Subscribe via RSS Feed

Category: General

On Marijuana Policy Reform, Senate to Do What it Does Best: Nothing

[ 16 ] March 25, 2015 |

Proponents of the strongest version of the War (On Classes Some People Who Use Some) Drugs ain’t going down without a fight:

But the Senate Judiciary Committee is emerging as a serious buzz kill for the pro-reform set.

The powerful panel is stacked with some of the most senior lawmakers in Congress, many of whom came to power during a tough-on-crime era of the drug wars that saw stiffer penalties for drug possession. Several of them openly gripe about what they call the Obama administration’s lack of enforcement of existing federal drug laws — and they certainly aren’t willing to send a signal that Congress is OK with the movement to liberalize pot.

“I’m probably against it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the most senior Senate Republican and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said of the cannabis bill

“I don’t think we need to go there,” added Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican and former Texas attorney general and state Supreme Court justice. “This is a more dangerous topic than what a lot of the advocates acknowledge.”

Republicans most recently made news on the marijuana front in December, adding language to a spending bill that effectively blocked sales of pot in the District of Columbia — where, a month earlier, voters overwhelmingly approved a legalization measure.

But the slow boring of hard etc.  Good for Gillibrand et. al for putting this on the agenda.

Grift American style

[ 132 ] March 24, 2015 |

elmer gantry

Salon has an interview with Rick Perlstein, in which Perlstein explains how Mike Huckabee’s hawking of some magic beans that purportedly cure diabetes is all of a piece with the intersection of New Right politics and good old fashioned American hucksterism:

[O]nline publications like Human Events and Newsmax— which is files and files of their horrible con games— would rent out their good name and their lists. You’d see something in your email like, Dear Human Events reader… and something about a 99-cent cancer cure. You never could tell where the grift begins and the politics end because there would always be rhetoric about how there’s a liberal conspiracy to hide this knowledge from the public; that this particular cancer cure was used by Ronald Reagan, et cetera, et cetera. . .

I believe that in the 1990s, The New Republic did an exposé of how Pat Buchanan had turned running for President into a business, so it didn’t start with Ben Carson or Mike Huckabee.

One of the many things I admire about Perlstein’s work is that he’s not contemptuous toward the people who are getting conned by this sort of thing, but rather understands the worldly success of the likes of Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck as a product of structural social and cultural factors, rather than evidence of individual stupidity and/or culpable naivete on the part of their marks:

A lot of this stuff comes from Evangelical culture, which is a culture of witness, so the hawking of miracles is absolutely baked into the cake. Someone like Pat Robertson was followed by a figure like Pat Buchanan or any number of candidates in the last two or three Republican primary seasons, who make a lot of noise by doing decently well in early polls but then fade out once the seasoned pros take over and the money becomes preeminent.

If this historical pattern holds, Mike Huckabee, if he does well early, will flame out before the second or third inning but I see no impediment whatsoever for him to be disqualified by the conservative rank-and-file, simply because this stuff has been going on without much complaint since the 1970s. This is part of the hustle, right? If Huckabee can claim to have been victimized because of his activities, he can always claim it’s the conspiracy of the liberal elites… and then it’s off to the races. . . .

Glenn Beck is a Mormon and this stuff is baked into Mormon culture even more than Evangelical culture. There’s the whole culture of multilevel marketing— or pyramid schemes, as they’re more derisively known— which is basically a system where you buy a franchise for some kind of product but you really only make money by selling a chunk of the franchise to your neighbor. The further down the line you are, the less likely you are to realize any profits, and most people lose lots of money on this stuff. MLM, some people joke in Utah, stands for “Mormons losing money” and so these guys are masters of the stuff. There’s also a culture of Evangelical or Mormon witnessing; being able to cry on cue when telling the story of your victimization is very important. This goes back to Elmer Gantry as portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the film of the same name.

There is or was a right-wing talk radio station in Denver, and awhile back I listened in rapt fascination to the Michael Savage show while stuck in a traffic jam. I was particularly struck by how between all the frothing at the mouth, Savage would pitch every kind of snake oil imaginable — miracle medical cures of course, but also financial miracles via no money down real estate pyramid schemes, gold bug propaganda, survivalist kits, you name it.

Anyway, all this makes me think of (what else?) law schools, but really you can apply a grifter-style frame to a huge number of social institutions, from the most disreputable to the most respectable. (For instance climate change denialism lends itself very well to this typology.)

I propose the following typology, using the current crisis in legal education as an exemplar. Any successful sustained grift (the term of art is a “long con”) will feature three sorts of promotional characters. These character types have fuzzy boundaries, and indeed a single person may at any one time exhibit traits of two or all three of them, as well as moving between types over time.

The Wise Guy

This guy (or gal) is on the grift and knows it. He therefore has a certain purity to him. Example: The people running Sterling Partners, the Chicago private equity firm that figured out how to gorge itself on federal loans by opening up for-profit open-enrollment law schools. Sterling Partners knows exactly what it’s about, which is profit-maximization courtesy the American taxpayer.

The Bullshitter

These are the classic sales types. Asking them if they believe their own pitches is like asking an actor if he really is the character he’s playing. In other words the question itself involves a category mistake. Examples: Basically every law school dean when he’s playing the role of a law school dean.

The Zealot

This person really believes. It’s of course extremely tempting to believe things that one wants to believe are true, and plenty of people give in to that temptation, even if doing so requires performing certain unnatural intellectual acts (Flaubert: “To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”).

I could add plenty of illustrative links but reading Perlstein makes me feel a certain sympathy for the devils, so readers can come up with their own favorites.

I do wonder where Erwin Chemerinsky fits into this maze however.

Racial Thursdays

[ 36 ] March 24, 2015 |

blackface_3910

Look, the Army boys just need a little time to blow off some stress by indulging in open racism….

We Must Kill the Free Market In Order To Protect It, NCAA Cartel Edition

[ 212 ] March 24, 2015 |

bcs_200Above: A Sponsorship That Must Have Been Given Away For Free Because the Noble Ideals Of Amateurism (TM)

This genre of NCAA lickspittlism might be my very favorite. “NCAA players have absolutely no value that contributes to a billion-dollar industry. People cheer for laundry, coaches, and administrators, not specific players. In conclusion, we need to completely eliminate the market so that players cannot be paid.” I mean, “we must preserve the Noble Ideals of Amateurism” is a terrible argument that is neither attractive in itself nor remotely relevant to the actually existing NCAA, but at least its assumptions don’t immediately collapse on themselves even in theory.

The Development of White Collar Work

[ 5 ] March 24, 2015 |

5915231095_788468ed17_o

Longreads.com was not messing around when it chose that name. Sometimes, things are now long reads primarily because the internet makes it possible, as opposed to using the most effective length to get a point across. That’s the case with this extraordinarily long excerpt of Nikil Saval’s new book on the development of white collar labor in the 19th century. Despite (or maybe because of) this, if you want to know about how explicitly white collar labor developed, with a sort of class consciousness of its own, this is a really good place to start. Given how culturally valued white collar labor is over blue collar in 2015 America and how this was very much the opposite before the Civil War, it’s worth exploring this history.

“The Liberal Benghazi”

[ 91 ] March 24, 2015 |

16-richard-cohen.w529.h529.2x

Richard Cohen, America’s least favorite racist uncle, just can’t help himself, calling outrage over cops murdering black people in places like Ferguson, “the liberal Benghazi.” Fred Hiatt of course is fine with this.

Hillary Clinton and Education

[ 26 ] March 24, 2015 |

Since she lacks a credible primary challenger, it might be awhile before we know whether Hillary Clinton is as in the pocket of the wealthy education privatizers and Rheeists as Barack Obama. Given her close relations with the teachers’ unions and the Wall Street Democrats, she is definitely being pulled in different directions. Where she does eventually fall may tell us much about what her presidency might be like for progressives.

I confess that I am not confident.

Somewhere, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Guiliani are Green With Envy

[ 116 ] March 24, 2015 |

Arbitrary police harassment of citizens in Chicago is remarkably pervasive:

Perhaps the most startling finding of the ACLU report is that during the summer of 2014, CPD conducted more than a quarter million stops of civilians that did not lead to an arrest. When comparing that number of stops to population in Chicago versus New York City at the height of that city’s controversial use of the stop-and-frisk practice, Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as people in New York. Stops per 1000 residents was 93.6 in Chicago, compared to 22.9 (at the highest point in 2011) in New York City. The New York police have been forced to curb significantly their use of stop-and-frisk after a federal judge found the use in that city to be unconstitutional.

4 times more often than Bloomberg’s New York? Jesus.

You may be unsurprised that these arbitrary stops were not conducted in a racially neutral manner:

According to data from calendar year 2014 analyzed by the ACLU, African Americans represent nearly 72% of all the stops in the City of Chicago, as compared to the reality that African Americans represent only about 32% of the City’s population. The data analyzed by the ACLU shows that stops most commonly take place in the districts with the largest minority populations. For example, in 2014, police conducted 266 stops per 1000 people in the Englewood area (which is predominantly African American) while the rate in predominantly white Lincoln/Foster district was just 43 per 1000 people.

However, the data also shows that African Americans are much more likely to be the target of stops in predominantly white neighborhoods. Thus, in Jefferson Park where the population is just 1% African American, African Americans account for a full 15% of all stop-and-frisks in that area. In the Near North District, where the African American population is 9.1%, African Americans are subjected to more than one-half (57.7%) of all the stops. The ACLU report concludes that “black citizens are disproportionately subjected to more stops than their white counterparts.

Equally unsurprising is that many of the stops were not legal even under the very forgiving standard established by Terry v. Ohio:

The report also explores the problems with the reasons for many of the stops are taking place. Each time a Chicago Police officer makes a stop, the officer is required to fill out a “contact card” collecting information about the person who was stopped and why the stop took place. The ACLU’s review of a randomly-selected number of contact cards from selected months in 2012 and 2013, they found that in half of all stops reviewed the officer failed to record a legally sufficient reason for initiating the stop. In a number of other instances, police stated that they stopped someone for a reason that was unrelated to criminal activity (associating with others who were suspicious, for example) or asserting that someone “matched a description” without any explanation of how or what description was matched. In spite of this poor performance, the City reported that it has no record of police officers receiving additional training after the academy in proper procedures for stop and frisks—training that seems to be needed greatly.

What’s even better about these systematic violations of civil liberties is that there’s no evidence that they actually improve public safety.

The Cruz Candidacy

[ 96 ] March 24, 2015 |

131209165732-ted-cruz-coloring-book-story-top

I don’t think Cruz is likely to win the nomination, but I do think he will play an important role nonetheless:

Cruz is a long shot to win the nomination, but he is a canny politician with enough of a base of support to act as an ideological enforcer during the primaries. And one of the most important orthodoxies he will be policing is total, uncompromising opposition to what will invariably be referred to as “Obamacare.”

Another notable aspect of Cruz’s announcement was the date: Monday was the fifth anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act. The significance of this was swiftly grasped. Republican power broker William Kristol explained the symbolic importance of the date to his Twitter followers, and added that if “he makes zeal for repeal AND real plan to replace a centerpiece of his run, has a shot.”

Somehow I doubt that Cruz will propose that replacement.

It’s nice that Bill Kristol has come up with a zingy one-liner to describe the drive to take health insurance away from more than 10 million people.  (The fact that he thinks Cruz has a shot is reassuring, though.)

Some additional links: Nate Cohn has a good explanation of why Cruz is a longshot; Dara Lind explains why Cruz is eligible to run for president despite having the distinction of being born in Calgary; and Josh Israel has a good tip of the iceberg of Cruzian wingnuttery.

Why Tenure Matters

[ 33 ] March 24, 2015 |

An object lesson:

A former administrator at Chicago State University has accused its president and other officials of firing her in part because she refused their demands that she file a false sexual-harassment charge against a faculty member critical of the leadership.

LaShondra Peebles, who was fired last June as interim vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said in court filings that other administrators, including Wayne D. Watson, the president, had pressured her to file the charge against Phillip A. Beverly, an associate professor of political science. Ms. Peebles said the other administrators had hoped to use false charges against Mr. Beverly to justify his dismissal and to shut down a blog in which he and other faculty members routinely published criticisms of Mr. Watson and other top officials at Chicago State.

Administrators pressured her at several meetings to file the false charge and accused her of “not being a ‘team player’” when she refused, Ms. Peebles said in a sworn statement submitted in federal court on Thursday. The statement was made in connection with a lawsuit in which Mr. Beverly and another faculty member have accused Mr. Watson and two university lawyers of violating their free-speech rights

.

Revenge is a Dish Best…Well…Not Served. Because It Sounds Gross and Inedible.

[ 87 ] March 23, 2015 |

“That Woman”– bspencer Folks, you can’t tame this woman; she was raised on raw misogynist chicken.

 

Marcotte has a hilarious post up at Pandagon about MGTOW cuisine. I’ve always been a Marcotte fan, but this is truly must-read. Are you a TL;DR kinda person? Well, in short, men are thwarting feminism by cooking horrible-sounding meals for themselves. In response I have decided to renounce feminism and cook disgusting food for neckbearded manbabies. Sorry, folks. I held out for as long as I could but this “logic abuse” and chicken breast abuse finally convinced me of the error of my ways. It was nice thinking of women as fully human with you manginas but I wanna be on the winning team. The winning team that eats salmonella-infused chicken.

Share your own MGTOW-inspired recipes in the comments if you wish.

Dead Bid Walking

[ 158 ] March 23, 2015 |

boston-streets

The ridiculous attempt to put the Olympics in Boston in 2024 is dying on the vine. Hosting the Olympics is a terrible idea for any city. For a old, cramped, expensive city like Boston with no room to grow and huge traffic problems, it’s pretty much the worst idea imaginable.

Page 4 of 1,239« First...23456...102030...Last »