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Higher Education Shock Doctrine

[ 262 ] March 13, 2013 |

The education capitalists have a great plan. We starve the universities by reducing their state funding so much that students can’t easily graduate in 4 years. Then we get our lackeys in the state legislature to pass a law forcing schools to accept online classes as credit. That opens up the possibility for gigantic MOOCs that has two benefits. First, we can cut state education funding even more. Second, we can make a ridiculous amount of money through the continued privatization of education. We then get our useful idiot Thomas Friedman to pretend that his friends at Harvard are great teachers and thus deserve to teach these MOOCs. Then we can lay off all the professors, although we’ll still have to find a way to continue hiring university VPs at six figure salaries.

I mean, there won’t actually be jobs for any university graduates. And they won’t have actually learned anything. But what do we care? We just made $50,000 in the last 4 years off each student!

The Malaysian Government Got Played for Suckers

[ 44 ] March 12, 2013 |

Why actually pay conservative hacks to write propaganda for your anti-democratic government. All you have to do is ask and they are evidently happy to do so for free. As Ben Shapiro and others did in a series of fluff pieces for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Shapiro and his ilk claim no money changed hands. Maybe not, but it should have for this level of propaganda.

The Little Brown One

[ 42 ] March 12, 2013 |

And so begins the fourth generation:

George P. Bush, the eldest son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush and nephew of former president George W. Bush, is running for Texas land commissioner in 2014.

Bush had already announced that he intended to run for statewide office. The 36-year-old lawyer and Naval Reserve lawyer has been raising money across the state. But there was some speculation that he would challenge Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary.

The co-founder of the political action committee Hispanic Republicans of Texas, Bush is among those arguing that the GOP can reach out to Latino voters with new faces, not a new party doctrine.

This is one of the most powerful offices in the state and has long been seen as a stepping stone to a greater political career. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the inevitable George P. Bush 2028 presidential run.

Food Faddism

[ 259 ] March 12, 2013 |

If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s food faddism. The history of full of weirdness, from John Harvey Kellogg’s yogurt enemas that placed yogurt cultures in our mouths and rectums at the exact same time to Sylvester Graham’s graham crackers, created so we wouldn’t eat meat and milk and get all hot and bothered and start masturbating.

We (or at least my students) laugh at all this. But are we any different today with our nutty diets? Not really.

Luckily, there are at least some people pushing back against this. Here’s a discussion of the new Marlene Zuk book exposing the absurdity of the paleo diet. The paleo diet falls under the overarching theme of recent American dieting, which can be summarized as “I want to eat as much meat as possible and will look for any justification to do so.” And do whatever you want, but it’d be nice to avoid the absurd discussions about what our distant ancestors did or did not eat.

Zuk detects an unspoken, barely formed assumption that humanity essentially stopped evolving in the Stone Age and that our bodies are “stuck” in a state that was perfectly adapted to survive in the paleolithic environment. Sometimes you hear that the intervention of “culture” has halted the process of natural selection. This, “Paleofantasy” points out, flies in the face of facts. Living things are always and continuously in the process of adapting to the changing conditions of their environment, and the emergence of lactase persistence indicates that culture (in this case, the practice of keeping livestock for meat and hides) simply becomes another one of those conditions.

For this reason, generalizations about the typical hunter-gatherer lifestyle are spurious; it doesn’t exist. With respect to what people ate (especially how much meat), the only safe assumption was “whatever they could get,” something that to this day varies greatly depending on where they live. Recently, researchers discovered evidence that people in Europe were grinding and cooking grain (a paleo-diet bugaboo) as far back as 30,000 years ago, even if they weren’t actually cultivating it. “A strong body of evidence,” Zuk writes, “points to many changes in our genome since humans spread across the planet and developed agriculture, making it difficult at best to point to a single way of eating to which we were, and remain, best suited.”

But what is evidence in the face of food faddism?

And of course there’s the gluten-free insanity. While celiac disease is a real thing that affects about 1% of the population, the fact that 1/3 of the American public is trying to shun gluten is insane. There is zero evidence that most of these people need to do this. Anecdotally, it definitely feels that a good number of people I have met who are avoiding gluten are, how shall we say, lifestyle experimenters more broadly. More broadly, I think this relates to the paleo diet in the context of how dieting has gone over the past 15 years–again, avoiding grains and eating meat. What makes gluten-free different is the theoretical health benefits as opposed to the I want to eat a steak every night blunt honesty of the paleo dieters.

Obviously, the answer to proper eating is to be healthy and exercise. One can choose whether or not to eat meat for any number of reasons. I was a vegetarian for about 10 years but couldn’t call myself that now, although I have never cooked meat and don’t really plan to. We can have that debate. But it’s remarkable how resilient magic diets are for Americans (and possibly those of other countries, but I can’t much speak to that). They all pretty much defy common sense.

All I can do is eat more wheat and drink more beer. Both of which I intend to do.

PC: I recommend Barry Glassner’s The Gospel of Food on this topic.

[SL]: Related: “I personally feel that it’s unlikely that the richest 1% of humans on earth all suddenly and simultaneously developed allergies to every single common food…”

Anarchism: Illegal in Oklahoma

[ 163 ] March 11, 2013 |

Discovered by @megmantis, this Oklahoma law, enacted in 1919 and amended as late as 1999:

Any person in this state, who shall carry or cause to be carried, or publicly display any red flag or other emblem or banner, indicating disloyalty to the Government of the United States or a belief in anarchy or other political doctrines or beliefs, whose objects are either the disruption or destruction of organized government, or the defiance of the laws of the United States or of the State of Oklahoma, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment in the Penitentiary of the State of Oklahoma for a term not exceeding ten (10) years, or by a fine not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or by both such imprisonment and fine.

I mean, my disdain for anarchists has no floor, but making carrying a pro-anarchist flag a state offense? Wow. I know this is a Red Scare law, not atypical for the country. And I don’t know how many other states might still have something like this on the books. But updated in 1999? Again, wow. Moreover, who doubts many lawmakers in the state of Oklahoma would happily use a statute like this against, say, Occupy Wall Street protestors who might make vague statements about anarchy?


Predictable Outcomes

[ 36 ] March 11, 2013 |

Meet the American Enterprise Institute’s hot new hire–Joe Lieberman!

[SL]: Nobody could have seen this coming!


[ 347 ] March 11, 2013 |

Adele Stan with a serious takedown of the obnoxious, overrated, and generally awful David Sirota, who attacked her with a typically aggressive, sloppy, and falsifying column when she questioned progressives who ignored all the terrible things Rand Paul stands for to support his grandstanding and almost meaningless filibuster over extrajudicial killings, even though his stand was in fact completely related to all those terrible things.

Sirota is the typical brogressive, as Stan and Megan Carpentier call them–hypermasculinized self-described progressive men like Greenwald who trivialize any concern outside of their own definition of what is important and then taunt everyone who disagrees with their tactics as apologists for killing Yemeni babies, falsifies their arguments, papers over nuance in favor of denunciation, and generally channels sexist and misogynistic values of shouting and exclusion over debate and inclusion.

As Stan says, “So much easier than organizing!” Indeed.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

[ 18 ] March 11, 2013 |

I agree with Dean Baker that the 7.7% unemployment rate is likely a blip that will rise right back up with the cascading impact of the sequester and continued decline in public sector work. Not to mention other fundamental issues such as people simply leaving the workforce, the rising debt crisis combined with a lack of jobs for recent graduates, and other long-term problems with our economic system that no Republicans and only a minority of leading Democrats are really willing to face or even talk about.

The Wages of Sequestration

[ 127 ] March 11, 2013 |

Most of us might not see the direct impact of the sequester on our lives yet. But for those reliant on the federal government, it’s already hurting bad. The Post has a good piece on how Yellowstone National Park is adapting. The answer is that it’s tough. Faced with a number of terrible choices, Yellowstone administrators have decided not to plow the roads, thus delaying the general opening of the park by at least 2 weeks. That means a lot less tourist dollars for the surrounding communities reliant upon Yellowstone for their survival.

The real crux of the article though is exposing the utter hypocrisy of people who rail on the federal government, yet completely rely on that the same government for survival. The basic attitude–cut waste, but I demand every dollar I have ever received! This hypocrisy is most stark in the American West. Home of the Sagebrush Rebellion, Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan, rural Westerners have long combined talk about government waste with demands for expensive water projects, road building programs, tourist infrastructure, and ensuring that the Mining Act of 1872 not be repealed. It’s the classic “Get the government out of my Medicare” scenario.

We really see this in Yellowstone. Turns out that mandated budget cuts force hard decisions. Who knew! So the local politicians and business owners are furious, while at the same time continue to talk about government waste. Well folks, eventually the “government waste” is you and the programs that you need to survive. I know we have this image of bloated bureaucrats in Washington, but that’s not based in reality. It’s you. You are the big government waste.

Of course, I don’t believe these people are big government waste. I think we should expand the National Park Service and give it a ton of funding. But if you talk about how much you hate big government and you receive government subsidies, whether direct or indirect, then you are the big government you hate. And the austerity you champion comes out of your paycheck.

On the other hand, I guess closing Yellowstone entirely next winter, a very real possibility, means a closure to the endless snowmobile debates that have riven park politics for 2 decades.

Racist Sexist Gun Nut Thuggery

[ 216 ] March 9, 2013 |

As a white male, being attacked by the hate-spewing mouthbreathers of the internet gun lobby was horrible. Were I a black woman like Zerlina Maxwell who rejected the ludicrous notion that women should be responsible for preventing their own rapes by carrying a gun, the awfulness would have been magnified 100-fold.

The Ten Commandments

[ 7 ] March 8, 2013 |

The Ten Commandments of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, submitted to The Carpenter by John Quinn of Local 714 in Queens, 1915.

1. Thou shalt be a union carpenter, a member of the U.B. (United Brotherhood)
2. Thou shalt not belong to any other organizations.
3. Thou shalt keep whole the Saturday half-holiday and all other holidays.
4. Honor and respect thy officers.
5. Thou shalt not become “boisterous” in the meetings of thy local union and want to lick anyone who may disagree with thy opinions.
6. Thou shalt not commit offenses against the laws of the U.B.
7. Thou shalt not steal from the boss. Show him it pays to employ U.B. members.
8. Thou shalt be charitable toward fellow members. Thou shalt not try to gain favor with the foreman by pointing out their shortcomings. Thou shalt not be a “boss’s stool pigeon” for in his heart he shall despise thee.
9. Thou shalt not be envious of they fellow member if he should happen to be working while thou art on the sidewalk. He may need the money as much as thyself.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy fellow member’s good fortune, and if he should happen to own his own little home he may have scraped all his life for the few dollars he has in that home, and will keep on scratching the remainder of his days paying the interest on the mortgage.

This definitely reflects the starkly not radical philosophy of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Regardless of that, it’s kind of cool.

Singapore: The Newport of the New Gilded Age

[ 151 ] March 8, 2013 |


What’s more, the new nouveau riche are openly comparing today’s Singapore to the Gilded Age:

But Ault, who moved to Singapore three years ago, says he “no longer feels the magic” in Gotham, which still bears the scars of a financial crisis that knocked the wind out of much of its most extravagant party culture. Singapore, he says, is another matter. This is where he says the rich feel, well, rich, and unusually secure. And where they seem to know only one common language, the language of excess—all too shamelessly displayed in his club.

“One night, there were these kids here—literally kids in their 20s—who all had their own private jets,” Ault recalls during another meeting, on a Thursday morning, leaning back on a leather couch in his club wearing bright-blue fuzzy slippers embroidered with a pink skull. “Serious jets, too. There was an A380 which was converted to include a pool and basketball court—it was ridiculous.”

“What I see here is what I imagined must have happened in the U.S. in the 1880s, in the Gilded Age, when it first took over England in terms of wealth,” he says. “It is truly shocking how much wealth there is—and how willing people are to spend it.”

If our plutocrats are going to reinvent the Gilded Age, maybe it’s time we common people reinvented some old school forms of protest.

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