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Category: General

The Incredible Shrinking Strong Female Character ™

[ 60 ] June 19, 2014 |

Tasha Robinson writes a wonderfully comprehensive article about doing more than paying lip service to the idea of creating Strong Female Characters™. Great read.

It’s Still the Party of Yoo and Cheney

[ 115 ] June 19, 2014 |


I’m hung up on a different point: Why are so many conservatives so married to the idea that detention or military justice is the right answer here? Every time we capture a terrorist suspect now, prominent conservatives knees immediately jerk to disparage the criminal justice option and insist that the suspect go to Guantanamo.

And answered:

The conservatives Wittes is writing about believe that Abu Katalla should be subjected to torture — they’re just not willing to say so openly.

Horace Silver, RIP

[ 13 ] June 18, 2014 |

The great jazz pianist has died at the age of 85.

Ongoing Notes On the Death of Parody

[ 84 ] June 18, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim Dick and Liz Cheney: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

If he were talking about his own administration, it would even be accurate! I look forward to Michael Brown’s critique of the Obama administration’s disaster management policies.

Cheney in 2002:

As for the reaction of the Arab “street,” the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are “sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.” Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

Oh-oh Spaghetti-Os!

Prison Labor Can Do All The Work

[ 138 ] June 18, 2014 |

In yesterday’s post on prison labor and cheese making, Happy Jack left this amazing powerpoint presentation by Colorado Correctional Industries, the private prison mafia. Entitled, “Motivating Prisoners to Become Business Partners,” you can see all the great work you can get prison labor to do for 60 cents a day. You can have them make furniture for the governor’s office (really John Hickenlooper? Really?). You can have them make bear proof trash cans. You can

And there are outstanding benefits for the prisoners. They get job training for work that is now done by prisoners, so that’s pretty helpful when they get out. The pool for bonuses in the Panel Shop is .007314% of the monthly revenue. That seven-thousandth of a percent is pretty generous.

In all seriousness, when I read this, I think of how so many of these industries were once union jobs. Or if they weren’t union, they probably at least paid OK. Now they are undercut by prison labor. I see some of the historically most exploitative industries like apparel and agriculture taking full advantage of this situation. I almost laugh at CCI marketing prisoners to farmers as a replacement for all too rare migrant laborers from Latin America. I think of the cost argument made by CCI to the taxpayers, when of course the real cost argument is not leading the developed world in imprisoning people, mostly for nonviolent crime. I think of the future of a nation increasingly committed to labor at near-slave conditions.

And of course there’s the fire fighting. If the workers die, it’s even less money the taxpayers to fork over. But if they live, CCI gets more profit. It’s such a dilemma! As for training wild horses, that just seems bloody dangerous for anyone. So why not make prisoners do it?

There is nothing about a document like this that should surprise you except that it’s readily available on the internet. This sort of exploitation is at the core of the 21st century economy and it contributes to lack of good, dignified labor in the United States.

Cheese dreams are made of these

[ 85 ] June 18, 2014 |

Last night, I dreamt I’d become a sensation on the Texas rabbinical circuit. I went from makeshift Texas synagogue to makeshift Texas synagogue — they refuse to build real synagogues in Texas, after all, so Jews there celebrate the Sabbath in sweltering temporary shelters — and all I did was call God a dick and invite people to argue otherwise. Because they were Jewish, they mightily obliged.

I blamed God for killing beloved pets and parents and the like, and people responded that He made Israel possible, that we wouldn’t be here without Him. I would say, “No, that’s Hitler you’re thinking of,” and they’d be even more upset. It was great fun.

Eventually, because it’s Texas, someone tried to assassinate me — Me! The most popular itinerant rabbi in Texas! — and my last thought was, “I hope they name some shit sinkhole of a kibbutz after me.”

Point being, that sharp horseradish cheddar I ate right before I went to bed last night? I’m absolutely doing that again.

Feel free to share the dream of yours most likely to be adapted by the Coen brothers in the comments. If you’re at a loss, I recommend eating some cheese and grabbing a nap.

The Hackiest Hack Who Ever Hacked

[ 96 ] June 18, 2014 |

Of course, as a coffee-drinking, bread-eating, chair-sitting urban elitist I would say this, but Dylan Byers’s attempt to run interference for the disgraceful Heritage panel is pathetic stuff. Byers has built a career out of pandering to wingnuts, only he’s not quite competent enough even to get the talking points right.

Union Environmentalism

[ 10 ] June 18, 2014 |

Let me recommend Trish Kahle’s Jacobin piece on the Miners for Democracy (1970s reformist United Mine Workers members) and the potential of energy workers embracing environmentalism. Brief excerpt:

Ultimately, the group of miners arguing for an energy workers union federation — or even a new union to represent all energy workers — were unsuccessful in transforming their union in that vision. This failure helped lead to the decline of the MFD, and along with it, the radical environmentalist vision they put forward.

The political space that had been opened up by the incredible levels of self-organization among rank and file miners allowed broad debate and agitation on issues like the environment. But as it became harder for workers to go on the offensive and the energy conglomerates continued to consolidate their power, miners found themselves fighting an increasingly uphill battle that left less and less room to fight for anything except survival.

Although they were some of the last workers to do so, the United Mine Workers did eventually face decline accompanied by the growth of conservatism. Today, rather than being seen as the vanguard of a movement to protect the land, miners are portrayed by many environmentalists as backwards, reactionary, and part of the problem.

I think this is pretty much correct for the UMWA, but in other industries, it wasn’t so much consolidation as it was capital mobility that undermined union environmentalism. The labor-green alliance she describes was not unique to the UMWA at the time. The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers were the pioneers here, but the International Woodworkers of America, International Association of Machinists, and United Steel Workers of America had pretty strong environmental records as well. She concludes by talking about union democracy as central to a labor environmentalism, but my own research on the IWA really doesn’t suggest this is necessary. For the IWA, it was the union leadership pushing the green message and the locals embraced it or didn’t depending on the issue. When there was rank and file resistance, it was against environmentalism, not for it. So in the case of the UMWA, the connection between union democracy and environmentalism was profound because it was so connected to the leadership’s indifference to workers dying of black lung and in accidents. But that’s very much not a universal thing.

Despite this quibble, this is an excellent article on the potential of energy workers embracing a green future, even if, understandably enough, how to get from Point A to Point B remains pretty hazy.

Are increases in law school and undergraduate tuition due to cuts in state funding for higher ed?

[ 94 ] June 18, 2014 |

It’s an article of faith among many progressives — see several comments in this thread for example — that the radical rise in tuition rates at public universities and law schools over the last few decades is in large part due to severe reductions in state aid to these institutions.

The actual numbers don’t support this belief: in fact they pretty much contradict it.

When reading what follows, I would ask readers who are enthusiastic supporters of public education in general, and public higher education in particular — as indeed I am — to imagine the arguments being made about supposed cuts to higher ed being applied to government spending they don’t like. In those contexts, I think, parallel claims that government spending on X or Y has been “slashed” would be considered transparently disingenuous by those who aren’t big fans of the military industrial complex, or farm subsidies, or tax breaks for SUV owners, or what have you.

As to the numbers themselves, I’ve found annual data on public university tuition and total state spending on higher ed going back to 1982. Here’s what they show: (Around two thirds of law students attend private institutions, or pay unsubsidized out of state tuition at public law schools, but for the purposes of argument I’ll accept the claim that rising resident tuition enables tuition increases at private schools).

Total state funding for higher education rose continually for the quarter century between 1982 and 2007, to the point where such funding was 55% higher, in constant dollars, at the end of that quarter century. This came as quite a surprise to me. I graduated from a public university in 1982, and have taught at another one since 1990, and for all of that time I’ve been hearing about the financial pressure put on public universities by cuts in state funding.

It turns out that university administrators and their publicity organs often use a rather special definition of what constitutes a “cut” in state funding for higher education, which they define as any relative decline in state tax revenues, relative to state spending overall. In this – and pretty much only this – sense, state funding for higher ed has “declined” over the course of the past several decades.

Now an alert reader will ask: shouldn’t the total level of state support for higher ed be adjusted for overall population growth? Yes it should – except the problem with this argument is that there weren’t more traditional college-age people in America in 2007 than there were in 1982, because in the early 1980s the tail end of the baby boom was passing through college.

It’s true that a much higher percentage of traditional college-age Americans are going to college now than in the early 1980s, to the point where by 2007, state subsidies per full-time equivalent public college and university student were only 10% higher than they had been in 1982 – but of course arguing that this means public support for higher ed rose only modestly during this time begs a bunch of crucial questions (Imagine arguing that military spending had “really” gone up by just 10%, because even though such spending was up by 55%, there were now 50% more people in the military).

It’s also true that state funding for higher ed declined sharply in the wake of the Great Recession, which put state budgets overall under tremendous stress, and that such funding is only now starting to recover. Total state funding for higher ed fell from $88.7 billion in 2007 to $72.2 billion in 2012, before beginning to climb again to $75.1 billion in 2013 (all figures are in 2013 dollars). This makes for a total increase in state funding for public colleges and universities between 1982 and 2013 of 32%, and no doubt the decline in such funding in the years immediately after the investment banks did a couple of trillion dollars of damage to the American economy played a role in tuition increases over the past five years.

But the vast majority of the increase in tuition at public universities in general, and public law schools in particular, has nothing to do with declines in state funding between 2008 and 2012, because the vast majority of that increase took place over the previous 25 years, when state support for higher ed was increasing sharply.

Average resident undergraduate tuition at public four-year institutions in 1982: $2,423 (2012$)
Average resident undergraduate tuition at public four-year institutions in 2007: $6,809 (2012$)
Average resident undergraduate tuition at public four-year institutions in 2012: $8,655

Average resident law school tuition at public law schools in 1985: $4,280 (2012$)
Average resident law school tuition at public law schools in 2007: $17,114 (2012$)
Average resident law school tuition at public law schools in 2012: $22,933

Public undergraduate tuition rose 181% in real terms between 1982 and 2007, while public law school tuition shot up an astounding 300% over this same period, even though, again, total state funding for higher education increased by 55% over this quarter century. (There were 74 public law schools in 1982, and 80 in 2007).

Total state funding for public higher education is not, of course, the same thing as total state funding for public law schools. Perhaps law schools have received a smaller proportionate share of the increases in state subsidies for higher ed over the past 30 years.

Nevertheless, the overall numbers here are so extreme that arguments to the effect that increases in public law school tuition are in any significant part due to cuts in state subsidies are surely wrong.

Applying the Law to Dan Snyder

[ 394 ] June 18, 2014 |


The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits the protection of offensive or disparaging language.

The U.S. PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued a ruling in the case, brought against the team by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, Wednesday morning.

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion.

“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release. “We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”

“But this denies Dan Snyder of his inalienable right to make maximum monopoly profits in the face of the clear language of the law! Political correctness! People who object to racial slurs are the real racists! We have another count to add to Andrew McCarthy’s endless impeachment laundry list!” — Pretty much every conservative in the United States over the next 24 hours

Trigger Warning: Brutal Stupidity

[ 111 ] June 18, 2014 |

Rebecca Cusey wishes you feminists would quit raping rapists with your hashtags.

Angelina Jolie wants us to talk about rape, but not in the Western-centric, man-blaming, feminist-professor way of the chattering classes.

She would like us to move beyond insular #YesAllWomen Twitter outrage to a global perspective with a broader, wiser understanding of the evils of human nature and the ability to overcome that evil with good.

Getting from Angelina Jolie made a movie about metaphorically surviving rape to “this hashtag offends me more than rape does” is a weird, convoluted little journey only a wingnut could make.

Also, I’m not sure Angelina Jolie wants fuck-all to do with Ms. Cusey’s bizarre little tantrum. I imagine what Angelina Jolie wants is for us to acknowledge that there are women who face egregious sexism and rape and who have even less agency than Western women. I doubt she wants to pit Western women against all other women. Then again, who knows? I can’t see into Jolie’s head or heart. For all know, she is an incredibly awful person who likes raisins and named her child “Shiloh.” Oh wait, she did that second thing.

Jolie says:

“We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence—that the shame is on the aggressor…We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes,” Jolie said. “I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged and institutions that protect us.”

This sounds like an extremely well-meaning but naive quote from Jolie. If Western women often have positive experiences reporting rape and abuse, it’s certainly not something that’s been well-documented. However, women having terrible experiences reporting rape/abuse/harassment has been rather well-documented. That being said, certainly most of us have far more agency than your average Somalian. But comparing ourselves favorably to Somalian women seems to me like setting an ankle-bruising bar. Surely we can do better.

Cusey mouthfarts:

In other words, Western women have what many women around the world do not: Tools to fight back. That’s hardly the word from the #YesAllWomen crowd.

Having tools and having good tools that actually work are two different things. I would argue that many Western women have been shortchanged in this area. It’s gonna be hard for me to fix a leaky pipe with this:

I could not find a tool kit for Barbie. But sexism is over, folks.

I leave you with an excellent comment I found Roy’s place, which nutshells this idiocy beautifully:

Pff, these jerky feminists, with their civilization that’s too advanced, smugly demanding there be no rape! Why don’t they ever tweet about how great it is to have universally noble cops and problem-solving rape kits?? Ungrateful bitches!

Look, Western civilization is perfect as is. But it’s also fragile. And if these bitches try to make it perfecter by reducing rape — angrily! — then we will topple, as we will have committed civilization’s gravest sin: Refusal to accept a certain amount of rape while tweeting heartfelt appreciation for how it could be worse.




UPDATE…another great comment from Matt:

By Ms. Cusey’s standard, does that mean the American Christianists should STFU about how “persecuted” they are, since there are other members of their religion being *killed* overseas? Or is the argument that being called a bigot after they go on a rant about how terrible “TEH GHEYZ” are somehow supposed to be worse than being killed?

Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda

[ 36 ] June 18, 2014 |



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