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Category: General

Visions of the Past, Thanks to Gutenberg (I)

[ 68 ] June 25, 2016 |

I am presently on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Every now and then, often when on vacation, I start reading random things one can find on the Gutenberg Project, the great collection of old public domain texts. If only copyright law was updated so that material after 1923 that no one was making money on anymore could be included, it would be incredibly useful for my research, but as it is, at least it provides glimpses into past weirdness. Still, some post-1923 material does show up, as is seen below.

So I decided tonight, after my wife has gone to bed and I’ve had a few beers, to read Reau Folk’s The Battle of New Orleans Its Real Meaning: Exposure of Untruth Being Taught Young Americans, from 1932. That battle has a lot to answer for. First, it gave us a genocidal maniac as president. Second, it gave us one of the shittiest country hits in the genre’s history (see above). Third, it gave us whatever the hell this is. Basically, Folk’s argument, such as it is, is that Tennessee textbooks (those bastions of leftism during this period) were shortchanging Andrew Jackson and the importance of the Battle of New Orleans. For without said battle, evidently real America would have been split between the British control of the Mississippi River and the evils of New England. My god, the whole nation would be eating Dunkin’ instead of some holding onto Krispy Kreme as the best donut chain. And to give the South credit, this is absolutely correct and New England’s love for Dunkin’ basically absolves the British for the Intolerable Acts.

Anyway, as evidence, Folk points out all the writers who said it was unfortunate a bunch of people died during the battle even though the Treaty of Ghent was already signed. According to Folk, these deaths were necessary for the Americans to truly take control over this region. I mean, I know that I demand my nationalistic project be based on oceans of limey blood, no doubt smelling like Earl Grey from all the tea those people drank, unlike the good coffee-swilling (or even chicory coffee-swilling!) Americans! Folk begins the book with an utterly idiotic imagined conversation between the author and a student who is waiting on him at a restaurant, who it just so happens is part of a debate team at school that has argued that the Battle of New Orleans was unnecessary. Our brave author sure shows up this nonexistent fictional character! This may be the high point of the book.

Folk reliving impressment shows the need for the bloodshed, although it’s unclear why since the treaty ending the practice had just been signed, but, hey, aren’t we real Americans here! There’s a long, boring section on the negotiations at Ghent, intending to show that the homespun Americans outwitted those suave Englishmen, but sort of forgets the key issue, which is that the British didn’t actually care about America with Napoleon defeated. Rather, he claims that the British were negotiating in bad faith, hoping that they would take New Orleans before the U.S. had the chance to sign the treaty and thus making it moot. Then it goes on to quoting this and that person before getting to the real point: that the British are infecting our schools with their vile propaganda:

In all literature there cannot be found a more concrete, comprehensive line: “Great Britain coveted it in 1815 when Jackson saved it.” Pro-English historians may deftly turn and twist this and other facts to their purpose; but let me give a tocsin call: PRO-ENGLISH HISTORIANS SHOULD BE KEPT OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS, AND YOUNG AMERICA TAUGHT ONLY THE UNGARBLED, UNVARNISHED TRUTH.

I guess I was unaware of British fifth columnists infecting Tennessee schools in 1932 but who doesn’t believe that our good young Americans should only be taught THE UNGARBLED, UNVARNISHED TRUTH?

Not I comrade, not I.


St. Stein Speaks!

[ 234 ] June 25, 2016 |

Jill Stein, as is well known, is the Only Real Leftist in America. Indeed, she is a figure of such pure, undiluted leftist perfection she agrees with Donald Trump only 41% of the time. So I’m sure her thoughts on Brexit will be highly enlightening:

The vote in Britain to exit the European Union (EU) is a victory for those who believe in the right of self-determination and who reject the pro-corporate, austerity policies of the political elites in EU. The vote says no to the EU’s vision of a world run by and for big business.

This is just ludicrous nonsense. The bulk of Brexit support came from pro-austerity Tories. What Brexit means is more austerity as EU subsidies vanish, oh and also the end of progressive EU labor and environmental regulations. If you think this is a defeat for big business, I’d hate to see what a victory would look like. Granted, some City finance types will presumably have to ply their trade in Paris or New York City or Frankfurt now. FIGHT THE POWER!

Insane as this is, though, it helps to explain why she’s campaigning in swing states in a year when 1)the Democratic Party’s platform features a $15 minimum wage, expanded Social Security, and a repeal of the Hyde Amendment and 2)the Republican candidate is Donald Trump. Her politics seem to consist entirely of assuming that if something she doesn’t like loses than her ideal outcome therefore must win.

Unfortunately, the rejection was also motivated by attacks on immigrants and refugees, which must be opposed. That is a defeat.

Apart from that, Mr. Farage! Admittedly, by even acknowledging that xenophobia may have played some role in the Brexit vote, Stein risks being denounced roundly on Twitter for selling out to BIG NEOLIBERAL and wanting to punish the white working class. But, don’t worry, she departs from reality soon enough:

The increase in anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment expanded because of the EU’s economic policies, and was a key driver in support of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Ye Gods. First of all, British austerity — while certainly terrible policy! — was driven by Parliament, not by the EU. Leaving the EU will in fact result in more austerity. And if you think British political elites love austerity now, wait until Scotland leaves the UK, which it almost certainly will if Brexit proceeds. And, finally, while it’s a nice story that all racial resentments are really just epiphenomenal masks for class and economic anxieties it’s not actually true.

Seriously, if it’s very important to you not to sully your personal brand by voting for an icky Democrat in November, find a better alternative candidate than this.

Music Notes

[ 46 ] June 25, 2016 |


I’ve been so busy that I haven’t done one of these in several weeks. I don’t even really have any good stories to link to, but I have slowly listened to a new or long-forgotten album every now and then over the last few weeks and wrote them up here.

First though, another day, another musician. The truly great Bernie Worrell, RIP.

It’s not that 2016 is some sort of musician apocalypse year. It’s that you are getting old, I am getting old, and the musicians who did not take care of their bodies for decades are really getting old. Imagine what 2020 is going to look like.

Ludovico Einaudi, Taranta Project

This is fairly interesting music. Einaudi fuses Sicilian, North African, and Turkish folk music with electronic and contemporary compositional music into a swirling set of compositions. The sounds work pretty well. My one caveat is that this sometimes sounds a bit too New Agey-type world music to me, a genre I have long found repulsive. Not that I need “authenticity,” whatever that is, but borrowing music of the world to provide background music for white people to feel authentic rubs me the wrong way. Mostly this avoids this and stays in the world of worthy music, but sometimes I felt on the border.


Deerhunter, Fading Frontier

This is a very solid, not great, rock album. Deerhunter is one of those bands that I am happy when it comes on the shuffle, but don’t listen to the albums much. I own both Halcyon Digest and Microcastle, both solid enough. Clearly playing for a classic rock sound, Deerhunter mostly succeeds here. I probably won’t buy it, but you might well want to do so.


Sherwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow

This is a decent rock album, although the singer sounds a bit too much like whiny 80s British pop to me. I’ve always hated that Cure-esque sound. Fans of that scene may disagree. 80s nostalgia has never worked for me. Lyrics are fine, music is fine. Overall, a perfectly acceptable album that I won’t ever listen to again. But if someone puts it on while I’m in the car with them, that’s totally fine.


Kasey Musgraves, Pageant Material

The critics love Musgraves. And she is a solid performer. But this is not an exceptional or even particularly great album. A lot of that critic love is that she sings about smoking marijuana, questioning religion, and being cool with gay people, topics that are risque in the right-wing world of Nashville. And that’s all great. But it does not mean that she has a great set of songs on Pageant Material. She wrote a perfectly acceptable set of songs for it.


Gardens & Villa, Music for Dogs

Mostly I just found this to be irritating synth-pop. Not much for me to grab on to here.


The Pretenders, Packed.

I forgot how much this album sucked. Mitchell Froom was a really terrible producer. I guess no Pretenders album can be that bad. But this is pretty lame.


I have seen one live show since I wrote the last of these posts. That was the percussionist Adam Rudolph at The Stone in New York, with Hassan Hakmoun on sintir, Hamid Drake on drums, Graham Haynes on cornet, and an unlisted North African musician on also sintir and hand percussion. This was pretty amazing. Those mesmerizing North African vocals and music with the two drummers can really take you away. And then Haynes popping in with cornet, which really served as another voice, was just great. I don’t have a good YouTube clip of anything quite like this, but here’s some of Rudolph’s music with Yusef Lateef.

As always, this should serve as an open thread on all things musical.

Yet more on the latest nonsense from the Black Knight of the law school cartel

[ 15 ] June 25, 2016 |

black knight

The text below is supposed to be a comment in this thread, but Paul Caron tells me that for unknown technical reasons it isn’t showing up.

Although I more than suspect that at this point our amiable host is reposting this stuff for entertainment purposes only, I’ll play along, for the sake of The Public Record:

My original response to Diamond’s painfully inept critique of Noam Scheiber’s New York Times article made four points:

(1) Median lawyer SALARIES have been essentially flat since the mid-1990s.

(2) Median lawyer SALARIES have grown about half as fast as the average salaries of American workers in general.

(3) Lawyer EARNINGS, including those of self-employed as well as salaried lawyers, have declined markedly since the mid-1990s.

(4) Steve Diamond’s knowledge of the labor market for American lawyers is woefully deficient, as illustrated by his estimate that 4% of lawyers are in solo practices (the true figure is 37%).

All these points are correct. Someone holding himself to the highest standards of intellectual argument (which of course anyone claiming to be an academic ought to always try to do) would admit that comparing median lawyer salaries to average worker salaries was a mistake – an inadvertent one in this case – since the apples to apples comparison would of course be median to median. In the context of this particular set of claims it’s a trivial mistake, since median worker salaries also outstripped median lawyer salaries, and the whole matter of the relationship between lawyer salaries and salaries in general was a minor side issue in my post, but it was a mistake nevertheless.

Diamond wants desperately to focus on this trivial tangential issue, to deflect attention from two facts: that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he opines on the labor market for law school graduates, and, much more culpably, that he fraudulently mischaracterized my criticisms of him by misquoting me via editorial elision, and failure to link to those criticisms.

Diamond is now whining piteously about “the damage that [Campos] is attempting to impose on my career and reputation by dropping the academic F-bomb,” i.e., fraud. I can no more damage Steve Diamond’s reputation than I can damage Donald Trump’s, and for the same reason.

Diamond has, over and over again, proven himself to be someone whose willingness to make false, libelous, and indeed deranged arguments is so pronounced that it’s impossible for anyone to “damage” his scholarly reputation to nearly the extent that he has done so through his own contributions to the literature.

Here’s a brief list of a few of the things that Diamond has argued in recent years:

That it’s a “fact” that critics of the status quo in American legal education are “out to destroy the American law school and higher education itself as an institution. That is the clear goal of the Koch Brothers backed Cato Institute.”

The reference to Cato is a product of Diamond’s bizarre obsession with the fact that a few years ago Brian Tamanaha and me participated in a panel debate on the state of American legal education at the Cato Institute. Diamond has since brought this up numerous times on various internet sites, very much in the style of a paranoid conspiracy theorist. Speaking of which, in the same comment quoted above he goes on to say that “anyone who tries to deny that [the law school critics are out to destroy higher education] is either collaborating in that effort or naive beyond belief. I have made this crystal clear from the earliest days in which I joined this debate. In the longer run I believe the intent is to undermine the rule of law itself.”

Now to be fair I don’t know if it would be more accurate to characterize these sorts of claims as fraudulent or profoundly stupid and crazy.

Moving right along, Diamond has also argued that law professors who criticize the legal academic status quo either secretly want to bring back Jim Crow, because their suggested reforms will supposedly reduce the number of people of color attending law school, or in the alternative are as an objective matter working toward this goal, even if, as he suggests generously, they may not actually favor the revival of American apartheid themselves:

Diamond has also claimed that I personally want law schools to discriminate against women in their admissions policies, so that law school classrooms will return to being almost all-male, as they were fifty years ago:

“After all we could very easily solve the so-called “oversupply” problem by returning to the days of The Paper Chase (“Loudly, Mr. Hart!”), where women, blacks and Hispanics were a “discrete and insular minority” among law students. Professor Campos of the University of Colorado, who maintains a website called Inside the Law School Scam, seemed to go so far as to endorse such an approach, at least with respect to women.”

(I would link to Diamond directly but he has, in an unusual outburst of prudence, made his blog impossible to read for anyone who he has not registered to view his site).

Then we have Diamond’sj defense of his law school’s egregiously fraudulent graduate employment reporting practices:

Again, to be fair, it’s possible that Diamond is so incapable of actually understanding the subjects on which he opines that he doesn’t understand why it was outright fraud for Santa Clara to list almost all of the vast number of its graduates who were unemployed nine months after graduation as “not seeking employment,” back in the bad old days when USN wouldn’t count people categorized in this way against a school’s overall employment percentage.

I could go on but what would be the point? In a field rich with examples, Diamond provides an especially spectacular instance of one serious cost of the academic tenure system. That students at Santa Clara have to pay $75,000 a year to be “educated” by somebody like this is in its own small way as much of a scandal as anything else going on in legal academia right now.

If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I have a public meltdown on the internet

[ 78 ] June 25, 2016 |

Now this–THIS–is a sweater that’ll show your testicles off to great effect


When I saw that Scott Adams was trending on twitter, I knew that I was in for a treat. Was not disappointed. Adams continues his tin-foil-hatted descent into parody unabated by things like self-awareness or having even one scintilla of humility, and it is a joy to behold.


Check out this commercial for dishwasher detergent. And take careful note of the American man’s v-neck sweater. That’s the uniform of a man who is owned by a woman. 

You’re laughing because you know it’s true. How many of the married men reading this blog have received those same sweaters as “gifts” from women? Personally, I’ve received about 25 over the years. None from men. I received three of those sweaters so far this year. I throw them away. Nice try.

Yes, nice try giving me a thoughtful gift, ladies, but I’m on to you! And I won’t be caught dead in the v-necked yoke of your cashmere-based oppression! (By the by, WHO is giving Scott Adams all these sweaters? Why are they all v-necked? I have so many questions.)

Many of you can’t talk about this topic without being accused of sexism, losing your jobs, and being cast out of your social groups. But I can talk about it because I endorse Hillary Clinton for president. I did that for my personal safety, because I live in California, but still, I’m on the progressive side now. That gives me some extra freedom of speech.

If you are following the election polls, you know that Clinton has greater support from women while Trump has greater support from men. Trump probably can’t win the presidency unless he gets massive voter turnout from American men. 

Will that happen?

The dishwasher soap commercial should give you a hint of how big that turnout might be.

Is this performance art? I genuinely can’t tell.

You can criticize Donald Trump on many dimensions. You can say he’s not really a great businessman. You can say he’s offensive. You can say he lies. You can hate his position on issues. You can say he has insufficient policy details. And lots more. But I think we all agree that Melania never asks Donald to go back to the store because he’s too dumb to buy the right kind of soap on the first try.

Well. A.) I imagine that Trump doesn’t actually buy anything for himself and B.) if he actually had to he would, in fact, be too dumb to buy the right thing because he is congealed Cheetos dust in a pear-shaped suit.

But anyway, good luck with your manly man election, fellas. I’m sure you’ll all get issued Slovenian model-wives and apartments that look like Russian bordellos if The Great Orange One wins.

Brexit — The Ultimate “Triumph” Of Voter-As-Consumer

[ 281 ] June 25, 2016 |


We’ll be seeing lots of more of this kind of thing, I would assume:

Mandy Suthi, a student who voted to leave, told ITV News she would tick the Remain box if she had a second chance and said her parents and siblings also regretted their choice.

“I would go back to the polling station and vote to stay, simply because this morning the reality is kicking in,” she said.

“I wish we had the opportunity to vote again,” she added, saying she was “very disappointed”.

Khembe Gibbons, a lifeguard from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, also said she had regrets about her decision after Mr Farage said he could not guarantee NHS funding.

“We’ve left the EU, David Cameron’s resigned, we’re left with Boris, and Nigel has just basically given away that the NHS claim was a lie,” she wrote.

“I personally voted leave believing these lies, and I regret it more than anything, I feel genuinely robbed of my vote.”

A woman calling into an LBC radio show echoed the sentiment, saying she felt “conned” by the claim and felt “a bit sick”.

A voter who gave his name as Adam told the BBC he would have changed his pro-Brexit vote if he knew the short-term consequences it would have for the UK economy.

“The David Cameron resignation has blown me away to be honest and the period of uncertainty that we’re going to be magnified now so yeah, I’m quite worried,” he said.

“I’m shocked that we voted for Leave, I didn’t think that was going to happen. I didn’t think my vote was going to matter too much because I thought we were just going to remain.”

I don’t know how many Brexit voters fall into the remorseful category. But I remember seeing somewhere (HELP ME BROCKINGTON) that a large majority of Brexit voters assumed that Remain would win. For what was surely a decisive number of Brexit voters, the vote was not a considered view that leaving the EU would be better than remaining, but rather was a vehicle for sending a message to British elites.

To be clear, the biggest villains here are not ordinary voters. David Cameron’s entirely unnecessary gamble was astoundingly incompetent and grossly irresponsible. The reaction of Boris Johnson — the proverbial dog that caught the car — should make it pretty clear that the anti-EU faction of the Tories were more trolls than revolutionaries. And the way you deal with trolls is to ignore them, not to try to shut them up with a binding referendum with huge downside risks. Needless to say, Johnson and Farage and the pro-Brexit tabloids are absolutely shameless liars mobilizing racist resentment, and they deserve all of the criticism they receive and worse. But Cameron knew what they were, and he empowered them to try to gain a short-term advantage within his party.

But if you want to know why I spend so much time criticizing people with prominent platforms trying to convince people the ballot box is not a place for collective political decisions but for life-affirming consumer choices, well, Bregret is why. In the American context, the consumerist arguments from the nominal left for refusing to support Democratic candidates even as the consequences of a Republican victory get increasingly dire generally don’t even really pretend to be tactical; they’re just statements that certain individuals are too good for coalitions that require sharing political space with people who fail to see your unfailing wisdom. This stuff seems harmless until it isn’t. If you want to know when I’m going to stop criticizing pundits who try to encourage this kind of thinking, or the Ralph Naders and (now, apparently) Jill Steins willing to play with fire to stoke their own egos, the answer is “never.” Elections are literally life-and-death matters.

James Green, RIP

[ 12 ] June 25, 2016 |


James Green, preeminent labor historian, has died. His books reached far beyond the academy to transform popular understanding of the United States’ most dramatic labor incidents. Probably his most famous book is Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided America. His last book was also brilliant. The Devil Is Here In These Hills: West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom brought the reality of the incredibly terrible lives of these workers and their rebellion that led to the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest civil uprising in the United States since the Civil War, into the public consciousness. His book was adapted by PBS into a documentary for The American Experience titled The Mine Wars, which is also quite excellent. A great historian and a great loss.

This Day in Labor History: June 25, 1914

[ 9 ] June 25, 2016 |


This is a guest post by Jacob Remes, who is clinical assistant professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. His book, Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era, is available from the University of Illinois Press. He tweets at @jacremes.

Charles Lee worked at a patent leather factory in the Blubber Hollow neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. It was unpleasant work in a rickety building. Workers like Lee dissolved flammable scrap celluloid film in flammable amyl acetate and alcohol, painted it on leather, added another layer of wood alcohol, and then steam heated it.

A hundred and two years ago today, on the afternoon of June 25, 1914, the inevitable came: a fire broke out. Charles Lee was the worker standing closest to the fire’s origin, and he broke both his legs jumping out of a window to escape the flames. Half an hour later, 300 workers had been forced to flee their factories. By evening, the fire had consumed 50 factories across the city, including, most devastatingly, Salem’s largest employer, a sheet factory called Pequot Mills. More than 18,000 people were left homeless or jobless.

Every disaster is a workplace disaster for someone. Sometimes, as for Charles Lee, the disaster is part of work. Other times, as for Pequot Mills employees, a disaster destroys opportunity for work. For others, including the 87 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2015, it is disaster itself that is the worksite. Workers have long responded to workplace disasters by coming together with their coworkers and neighbors to think about–and fight over–the conditions of their labor.

Changes in illumination, heating, firefighting, and transportation technologies–together with organizing and government regulation–led to a gradual decline in the sort of fires that once regularly destroyed large swaths of cities. In 1918, a Canadian government researcher counted 290 urban conflagrations in the United States and Canada between 1815 and 1915, more than half of the global total. Salem’s was among the last.

But industrial risk was not vanquished. In the United States in 2014, the last year for which data were available, about 13 people a day were killed at work, whether in small accidents or big disasters. This risk–of lives lost, of bodies mangled, of property and livelihoods diminished–is never evenly distributed (as Erik, among others, has reminded us). Who bears the bodily risk of industrialism is a political choice we all make. Most of the time, workers die in ones or twos, invisible except to their families, coworkers, and friends. Disasters–like when 29 coal miners died in Upper Big Branch, West Virginia, in 2013, or when, in the same year, 1,100 garment workers died in a factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh–are the times we see our choices and have an opportunity to correct them.

After the Salem fire, as after disasters today, people debated how to organize society and its risk in their neighborhoods and churches, in town meetings and voting booths. Six months after fire, Salemites recalled their mayor in the first modern recall in New England. Catholic laypeople argued with priests and the archbishop about how their parish should be rebuilt. Neighbors argued about whether a new building code, designed to make the city less flammable, was worth the cost.

Most of all, they fought for power in their workplaces. Pequot Mills was rebuilt and reopened a year and a half after the fire, in 1916. Soon, workers began to experiment with new ways of organizing and building power across skill, gender, and ethnicity. At a time when in most Massachusetts textile mills only the most skilled workers, mostly men, were welcomed into unions, workers at Pequot Mills organized a union that included women, unskilled workers, and French Canadians, whom many labor leaders at the time thought were unorganizable.

Workers at Pequot Mills fought for, and won, higher pay, but more importantly they wanted a say in how the factory would be run. They won seniority rights, a grievance system, and defined job categories and so limited management’s arbitrary ability to hire, fire, promote, and discipline workers. By the late 1920s, the union had taken charge of the company’s sales and marketing departments, and it controlled a joint labor-management committee that sought to increase productivity through scientific management. Workers’ willingness to sacrifice some material gains for control over how the factory would run got press attention as a national model.

It did not last. While at first union power meant democratic control of the workplace by workers, within a few years the business manager, not the workers themselves, controlled the process. “I didn’t bother to report,” he told visiting researchers, “because they are a bunch of ignorant Canucks and Polacks who wouldn’t understand anyway.”

After a few years of growing union autocracy, workers took the skills they had honed in the aftermath of the fire and rebelled against their own leaders. Led by women, who were especially hurt by the business manager, they rebelled and struck in 1933 and again in 1935 to found a new, more democratic union. A generation after the fire, workers were still debating with each other, with management, and with their neighbors how to organize work.

In our own era of workplace disasters, we too can debate how labor should be organized. Disasters offer opportunities for solidarity in the workplace, in the community, and up and down the supply chain. They are times when the choices society makes about whose lives are more or less valuable become visible, and they are times we can make different choices.

One example was the prosecution of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for his role creating the Upper Big Branch disaster. (He was sentenced to a mere year in prison.) So too was the Rana Plaza factory collapse. The horror of that disaster forced the North American companies that had subcontracted work to those factories to impose greater–though still inadequate–safety standards. More importantly, it spurred greater garment worker organizing, so that in Dhaka, as in Salem, workers can build power and set their own standards.

This post also encourages readers to donate to the Rosenberg Fund, supporting the children of targeted activists. You can read more about the Rosenberg fund here.

This is the 182nd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

What Brexit Means, And What It Doesn’t Mean

[ 113 ] June 25, 2016 |

Bouie has more.

Now, enjoy this dissing of America’s most ridiculously pompous blowhard, and also Donald Trump.

Slate Pitches I Can Endorse

[ 151 ] June 24, 2016 |


Running a marathon. Why the hell would somebody do that to themselves?

Indeed a vast, disturbing literature has now accumulated on the ill effects of running marathons. Studies find that up to 1 in 12 participants end up seeking medical help during the race. (At hot-weather events, runners can end up “dropping like flies.”) As many as four-fifths report having gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence while on the course. Some runners suffer from blood poisoning. Others must endure a blitz of dermatological conditions: sore nipples (affecting up to 1 in 6 on race day); chafing (another 1 in 6); blisters (1 in 3); and jogger’s toe (1 in 40). Given all the risks, it’s no wonder that some marathon organizers have asked doctors to embed as race participants so they can quickly tend to runners who collapse.

When researchers consider all the injuries that accrue during the period of training—and not just on the day of the marathon itself—they find even greater cause for alarm. One study looked at 255 participants in an extended, 32-week marathon training program and found that 90 of them—that’s 35 percent—experienced “overuse” injuries. (Among the most common training ailments are anterior knee pain, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and stress fractures.) Another research group surveyed 725 men who raced in the 2005 Rotterdam Marathon, and found that more than half of them had sustained a running injury over the course of the year. Among those who sustained a new injury during the month leading up to the race, one-quarter were still suffering, to some extent, three months later.

Deaths do occur during the marathon, but I’m glad to say they’re very, very rare. Most runners’ ailments will be temporary; then again, most runners won’t have any benefits to weigh against those modest costs. Even if they don’t ruin their knees, twist their ankles, or bang their toes while training, their weekly hobby won’t do much to help their health. Marathoners fail to lose weight, as a rule, and while aerobic exercise may be good for the heart, doing a huge amount of aerobic exercise brings at best diminishing returns.

The sport isn’t merely dangerous; it’s extravagant. It costs more than $250 just to enter the New York City Marathon and to have the chance to chafe your nipples alongside 50,000 other people. Meanwhile, humanity’s oldest form of exercise has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry in footwear. Even efforts to pare down the sport to fundamentals have been absorbed into this marketing, such that there now exists a set of high-priced products known, improbably enough, as “barefoot running shoes.”

I get the feeling that marathoners think of themselves as gritty, motivated types, who would rather train and get things done than sit around watching videos on Facebook. Indeed, they’ll often note the fact of their accomplishment (we might think of this as “showing off”) on social media. For them, the pursuit of running 26 miles may have less to do with any functional reward than merely having gone through training in the first place. It’s an exercise of will, not one of purpose; the marathoner views achievement as a virtue of its own—like climbing Everest because it’s there.

It’s telling that this monomania gets rewarded—every single time, with cheering crowds and Facebook likes—despite its lack of substance. (At least Everest has a view!) I guess the form itself excites us: We’re so starved for ways to show self-discipline, and to regiment our time, that any goal will do, even one so imbecilic as the marathon. This only calls attention to the wasted opportunity: If we want to celebrate the act of building up to something hard—if we’re ready to devote ourselves, for at least 100 hours, to regimented training—then we should strive for something better. Instead of spending all that time purely for the sake of having spent it, let’s pursue a goal that has some meaning in itself.

I can think of no form of “leisure” less appealing than running 26 miles. Except for those crazy supermarathon bastards running 100 miles or whatever while they figure out where to poop.

Opinions may differ.

CEO Pay in the New Gilded Age

[ 66 ] June 24, 2016 |


Where are the pitchforks?

Growth in median compensation may have slowed lately, or even fallen for some of the highest-paid chief executives. But this is little recompense for workers who have seen their wages stagnate or fall for decades.

Last year, the average chief executive of an S&P 500 company was paid 335 times more than the average nonsupervisory worker, according to the AFL-CIO’s useful interactive site, Executive Paywatch.

This stunning disparity has been the norm since the 1990s, but it wasn’t always this way. In 1965, the average CEO made 20 times the pay of the average worker; it was around 34-to-1 in 1980. By 1998, it was nearly 322-to-1.

What to do about it is fairly obvious. Tax the living heck out of them:

One measure would be returning to the progressive taxation system that operated from the 1940s until 1981, with a top marginal rate of, say, 70 percent as opposed to today’s 39.6 percent.

Another is to eliminate the tax-option loophole, which helps subsidize high compensation. (It allows companies to deduct the market value of the options, even though they are not a real expense, thus lowering their taxes. This arguably encourages companies to grant even more options in big comp packages.) According to a report from Citizens for Tax Justice, 315 big companies have used this to avoid $64.6 billion in taxes over the past five years.

Corporate tax rates could be set higher for firms with high CEO-to-worker pay differentials. Say-on-pay could be made mandatory rather than advisory. Public companies could be required to separate the chairman and chief-executive jobs. And unionization could be made easier, giving workers greater bargaining power.

Unionization certainly does need to be made easier, although I’m not sure that it would really make a difference unless unions start bargaining over peak executive pay. I’d love that, but it seems that tax, tax, tax is the answer, in a variety of ways. Time to reclaim that money for the public good.

Hidden Sexism

[ 99 ] June 24, 2016 |


Will hidden sexism hurt Hillary Clinton this fall? Quite possibly, although I’d like to see more than yet another story on Real American Voters, i.e., working-class white men from the Rust Belt, to suggest it may be so.

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