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ESPN’s creepy nonsense

[ 124 ] August 26, 2014 |

ESPN is veering into Robbie George territory here. Like George, their desperate search for a reason gay people living normal human lives and doing normal human things ought to be viewed as a problem has caused them to stumble across a strategy that makes them look incredibly creepy, with what appears to be an unhealthy obsession with other people’s genitalia.

Let’s review a set of uncontroversial, widely known facts:

1)      Across the country, there are many tens of thousands of locker rooms, located in YMCAs, public swimming pools, and high school and college gyms, and commercial gyms and fitness centers.

2)      Very few of these establishments have policies banning otherwise eligible gay men and lesbians from using locker rooms and shower facilities. Even fewer have separate shower facilities for them.

3)      Many gay men and lesbians are not closeted, making it possible, if not likely, that many people who use these locker rooms are aware of their potential co-presence in the locker rooms.

4)      (1), (2), and (3) somehow don’t seem to produce any significant controversy to speak of.

Given the above, what does it say about those who pretend Michael Sam’s presence and/or comportment is the St. Louis Rams locker room is a source of newsworthy controversy? We’re being asked to assume either that a) Michael Sam is uniquely incapable of professional, non-sexual behavior, or b) Professional football players as a group are uniquely homophobic (not to mention unprofessional) relative to the population of gym-using Americans.

Whichever set of assumptions is motivating the ESPN journalists and producers pursuing this non-story, there’s some rather ugly bigotry lying behind it, whether it’s directed primarily at NFL players or gay men.

Honig on Salaita

[ 30 ] August 24, 2014 |

As is so often the case, Bonnie Honig’s letter to the UIUC chancellor regarding the firing of Steven Salaita is illuminating and provocative; she asks what it would mean to read Salaita’s tweets not with an eye on the alleged boundaries of acceptable discourse, but with empathy:

This is what I thought at the time this story first broke: Here is a man of Palestinian descent watching people he may know, perhaps friends, colleagues, or relatives, bombed to bits while a seemingly uncaring or powerless world watched. He was touched by violence and responded in a way that showed it. In one of the tweets that was most objected to (Netanyahu, necklace, children’s teeth), Salaita commented on a public figure who is fair game and who was promoting acts of terrible violence against a mostly civilian population. I found that tweet painful and painfully funny. It struck home with me, a Jew raised as a Zionist. Too many of us are too committed to being uncritical of Israel. Perhaps tweets like Prof. Salaita’s, along with images of violence from Gaza and our innate sense of fair play, could wake us from our uncritical slumbers. It certainly provoked ME, and I say “provoked” in the best way – awakened to thinking.

Sunday beer thread: 50 states by beer

[ 247 ] August 24, 2014 |

Thrillist ranks the states by beer. A few assorted thoughts:

1) This is a pretty good list, all things considered.

2) I’m not quite enough of a Washington homer to seriously dispute the top 3. (I think CO/WA is a close call, but the case for CO at #3 is pretty solid). I’ve also had enough MI beers at this point to feel at least a little confident that its placement in the top 5 is pretty much indisputable. But I can’t accept MI over WA. It’s just not conceivable. I can see how the mistake would be made–if you compare the top breweries in terms of visibility and distribution, MI might appear to be stronger (Bells and Founders a great deal better than Redhook and Pyramid). And there are some impressive and innovative breweries coming out of Michigan these days, including Jolly Pumpkin and North Coast. But my sampling of smaller regional MI beers, while quite strong, doesn’t stand up to Washington’s offerings. Here, working from memory only so I’m sure I’m forgetting something important and deserving, is a first draft at a no particular order top 10 for Washington: Old Schoolhouse; Black Raven; Maritime Pacific; Reuben’s Brews; Boundary Bay; Two Beers; Airways; Bale Breaker; Big Time; Valholl; Elysian. Of the smaller MI breweries I’ve sampled multiple beers from, only one or two (Kuhnhenn, obviously) would I seriously consider placing on this list. WA beer is much closer in quality to the big three states than a midwest or east coast beer drinker might realize because the other big three export some of their best beers widely; in Washington it’s really only Elysian, among the stronger breweries, that has any notable distributional reach. I suppose I should go be a proper beer tourist in Traverse City, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor before I’m express too much certainty here, but I’m not seeing it.

3) I haven’t had enough beer from WI or VT to have a strong opinion here–I’ve had virtually nothing from Wisconsin, as New Glarus is hard to find around Dayton. Vermont beers I’ve actually had haven’t really impressed (and no, I’ve never managed to get my hands on Heady Topper). But by all accounts these are states much like WA, so I’ll withhold judgment.

4) I am very skeptical about PA ahead of NY. And the growth in OH, thanks in part to some minor changes in the law, is really impressive these last few years. The greater Dayton area had zero breweries in 2010, and we’re months away from double digits now. (I’m writing from the tasting room for Warped Wing, the best but by no means the only strong contender of the new Dayton breweries.) Several new Cincinnati Breweries, in particular Rhinegeist, are excellent.  If we’re not ahead of PA today, we probably will be soon.

5) We now have an additional reason to feel sorry for esteemed LGM commenter Anderson.

“just do what I tell you”

[ 162 ] August 19, 2014 |

Sunil Dutta, a former LAPD officer and current professor of (ugh) “Homeland Security,” on interactions with police officers at the Washington Post:

And you don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go.

Great! But wait–just a few sentences earlier in the article:

if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you…

Evidently the Washington Post doesn’t employ editors, because if they did, Professor Dutta would have been asked to clarify which of the above statements he’s actually serious about. I have a pretty good guess.

Spokane, too

[ 47 ] August 19, 2014 |

Unfortunately, Seattle isn’t the only major city in Washington whose sole daily newspaper hackishly promotes the political and (percieved*) economic agenda of the family that owns it.

* I say perceived because it turns out the race and class biases of rich white people are misleading: public transit is not, in fact, bad for retail.

What’s wrong with white people?

[ 57 ] August 18, 2014 |

“Fully 65% of African Americans say the police have gone too far in responding to the shooting’s aftermath. Whites are divided: 33% say the police have gone too far, 32% say the police response has been about right, while 35% offer no response.

Whites also are nearly three times as likely as blacks to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting. About half of whites (52%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations, compared with just 18% of blacks.”

More here.

National identities have consequences

[ 97 ] August 6, 2014 |

Newishlawyer, in the comments to my previous post:

I think there is an unwarranted assumption that Zionist=Likkuidnik in general.

I consider myself a Zionist. I have never been a fan of Likkuid or Hamas. I’m absolutely on the side of people like Rabin. Yet sometimes it feels like when I say I support the idea and right of a Jewish state to exist, people think of me as a Likuidnik.

I would say that Israel should do a unilateral withdrawal and still people in settlements “best of luck” unless it is with help to move back to Israel proper.

On one level this is a fair point. There is no reason to assume that all Zionists support Likud’s policies.

That said: if you support creating a religiously ethno-nationalist and democratic state, you can’t simply disavow any responsibility for the conduct of a right wing nationalist party. In democracies, one faction never retains control forever. The ideology, conduct, and treatment of perceived enemies of the nation we find in Likud seem pretty typical of right wing nationalism generally (they seem worse because the occupied territories and Hamas belligerence provide some unique opportunities for bad behavior). You simply can’t count on a state with a religious ethnonationalist identity that isn’t going to have a belligerent conservative faction in charge occasionally.

Furthermore: Likud’s current policies reflect the composition of the political coalition they lead, which includes a parties that represent a fast-growing and influential anti-modern ultra-orthodox population*, and a recent immigrant group who came from political cultures without a the liberal traditions that promote treating members of the outgroup with equality and respect. The increasing size and power of both of these populations is hard to divorce from Zionism, and they also make the likelihood of a political coalition for the kind of liberal Zionism newishlawyer would like to support increasingly unlikely to emerge. A Jewish Israeli state as part of a two state solution once seemed the best and most reasonable path to peace to me, along with most of the world. That, along with newishlawyer’s policy preference of unilateral settlement withdrawal, are all but dead now, and demographic changes that follow directly from the commitments, policies and priorities of Zionism are a non-trivial part of the reason why.


*Thanks to rewenzo below; this is not the untra-orthodox political party; that is Shas, which is not currently part of the governing coalition. Insofar as their growing presence makes a governing liberal political coalition less likely to emerge a weaker version of my initial point stands.

What’s different this time?

[ 156 ] August 5, 2014 |

I’m intrigued by the number of pundits who previously professed strong support for Likud’s policies are experience a crisis of faith this time around. (Prominent examples: Linker, Sullivan, Chait, Klein.) Don’t get me wrong, this is a very welcome development–the fewer “what else can they do?” dead-enders the better–but I’m curious what’s motivating it. What new information does the current war provide that the 2011 and 2012 iterations (to say nothing of the staggeringly inhumane treatment of Gaza over the last decade, or the refusal to lift a finger to meaningfully curb settlements) did not?

One possible answer is that the quiet part is being said rather too loudly, as calls for ethnic cleansing becoming rather more frank and unambiguous, and coming from more prominent sources. But I don’t know.

Update: readers inform me that Sullivan’s position is not new, and that he has been a critic of Israeli foreign policy for some time, and he doesn’t belong on the above list. I’m only an occasional reader, but upon reflection this seems correct; his inclusion on this list was inappropriate. I’ll leave the link up because it’s worth reading.

“Sex Demons”

[ 144 ] July 16, 2014 |

If you  enjoy bad things happening to bad people as much as I do, you should be following the implosion of the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, which began a couple of years ago but has really picked up steam in 2014. More and more former members are going public about their bizarre and abusive treatment at the hands of Driscoll and co. The bad publicity from the twin plagiarism and use of church money to pay for NYT best seller list manipulation didn’t help, but the creepy and abusive treatment of followers seems to be the main mover here as the money is drying up and layoffs are taking place, and Driscoll is ordering his followers to stay off the internet.

For many years I lived a few blocks away from his flagship location, during the Church’s baffling, depressing growth. Once, on a drunken bar boast, I went to see one of his sermons, and was completely unprepared for the depths of misogyny he packed into his rambling 75 minute sermon. At any rate, the purpose of this post is to recommend Stacey Solie’s longform piece in Crosscut, from which I learn “Sex Demons” is more than just a deep album cut from the third Spinal Tap record:

Blogger Matthew Paul Turner has posted another disturbing account by another exile of Mars Hill, a woman who under the psuedonym “Amy” describes what it was like to get marital advice from Driscoll.

“Once, when I shared with Mark that I felt neglected in my marriage, he told [me] that I was being a nagging wife and that I needed to suck it up. That was something Mark preached about a lot — the nagging wife.”

Later, Driscoll told her and her husband that she was beset by sex demons.

“Mark stared hard at Amy and began yelling questions at her ‘sex demons’. His fierce glare seemed to look past her as he screamed his questions at her face. He asked the demons what their names were. He asked them about sex. He asked them about Amy’s past sexual sins. He asked them about Amy’s current lustful thoughts. He asked them if they were planning to destroy marriages in his church. And then he asked whose marriages were they planning to destroy and how.


Advocate of murdering cyclists also hypocrite

[ 410 ] July 10, 2014 |

Nice catch by Atrios. Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy evidently believes that the appropriate punishment for violating the rules of the road on two wheels is immediate execution by the nearest willing and able automobile-wielding citizen, but attempting to punish violators the rules of the road with four wheels by requiring violators pay a small fine is an appalling act of government overreach.

A couple of other points. While Milloy’s open endorsement of murder is thankfully relatively unusual, some other elements of this column are familiar but misleading and deserve attention. This sort of anti-bicycle crap is usually trotted out in the context of providing grounds for opposition to public investment in infrastructure for cycling. This debate often takes place in cities with a sufficiently liberal population such that sneering at the poors who ride bikes is not likely to work, so it is implied or stated that the cyclist is the dread “hipster” with too much time and disposable income, imposing his hobby on work-a-day motorists. (Milloy attempts to tie his opposition to biking infrastructure to his worries about the effects of gentrification.) But, of course, it’s nonsense: poor people are considerably more likely to use bikes as a form of transportation than rich people. This is should be entirely unsurprising, when you consider the relative costs of the two forms of transportation.

Second, this column uses the tactic trotted out in comment sections everywhere (including here): anecdotal accounts of bad and dangerous behavior by cyclists is used as reasons to not support cycling infrastructure investment. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (I generally oppose most road expansion, and I think drivers who speed and otherwise violate laws that make driving safer are a menace, but I’ve never attempted to use the latter as a reason for the former), and it’s not clear it presents an accurate empirical picture of the situation (bike-car collisions that result in a fatality are far more likely to be the fault of the motorist than the cyclist). Be even if we take this at face value, and stipulate that dangerous bike behavior is presently a scourge on the city, it’s actually a better argument for the building more bike infrastructure. The reason cyclists seem reckless in cities with terrible bicycle infrastructure is that those who would be safer and saner cyclists simply don’t ride. You’re left with only the desperate and the daredevils. But as better cycling infrastructure brings out less reckless cyclists, we begin to see a ‘calming’ effect on the larger cycling community. Measured by intersection or by city, the more cyclists on the road, the fewer accidents and deaths per mile traveled.

Today’s prosecutorial abuse of power

[ 227 ] July 10, 2014 |

I rarely endorse a “flying monkeys of the internet—attack!” plea, but I do believe Dan Savage is correct in calling for the good and decent people of the internet to do whatever lawful things they can to make Claiborne Richardson’s life as difficult as possible for the foreseeable future, at least until he ceases and desists in pursuing this unconscionable prosecution. American adults have, as a group, always had a rather unhealthy obsession with the sex lives of teenagers, but this is a particularly absurd and appalling overreach. Ideally our child pornography laws need to be clarified to prevent creeps like Richardson from pursuing such prosecutions. But in the meantime, we should do the only thing we have the power to do, which is to shine the brightest light we can on this abuse of power.

Update: Thanks to Skidrow Wilson in comments for providing some background on Paul Ebert, Claiborne Richardson’s boss, who apparently doesn’t let pesky matters like “exculpatory evidence” slow down his career:

This Paul Ebert’s third nomination. Ebert, you may remember, made the list several years ago for refusing to investigate the massive corruption among public officials in Manassas Park, Virginia in their efforts to shut down David Ruttenberg’s Rack & Roll pool hall. In 2008 and 2009, Ebert was the special prosecutor in the Ryan Frederick case. Frederick shot and killed Chesapeake, Virginia Det. Jarrod Shivers during a drug raid on Frederick’s home. Frederick had no prior criminal record, and says he thought he was being robbed. Which is credible, given that police informants had broken into Frederick’s home days earlier to obtain probable cause for the raid, part of a possible pattern of illegality among police informants Ebert found unimportant.

Ebert tried Frederick for capital murder. He attempted to change the venue, arguing that bloggers and Internet writers had made it difficult for the state to get a fair trial. He told jurors Frederick was a pot-crazed killer, then sought to exclude video of Frederick’s post-raid interviews at the police station, where a clearly despondent Frederick bursts into tears and vomits upon being told that he had killed a cop. Best of all, Ebert put on the stand a perfectly-named jailhouse snitch named Jamal Skeeter who claimed that during their one hour per day of rec time at the jail, Frederick repeatedly boasted about killing Shivers and mocked Shivers’ widow. Skeeter was so utterly devoid of credibility, fellow Virginia State’s Attorney Earle Mobley made the admirable and rare move of speaking up in  mid-trial to say that he and other area prosecutors had determined Skeeter was a professional liar, and had stopped using him years ago.


[ 28 ] June 19, 2014 |

The annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, APSA, takes place every Labor Day weekend, beginning on Thursday and going through Sunday. When I lived in Seattle, I this annoyed me primarily because of the conflict with Bumbershoot, an excellent music festival that took place over that holiday weekend. I’ve occasionally heard people grumble about the timing of the conference, for a variety of reasons–it created more conflicts than necessary, the cost of flights, trains and hotel rooms are generally a bit higher, and the timing of the conference often meant having to cancel a class during the first week of the term for many people on the Semester calendar. I’m inclined to agree with all three of these arguments, and as such view the scheduling of APSA as suboptimal. So when I saw this petition circulating on facebook, I figured why not and clicked through with the intent to add my name. After reading it, however, I decided not to do so. Reasons #1 and #3 are sound, but #2 is not:

2)  The Academic Job Market.  Due to its timing, the APSA Annual Meeting does not play as useful a role in the academic job market as it might.  Whereas other disciplines have systematically incorporated initial interviews into their annual meetings, the APSA Annual Meeting falls awkwardly before most application deadlines, which makes it difficult for most departments effectively to screen applicants at the Annual Meeting.  Enhancing APSA’s role in the job market would be beneficial to both applicants and hiring departments.

A number of disciplines, including economics, english, history, and philosophy, have followed this model, where initial interviews for tenure track jobs took place at the annual meeting. This is, as I understand it, typically a “long short list” of candidates, maybe 7-12 people. After these short interviews, 2-4 top candidates go for a much longer and more involved second round interview in the form of a campus visit. My understanding is that both philosophy and history are seeing a move away from this model, using skype/phone interviews for the first round. Most political science departments go straight to the campus interview, or do a round of phone interviews first. I’m quite skeptical of the assertion of the superiority of this model; no evidence is given that a 30 minute interview in a hotel room in the middle of a conference provides particularly useful information above and beyond what is already in the application packet and could be ascertained through a phone interview. But beyond that this strikes me as a terrible idea for two reasons. First, it degrades the experience of the conference itself; making inherently miserable and stressful for all graduate students attending. Second, and more importantly, it imposes a significant cost on the many broke graduate students (to say nothing of adjuncts and the unemployed) who may be applying for jobs. Even with judicious cost-cutting measures, the costs of attendance can easily exceed a thousand dollars. Many–perhaps most–graduate students do not have notable conference travel support from their departments or universities. (At UW, the policy for PhD Students was that we could be reimbursed for airfare only for up to three conferences during our time in the PhD program. I know plenty of people who would have been happy to have that level of support). Their educational debt is likely sufficiently crippling without imposing a $1,000 cost for being seriously considered for a job. This is a particularly acute concern when the search for a tenure track job often takes several years, with the first few years out of graduate school spent in visiting or temporary faculty positions with little conference travel support (and, of course, many job seekers will never actually find a tenure track position). Third, a good part of actual value of conferences for graduate students is an opportunity to present and get some feedback on your work, but APSA is often off the table because it’s the most competitive conference in American political science, with acceptance rates in some sections as low as 10%. Graduate students would be more likely to get this benefit at a smaller regional conference where they’re more likely to get on the program (and smaller conferences are often quite a bit cheaper to attend).

I’d be happy to see APSA moved back a few weeks, but moving toward this job market model strikes me as a plan for which the costs significantly outweigh any possible benefits. I won’t be signing this petition.

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