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Category: General

“Looking Out For No. 1″ Is A Kind of Ethics

[ 234 ] September 14, 2014 |

I’m happy to mostly outsource my response to Bryan Lowder’s trolling to Madeline Davies. I will only add that the increasingly shabby treatment of non-premium customers by airlines is beside the point. The idea that people should sacrifice comfort so they can be better objects for Bryan Lowder’s aesthetic contemplation while engaging in a form of travel that is never going to be comfortable is just deeply stupid and offensive on its face. (And we’re not talking here about choices that tangibly affect someone else’s comfort — saying people should shower and avoid powerful food odors is a different issue.) Nor is self-interest an issue; I generally wear a button-down shirt and slacks while on planes and never wear sweat pants unless I’m exercising. Nonetheless, you’re a decent human being if you want to wear sweatpants while flying, while pissing and moaning that the “swamp of schlumps” aren’t wearing sports jackets during their periods of encasement in flying sardine tins nowadays is something less than decent.

I hadn’t planned to bother pointing out the obvious, though, until someone on the Facebook pointed out this contrarian comedy classic from Lowder’s archives:

He was talking about the stock. Vegetarians were at that moment speeding up the express subway track toward our home, and, despite my efforts to craft a menu that would appease them, I had just failed by using chicken stock in the mushroom risotto … or had I?

I flashed my chilliest Stepford smile at him as I gently stirred the liquid into the hissing pot. “You won’t say a word, will you, sweetie?”

I should probably apologize for this supposedly egregious violation, but for some reason, the words choke in my throat. For starters, the addition of my carefully crafted homemade stock to the risotto was not malicious. In my daily cooking, the ingredient is as basic as kosher salt and freshly ground pepper; I reach for a half-cup of it to thin a sauce or enrich weeknight rice just as I would somnambulistically reach for the AC remote in the middle of a steamy August night. In other words, it was an accident.

But the more I meditate on this issue, the more I think that it is not I who should feel guilty, even for an honest mistake. After all, one version of a saying by none other than famed gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin tells us that “stock to a cook is like voice to a singer.” Can you really justify taking away my voice? When I have vegetarians over for dinner, I’m already making a sacrifice by forgoing a real entrée in favor of a meatless one. Fairness and common sense would argue that, in return, vegetarians shouldn’t make a big deal about some small amount of a near-invisible (if crucial!) liquid. I’ve compromised my culinary integrity enough already—now it’s your turn: Vegetarians and vegans, chicken stock does not count as meat.

Look, part of being a good host is that you should accommodate the dietary and ethical concerns of your guests. If your guests don’t eat animal products, don’t serve animal products. You can make a perfectly good risotto with homemade vegetable stock, or if you can’t make a decent vegetable stock you can serve one of the countless good vegetarian dishes that don’t use it. Your guests shouldn’t be required to compromise their principles because you lack imagination. And if you want to pretend there’s some principle involved in never cooking without chicken stock, don’t lie to your guests about it. I mean, really.

If ladies burped, farted, or told raunchy jokes, I could see them serving in the infantry. But…

[ 138 ] September 14, 2014 |

Lioness training in Iraq via United States Marine Corps

Of course women aren’t fit to serve in the infantry. Men are pigs who will sexually assault and harass them at the drop of a beret.

[This post is brought to you by a pair of your old friends.]

Today in Post-Racial America

[ 53 ] September 14, 2014 |

Obviously if a black woman is kissing a white man, she’s a prostitute. There can be no other possible explanation for such deviant behavior. Handcuff her!

And this sort of behavior is directly connected to the institutionalized violence the police commit against African-Americans, in Ferguson and everywhere else. They see black people as criminals and so even the most basic human activities are reason for arrest, intimidation, and violence.

This Day in Labor History: September 14, 1959

[ 31 ] September 14, 2014 |

On September 14, 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Landrum-Griffin Act after actively lobbying for its passage. Officially known as the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, Landrum-Griffin used union corruption as an excuse for a broad-based attack upon organized labor on issues completely unrelated to corruption. The passage of this bill was another major blow to organized labor in the early years of the Cold War that moved power away from unions and back to corporations.

There is a widescale public perception of union corruption. Mostly, this is false and a corporate promoted narrative to turn people off of organizing themselves to improve their lives. But with some unions, corruption was (and occasionally still today, is) all too real. In general, this corruption was concentrated in some of the AFL trades, mostly the smaller building trades unions but also of course in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Teamsters corruption is largely associated with Jimmy Hoffa. This is not wrong and Hoffa was certainly on the take himself, but it’s actually quite a bit more complicated that that. First, the IBT had major corruption issues before Hoffa took power. Second, the corruption reached deep into several sectors of the union. The Teamsters had real problems here and earned their reputation, although the problem is less severe today. The AFL version of the United Auto Workers (UAW-AFL–basically the offshoot of UAW locals angry over internal politics in the real UAW) had real problems. John Dioguardi, a high ranked member of the Lucchese crime family was named head of UAW-AFL Local 102 in New York. Distillery Workers Union executive Sol Cilento was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges.

These sorts of problems got the attention of politicians. It is worth remembering that outside of union-dense areas, organized labor was extremely unpopular in the United States, giving politicians in the South, Great Plains, and West no reason not to go after unions. It also allowed politicians from the union-heavy areas to raise their national profile by showing they would buck unions at some risk to their careers. Anti-corruption hearings in Congress settled in the McClellan Committee, named after its chair, senator John McClellan, a Democrat from Arkansas. The McClellan Committee originally investigated corruption charges against both business and labor but soon shifted to a Senate committee devoted exclusively to digging into the dark side of organized labor. After the 1958 congressional election, in which Democrats picked up large gains in both chambers, conservatives struck back by raising fears of communistic and corrupt unions (never mind that the lefty unions were the ones most likely to not be corrupt and the corrupt unions were largely among the most conservative) would rule America.

Introducing the law was two congressmen–Philip Landrum, a Georgia Democrat, and Michigan Republican John Griffin. This “bipartisanship” that so many Beltway hacks long for today ignores the fact that the real control in Congress belonged to people who shared very similar conservative positions on many issues, regardless of party registration. Among the law’s features were mandating that unions hold internal elections, barred members of the Communist Party from holding union office for five years after they left the CPUSA, required that unions submit annual financial reports to the Department of Labor, and limit power to put locals into trusteeship, which is a way to undermine internal union challenges. Effectively, Landrum-Griffin used corruption as an excuse to extend the anti-union provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. Legislation could have dealt with actually corrupt unions rather than serve as a general attack on organized labor, but that was not the point for the legislators involved. They wanted to bust unions.

Organized labor as a whole vociferously opposed Landrum-Griffin. This isn’t because the AFL-CIO didn’t oppose corruption. As a whole, the federation very much did. It also kicked three particularly corrupt unions out of the federation, including the Teamsters. It’s because the bill’s authors used it as a broader attack upon unions, forcing them into reporting requirements that business did not have to adhere to. In other words, it was a major step in tipping a playing field only twenty years earlier evened for workers back toward employers. What on earth did communism have to do with corruption? Nothing of course, but it didn’t matter.

Politically of course, it was brilliant to force labor to oppose Landrum-Griffin because they then looked pro-corruption to the general public. Some senators who had made their name fighting union corruption were not happy that the bill attacked the heart of unions. That included John F. Kennedy, who had introduced his own anti-corruption bill. Said Robert Kennedy, chief counsel to McClellan, Landrum-Griffin went “beyond the scope of the McClellan Committee’s findings to affect the economic balance at the bargaining table by honest and legitimate unions and employers.” What made Landrum-Griffin beat Kennedy’s bill was President Eisenhower giving a national speech on September 3 to urge its passage. Congress soon did and Eisenhower signed the law on September 14, 1959.

A fascinating side note to the origins of Landrum-Griffin. David Witwer’s recent research that shows the public incident that led to its passage was largely fabricated. In 1956, the anti-union newspaper columnist Victor Riesel was blinded when the mob threw acid in his eyes. The story was that the corrupt unions it as revenge for his writing about the “underworld-Communist combine” in his column and to prevent him from testifying against union corruption. It was this act that led to the McClellan Committee. The FBI arrested UAW-AFL Local 102 head John Diogaurdi for ordering the hit. Dioguardi was absolutely a mobster running a union for personal profit. This general narrative of bad union thugs attacking hero Riesel for his brave crusade has remained largely unchallenged until recently.

However, Witwer shows that in fact, Riesel never wrote about Dioguardi or any of his operations. Instead, it seems Riesel was corrupt himself and had a financial arrangement with Dioguardi so that he would not write about the mobster. Union leaders’ testimony to the FBI shows that Riesel was shaking down the corrupt unions to keep their names out of his columns. Dioguardi and Riesel even partied together at mob restaurants in New York’s garment district. Witwer could not find out exactly why Dioguardi ordered the hit on Riesel. He suggests it may have had something to do with a dispute over the financial arrangements between the two in another shakedown–forcing business to pay up to stay union free.

All the big political players, including the U.S. Attorney, FBI, and the McClellan Committee, found out about Riesel’s double dealings and lies as he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer a lot of questions when they talked to him. But Riesel was too useful in the larger anti-union movement to bother with the truth mattering much. Riesel played the martyr until the day he died. Fascinating stuff.

This is the 117th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Sledge Hammer

[ 27 ] September 13, 2014 |

One of the first TV shows I ever remember liking was Sledge Hammer, the 80s Dirty Harry spoof that lasted only a season and a half before being cancelled. I don’t know why I liked it then, certainly not because I understood all the jokes, but I remembered some funny stuff all these years later. I figured though that watching it today wouldn’t really pay off. But my brother, who reviews DVDs on the side, watched the series again and immediately said I had to watch it.

And you know what? It holds up pretty well. It has some of the problems of an 80s comedy. Too many episodes per season for one, leading to some bad ones. After the opening episode, at least they didn’t use a laugh track. But for the most part, this isn’t bad at all and some episodes are down right hilarious. It’s really a show ahead of its time. It really trusted its audience with all sorts of movie references, some of which that wouldn’t be all that super obvious to the average schlub watching ABC at 8 pm on a weekday night. Told political jokes. Made fun of other ABC shows. Comedies didn’t do these things in the 80s.

But most of all, it just told jokes that worked pretty well. Such as in “Comrade Hammer,” an episode you should watch. Hammer has to escort a Soviet dissident scientist to a conference. That means lots of Cold War jokes.

The NFL’s Domestic Violence Equation

[ 75 ] September 13, 2014 |

The NFL and its teams have a simple equation it calculates when players commit domestic violence. If the player is marginal, he’s cut and the NFL can say it doesn’t tolerate domestic violence. If the player is a star, he can do anything short of killing a woman or getting caught on tape beating her. Thus Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald will be playing on Sunday.

BREAKING! Olive Garden Is Terrible

[ 252 ] September 13, 2014 |

Of course:

Hedge fund Starboard Value delivered the mother of all food reviews this week with a 294-page slide presentation tearing apart Darden Restaurants, the struggling parent company of Olive Garden. It charges the Italian chain with all manner of incompetence—from serving too little alcohol to serving too many breadsticks—but the most powerful accusations are reserved for its pasta.

Here’s why: Olive Garden has stopped salting its pasta water.

“According to Darden management, Darden decided to stop salting the water to get an extended warranty on their pots,” Starboard, which is in a proxy fight for control over Darden’s board, explains. “Pasta is Olive Garden’s core dish and must be prepared properly. This example shows how disconnected Darden management is from restaurant operations and how little regard Darden management has for the guest experience. If you Google ‘how to cook pasta,’ the first step of Pasta 101 is to salt the water.”

According to the slides, they also just ladle the sauce over the pasta rather than properly combining them in the pan, which is the second day of Pasta 101. (Although, granted, when the sauce is sufficiently bland I don’t know how much it matters.)

I don’t even understand the economic sense of the move. I mean, let’s say you either live in an area that lacks the culinary sophistication of Utica and doesn’t have any decent independent Italian restaurants or are for some reason opposed in principle to eating anywhere but a national chain. Once you went to the Olive Garden and have pasta that’s horrible even by national chain Italian restaurant standards, wouldn’t you take your business to Buca de Carino’s Macaroni Grill instead? (Which is indeed what seems to be happening.) Can the longer warranties possibly be worth it? I wonder if treating their customers with contempt is almost an end in itself.

It also strikes me that Darden HQ being located in Orlando seems overdetermined.

This Is What Child Abuse Looks Like

[ 154 ] September 12, 2014 |

More details about the Peterson indictment:

Peterson’s son had pushed another one of Peterson’s children off of a motorbike video game. As punishment, Peterson grabbed a tree branch – which he consistently referred to as a “switch” – removed the leaves and struck the child repeatedly.

The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands. Peterson then texted the boy’s mother, saying that one wound in particular would make her “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”

Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”

[...]

According to police reports, the child, however, had a slightly different story, telling authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”

I would like to think this would stop anyone from making “oh I got a spanking once or twice no big deal” excuses. But I suspect there will still be too many people who agree with Peterson that he did nothing wrong.

The Worst Person in History

[ 57 ] September 12, 2014 |

My god.

People across the county have begun to rally in support of a woman recently diagnosed with cancer after the doctor she worked for apparently sent her a callously crafted letter laying her off because of the diagnosis.

Hopewell Township resident Carol Jumper was diagnosed with cancer last month that is affecting her ovaries, liver, and pancreas.

“She just couldn’t sleep at night, she would get out of bed and sit in a chair in the living room, that’s the only way she could sleep was sitting up” said Dennis Smerigan, the woman’s fiancé. “It went on for 2 or 3 weeks, you don’t really think anything of it at first. I was cleaning out the bed of my truck one day and she came out, she said you got to take me to the emergency room.”

Jumper underwent testing and biopsies that confirmed a diagnosis of cancer.

“It was about a week later she gets this registered letter delivered at the house,” said Smerigan. “I was pissed when I read that letter. No kind of man sends a letter like that.”

What did this letter say?

DrVisnich

Somehow it bothers me even more that the doctor actually used a standard letter where he just filled in her name.

At the link above, there are instructions if you want to donate to this woman’s cancer treatment.

I wonder if Roger Goodell is a drinking man?

[ 113 ] September 12, 2014 |

Fox Houston reports that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted in Montgomery County, Texas, for reckless or negligent injury to a child. A warrant has been issued for Peterson’s arrest.

The Vikings have deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game against New England.

According to Fox Houston’s Isiah Carey, the charges stem from allegations that Peterson “beat his young son.”

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport adds this detail:

Ian Rapoport ✔ @RapSheet
Follow

Arrest of Adrian Peterson (reported by @MarkBermanFox26) stems from the disciplining of a son with a switch, source says. He’s been indicted

(A switch is a narrow, flexible branch from a tree. A child being disciplined is often sent to fetch his own switch.)

CBS Minnesota has a lot more details:

Sports Radio 610 in Houston obtained a draft of the police report which says Peterson admitted that he did, in his words, “whoop” one of his children last May while the boy was visiting him in Houston.

When the 4-year-old boy returned to Minnesota, his mother took him to a doctor. The police report said the boy told the doctor Peterson had hit him with a branch from a tree.

The doctor told investigators that the boy had a number of lacerations on his thighs, along with bruise-like marks on his lower back and buttocks and cuts on his hand.

The police report says the doctor described some of the marks as open wounds and termed it “child abuse.” Another examiner agreed, calling the cuts “extensive.”

Nick Wright at CBS Houston reports that Peterson told police he hit his son after the boy pushed another child off of a motorbike video game.

The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands. Peterson then texted the boy’s mother, saying that one wound in particular would make her “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”

Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”

In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

According to police reports, the child, however, had a slightly different story, telling authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”

(For those who don’t follow the sport, Peterson is the best running back in the league, and a much bigger star than Ray Rice).

. . . also:

Greg Hardy, a Pro-Bowl defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, was arrested on May 13 for assaulting an ex-girlfriend. On the arrest warrant, a police officer made the following statement. The capital letters appeared in the document.

“I, the undersigned, find that there is probable cause to believe that on or about the date of the offense shown [May 13, 2014] and in the county named above [Mecklenburg County, North Carolina] the defendant named above [Hardy] unlawfully and willingly did assault [redacted], a female person, by GRABBING VICTIM AND THROWING TO THE FLOOR, THROWING INTO A BATHTUB, SLAMMING HER AGAINST A FUTON, AND STRANGLING HER. The defendant is a male person and was at least 18 years of age when the assault occurred.”

On the “complaint and motion for domestic violence protective order,” the accuser described the incident.

“On May 13, 2014, Greg Hardy attacked me in his apartment. Hardy picked me up and threw me into the tile tub area in his bathroom. I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded. Landing on those weapons bruised [my] neck and back. Hardy screamed for his “administrative assistant” (Sammy Curtis) to come into the room and hold me down. Curtis came into the room, grabbed me from behind and held me down. Hardy and Curtis then took me into the living room area. I wasn’t nearly strong or fast enough to escape. I begged them to let me go & I wouldn’t tell anyone what he did. They took me out into the hall, pushed me down & went back inside his apartment. I crawled to the elevator and ran into CMPD (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)

In court, the accuser testified: “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just,`Do it. Kill me.”

On June 15, a judge found Hardy guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats. She sentenced him to 18 months probation; a 60-day jail sentence was suspended. Hardy appealed, and since he was convicted of a misdemeanor, under North Carolina law he’s entitled to a jury trial, which is set for Nov. 17. In court, Hardy and Curtis denied that Hardy assaulted the victim, or communicated threats.

The world hasn’t seen this incident on tape. Hardy played in Carolina’s first game. He didn’t practice on Wednesday for what the team said were “personal reasons” — he met with his attorney. But Hardy returned to practice Thursday and as of right now, he is slated to play on Sunday, as the Panthers host the Detroit Lions.

The NFL has an implied message for Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy: Your face paint is a violation of league rules; your assault on your ex-girlfriend and your threat to kill her is not.

The league warned Hardy and the Panthers last week that he would be fined if he donned the face paint he often uses to bring alive his alter ego, “The Kraken.” His conviction on assault charges? Not a problem.

The Republican Attitude Toward Women In A Nutshell

[ 99 ] September 12, 2014 |

Parody is killed yet again:

One Missouri lawmaker has taken the fight against birth control coverage to a new and very personal place: His own daughters, two of whom are adults.

State Rep. Paul Joseph Wieland and his wife Teresa are suing the Obama administration over its minimum coverage requirements for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, which includes contraception. They say the government is forcing them to violate their religious beliefs because they have three daughters, ages 13, 18 and 19, who are on their parents’ plan and might get birth control at no additional cost.

The Wielands’ case was filed before the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that private employers could deny contraceptive coverage to their employees, but they say that decision strengthens their case.

“The employees are to Hobby Lobby what the daughters are to Paul and Teresa Wieland,” Timothy Belz, an attorney from the conservative Thomas More Society, who represents the Wielands, told a panel of three federal judges on the appeals court in St. Louis on Monday. A district court had dismissed the case, saying the Wielands lacked standing to sue.

A worldview in which female employees are like children, female offspring are like employees, and either way even when they are adults the sexuality of women needs to be regulated by another, preferably male adult. It really does get right at the essence of how Republicans view women. In 2014.

Hammer the Ginger Hammer

[ 99 ] September 12, 2014 |

Roger Goodell has said many things about the Ray Rice affair that are false. Which is probably for the best, because when he tries to explain what he’s actually thinking it’s outright appalling:

On Thursday, an anonymous NFL owner explained to The Wall Street Journal that Goodell was quick to drop the incident because Janay told him (during a meeting with six male NFL executives and the man who hit her, as Deadspin notes) that she felt she was partly to blame. He also accepted that she was knocked out when she fell, not from the punch. While that’s a textbook response from a victim of domestic violence, supposedly Goodell felt it would have been “insensitive” to question her story.

Even if the video had corroborated the boldfaced claim…what? Yes, clearly someone suffering further injury when falling down after being punched in the face by a professional athlete is completely unforeseeable, and the puncher should not be held accountable for these injuries. Ye gods.

Petchesky:

Thus, the NFL is retroactively claiming that the reason it came down with a universally-derided two-game suspension in the first place is that it ignored hard evidence in favor of a first-person account given by the person accused of committing domestic violence. This is the league’s actual excuse!

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