankle sprain, and if not for that sprain he would have practiced on Sunday with the rest of the team. He also says he hasn’t spoken, at all, to Michigan’s athletic director Dave Brandon, at any time since the incident, even though the incident has now been a national news story for almost 24 hours, and Brandon normally reviews film of Saturday’s game with the coaching staff on Sunday morning.

Finally, at 1:30 AM this morning, Brandon — a multi-millionaire former CEO of Domino’s Pizza, former Michigan regent, and prospective GOP candidate for Michigan’s governorship — releases a statement admitting that “as of Sunday” Morris had been diagnosed as suffering what Brandon termed a “mild” concussion, and that Hoke’s apparent ignorance of this at the Monday press conference was due to a “mis-communication.”

Later this morning, Brian Cook and John Bacon, two journalists with various sources inside the Michigan AD, separately imply strongly that Brandon spent much of the time between Sunday and Tuesday morning trying to strong-arm the Michigan medical staff into covering up, or at least soft-pedaling, their diagnosis that Morris had suffered a concussion before he was sent back into the game.

Some questions:

(1) When was Morris diagnosed with a concussion? Brandon’s middle of the night statement is phrased in a suspiciously weasel-like way on this point, noting that “as of Sunday” Morris was determined to have been concussed. This phrase sounds loaded with truthiness, as surely Morris would have been examined for a concussion immediately after the game by medical personnel — he was taken off the field and into the locker room on a cart — and if he was diagnosed on, as opposed to “as of” Sunday, why not just say that?

(2) When precisely did Brandon find out Morris had suffered a concussion? Did he have any contact at all with his head football coach between that moment and the Monday press conference? If not, why not?

(3) Did Brandon, or anyone else associated with the athletic department, attempt to influence any aspect of the medical report regarding Morris’s injuries?

(4) Did Hoke attempt to contact anyone, either in the AD or among the medical personnel, about Morris’s condition prior to the press conference? If not, why not?

(5) What does this previous incident tell us about Hoke’s attitude toward his players?

Ball State reprimanded two coaches after a football player suffered frostbite during a disciplinary workout in subzero temperatures.

Ball State’s athletic director issued letters of reprimand to head coach Brady Hoke and football strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman [Wellman now holds the same position at Michigan] after the workout, associate athletics director Joe Hernandez said Friday.

Redshirt freshman receiver Chris Jackson suffered frostbite to several fingers during the 40-minute workout Jan. 31, Hernandez said. Jackson recovered following medical treatment and has returned to workouts.
During the Jan. 31 workout, Jackson and several teammates carried a 25-pound sandbag up and down steps at the school’s stadium, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.

(6) How long is it going to take for the university’s president and regents to fire Brandon and Hoke?

. . . see also Jon Chait for more background on Brandon’s history of megalomania, and the perennial stupid/evil epistemological puzzle.

Update: Students march on the president’s house. The whole world is watching . . .

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I’m Beginning To Think That Arthur Laffer And Stephen Moore Are Not Credible Economists

[ 122 ] September 30, 2014 |

The basic outlines will be familiar to most of you, but John Judis does an excellent job of describing the Koch-induced meltdown in Kansas, filling in a lot of interesting details. (Sam Brownback is obsessed with John Brown, which cannot be a good thing on any level.) The bottom line:

After he had ousted the moderate Republicans, Brownback was able to push an ideologically pure agenda with almost no real opposition. He obtained the power to nominate judges. He reduced tax cuts on the wealthy even more: The rate for the top bracket fell from 6.45 percent to 3.9 percent, and Brownback promised to eventually reduce it to zero when revenues from other sources made up for any potential losses. The economic benefits, he boasted, would be immense. In Denver in October 2012, Brownback predicted “more job creation, more tax revenues, and . . . a much more solid public-sector funding.” The Kansas Policy Institute, for instance, predicted that his tax cuts would generate a $323 million windfall in revenue.

[...]

By June of 2014, the results of Brownback’s economic reforms began to come in, and they weren’t pretty. During the first fiscal year that his plan was in operation, which ended in June, the tax cuts had produced a staggering loss in revenue—$687.9 million, or 10.84 percent. According to the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department, the state risks running deficits through fiscal year 2019. Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating from AA1 to AA2; Standard & Poor’s followed suit, which will increase the state’s borrowing costs and further enlarge its deficit.

Brownback had also promised that his tax cuts would vault Kansas ahead of its higher-taxed neighbors in job growth, but that, too, failed to happen. In Kansas, jobs increased by 1.1 percent over the last year, compared with 3.3 percent in neighboring Colorado and 1.5 percent in Missouri. From November to May, Kansas had actually lost jobs, and the labor participation rate was lower than when Brownback took office. The cuts did not necessarily slow job growth, but they clearly did not accelerate it. And the effects of Brownback’s education cuts were also glaring—larger class sizes, rising fees for kindergarten, the elimination of arts programs, and laid-off janitors and librarians.

In fairness, those laid-off janitors and librarians were parasites, not workers. Supply-side works!

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Whose American Exceptionalism?

[ 51 ] September 30, 2014 |

In the recent battles over the new AP U.S. History standards, standards that center nothing more than the standard narrative of most American historians in 2014, one of the right-wing critiques is that they don’t celebrate American exceptionalism, while instead instilling in our young people that they should question authority (the horror!). Among the many problems with these assertions is that the idea of American exceptionalism in service of whatever right-wing agenda is currently popular means forgetting the many ways that exceptionalism has operated in the past. Kevin Levin:

Part of the criticism of the revised AP US History curriculum revolves around the assumption that it undercuts and even contradicts a narrative of America’s Exceptionalism. I don’t believe it does and I base such a conclusion on the fact that I’ve read through it. More accurately, it doesn’t say anything one way or the other. I suspect that the vast majority of critics have yet to read it through.

What I’ve never understood, however, is if some people expect me to teach American history through such a lens, whose understanding of the concept should I teach?

Baptist’s slaveowners fully embraced capitalism. Despite the Panic of 1837 slavery resulted in enormous profits throughout the first half of the nineteenth century and helped to push the nation west on its course of “Manifest Destiny.” Americans celebrated this expansion and the wealth created as a sign of its exceptionalism. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why there is such a need to argue that American slavery was not profitable and that it was on the decline by the eve of the Civil War. Better to see it as positioned in sharp opposition from the kind of post-Civil War capitalist surge than as the engine that pushed it forward. We should ignore the fact that it was John Calhoun’s theory of “Due Process” that was later embraced by pro-big-business legal thinkers during the Industrial Revolution.

No, no, stop with that version of American exceptionalism. We just need to teach that America is awesome. Enough said.

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If You Like MRA Rape Apologias But Generally Find Them Too Coherent, It’s Your Lucky Day!

[ 127 ] September 30, 2014 |

Forgotten but oddly not gone, Camille Paglia has arranged a large number of very poorly chosen words on a virtual page. It contains stuff like this:

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

We have cultural references for people who find Hi And Lois a little too cutting edge — these kids today with their phones that aren’t even plugged into the wall and their portable music machines that Apple has recently discontinued because they’re horrible people and don’t care about old people like me — that also don’t mean anything. We have an assertion-without-evidence that the problem of sexual violence on campus is overblown. And we have a made-up and reprehensible category called “not felonious rape,” so apparently the problem of sexual violence on campus is “overblown” so long as we erroneously define some kinds of sex without consent as not being rape — or misdemeanor rape? — because brute force or drugs were not involved. This argument hasn’t improved since Katie Roiphie made it all those many years ago.

In other words, we have appalling ideas expressed in prose to match. It can’t get worse from there, I guess, but:

The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

Not only a strawman, but an incredibly lazy and cliched one.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

This is a lot of words and 90s catchphrases to say “if you get raped it’s your fault for not going to class dressed in a burlap sack.” Again, Paglia seems to realize that the only thing that could be more revolting than her prose is her ideas. Oddly, evidence that sexual violence didn’t exist before people starting saying things they mostly stopped saying during the Bush administration is uncited.

I could go on, but just read this golden oldie from The Editors instead. Now there was a guy who could write.

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Moyers

[ 7 ] September 30, 2014 |

Bill Moyers is finally retiring. Sad but hardly unexpected as he is in his 9th decade of life. A great journalist and a great man.

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Kosher Food Blackmail of American Housewives

[ 97 ] September 30, 2014 |

Back in the days when albums were an important way of communicating with the public, the American States Rights Party decided to release an album teaching us whites the true way, i.e., that Jews are a horror threatening white America. I think released in 1961, some call this the most repulsive record ever. And, well, yeah. However, did that stop me from listening to one side of it? No. And what did that one side tell me? That Jews are responsible for all sorts of horrors, including wall to wall carpeting (I too am outraged). You learn that Martin Luther King was Felix Frankfurter’s puppet. Most importantly, Christians need to avoid buying from Jew-loving companies. This includes Kraft. And Ford. Wait, what? Yes, Ford. Only through these actions will good Christians stop the United States from becoming the Congo. Which given the time might mean the CIA overthrowing a popular leader to put into power one of the most vile and corrupt dictators of the 20th century.

Other things I learned include that Jews also love pornography. Jewish ownership of CBS and ABC led to the betraying of the white race through their support of integration. Peanut butter brands to avoid include Jiffy and Skippy. Drink Lipton tea, not Tetley (no guidance on Twinings? What will I do?) Finally, and this goes without saying, Jews are responsible for the graduated income tax. Of course none of this makes any sense, but it’s worth being reminded, in these days of the right-wing embracing its somewhat mythologized view of Judaism that serves as part of a white army against Islam and bringing in the apocalypse through its expansive policies, of how recently the right saw Jews as equal to African-Americans in the pantheon of threats to whiteness.

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