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Category: General

If only Mrs. Till had taught her son not to speak to white women

[ 95 ] April 27, 2016 |

Tamir Rice’s family has reached a settlement with Cleveland. Naturally a local police union seized the opportunity to remind everyone that head of a police union is a great job for someone who was thrown out of a gang of fascist goat-strangling bikers for being too scuzzy.

The head of the Cleveland rank-and-file police union says the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the use of look-alike firearms.

Here’s the education: Ohio is an open carry state. Supremacist dickheads like Steve Loomis don’t believe the law applies to black people, but they do believe in killing them and then blaming them for their deaths.

So eat your veggies so you can grow up big and strong and overthrow the society that allows supremacist dickheads within a light year of a position of influence!

Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.

We look forward to the possibility of working with the Rice family to achieve this common goal.

A perfectly spun “If you don’t work with your oppressors to further their agenda, you’re the real problem and you don’t care about the children.” 10/10.

In response, an attorney for the Rice family filed a Summary Motion to Go Fuck Yourself:

Subodh Chandra … said that the comments “reflect all that is wrong with Cleveland’s police division — he managed to (1) blame the victim, (2) equate the loss of the life of a 12-year-old child with the officers facing scrutiny, and (3) demand money from the victim’s family and counsel.

“Loomis’s continued posturing shows he and the union still don’t comprehend that the police division needs a cultural change — not hiring incompetents, better training, and greater accountability.”

And now, the punchline.

Loomis also sits on the Cleveland Community Police Commission, a board made up of representatives of residents and law enforcement that is tasked with making policy recommendations to the police department. The commission was formed as part of a settlement the city reached with the U.S. Justice Department over police use of force

Unless he’s representing the red-faced violent bloviator faction, this really should not be.


Feeling the Bern? Whatever, Sure, Why Not

[ 186 ] April 26, 2016 |


So even though the Bernie fanatics around here and on the internet have spent 4 months accusing me of being in the bank for Hillary or not a true believer or whatever, just because I don’t Feel the Bern in the same way that some people feel after snorting a few lines of coke, I voted for one Bernie Sanders, Socialist, in the Rhode Island primary today.

I helped put Bernie over the top in the only one of the 5 northeastern states that voted today. Here’s the thing about Rhode Island compared to those other states. It’s objectively better. I mean, we here in the Ocean State are all like, “Let’s vote for Bernie and then go hang by the bay and eat some oysters grown next door.” You know what they say in Pennsylvania? “Let’s vote Hillary and eat some Scrapple.” Please. I mean, really. Probably a bunch of ketchup eaters in those other states.

It Is Getting Hard to See Any Evitability

[ 169 ] April 26, 2016 |


I have generally thought that it would be enormously difficult for Donald Trump to win on a second or later ballot in Cleveland, given his organizational weaknesses. Who knows, this might even be right! However, after tonight’s massive blowout it seems pretty clear that it’s a moot point:

Donald J. Trump is essentially two key states from the nomination.

By sweeping five states on Tuesday, he pulled only a few hundred Republican delegates short of the 1,237 he needs to win without a contested convention.

He has long been favored in the polls in two of the remaining primary states, New Jersey and West Virginia. That leaves Indiana and California as the crucial prizes that would put Mr. Trump over the top — and while he was once thought to be vulnerable in both states, polls have shown him with a modest lead.

And not only that:

One thing that has to greatly worry the anti-Trump forces is that Trump is now exceeding his poll averages. Since New York, Trump has performed at least 6.5 percentage points better in every state than the average of polls taken within 21 days of the election. Before that, Trump tended to hit his polling average and win no undecideds. Now, he’s winning his fair share of undecideds and then some. That’s very bad news for his opponents, given that Trump is already ahead in Indiana, a must-win state for Cruz.

He has a very good shot at 1,237 pledged delegates, and if not he’ll probably get close enough to lock it up on the first ballot. Living in a satirical novel is weird, but I guess eventually you get used to it.

Feminist Book Reviews

[ 37 ] April 26, 2016 |


Female machinist, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California, 1942. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer

A couple of important book reviews for you to read on feminist texts, both of which go after the “marketplace feminism” that currently passes for mainstream feminism in many circles. First, Sarah Jaffe on Andi Zeisler’s We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement.

In writing this book, Zeisler aims to turn our attention back to systems, not individuals. The current moment in pop culture is obsessed with the latter: with the questions of which celebrity called herself a feminist this week, whether makeup can be feminist, if Game of Thrones is too “problematic” to be watched by right-thinking feminists. All of this has shrunk feminism down to the size of a pair of trendy panties; it has made it into yet another box to check off, another set of restrictions on what women can do.

It’s a particular kind of feminism that dovetails perfectly with the rise of neoliberalism—the period of capitalism that features deregulation, privatization, and hyper-individualism. Under neoliberalism, we are all entrepreneurs with “personal brands”; we are all free to choose whatever we want, as long as we can afford to. Neoliberalism has brought us the global supply chain, where fast fashion is sewn by women in sweatshops in Cambodia and Bangladesh, out of sight and mind from the women who will ultimately wear the clothing. Despite the cheery rhetoric of freedom and choices, its icon remains “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, with her forbidding warning that “there is no alternative.”

The problem with “choice” as the key metric for feminism is that not everyone is actually free to make those choices, as Thatcher’s maxim ought to remind us. The point for feminism as a movement, then, is not to get into endless battles about whose choice is the feminist-est of them all, but to critique the ground we’re walking on, to change the rules of the game, not to hate the player.

Zeisler cites Marjorie Ferguson’s 1990 argument about the “feminist fallacy”—the idea that images of powerful women in the media translate into power for women out in the world. In this moment we too often fall under the spell of this and of another kind of “feminist fallacy”: that the success of powerful women will trickle down to the rest of us. In fact, as Zeisler notes, famous and powerful women often mistake what is best for them for what is good for all women; when we put too much weight on the feelings of celebrities, we end up cringing when their uninformed opinions, divorced from solidarity with anyone who might be affected, end up making headlines and even policy, as when Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham put their own feelings ahead of actual research and organizing on the subject of the decriminalization of sex work.

And then Tressie McMillan Cottom with a negative review of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business.

Take, for example, the treatment of race in the book. Slaughter includes a set of data points about race (and class) in her discussion of wage earnings. She rightly points out that black, brown, and poor women do most of the nation’s low-paid service-sector work. She also points out that many of her proposals for narrowing the high-status gender gap might not be feasible for these women. That’s a to-be-sure. But then Slaughter returns to her theory of change, arguing that women are less likely to speak up at work and in class. This gendered deference to masculine authority plagued Slaughter early in her career until her husband taught her to “act like a man”—that is, how to speak up with authority. But there is ample data that black women don’t have the same problem of speaking up. “Acting like a man” is an unfortunate allusion. What they have is a problem of disproportionate, and racist, approbation for speaking up and the racist-sexist double standard that they should speak up on behalf of the nonblack women who are just too painfully afflicted to do so.

If the data on race and class had informed her theory of change, Slaughter might have critiqued the racist, gendered, and classed dimensions of speech and behavior. Data show these social patterns of what is considered acceptable behavior privilege well-to-do white women in mate selection but penalize them at work while also penalizing all other women across the board. Despite minimal engagement with data on race, class, and gender, Slaughter’s revised have-it-all thesis never goes so far as to interrogate the power relations of her positionality. Nor does she allow anything like empirical reality to alter her theory of tipping status competition in favor of highly educated, mostly white women.

There is no more persistent debate in feminist theory and praxis than ones about inclusion. “Big-tent feminism” has been critiqued and, to be fair, has responded, however marginally, to some of the critiques of its elitism, racism, capitalist impulses, and normative social reproduction. All versions of the have-it-all thesis are susceptible to the same critiques because the thesis is just a manifestation of capital’s creative translation of our precarious, post-work political economy. At its heart, for some women to have it all, most women cannot ever have enough. In practice this looks like extracting loyalty from poor women in the service sector while using service-sector labor to negotiate economic elite parity with men in the contracting, competitive good-jobs sector of a global knowledge economy.

The veneer of feminist talk is just that—a veneer and just talk. Even in her revision, Slaughter does not present a feminist theory of change. She presents policy prescriptions for coping with precarity and stratification, not challenges to precarity and stratification. The good news is that there are theories of feminist change for this moment. Take the intersectional politics of Black Lives Matter or the interethnic coalition of the Fight for $15 labor movement for a higher minimum wage. Those debates are happening, and we are all better for holding them to the extent that some of us are actually holding them.

The Carceral-Industrial Complex

[ 177 ] April 26, 2016 |


Mississippi officials are complaining about the state’s declining prison populations. Why? Because county, state, and private funding models were all built on prison profit and losing prisoners now creates budget crises.

County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat. The culprit, say local officials, is state government and private prisons, which are looking to boost their own revenue as sentencing and drug-policy reforms are sending fewer bodies into the correctional system.

In the late 1990s, as the overcrowded Mississippi prison system buckled under the weight of mass incarceration, the state asked local governments to build local correctional institutions to house state prisoners. It was billed as a win-win: The Mississippi Department of Correction would foot the bill for each prisoner, and the counties would get good jobs guarding them. The state guaranteed that the local jails would never be less than 80 percent occupied, and the locals would get a 3 percent boost in compensation each year.

After a few years, say local officials, the state offered a new deal: Instead of the 3 percent bump, they would give the locals more and more prisoners, thus boosting total revenue. Today, the state pays $29.74 per day per prisoner to the regional facilities, a deal that worked for everybody as long as the buildings were stuffed full with bodies.

Scott Strickland, president of the Stone County Board of Supervisors, said reforms at the state and local levels have shrunk the prison population. “Federal laws took some part in that — allowing prisoners to serve only a certain percentage of their term,” he said. “Also, they’ve reduced prison sentences for certain drug-related offenses.”

As the wave of mass incarceration begins to recede, the Mississippi controversy has local and state officials talking openly about how harmful locking up fewer people up will be for the economy, confirming the suspicions of those who have argued that mass incarceration is not merely a strategy directed at crime prevention. “Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration, a social tool used for punishment, also became a major job creator,” Antonio Moore, a producer of the documentary “Crack in the System,” wrote recently.

“I don’t think it necessarily started out this way, but the inmate population has become the backbone of some of these counties that are involved,” said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher as the controversy heated up.

The prisoners have value beyond the per diem, county officials add, when they can be put to work. State prisoners do garbage pickup, lawn maintenance and other manual labor that taxpayers would otherwise have to pay for. Convict labor has made it easier for local governments to absorb never-ending cuts in state funding, as tea party legislators and governors slash budgets in the name of conservative government.

The state knows it, and now demands that local jails house state convicts who perform labor for free, George County Supervisor Henry Cochran told The Huffington Post. The counties take the deal. “You’re either gonna go up on everybody’s garbage bill, or you’ve gotta house those inmates,” Cochran said. “You’re using that inmate labor, so [taxpayers are] getting a little good out of that inmate for their tax dollars. You either gotta hire a bunch of employees or keep that inmate. It’s like making a deal with the devil.”

This whole system is completely dysfunctional, immoral, and racist, given who makes up the prison population. That different strata of government are both making economic claims on prisoners and that because of the state’s terrible politics, both levels of government lack the money to function without prisoners is just a terrible, awful, no good thing.

African-Americans and the 1994 Crime Bill

[ 99 ] April 26, 2016 |


Scott linked to this story last week, but I thought it was worth its own conversation, especially with our commenter ThrottleJockey continually talking about how we need to throw away the key and citing black support for the 1994 crime bill. So did African-Americans support the 1994 crime bill? These authors argue taht white politicians chose to misunderstand black requests for better policing with the desire to throw everyone in prison.

There’s no question that by the early 1990s, blacks wanted an immediate response to the crime, violence and drug markets in their communities. But even at the time, many were asking for something different from the crime bill. Calls for tough sentencing and police protection were paired with calls for full employment, quality education and drug treatment, and criticism of police brutality.

It’s not just that those demands were ignored completely. It’s that some elements were elevated and others were diminished — what we call selective hearing. Policy makers pointed to black support for greater punishment and surveillance, without recognizing accompanying demands to redirect power and economic resources to low-income minority communities. When blacks ask for better policing, legislators tend to hear more instead.

Selective hearing has a deep history. In the Progressive Era, W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells called for state authorities to offer blacks the same social investment that reformers used to manage crime in white immigrant communities. But while whites received rehabilitation and welfare programs, black citizens found themselves overpunished and underprotected.

Flash forward to the Clinton era. As soon as Chuck Schumer, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others introduced their bipartisan crime bill in September of 1993, groups representing black communities pushed back. The N.A.A.C.P. called it a “crime against the American people.”

While supporting the idea of addressing crime, members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the bill itself and introduced an alternative bill that included investments in prevention and alternatives to incarceration, devoted $2 billion more to drug treatment and $3 billion more to early intervention programs. The caucus also put forward the Racial Justice Act, which would have made it possible to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge death sentences.

Given the history of selective hearing, what followed was no surprise. Black support for anti-crime legislation was highlighted, while black criticism of the specific legislation was tuned out. The caucus threatened to stall the bill, but lawmakers scrapped the Racial Justice Act when Republicans promised to filibuster any legislation that adopted its measures.

In final negotiations, Democratic leadership yielded to Republicans demanding that prevention (or “welfare for criminals” as one called it) be sliced in exchange for their votes. Senator Robert Dole insisted that the focus be “on cutting pork, not on cutting prisons or police.” The compromise eliminated $2.5 billion in social spending and only $800 million in prison expenditures.

In other words, the 1994 crime bill served white interests and forced black politicians into a corner over whether to claim they did something on crime or support a bill that was so counter to the interests of the African-American population. It’s clearly not accurate to claim that African-Americans widely supported this bill. We should stop making this claim.

The Sound of One Hand Fapping, No Labels Edition

[ 113 ] April 26, 2016 |


Daydream believing about third parties from the left is misguided and potentially disastrous, but the underlying impulse is at least understandable. From the elite center, on the other hand, it’s just pathetic. I give you Mr. Jim VandeHei and his belief that America’s overpaid and underperforming elites need a DISRUPTIVE vanity candidate to call their own pretend represents any constituency beyond themselves:

Here are my two big takeaways: Normal America is right that Establishment America has grown fat, lazy, conventional and deserving of radical disruption. And the best, perhaps only way to disrupt the establishment is by stealing a lot of Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’s tricks and electing a third-party candidate.

Who knows, maybe this will be the first time a good idea is announced by tying it to “disruption?” I don’t like the odds but…

Take it a step further and force the wealthy to forfeit their entitlement benefits. And everyone loves socking it to Congress. Mandate that lawmakers go home after serving instead of profiting off their service. Also force them to get outside of the D.C. bubble by holding months-long sessions in different sections of Normal America.

Faux-populism that 1)does nothing for the poor or middle class in the short term and 2)probably leaves them worse off in the long term as the elite have even less incentive to preserve entitlement programs.

The candidate has to be authentic and capable of having a rolling, candid, transparent conversation with voters on social and conventional media.

What ordinary Americans crave above all is good jobs financial security dignity and security affordable health care Authenticity! What an amazing coincidence that elite Beltway centrists are obsessed with which candidates can best fake it.

The ideal candidate would write a very specific agenda in normal, conversational language, not whatever nonsensical language today’s political class was taught to speak. He or she would engage voters daily on social media, with fun and flare. (Think Trump with impulse control and better spelling.) The candidate would inundate voters with transparency and specificity, even when it hurts. And exploit cable TV’s addiction to whatever is hot and new. Mr. Trump has shown how technology has made money less important in modern politics.

There are many words here that don’t mean anything. Are we going to get to the “very specific agenda” at some point?

Exploit the fear factor. The candidate should be from the military or immediately announce someone with modern-warfare expertise or experience as running mate.

Apparently not.

Learn from the mistakes of Messrs. Trump and Sanders. Anger has its limits. The fringe can win primaries but it can’t win national elections

Be like Trump and Sanders — who are very similar! — but not too much. Very useful.

Use the Internet revolution for the greater good.

It will be a totally proactive new paradigm! Like this:

Right now, millions of young people are turned on by a 74-old-year socialist scolding Wall Street; millions of others by a reality-TV star with a 1950s view of women. Why not recruit Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg to head a third-party movement? Maybe we can convince Michael Bloomberg to help fund the movement with the billions he planned to spend on his own campaign—and then recruit him to run Treasury and advise the president.

What Americans furious at American elites want is a party led by immensely wealthy people running on no particular agenda! What an amazing coincidence that this is also what I’ve always wanted!

And now, the punchline:

I will even throw out a possible name for the movement: The Innovation Party.

How many times can satire be killed in one op-ed?

Today’s Overdetermined Donald Trump Endorsement

[ 64 ] April 26, 2016 |


He has the perpetually angry white guy asshole vote LOCKED UP, I tell you:

It looks like Donald Trump got what he wanted — former Indiana Hoosiers coach Bobby Knight will be hitting the road with him on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, Knight, who is known for once throwing a chair during a game, has been talking up Trump for months, including when he was on speakerphone with Trump while a New York Times reporter was in the room. ‘‘No one has accomplished more than Mr. Trump has,’’ Knight said in the article that was published last October.

During an event for IU rival Purdue University earlier this year, Knight also said, “I damn sure don’t want to be listening to Hillary for the next four years.”

If only Zombie Woody Hayes could have been more active in Ohio…

NFL Permitted To Impose Grossly Disproportionate Punishment For Offense That Wasn’t Committed

[ 201 ] April 25, 2016 |


Four federal judges have heard Tom Brady’s appeal of the ludicrous suspension imposed and upheld by Roger Goodell, and they have split 2-2 on its legality. Unfortunately for Brady, as virtually every observer of the oral argument expected 2 of the 3 who voted with the league were on the circuit court panel, so he will almost certainly be out for four games. This is regrettable, although getting an arbitration award overturned is always enormously difficult and the conclusion that he was within his formal legal authority is reasonable.

Chief Judge Katzmann raised two fundamental points in his dissent, one more persuasive than the other. The stronger argument pertains to the bait-and-switch Goodell pulled at the arbitration stage, citing additional “evidence” not contained in the Wells report. The NFL CBA requires that clear advance notice be provided to players before punishments are imposed. The dissent argues that Goodell, by citing findings not in the Wells report failed to provide notice and hence exceeded his authority. It’s worth noting that the majority concedes that Goodell did not have the authority as arbitrator to impose a punishment based on materially different findings from the original decision; the dispute between the opinions is based on facts, not on the controlling legal standard. It’s a close question, but I found the analysis in the dissent more persuasive.

The second argument made by the dissent was that Goodell did not adequately defend the decision to impose an unprecedented sentence that went far beyond the penalty for similar offenses mandated by the CBA:

Yet, the Commissioner failed to even mention, let alone explain, a highly analogous penalty, an omission that underscores the peculiar nature of Brady’s punishment. The League prohibits the use of stickum, a substance that enhances a player’s grip. Under a collectively bargained-for Schedule of Fines, a violation of this prohibition warrants an $8,268 fine in the absence of aggravating circumstances. Given that both the use of stickum and the deflation of footballs involve attempts at improving one’s grip and evading the referees’ enforcement of the rules, this would seem a natural starting point for assessing Brady’s penalty. Indeed, the League’s justification for prohibiting stickum—that it “affects the integrity of the competition and can give a team an unfair advantage,” is nearly identical to the Commissioner’s explanation for what he found problematic about the deflation—that it “reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game.”

Notwithstanding these parallels, the Commissioner ignored the stickum penalty entirely. This oversight leaves a noticeable void in the Commissioner’s decision,6 and in my opinion, the void is indicative of the award’s overall failure to draw its essence from the CBA. Even taking into account the special circumstances here—that the alleged misconduct occurred during the AFC Championship Game, that team employees assisted in the deflation, that a deflated football arguably affects every play, and that Brady failed to cooperate in the subsequent investigation—I am unable to understand why the Commissioner thought the appropriate penalty was a four-game suspension and the attendant four-game loss of pay, which, in Brady’s case, is far more than $8,268. The lack 1 of any meaningful explanation in the Commissioner’s final written decision convinces me that the Commissioner was doling out his own brand of industrial justice.

As an argument about the merits of Goodell’s decision, this argument is unanswerable — the punishment was irrational and grossly disproportionate. But it’s not the appellate court’s job to determine the defensibility of the suspension on the merits, and on this point I agree with the majority that the CBA did not require Goodell to consider analogous punishments or forbid an arbitrary and unprecedented punishment, even one as extreme as this. If Goodell exceeded his authority, it was by denying Brady’s right to advance notice.

Given the extreme unlikelihood that 2CA will grant an en banc appeal or the Supreme Court would grant cert, this is now a football story. And as a football story, Goodell’s actions remain as outrageous as ever. The suspension of Brady for 4 games has a significant impact on the NFL season, and even if Brady and the Patriots were guilty as charged, the offense merited no more than a five-figure fine. And, of course, they weren’t:

Brady liked his footballs at the lowest p.s.i. in the range — 12.5. The consultants concluded that the drop in the p.s.i. of the Patriots’ footballs — the average was 11.3 p.s.i. — could not be fully explained by the Ideal Gas Law; it was too steep. But the smaller drop in the p.s.i. of the Colts’ footballs could indeed be explained by the laws of physics.

Numbers in hand, Leonard went to work. He bought the same gauges the N.F.L. used to measure p.s.i. levels. He bought N.F.L.-quality footballs. He replicated the temperatures of the locker room, and the colder field. And so on. When he was done, he concluded that Exponent had made a series of basic errors. Leonard’s work showed the exact opposite of Exponent’s conclusions: The drop in the Patriots’ footballs’ p.s.i was consistent with the Ideal Gas Law; the smaller drop in pressure in the Colts’ balls was not. (Leonard surmises that because the Colts’ balls were tested after the Patriots’ balls, they had warmed up again.)

By early November, he had a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 slides. By the end of the month, he had given two lectures about Deflategate, the second of which he had videotaped and posted on YouTube. A viewer who watched the lengthy lecture edited it down to a crisp 15 minutes; Leonard agreed to let him post the edited version.

The edited lecture went up on YouTube on Dec. 1 and has been viewed more than 17,000 times. It is utterly convincing. Leonard told me that if an M.I.T. undergraduate made the kinds of mistakes that Exponent made, “I would force them to repeat the experiment and correct the analysis.” Based on his study of the data, Leonard now says: “I am convinced that no deflation occurred and that the Patriots are innocent. It never happened.”

He is hardly the only scientist to take that position. As Dan Wetzel pointed out in a recent Yahoo Sports column, scientists at Carnegie Mellon, the University of Chicago, Boston College, Rockefeller University, the University of Illinois and Bowdoin College — and others — have all come to the same conclusion.

The season has been substantially affected by a suspension based on completely worthless junk science put forward by a for-hire chop shop, and also involves a severe punishment for an offense that would be trivial even if it had actually happened. Goodell may have been within his formal legal authority, but his actions were a disgraceful abuse of his powers, powers that need to be constrained in the next CBA.

Do Both Sides Do It When It Comes to Stopping Climate Change Action?

[ 154 ] April 25, 2016 |



But of course that’s not going to stop a contrarian article from arguing that liberals also have anti-science views that stop action against climate change.

And yet even as progressive environmentalists wring their hands at the G.O.P.’s climate change denial, there are biases on the left that stray just as far from the scientific consensus.

“The left is turning anti-science,” Marc Andreessen, the creator of Netscape who as a venture capitalist has become one of the most prominent thinkers of Silicon Valley, told me not long ago.

He was reflecting broadly about science and technology. His concerns ranged from liberals’ fear of genetically modified organisms to their mistrust of technology’s displacement of workers in some industries. “San Francisco is an interesting case,” he noted. “The left has become reactionary.”

OK, if you want to make this argument, using the half-assed argument of a Silicon Valley capitalist may not be your strongest talking point. But that’s where we are at. But what is getting in the way of this climate change action in San Francisco? Morons who don’t vaccinate their children? Chemtrail conspiracy theorists? I guess that’s some left-leaning anti-science thought, but I don’t see the connection.

Still, liberal biases may be most dangerous in the context of climate change, the most significant scientific and technological challenge of our time. For starters, they stand against the only technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.

Oh, so that’s what this is. A big feint for another article on nuclear power. Yawn. Look, here’s the deal with nuclear. One can make a case for it as part of a solution, I guess. But there are so many problems. First, these plants are tremendously expensive to build. Second, the global supplies of uranium are far from limitless. At best, nuclear power is a relatively small part of a clean energy future. Third, the nation still lacks, 71 years after the nuclear age began, a decent place to store nuclear waste. Fourth, while there’s no question of the damage done to the planet by coal, if a nuclear accident happens–which it will, someday–it will leave an area uninhabitable for up to hundreds of years. Fifth, the problems with nuclear plants are mostly kicked down the road. Effectively, they need to be kept running or carefully dismantled at some point. If they shut down on their own, i.e., the core melts down, you have little Chernobyls everywhere there’s a plant. Someday, during a war perhaps where you have long-term power outages, this sort of thing can and probably will happen. Might be 500 years in the future, but that’s still a real debt we are telling the future to pay.

There’s a lot of problems with nuclear! There are problems with every energy source, yes. Society does have to make choices about energy. But there are some pretty big issues here. To be concerned with the effects of nuclear does not make people on the left anti-science. But that’s a useful epithet for Silicon Valley capitalists interested in investing in nuclear power.

Third Parties: Local, State, National

[ 154 ] April 25, 2016 |


My consistent position on third parties is that they are a counterproductive waste of time because a) there is no room in the American system for third parties, b) we have 200 years of political history to demonstrate point A), c) that they are more likely to hand elections to right-wing candidates than pull the Democratic Party left, and d) the enormous amount of time and effort it takes to build a party is all time and effort taken from issue-based organizing that is almost always for effective. So when I read this Kshama Sawant piece calling for the need for a new national third party “of the 99 percent,” I at first engaged in my usual eye-rolling, even outside of the conspiracy-curious talk about the New York primary. The idea that Bernie supporters should leave the Democratic Party and vote for some left-leaning third party is ridiculous and would be disastrous for the very causes about which they care. Of course, those who are most likely to actually do that would not vote for the Democratic Party anyway except under very specific circumstances, i.e., an actual socialist tops the ticket, so they can be discounted from a political strategy perspective. The fear would be dragging actual Democrats to Jill Stein, as Sawant hopes. And Sawant’s call to build a real third party also just wouldn’t amount to anything. Sawant makes the critical error of blaming Sanders for running as a Democrat, then noting how successful he was running as a left-wing Democrat, then assuming that his viability would be equal or greater as a left-wing non-Democrat, which is of course ridiculous. Sanders has done so well precisely because he is running as a Democrat.

So let all that go, if you can. The essay is unconvincing and dangerous and the politics make no sense to build toward anything. But maybe there’s something here of value.

I provide this caveat because Sawant is serving a very useful role as a Socialist official in Seattle. Her call for a national third party makes sense for her revolutionary program, but not for left policies. But candidates like her running at the local and state level absolutely does make sense in the vast numbers of cities, county, and state legislature seats that effectively are one-party seats. Being here in Rhode Island where the fundamental definition of “Democratic legislator” is “I want access to power,” we could use a bunch of Sawant’s to organize and run left-wing campaigns against some of our terrible state legislators (there are some very good people as well and that’s the real divide in the statehouse, not Republican-Democratic). If she and her Socialist Alternative people want to start a third party on the ground floor and work to take over city council positions and challenge terrible Democrats in various state legislatures, or even Congress in some cases, then I think that’s great. Providing an actual second party challenge from the left is something that has a lot of value. The dividing point between useful and terrible is the possibility of electing a Republican. That is almost always a disaster. That’s why her call for a national third party and for Sanders supporters to vote for Jill Stein needs to be rejected. But her running in Seattle? Sure, great. Bring some of your people to Providence!

Sensible Gun Policies

[ 172 ] April 25, 2016 |


It’s hard to see how this goes wrong.

Douglas County, Colorado, will begin arming school security guards with semiautomatic rifles within the next month in order to protect students from mass shootings, according to the Denver Post.

Security officers will begin using the rifles after they complete the same 20-hour training that police officers go through, according to the Denver Post. Some security officers will receive the guns within a month, while others will get them in August.

Theoretically, the guns won’t actually be in the schools, but we’ll see. Given that the district’s security director didn’t even consult with the school board before making this decision, I am not confident. Maybe the next the district can buy one of those surplus tanks the military sells to local police departments. Have to make sure our school security officers are as well-armed as the police after all.

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