Subscribe via RSS Feed

World’s Least Self-Aware Couple Takes Manhattan

[ 0 ] November 30, 2015 |

The Maoists who edit the New York Times Real Estate section had a great idea. Bring in a couple from the South, and have them use Airbnb to really see New York City in all of its endless diversity of neighborhoods. And by “New York City,” I of course mean “neighborhoods in the city’s two most prestigious boroughs that range from the gentrified to the playgrounds for the .1%.” It will be studded with enough references to famous events and places from NYC’s gritty 70s to ensure good reviews should it ever be expanded to a novel. It will, in other words, combine out-of-town affluent rube provincialism with native affluent rube provincialism. And it will somehow be far more irritating that even that description makes it sound!

We initially focused on the downtown name-brand neighborhoods — Chelsea, West Village, SoHo — which happily also seemed to have the most Airbnb listings. We read the reviews closely, screening for noise and other potentially nasty surprises, from among the listings for places within our budget, which we based on the median rent in New York — roughly $100 a night, or $3,000 a month.


As winter set in, and while the bulk of our belongings made their languorous journey across the Pacific from Bangkok, we took our three suitcases to Chelsea for our maiden Airbnb foray.

Here was artsy New York, where Sid and Nancy became Sid and Nancy, and from which an imposing branch of the Gagosian Gallery presides over the art world today. A residential neighborhood of walk-ups, cafes and rats, right in the center of it all, Chelsea epitomized our image of city living, a fitting first stop on our home-free journey

What 2015 Chelsea (average rent for non-doorman one bedroom: $3,426/month) has to do with the neighborhood where Sid killed Nancy is…not obvious, although it’s flattering to think so.

According to a 2014 state report, though only 6 percent of Airbnb hosts rented out more than two units, they represented more than a third of the reservations in New York. The same report found the majority of the city’s short-term rentals to be illegal and that short-term rentals have made thousands of apartments unavailable as long-term housing, both key reasons Airbnb is controversial in New York and other places.

Sure, Airbnb might be one of the factors making housing inaccessible to increasing numbers of people in New York City, but domiciles are kind of Old Economy anyway. Pull youself up by your bootstraps and start living at a different $3,000 a month apartment every month! If you can convince renters you’re doing it as part of some kind of social media experiment, maybe you can get the kind digs to which you’ve become accustomed.

We enjoyed the homier experience of staying in someone’s actual place at our next stop, on the north side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, two blocks from where Frank Serpico was shot.

Yes, Frank Serpico being shot in the neighborhood 40 years ago is certainly highly relevant to Williamsburg today. Average listing price for Williamsburg (not even just North Williamsburg): $1,645,447.

As the taxi pulled up to our next address, Hamsterdam of “The Wire” came to mind. We were in an edgy part of Gowanus, an industrial strip in Brooklyn on the early side of transitional, centered on a canal so polluted it won a mention on the Superfund National Priorities List.

To borrow Irin Carmon’s twitter line,I must have missed the Whole Foods residents of Baltimore ghettos shopped at in The Wire. Average listing price for homes in Gowanus: $1,566,583. I’m sure prices in West Baltimore are similar.

To the hosts of places that resonated, I would explain our back story, our home-free experiment, and ask if he or she would let us stay for a month for our budget or thereabouts. As E. B. White said, “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”

Within days, the owner of a chic SoHo one-bedroom who admired Elaine’s paintings on her website actually said yes, and we and our suitcases moved in. Her home was filled with one-of-a-kind things from her travels. I remember in particular the Kashmiri rug in the entryway, handmade in a style that isn’t used anymore. I avoided stepping on it even barefoot.

Elaine was taken by the Peugeot pepper grinder and the toaster with a digital display counting down to crusty perfection. However, even this high-tech assistance and Le Creuset pots couldn’t put her back in gourmet mode. It always takes her time to get going in a new kitchen, my sad sacrifice to the home-free lifestyle. Fortunately, I never tire of two of New York’s finest attributes — its pizza and bagels.

Christ. I’ll save my rant about how vastly overrated New York pizza-by-the-slice is for another post.

SoHo today is more boutiques than the wild artist enclaves depicted in Scorsese’s “After Hours,”

No kidding.

With the sharing economy, a home-free lifestyle is now becoming accessible to normal people, not just the superrich

I hate to tell you, but “normal people” do not have 36 grand a year to spend on rent. Normal people will often tend to have children, friends, stuff like that there, all of which makes whimsical airbnb living rather less plausible.

Our experiment has taught us many things, among them that our initial choice of neighborhoods, such as the West Village and SoHo, was lovely for visitors, celebrities and bankers, but less ideal for the proletariat. It showed us also that there were gems to be discovered, such as Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, which we liked so much we extended our stay to two months.

Nothing says “proletariat” like brownstone Brooklyn. Well, in fairness, average listing prices are down from over $2 million in October to a very working-class $1.5 million this month. Also, affluent neighborhoods in Brooklyn are the opposite of “hidden gems.” Gawd.

Next week, discover the hidden proletarian charms of the Upper West Side!


This Day in Labor History: November 30, 1932

[ 0 ] November 30, 2015 |

On November 30, 1932, the American Federation of Labor endorsed federal unemployment insurance. This was a remarkable shift for the AFL, which had long opposed any sort of government programs for workers, preferring to rely on voluntarism and negotiation to force employers to concede worker rights instead of a government which it felt it had no reason to trust. This began the broader shift toward the American labor movement relying on government as the guarantor of its rights and the rights of working people writ large.

From its beginning, the AFL distrusted government. In some ways, there were good reasons for this mistrust. American labor history was full of government intervening in labor struggles to provide strikebreaking troops for industry. Why would the labor movement trust it? On the other hand, this mistrust was more than just experiential. It was also ideological for a labor movement extremely hostile to even moderate change in American economic life, not to mention the radicalism pushing for widescale transformations. In 1916, AFL president Samuel Gompers testified before the House Labor Committee against unemployment insurance, calling it “socialist,” which for Gompers was the ultimate insult.

But the AFL severely underestimated the impact of the Great Depression. It largely supported Hoover’s policies in the Depression’s first years and assumed government had no place in regulating industry. But this position placed the AFL squarely in the sights of the left, as well as growing number of liberal writers who openly criticized the labor movement for not even seeming to understand the problems affecting American workers. More importantly, grassroots opposition to the AFL’s traditional stance grew within the federation itself. In 1930, the California state AFL unanimously voted to urge AFL leadership to back an unemployment insurance system that would include contributions from employers, workers, and taxpayers. But the AFL leadership remained sharply opposed in 1930. Victor Olander of the Seaman’s Union responded to these demands at the AFL 1930 convention in Boston by asking whether the AFL will “hew to the line in demanding a greater freedom for the working people of America, or whether liberty shall be sacrificed…to enable workers to obtain a small measure of unemployment relief under government supervision and control.” Moreover, he felt that unemployment insurance would undermine the workers’ movement, arguing it would “prevent the workers from joining in movements to increase wages and improve working conditions because of fears that they might thus sacrifice their eligibility to unemployment insurance.”


Others rejected these fears as ridiculous. Max Zaritsky of the Cap Makers Union noted that workers could not eat the AFL’s rugged individualism and reminded the federation that the nation’s workers were looking to it for leadership in the greatest economic crisis in the nation’s history. But AFL president William Green strongly opposed unemployment insurance and the resolution was defeated.

However, as the economy did not improve, the demands for federal intervention grew. The big shift was the Teamsters coming around to supporting it in a February 1931 article in the International Teamster that attacked the AFL position. The 1931 convention saw real gains for interventionists thanks to the Teamsters and shifting opinion within the United Mine Workers. Unemployment insurance was defeated again in 1931, but the winter of 1932 destroyed the voluntarist side of the labor movement. Union leaders could no longer explain to millions of unemployed workers, including their own members, that they opposed unemployment insurance for abstract reasons. Interestingly, even employers were approaching the AFL saying something needed be done, with General Electric’s Gerald Swope meeting with William Green to support an unemployment compensation system that would include employee contributions instead of the employer-only contributions industry feared. Yet even here, Green remained to the right of industry. But by April 1932, Green read the cards and knew he had to change his position. In 1932, the AFL Executive Council met in Atlantic City and passed a resolution to create a pro-unemployment insurance policy that ensured federal rather than state control and that would safeguard workers’ rights to maintain union membership.

At this point, Green did not drag his feet but rather consulted experts around the country about adopting a moderate proposal. Green’s proposal was submitted to the 1932 AFL Convention on November 21, 1932. At this point, there were 11 million Americans out of work. The final proposal wanted a federal system but also supplemental state systems. Private insurance companies would play no role. The rump of voluntarist leaders continued to fight the proposal, but with Green’s support, its passage was assured and it did pass on November 30.

It’s hard to overestimate what a titanic shift this was within the American Federation of Labor and its importance for the overall trajectory of American labor. Radicals had long accused the AFL of not actually understanding the conditions of work that most American labor faced and ignoring the needs of the majority of those workers. That was an accurate accusation against an organization that clung to notions of independent, skilled labor of Anglo-Saxon men forged in the late 19th century and that were pretty out of date even then. The AFL’s history had consisted of jealously guarding its victories without using them to spread hope or organize other workers. It saw all other labor organizations or plans to help workers as threats that needed eradication, even if it had no actual plans to do anything for those unorganized workers. It’s hardly surprising then that the AFL could not effectively respond to the Great Depression for three years. Only the extreme conditions of that crisis began moving the AFL off its traditional positions. And while internal strife could be overcome on the issue of voluntarism, it could not over organizing labor on an industrial basis and it would require the John L. Lewis and the CIO splitting off from the AFL to finally get it interested in organizing the masses of American labor.

The federal government would implement the first national unemployment insurance program in the Social Security Act of 1935.

Much of this post is borrowed from Irving Bernstein’s classic 1960 tome of the American labor movement, The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920-1933.

This is the 162nd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

France Is Following Us to Revolution?

[ 1 ] November 30, 2015 |

georges-pompidou-et-mao-zedong_4679068My latest at the Diplomat draws on some recent work on the diplomatic re-emergence of China after the Cultural Revolution:

While the diplomacy of Kissinger and Nixon looms large in the American mythology of the “opening” of China, Albers establishes that the diplomatic re-emergence of China began well before the Sino-American rapprochement of 1972. Even prior to the Cultural Revolution, the People’s Republic of China had pursued a revolutionary foreign policy posture. However, few countries abided by the same restrictions as the United States (and the United Nations) regarding the primacy of the Nationalist regime in Taiwan; even during the PRC’s periods of diplomatic belligerence, it enjoyed a wide range of diplomatic relationships with the Communist and developing worlds. Nevertheless, Beijing struggled to make inroads in Western Europe.

Chip Kelly, SUPERGENIUS: A Qualified Defense

[ 142 ] November 29, 2015 |


While I was engaged in Thanksgiving-related program activities, Barnwell wrote most of what I would have had I been around on Thursday. At the risk of strangling a dead eagle, I do think he’s (understandably in context) somewhat understating the issues with Kelly’s sub-Matt Millen work as a GM. It’s true that with the exception of the Alonso trade, the key moves in isolation — paying a decent second corner like an elite #1, paying a huge salary to an injury-prone running back who had insanely high workload and an exceptional offensive line in front of him, giving up a top-50 draft pick and $13 million to swap replacement-level QBs — were indeed terrible. But anyone can blow a free agent signing or three. The deeper problem was the philosophy behind the moves — you just cannot hollow out your wide receivers and offensive line to pay running backs. Even if you pick better players, it can’t work. Kelly was just miles in over his head, which isn’t surprising. I mean, Pete Carroll is a great coach, and his strengths are more in talent evaluation/development than tactics, and he got his first job as an NFL coordinator during the first Bush administration, and I wouldn’t give him the control over personnel Kelly demanded after 2 years in the NFL.

But this is where we make the obvious transition. Kelly is a horrible GM, but we shouldn’t let the fact that Belichick couldn’t win with Kelly picking his players obscure that his track record as an NFL coach qua coach is still, on balance, very good:

Start with Kelly as a coach. He doesn’t exactly have the résumé of a guy about to be forced out of a job. Put the Thanksgiving mess aside for a moment and consider the body of work. The 2015 Eagles are a disappointing 4-7 after Thursday’s blowout, but Kelly is a combined 24-19 (.558), leading a team that had gone 4-12 in 2012 to consecutive 10-win seasons. To contrast, Gus Bradley took over a 2-14 Jaguars team that same offseason and has gone 11-31 (.262) since, and there has been no rent deposit put on a guillotine in Jacksonville. The argument from Kelly doubters is that the man has gone 5-10 in his past 15 games, but that’s a totally arbitrary end point. For reference, Kelly went 11-4 in the 15 games before that stretch, and you can see how much predicative value that 15-game sample had.

What’s even more impressive is thinking about who Kelly’s quarterbacks were during this stretch. He has managed to stay above .500 with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford taking snaps under center. Getting that motley crew of passers to keep their heads above water both speaks to Kelly’s ability to coach up limited quarterbacks and hints at the promise of how his attack could sing with a more accomplished passer at the helm.


Instead, it’s more likely that the offense is struggling because the changes Kelly has made as a general manager limit his options as a coach and playcaller. Bradford, who struggled to throw downfield in St. Louis, hasn’t been able to stretch the field vertically, forcing the Eagles into a million short throws designed to stretch defenses horizontally. It hasn’t helped that Kelly has allowed starting wideouts Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to leave in consecutive offseasons while retaining Riley Cooper and bringing in Miles Austin. First-rounder Nelson Agholor has yet to stand out while likely dealing with the lingering impact of his sprained ankle.

It’s possible that the fact that the Eagles are now underachieving based even on the Kelly-emaciated roster indicates that Kelly’s high-pressure Panopticon doesn’t fully translate to the pros. But I think that would be premature. Regardless of the coaching style, losing tends to feed on itself in this league, and the accounts I’ve read don’t suggest that he’s an Eric Mangini-level asshole or anything. Given that he presumably doesn’t want to go back to the minor leagues, what’s next? Barnwell’s take is interesting:

The problem for the Eagles, then, is that they might not be able to get Kelly the coach at this point without Kelly as their general manager. It would be a humiliating climb down to give up personnel duties, and Kelly will have plenty of offers to run college programs if the Eagles fire him. The offseason power struggle between Kelly and deposed general manager Howie Roseman, who remains in the organization, may have sufficiently poisoned the well.

If Kelly were to leave the organization, though, it would be easier to justify taking a coaching-only gig. Kelly likely realizes that he won’t get personnel control again anytime soon, but he would likely find some level of comfort with a more traditional, scouting-driven front office setup than the more modern, cap-driven approach Roseman was taking in Philly, even if he’s not the one in charge of picking the groceries.

Could that be Washington, which might end up with an opening at head coach, and a scouting GM in Scot McCloughan? Indianapolis, where Kelly could get to work with Andrew Luck if Chuck Pagano loses his own power struggle with GM Ryan Grigson? Or Tennessee, which has an interim coach, an overdue regime change at general manager (and/or possibly new ownership) and Kelly’s former Oregon quarterback, Marcus Mariota? Kelly shouldn’t lack for suitors at the professional level if the Eagles want to move on, and the idea of a trade for a low-level draft pick after the season might serve both parties.

The Colts are interesting in that Kelly paired with a health Luck could be a fearsome offense, although Grigson wouldn’t be a huge improvement as a GM. (Kelly had about as bad an offseason as you can have and yet I don’t think any one of his moves was as stupid as the Richardson trade.) McCloughan has a pretty stellar track record, but I remain skeptical about Cousins (perhaps wrongly) and Snyder/Kelly doesn’t seem like a great fit. Tennessee would be really fun if they can make a deal work, although I doubt that a low-level draft pick would be enough.

On Barnwell’s Peter Principle point, another possibility on paper would be for Kelly to be the OC of a team with a defensive head coach who doesn’t really care about the offense. I’d love to see him work with Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo with another head coach who overachieved for two years and then went backwards (for different reasons), although of course neither Ryan or Kelly would want to be a second banana so it wouldn’t work. Given the blog I’m writing on, I’m also probably obliged to mention that Taylor wanted to play with Kelly, but the czar was too busy wanking on with Tim Tebow.

Barnwell is also right that the division is so terrible that the Eagles could still win it despite getting the crap kicked out of them by below-average teams in successive weeks. But this would probably be bad for the long-term interests of the organization. This is not a good roster, and if Lurie is given a reason to kid himself about Kelly’s personnel abilities it will be bad for all involved. He needs to convince Kelly to do what he does best, or he needs to take the best trade offer he can get for him and move on.

The miracle of the argle-speaking people

[ 85 ] November 29, 2015 |

Dan Hannan, the MEP man has written … a 750 word thing for The Washington Examiner v 3.1. See if you can guess what it is about.

It starts with a history lesson:

Around 10,000 years ago, our ancestors discovered farming. Almost immediately, they discovered something else, too: That it is easier to plunder somebody else’s harvest than to spend all year tending your own crops. If you want the best ratio of effort to reward, though, you don’t just go marauding; you regularize your plunder through tithes, tolls and taxes. Thus was civilization born in tyranny.

He puffs new books by Jay “Nerdfinger” Nordlinger and Tom “Don’t call me an Islamophobe” Holland. He tells us how increasingly groovy things have been for the English-speaking peoples (for a given value of “person”).

The Magna Carta! The Glorious Revolution! (No love for Cromwell?) The American Revolution! Vive les Anglophones! It’s helped make the U.S. America Despot-Proof, Hannan writes.

Why hasn’t it happened in America? Partly because the Constitution was drawn up by men who had studied Tacitus and Suetonius almost as intently as Holland has, and who cleverly stacked the incentives so that leaders had to keep looking over their shoulders at the general population. Partly, too, because, habituated by centuries of English common law, Americans were genuinely outraged by anything that smacked of rule-breaking.


Could there be some machete on the horizon that even now threatens the fragile flower of constitutional government, and if so what could it be?

  • The erosion of rights in the name of fighting the War Against Drugs and/or Terrorism?
  • Accelerated economic imbalances that are aided and abetted by the lackeys of the .01%??
  • The recent burst of disenfranchisement efforts???

Don’t be silly. In the last paragraph, he breaks the suspense, or gets to the point, or his shovel strikes something that gives a hollow thud, and after brushing away the dirt, he reveals, at long last …

When I look at the reaction to some of the more obvious power-grabs by the Supreme Court, I wonder. Nothing is more depressing in contemporary politics than people’s disregard for due process when they happen to agree with the outcome. (“Who cares whether it’s a state prerogative? You got a problem with gay people?”) Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that such a mindset was the necessary precondition to autocracy. Was he wrong?

So if you guessed: “Oppressed people agreeing with Supreme Court decisions reduce oppression but that Hannan disagrees with are the gateway drug to dictatorship.” Congratulations, you are now entitled to the best of the Thanksgiving leftovers. (Within reason. If someone else has called dibs, hands off.)

Slave Labor and Asian Fisheries

[ 6 ] November 29, 2015 |


Above: Slaves in the Thai fishing industry

Nestlé, long one of the world’s most evil corporations, has finally admitted that much of its fish is procured through slave labor.

Migrant workers toiling in Thailand’s seafood industry to supply global companies such as Nestle SA are subjected to hazardous, exploitative and degrading conditions in which some fishermen are even sold to other boat captains, a report commissioned by the company found.

The report conducted by Verite on behalf of Geneva-based Nestle and released Monday found “indicators of forced labor, trafficking, and child labor to be present among sea-based and land-based workers.” The findings, which are consistent with the non-government group’s previous research on Thailand’s fishing industry, “present an urgent challenge to any company sourcing seafood.”

Of course, this is hardly the first time Nestlé has been busted for slave labor in its supply chains, having previously received serious scrutiny for both slave and child labor in its chocolate sourcing. See more on the chocolate issue here.
There has been a lot of publicity lately on slave labor in the Asian fisheries. The conditions are terrible and often murderous but the attention is what we need to try and do something about it.

The problem here is what is Nestlé going to do about it.

In addition to the commissioned report, Nestle also released its own action plan that it said is designed to stamp out abuses in its supply chain. The plan includes setting up channels through which workers can air grievances, training for boat captains and owners, and establishing better methods of tracing raw materials and verifying labor standards.

That might sound good. But what none of this does is actually hold Nestlé legally responsible for its suppliers. It continues the fiction that there’s ply so much that these companies can do about their supply chains. That’s of course ridiculous–if the costs of a certain supplier rise too high, the company will most certainly do something about it. Training boat captains? For what? “Hey guys, maybe you shouldn’t actually murder the slaves on your boats. But don’t worry, we won’t actually do anything about it if you do murder them, especially if you can cover it up.” The best tool we have right now is suing these companies and there is some evidence that this can create change, at least to the extent that Nestlé admitting this is change. Obviously we need much more to hold Nestlé executives personally accountable for the abuses in their supply chains.

Sexual Assault and Canadian Mining Companies

[ 3 ] November 29, 2015 |


Canada has a progressive reputation among many Americans, especially because of its health care program as compared to the United States. But if you follow natural resource policy, the Canadian corporations are truly some of the most vile in the world. That’s especially true for the multinational mining companies who routinely deprive local people of their land rights, poison ecosystems, violate labor rights, and generally act above the law. So I was hardly surprised to hear that the security guards at Barrick Gold’s mine in Papua New Guinea had engaged in routine and massive sexual assault on local women and that the company spent years doing absolutely nothing about it. Beginning in 2010, the company finally started to act a bit, largely through payouts of the raped women in exchange that they not file suit. About 10 women refused this, did sue, and then received much larger monetary awards in a later settlement. The Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic have published a report on Barrick Gold’s remedy effort that is well worth reading. The report is not particularly harsh on Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining company, but does strongly recommend that corporate-created plans to remedy these problems that do not take into account community input, as the company implemented, are deeply problematic. Moreover, given that Barrick Gold refused to investigate these problems for years before doing anything, it’s hard to argue against more being done to punish the company. That’s especially so given that the company took advantage of poorly educated, impoverished, and deeply traumatized people to get them to sign away their legal rights, ultimately showing that Barrick Gold’s primary interest was protecting itself.

I would go further and say that Barrick Gold executives needs to be held legally responsible for the actions of its employees. Unless we create legal mechanisms that forces the burden of responsibility onto corporate executives, violates of labor, environmental, and human rights will continue. You have to make it very much in the interests of the company to make them to anything positive. Not surprising, Barrick Gold’s environmental footprint at the mine has also come under attack for polluting local communities. Human Rights Watch has also issued a report over the widespread human rights violations at the mine. Finally, here’s a more complete rundown of the many problems with Barrick.

Public Space at Night

[ 33 ] November 29, 2015 |


One might quibble with some of the activities of Bradley Garrett but his broader point about the need to protect the use of public space at night, as opposed to militarizing the night through curfews, is quite valuable.

Those that read the PSPOs piece will appreciate the overlaps. Curfews, by closing access to space, prevent us from staking a political claim in the public realm after dark. The wilful violation of curfews, such as in Tahrir Square in 2011, when protesters ignored a curfew imposed by Hosni Mubarak, can be a powerful political statement.

As A Roger Ekirch writes in his 2005 book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, as early as 1068, William the Conqueror set a curfew (from the French couvre-feu or cover fire) at 8pm, which was widely adopted across medieval Europe. Though this was ostensibly imposed to prevent fires from catching while people slept, those who will have read William I – 1066 by Eleanor Farjeon in school will recall that it was more likely about preventing candlelit late-night public plotting. People found not in their homes after the curfew were subject to incarceration, with particular ire levelled at those found outdoors in public squares and on roads.

Current law describes a curfew as “a regulation that forbids people (or certain classes of them) from being outdoors between certain hours”. Curfews, like ABSOs and PSPOs, are often directed at particular groups to prohibit them from being in public places after a particular time. In the United States, where the first Curfew law was passed in Nebraska in 1880, youth are circumscribed with particular vigilance. As of 2009, at least 500 US cities had curfews prohibiting anyone under 18 from being on the streets at night. Around 100 cities also have daytime curfews to keep children off the streets during school hours, making the hours when youths actually have a right to be in public space extremely narrow.

During the second world war, all people of Japanese ancestry in the United States, regardless of resident status, were forced to stay home between the hours of 8pm and 6am. In 1942, a 32-year-old student named Gordon Hirabayashi walked the streets of Seattle after curfew until he was arrested. He then brought a constitutional challenge to the law. His challenge was rejected, but in 1986 a federal court in Seattle overturned Hirabayashi’s conviction as a form of public apology.

As urbanist Rowland Atkinson writes, “places at different times may change in their role for accommodating different social groups – for example, a city square may serve as a place for lunching office workers while providing a place for skateboarders or potential muggers as the day progresses.”

Assuming that space becomes unsafe at night, however, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the night is a place where we think only violence happens, then people go into the night expecting that and make it manifest. However, if night-time is when people of diverse backgrounds and motivations gather, the night becomes safer, a space monitored by the “eyes upon the street” in the words of Jane Jacobs. Jacobs wrote in The Death and Life of Great American Cities that in order for a street to be a safe place, “there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street.”

He then goes on to discuss cities like Amsterdam that celebrate a night culture as opposed to cities from Baltimore to Sydney that are scared of the night and thus are limiting the citizenry’s freedoms. Given the drug violence that infects so much of the country this might seem like an odd comparison, but I’ve long found the night culture of Mexican cities refreshing. People are simply out at night. They are on the plaza, eating at food stalls, playing with other kids, drinking at bars, and generally enjoying themselves. The only place in Mexican cities where I am nervous at night is where there are no people. In the plazas and zocalos and parks of Mexican cities though, it’s a great time. I was instantly struck by the difference between Mexico and the United States on this point, where people out at night are automatically suspect and scary. That’s really sad. Militarizing public space at night is simply not a good idea for creating safe cities.

Can Republicans Take Terrorism Seriously?

[ 124 ] November 29, 2015 |


Apparently not:

Republican presidential hopefuls were noticeably silent about a fatal shooting that took place at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.

All three of their Democratic counterparts tweeted in support of the organization during and after Friday’s attack, which left three people dead and nine others injured.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the only one of the major GOP candidates to comment…Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul [the real progressive alternative in 2016! — ed] instead tweeted about his own Black Friday sales.

Speaking of Ted Cruz:

Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign issued a press release announcing that he had “secured the endorsement of leading pro-life activist Troy Newman — a driving force in the recent effort to expose Planned Parenthood’s alleged sale of baby parts in a series of undercover videos.” Cruz said he was “grateful to receive” the endorsement…


The endorsement was also touted on Operation Rescue’s website.


Newman Is President Of Operation Rescue And A Board Member For The Center For Medical Progress. The Center for Medical Progress has released numerous anti-Planned Parenthood videos purporting to show illegal activity. Multiple investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood, and called out CMP for its deception.


Newman Claimed The Killer Of An Abortion Doctor Should Have Been Able To Argue The Slaying Was A “Justifiable Defensive Action.” In 2003, Newman issued a press release defending Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection for murdering abortion doctor John Britton and his clinic escort James Barrett. Newman argued that Hill should have been able to defend himself by classifying the murder as justifiable.

Ted Cruz has a very good chance of winning the Iowa caucuses, and could well be the Republican nominee for president. Any why not — he’s well within the mainstream of his party.

…Republican candidates have finally started to speak. Silence was generally preferable.

A King Whose Head Is Now in a Basket

[ 47 ] November 29, 2015 |
American Flag F-117 Nighthawks.jpg

“American Flag F-117 Nighthawks” by U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Kim Frey; Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the National Interest takes a look a decapitation efforts against the Hussein regime in 1991:

In the early days of the air campaign of the 1991 Gulf War, the United States undertook a concerted effort to track and strike Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The effort was predicated on the belief that eliminating Saddam Hussein would have two effects; it would throw the Iraqi military hierarchy into chaos, and it would make the surviving Iraqi leadership more amenable to a negotiated solution.

The effort to kill Hussein was only one episode in the U.S. pursuit of “decapitation” as a politico-military strategy. In the post-Cold War era, the United States has faced a variety of tyrants and terrorists. U.S. leaders reasoned that steps to crush the head of the snake might make it unnecessary to kill the entire body, thus sparing much destruction and civilian death.


El. Oh. El.

[ 43 ] November 28, 2015 |

After having seen Notre Dame being awarded a touchdown after an absolutely absurd decision by the replay official, only to have Stanford use the 35 seconds remaining after the “touchdown” to come back and win the game — whereas had the last Notre Dame offense play been called correctly they would have had first and goal from the 1 with the clock running — all I can say is


Making Up History

[ 40 ] November 28, 2015 |


Of course Donald Trump is making up historical stories to sell real estate.

Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’ ”

The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”

Like many of Mr. Trump’s claims, the inscription was evidently not fact-checked.

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.

“The only thing that was remotely close to that,” Mr. Gillespie said, was 11 miles up the river at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, a rout of Union forces in which several hundred were killed. “The River of Blood?” he added. “Nope, not there.”

In the larger picture of Trump’s crimes, I guess it’s not the worst. But it sure sums up the man. I for one can’t wait for new national history standards under President Trump.

In a phone interview, Mr. Trump called himself a “a big history fan” but deflected, played down and then simply disputed the local historians’ assertions of historical fact.

“That was a prime site for river crossings,” Mr. Trump said. “So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot — a lot of them.”

“How would they know that?” Mr. Trump asked when told that local historians had called his plaque a fiction. “Were they there?”

Oh, OK. That’s some iron-clad logic right there.

Page 1 of 2,14912345...102030...Last »