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Category: General

Wingnuts Still Building Clubhouses with “NO STINKY LIEBERALS” Signs on Them but the “B’s” are Backwards So It’s Kind of Adorable

[ 120 ] August 15, 2014 |

Welcome to Reaganbook, which is a not a huge embarrassing failure at all.  Since wingnuts are making a conservative version of everything these days, I anxiously await the arrival of conservative tampons. Granted, I don’t expect their debut to be glitch-free because “Why Aren’t You Pregnant, Whore? God, Your Body Is Disgusting.” is hard to fit on a box. Also, it’s hell to do anything with, graphic design-wise.

Thanks to Origami Isopod for the links!

The Ferguson PD

[ 157 ] August 15, 2014 |

Ferguson’s police department is long noted for its violence and random beatings of innocent people. It would be a mistake however to single out this department as uniquely bad. It might be unusually bad. Or it might not be. But cops commit violence against innocent people, and especially innocent people of color, every day in this country. Ferguson is a lot closer to the norm than we want to believe. What makes it unique is that the citizens of the town finally decided to stand up to the police violence. More people need to take to the streets against the legalized violence they face from police.

See also for the effects of this violence on black families. And presumably Latino and Native American families in some areas. We shouldn’t forget that race in this nation is just black-white.

A follow up on Infilaw’s cyber-propaganda efforts

[ 81 ] August 14, 2014 |

Amusingly, the same Infilaw shills who posted dozens of messages on the Atlantic’s web site between 1-3 AM this morning, attempting to attack the facts and interpretations in my article immediately after it was posted, are now posting very similar messages on other sites linking to the piece. (Whether these people are Infilaw administrators or employees of the PR firm Infilaw hired to deal with the fallout from the article — and whom I dealt with during the fact-checking process — I don’t know.)

One particularly implausible claim being made by the one commenter who claims to be a FCSL administrator is that something like 70% to 80% of FCSL grads with LSAT scores below 145 pass the bar, despite the dismal bar passage rates of people with such LSAT scores in general (Until very recently there was very little data on bar passage rates for people with LSATs below 145 since it was nearly impossible to get into an ABA law school with such a score, but what data there were — largely from non-ABA-accredited California schools — indicated the chances of someone with a score below 145 passing the bar were slim). Remarkably, the school’s representatives failed to mention this supposed “fact” during the extensive back and forth between themselves and the Atlantic prior to the article’s publication. Another reason this claim is implausible is that, until the past couple of years, even the Infilaw schools admitted very few people with such rock-bottom scores. For example, in 2010 (the most recent entering class that has taken the bar) less than 5% of the students FCSL admitted had LSAT scores below 145. By contrast, last year 31% of their admits had scores below 145, and the median LSAT of the school’s matriculants ended up being 144. The figures for the other Infilaw schools are comparable.

In other words, around half of the students at Infilaw schools are now people with such weak credentials that they couldn’t even have gotten into an Infilaw school three years earlier. It’s doubtful that even turning the school into nothing but an extraordinarily expensive three-year bar review course is going to produce acceptable bar passage rates from these cohorts. But of course by then the tuition checks will have all been cashed.

Hacks of the Day

[ 125 ] August 14, 2014 |
  • Dylan Byers. What can you even say at this point?
  • Good point by Harold Pollock about the most offensive of Kevin Williamson’s recent offensive columns.  Even leaving aside the flagrant racism, the premise of the article is idiotic.  Yes, when Republicans were in charge of the state government East St. Louis was just like Paris!
  • Cary Nelson asserted last week that Steven Salita “had not received a contract.”  So the question is whether he was dissembling or pretending to know things he didn’t.  At any rate, what’s left of his argument is that retweeting someone’s metaphorical criticism of a pundit is a firable offense if it’s done to advance a political position Cary Nelson doesn’t like.  Whether this would leave any remaining content to the concept of “academic freedom” I leave to the reader.

The Old South Returns

[ 111 ] August 14, 2014 |

Chris McDaniel may be the most known example, but the Tea Party in the South has always been about the return of the post-Civil War race baiting white South to respectable politics. Who are the real ancestors of the Tea Party?

We often think of the typical segregationist politician of yore as a genteel member of the white upper crust. But the more common mode was the fiery populist. Names like Thomas E. Watson of Georgia, “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman of South Carolina and James K. Vardaman and Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi may be obscure outside the South, but for most anyone brought up here, they loom large.

In the early 20th century, these men rose on an agrarian revolt against Big Business and government corruption. They used that energy, in turn, to disenfranchise and segregate blacks, whose loyalty to the pro-business Republican Party made them targets of these racist reformers.

Their activities spawned a second wave of Southern Democratic populists, who defied federal court orders and civil rights legislation during the 1960s, even as more moderate politicians were moving on. Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, among others, portrayed himself as a tribune of the working class while championing segregation.

McDaniel and dozens of elected officials across the South are very much the descendants of not only Wallace and Faubus, but Tillman and Watson. So long as the government has the willpower to enforce minority voting, they will be eventually be repelled, but as the Supreme Court showed in gutting the Voting Rights Act last year, that willpower may well not be there at the court of final decision.

Fat Women on Film: It’s Getting Better Maybe? Mostly?

[ 63 ] August 14, 2014 |

Fat women are usually, well, nonexistent in mainstream TV and cinema, and when they do exist they’re usually existing as clowns or a villains. (Being a sassy best friend is also acceptable.) Which is why I found Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” so remarkable.

In both films, Melissa McCarthy plays a woman who is professionally and romantically successful. In “Bridesmaids,” it’s evident from the start that Megan is all set, career-wise. But she’s obviously looking for love (or at least sex) and a friendship with Annie. And she’s successful at winning both. As I said in a previous entry, the focus was on Megan’s awkward lovability, not on her weight.  

The same goes for “The Heat,” where it’s clear that McCarthy’s character loves her job and has no problems in the boudoir. Here, again,  the focus is on Shannon’s –dogged, questionable-tactics-using–pursuit of the bad guys and her burgeoning friendship with FBI agent, Sarah, not her weight.

Louis CK’s show did the opposite–the introduction of a fat woman to the show was all about her being fat.  Counter-intuitvely, the episode worked–it was mostly funny and poignant, a tough and tender look at what it’s like to be fat and female. HOWEVER. I had one problem with Vanessa: It’s that she maybe probably kinda sexually harassed Louis. I’m not sure how else to put it. She repeatedly made romantic overtures towards a man who clearly wasn’t interested. Now, in the end, he seemed moderately interested, but until then, watching Vanessa (charmingly) throw herself at Louis was painful to watch. Not for the reason you think–I’m perfectly ok with a woman experiencing rejection. I’m less ok with women exhibiting behaviors we would probably call out in men. It’s for similar reasons I was mildly uncomfortable with Megan’s overtures towards the air marshall in “Bridesmaids,” but because that was played in such an over-the-top, humorous way, I was able to better deal with the discomfort.

These issues aside, I’m glad to see fat women on the screen. Better still, they’re fat women who are characters, not caricatures.

Even Mississippi Has Sold Out to the Liberal Conspiracy That the Civil War Was About Slavery

[ 87 ] August 14, 2014 |

And they say the South won’t rise again. Pshaw:

About 35 demonstrators carried Confederate battle flags Saturday morning through parts of Oxford, where university officials have decided to rename some campus streets and cut back on using the “Ole Miss” nickname.

Some say the nickname originated as a term used by slaves to refer to plantation owners’ wives, and university officials plan to limit its use to sports and spirit activities rather than academics.

But the protesters say the university should honor its Confederate heritage instead of obscuring it.

“How can you take a Confederate school built by Confederates in a Confederate state and say you’re not Confederate?” said Debbie Sible, who helped organize the protest. “It’s like my dog trying to dress up my cat.”

Sible, whose two sons attend the university, said the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, which she insisted had little to do with slavery.

“People in the South should be proud,” she said. “They should be so proud if they knew the type [of] men that were in the Confederacy, and we haven’t seen men like them since probably the Spartans in the 300 –phenomenal, and our people grow up and our kids [are] ashamed, not knowing the truth.”

Wolverines! Or Sparta! Or something, I watched a crappy movie on AMC (and I loved the Dr. Pepper commercials showing how women can’t handle my beverage! Now pass me the Doritos, woman) with a bunch of tough looking dudes killing people and fantasize that was my ancestors. And as for your dog trying to dress up your cat, you might as well that’s like my white daughter having sex with a black man. Unpossible!

In all seriousness of course, the discussion of “people in the South” being Confederates sort of kind of ignores the 4 million slaves who were also people in the South. I mean, assuming that blacks are people, which I think it’s pretty unlike Sible believes.

The Uberization of the Democratic Party

[ 76 ] August 14, 2014 |

Unlike most of my colleagues here at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, I do a lot of work within the Democratic Party – not just working to try to get my candidate elected in a primary or getting the nominated/endorsed Democrat elected in the general, but day-to-day Party Central Committee work and serving as a Convention delegate. The upside of doing this work is that you can push the Democratic Party from the inside by influencing endorsements, platforms, and elected officers and caucus officers; the downside is that you get on every fundraising email list ever.

Sometimes that’s a good thing, because I get emails like this one:

Hey Steven, question for you. Ever taken an Uber or a Lyft to get where you’re going? How about Airbnb – have you used it to book yourself a room?

You’re not alone if you haven’t, and some of you may not have even heard of these. But trust me – they’re just the tip of the iceberg in what’s known as the “sharing economy.”

For the uninitiated, here’s the basic idea: you’re connected through your computer or mobile device to someone offering a service, whether that’s a ride to work or someone to pick up your clothes at the cleaner.

Money generally changes hands through the app itself. Customers are served, and more importantly workers are given the chance to make a little – sometimes a lot – of extra money.

It isn’t perfect, but it’s taking hold. And it’s an example of how quickly the way we do business is changing thanks to the unprecedented interconnection we enjoy through the internet and our mobile devices.

It’s also a lesson for government leaders at all levels. Because sometimes, we simply aren’t keeping up. Rather than supporting these new and innovative technologies, too often we just get in the way.

 Given my well-established issues with Uber, I’d say this is a failure as far as targeted marketing goes. However, for a jumping-off point for a discussion about the links between the Silicon Valley “sharing economy” and future conflicts within the Democratic Party, it’s excellent.

Read more…

Who Are Minimum Wage Workers?

[ 5 ] August 14, 2014 |

Good run-down:

What’s the breakdown of those being paid the minimum wage by age? In particular, how many are teenagers or in their early 20s?

Of the 3.3 million minimum-wage workers in 2013, about one-quarter were between the ages of 16-19, another one-quarter were between the ages of 20-24, and half were over the age of 25.

What’s the breakdown of those being paid the minimum wage by full-time and part-time work status?

Of the 3.3 million minimum-wage workers in 2013, 1.2 million were full-time, and 2.1 million were part-time–that is, roughly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are part-time.

What’s the breakdown of those being paid the minimum wage across regions?

For the country as a whole, remember, 4.3% of those being paid hourly wages get the minimum wage or less. If the states are divided into nine regions the share of hourly-paid workers getting the minimum wage in each region varies like this: New England, 3.3%; Middle Atlantic, 4.8%; East North Central, 4.3%, West North Central, 4.6%; South Atlantic, 5.1%; East South Central, 6.3%; West South Central, 6.3%; Mountain, 3.9%; Pacific, 1.5%.

The BLS has state-by-state figures, too. There are two main reasons for the variation. Average wages can vary considerably across states, and in areas with lower wages, more workers end up with the minimum wage. In addition, 23 states have their own minimum wage that is set above the federal level. In those state, fewer workers (with exceptions often made in certain categories like food service workers who get tips) are paid below the federal minimum wage. It’s an interesting political dynamic that many of those who favor a higher federal minimum wage are living in states where the minimum wage is above the federal level; in effect, they are advocating that states who have not adopted the minimum wage policy preferred in their own state be required to do so.

The reality is that just as fast food workers are saying, their struggle is not just for a few more cents or dollars, but is in fact a civil rights struggle, as so many of these workers are people of color denied access to higher level jobs. As they begin to use the more in your face tactics of the civil rights movement like civil disobedience, which the more activist workers are pushing for, this will become an increasing part of the fast food workers movement, such a central group in the larger minimum wage struggle.

The Militarized Police

[ 57 ] August 14, 2014 |

Serwer puts Ferguson in context:

These heavily armed men are part of a more recent tradition: the militarization of American police. They are, like domestic surveillance, weapons built to fight a faraway war turned homeward. Hands-up is how black people survive nonviolent protest in the era of what author Radley Balko calls the “warrior cop.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion in military equipment to local and state police through the 1033 program, first enacted in 1996 at the height of the so-called War on Drugs. The Department of Justice, according to the ACLU, “plays an important role in the militarization of the police” through its grant programs. It’s not that individual police officers are bad people – it’s that shifts in the American culture of policing encourages officers to ”think of the people they serve as enemies.”

Since 2001, the Department of Homeland Security has encouraged further militarization of police through federal funds for “terrorism prevention.” The armored vehicles, assault weapons, and body armor borne by the police in Ferguson are the fruit of turning police into soldiers. Training materials obtained by the ACLU encourage departments to “build the right mind-set in your troops” in order to thwart “terrorist plans to massacre our schoolchildren.” It is possible that, since 9/11, police militarization has massacred more American schoolchildren than any al-Qaida terrorist.

And this is only one critical component of the story; definitely read the whole thing.

The Infilaw bust out and American higher education

[ 90 ] August 14, 2014 |

I have a piece in the September issue of the Atlantic on for-profit law schools, and what their predatory behavior has to tell us about the increasingly market-driven structure of higher ed in America generally. (While it’s true that the financing of higher education in this country has become a particularly distorted and dysfunctional market, it’s also important to keep in mind that advocates of market solutions to social problems are especially prone to no true Scotsman fallacies).

Across the ideological spectrum, it is almost universally assumed that more and better education will function as a panacea for un- and underemployment, slow economic growth, and increasingly radical wealth disparities. Hence the broad support among liberal, moderate, and conservative politicians alike for the goal of constantly increasing the percentage of the American population that goes to college. Behind that support seems to lurk an inchoate faith—one that is absurd when articulated clearly, which is why it almost never is—that higher education will eventually make everyone middle-class.

That faith helps explain many economic features of American higher education, such as the extraordinarily inefficient structure of federal loan programs, the non-dischargeable status of student debt, and the way in which rising college costs that have far outstripped inflation for decades are treated as a law of nature rather than a product of political choices.

This past April, the Congressional Budget Office projected that Americans will incur nearly $1.3 trillion in student debt over the next 11 years. That figure is in addition to the more than $1 trillion of such debt that remains outstanding today. This is the inevitable consequence of an interwoven set of largely unchallenged assumptions: the idea that a college degree—and increasingly, thanks to rampant credential inflation, a graduate degree—should serve as a kind of minimum entrance requirement into the shrinking American middle class; the widespread belief that educational debt is always “good” debt; the related belief that the higher earnings of degreed workers are wholly caused by higher education, as opposed to being significantly correlated with it; the presumption that unlimited federal loan money should finance these beliefs; and the quiet acceptance of the reckless spending within the academy that all this money has entailed. These assumptions enabled InfiLaw’s lucrative foray into the world of for-profit education. But they have just as surely shaped the behavior of nonprofit colleges and universities.

The result is a system that has produced an entire generation of overcredentialed, underemployed, and deeply indebted young people. Just as the law school reform movement has exposed the extent to which law schools have overpromised and underperformed, similar reform movements are calling into question the American faith in higher education in general, and all its extravagant promises regarding the supposed relationship between more (and more expensive) education and increased social mobility.

Dying for Being Black

[ 73 ] August 14, 2014 |

Among the many things we need to learn from what is happening in Ferguson is that while major protests are rare, cops kill black people for no reason all the time. Like this guy:

Contrasting pictures emerged Wednesday of a Daily Press employee who died Tuesday night in the custody of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies after being stunned with a taser multiple times.

Family and co-workers of Dante Parker, 36, said the Victorville resident was a hard-working, well-liked pressman with a good sense of humor who loved to sing on the job. They said he took good care of his family and had been riding his bicycle for years to lose weight.

Parker’s cousin, Ge’shun Harris, told the Daily Press in an email that Parker leaves behind a wife and five children: Four girls ranging in age from 8 to 19 and a 5-year-old boy.

“My cousin was a good man, and that’s hard to do when you’re born into the streets of L.A. County,” Harris said. “(He) worked hard and took care of his kids and his wife. He would have been 37 (on Thursday). He would always tell me to keep working hard so we can … get our family out of L.A. My cousin was a good (man) who was born into a terrible place but didn’t let that stop him.”

But the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a detailed Wednesday press release that Parker was considered a suspect in the attempted burglary of a house in the 13000 block of Bucknell Court. A deputy from the Victorville Station stopped Parker while he was riding his bicycle on Luna Road in Victorville around 5 p.m. after the reported breaking-and-entering attempt. The resident who called deputies had told them the suspect fled on a bicycle.

Parker’s co-workers said he had stopped drinking earlier this year and had been trying to lose weight for years after his doctor told him he was at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Tuesday was one of his regular days off.

“He had been trying to lose weight,” Daily Press pressman Ronald Bantug said. “He asked me how to do it and I told him to get on a bike. He had been riding his bike for years with his wife or one of his kids; he lived (around Luna Road) and would always ride in that area. He’d do jumping jacks on breaks out by the freeway or run laps around the building.”

How dare a black man exercise. Obviously, a large black man engaging in physical activity means he is a criminal and must be tased with extreme prejudice.

Ferguson is America.

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