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Category: General

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 84

[ 37 ] May 21, 2017 |

This is the grave of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Born in 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire to a family interested in socialism, Flynn was exposed to radical ideas early in life, particularly after they moved in 1900 to New York City. She gave her first public speech at the age of 16 titled “What Socialism Will Do For Women.” Successful, she became a famed orator for radical causes of the time. She dropped out of high school and in 1907, met J.A. Jones, an IWW organizer in Minnesota. They married and had two children. The marriage did not last and Flynn had relationships with other radicals, most notably the Italian anarchist Carlos Tresca. Sometimes speaking while pregnant, this young organizer became known as “The Rebel Girl” as she traveled the nation, using her oratory to rally workers for radical causes. That name itself was given to her by Joe Hill, who wrote a song about her with that title before his execution. She spoke at many of the major IWW events during these years–the various free speech fights in the West, at the Paterson and Lawrence textile strikes, and in support of many other IWW actions. She chained herself to a lamp post during the Spokane Free Speech Fight to make it harder to arrest her. She was however expelled from the IWW in 1916 after getting involved in a plea agreement for some Minnesota Wobblies who she convinced to plead guilty for a murder, even though Big Bill Haywood thought they could get off. When they ended up getting 20 years, Haywood was done with her.

She never again reached the prominence she had during her Wobbly days, but she remained active in radical causes for the rest of her life. She was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 and while the ACLU might not seem that radical today, it came about as a necessary organization in the very scary time of the Red Scare. Of course, it is playing a critical role in resisting the American fascism coming out of the White House today. She supported a broad swath of women’s issues, including birth control and equal pay at the workplace. She lived in Portland from 1926 to 1936, where she continued her work, supporting the Longshoremen’s Strike in 1934, among other activities. She finally joined the Communist Party in 1936, writing a column about women for Daily Worker. The ACLU eventually ejected her from its board for being a communist. She was caught up in the post-World War II attacks on communists, arrested for violating the Smith Act in 1951. She served two years in prison, an experience about which she then wrote a memoir. She became the national chairperson for the Communist Party in 1961 and frequently visited the Soviet Union after that, dying there in 1964 at the age of 74. She received a state funeral in Moscow. Her remains were then sent back to the United States for burial.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn is buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.


Those Rubes Won’t Run Themselves!

[ 232 ] May 21, 2017 |

A couple of scholars assert that they’ve got a sequel to the Sokal Hoax that discredits gender studies:

We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.

This paper should never have been published. Titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” our paper “argues” that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” As if to prove philosopher David Hume’s claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper was published in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences.

If you have a modicum of, er, skepticism, that journal name alone should ring alarm bells, and sure enough:

But their hoax gives us absolutely no reason to believe this. First, let’s look at the “journal” that they were accepted at. Like all the digital, open-access journals run by Cogent (a house most people have never heard of before now) it charges authors fees to publish. No reputable journal in the humanities does this. Worse yet, it allows authors to “pay what they can”. This appears to signal that this journal publishes work from authors who can’t get institutional support to publish in it. (Or, if they could, don’t seek this as they would prefer it not be widely known that they’re paying to publish.) The journal boasts also that it is very “friendly” to authors (a clear sign of a suspect outlet) and notes that it doesn’t necessarily reject things that might not have any impact. (!) It also only uses single blind review. The whole thing just screams vanity journal.


Having managed to pay for a paper to be published in a deeply suspect journal the hoaxers then conclude that the entire field of Gender Studies is suspect. How they made this deductive leap is actually far more puzzling than how the paper got accepted. (It’s thus more than a bit embarrassing that one of them’s a philosophy professor–who, ironically, teaches critical thinking.) I’ve no doubt that there are many things to criticize about Gender Studies. But that a suspect journal published a hoax paper whose topics was gender studies-ish isn’t one of them.

UPDATE: The first journal that Bognossian and Lindsay submitted their hoax paper to, and that rejected it, was NORMA: The International Journal for Masculinity Studies. This journal doesn’t even hit the top 115 journals in Gender Studies. So, what happened here was that they submitted a hoax paper to an unranked journal, which summarily rejected it. They then received an auto-generated response directing them to a pay-to-publish vanity journal. They submitted the paper there, and it was published. From this chain of events they conclude that the entire field of Gender Studies is “crippled academically”. This tells us very little about Gender Studies, but an awful lot about the perpetrators of this “hoax”…. and those who tout it as a take down of an entire field.

El. Oh. El. So the only “hoaxes” here are 1)two academics got suckered into paying to publish in one of those pay-for-play vanity journals whose spam you are very likely familiar with if you’re an instructor with an .edu email and 2)the inevitable parade of hacks touting this non-story as if it proves anything. This stunt discredits gender studies about as much as Alec Rawls self-publishing Crescent of Betrayal discredits cartography and Islamic studies.

While we’re here, it’s worth noting that this crude trolling is really nothing like the Sokal hoax. Even had they gotten this article into some minor real journal, it wouldn’t actually show anything. Let’s say I was to write an article full of what I considered to be specious arguments on behalf of a Supreme Court decision I considered outrageously bad, like Seminole Tribe or Shelby County, and got it published in, say, the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. This would demonstrate…that liberals and conservatives differ on the merits of a Supreme Court opinion. Only it still wouldn’t really demonstrate anything even if one grants that the article didn’t meat acceptable standards and was accepted for ideological reasons, because the idea that one bad journal article that was approved by an editor and one or two peer reviewers or group of law students or whatever could discredit an entire field is transparently idiotic.

What Sokal was up to was considerably more subtle and important than some of his admirers understand. There are two things that make the Sokal hoax more interesting than this silly “durr, this bad article proves that an entire academic field has no merit, durr” exercise:

  • While the hoax arguably had some implications for critical theory as a whole, Sokal was looking specifically at how some critical theorists talked about scientific concepts that were directly in Sokal’s area of expertise.
  • More importantly, some of the most damning gibberish in the Sokal Social Text article was found in direct quotes from major names in the field. That some big-name theorists were writing about science while having no idea what they’re talking about is actually important. The fact that some editors at a respected journal in the field didn’t notice is also interesting.

The Sokal hoax actually revealed something interesting. Getting one bad article published in an academic journal wouldn’t, and these would-be hoaxers didn’t even accomplish that much.

…Of course the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris would fall for this embarrassingly obvious con:

The New Gilded Age in One Story

[ 110 ] May 20, 2017 |

Important journalism coming from the Times.

Where is the revolution?

BREAKING: Reporter asks Americans who did not vote for tRump about tRump!!

[ 23 ] May 20, 2017 |

Hustings Courthouse, Petersburg, Va. – Library of Congress

Will this unpresidented approach to journalism catch on?

A struggling post-industrial town. A Christian factory worker praying “constantly” for Donald Trump. Ernarda Davis, 65, is the kind of person Trump vowed to help, living in the kind of place Trump vowed to heal, and she wants badly for her president to succeed.

You’ve heard this kind of story before. Except people who look like Davis don’t usually qualify for 2017 articles about how voters are feeling about Trump.

She is black.

And when she was asked in Petersburg, Va., last weekend how Trump is doing so far, she curved her fingers into a rigid circle.


“He needs to get hate out of his heart and open his eyes. And that might help,” she said. “Get hate out of his heart, open his eyes, and see what’s going on.”

In case anyone you know is inclined to take Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor seriously

[ 115 ] May 20, 2017 |

By Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor

Multiple sources close to the intelligence, justice and law enforcement communities say that the House Judiciary Committee is considering Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States.

Sources further say that the Supreme Court notified Mr. Trump that the formal process of a case of impeachment against him was begun, before he departed the country on Air Force One. The notification was given, as part of the formal process of the matter, in order that Mr. Trump knew he was not able to use his powers of pardon against other suspects in Trump-Russia cases. Sources have confirmed that the Marshal of the Supreme Court spoke to Mr. Trump.

It was reported this week that Mr. Trump had texted Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn the message ‘Stay strong’. This might be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate a witness, sources say.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein met with the House Judiciary Committee this week in closed session.

The authors have previously reported exclusively on Patribotics that a sealed indictment exists against Donald Trump.

. . . I swear I hadn’t seen this before I put up the OP.


Why Buy American Campaigns Are Bad

[ 53 ] May 20, 2017 |

Chris Brooks has an excellent interview with the historian Dana Frank, who is an expert on so-called “Buy American” campaigns, as well as on guestworkers and many other things. Her books are excellent and you should read them. The interview explores the deep problem with Buy American campaigns because they are anti-worker and xenophobic.

Buy American campaigns became popular in the late 1970s as working people were trying to address capital flight and employers began turning on unions, demanding concessions. Again these campaigns had a very strong racist component. Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American man, was killed by an auto plant superintendent and a laid-off auto worker, both white, in Detroit in the early eighties.

People trashed Japanese cars — even ones that were made by union workers in Japan, and Japanese cars made in the United States with union labor. This wasn’t just the auto workers, but many manufacturing unions. The Garment Workers launched an anti-Asian Buy American campaign, but had to back away from it due to pressure from Asian-American activists.

Like people in the 1970s, people today want to return to the so-called “golden age” when there were lots of jobs in heavy industry that were union, paid really well, and provided excellent benefits. They imagine that Buy American might help to bring all that back.

The problem is that employers have long since turned on the labor movement and driven down working conditions so far that is very hard to return to that world. The strategy being pursued by employers today is totally different from what unions faced in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Steelworkers and Auto Workers had these great jobs.

And, of course, that seeming golden age puts the focus on only one particular sector. Steel jobs were not naturally wonderful jobs with pensions and health care and high salaries. They had been hideous jobs where people worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, until the Congress of Industrial Organizations built powerful unions in the 1930s and changed all that.

Manufacturing is only 8 percent of all employment in the United States. What we need is a massive grassroots movement that makes all jobs — whether they are in manufacturing, or in service, or in agriculture — into really great jobs with union protections.

Indeed. And in response to this….

We do have to figure out what alternative progressive trade policies look like. We shouldn’t go down the free-trade path. Neither should we be going down the path of nationalist protectionism.

We need to be talking about a third path that puts labor rights and union protections first, as part of a broader package that also addresses immigration and is committed to raising working people’s wages and working conditions all over the world, through cross-border solidarity. We need domestic economic development that fosters good jobs without playing into an anti-immigrant framework.

Ideally, our unions would be the organizations in which working people would be figuring all of this out.

…let me just reiterate my own work on thinking through what progressive trade policies should look like.

The Left Is Not Bernie

[ 203 ] May 20, 2017 |

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a point during a meeting on tax cut proposals in the Red Room at the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Cuomo has proposed cutting the state’s corporate income tax from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and eliminating it altogether for upstate manufacturers. He also has proposed paying more state aid as an incentive to any of New York’s 10,500 local governments that impose hard 2 percent spending caps and cut their costs by consolidating services with other towns, villages, cities and counties. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

One of the reasons — perhaps the most important reason — why Andrew Cuomo can’t and won’t be a serious candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination is his de facto support of the Independent Democratic Conference, the Pierre Laval-inspired faction that keeps the New York state Senate in Republican hands. In an illustration of why the DNC shouldn’t be in the business of crafting local messages, Keith Ellison didn’t get the memo:

The picture landed on Twitter innocently enough, one Bernie Sanders acolyte to another. “.@NY31Alcantara, great hearing about your awesome Harlem/Washington Heights district Senator Marisol,” tweeted Congressman Keith Ellison. The tweet accompanied a grinning selfie with Marisol Alcantara, a Manhattan state senator and fellow self-identified progressive.

But the backlash on Monday came quick: more than 150 replies, most of them furious. “Congressman, you know that she caucuses with the Republicans, keeping them in power in the NY Senate despite a numerical minority?” asked Joshua Goodman, a former state senate Democratic staffer.

Ellison is a leader in the national progressive movement, a deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, and one of Sanders’s most prominent and vocal supporters. Alcantara is a former labor organizer and Sanders delegate. Together, they check every progressive box.

Yet the congressman didn’t quite know what he had gotten himself into. Alcantara is one of eight Democrats who belong to the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats who have formed a power-sharing alliance with senate Republicans since 2013. For two years, the IDC even forced regular Democrats to remain in the minority when they had more than enough members, by party registration, to form a numerical majority with the IDC. While many of the IDC members self-identify as progressives and support liberal legislation, their existence ensures New York State will only move so far left.

To state the obvious, your nominally lefty ideological credentials mean nothing if you caucus with the IDC, and it’s doubly unacceptable when you represent a Manhattan district. Targeting every member of the IDC with the strongest primary challenge possible should be one of the very top priorities of New York Democrats, and no prominent national Democrat should support any one of these Republican stooges.

This blunder doesn’t mean that Ellison is a bad person or a bad choice to co-lead the DNC or not a Real Progressive or anything like that. Everybody screws up sometimes. But it is another object lesson that using “support for Bernie Sanders” as your primary criterion for determining someone’s lefty credentials is deeply silly.** (I should probably elaborate on this in another post, but given that a president can’t accomplish anything without substantial buy-in from most of the party, if the left can’t have a party without Bernie there’s never going to be a party in the first place.) And I would say that arguments that the choice between Perez and Ellison to lead the DNC was of near-apocalyptic significance* and the left should take its marbles and go home if the former wins haven’t worn well except that they were dumb in the first instance.

*I’ve said this before, but don’t you wish movement conservatives thought this way? “Well, Ford beating Reagan proves that we’ll never have any place in the Republican Party. Forget trying to win primaries, let’s try something that might really work, like a vanity presidential campaign to split the vote on the right in exchange for no benefits whatsoever every four years.” I don’t really get people who congratulate themselves on how quickly they’re willing to give up, but YMMV.

**I thought the first sentence of the graf made this clear, but since there’s some misunderstanding in comments, let me clarify that I’m not saying that Ellison is some kind of secret centrist. I like Ellison! He’s great, despite this mistake! My point is that Ellison’s mistake was to assume that Alcantara was a progressive because she supported Bernie. We can perhaps call this the “Tulsi Gabbard Fallacy.”

How long can this keep going on?

[ 317 ] May 19, 2017 |

The purpose of this thread is to facilitate a discussion of the following issue:  Almost every day now, one or more stories appear in the national media that would each individually constitute a bombshell-level scandal in the context of any previous presidential administration.  Since it’s hard to see the causes of these stories (rampant corruption, equally rampant incompetence, Titanic-level staff leakage regarding both of the former, legal proceedings flowing from all of the above etc.) changing in any significant way as long as Trump is president, the question becomes: how long can his administration last at this rate?  The floor is yours.

Charles Murray is a Hateful Crackpot Whose Views Should Not Be Legitimized

[ 258 ] May 19, 2017 |

Rachel Weisz stars as acclaimed writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt in DENIAL, a Bleecker Street release.
Credit: Laurie Sparham / Bleecker Street

This is an excellent piece:

That brings us to the most difficult part of this essay, in which we consider the moral content of Murray’s racial arguments, and the motivation for Harris’s astonishing willingness to showcase them so uncritically. Murray presents himself as coolly rational and scientific as he proceeds to his conclusion of genetically based racial differences: People differ in behavior, groups of people differ in behavior, people differ genetically, groups differ genetically. One way or another, genes are associated with behavior, so of course some group differences in behavior occur because of genes. No big deal. “This is what a dispassionate look at decades of research suggests,” Harris blithely says.

It is a big deal. The conviction that groups of people differ along important behavioral dimensions because of racial differences in their genetic endowment is an idea with a horrific recent history. Murray and Harris pepper their remarks with anodyne commitments to treating people as individuals, even people who happen to come from genetically benighted groups. But the burden of proof is surely on them to explain how the modern program of race science differs from the ones that have justified policies that inflicted great harm. Is it simply that we now have better psychological tests, or more sophisticated genomics?

Asserting that the relatively poorer intellectual performance of racial groups is based on their genes is mistaken theoretically and unfounded empirically; and given the consequences of promulgating the policies that follow from such assertions, it is egregiously wrong morally.

Finally, let us consider Sam Harris and his willingness to endorse Murray’s claims — his decision to suspend the skepticism and tough-mindedness we have come to expect from him. There is a fairly widespread intellectual movement among center-right social theorists and pundits to argue that strong adherence to the scientific method commits us to following human science wherever it goes — and they mean something very specific in this context. They say we must move from hard-nosed science of intelligence and genetics all the way — only if that’s the direction data and logical, unbiased interpretation lead, naturally — to genetically based differences in behavior among races.

Some of you may have seen Denial, Mick Jackson’s dramatization of the Holocaust denier David Irving’s libel suit against Emory historian Deborah Lipstadt. If you haven’t I strongly recommend it — it’s a terrific movie, well-written and beautifully acted. (My only regret is that it doesn’t show the disgraceful role the the most overrated public intellectual of his generation played in propping up the fiction that Irving was a serious historian, granting that Timothy Spall — who would be perfect to play Hitchens — was already cast as Irving.) In addition to its aesthetic virtues, the film effectively demonstrates the core insight both Irving and Lipstadt had — you can’t “win” a public, one-on-one debate with a Holocaust denier. If you put Irving and Lipstadt in the same forum, as two historians representing points of view that are both worth hearing, Irving wins, even if most of the audience concludes that the latter has a better grasp of the facts. The lawsuit was dangerous for reasons beyond the potential of a fine historian being ruined financially for telling the truth about a Nazi, and the tension results in the best coutroom thriller I’ve seen since A Civil Action.

The applicability of this to Murray should be obvious. Nobody is entitled to any public forum. I don’t advocate or defend violence against Murray (let alone third parties), and in most cases when a speaker has a forum they should be permitted to speak. But nobody is entitled to any particular forum, and Murray’s white supremacy should not be given any legitimate forum. Members of a college community are eminently justified in ex ante criticism of choices to bring Murray to campus. Presenting Murray’s views as subject to reasonable debate — even if you, like Andrew Sullivan, also include multiple critical challenges — is extremely pernicious. To present him as a serious intellectual and victim of political correctness, as Harris apparently did, is simply beyond the pale.

Some Loving Tributes To Roger Ailes

[ 65 ] May 19, 2017 |


Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

Like many con artists, he reflexively targeted the elderly – “I created a TV network for people from 55 to dead,” he told Joan Walsh – where he saw billions could be made mining terrifying storylines about the collapse of the simpler America such viewers remembered, correctly or (more often) incorrectly, from their childhoods.

In this sense, his Fox News broadcasts were just extended versions of the old “ring around the collar” ad – scare stories about contagion. Wisk was pitched as the cure for sweat stains creeping onto your crisp white collar; Fox was sold as the cure for atheists, feminists, terrorists and minorities crawling over your white picket fence.

Ailes launched Fox in 1996 with a confused, often amateurish slate of dumb programs cranked out by cut-rate and often very young staffers. The channel was initially most famous for its overt shallowness (“More News in Less Time” was one of its early slogans) and its Monty Python-style bloopers. But the main formula was always the political scare story, and Fox quickly learned to mix traditional sensationalist tropes like tabloid crime reporting with demonization of liberal villains like the Clintons.


Ailes picked at all these scabs, and then when he ran out of real storylines to mine he invented some that didn’t even exist. His Fox was instrumental in helping Donald Trump push the birther phenomenon into being, and elevated the practically nonexistent New Black Panthers to ISIS status, warning Republicans that these would-be multitudinous urban troublemakers were planning on bringing guns to the GOP convention.

The presidency of Donald Trump wouldn’t have been possible had not Ailes raised a generation of viewers on these paranoid storylines. But the damage Ailes did wasn’t limited to hardening and radicalizing conservative audiences.


Ailes leaves behind one of the largest legacies of any media figure of the past century: He made our country nastier, stupider, cruder, and more bigoted. Even as the memory of Ailes the man fades, we will always be able to look back on what he built.


But Ailes was not some phony elitist playing a con on the rubes. No, he really loved degrading people, and he held the same resentments as the pathetic viewers whose worlds he manipulated. Indeed, one of the special things about Ailes was the depth of his hatred, and the broad-ranging reach of his racism. Some bigots confine their disgust to a single group, or religion; Ailes, however, was never so limited. Who did the man dislike? Muslims? Yep. Black Americans? Check. Jews? Uh-huh. Hispanics? Yes. Fox, under Ailes’ leadership, became a leader in spewing all these different forms of bigotry. He was a visionary.

Ailes also took a special interest in the careers of much of the female talent at Fox News. His leadership style was to sexually harass female employees and ensure a grotesque environment at the network, which nicely mimicked the misogyny Fox watchers could see on their television screens every day. Elizabeth Ailes’ statement recalling the millions of lives her husband affected calls to mind Stalin’s line about one death being a tragedy, and millions of deaths being a mere statistic. Ailes’ family and friends should never forget that their beloved Roger ruined individual lives, too.

However, one of our overcompensated and underachieving elites has a counterpoint:

“Jimmy Savile was a wonderful teevee host and one of the most generous contributors to children’s hospitals ever. Serial molestation of children not only way to remember him.”

…as a commenter notes, Gary’s obit is excellent.

Hey Joe. Where you going with that foot in your mouth?

[ 62 ] May 19, 2017 |

Well dig! I’m going down to SkyBridge Alternatives, to make people wonder if I know what I’m talking about.

Speaking at the SALT hedge fun conference in Las Vegas, Biden told attendees that he believed he could have done a better job taking on President Trump on the campaign trail, CNN reported.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” Biden remarked.

Perhaps the man who twice failed to clinch a nomination for Democratic president is not the best judge of these things?

Flashback Friday: Chris Cornell, RIP

[ 70 ] May 19, 2017 |

Yesterday Chris Cornell committed suicide at the age of 52. It is indeed a very sad day for rock music. We’ve lost not only a singular voice, but also many in the rock scene have lost a dear friend. The lead singer of Soundgarden in the 1990’s and Audioslave in the 00’s, Chris toured and sang with many other icons including Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam. Even until his death, he was still working as a solo artist and playing concerts.

I thought about compiling a list of Black Hole Sun covers, for which Postmodern Jukebox has a great one as does the soundtrack to Westworld. In my research, I discovered that Chris was actually a great cover artist on his own. So it feels much more fitting to remember his talent in the way he honored other artists and added his own value to their songs. There are so many of them, so I’ll post the videos of my top three and give you a list of links at the bottom.

“Nothing Compares 2 U”, Prince

“I Will Always Love You”, Whitney Houston

“Redemption Song”, Bob Marley

This is from his appearance on Jimmy Fallon back in 2011, but there is also a very sweet version of this song he performed with his daughter during a live concert in 2015.

The Telegraph reports that Cornell’s last performed song was from Led Zeppelin, “In My Time of Dying”. If there is such a video, I’m hesitant to post it because it would feel like romanticizing his suicide.

Other honorable mention that wouldn’t fit in this post:

“Hotel California”, Eagles

“Seven Nation Army”, White Stripes (performed with Audioslave)

“Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson

“Thank You”, Led Zeppelin

“One (U2 Music with Metallica lyrics)”

“Thunder Road”, Bruce Springsteen

“Long As I Can See The Light”, Credence Clearwater Revival

“Imagine”, John Lennon

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