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Category: General

Plutocrats: More Effective Behind The Scenes

[ 77 ] January 23, 2015 |

Tom Steyer won’t be running for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in California.

Steyer seems like a good guy, a committed environmentalist, but this is almost certainly excellent. news. for. Democrats.  First, as Rebecca Leber says, his money is almost certainly better spent on a variety of swing races rather than on a safer-than-safe blue seat.  And then there’s this:

Neither did Steyer, which doesn’t exactly solve that problem. When he started looking at the race, Steyer let it be known, through aides and memos, that he’d serve one term if he couldn’t get his agenda through the Senate. If carbon dioxide output wasn’t decreasing, if tax loopholes hadn’t been closed, he’d be out in 2022. His pre-campaign network was even called Team Cincinnatus, named for the dictator of the early Roman Republic who willingly gave back power as soon as his job was done.

Preemptively declaring a dramatic flounce should you, as a freshman senator, fail to achieve a very ambitious progressive agenda during a period in which the Republicans are nearly certain to control the House for 2/3rds of the time…yeah, I think this is someone the Senate caucus can really do without.

Happy Birthday Roe v. Wade!

[ 49 ] January 22, 2015 |

Links to various arguments about why Roe was correctly decided and why it matters can be found here.

Via Edroso, Mollie Hemmingway is concern-trollingly upset that a Republican abortion ban based on evidence-free “fetal pain” arguments has been briefly set aside by the House.  (Another anti-abortion bill passed today.)  The argument begins, as so many such arguments do, with a risible misunderstanding of the decision being attacked:

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court legalizing abortion on demand throughout pregnancy.

Well, I happen to have Roe v. Wade right here, and:

With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

And, of course, if we consider Roe v. Wade as it’s been subsequently modified by the Supreme Court, many American women regrettably do not have access to “abortion on demand” at any stage of pregnancy. But Hemmingway is wrong even about Roe circa 1973.

And then there’s this:

As my colleague David Harsanyi has noted, we have a Republican Congress that doesn’t believe it’s competent enough to make a case against infanticide.

Odd — Hemmingway (absurdly) thinks that second trimseter abortions are like “infanticide.” But I must have missed the harsh criticism of the Republicans who support this legislation, which is plainly incompatible with this view. Here are the criminal sanctions in the proposed, temporarily withdrawn legislation:

Subjects individuals who violate this Act to a fine, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. Bars prosecution of a woman upon whom an abortion is performed in violation of this Act for violating or conspiring to violate this Act.

Five years seems awfully lenient for an alleged child-murderer. And even more to the point, women who commit what Hemmingway is pretending to consider “infanticide” are subject to no criminal sanctions whatsoever. This is instructive first of all because it inescapably reflects a belief that women who obtain abortions lack moral agency. And the fact that Hemmingway does not even find the fact that women are wholly exempt from criminal sanction worth mentioning makes it clear that when she’s throwing the term “infanticide” around she’s bullshitting, which is highly offensive given the context. But let’s be frank — very few people really think that second trimseter abortions are anything like infanticide. Statutes based on this belief would be extremely unpopular and unenforceable. I know it, you know it, and House Republicans know it. Which is one reason why safe and legal abortions should be accessible to all American women.

Environmental Policy History Reading List

[ 28 ] January 22, 2015 |

I received a request for a list of environmental policy/history books. I make no claims to being an authoritative source here and others will have different books, but here are 10 books on the history of environmental policy I find useful. I am thinking of these terms broadly as well. In no order:

1. Samuel Hays, A History of Environmental Politics since 1945.
Pretty self-explanatory, good overview of the issue from the dean of environmental policy history.

2. James Morton Turner, The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964
An excellent recent overview of wilderness politics after the Wilderness Act.

3. Christopher Wells, Car Country: An Environmental History
How did we become a car-centric society and what are its environmental implications?

4. Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-80.
Who has access to clean nature and who does not? Guess what–it’s about race.

5. Karl Jacoby, Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation
What were the politics and actions behind the creation of hunting law and national parks?

6. Nancy Langston, Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES
A key book about the science and policy behind synthetic chemicals and women’s bodies

7. Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West
Water policy, which we must understand to talk about the West.

8. Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River
How policymakers and industry completely reshaped a river and its ecosystem.

9. Joseph Taylor, Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis
Fisheries policy and its many mistakes is hugely important for environmental policy

10. Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: People, Politics, and the AIDS Epidemic.
A great piece of journalism rather than a history but it holds up as an indictment of the abject failure of the Reagan Administration during the greatest public health crisis of the second half of the 20th century.

I find this list slightly dated, which surprises me since I keep up on the historiography pretty well. It’s also I should note quite different than what I think the best books of environmental history are, although these are all good. Strictly thinking about policy.

I have no doubt there will be many great recommendations in comments as well, including books I probably just forgot.

The Sound of Silver

[ 11 ] January 22, 2015 |

separate_vocations_28In some of today’s least surprising political news:

Federal authorities are expected to arrest Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges Thursday, the New York Times reported overnight.

The newspaper says it is unclear what charges the Manhattan Democrat would face but say the case stems from “payments that Mr. Silver received from a small law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes.”

It is unclear how much Silver received, the newspaper reported.

And, while we’re here, let’s remember one of Shelly’s greatest hits:

In other news, a judge ruled yesterday that two of those former female staffers can proceed with a lawsuit against the state. The plaintiffs allege, quite reasonably, that the state — and specifically Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — knew Lopez was a hands-y creep and failed to protect them from him. Silver had already signed off on two settlements with former Lopez staffers so he had to know that he was a creepy scumbag.

More useful context here.

The Civil War Collection

[ 36 ] January 22, 2015 |

Here’s some interesting newly available books on and about the Civil War from the 19th and early 20th centuries. They include Pain and Anaesthetics: An Essay, from 1862, by Valentine Mott. Of course, the piles off mangled bodies beyond taxed the limited medical facilities of the day and led to perhaps 100,000 or so deaths that would not have happened a few decades later. On what made anesthesia so great:

How often, when operating in some deep, dark wound, along the course of some great vein, with thin walls, alternately distended and flaccid with the vital current – how often have I dreaded that some unfortunate struggle of the patient would deviate the knife a little from its proper course, and that I, who fain would be the deliverer, should involuntarily become the executioner, seeing my patient perish in my hands by the most appalling form of death! Had he been insensible, I should have felt no alarm.

By the use of anesthetics, also, the shrieks and cries of the patient are prevented; so that the surgeon’s powers are not additionally taxed, either to nerve himself to a very unpleasant task, or to control and encourage the attendants.

I’ll bet.

More at the link.

Replying to the ACA Troofers

[ 79 ] January 21, 2015 |

The government’s reply to the ACA troofers has been submitted, and as you would expect it’s devastating. Section I should be sufficient in itself — it is clear simply reading the statute properly that exchanges established by HHS are “exchanges established by the State” as the statute defines them. I’ll have more later, but a couple choice excerpts. First, I like this from the section refuting the “Moops invaded Spain” argument:

Petitioners do not deny that their interpretation of Section 36B would thwart the operation of the Act’s central provisions in States with federally facilitated Exchanges. Instead, they reverse-engineer a description of the Act’s design and history to fit their misreading of Section 36B. Petitioners insist that Congress intentionally threatened to impose a dysfunctional regime on the States in order to pressure them to establish Exchanges for themselves, and that Congress assumed that every State would comply. That notion is baseless.

First, it was well understood when the Act was passed that some States would not establish Exchanges for themselves. The very fact that the Act provides for federally-facilitated Exchanges demonstrates that “Congress thought that some States might decline * * * to participate in the operation of an exchange.” NFIB v. Sebelius, (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, & Alito, JJ., dissenting).

Nicely done! I also like the conclusion of the argument summary:

Petitioners invoke “judicial fidelity to the rule of law and well-established interpretive principles.” But it is petitioners, not the government, who seek to rewrite the Act. Determining the meaning of a statute duly enacted by Congress, particularly a statute as consequential as this one, by focusing on isolated phrases divorced from textual crossreferences, definitions, and context—and with no regard for the statute’s structure and design—does not respect the rule of law. It subverts the rule of law by denying appropriate respect to the choices Congress has made in the exercise of its democratically accountable authority.

So true.

The Female Auteur

[ 31 ] January 21, 2015 |

Bjork speaks of sexism in music:

Pitchfork: When it was originally misreported that Vulnicura was produced by Arca, instead of co-produced by you and Arca, it reminded me of the Joni Mitchell quote from the height of her fame about how whichever man was in the room with her got credit for her genius.

B: Yeah, I didn’t want to talk about that kind of thing for 10 years, but then I thought, “You’re a coward if you don’t stand up. Not for you, but for women. Say something.” So around 2006, I put something on my website where I cleared something up, because it’d been online so many times that it was becoming a fact. It wasn’t just one journalist getting it wrong, everybody was getting it wrong. I’ve done music for, what, 30 years? I’ve been in the studio since I was 11; Alejandro had never done an album when I worked with him. He wanted to putting something on his own Twitter, just to say it’s co-produced. I said, “No, we’re never going to win this battle. Let’s just leave it.” But he insisted. I’ve sometimes thought about releasing a map of all my albums and just making it clear who did what. But it always comes across as so defensive that, like, it’s pathetic. I could obviously talk about this for a long time. [laughs]

Pitchfork: The world has a difficult time with the female auteur.

B: I have nothing against Kanye West. Help me with this—I’m not dissing him—this is about how people talk about him. With the last album he did, he got all the best beatmakers on the planet at the time to make beats for him. A lot of the time, he wasn’t even there. Yet no one would question his authorship for a second. If whatever I’m saying to you now helps women, I’m up for saying it. For example, I did 80% of the beats on Vespertine and it took me three years to work on that album, because it was all microbeats—it was like doing a huge embroidery piece. Matmos came in the last two weeks and added percussion on top of the songs, but they didn’t do any of the main parts, and they are credited everywhere as having done the whole album. [Matmos’] Drew [Daniel] is a close friend of mine, and in every single interview he did, he corrected it. And they don’t even listen to him. It really is strange.

It’s hardly surprising but it’s terrible. And these things aren’t just restricted to music journalists, but I think are pretty ingrained in the popular imagination, albeit the popular imagination of people who care this deeply about albums, which is not all that many people.

High Broderism, Once Influential Conservative Democrat Edition

[ 36 ] January 21, 2015 |

Bill Galston, the prescient analyst cryogenically frozen at a 1991 DLC meeting, has some Deep Thoughts about the SOTU:

Still, as Mr. Obama began speaking, a key uncertainty remained:  What balance would he strike between the desire to shape the political terrain for 2016 and the imperatives of governing in 2015?  The former required bold initiatives, of a kind likely to evoke sharply negative reactions from Republicans who command majorities in both the House and the Senate.  But successful legislating this year will require compromise with those very majorities.  Could he thread the needle, making the Democratic political case for next year without undermining the possibility of legislative progress this year?

Yes, in 2015 it’s very, very hard to tell if congressional Republicans would be willing to pass sensible middle-of-the-road compromises. But either way, I think that we can agree that whether it will happen will depend on the precise wording of the State of the Union address.

Meanwhile, enjoy this analysis of Galston’s middlebrow equivalent Ron Fournier.

The end of something

[ 161 ] January 21, 2015 |

Anyone interested in the law school crisis and the reform movements it has engendered ought to read this state of the (dis)union message from Esq. Never. Here’s a brief excerpt but you should really read the whole thing:

For years, the strategy of the law school cartel was clear: dangle the ostensible treasures afforded to the top 10% in front of prospective students and then lump toilet law proles and document review slaves into the ‘ol “Employed – JD required” bucket for reporting purposes.

The masses bought it; the mystique and prestige of the law degree was preserved while unctuous law administrators and professors feasted on the ceaseless blood money flowing from Sallie Mae and Access Group via the financial futures of so many deceived souls. . .

The jig is up. Even the slickest deans haven’t been able to spin the situation. Their previously enticing coos of prestige and prosperity sound more and more like a cacophony of used car salesmen trying to unload those jeeps from the 90’s that used to flip over. . .

With fewer prospective students, law schools only have two unpleasant choices: Reduce tuition and hack away at the scam’s raison d’être or attempt to retain the present cash flow and torpedo the prestige to which these pseudo-august institutions so jealously cling.

There really is no other choice. Bread and circuses won’t fly anymore. If prospective students are unpersuaded that there are ample legal jobs available, no amount of moot court rooms with mahogany benches and cutting edge technology is going to drive them in.

BALLGHAZI! The Greatest Scandal There Absolutely Ever Was Except Steroids

[ 179 ] January 21, 2015 |

Look, everyone knows that Bill BeliCHEAT only won because of those times they videotaped something. Why, they were never really able to put a decent team together after that. But that was nothing compared to the scandal of the deflated balls. I don’t think there can be any question that this provided New England with their razor-thin margin of victory last week. There can only be one equitable solution — Roger Goodell, in all his impeccable integritude, must declare a last week’s game a forfeit and a victory for Indianapolis.

However! Nobody likes a tattletale, so the Colts can hardly get off Scot-free here. I think they should have a player suspended too — to pick an entirely random player off their roster, let’s say…Andrew Luck. Now, you might think this might be a major handicap heading into the Super Bowl. Not hardly! Why, as master stratgerist Mike McCarthy has proven, you should try to give your running back 20 carries a half regardless of the circumstances. Last week, he was very nearly able to win with that approach despite such formidable obstacles as “the other team turning the ball over 5 times” and “the opposition QB putting together a robust 0 QB rating after 3 quarters.” And here’s the kicker — McCarthy certainly didn’t have 3RD OVERALL PICK TRENT RICHARDSON in his arsenal. As a Seahawks fan, I am frankly terrified of the Colts grounding and pounding their way to victory — but, hey, fair’s fair.


[ 37 ] January 21, 2015 |


Who wants a feel bad story about a hero of the American left?

As you may know, Big Bill Haywood jumped bail in 1921 to avoid a return to prison for violation of the Espionage Act. He fled to the Soviet Union, where he died a miserable, lonely drunk in 1928. It’s a sad story.

But sadder still was the cost of Haywood’s decision to leave. Not only did it break any unity the IWW still had after the World War I repression and show that the most famous radical of the era would not do what hundreds of his followers did and go to prison for their beliefs, but it had real effects on the people who had put up the money for his bail. Two people had split the cost. The first was a wealthy man by the name of William Bross Lloyd. The loss of his money didn’t matter all that much. But the second was the radical journalist Mary Marcy. She put up her house for his bail. When he jumped bail, she lost her house. She then killed herself in 1922.

The Songs that Haunt Us

[ 185 ] January 21, 2015 |

The songs that haunt us tend to be slow. Or slower–at least–than uptempo poppy or rocky songs. They’re the songs that fuse to our skeleton and become a part of us. They’re the songs we never get tired of hearing–ever. Thet instantly transport us to a different world–it’s Pavlovian, our reaction. I’m always so happy when another song enters my pantheon of haunters. Here are mine, starting with my newest obsession:

Love and Communication-Cat Power

Love Song for a Vampire-Annie Lennox
You’re the One-Kate Bush
What You Know-T.I.
Two Weeks-Grizzly Bear
Exodus Damage-John Vanderslice

Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us–Alison Kraus/Robert Plant

 Pretty much any Bryan Ferry song

Woman in Chains-Tears for Fears


I know I’m forgetting some. UPDATE: ARRRRRGH SO MANY!!

Raptor XX

What songs haunt you?

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