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Nerds, Please Meet Me in the Nerdery; We Need to Talk about Batfleck

[ 247 ] January 26, 2016 |

This is hardly an original opinion but I think casting can make or break a film. This means you should never, ever cast Keanu Reeves in a historical drama. It also means you should never ever cast Ben Affleck in the role of Batman. I’ve seen him utter one line in Batman vs. Superman and I’m already Rifftraxing him in my head. He is…a horrible choice to play Batman. I just…don’t even, as the kids don’t say anymore.


So here’s my question: If not Bale (the best Batman, obviously), who should play Batman? Ideas?

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“Tom can you get me off the hook? For old time’s sake”

[ 50 ] January 26, 2016 |

tessio

Abe Vigoda, who was the subject of many false rumors regarding his death in the 1980s, has died.

Of the many great things in the original Godfather film, Vigoda’s performance as Tessio is one of the most memorable.

[SL] The Godfather Epic — the first two movies edited chronologically with outtakes included — is as it happens is now streaming on HBO, and if like me you have minimal concern with authenticity and Artristic Integritude and such it’s pretty awesome, even if you miss the unique texture of GFII. Tessio would have watched it, and Tessio was always smarter.

Out of Sight reading group – Chapters 1 & 2

[ 40 ] January 26, 2016 |

Today is the second Out of Sight virtual reading group. Today we’re focused on Chapter 1 – Standing up to Corporate Domination: A Brief History and Chapter 2 – Workplace Catastrophes.

Loomis is available to answer your questions so just toss them in the comments.

I have one for him (and everyone): If we take it as a given that corporations have always been at war with the worker, is it possible to achieve a form of capitalism that isn’t a constant battle between the .01% and its enablers and everyone else? And if so, how?

Food, Authenticity, Cultural Appropriation

[ 308 ] January 26, 2016 |

FN_DARABIAN-BRAISED-COLLARD_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape

I know we need another discussion of the relationship between food and authenticity like we need another post about Hillary or Bernie, Which One Will Save America and Which One is Horrible? But I could not help being typically annoyed by Conor Friedersdorf’s post on collard greens and Twitter. Basically, Whole Foods tweeted out a recipe on collard greens that included cooking them in peanuts. A number of African-Americans called Whole Foods out on this, saying that the grocery store was cooking collards in an inauthnetic manner and was engaging in cultural appropriation. Friedersdorf found it necessary to devote an entire column to defending the corporation and tsk-tsking reporters for not doing research on this very important matter.

Pretty dumb all around. Yet perhaps worth a bit of commentary.

First, given that Whole Foods barely serves people of color at all and certainly avoids poor communities like the plague, the company deserves to take some shots. Usually, the only non-white people in Whole Foods is those happy looking Salvadoran coffee farmers in pictures hanging from the ceiling. This is a corporation dedicating to providing good food to rich people who can actually afford it, all while making sure employees don’t have a union. Whole Foods is happy to package traditional foods to white people (and often ripping them off for that food) without even mentioning where these food traditions come from. That is indeed cultural appropriation and given that whites have been appropriating black culture since slavery without giving credit, it’s hardly outrageous that some African-Americans would lob this accusation. It’s justified. If Whole Foods actually cared about serving communities of color, maybe it would have a defense. As is, the company sees the traditions of communities of color around the world as little more than a place to generate ideas that can be sold to rich whites.

That said, people can cook collard greens any dang way they want. While a well-brewed pot of collard greens is pretty fantastic (and allow to highly recommend the collards at Gladys Kitchen in Americus, Georgia, as well as the amazing fried chicken and desserts, where I ate last week), let’s face it, greens boiled to nothing is not usually the greatest way to prepare them. If they are good with peanuts, even if black people don’t eat them that way, I guess that’s OK.

As for shaming journalists and their research, I’d probably be more sympathetic to this if it wasn’t coming from someone with an ego the size of Friedersdorf. That a white male libertarian finds it necessary to defend a corporation hardly impressed me either. But really, a journalist who pretty much made his name on the internet complaining about internet journalism is eye-rolling.

In any case, traditional foods can always be changed and improved upon. There’s not a single “authentic” way to cook anything. There are better and worse ways to cook them. There are traditional ways that are not per se good or bad. This doesn’t mean we can’t reject and mock bad ideas, say, tomato ketchup or, god forbid, the tacos I saw but very much did not eat in a western Pennsylvania bar last week that consisted of ground beef, sauerkraut, and 1000 Island dressing. But obviously there’s nothing wrong with figuring out what would be really awesome in tacos that one would never see in Mexico (Korean tacos!). Or figuring out what would taste way better than canned mushrooms and canned olives on pizza.* It’s the same with cooking greens. However, it would also be nice if Whole Foods didn’t act like this beneficent wonderful corporation providing the secret to good food for people when African-Americans (and some whites of course!) in fact have known about these greens for hundreds of years. There’s plenty of reason for grousing all around. Probably not enough for an Atlantic column though. For a LGM post, well, it’s not like we have standards.

*I confess to deviating from the official LGM line that pineapple is a bad pizza topping. I like it.

Marijuana and Labor

[ 8 ] January 26, 2016 |

unioncannabislogogold-blue-green2

Most people don’t care about labor law. Most people don’t care about union politics or strategies either. That includes most progressives. But there are occasions where the intricate details of labor strategy do see the light of publications because of the industry. The best example of this is in the professional sports unions, because people are fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers far more than they are fans of U.S. Steel. It provides an opening for a more nuanced and detailed discussion than usual. Among certain circles, this is also true of the newly legalized marijuana industry in the four relevant states of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. So how could marijuana workers unionize? Raymond Hogler:

One union strategy is to ignore federal law and engage employers through a cooperative strategy modeled on the employee representation plans popular in the U.S. in the early 1900s. The ERPs, as they were known, featured elected employee delegates who dealt with the employer on workers’ behalf. The landmark example is the plan created by John Rockefeller Jr. and MacKenzie King following the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. Rockefeller’s ideal of industrial democracy created a national template for employment relations until the New Deal and led to a vast expansion of company unions.

Sen. Robert Wagner (D-N.Y.), the author of the NLRA, viewed ERPs as incompatible with the macroeconomic function of collective bargaining and outlawed them in Section 8(2) of the NLRA. In Wagner’s view, those entities could not effectively raise wages for workers and overcome the effects of the Great Depression. The ban is still in place, and it explains the highly publicized union drive at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tenn. The auto manufacturer agreed to union participation in its works council, but it insisted that the United Auto Workers win recognition as a representative under NLRB procedures. Volkswagen eventually accepted the union based on authorization cards and established a formal relationship. The UAW soon thereafter released a statement describing its “new vision for the future of unionization” through the works council.

Given the ambiguity of our labor law, cannabis workers and the UFCW might approach employers with a similar scheme for representation. The strategy would not require certification at the state or federal level, and it could be formalized through a memorandum of understanding setting forth the basic rights of the parties. The agreement could contain provisions for arbitration to resolve any disputes about its terms. The cigar manufacturing firm of Straiton & Storm developed such a program in the 1880s, and company president George Storm a few years later testified before a congressional committee about the virtues of the system for both labor and management. ERPs could easily be used the same way in the cannabis industry.

A second innovative approach is to bring the sale of cannabis under direct state control and treat workers as public-sector employees with collective bargaining rights conferred by the state. Don Stevens, the mayor of North Bonneville, Wash., created a public development authority under state municipal law to fund a retail marijuana outlet. Stevens believes that his town drug store is unique in the country, if not the world (his business cards are titled the “The Marijuana Mayor”). The operation has repaid its initial financing and will soon be making a profit that can be dedicated to improving parks, roads, schools and other municipal functions. As government employees, the store’s workers are eligible to unionize under state law if they want. Stevens says they have the same wages and benefits as other municipal employees and, as a result, are more than satisfied with their jobs.

In other words, these are options available to a wide number of workers, but it’s useful to think about them in terms of this newly legalized sector. The idea of making weed workers state workers is also enough to make any conservative head explode.

America’s Last Principled Judge Speaks

[ 38 ] January 26, 2016 |

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided a complicated case about whether the Supreme Court’s 2012 holding that mandatory life without parole applied retroactively to people making federal habeas corpus appeals. The Supreme Court’s retroactive application cases are legally complicated, in part because they’ve always been pragmatic. In Stovall v. Denno, Brennan created a three-point test to determine whether newly established constitutional rules that included “the effect on the administration of justice of a retroactive application of the new standards.”  And this was really the show — if applying a rule retroactively would (as with Miranda) result in large numbers of people being released from prison the rule won’t be applied retroactively; if the effects would be more modest, there’s a chance it would. Questions of whether a change in the law is a “substantive” change that can be applied retroactively are likely to be similarly affected by pragmatic considerations. Given this background, it’s not surprising that the state lost in Montgomery v. Louisiana. Applying the rule retroactively applies to a relatively small number of prisoners, and doesn’t necessarily require the state to release them.

One can reasonably disagree with Kennedy’s opinion. Scalia decided to take the occasion to write one of his trademark BLISTERING DISSENTS. First, on jurisdiction:

But a majority of this Court, eager to reach the merits of this case, resolves the question of our jurisdiction by deciding that the Constitution requires state postconviction courts to adopt Teague’s exception for so-called “substantive” new rules and to provide state-law remedies for the violations of those rules to prisoners whose sentences long ago became final. This conscription into federal service of state postconviction courts is nothing short of astonishing.

Here’s some relevant background information: Louisiana conceded that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction. The Court actually had to appoint an amicus to have the jurisdiction question argued. The Court is free to find a lack of jurisdiction, but for the Court to agree with a position taken by both parties to the case is very, very short of being astonishing. I also appreciate the “conscription” language, which 1)makes the astonishing implication that there’s something unusual or undesirable about state courts having to enforce federal constitutional rules and 2)reminds us of Scalia’s eminently hacktacular non-commandeering jurisprudence.

On the merits:
1314503637445396652

How wonderful. Federal and (like it or not) state judges are henceforth to resolve the knotty “legal” question: whether a 17-year-old who murdered an innocent sheriff’s deputy half a century ago was at the time of his trial “incorrigible.” Under Miller, bear in mind, the inquiry is whether the inmate was seen to be incorrigible when he was sentenced—not whether he has proven corrigible and so can safely be paroled today. What silliness.

[…]

This whole exercise, this whole distortion of Miller, is just a devious way of eliminating life without parole for juvenile offenders. The Court might have done that expressly (as we know, the Court can decree anything), but that would have been something of an embarrassment. After all, one of the justifications the Court gave for decreeing an end to the death penalty for murders (no matter how many) committed by a juvenile was that life without parole was a severe enough punishment. How could the majority—in an opinion written by the very author of Roper—now say that punishment is also unconstitutional? The Court expressly refused to say so in Miller. So the Court refuses again today, but merely makes imposition of that severe sanction a practical impossibility. And then, in Godfather fashion, the majority makes state legislatures an offer they can’t refuse: Avoid all the utterly impossible nonsense we have prescribed by simply “permitting juvenile homicide offenders to be considered for parole.”

Isn’t that particular Godfather reference a little tired? Couldn’t he at least have gone with “my offer to 16-year-olds sentenced to life without parole is this: nothing” or “This whole opinion is an abortion! Something that’s unholy and evil!” As for the outcome the middlebrow dudgeon is being directed against — if the “worst-case” scenario is people sentenced to life sentences as teenagers getting parole hearings, I find this about as scary as his thunderous warnings about how the state may not be able to enforce laws against masturbation in the wake of Lawrence.

Guest post from Mark Field regarding Ted Cruz’s eligibility for the presidency

[ 235 ] January 26, 2016 |

cruz

Mark Field summarizes the legal situation regarding Ted Cruz’s eligibility to become president. This is a long post, but whether you agree with his conclusion or not, this is the best discussion I’ve seen of the state of the law, doctrinally speaking. (As I’ve said elsewhere, I think the most interesting question regarding this matter, when it first arose, is why many legal scholars who are in no way sympathetic to Cruz were so quick to argue that there was no serious legal question regarding Cruz’s eligibility.)

Of course if it should come to that, we can as a practical matter be sure the SCOTUS would not be so reckless as to insert itself into the essentially political question of who Congress ought to certify as the winner of a presidential election.

When Donald Trump first raised the eligibility of Ted Cruz to be President, my initial reaction – uninformed by any actual knowledge of the subject – was to dismiss it out of hand. In fairness, that’s my reaction to pretty much everything Trump says. In this case, though, I’ve changed my mind and decided that Trump is actually right. I’m going to explain below why I think the case law supports a rule against Cruz. Read more…

Hillary and the Dunning School

[ 258 ] January 26, 2016 |

untitled

Um, Hillary?

Hillary Clinton turned in a skillful performance at CNN’s Democratic Town Hall in Iowa on Monday night, deftly answering questions on topics ranging from Benghazi to her personal trustworthiness. But the presidential hopeful sparked accusations of historical revisionism with an answer near the end of the evening, when Clinton seemed to bemoan the process of Reconstruction.

The answer: Identifying Abraham Lincoln — not her husband Bill Clinton nor former rival and boss Barack Obama — as the president who most inspired her, Clinton lauded the 16th chief executive as a figure who “was willing to reconcile and forgive.”

“And I don’t know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancor, a little more forgiving and tolerant than might possibly have brought people back together more quickly,” Clinton continued. “But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the reigns of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So, I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.”

Wow. I am going to be charitable here and say that Hillary hasn’t really thought about Reconstruction in any meaningful way since she took college level history in the 1960s, when the Dunning School was still in vogue for some historians. But this is pretty awful to say in 2016. I’ve been as concerned as anyone about Bernie Sanders’ tone deafness on race, but this is worse than anything he has said or not said about Black Lives Matter. Reconstruction is pretty much the ultimate version of Black Lives Matter and Hillary’s response is that if only southern whites had been mollified after the Civil War, everything would be OK? Yikes.

I will also say that after 8 years of Barack Obama, it is rather depressing to have the two major Democratic candidates both fundamentally not understand why race matters so much in this country. Barack Obama gets it because he has to get it. It’d be nice to see Sanders and Clinton at least try to get it. Given the poor response of both to America’s racial problems, I guess it made more sense for Jim Webb to run as a Democrat in 2016 than I thought!

You May Not Be Surprised That…..

[ 16 ] January 26, 2016 |

gyasi

Media coverage of women’s reproductive issues relies heavily on male voices:

“When it comes to stories about abortion and contraception, women’s voices are systematically stifled – as writers and as sources,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. Burton noted, “In articles about elections and reproductive issues, men’s voices prevail, especially in coverage of presidential campaigns, with male reporters telling 67 percent of all presidential election stories related to abortion and contraception.”

The gender of the reporter appears to affect whom they choose to quote and how they cover the story. WMC’s research shows that female journalists quote women more often than their male counterparts, while quotes from male sources predominate in articles written by men. Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Center noted, “Since women play a greater role in reproduction, it would make sense for women to be the majority of the sources and authorities in its coverage.”

WMC research shows male voices dominate reproductive issues coverage as journalists and as sources. Female journalists wrote just 37 percent of articles about reproductive issues while their male counterparts penned 52 percent. Another 11 percent did not have bylines. Quotes from men account for 41 percent of all quotes in articles about reproductive issues while quotes from women account for just 33 percent.

Why, it’s almost as if sexism hasn’t been conquered in this nation! But then again, why listen to a woman talk about her own body when a man should be doing it for her….

1916

[ 30 ] January 26, 2016 |
Brusilov Aleksei in 1917.jpg

Aleksei Brusilov. Available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b20079. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the National Interest takes a look at some under-remembered battles of 1916:

The centenary commemorations of World War I will undoubtedly concentrate on a trio of well-known battles; Verdun, the Somme and Jutland. All three ended inconclusively, and all witnessed tremendous bloodshed. Verdun and the Somme etched themselves into the national consciousness of France and Great Britain, respectively, while Jutland helped transform naval architecture.

But 1916 also witnessed a number of other, lesser known battles. Although they lack the same resonance in the West, the outcome of these battles helped determine the post-war map of Europe, not to mention the nature of warfare for the next generation.

Witchsmeller Pursuivant faces felony charges

[ 76 ] January 25, 2016 |

Implement Fetus Fetish Grift Phase II – Request donations to defray legal expenses.

A Houston grand jury that was investigating accusations of criminal misconduct against Planned Parenthood on Monday instead indicted the creator of an anti-abortion group that recorded covert videos of the organization’s employees.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of any wrongdoing.

Whoopsie.

An arrest warrant has been issued for David Daleiden.

Naturally the man whose job it is to make his predecessors look intelligent, honest and fair is not convinced.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, however, that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office would continue to investigate Planned Parenthood’s actions. “Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

Where Life = Untainted by contact with the air. Offler help you if you wind up on Death Row down there.

The reporter, perhaps seeking to introduce some laughs to the story, closed with a quote from a fan of Josh Duggar:

“Harvesting human organs is beyond barbaric, it’s unimaginably grotesque and evil,” he said.” And it’s a sick day in America when our government punishes those who expose evil with a smartphone—while accommodating those who perform it with a scalpel.”

All Huckabee had to do was gibber a few words about defenseless zygotes. Instead he took the opportunity to bark his opposition to organ harvesting. I hope his health care providers remember this when he needs a new liver.

The necessities

[ 120 ] January 25, 2016 |

thomas/bird

Five years ago, someone was paid (probably) to write this:

Cam Newton is a sure-fire bust. I am so certain of this that if he is the Panthers’ starting quarterback in 2016, I will buy a Cam Newton jersey and stand in the stadium parking lot in my underwear when the Panthers come to Tampa Bay and hold a sign proclaiming that Auburn rules over Florida and Carolina rules over Tampa Bay.

This guy will be long gone by then. Here are just a few of the reasons why I believe he will make Ryan Leaf only the second-biggest draft bust in history. . . [Reasons include]

2. Cam Newton has never lost a game as a starting quarterback. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how he will react when he does lose a game?

3. Cam Newton is no brainiac. . . Did he get by at Auburn on sheer athletic ability? Of course he did. He’s a freak athlete. Most of his yardage was gained by running the football. But this is the NFL. You had better be able to read defenses, pick up blitzes, recognize different coverages, etc. or you will not last long. . .

5. Cam cannot hit the broad side of a barn with a football. . .

How can an NFL franchise waste a No. 1 draft pick on a guy with this many question marks? Last year all we heard was how Tim Tebow was not worth risking a first-round pick because of his throwing motion—not just the top pick, but anywhere in the top 32. Name another issue with Tebow. Character? Please. Intelligence? No. Accuracy? Not really. Yet somehow because he came from a spread system he was deemed unworthy of a top pick. Guess what system Cam came from. . .

Let’s ask Denver Broncos fans if they would like to trade Tebow for Newton straight up. They would laugh in your face. Football fans know even if the experts have no clue. We can spot a fraud when we see one.

In five years, when Tebow is leading Denver into the playoffs and Cam Newton is riding someone’s bench, remember this article.

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