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Demonizing Jonathan Martin

[ 262 ] November 7, 2013 |

How the NFL and its supporters have rallied around Richie Incognito over the hazing and threatening of Jonathan Martin is both disgusting and typical. Martin is essentially being drummed out of the league. It’s really hard to see how he returns to the league. It would take the right kind of coach, the right kind of locker room, one that seemingly doesn’t exist in the violent, homophobic, misogynistic NFL. Everyone on the Dolphins supports Incognito and is blaming Martin, saying he wasn’t enough of a man to just punch Incognito in the face, which evidently is the solution to all problems. Peter King is opening his site at Sports Illustrated to a former Dolphin who is basically saying the same thing (I love the “I’m only interested in the truth” line. Ah). What’s more, everyone is saying there’s no way Incognito can be called a racist. After all he did was call his black teammate a “half-nigger,” who could call that racist! We all know that the only real racists in American society are those who support equality for blacks and who therefore are racist toward whites. And while of course no one in the NFL is tying their explanation away or half-apologies for Incognito’s racist text to the modern conservative political definition of racism, they are in fact closely related. In our society, no one is a racist. The mom who dressed her kid up as a KKK member for Halloween? She’s just continuing a family tradition. Why, I bet some of her best friends are black! There evidently are no racists anymore. The word itself has become demonized, as if it doesn’t actually describe certain behaviors and is itself a term more offensive than “half-nigger.” It’s all horrifying.

Also, given all of this, anyone think a gay NFL player is possibly going to come out? And put up with the horrors of the locker room, not to mention other teams? What would Richie Incognito do to a gay teammate? I don’t really want to know.

I love football. But I’m getting really close to limit. It is such a reprehensible institution. Nonetheless, I’m going to watch the Ducks defeat Stanford in 10 minutes. Such are the contradictions of life.

That Pro-Liberty Rand Paul

[ 129 ] November 7, 2013 |

All I hear from the brogressive crowd is that Rand Paul is a great defender of civil liberties unlike those evil Democrats. Let’s remember Julian Assange after all:

“The libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress…[I] am a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues.”

Today, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate by a 64-34 vote. How did the greatest defender of civil liberties of all time in the Senate vote on banning discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity?

No of course
. And this after trying to tack on an amendment to create a national right to work law, giving workers the definition of true freedom–exploitation by their employers. But I’m sure Matt Stoller and Conor Friedersdorf and Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange will still talk about Paul as the only senator willing to stand up against tyranny or something.

Making OSHA Reports Public

[ 14 ] November 7, 2013 |

Great news, with one caveat, from the Department of Labor:

The Labor Department wants companies to begin filing all workplace injury and illness reports electronically so they are available for anyone in the public to see.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will announce the plan on Thursday as part of a proposed rule that would dramatically change the way companies file safety records, according to a person familiar with the proposal.

The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke anonymously.

In a description of the rule, OSHA said a new electronic reporting system would help the government, workers, researchers and the public more effectively prevent workplace accidents and illnesses. The agency said the change also supports President Barack Obama’s initiative to increase public access to government data.

The plan would apply only to companies with more than 250 employees.

While the proposal is expected to please labor and workplace safety groups, business groups are likely to oppose it. They say raw injury data can be misleading or contain sensitive information that can be misused.

Of course business will oppose it. Business has always opposed any knowledge of their callousness toward worker safety. Business has long fought giving workers the right to know the chemicals they are exposed to at the workplace, fought the right for them to see their own medical records on the job, and fought public knowledge of pollution and emissions.

So it’s great to see this proposal for this information to go online. A huge benefit to labor reporters and the general public. My only criticism is the limit of firms with 250 employees. That’s a lot of employees and this will exclude a whole lot of factories where dangerous work takes place, including most timber mills which of course is my industry of expertise. I’m not surprised that this compromise would take place and starting with 250 is a good first step, but there’s no reason that all safety violations shouldn’t be available to the public.

I Am Somebody

[ 41 ] November 7, 2013 |

Jesse Jackson on Sesame Street, 1971.

I especially like the line affirming those on welfare. Which I wish was still a relatively robust program, hey thanks Bill Clinton for making political points on the backs of the poor.

The Worst Person in the World

[ 43 ] November 7, 2013 |

Jeffery Loria.

Who may also be the worst sports owner of all time, a category that includes racist slum lord/owner of the most embarrassingly bad team in the NBA for 20 years Donald Sterling and William Clay Ford who wouldn’t fire Matt Millen for years because he was a good Christian.

Unreasonable and Unnecessary Force

[ 79 ] November 6, 2013 |

This is just terrible.

The US Border Patrol will continue using lethal force against people throwing rocks, as well as people inside vehicles—ignoring a set of recommendations from an independent review of lethal force practices at the agency.

Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher told the Associated Press in an interview that the recommendations were “too restrictive” and that “[j]ust to say that you shouldn’t shoot at rock-throwers or vehicles for us, in our environment, was very problematic and could potentially put Border Patrol agents in danger.”

Twenty people have been killed by Border Patrol since 2010, and last year sixteen members of Congress demanded an investigation into the death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, an undocumented immigrant who was tased and beaten by Border Patrol agents.

Often times, people on the Mexican side of the US border will toss rocks at agents in order to create a diversion and open space in a nearby border area. The use of deadly force against people throwing rocks is an unfortunately common theme in these deaths; eight of the twenty people killed by Border Patrol since 2010 were accused of throwing rocks at agents

This is exactly the kind of scenario where Obama can unilaterally order a review of tactics along the border. This is simply unacceptable behavior on the behalf of the Border Patrol to use lethal force in areas where it is completely uncalled for. Once again, Obama’s record on immigration is not very good at all, even outside of the inability of Congress to pass immigration reform legislation. This has to stop, like yesterday.

Black Lung Follow Up

[ 22 ] November 6, 2013 |

Great news. I recently linked to the Center on Public Integrity’s excellent series on how coal miners are denied black lung benefits by Johns Hopkins doctors who always rule in favor of industry. Johns Hopkins has now suspended its black lung program and is investigating what has happened. This is excellent news for coal miners who hopefully will begin to receive their rightful compensation in the future. It’s also an example of the positive impact journalists can make in society.

What Happens When You Don’t Vaccinate

[ 79 ] November 6, 2013 |

I was reading the obituary of the recently passed lefty journalist Doug Ireland. I didn’t know he was a polio sufferer. He seems rather young for it. But then there was this:

At 10, according to a newspaper report, he was admitted to a hospital with polio, given an emergency tracheotomy and placed in an iron lung, where he was confined for at least a year, friends said in interviews. Mr. Ireland told friends that his parents were Christian Scientists who had refused to have him inoculated against the disease.

Well there you go. When you don’t vaccinate, you put your child at risk, as well as other children. You are a public health hazard.

MOOC Class on the Civil War, Taught by Daniel Day-Lewis

[ 103 ] November 6, 2013 |

Well, this is the natural progression of MOOCs and college courses as profitable entertainment:

Free online courses do big numbers these days. So-called MOOCs, or massive open online courses, typically get tens of thousands of sign-ups to watch video lectures delivered by tweedy academics, some more photogenic than others. But imagine how many students would tune in—or make it through the class without dropping out—if instead of bookish professors, Hollywood stars delivered the lessons.

That’s one idea under consideration by leaders of EdX, the nonprofit provider of MOOCs started by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“From what I hear, really good actors can actually teach really well,” said Anant Agarwal, CEO of EdX, who was until recently a computer-science professor at MIT. “So just imagine, maybe we get Matt Damon to teach Thévenin’s theorem,” he added, referring to a concept that Agarwal covers in a MOOC he teaches on circuits and electronics. “I think students would enjoy that more than taking it from Agarwal.”

Casting Damon in a MOOC is just an idea, for now: In meetings, officials have proposed trying one run of a course with someone like Damon, to see how it goes. But even to consider swapping in a star actor for a professor reveals how much these free online courses are becoming major media productions—ones that may radically change the traditional role of professors.

Now of course a free course that anyone can sign up for, whatever. The quality of education isn’t going to be very good anyway, in no small part because actually evaluating students is impossible. And if the goal here is to offer history courses to a broad general public of people sitting around and wanting to learn something, who cares. It’s not going to be any worse than the non-existent educational content of the History Channel. The problem is that these MOOCs want to replace traditional university education and hiring an actor to lecture off cue-cards to 75,000 people pretty much sums up how these so-called education reformers view higher education. Not only is there a complete lack of understanding about what professors actually do, there’s really no interest in actually educating people. The interest is in centering profits in the hands of the 1%, both the capitalists who run the companies and the high administrators of universities who pad their salaries and boost their careers by supposedly cutting costs on wasteful things like teaching.

In other news, Slate is impossible to parody.

Today in the Sixth Extinction

[ 12 ] November 5, 2013 |

Good times in Hawaii:

This “odd animal sighting” could be bad news for Hawaii’s native wildlife: a five-foot long boa contrictor recently ended up as roadkill along Hawaii’s Pali Highway.

The thing that makes this odd is that it should be impossible to run over a snake in Hawaii, because there aren’t supposed to be any snakes there. As an isolated archipelago, the only way for wildlife species to get to the Hawaiian Islands is to fly or swim across the Pacific Ocean.

As a result, most of Hawaii’s native wildlife are birds, insects, and marine mammals. It has taken them hundreds of thousands of years to establish populations, evolve together, and create a balanced ecosystem. There is only one non-marine mammal native to Hawaii, the Hawaiian hoary bat. It is both endemic (found no where else on the planet) and endangered. There are no native snakes in Hawaii.

This makes native Hawaiian species in this once-isolated ecosystem extremely vulnearable to species from other parts of the world, particularly predatory species such as snakes, because they have no natural defense against them.

When such invasive exotic species are introduced by human activity–which is now happening in Hawaii at a rate thousands of times faster than it would otherwise naturally–native Hawaiian animals found nowhere else on the planet start going extinct.

Reverse Racism

[ 328 ] November 5, 2013 |

The comment thread on Edward Bland’s The Cry of Jazz was more contentious than I thought it would be, since several commenters basically called this early black nationalist a racist and even compared him (shockingly unfairly) to Leni Riefenstahl. When I read this Sara Luckey piece (published several months ago) on the myth of reverse racism, I immediately thought of that thread and the need for a lot of white people to learn more about the relationship between racism and power:

Racism exists when prejudice+power combine to form social constructs, legislation and widespread media bias that contribute to the oppression of the rights and liberties of a group of people. Racism is systemic, institutional, and far reaching. It is the prevalence of racism within social structures and institutional norms, along with implicit and explicit enforcement by members of a group, that allows racism to run rampant and unchecked. America is a country seeped in white privilege, and our social structure is built on colonization and forced slave labor that then turned into further systemic and ongoing oppression of PoC. We have a culture that presents whiteness as the norm and all else as ‘other’ or different. White is presented as the beauty ideal, the main face in the media (unless we’re talking about criminals, then PoC get unfairly misrepresented), the standard, the regular. It’s a structural problem that affects the perceptions of jurors in criminal cases, admissions to colleges, funding for public schools, welfare and food stamp programs, the redrawing of district lines that affect where we vote, who we see represented on T.V. and how, what schools people have access to, what neighborhoods people live in, an individual’s shopping experience, access to goods and services; it’s extensive and a part of the fabric that let’s whiteness remain dominant in American culture.

Not only was Edward Bland and other black nationalists not racist toward white people, they were responding directly to the racism they felt everyday, racism that white people in the United States simply cannot understand. It’s not racist for him say that white people suck at playing jazz, even if you completely disagree with the point, precisely because not only is Bland not saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to play jazz but because there is no power structure behind the statement. Black nationalism was a response to systemic racism. The Tea Partiers today who are claiming they experience racism because they hear Spanish at their favorite buffet restaurant/are forced to admit that black people can vote/whatever completely misunderstand what racism even is. Unfortunately, so do too many white liberals.

More from Luckey:

The situations in which you, fellow white person, were involved were unfortunate and inappropriate, this is true. But to claim that these experiences were ‘reverse racism’ both diminishes and minimalizes the real and actual experiences of PoC who really do encounter racism. There is no system of oppression in America that actively works to oppress and subjugate white people. Sorry to break it to you, but your individual suffering is just that, individual. The individuals acting against you do not have the institutionalized power to actively oppress you in every facet of your life, nor would their racism be upheld and supported by government, media, and legislation if they did. Because you’re white.

Reverse racism isn’t real because we live in a culture that supports and enforces whiteness as the norm and PoC as other. If you experience discrimination, prejudice, or bigotry, it’s valid to be upset about it and want to talk about it. It is not valid to claim that it is reverse racism, and certainly not valid to claim that it is racism on par with anything like the institutionalized racism that PoC will come into contact with. When a white person starts talking about reverse racism, what they’re really doing is derailing a conversation to make it about them. Their white privilege leads them to believe that what they say both matters and needs to be heard and is important and the conversation should stop to focus on their perceived ills. You know what? When somebody is talking about racism they have experienced, that conversation is not all about you, nor should you expect it to be, so stop with the derailing and just listen and learn.

When white people complain about experiencing reverse racism, what they’re really complaining about is losing out on or being denied their already existing privileges. And while it may feel bad to realize your privilege is crumbling and the things you’ve taken for granted can be taken away from you, it is unfair, untrue, and disingenuous to call that experience reverse racism.

People need to take the relationship between race and power seriously before taking about racism.

….Based on this comment thread, let me just say how hard it is being white when a few people of color might not like you because of the hundreds of years of systemic racism placed upon their people that you benefit from everyday. I guess we whites will just have to console ourselves knowing that we hold almost every position of power and authority in this nation’s political, economic, and judicial system, that prison sentences for whites are far less than for people of color, that whites have higher income and lower unemployment rates, etc., etc. But hey, that jazz guy in 1959 said that white people can’t understand the music and some people today demand you take history and power seriously before talking about racism, so let’s all call the whaaaambulance!

Pittsburgh First!

[ 60 ] November 5, 2013 |

The campaign poster of Pittsburgh City Council candidate Jim Wudarczyk:

The inspiration for this brilliance:

Really, it’s about time we saw Red Scare era political imagery become hip again. A new age of Harding, this.

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