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Category: General

Sunday Links: Gay Camp Edition

[ 145 ] June 29, 2014 |
  • Just so you know, sweater-vested idiot Rick Santorum is still around contributing to his Google hits by continuing to exist stupidly.”Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) claimed during a radio interview this week that anti-gay marriage business owners are being sent to ‘re-education camps’ for refusing to serve gay customers.” Imagine my disappointment when I learned that Gay Camp is a.) not fabulous b.) not real. ANYHOO… “You now see situations with bakers and florists and photographers who are being forced to provide services for same-sex weddings or get fined, lose their business,” Santorum said during the appearance on the American Family Association’s “Focal Point” radio program on Monday. “In the case of Colorado, there was a Colorado case recently where someone had to go to a re-education camp if you will…” I won’t.  (Thanks to Origami Isopod for the link.)
  • I’m not quite sure how to talk about this next item, as I have decidedly mixed feelings about it. I mean, I love big cats. So I actually kinda understand where these idiots are coming from when they take–yep, it’s a real thing–”tiger selfies.” HOWEVER, as majestic and beautiful as big cats are, they are also huge, deadly killing machines. And taking pictures with cuddly killing machines just seems very very very inadvisable to me. The sad part is, if I were in the dating game, I’d probably be intrigued by a tiger selfie, if nothing else. bspencer is not helping… SHUT UP, BSPENCER.
  • I like PZ Meyers a whole lot, but I vehemently disagree with him here when he says that internet-famous-atheist-asshole thunderfoot “makes a good point.” Apparently, blunderfoot made a video in opposition to Anita Sarkeesian’s video discussing the way women are objectified in video games. blunderbutt counters her video by fake-whinging about how men are routinely portrayed as expendable victims of violence, a thing which is true, but really has nothing to do with the sexual objectification of women and is a stupid counter to her argument on its face. Yes, men are routinely portrayed as anonymous and dispensable. But if you think about this issue for more than say 5 seconds, you’ll understand why this is so. There are two reasons, really: 1.) the types of people who get killed in movies and video games where this is lots of violence and mayhem are usually guards, soldiers, ninjas, fighters, warriors, etc. etc.  Now, women have always been warriors and will always be warriors. (Just as there are women guards and soldiers and fighters…and ninjas, etc. etc.) But I think it’s fair to say that most of these types of folks have been–throughout history–men. This will change and should change, but as of now having men portray most of these “expendables” is probably…accurate. (This is not to say video games and movies should always strive for accuracy. I just don’t think it’s misandry that’s driving this phenomenon.) And, finally, 2.) the reason the body count for men is so high is same reason that men are the focal point of so many video games and movies–because they’re thought of as the default human. (I’d also argue that men are thought of as inherently more interesting and brave than women.) More often than not women don’t even get the chance to be expendable…because to be expendable we’d have to be existent first.

Moments in Congressional History

[ 40 ] June 29, 2014 |

I ran across former Speaker of the House Galusha Grow today. Hadn’t thought of him in awhile and remembered he is one of the great names in Congressional history. I read his Wikipedia page and was reminded of just how horrible Congress was in the 1850s, when the Democrats became a party of fireeating extremists:

During the 35th United States Congress, on February 5, 1858, he was physically attacked by Democrat Laurence M. Keitt in the House chambers, leading to a brawl between northerners and southerners. Keitt, offended by Grow having stepped over to his side of the House chamber, dismissively demanded that Grow sit down, calling him a “black Republican puppy”. Grow responded by telling Keitt that “No negro-driver shall crack his whip over me.” Keitt became enraged and went for Grow’s throat, shouting that he would “choke [him] for that”. A large brawl involving approximately 50 representatives erupted on the House floor, ending only when a missed punch from Rep. Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi. The embarrassed Barksdale accidentally replaced the wig backwards, causing both sides to erupt in spontaneous laughter.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Republicans start physically attacking Democrats on the floor of the House.

Stadium Ruins

[ 92 ] June 29, 2014 |

A surprisingly harsh and direct article by Juliet Macur in the Times on the complete idiocy of stadium building for the World Cup. A lot of these new stadiums not only cost a ton of money, but they weren’t even built in cities with functioning soccer teams that can even come close to filling them up. They are used for 5 or 6 games and then just left to rot. The stadiums cost billions of dollars in total in a poor nation. What a total waste of money.

Neither FIFA nor Brazil learned from the past. So many cities regret playing host to huge sporting events. Athens, for one, fell into debt after hosting the 2004 Olympics. Most of its once-sparkling athletic venues, including an arena just for taekwondo, are used sparingly at best and stand as reminders that holding the Summer Games in their birthplace sounded wonderful but wasn’t at all practical.

“What are we going to use this stadium for after the World Cup?” Marília Sueli Ferreira, who works at a stationery store in view of the Natal stadium, asked through an interpreter. “The World Cup is made for tourists, not for residents, and the tourists are going to disappear very soon.”

The tourists started leaving Natal after the last game here, on Tuesday.

The stadium will not regularly host tens of thousands of fans. This city of fewer than a million people in northeastern Brazil does not have a top-level soccer team, and its lower-level teams attract several thousand fans only on their biggest game days.

Without a guaranteed tenant, the stadium has a murky future. But it has company.

The stadiums in Manaus, surrounded by rain forest; Cuiabá, the soybean capital of Brazil, near Bolivia; and Brasília, the capital, are also expected to become World Cup white elephants because none of them have soccer teams that can consistently fill them. The four stadiums cost about $2 billion, most of it public money. (The human toll was also great, as nine workers died during the construction in Brazil.)

Already the stadiums from South Africa 2010 are ghost towns.

Last fall, I paid about $4 to tour Cape Town Stadium, which was built for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but had turned into a cavernous ghost town. Maybe 100 people a week buy tickets to get a close look at the Cup-generated waste. The space can be rented for weddings or other events, like the small fashion show that I saw there.

Suites that once held World Cup parties were dusty and silent. The state-of-the-art locker rooms, with tiny safes at each stall and rows of sinks to wash dirt off cleats, remained untouched. Thousands of tiny lights glistened from the ceiling of a V.I.P. entrance.

It’s no wonder that peoples are starting to reject holding mega sporting events
. Easier for FIFA to place the events in countries dominated by egocentric quasi-dictatorial leaders than democracies. Everyone is cool with the bribes in that set-up too.

The Great Divide

[ 106 ] June 29, 2014 |

Joseph Stiglitz is ending his The Great Divide series on the Times and in doing so notes that extreme economic inequality under capitalism is not inevitable, but rather a series of policy choices:

So why has America chosen these inequality-enhancing policies? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model. Without this international competition, we no longer had to show that our system could deliver for most of our citizens.

Ideology and interests combined nefariously. Some drew the wrong lesson from the collapse of the Soviet system. The pendulum swung from much too much government there to much too little here. Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself.

But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation.

My only critique here is that Stiglitz doesn’t talk about racism as part of the choice structure. After all, a lot of Americans chose against their own economic self-interest by committing to racial self-interest and voting for politicians promising to cut welfare so those big black bucks would stop driving up to the store in their Cadillac and buying t-bone steaks on food stamps. Of course, these same politicians were cutting jobs and government programs for whites too, but so long as it was played as a race thing, millions of Americans were OK with it.

The Beautiful People Open Thread

[ 158 ] June 28, 2014 |

In my last entry, a couple of commenters said they’d like to discuss looks: moving through the world as an attractive person, moving through the world as as an “ugly” person and transitioning from one status to another. So discuss.

(“Ugly” is in quotation marks because I don’t find many people ugly. “Ugly according to whom?” is always my question. And then I slit my eyes, accusingly.)

NHL Draft

[ 23 ] June 28, 2014 |

Presumably Scott has renounced the Flames in favor of the Buffalo Sabres.

The Worst Slippery Slope Argument Ever Made By Anyone Not Antonin Scalia

[ 241 ] June 27, 2014 |

The policy successes of the ACA has led to plenty of evasive maneuvers. Still, I think Kevin Williamson might have the very silliest:

Let’s assume that the Bay Area partisans are correct in their high estimation of the metropolis. What might we do with that information? Why not pass a law requiring everybody in the United States to live there? As with the Affordable Care Act’s approach to health insurance, we wouldn’t be forcing an inferior product on people; we’d be forcing them to drop their second-rate cities for something better. Sorry, Cleveland — you can’t keep your crappy city, so deal with it. There would be some great economies of scale at work, and there are well-known economic benefits associated with population density, which we’d have in spades with a population of 300 million. (Though if we define the Bay Area broadly, we’d still have a lower population density than Manhattan, on average.) We could drop altogether thousands and thousands of redundancies — of school districts, police departments, fire departments, planning and zoning codes, tax laws, city councils. The rest of the country could be turned into farmland or left to revert to wilderness. Think of the efficiency we could achieve.

One could point out the many differences between cities and health insurance markets — starting with the fact that every other liberal democracy in the world manages to provide decent minimum standard of health care to all while maintaining a healthy diversity of urban and rural living areas — but, really, why bother? The whole “you know how to build roads and police departments and sewer systems better than the gubmit so why should you pay taxes argument” is so stale and asinine rebuttal is superfluous.

I am, however, offended that having made a dumb cliched argument he didn’t go all the way:

Once we’ve decided where everybody should live, we can move on to the question of what they should eat.


Perhaps that’s not the way to go. We might consider the USDA’s thinking here, or the economic case for the “cheapest, most nutritious, most bountiful food in human history,” that being the McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

No, no, no, no. Everyone knows that when those USDA bureaucrats get their way Americans will be faced with the existential terror of bring forced to eat broccoli. It has already been established by the kind of people who believe that everyone having access to a doctor will crush the human spirit itself that if the federal government can address the free rider problem in health care insurance markets, nothing can stop it from addressing the, er, free rider problem in broccoli markets. What is the free rider problem in broccoli markets? Glad you asked! Uh…look, its Zombie Mancur Olson!

Anyway, NRO readers are supposed to pretend that having bad cheeseburgers with no exotic condiments like so-called “Dijon mustard” for every meal would be awesome, so the argument fails on its own terms. I ask you — would Jonah Goldberg make such a rookie mistake?

Women Who Obtain Abortions Don’t Expect To Be Treated Like A Fool No More

[ 48 ] June 27, 2014 |

I was impressed with Obvious Child.

This Day in Labor History: June 27, 1905

[ 123 ] June 27, 2014 |

On June 27, 1905, at a convention in Chicago, the Industrial Workers of the World was founded. The IWW would play a major role in the industrial warfare of the early twentieth century, scare the employer class, and capture the imaginations of late 20th century and early 21st century radicals.

The IWW had many roots. Socialists and anarchists looked to form a broad-based labor organization. The Western Federation of Miners, a radical union with strongholds in the Rocky Mountains, wanted to expand their form of industrial unionism nationwide. Radicals of various stripes came to Chicago in late June to form this union. Among them was WFM leader Big Bill Haywood, who would become the union’s leader, although it was always a decentralized organization, especially when compared to both the American Federation of Labor and its constituent unions that were quite top-down, even in this era. Eugene Debs, former head of the American Railway Union and socialist candidate for president attended. The legendary matron saint of the United Mine Workers, Mary “Mother” Jones was there. Socialist leader Daniel DeLeon played a major role. Lucy Parsons, leading anarchist, African-American pioneer in American radicalism, and widow of one of the Haymarket martyrs attended. Haywood was the clear leader of this motley crew. The radical western miner stated the goal of the IWW was to form “a working class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism.”

While most of the people at the convention were independent operators, representatives of small groups, or famous radicals, the most important constituency was the Western Federation of Miners, who had faced significant repression from mine owners throughout the Rockies and who had found out firsthand how bad the AFL was with industrial solidarity. The radicals controlling the WFM realized that only industrial unionism could fight the aggressive and repressive tactics of American corporations, which included martial law and the murder of union organizers. The WFM formed after the 1892 Coeur d’Alene strike, brutally repressed by the mine companies. This led to the belief among radical miners that only organizing throughout the West could bring the mine companies to heel. Taking this idea nationwide was the next logical step in 1905. In 1902, it named Haywood its Secretary-Treasurer, aligning it with the Socialist Party.

The IWW called for direct action, putting power in workers’ hands to make their own battle against capitalism. Ultimately, for many this might mean full workers’ control over the means of production or revolution, although in 1905 this was less clear. While Wobbly organizing could be pragmatic and its ideology flexible depending on the campaign (my own interpretation after a long time studying Wobblies in the Pacific Northwest forests is that they were really quite opportunistic and thus frequently contradicted themselves over time, a situation exacerbated by the union’s decentralized nature and multiplicity of voices), it became most known for its version of anarcho-syndicalism where workers would win power not through violent revolution but a general strike that would ground the economy to a halt and allow them to take over. Yet the IWW never defined itself as an anarcho-syndicalist organization, rather focusing on the One Big Union concept that focused on democratic control over the union rather than ideology. I’d argue that historians have overstated the importance of Wobbly ideology and understated the importance of pragmatic action; there is a significantly above zero chance this is the topic of my third book.

Outside of ideology, the IWW filled a necessary void in the American labor movement. Since the decline of the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor had come to define American unionism. The AFL genuinely represented the workers of its affiliate unions, but those workers saw themselves as working-class elites, white, male, Anglo-Saxons. They were uncomfortable with the changing American workforce (and larger society) that included millions of immigrants, women, children, African-Americans, and Asians. They also longed for an era of skilled labor in a society where mass production had taken over. This meant that the AFL and its constituent unions had little interest in organizing most American workers. Outside of a belief or lack thereof in radical Wobbly ideology, there was a huge demand for organization by millions of workers. The IWW had its limitations, but did more than anyone else to provide an avenue for American workers to attempt to improve their lives.

The IWW directly rejected craft unionism at its founding convention, noting:

The directory of unions of Chicago shows in 1903 a total of 56 different unions in the packing houses, divided up still more in 14 different national trades unions of the American Federation of Labor.

What a horrible example of an army divided against itself in the face of a strong combination of employers

Such a critique of craft unionism would continue among industrial unionists for decades.

The IWW got off to a pretty rocky start as many of the founding figures peeled off in the inevitable infighting and destructive focus on personalities that has always plagued the American Left and continues to do so today. By 1908, the Western Federation of Miners had left their national project behind as moderates gained control over that union and returned to the Rockies. Daniel DeLeon was expelled, trying briefly to operate an alternative One Big Union from Detroit. The reformist socialists split with the revolutionary socialists in 1906. Some of the radicals believed the union’s political goal should have focused on mobilizing a working-class vote; others felt American democracy worthless for workers to take part in. Yet the IWW slowly gained credibility with real workers, with it leading a silver mine strike in Goldfied, Nevada in 1906 and sawmill worker strike in Portland in 1907; the latter made the AFL realize what a real threat the Wobblies could be and it worked with employers to bust the strike. in 1908, the IWW reorganized and became a tighter organization, dedicated explicitly to organizing the industrial masses into the One Big Union and focusing on direct worker action to take control of the means of production.

Over the next 15 years, the IWW would go on to be involved in many of the era’s most important and famous labor conflicts, including at Paterson and Lawrence. Organizers like Frank Little and Joe Hill would be murdered. Police and corporations would take extra legal action against them at Bisbee and Everett. When they fought back, such at Centralia and Wheatland, they would be railroaded into prison and even lynched. The Red Scare made the IWW largely irrelevant by the 1920s, but part of that was also the Bolshevik Revolution. The success of a leftist movement overseas meant that most radicals became communists in the 1920s and 1930s and the IWW was an irrelevant rump of just a few workers scattered here and there.

The literature on the IWW is tremendously large. For an overview, I still recommend Melvyn Dubofsky’s 1969 book (there are more recent editions and an abridged edition as well) We Shall Be All, in no small part because too many writers for the IWW are openly cheerleading for them, even the professional historians, and Dubofsky does a good job of maintaining a more even treatment of their failures and successes.

This is the 111th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Today in Stupid

[ 237 ] June 26, 2014 |

Today’s winner in stupid punditry goes to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry for his piece about Vox and “the intellectual stagnation of the left.” I’m not even going to address the idea that Vox is somehow on the left, which it is only if our definition of left is “slightly left of center.” For conservatives who don’t pay attention to the actual left, it’s all pretty much the same. But what’s the problem with the modern left? We are so out of touch with our boring old ideas:

Meanwhile, two things are particularly striking about the current Democratic agenda. The first is that it’s so tired. Raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on high earners, tightening environmental regulation — these are all ideas from the ’60s. The second is that nobody on the left seems to be aware of it.

Oh, those liberals and their tired ideas like wages and the environment. BORING!!! The cool kids are totally into the extra fresh ideas of Herbert Hoover’s economic model, Gilded Age taxation structures, and belching smokestacks. And look, the conservative writers Gobry talks of as counter to the boring old Democrats are very, very forward looking:

A flurry of innovative young writers like Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, Tim Carney, and Avik Roy put out fresh, 21st-century ideas on everything from tax reform to health care to social mobility to poverty to curtailing the power of Big Business. Many of these ideas are now compiled in a seminal new book. And many of these ideas have been adopted by the most prominent GOP politicians and presidential candidates. Only with the right leader will the GOP truly embrace what’s been called reform conservatism, but it’s clear that the GOP is becoming the party of ideas again.

Totally the party of all the ideas! There’s Ross Douthat, longing for projecting his imagined view of 1950s gender and sexual relations onto the American people! And Reihan Salam promoting a permanent occupation of Iraq! Why, I bet these writers in this seminal book new also promote such cutting-edge ideas as busting teacher unions, destroying the social welfare net, expanding dirty energy production, and bombing nations of brown people! Why, I wonder if these groundbreaking ideas might, just maybe, promote the interests of the rich? These are ideas never before thought of in American history! I for one feel the left is permanently doomed by these brazen new models of thought. Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions precisely to describe this level of brilliance and insight! We will never be the same!

The Supreme Court and the Buffer Zone

[ 102 ] June 26, 2014 |

As with the EPA ruling earlier in the week, I’d say that at least it could have been a lot worse.

Elsewhere, see Sarah Posner on “sidewalk counselors,” Simon Waxman on ditto, and Dahlia Lithwick notes (implicitly reubtting the silly first section of the Scalia concurrence) the massive buffer zone around the Supreme Court.

Canning and Scalia’s Law Office History

[ 71 ] June 26, 2014 |

For reasons I’ve discussed at length, I don’t agree with the majority’s judgment in NLRB v. Canning. However, I am happy that thanks to Kennedy the Court didn’t quite go full metal wingnut.

On the latter point, I have a piece up at the Guardian about Scalia’s concurrence. For the reasons cited, the idea that the text of the Constitution “unambiguously” forbids intrasession appointments is unserious. It’s not true on its face, and carries with it the additional problem of requiring the belief than many presidents, attorneys general, and — perhaps most importantly — Senate leaders have advanced a reading of the Constitution that is not merely mistaken but irrational.

So what this comes down to is the question of historical practice, and on this point Breyer simply demolishes Scalia. It’s not just that intrasession appointments have been common since the Andrew Johnson administration. Worse for Scalia’s argument, as Breyer demonstrates, is that prior to the Civil War Senate sessions were comparatively short on the one hand and intrasession recesses for all intents and purposes didn’t exist on the other. What we can infer about what Madison, Monroe, Jackson et al. thought about intrasession recess appointments from the fact that they didn’t make any, in other words, is nothing. That they didn’t make intrasession recess appointments is about as relevant as the fact that they didn’t make statutes available in PDF form. The increasing ubiquity of intrasession recess appointments is based on factors, such as modern party politics and air travel, that the founding generation didn’t anticipate. To try to to figure out how they would have evaluated intrasession recess appointments in a contemporary context is a pointless exercise.

And so I come back to this point — even if Scalia’s originalist arguments were as persuasive as he thinks they are, you can’t apply “originalist” arguments in isolation to one facet of the 21st century political system. The framers may not have anticipated intrasession appointments, but they presumably didn’t foresee modern partisan obstruction or the serial rejection of presidential nominees either. Originalism-for-me-but-not-for-thee can’t work even if we could discern a meaningful “original meaning,” which we generally can’t.

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