Subscribe via RSS Feed

Category: General

London, My London

[ 17 ] August 13, 2011 |

I’ve stayed my pen about the riots in London because they’re happening in what I consider to be my London.  What I mean is: when that Eyjafjallajoekull erupted and trapped me in England, I spent about 80 percent of the time staying with a friend in Crouch End, and while my friend taught or held office hours or sat through faculty meetings, I would wander the streets of North London.  So strong is my affinity for the area that I ended up supporting Tottenham—and you can see where this is going.  I’ve invested in the area in the way that only an idle victim of circumstance can: fully cognizant of the illegitimacy of his claim upon it, but feeling an abiding connection to it anyway.  Knowing this, Michael Sayeau—who wrote eloquently about his experience for n+1—recommended I follow the riots via Twitter, and so I spent an anxious evening reading about the destruction of a place I have no right to care for as greatly as I do.

One of the most surreal aspects of watching the riots unfold on Twitter and a grid of Twitpics was that it quickly became apparent that people weren’t simply commenting on the looting, they were actively coordinating it.  ”We should hit this shop next,” one person would write, only to be shouted down by a group of people who thought it more prudent to hit another shop instead.  It quickly became apparent that an unusual organization had emerged through the clutter of social media: it operated openly and encouraged criminality, all while imposing order on a what otherwise would’ve appeared to be the random development of a conflagration.

This use of technology to outwit and outstrip a government’s ability to react to escalating unrest should have immediately struck me as familiar, being that it’s the premise of Adam Roberts‘s novel New Model Army—a book in which I’m not only thanked in the acknowledgments, but in which I believe I make an appearance.  (Adam denies it, but if the crazy academic in a brown suit and a Watchmen t-shirt isn’t me, he at least belongs to my tribe.)   Point being: the connection between the acephalous organization of Adam’s radically democratic military organizations and what I was witnessed on Twitter last week speaks to the power of speculative fiction and, more frighteningly, the pace at which contemporary society makes good on its speculations.

[Edited to correct for my being jet-lagged and stupid.]

Labor Notes

[ 30 ] August 13, 2011 |

1. Thirteen unions are boycotting the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte because North Carolina is a “right to work” state. These are mostly the building trades, for whom using union labor has traditionally meant a lot more for than most of the other unions. It perhaps seems a bit petty or poor strategy, but it’s also a reminder that labor is a complete afterthought when it comes to the Democratic Party except as a GOTV apparatus and fundraising machine.

2. One of the nation’s most intense labor battles is occurring almost completely without media coverage in Longview, Washington, where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are fighting a big multinational named EGW that built an enormous grain terminal in Longview without union labor and is now attempting to operate it without nonunion labor, which is a violation of its lease. It’s gotten pretty intense:

On July 11, up to 100 members and supporters of Longview’s 202-member ILWU Local 21 were arrested after demonstrators knocked down a chainlink fence and entered the terminal; arrestees included the presidents of ILWU locals in Vancouver and Portland. Then, after midnight on July 14, as many as 600 demonstrators gathered, and about 200 occupied train tracks to block a mile-long Burlington Northern Santa Fe train from delivering grain to the terminal. That prompted the railroad to say it would suspend deliveries while the dispute continued.

This might seem like small potatoes to a lot of progressives, who would rather talk about the 2012 Republican primaries or the debt ceiling, but it is these small battles that create the larger war. EGT has the most anti-union lease in Longview, which is a major port, and it portends the decline of union labor and the benefits that come with it if the corporation is not stopped. This is important stuff.

Note as well that I only heard about this because of a reader. So if you have a labor issue you’d like to see covered, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.

3. The Verizon strike continues. The strikers are making themselves felt throughout the Northeast. I see them at 2-3 locations per day. There are lots of people honking horns in support and spirits seem pretty high. The strikers have done a good job of making people wary of going to Verizon stores, presumably hurting business. Verizon has unfortunately won a lot of injunctions around specific union actions, which makes me wonder if there’s a pro-labor judge left out there. The workers are also doing a good job at harassing scabs, who definitely deserve to be harassed.

4. Finally, IBEW workers at the Nine Mile Point nuclear plants in Oswego, New York successfully completed an 18 day strike recently after the company tried to give the workers a large pay raise but decimate their benefits, in an attempt to fool them into taking an overall worse contact. The IBEW workers struck and won a contract that helps protect pensions for younger workers while older workers take a small pension hit and all workers get small pay increases.

Further Anecdotal Evidence That Global Warming is a Liberal Myth

[ 10 ] August 13, 2011 |

It’s cold on Mt. Rainier.  There’s even snow.  Records are being set:

The amount of snow still on the ground, as measured at Paradise, the park’s main visitor area, is setting records. Last Sunday, it set a record of 44 inches, said Stefan Lofgren, the park’s mountaineering district ranger. The previous record for Aug. 7 was 40 inches, set in 1974.


That’s Why They Play the Games

[ 43 ] August 13, 2011 |

I think this handicapping of the Republican field is correct. On paper, it’s virtually impossible to see Romney beating Perry, since the latter has far more obvious appeal to the typical GOP primary voter as well as being acceptable to Republican elites. Nor do I think that vote splitting with Bachmann will be much of a problem; modern primary fields tend to get winnowed quickly. But, then, on paper Tim Pawlenty should have been able to beat Romney handily, so…I’d better be careful. Campaigns do implode sometimes, my inability to foresee this notwithstanding.

By the way, how the hell did Pawlenty ever get elected in Minnesota? Did Martha Coakley move to Duluth and get the Dem nomination that cycle? It’s like the Twins in the postseason if they were swept seeing an average of 50 pitches a game against the Royals instead of the Yankees.

“You’re up there in ‘Heaven,’ making terrible sex puns to the angels.”

[ 9 ] August 13, 2011 |

Jani Lane, R.I.P. Seems a particularly cruel fate for this to happen during state fair season…

And Now, The Perpetual Victim

[ 135 ] August 12, 2011 |

A man informed Ann Althouse that she hadn’t asked his permission to film him, didn’t have it, and then pushed her camera out of his face.  Or, in the language of conservative victimization:

Wow. Madison is to Althouse as Queens was to Kitty Genovese.

One man being rude — even if it was criminally rude, as Althouse insists — is the equivalent of a woman being chased down, beaten, and murdered in front of a hundred idle neighbors.  What’s distressing isn’t that they’re adopting the rhetoric of victimization, but that they actually seem to believe what they’re saying.

ACA Mandate…

[ 44 ] August 12, 2011 |

…ruled unconstitutional by the 11th Circuit.

Speaking of partisan asymmetry in judicial appointments, it should be added that a Democratic appointee finding the mandate unconstitutional here is not the equivalent of the appellate court Republican who found it constitutional. Jeffrey Sutton, the 6CA judge who found the mandate constitutional, is otherwise an orthodox conservative Republican. Frank Hull, conversely, is a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. And although he was a Clinton appointee, Stanley Marcus is actually the second circuit court Republican to uphold the mandate.

…more on Hull’s conservatism from Jon Cohn and Ian Millhiser.

Where Are All The Young Liberal Judges?

[ 36 ] August 12, 2011 |

Because of both Senate obstructionism and the relatively low priority placed on them by the Obama administration, the pace of appointments to the federal judiciary has been regrettably low. But quantity isn’t the only issue. Under current norms, Supreme Court justices tend to come from the federal appellate courts. Particularly since the Reagan administration, Republican presidents have been very conscious of trying to put young conservatives on the federal appellate bench. This is how you get John Roberts and Sam Alito appointed to the Court at a young age, in addition to federal courts stacked with your appointments for a long time. Obama, however, has yet to get a single appellate court judge under 45 appointed to the appellate courts. Since the inauguration of Reagan, “Republicans have appointed 41 federal appellate judges under age 45 to the Democrats’ 10.”

Appointments to the federal courts are one of the increasing number of areas in which there is increasing asymmetry between the parties. For 30 years, Republicans have placed a high priority on packing the federal courts with young conservatives, while the Democratic administrations during this time have not placed a commensurate priority on getting young liberal judges confirmed. This might be OK if Democrats were gaining institutional advantages in other areas, but I don’t see that they are.

Universal Laws

[ 87 ] August 12, 2011 |

Men who whine about how they can’t get laid because they’re too nice are never nice.

Perry Endorses the Constitutional Vision of James McReynolds

[ 10 ] August 12, 2011 |

To reiterate, Rick Perry is if anything wingnuttier than Michelle Bachmann, and also isn’t very bright. None of which will stop him from being cast by the media as the Serious, Thinking Person’s Conservative in the GOP race.

In fairness, he’s not always reflexively anti-government; when it comes to state murders of innocent people, he’s all for it!

Today In Comedy With A Happy Ending

[ 35 ] August 11, 2011 |

Mark Ciavarella, the disgraced judge who ruined the lives of countless young people without due process to stock the detention centers of cronies who paid him huge sums of money, has received a 28-year sentence.   I’m not sure it’s appropriate under the circumstances, but his lawyers decided to try out a new comedy routine:

“The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the ‘Kids for Cash’ judge,” their sentencing memo said.

That word “unjust,” I do not think it means… Anyway, stealing bits from Bernie Maddoff rarely works.

The Best Argument Against Nepotism Since Marc Sullivan

[ 21 ] August 11, 2011 |

When it comes to political commentary, it’s often very difficult to distinguish stupidity from shameless hackery, although in J-Pod’s case it’s clearly some from column A, some from column B. Even more than his political writing, though, I treasure Podhoretz’s film criticism, which takes both hackery and ineptitude to transcendent levels. He’s always been an aesthetic Stalinist’s aesthetic Stalinist, at the level of ranking films on a handy ideological scale. But even better is when he writes without a direct partisan axe to grind — Ron Howard’s instantly and justly forgotten cliche parade Cinderella Man is one of the greatest movies ever made, doncha know. Almost as great as The Phantom Menace before George Lucas was found guilty of wrongthink