Subscribe via RSS Feed

Children of Eve

[ 10 ] January 24, 2015 |

Like most of you, I spend my Saturday nights watching silent films. Title cards like this one from Children of Eve are one reason.

IMG_1879

It’s almost as if directors from 100 years ago are speaking to me from the grave.

…This title card is followed by a reenactment of the Triangle Fire and subsequent heartbreak.

…If we are strictly comparing the awesomeness of title cards however, this one from The Inside of the White Slave Traffic, from 1913, is hard to beat.

IMG_1880

Share with Sociable

Sweatshop Reality Show

[ 30 ] January 24, 2015 |

I’m a little torn on this:

In an attempt to keep a dialogue going surrounding the sweatshop conditions in which so many mass-produced articles of clothing are made, Norwegian publication Aftenposten has released a harrowing web documentary series that sends three fashion bloggers into the heart of a Cambodian sweatshop. The series puts the conditions that its employees face on a day-to-day basis in an unfiltered and heartbreaking way.

The series has already sparked debate over not just the obviously horrific conditions in the sweatshops that Norwegian bloggers Frida, Ludvig and Anniken visit, but over the ethics of the series itself, which could be seen as bordering on third-world exploitation. It’s easy for Westerners to turn a blind eye, however, and if bringing the Western gaze onto the situation takes putting actual Westerners in the situation, then the work the documentary is doing is important.

In an interview with Pulse, the series’ director Joakim Kleven spoke a little bit about the conditions that he witnessed: “It was extremely difficult to come at all in any factory inside. The only factory that has let in us, was one of the best in Cambodia, but that was not okay. It was very hot in there, there was no toilet paper in the toilets and the chairs on which the seamstresses had to sit were extremely uncomfortable. Some workers have told us that soldiers stood during her shift already behind them and they would have beaten for sewing, so much so that some of them were unconscious.”

This probably is exploitation–after all, it’s a series that allows white people to parachute in on the lives of Cambodians and features the voices of those white people as the sympathetic storytellers. However, in this case, it is probably worth it. As I argue in Out of Sight, the fact that so much industrial production is done overseas means that when Bangladesh has its version of the Triangle Fire, there will be no Frances Perkins there to witness it and then mobilize consumers and politicians to mandate changes to the apparel industry. This separation of production and consumption is intentional and happens in part to protect companies from having to improve conditions. So a show that actually gives westerners the opportunity to see the conditions in which their clothes are made has real potential to put that production back in sight. And that’s incredibly important for creating change.

Share with Sociable

Could Christmas Be Coming Early This Year?

[ 78 ] January 24, 2015 |

Oh please oh please oh please oh please let this be true:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s warning to “stay tuned” for more corruption arrests after he bagged Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has sent a big chill through the state Capitol.

“I think everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop,” said one legislative official.

Added former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat: “When a prosecutor says stay tuned, I think he means it.”

The big fish reportedly being looked at is Gov. Cuomo.

Bharara has been probing whether the governor and his top aides improperly interfered with the Moreland anti-corruption commission Cuomo established.

He is also probing the circumstances behind Cuomo’s decision to abruptly end the commission after the Legislature agreed to some ethics reforms.

Other than perhaps Rahm Emanuel, this couldn’t happen to a more deserving well-known elected Democrat in this nation.

Share with Sociable

Abdullah ibn-Abdulaziz al-Saud, Rest In Hell

[ 129 ] January 24, 2015 |

Pretty much what Murtaza Hussain says here:

It’s not often that the unelected leader of a country which publicly flogs dissidents and beheads people for sorcery wins such glowing praise from American officials. Even more perplexing, perhaps, have been the fawning obituaries in the mainstream press which have faithfully echoed this characterization of Abdullah as a benign and well-intentioned man of peace.

Tiptoeing around his brutal dictatorship, The Washington Post characterized Abdullah as a “wily king” while The New York Times inexplicably referred to him as “a force of moderation”, while also suggesting that evidence of his moderation included having had: “hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded” (emphasis added).

While granting that Abdullah might be considered a relative moderate within the brazenly anachronistic House of Saud, the fact remains that he presided for two decades over a regime which engaged in wanton human rights abuses, instrumentalized religious chauvinism, and played a hugely counterrevolutionary role in regional politics.

Above all, he was not a leader who shied away from both calling for and engineering more conflict in the Middle East.

Like Atrios, I’ve never really understood the realpolitik defense for the extent of the American alliance with the Saudis. But, yes, international affairs often involves alliances with bad actors, and as we’ve learned vividly in the region declaring the House of Saud our Hitlers of the month and actively trying to depose them would probably make things worse rather than better. I’m inclined to think that nothing can justify the extent of Kerry’s praise of this brutal dictator, but perhaps there’s some reason why a more subtle message wouldn’t have served the American national interest that I’m missing.

But the way much of the media has dealt with the death of someone presiding over one of the very worst regimes in the world…there’s no possible defense for that.

Share with Sociable

Fracking Bans

[ 24 ] January 24, 2015 |

Mora County, New Mexico, right in the middle of the land grant thefts that led to the rise of Reies Lopez Tijerina and the long-term animosity to outside corporate control over the land, passed a county-wide ban against fracking in 2013. Of course, the courts overturned it.

A county’s ban on hydraulic fracturing and drilling conflicts with both state and U.S. law, a federal court in New Mexico found this week.

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on Monday struck down a ban on fracking and drilling in Mora County, a rural area about 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe. County voters passed the ban in 2013, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC subsidiary SWEPI LP filed suit last year.

The decision is a win for industry and a major setback for environmentalists, who have had mixed results in championing a “local control” approach to oil and gas regulation around the country.

In Monday’s decision, Judge James Browning found that Mora County’s ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause by attempting to discard corporate rights protected by federal case law. The county’s measure explicitly noted that oil and gas companies “shall not have the rights of ‘persons’ afforded by the United States and New Mexico Constitutions,” including First Amendment rights and due process.

Of course, it’s not at all surprising that corporations wouldn’t respect this, but it’s also worth remembering that the love corporations and their political lackeys for local control over regulations and resources goes only to the precise point where that local control helps companies. Otherwise, they love big government.

Share with Sociable

As China Pushes Forward…

[ 6 ] January 24, 2015 |

My latest at the National Interest takes a look at five areas the Chinese military may want to improve:

What weapons should China be developing and building right now?   There’s an inherent tension between defense procurement and innovation.  On the one hand, the Chinese military needs platforms now in order to fulfill the increasing scope of its responsibilities.  On the other hand, funds committed to production and operations don’t go into innovation, or to the integration of new weapon systems.

With this trade-off in mind, this article takes a look at five kinds of weapon that China can develop in the short, medium, and long terms.  China needs systems to secure its borders, ensure the defense of its trade routes, and potentially challenge the United States in the Western Pacific. The list concentrates on systems that enable these missions, with a focus on weapons that other countries either already have or are developing.

 

Share with Sociable

Good Job Maryland

[ 89 ] January 24, 2015 |

Thanks to an unfortunate combination of factors, Maryland has elected a Republican governor. They are already getting what they asked for. Larry Hogan has already withdrawn from regulations of phosphorous releases from the state’s many poultry farms that protected the Chesapeake Bay from massive pollution. He blocked air pollution regulations that would reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants. And he withdrew from regulations that would bar Medicaid providers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Expect another 4 years of this.

Of course, as Maryland is showing both parties are the same and that’s why the only true progressive candidate in 2016 is Rand Paul.

Share with Sociable

Mr. Cub

[ 19 ] January 24, 2015 |

Ernie Banks, R.I.P.

He was an icon, and in addition to being immensely likable he earned the status on the field and then some. Like a lot of middle infielders, Banks had a fairly short peak. But at his best…well, even in Wrigley Field a good shortstop slugging in the .600 range is an extraordinary player. His top 7 seasons have the 4th highest WAR of all time for the position, which seems right. Let’s play two.

Share with Sociable

The Lexus and the World Salad

[ 126 ] January 23, 2015 |

If LGM fails, it will not be because of bandwidth, but because we have the lack of human understanding that can only be forged when someone you say “thank you for serving vodka in my martini and ketchup on my ham sandwich.”

If you can translate Thomas Friedman into English, there are some shiny nickels in it for you. Good luck!

Share with Sociable

The New Gilded Age

[ 18 ] January 23, 2015 |

The historian Richard White, author of one of the delightfully angriest books of history in recent years, demonstrates some of the ways we have created a New Gilded Age, in particular around the issue of political corruption:

Gilded Age politics was always corrupt. Before the 1890s, however, it was retail corruption. Corporations solicited “friends” among those already in office — the preferred means were favors and the sharing of financial information. When necessary — and it often was — they offered bribes.

Influencing elections was far more difficult. Before the direct election of senators, the politics of friendship and bribery worked only in persuading legislatures to choose U.S. senators who would serve corporate interests. Senator John Mitchell of Oregon, for example, proclaimed of Ben Holladay, the railroad tycoon, “Ben Holladay’s politics are my politics and what Ben Holladay wants I want.”
Most corporate friends tried to be more circumspect. But when — through the pairing of vanity and bad judgment – plutocrats like Leland Stanford of the Southern Pacific Railroad and William A. Clark, a notorious “copper king” of Montana, bought their own election as senators, the confusion of interests was harder to disguise.

The move to “educational” campaigns and the growing strength of national parties, which were far more than coalitions of state and local organizations, created new demands for money.

The money was chump change by today’s standards, but it was enough to require large donors. It represented a new form of corruption — quid pro quo. But it substituted favors to a political party for favors to a specific politician.

Henry Adams, the grandson and great-grandson of presidents and author of the early 20th-century’s best-selling and most erudite memoir, was cynical and disengaged about politics – though well informed. He recognized the new relationship of the Gilded Age rich and politicians.

After the 1892 defeat of the Republican Benjamin Harrison by Grover Cleveland, Adams wondered why GOP money hadn’t been able to win out. He asked his friend John Hay, a well-connected Republican who had served as Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary and would later be Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of state, what had happened to “McKinley money” — the money that Republican manufacturers reaped from the McKinley Tariff.

“Is it possible,” Adams wrote, “…that our Republican manufacturers, after pocketing the swag, refused to disgorge? If so, they’ll catch it.”

The spoils that Adams referred to were not to supply simple bribes. Instead, he was saying, the plutocrats should have used their wealth to fund Harrison’s presidential campaign. It would, in the language of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority in Citizens United, be laundered into speech.

Share with Sociable

Why do you see gender differences in sensitivity? Is it knowing how, or wanting to?

[ 35 ] January 23, 2015 |

I told Rob and Scott I was going to try to reform and be a more prolific blogger. I can be hobbled in blogging by perfectionism and the belief that no one really needs to hear my opinion (strangely, I am also quite argumentative). But this morning I found myself with an opinion that was even a little bit informed, so I am seizing the moment!

Over at Unfogged, LizardBreath takes issue with The Atlantic’s portrayal of women as “innately” more socially sensitive, and thus essential to group productivity. LizardBreath argues that differences between group A and group B don’t tell you much about individuals, and that social sensitivity is a learned skill. But I’ll go a step further. While I feel compelled to offer the neurotic caveat that I by no means have a comprehensive grasp of all the social sensitivity literature, there is evidence to suggest that observed differences between men and women on sensitivity tasks, in the lab and perhaps in the world, are sometimes not a result of ability differences, but of different degrees of motivation to perform sensitivity.

This is a meta-analysis of empathic accuracy studies. They use a somewhat different paradigm than the Reading the Mind in the Eyes task the Atlantic article discusses. Instead, empathic accuracy studies either conduct a mock therapy-ish session, which the study participant observes, or have two people who are close to each other interact. Then the study participants — either the observers in the first kind of study or both members of the dyad in the second — describe the internal thoughts of the person they were observing or interacting with and those descriptions are compared to the target’s own description of their thoughts. The meta-analysis found that gender differences in empathic accuracy were only found when study paradigms asked participants to rate their empathic accuracy — in other words, when they made it very salient that the study was *about* empathy. When no self-rating of empathy was solicited, there was no difference. Ickes and his coauthors interpreted this as a result of different levels of motivation in the lab. When you make it clear to your participants that you’re testing their empathy, women think something like, “I am woman. Women love children, flowers, and harmony,” and men think “I am man. Men like cars, numbers, and weapons.” So women amp up their own performance to be consistent with their activated stereotype of themselves, and possibly men even suppress their own performance. In an experiment to test this hypothesis, Klein and Hodges found that paying men and women to be accurate (in other words, amping up both groups’ motivation) wiped out any gender differences.

This accords well with my sense of the world. Of course there are some people who are just uniformly social dolts. But I think it’s more common that when people are being insensitive, particularly people who have risen to reasonably high-status occupations, it’s because they are choosing not to deploy their social intelligence in a given situation because they’ve calculated, probably unconsciously, that it’s not worth the effort, or they are deploying their intelligence by strategically being an a**hole. They’d be capable of being exquisitely sensitive in a meeting with their boss. The real answer to how you get more empathy, turn-taking, etc. in a group is not just to dump women into it, but to create organizations that value those qualities. I don’t see it as an inevitability that women’s social behavior (I choose “behavior” in place of “skill” advisedly) will get them more money, because doing the best work and advancing in rank within an organization are not always accomplished with identical sets of strategies. I can think of situations I’ve personally witnessed when someone (in the most salient case, a man) whose kindness, empathy, and patient communication were totally essential to the functioning of an organization, but the organization didn’t retain him, because the people running the show had no sense that kindness and empathy were very important things to value. If they’d bothered to ask the people who worked with him, including low-status people, they would have gotten vehement pleas to do whatever it took to keep him on — not just because he was pleasant, but because he was the glue that held all the other jerks together. If you create incentives to be gentle, empathic, and cooperative, and you foster a culture that genuinely values kindness, then that’s what you’ll get, from men and women.

Share with Sociable

The Moops Did Not Invade Spain, Orrin Hatch Every Republican Member of Congress Edition

[ 34 ] January 23, 2015 |

Orrin Hatch argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2010 that the ACA’s requirement that states set up exchanges “is not a condition for receiving federal funds.” Ian Millhiser explains the significance of this:

Nevertheless, Hatch does make an important claim about the law in his WSJ op-ed. A state’s choice to set up and operate its own exchange “is not a condition for receiving federal funds.” That is the Obama Administration’s position in King v. Burwell. It is also the correct position.

As a legal matter, Hatch’s statement has less significance than similar statements by Republican Governors Scott Walker (R-WI), Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and Dave Heineman (R-NE), all of whom have also contradicted the central claim underlying the King litigation. The Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy gives special significance to statements by state officials who are in the process of deciding whether to take a particular action that allegedly triggers the payment of federal funds.

Nevertheless, Hatch’s statement is significant for two reasons. The first is that he made it in the context of an op-ed whose entire purpose was to lay out the case for why Obamacare should be destroyed by the courts. And yet, even when he was engaged in this very specific task, he didn’t just fail to notice what he now claims — that the law itself gives each state the power to destroy much of the law within their own borders — he directly contracted his own argument in his King brief.

The second reason is that, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, courts owe extraordinary deference to federal agencies’ construction of a statute unless that construction defies the law’s unambiguous text. It is hard to believe that the law unambiguously denies tax credits to people in many states when four staunch enemies of the law — Hatch, Walker, McDonnell and Heineman — all shared Barack Obama’s interpretation of Obamacare.

Which makes the fact that a minimum of three justices are going to accept the troofer reading — one they themselves rejected, just like Hatch! — while pretending that Chevron is being applied all the more abominable. In fairness, Ian doesn’t deal with the fact that there are only three people properly authorized to explain what this law means: Jon Adler and Michael Cannon after the previous ad hoc theories deployed in their fanatical campaign to get the ACA vetoed by the judiciary failed, and President, Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Secretary of State, Governor of all 50 states, and Food and Beverage Director of the Tangiers casino Jonathan Gruber. (Note: Gruber’s interpretations valid only in 2012, not 2010 or 2014.)

…and it’s not just Hatch, it’s essentially every Republican member of Congress:

In a perverse way, the absurdity of the challengers’ argument is it’s greatest strength. Because the scheme they insist Congress intentionally created was so far from Congress’ mind, it’s hard to find contemporaneous evidence that Congress absolutely didn’t mean to condition these subsidies. In much the same way, we can’t be sure that Congress didn’t mean to denominate those subsidies in Canadian dollars. A $ isn’t necessarily a $ after all.

But this familiar line of defense crumbles here. It is facially plausiblethough incorrectto posit that CBO believed subsidies would be available everywhere because it simply assumed every state would set up an exchange. But that assumption didn’t hold in April 2011. Something else must explain CBO’s 1099-repeal score, and the Republican votes that followed it. What we have in the form of this bill is clear evidence that everyone who voted for it (including every single Republican, save the two GOP congressmen and one GOP senator who weren’t present) understood the Affordable Care Act to provide subsidies everywhere.

Share with Sociable
Page 2 of 1,94812345...102030...Last »