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Homer Simpson Is Real

[ 46 ] July 13, 2015 |

Found this in the archives today. It’s faint, but readable. And it shows that Homer Simpson is real and evidently worked in the Fermi reactor in Michigan during the 1960s.


Sorry for the large size, I wanted to make it as readable as possible.

Further documents suggest it was in fact a beer can.


Does Evangelicalism Have to Be Anti-Labor?

[ 30 ] July 13, 2015 |

No. Although I think the case is overstated here because while there are examples of evangelicals being pro-union during American history, by and large evangelicals have been anti-union a lot more than not.

National Parks and Minorities

[ 102 ] July 13, 2015 |

Grand Teton National Park

Glenn Nelson challenges the National Park Service to do more to welcome minorities. He notes how very few visitors to national parks are people of color and the very strong disconnect between these central places in the American experience and minorities.

The place to start is the National Park Service. About 80 percent of park service employees in 2014 were white. The parks’ official charity, the National Park Foundation, has four minority members on its 22-person board.

Minorities did not exceed 16 percent of the boards or staffs of some 300 environmental organizations, foundations and government agencies included in a 2014 study for Green 2.0, an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity in such institutions. Minorities hold fewer than 12 percent of environmental leadership positions, and none led an organization with a budget of at least $1 million, the study found.

The National Park Service is the logical leader to blaze a trail to racial diversity in the natural world. It has a high public profile, and its approaching centennial can serve as a platform for redefinition.

But the agency has so far missed the opportunity. It doesn’t even know how many minorities visit the parks these days because it doesn’t routinely track such information. Its initial centennial-related campaign, Find Your Park, includes but doesn’t specifically target minorities and was delivered mainly to the already converted.

Efforts like handing park passes to fourth graders and their families, firing up Wi-Fi in visitor centers, and holding concerts on seashores or valley floors will similarly miss the mark. The park service should use its resources and partnerships to execute an all-out effort to promote diversity within its ranks and its parks. Its outreach should be tailored to minorities and delivered where they log in, follow, Tweet, view or listen. The park service needs to shout to minorities from its iconic mountaintops, “We want you here!”

There are good points here, but there are a couple of issues worth noting. First, the NPS has done a lot to include minority voices and perspectives in the parks. It has worked very hard on this, to the point where nearly every park has signage about minorities who lived there and points out a lot of the uncomfortable racial past of our history. But a lot of this takes place at the national historic parks, as opposed to the classical national parks that make up the jewels of the NPS. Nelson uses Mt. Rainier for an example. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the visitor center up there so I don’t know if it discusses how Native Americans thought about the mountain for instance. But even if it does, does that resonate with African-Americans in Seattle? No.

But the NPS does actively recruit minority populations and tries to get them into those parks. In 1999, I spent a long summer working at the Martin Luther King National Historic Site in Atlanta. Most of my co-workers were African-American. There was an effort within the NPS to get African-Americans out of just working the urban parks and, specifically in this case, to get them to apply to work at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. My coworkers were not having it. They simply had no interest in living in rural Kentucky around what they felt were hostile white people. And who could blame them? Nelson discusses this in his article and in the end, most of these park jewels in rural places are coded white in many ways. They are largely surrounded by white populations in the small towns around the parks. They were defined as sublime places by whites and preserved to serve white tourists. John Muir in Yosemite and the U.S. Army in Yellowstone fought to keep people of color from using these places in their traditional manner. Hiking and camping and climbing are almost exclusively white activities in our imaginations. Visits to national parks (or national forests or a lot of other nature-based activities–or even Cape Cod) means being surrounded almost exclusively with other white people. So there are a lot of issues here. And there’s no easy answer. It might be that the NPS more directly targeting minority populations would help, but Nelson’s ideas don’t exactly seem to be that well-developed. Tweeting isn’t going to make African-Americans more comfortable in small town Wyoming.

Unions and the Democratic Primary

[ 123 ] July 13, 2015 |


The outpouring of support for Bernie Sanders has included a lot of labor people. That has made labor executives worried. First, Richard Trumka reminded state federations and locals that they don’t have the right to endorse anyone. Then, the American Federation of Teachers came out and endorsed Hillary Clinton.

This doesn’t surprise me and is pretty unfortunate, but is understandable. Union leaders are a lot less interested in primary politics and supporting (likely) losing primary campaigns from the left than in creating solid support from the likely winner. They want to make sure they are close to President Hillary Clinton rather than primary runner-up Bernie Sanders. You might say that unions should be about democracy and their members should have the right to endorse the candidate who most represents their views. I might well say you are right about that. But in the hard realpolitik world of modern class-based politics, with unions facing death, one can see why Trumka, Weingarten, and other labor leaders (expect an SEIU endorsement of Hillary very soon), would rally around the winner and hope to be closer to her inner circle.

But if the Bernie surge continues and he develops a shot to win, labor is going to look pretty bad here.

Selma Lives

[ 14 ] July 13, 2015 |


I was reading this old Pete Axthelm profile of Ken Stabler from 1980. A real classy guy. Among the highlight is when he and his team set up a reporter they hated for a cocaine bust.

The only affair involving Stabler that brings no laughter, it seems, is the ugly incident after the 1978 season, when Sacramento writer Bob Padecky was set up for a cocaine bust in Gulf Shores. The circumstantial evidence against Stabler was considerable. Padecky was one of his least favorite writers, yet was invited to Stabler’s hometown for an exclusive interview. Coke was planted under the fender of his rented car and police were tipped off. Padecky unwittingly trivialized the incident a bit with his frenetic by-lined account of his harrowing jail term—which lasted five minutes before the cops realized it was a prank. But the fact remains that someone had executed a cruel and potentially dangerous stunt, and many observers felt that some of Stabler’s friends had participated—with or without his knowledge. When the subject is raised now, all the whimsical and piratical expressions dissolve into a look of abject innocence. “I just don’t know what happened,” he insists. “Maybe nobody ever will.”

Sure thing Kenny. Typical Raider.

Anyway, there was also this:

Properly fortified, the group raced into Selma, where they visited Pitts’s house and drank some more beer. Then, with no real explanation, the group was off to a predominantly black social club in Selma. There were several rounds and some curious glances before it became apparent that the group was on a political mission. Pitts’s friend, Joe T. Smitherman, was running to regain his job as mayor. He had resigned in July of 1979 for personal reasons. But he figured he could get it back with some classic New South campaigning, including an appearance with an interracial group of football stars.

“I’m the one man who understands Southern politics,” Smitherman was soon telling the group. “As mayor, I ordered the arrest of Martin Luther King down here. I said, ‘Dr. King, don’t march.’ And he marched. So I had him arrested. And got 70 percent of the black vote in my next election. What you Yankees have to understand is that we’re not segregationists anymore. We’re populists.” A couple of the blacks fidgeted. Stabler rolled his eyes and muttered, “Henry’s done it again.”

The speeches were not an unqualified success. The audience cheered politely for the ballplayers, but fell ominously silent when Pitts tried an oratorical flourish of, “We in Selma have not merely overcome. We have conquered.” When Sistrunk followed at the mic, he was barely audible. “Speak up, we can’t year you,” somebody called. Sistrunk stared balefully across the room. “If you can’t hear me,” he said, “you can move in closer.” A chair squeaked and there were a few nervous giggles. Stabler said a few words himself but watched most of the proceedings from the bar. “A situation comedy,” he said.

That’s just great. I’m sure their presence and the ex-mayor gloating about not only overcoming but conquering was super welcome in a Selma black bar.

But that wasn’t the only connection to Selma in the news lately. Bonard Fowler, the cop who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, leading to the famous Selma march, died. Other than killing Jackson, he was also notable for killing other black people as a cop. Then he joined the military, went to Bangkok, and while there got busted for heroin trafficking. That my friends, is a life poorly lived.


[ 33 ] July 10, 2015 |

Imacon Color Scanner

It’s true enough as Adele Stan states that Andrew Jackson is actually the prototypical white American as opposed to some sort of freak from the past that not only we shouldn’t honor but is a complete foreigner to us today. In fact, his version of white supremacy still rides high in this country today.

So fine, we can’t shove Jackson onto modern conservatism entirely, especially with the Democrats continuing their awfully named Jefferson-Jackson dinner and your David Greenbergs of the world attacking anyone in the historical profession to the left of him, in this case those who say bad things about Old Hickory. But it’s still remarkable that Howard Phillips thought Jackson is the greatest president and Lincoln is the worst.

The Next Battle for the American Swastika

[ 173 ] July 10, 2015 |


Travis Waldron notes that a next likely battle over the Confederate flag is at the high school level, with so many southern schools adopting it as their team mascot.

Since the Charleston massacre, the debates have resumed in several school districts. A school board committee in Arkansas voted last month to phase out Southside High’s Rebels nickname and immediately end its use of “Dixie,” the Confederate anthem, as its fight song. In Alabama, complaints from some residents prompted a community meeting about Vestavia Hills High School’s Rebels moniker. Local media have raised questions about symbols and mascots in Iowa and California, and the superintendent at Kentucky’s Allen Central High School, which also uses the Rebels name, last month removed old logos and photos that featured the Confederate flag from websites for the school and state athletic association.

But in other places, there has been no discussion of Confederate symbols since the Charleston shootings. And there are no plans for change.

In Hurley, Virginia, a small town tucked into the state’s southwestern corner, Hurley High School uses Confederate symbolism more directly than schools where debates are taking place. Hurley’s teams, known as the Rebels, don a logo that features the Confederate flag waving from a sword. The school’s Facebook page shows football players running onto the field beneath the Confederate flag after bursting through a homecoming banner on which a hand-drawn version of the battle flag is the most prominent feature.

“Since all of this has come about, our community has stood behind the logo and the flag,” Hurley High principal Pamela Dotson told The Huffington Post this week, echoing comments she made first to the Bristol Herald Courier.

This can get pretty nasty too. Unlike a state, which will have some level of racial and ideological diversity, on the school district level you may have very little racial or ideological diversity at all. This is going to be outsiders coming in and telling us in rural Kentucky or Alabama that we can’t have our flag–and our school symbol.

These are necessary fights–the American swastika must be driven from public life–but it’s going to as ugly as you can imagine.

Basin and Range

[ 23 ] July 10, 2015 |


Good on Harry Reid to push so hard against the Cliven Bundys of his state and make his legacy protecting huge swaths of land from development. And good on his political skills for pushing it to the top of Obama’s land agenda, to the point where 700,000 acres will soon be named Basin and Range National Monument. And in these days of intensely partisan land conservation struggles, it is remarkable for its size and for the president’s willingness to go around the complex politics that most recent national monuments have undergone to slowly build some kind of local consensus around designation. That’s all about Harry Reid’s political career and his political acumen.

Obama did officially protect Basin and Range today, along with 300,000 acres at Berryessa Snow Mountain in California and the Waco mammoth site.

Malaysia: A Leader in Human Rights Once It Joined the TPP!

[ 8 ] July 10, 2015 |


It’s amazing the progress Malaysia has shown in human rights ever since Obama decided the Trans Pacific Partnership was his top priority.

The United States is upgrading Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking centers, U.S. sources said on Wednesday, a move that could smooth the way for an ambitious U.S.-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries.

The upgrade to so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” status removes a potential barrier to President Barack Obama’s signature global trade deal.

A provision in a related trade bill passed by Congress last month barred from fast-tracked trade deals Malaysia and other countries that earn the worst U.S. human trafficking ranking in the eyes of the U.S. State Department.

I wonder if there has been any news out of Malaysia recently on its human trafficking problem?

Lawmakers are working on a compromise that would let Malaysia and other countries appearing on a U.S. black-list for human trafficking participate in fast-tracked trade deals if the administration verified that they have taken concrete steps to address the most important issues identified in the annual trafficking report.The graves were found in an area long known for the smuggling of Rohingya and local villagers reported seeing Rohingya in the area, but Malaysia’s Deputy Home (Interior) Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has said it was unclear whether those killed were illegal migrants. The discovery took place after the March cut-off for the U.S. report.

The State Department would have needed to show that Malaysia had neither fully complied with minimum anti-trafficking standards nor made significant efforts to do so to justify keeping Malaysia on Tier 3, which can lead to penalties such as the withholding of some assistance.

In its report last year, the State Department said Malaysia had reported 89 human-trafficking investigations in the 12 months to March 2014, down from 190 the previous year, and nine convictions compared with 21 the previous year.

In the latest year to March, Malaysia’s conviction rate is believed to have fallen further, according to human-rights advocates, despite a rise in the number of investigations. That reinforced speculation Malaysia would remain on Tier 3.

“If true, this manipulation of Malaysia’s ranking in the State Department’s 2015 TIP report would be a perversion of the trafficking list and undermine both the integrity of this important report as well as the very difficult task of confronting states about human trafficking,” said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who had pushed to bar Tier 3 countries from inclusion in the trade pact.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said he was “stunned” by the upgrade.

“They have done very little to improve the protection from abuse that migrant workers face,” he said. “This would seem to be some sort of political reward from the United States and I would urge the U.S. Congress to look long and hard at who was making the decisions on such an upgrade.” Malaysia has an estimated 2 million illegal migrant laborers, many of whom work in conditions of forced labor under employers and recruitment companies in sectors ranging from electronics to palm oil to domestic service.

Malaysia has done all it needed to do–become important to Obama’s trade agenda. At this point, it can use all the slave labor it wants, knowing Obama will do nothing. Promoting pharmaceutical companies’ rights for long monopolies over profitable medicines and allowing corporations to sue nations for raising their minimum wage or implementing new pollution controls is far more important than the human rights of migrant laborers in southeast Asia for this administration.

The Despair of Climate Scientists

[ 141 ] July 10, 2015 |


If I were a climate scientist, the despair I would feel about the future of the planet would make it difficult to live. It’s bad enough reading about climate science. And the scientists here who are making claims that “we can do this and save ourselves!” are stating opinions that really sound pretty distant from where their own science leads them. If “we can do this!” includes 100 million refugees in Bangladesh as a starting point, we aren’t really doing well. And as for comparisons between the sudden shift in gay marriage and a possible sudden shift in doing something about climate, they are cheap, easy, and disconnected from reality since a) fighting climate change means taking on huge corporations and gay marriage does not and b) gay marriage is a freedom issue and that has a particular appeal to Americans while climate change does not.

Films With All the Dialogue by White Characters Taken Out…

[ 21 ] July 9, 2015 |

….are very, very short.

Obama’s Workplace Safety Record

[ 24 ] July 9, 2015 |


Elias Isquith has a Q&A with Jamie Smith Hopkins and Jim Morrison from the Center for Public Integrity, which has released a new series of reports on workplace safety in the United States. They have pretty harsh words for President Obama:

Were you surprised to hear David Michaels, the head of OSHA, speak so frankly to his agency’s lack of capability? That isn’t something you hear from government officials especially often, regardless of whether it’s true.

JM: I found that striking. They’ve actually been saying that for several years. In 2013, OSHA put out a press release saying as much. They said that our limits don’t protect workers in the vast majority of cases. I’ve told Jamie and my co-workers that I can’t recall another federal agency publicly saying, Sorry, but we really can’t do a whole lot. You are on your own. That’s pretty much what OSHA has been saying for a couple of years. It’s amazing.

JSH: What they’re arguing is not that they don’t want to do anything, but that they’ve been hemmed in by core decisions and other things that prevent them from issuing rules in a timely fashion. Rules do get put out, but very slowly.

People assume Democratic presidents are more pro-regulation than Republican ones. Has that proven to be the case during the Obama years?

JSH: There has been one health rule that has been put out during the Obama administration. Certainly when you compare it to 20 or 30 years ago.

JM: Simply put, the Obama administration really isn’t any better or much better than the Bush [administration]. It’s not a good record.

No it’s not. Now, one issue is of course OSHA funding. And while Obama has not made this, or workplace safety generally, a high priority, certainly Congress holds no small amount of fault here. Still, the Obama administration could do a lot more through reorienting OSHA toward more efficient ways of dealing with risks on the job and through executive orders. The only president who ever really valued OSHA to the point of making it a political priority was Jimmy Carter. And that’s too bad. One would have hoped that an event like the West, Texas factory explosion would have put a jolt into American politics that we need to take safety and health more seriously, but it completely disappeared from the national conversation by the next news cycle.

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