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Figure Skating

[ 118 ] February 21, 2014 |

Once again, figure skating is a terrible sport.

Income Inequality

[ 24 ] February 21, 2014 |

I highly recommend Estelle Sommeiller and Mark Price’s report on growing income inequality by state since 1979. Some of their findings from the executive summary (you can download the PDF at the link).

Lopsided income growth characterizes every state between 1979 and 2007.

In four states (Nevada, Wyoming, Michigan, and Alaska), only the top 1 percent experienced rising incomes between 1979 and 2007, and the average income of the bottom 99 percent fell.

In another 15 states the top 1 percent captured between half and 84 percent of all income growth between 1979 and 2007. Those states are Arizona (where 84.2 percent of all income growth was captured by the top 1 percent), Oregon (81.8 percent), New Mexico (72.6 percent), Hawaii (70.9 percent), Florida (68.9 percent), New York (67.6 percent), Illinois (64.9 percent), Connecticut (63.9 percent), California (62.4 percent), Washington (59.1 percent), Texas (55.3 percent), Montana (55.2 percent), Utah (54.1 percent), South Carolina (54.0 percent), and West Virginia (53.3 percent).

In the 10 states in which the top 1 percent captured the smallest share of income growth from 1979 to 2007, the top 1 percent captured between about a quarter and just over a third of all income growth. Those states are Louisiana (where 25.6 percent of all income growth was captured by the top 1 percent), Virginia (29.5 percent), Iowa (29.8 percent), Mississippi (29.8 percent), Maine (30.5 percent), Rhode Island (32.6 percent), Nebraska (33.5 percent), Maryland (33.6 percent), Arkansas (34.0 percent), and North Dakota (34.2 percent).

The lopsided growth in U.S. incomes observed between 1979 and 2007 resulted in a rise in every state in the top 1 percent’s share of income. This rise in income inequality represents a sharp reversal of the patterns of income growth that prevailed in the half century following the beginning of the Great Depression; the share of income held by the top 1 percent declined in every state but one between 1928 and 1979.


[ 212 ] February 20, 2014 |

If you are like me, you know basically nothing about Ukraine and the protests going on there. This was tremendously useful. In part:

More subtly, what this campaign does is attempt to reduce the social tensions in a complex country to a battle of symbols about the past. Ukraine is not a theater for the historical propaganda of others or a puzzle from which pieces can be removed. It is a major European country whose citizens have important cultural and economic ties with both the European Union and Russia. To set its own course, Ukraine needs normal public debate, the restoration of parliamentary democracy, and workable relations with all of its neighbors. Ukraine is full of sophisticated and ambitious people. If people in the West become caught up in the question of whether they are largely Nazis or not, then they may miss the central issues in the present crisis.

In fact, Ukrainians are in a struggle against both the concentration of wealth and the concentration of armed force in the hands of Viktor Yanukovych and his close allies. The protesters might be seen as setting an example of courage for Americans of both the left and the right. Ukrainians make real sacrifices for the hope of joining the European Union. Might there be something to be learned from that among Euroskeptics in London or elsewhere? This is a dialogue that is not taking place.

The history of the Holocaust is part of our own public discourse, our agora, or maidan. The current Russian attempt to manipulate the memory of the Holocaust is so blatant and cynical that those who are so foolish to fall for it will one day have to ask themselves just how, and in the service of what, they have been taken in. If fascists take over the mantle of antifascism, the memory of the Holocaust will itself be altered. It will be more difficult in the future to refer to the Holocaust in the service of any good cause, be it the particular one of Jewish history or the general one of human rights.


[ 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.

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