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[ 90 ] February 19, 2014 |

19th century tool of Russian authoritarianism, meet 21st century Russian anarchist performance art collective:

Cossack militia attacked the Pussy Riot punk group with horsewhips on Wednesday as the group tried to perform under a sign advertising the Sochi Olympics.

Say this about Vladimir Putin–he is a subtle man.

The Worst Person in the World

[ 168 ] February 19, 2014 |

David Cameron:

David Cameron says he is giving unemployed Britons “new hope and responsibility” by cutting their benefit payments and claims his welfare reforms are part of a “moral mission” for the country.

In an article for the Telegraph, the Prime Minister issues a sharp rebuke to Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who said recent changes had left many in “hunger and destitution”.

“But neither should political leaders be afraid to respond.”

He added: “Our long-term economic plan for Britain is not just about doing what we can afford, it is also about doing what is right.

“Nowhere is that more true than in welfare.

“For me the moral case for welfare reform is every bit as important as making the numbers add up.”

He said it was “wrong” that people are “trapped in a cycle of dependency” or to “reward” people who can work but do not.

Ensuring a house over the head of your citizens and decent nutrition regardless of their ability to find someone to hire them is clearly an abnegation of the moral duty to recreate the poverty of Dickensian England.


[ 27 ] February 19, 2014 |

The geologically stable state of Oklahoma has experienced over 500 measurable earthquakes in 2014, far and away already a record for the state and it is February. Why? Fracking, duh.

Scientists have drawn links between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells used for oil and gas production, including fracking. Researchers say the toxic wastewater, stored thousands of feet underground, increases friction along fault lines, which can trigger earthquakes. The ongoing fracking boom has led to a growth in national demand for disposal wells, according to Bloomberg.

Nicholas van der Elst, a post-doctorate research fellow at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the “most reasonable hypothesis” to explain Oklahoma’s spike in earthquakes is they’ve been triggered by injection wells used for oil and gas production. “The burden of proof is on well operators to prove that the earthquakes are not caused by their wells,” van der Elst told The Nation.

A 2011 study, published in the journal Geology, found that liquid injection triggered a sequence of earthquakes in Oklahoma, including the largest quake ever recorded in the state, which injured two people and destroyed 14 homes. StateImpact reports that Oklahoma is home to more than 4,400 disposal wells. (The website is a great resource on this issue.) Researchers have also found connections between injection wells and earthquakes in Arkansas, Colorado, Texas and Ohio.

But you know, let’s just continue down this path of endless fracking without making sure it is actually safe.

UIC On Strike

[ 17 ] February 19, 2014 |

The University of Illinois-Chicago faculty have gone on strike in protest of the corporatization of the university that threatens what faculty do–our ability to teach and research, the stability of our jobs, and the defense of the values of the liberal arts education. Like other universities, UIC has moved resources from faculty to administration, gone to the well of adjunct labor to cover much teaching, and underpaid faculty members in an expensive city.

Hundreds of teachers, students and other supporters picketed the University of Illinois’ at Chicago campus Tuesday as part of a two-day strike called by UIC United Faculty, the union representing more than 1,100 tenured and nontenured faculty members.

The walkout, which featured teachers and their supporters picketing and distributing flyers in front of campus buildings for much of the day, is the first to take place at the university. Despite more than 60 bargaining sessions over 18 months—which were joined by a federal mediator in November—the administration and UICUF has not been able to come to an agreement.

“State universities have been turned into businesses, business corporations with a focus only on the bottom line,” said UICUF’s President Joe Persky. “This must change. A university must devote its resources to guaranteeing our student body a first class education every bit as good as Champaign-Urbana.”

Faculty at UIC are striking to demand an increase in wages for both tenured and nontenured professors, as well as multi-year contracts and “control of governance and curriculum.”

Control over governance and curriculum is an important issue. Faculty have traditionally had a significant say in how the university operates and the core values of the curriculum. That is disappearing rapidly as universities move to the same top-down corporate model that brought you the outsourcing of American jobs overseas, the Great Recession, and the creation of the New Gilded Age. Stands like the faculty at UIC are taking are necessary in order to defend the values that made American higher education the best in the world.

Also, using Hull House as the strike headquarters should warm the heart of any historian.

Dead Horses in American History (VIII)

[ 48 ] February 18, 2014 |

Horse overcome by heat, New York City, 1910.

Final President’s Day Note

[ 88 ] February 17, 2014 |

Jimmy Carter was by no means a great president, but he really got screwed over by the media for stupid things like the supposed rabbit attack. I guess the media really needed a strong man like Ronald Reagan to make them feel good about themselves.

Proper Compensation

[ 130 ] February 17, 2014 |

So let’s say a large energy company, perhaps Chevron, has come into your community exploring for fuel. And let’s say that Chevron screws up and one of their gas wells explodes, kills a worker (subcontracted worker of course), and burns for six days. And let’s say you live near the explosion site. What would you expect in compensation from Chevron? How about a pizza and two liter?

If it was only the pizza, I’d say no way, but with the two liter, I think we are all good.

More here.

Also, I was driving around rural western Pennsylvania last month and drove past a road called “Burning Gas Well Rd.”


[ 72 ] February 17, 2014 |

We now know something about the recipe for early Scandinavian booze:

When a desire for an alcoholic beverage strikes, sometimes the best strategy is to use what you have to make your own.

That appears to have been the approach taken by the ancient Scandinavians, who crafted fermented beverages as far back as 3,500 years ago. Research led by Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the Penn Museum, has found that people from northern Europe incorporated local ingredients into their brews, such as honey, lingonberry, bog myrtle, birch tree resin, and cereals. McGovern’s analysis also revealed the presence of grape wine imported from southern or central Europe in a 3,000-year-old drink, offering evidence of an early trading network across the continent.

Of course Dogfish Head has crafted a beer based on this research.

Remembering Our Presidents

[ 157 ] February 17, 2014 |

Earlier this morning, I summed up each presidency in one tweet. They are collected here.

Kelsey Atherton undertook a similar project, also worth reading.

Dead Horses in American History (VII)

[ 46 ] February 16, 2014 |

Soldiers cutting up abandoned horse during General George Crook’s “Horsemeat March” to punish the Lakota after the Battle of Little Bighorn, 1876. It was called this because the American troops had few supplies and so had to eat some of their horses.

Just think, this protein ingestion contributed to genocide. This one goes out to all of you who were complaining the previous dead horse images were too gruesome.

Shorter Kristof: “I’m Too Lazy to Find the Hundreds of Professors Writing in Prominent Places, So Why Are Academics So Irrelevant?”

[ 63 ] February 16, 2014 |

I know Nic Kristof doesn’t put in any actual work to write his columns, but this is ridiculous.

Erik Voeten with the obvious rejoinder that, in fact, academics are pretty much everywhere in public policy.

[SL]: Corey Robin has much more. Professional disincentives notwithstanding, if you can’t find academics writing for a general audience about issues that interest you it’s almost certainly because you’re not looking.

The Deserving Rich

[ 141 ] February 16, 2014 |

Finally, someone at New York Times shows the courage and bravery to fight back the Holocaust against the 1% known as asking them to pay slightly more in taxes and perhaps be liable for their illegal actions. Greg Mankiw leads this brave charge of talking about how the rich deserve their wealth. He starts the article by knocking over a strong man argument nobody is making–how dare we criticize the actors and athletes who get paid well, since clearly Occupy Wall Street was critiquing the salary of Robert Downey, Jr. and George Clooney. Then he goes to those who really matter, those under an attack unknown in human history since the defeat of Nazi Germany–CEO’s and financial gurus:

A similar case is the finance industry, where many hefty compensation packages can be found. There is no doubt that this sector plays a crucial economic role. Those who work in banking, venture capital and other financial firms are in charge of allocating the economy’s investment resources. They decide, in a decentralized and competitive way, which companies and industries will shrink and which will grow. It makes sense that a nation would allocate many of its most talented and thus highly compensated individuals to the task.

In addition, recent research establishes that those working in finance face particularly risky incomes. Greater risk requires greater reward.

So, by delivering extraordinary performances in hit films, top stars may do more than entertain millions of moviegoers and make themselves rich in the process. They may also contribute many millions in federal taxes, and other millions in state taxes. And those millions help fund schools, police departments and national defense for the rest of us.

Unlike the superheroes of “The Avengers,” the richest 1 percent aren’t motivated by an altruistic desire to advance the public good. But, in most cases, that is precisely their effect.

Thank you Greg Mankiw, thank you. Finally, someone gives voice to the oppressed. From here on out, my posts will consist of nothing but heartfelt thanks to the plutocracy for all the good they do in society. Jay Gould and Andrew Carnegie could not have asked for a better hack to present their viewpoints during the first Gilded Age.

….See Dean Baker for a definitive takedown of Mankiw.

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