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“The Market For Ostensible Leftists Who Despise the Democratic Party Above All Else Is More Limited Than We Thought”

[ 124 ] July 30, 2015 |
Photo of the first real liberal in American politics since Dick Nixon by Gage Skidmore.

Photo of the first real liberal in American politics since Dick Nixon by Gage Skidmore.

Hmm, where will we go for the news that Obama is the third term of the Reagan administration now?

Oh, right, Harper’s. And I assume Salon has begun the thawing of Matt Stoller…

Every Race Needs Its Fred Thompson

[ 110 ] July 30, 2015 |


Chait on the failure of the campaign of America’s Foremost Civil Libertarian and the True Progressive Alternative in 2016 to even get off the canvas:

David Weigel and Ben Terris report the campaign’s explanations for its lack of success, which Paul and his minions gamely present as a shrewd long-term plan. Is it bad that Paul has fallen out of the public debate? No, no: “they insist there is minimal downside to being out of the media glare six months before the Iowa caucuses.” Paul, they report, has skipped two Citizens United “freedom summits” and the RedState Gathering. But that’s okay, Paul says, because, “The message of his state supporters is the message from the campaign: Anyone doing more than Paul is probably phoning it in at his real job.” If there’s one thing voters will reward, it’s a sterling record of Senatorial vote-attendance.

Paul is presenting his failure to attract attention as a reflection not of his love for spring break but rather a principled aversion to campaign high jinks. The candidate recently offered, with a touch of pathos, that he would not set himself on fire to compete with Donald Trump — but he’s not above cheeseball antics like setting the tax code on fire.

Perhaps Paul’s problem is that he started off setting things on fire, and, since his election in 2010, has spent his half-decade in office tamping down the flames to make himself acceptable to the party Establishment. Paul’s highest priority has been rendering himself acceptable to the Republican elite, by trimming his positions on issues like Israel and defense spending. Instead of bringing together activists and the Establishment, he has failed to reassure the latter, and bored the former. Paul has no principled aversion to facilitating the influence of the very rich over the political system. He’s just lazy and bad at it.

I think this is right. Paul never had any chance of winning the nomination because the deviations from conservative orthodoxy that briefly made him the darling of people on the left desperate for any pretext to urge people to vote against Democrats have no serious constituency within the Republican Party. Abandoning most of these idiosyncrasies to appeal to actually existing Republican voters hasn’t worked, but maintaining them wouldn’t have worked either. He was always going to be drawing dead against orthodox reactionaries like Walker and Rubio and Jeb!

What’s made his campaign epically disastrous rather than a mere eccentric also-ran is his lack of interest in fundraising and stroking rich people — you know, the stuff that modern campaigning consists of. You can be quarter-hearted about that stuff and win federal elections as a Republican in Kentucky, but competitive campaigns are another matter. And the combination of his disinterest and his abandonment of the quirks that once made him the most overrated politician in America is particularly pathetic. If you’re going to run an unserious vanity campaign, you might as well stick to your alleged principles rather that tossing them overboard to attract voters you’re not going to make any serious attempt to attract anyway. Unless your commitment to these principles was puddle-deep in the first place, of course.

The National Review And Fascism

[ 164 ] July 30, 2015 |


Jonah et al doth protest too much.  For example:

In 1955, National Review had employed a troubled young right-winger named George Lincoln Rockwell to sell subscriptions. When Rockwell emerged as the leader of the American Nazi movement, Buckley took a two-pronged approach, publicly rebuking him and also privately working to find him psychological and religious counselling. But in 1961 editorial, after Rockwell was met by counter-protesters during a march in New York City, National Review criticized the “mob of Jews who hurled insults at him. Some lunged at him, and were kept from Rockwell’s throat only by a cordon of policemen. Are we ‘against’ the Jews whose pressure kept Rockwell from exercising his constitutional right to speak, and who would, if given the chance, have beat him bloody? Of course.”

It would be a mistake to read this editorial as a defense of free-speech absolutism of the sort that led the ACLU to support the right of Nazis to march in Jewish neighborhoods. For one thing, National Review was adamantly opposed to that sort of free-speech absolutism, and often defended McCarthysim. Moreover, “mob of Jews” wasn’t that editorial’s only target: It lambasted the civil rights movement for their “theatrical” challenge to Jim Crow in the south, a response which was “met, inevitably, by a spastic response. By violence.” During this period, National Review strong opposed the Civil Rights movement and its tactics of civil disobedience. In effect the National Review position was that American Nazis had a right to march in New York, but American blacks should refrain from exercising their first amendment rights in the South.

There were limits to the anti-Nazism of Buckley and National Review, which became ever clearer when Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Nazis’ final solution, was captured by the Israelis in Argentina in 1961 and brought to trial in Israel. In 1961, National Review described the Eichmann trial as a “lurid extravaganza” which would produce such dire results as “bitterness, distrust, the refusal to forgive, the advancement of Communist aims, [and] the cultivation of pacifism.” (The idea that Jews in 1961 had an obligation to forgive Nazis is worth pondering).

Wednesday Linkage…

[ 43 ] July 29, 2015 |

National Archives, via Foxtrot Alpha

While we contemplate trolls, let us devour links:

Winning the Internet in Perpetuity: “How to Speak While Female”

[ 55 ] July 29, 2015 |

It is a widely-accepted fact that everything women say–and how they say it–is wrong!



*wipes tears*

Some highlights:

  • Never speak in run-on sentences. Use only sentences that Hemingway would use. Speak curtly. Speak of fish and fighting, and the deep wisdom no woman can know. Speak of hills and strong liquor. Speak of Scott Fitzgerald and his fatal weakness.
  • When you form words at all, which should be but rarely, make certain they come out in a low, gravelly growl, like a hungover Joe Cocker who has just gargled shards of glass. Strive to sound like a cigarette would sound if it could talk. Strive to rumble like thunder that has taken a class to counteract its vocal fry. If you sound like the love child of Darth Vader and a female Ent, you have achieved your purpose. Speak so that those who hear you wonder aloud and say, “Surely this speaker is a man. Or a grizzly bear who has swallowed a man whole.”
  • In general, communicate only by tearing off the arms of those with whom you are displeased. Wave these arms like flags, in a kind of gruff semaphore. To express feelings, roll rocks downhill with rude emoji carved on them.

Done done and done, milady.

Bill Clinton is like Bill Cosby because not taking your mistress on an expensive vacation is very much like drugging and raping dozens of women

[ 93 ] July 29, 2015 |


Also, too, they have the same initials (Someone was paid to write this).

You win a million Internet dollars if you can guess who makes these arguments without clicking on the link.

And believe me, you don’t want to get out of the boat.

Right from the start, when the Bill Cosby scandal surfaced, I knew it was not going to bode well for Hillary’s campaign, because young women today have a much lower threshold for tolerance of these matters . . . And Monica got nothing out of it. Bill Clinton used her. Hillary was away or inattentive, and he used Monica in the White House–and in the suite of the Oval Office, of all places. He couldn’t have taken her on some fancy trip? She never got the perks of being a mistress; she was there solely to service him.

On the Comment Sections

[ 199 ] July 29, 2015 |

Since the aggressiveness of trolling has been noted several times in comments, I should probably make a statement rather than responding every time individually:

  • We should be clear about some potential means of addressing the problem that are Not Happening Ever: Full moderation. Disemvoweling.  Anything that involves enormous amounts of uncompensated labor on the part of the writers.  I really hope this doesn’t require further explanation.
  • I like Disqus, which would mitigate the problem substantially, but my understanding is that it would be impossible to switch without losing the old comment threads, which I’m reluctant to do.
  • We could, at less cost, to a user approval system, but given the effects this would have on the quantity of comments I’m inclined to think it’s a cure that’s worse than the disease.  There would be many times when we could not approve a registration request in a timely manner.
  • Finally — and I know I’m howling into the void here — it should be emphasized that we do not so much have a troll problem as a responding to trolls problem.  Trolling that does not generate a response does much less to derail threads and can also be deleted much more easily and without orphaning comments.  And, of course, the extraordinarily high response rate also incentivizes the trolling.  I can hardly blame our resident troll — when even the laziest, pro forma, and repetitive trolling can generate multiple responses before you’ve started to search Taki’s Magazine for your next cut n’ paste job, why wouldn’t you keep doing it?  Every once on a long while — particularly when the troll is trying a little and commits some heinous offense against the English language — troll-response threads can be funny, but then these aren’t the problem.  Much more commonly, the immediate responses to the trolling are just as witless as the trolling itself.  Look, I can’t tell people what to do.  If you think it’s really important to leave the 100th unfunny response to the 12th reposting of the Nazi party platform in a particular thread, I’m not going to stop you unless you do something else banworthy.  But don’t blame the troll for wrecking the thread, and certainly don’t suggest that I spend several hours a day to save you from yourself.

Bill Cosby and the return of the repressed

[ 123 ] July 29, 2015 |

cosby victims

Scott links below to the remarkable New York Magazine piece, in which a few dozen of the women and girls Bill Cosby raped, usually after giving them drug-spiked drinks, tell part of their stories.

After reading it, I looked up the infamous “Pound Cake” speech that Cosby gave at a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The whole thing has to be read to be believed, but let’s just say it’s a text whose interpretation has been enriched by subsequent developments:

You got to tell me that if there was parenting, help me, if there was parenting, he wouldn’t have picked up the Coca Cola bottle and walked out with it to get shot in the back of the head. He wouldn’t have. Not if he loved his parents. And not if they were parenting! Not if the father would come home. Not if the boy hadn’t dropped the sperm cell inside of the girl and the girl had said, “No, you have to come back here and be the father of this child.” Not ..“I don’t have to.”

Therefore, you have the pile up of these sweet beautiful things born by nature raised by no one. Give them presents. You’re raising pimps. That’s what a pimp is. A pimp will act nasty to you so you have to go out and get them something. And then you bring it back and maybe he or she hugs you. And that’s why pimp is so famous. They’ve got a drink called the “Pimp-something.” You all wonder what that’s about, don’t you?

Here is a TNR piece on the extra-creepy hyper-racist fetishism of the “cuckservative” meme:

The term has emerged out of the white supremacist movement as a term of abuse for white conservatives deemed race traitors unwilling to forthrightly defend the interests of white America. Borrowing shadings from porn (“cuck” is a genre where husbands, often white, watch their wives have sex with other men, often African-Americans) . . . the term cuckservative is popular because it pushes psycho-sexual hot buttons. Racism and sexism have always been connected, with one of the prime justifications for racial hierarchy being the supposed need to protect white women from black men and also, more implicitly, to keep black women sexually submissive to white men. A cuckservative thus conjures up one of the supreme nightmares of the white supremacist imagination, the fear that white men will assume a submissive role (or position) in the sexual hierarchy.

And here is a NYT op-ed deploring the way Israeli politicians other opinion makers have handled the campaign to release Jonathan Pollard:

The Israelis who employed Mr. Pollard also failed to take into account the risk he posed to the American Jewish community, which was subsequently suspected of disloyalty. Documents from the C.I.A. reveal that the agency viewed Mr. Pollard as an American Jew who had translated his support for Israel into two alternatives: immigrate to Israel or spy for it. For years afterward, the Pollard affair made it difficult for Jews in the United States government to get security clearances for sensitive jobs. . . if Israelis celebrate his release and possible “homecoming,” there must be a responsible adult in Israel who understands how turning a spy into a returning hero will be interpreted in Washington. Israelis must realize, even if 30 years too late, that Americans see Mr. Pollard as a traitor of the worst kind and that celebrating his release will only further harm Israel’s already strained relations with America.

While researching something else, I was struck recently by the striking extent to which anxieties about miscegenation were a problem for the civil rights movement in the post-Brown era, even among many liberals. Significant portions of American history become much easier to understand if they are understood as reflecting the fears of white men that black men will rape/have sex with (the distinction is often far from clear) white women.

Consider that in 1959 Hannah Arendt was taking a controversial stand among readers of the New Republic, when she wrote a piece advocating the repeal of statutes barring blacks and whites from marrying. The magazine held a symposium on the subject, in which one contributor argued thus:

To fight now, as a matter of first principle, for the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws is, I believe, to give strength to the very contention that is most frequently, and by all accounts most tellingly, employed by those who resist the repeal of segregation laws—namely, the contention that this is but a device to promote sexual intercourse among the races.

In light of this history, Cosby’s Pound Cake speech is an astonishing act. Here is an African American man who has spent most of his adult life committing, over and over again, the very worst crime*, in a psycho-political sense, that any black man can commit — the crime that inflames the most destructive fears and morbid fetishes of every overt racist, crypto-racist, and I’m-not-a-racist-but white man in America — and he chooses the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision to lecture the entire African American community about — wait for it — “personal responsibility,” and in particular, personal responsibility in matters of sexuality.

This is roughly analogous to Jonathan Pollard doing what he did if he had been Secretary of Defense, as opposed to a pathetic schmuck in the grip of delusions of grandeur. ETA: Apparently the OP isn’t clear that the point of this analogy is that Cosby and Pollard each committed the precise crime that triggers the most intense racist and anti-Semitic reactions, respectively. (To be fair, Pollard didn’t give a speech berating the American Jewish community for dual loyalty before he was caught, so the analogy is inexact). The NYT article emphasizes the special damage that this sort of crime causes for the communities of the wrongdoers.

Perhaps the ultimate question here is if the Pound Cake speech was a manifestation of profound denial and neurotic repression, or rather just another example of the conscious pleasure a sociopath takes in ignoring the most minimal standards of human decency, and getting away with it, over and over again.

*Cosby seems to have raped many women of color as well, and it should go without saying that those crimes were no less horrible.

Concealed Food, Broken Workers

[ 9 ] July 29, 2015 |


The title of this post is the title of one of my chapters in Out of Sight. Dissent has published an excerpt from the book to coincide with this evening’s Brooklyn event. I write a lot about food and food production in the book. Here’s a bit of it:

Here’s the thing about food: because it is so important to our lives and our health, it is one set of products where we can effectively resist the concealment of production. Eating is a profound, if everyday, experience that affects our health and our happiness. The explosive growth in farmers’ markets, concerns about genetically modified organisms, and fears of pesticides have challenged the industrial food complex, just not over its treatment of workers. Free-range chickens and cattle have become highly desirable and expensive products, both for taste and for health and safety concerns, but less so because of the workers injured and killed in the meatpacking plants.

We can see the current local food movement as a backlash against corporations’ efforts to hide their operations from us. We cannot control very much about our relationship to the larger economy. But regional food networks, with production ranging from rooftop gardens to large farms on the outskirts of cities, can bring a significant amount of food democracy back into cities while providing enormous environmental benefits compared to the current system. Eschewing monocultures for diversified food crops would cut down on the pesticides and herbicides needed, meaning less fertilizer, less pollution, and healthier rivers, lakes, and oceans as well as small farmers who could afford to live and farm without expensive chemicals.

But food movements also need to be justice movements and connect to bigger issues. If we are serious in thinking about a democratic food system, we have to support good working conditions throughout the food industry. It means we need to support farmworker and meatpacker unions. We have to end the tipped minimum wage and demand greater funding for OSHA and the FDA to inspect our food factories.

Ultimately, our food problems stem from the same lack of democracy that plagues our society. In our food system, animals are abused, workers die, waterways become polluted with animal waste, and wildlife dies. Yet most of us have no idea this is happening. If we can demand ethically produced food that allows consumers insight into food production, we can go far to reshape the world into a more just and sustainable place. Food corporations, from Monsanto to McDonald’s, hope this never happens.

Western Governments and Global Labor Standards

[ 15 ] July 29, 2015 |

Rana Plaza building in Dhaka.

Robert Ross has an excellent article on Bangladeshi labor reforms two years after Rana Plaza. In short, the international outrage has led to some relatively minor but not meaningless changes to building safety and union voices on the job. But very little to none of the money corporations have given to compensate the survivors have made it to the workers, employer resistance is still massive and that includes firing unionists, 10 percent of the Bangladeshi parliament is made up of apparel factory owners, and while the European companies Accord on Fire and Building Safety has helped workers, the American companies’ toothless version has done nothing but protect Walmart and Gap from responsibility for workers’ rights. Ultimately, Ross sees two key points out of this that I discuss in Out of Sight. First, that western governments have the power to make a difference in Bangladesh:

If labor rights and protective government policy (unions, laws, and law enforcement) form the main crucible of decent conditions for workers, alliances with international NGOs and labor unions are the enablers. Policy levers also exist—but Western governments have to be willing to use them. For example, the EU has what is called a Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) written into its trade laws. (The U.S.’s GSP provisions expired in 2013, but are likely to be reauthorized.) These allow duty-free entry of certain goods from low-income nations into the economies of their higher-income trading partners. They are bilateral terms, conditioned, ostensibly, on trade partners observing internationally recognized labor rights.

For example, after the Rana Plaza collapse, the U.S. suspended Bangladesh’s GSP privileges because of its fundamental disrespect for labor rights. But apparel imports are excluded from the GSP. This past year, through April 2015, Bangladesh apparel exports to the U.S. were valued at $4.95 billion. In 2012, Bangladesh imports covered by the GSP provisions were worth $34.7 million. The GSP suspension was symbolic.

However, apparel imports to the multination EU are covered by a single GSP provision. In 2014, they were worth almost $14 billion. At the Second Anniversary Forum sponsored by the ILO at a swank downtown Dhaka hotel, the EU representative to Bangladesh made a clear threat to suspend GSP privileges unless Bangladesh followed through on commitments to protect worker safety and guarantee core labor rights, a duplication in intent of an ILO forum in Brussels two days before. This is a target for European campaigners, particularly the Amsterdam-based Clean Clothes Campaign. Whether they are willing to use the threat—which is dire—remains to be seen.

There are other levers for U.S. allies. The federal government is a large buyer of garments, including the post exchange (PX) retail stores where armed forces families buy goods on military bases around the world. They could be required to buy only from Accord members when they source from Bangladesh. They now report on whether they are using Accord factories, and the Marine Corps requires licensees using their logos to source from Accord firms or from factories that meet its requirements.

Yet for the most part, the American government refuses to do anything. That includes congressional Republicans getting angry at the military for not sourcing their clothing cheaply enough. It has certainly not been a priority for Obama, as the Trans-Pacific Partnership demonstrates. Global labor rights needs to be a political issue in this country for this system to meaningfully change. But this gets to Ross’ other point–that conditions for American workers are also getting worse:

American workers don’t face conditions as grim as those in Bangladesh, but some are not so different. As American workers lose union protection because of hostile laws, courts, and media, so do they lose their ability to defend safe conditions. At Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia in 2010, 29 miners died: non-union. In the 1991 Hamlet, North Carolina, poultry plant fire where 25 died and the back doors were locked: non-union. On paper, American workers have all the rights they need to organize and join unions. In practice, they risk getting fired.

In Bangladesh, one of the gaps is a decade-long, as yet unsuccessful, attempt to create a workers’ compensation insurance system. Workers’ comp offers a no-fault system—a grand bargain created a century ago, state by state, in the U.S.: Workers don’t sue; employers pay insurance premiums to cover medical costs and long-term income replacement for disability. Oops: Workers’ comp is under attack in the U.S. in state after state, as caps on payments, limits on payment duration, and other restrictions erode yet another part of the social safety net. We learn about what we need by examining the deficits of others.

Right, and with the destruction of unions and a century of labor law the stated goal of Republicans today, the future of the already heavily eroded standards of American work are very much in doubt. Outsourcing and the global race to the bottom incentivizes American companies to launch attacks on American worker rights while at the same time moving production around the globe to ensure a global Gilded Age of extreme income inequality and severe worker suffering. That can’t get better if workers can’t form their own unions and the companies stick around long enough to deal with those unions. What Ross does not state is the globalized nature of apparel production and the very real fear among Bangladeshi worker activists that the companies could move once again at any time if they feel too much pressure to pay good wages or have safe workplaces in Bangladesh. Only by creating international labor standards enforceable in U.S. courts that follow American companies no matter where they source their items will we begin to create a legal regime that gives workers a fair shake, both at home and abroad.

Speaking of such things, this is as good a place as any to remind our New York readers that I will be speaking with the labor journalist Sarah Jaffe at Local 61 in Brooklyn tonight at 7. There will be copies of Out of Sight available for purchase and I will be happy to sign yours. Also, CSPAN is filming it for BookTV and whenever it actually comes on, I’ll let everyone know.

Law dean calls grads on night before bar exam to try to bribe them not to take it

[ 25 ] July 29, 2015 |

HL mencken

Not the Onion.

There’s nothing like a last-second call from the dean of your law school telling you that you’re about to fail the bar exam to boost your confidence. These are the reports that started pouring in last night from various sources at Arizona Summit Law:

The dean of ASLS is calling several bar sitters trying to talk them out of sitting for the bar exam tomorrow. I do not know if any accepted the offer. I spoke with an acquaintance that received a call from Dean Mays at 5:40 p.m. last night. The bar sitter was so upset by the call that she couldn’t clear her mind and hardly slept.

Another tipster told us that the bar exam deferral stipend being offered by Dean Mays was $10,000 — in case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s the same amount Arizona Summit pays to its repeated bar failures as some sort of a consolation prize.

Capt. Louis Renault is shocked to report that the school in question is one of the Infilaw outfits. The Infilaw schools started cutting their admissions standards from “very modest” to “carbon-based life form” about four years ago, and now various chickens are beginning to roost.

The collapse of bar passage rates for the schools’ grads could in theory lead to the ABA Section of Regulatory Capture Legal Education yanking the schools’ accreditation, although since Infilaw has managed to get a bunch of its shills embedded deep within that august body, this is roughly similar to expect Roger Goodell to do an excellent job at reviewing Roger Goodell’s previous decisions.

The Man Who Hated Women

[ 118 ] July 29, 2015 |


Let us consider two of the testimonials from Noreen Malone’s remarkable story about Bill Cosby’s accusers:

Cosby started mentoring Bernard before she guest-starred on The Cosby Show in the early 1990s. “I looked upon him as a father figure,” she says. “He often said to me, ‘You’re one of my kids, Bernard.’” Later, Cosby drugged her drink, and raped her. During their last contact, on The Cosby Show set in 1992, he told her, “As far as I’m concerned, Bernard, you’re dead. Do you hear me? You’re dead. You don’t exist.” Afterward, she became suicidal. She came forward in May 2015. “For the last 23-plus years I’ve been living with a tremendous sense of fear. Being able to relinquish that fear was freeing for me, and the only reason I was able to do that was so many other women had done it before me, and I felt safe.”

According to the IMDB, Barnard had one more acting gig, a guest role on Seinfeld. Her career was effectively over.

Moritz was getting ready to appear on the Tonight Show when someone opened the door of her dressing room. Cosby stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He stood above Moritz and unzipped his pants. He pushed his penis into her mouth. “It was automatic. It was like he did this with everyone that was on a show with him backstage. I couldn’t push him away. He was Mr. Cosby. He moved himself back and forth, and my head was on his penis at all times. Finally, they called my name. I was supposed to be out, but he wouldn’t let me go. He rushed out and came out on my call, and he said, ‘I am Louisa Moritz,’ and got a huge laugh, which was my laugh I was supposed to get. I don’t remember if they introduced me again. I was a zombie. But I sat down and the show went on. I didn’t look at him. He didn’t look at me.”

These are far from the only two stories of wrecked careers, either. But somehow “objectification” feels inadequate to describe how Cosby treated these young women. He thought nothing of derailing a woman’s career for a minute or two of nonconsensual sexual gratification. Many of the ruined lives and careers were women who he came to offering mentorship. Among other things, Cosby’s victims are giving is a powerful illustration of the sheer inhumanity of the serial rapist, the inability to consider his targets as human beings at all.

And let me note yet again that although several of these accusations have been public for a nearly a decade, a major publishing house published a 500 page hagiography of Cosby that ignored the allegations entirely. It was cited as an “Amazon best book of the month.” Reviews in (inter alia) the New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post, and Boston Globe did not see this as worthy of mention at all. Kelefa Sanneh’s lenghty New Yorker profile based around Whitaker’s book consigns the accusations to one paragraph, the third last. All of which helps to explain how he got away with such monstrous behavior for so long.

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