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Greil Marcus

[ 64 ] March 5, 2015 |

I was going to try and write a proper review of Greil Marcus’ new book The History of Rock N’ Roll in Ten Songs for the blog. But I found myself having not a lot to say about it. Mostly, I thought Marcus’ over the top writing style and tendency to mythologize rock pioneers took over too much here. Imagining what happens if Robert Johnson lives and basically connecting him to every major musical event of the 20th century, going all the way to Obama’s inauguration seems a bit, um, far-fetched, while some of the chapters hardly make sense. There’s a lot of sections where clarity really struggles to be achieved. Plus he really likes The Doors. There were some interesting things here, such as comparing versions of “Money Changes Everything” over time from Cyndi Lauper and Tom Gray. And his discussion of Christian Marclay’s experimentation is quite interesting. But most of the chapters don’t work well.

So I guess that is some sort of review. It’s rare that I don’t like a book about music. But I didn’t like this book. He needs a stronger editor. It’s hard for a big star to deal with editors. But if you consider how Daniel Lanois forced Dylan into actually making a good album for once with Time Out of Mind and how that transformed the great songwriter’s career (once again), sometimes the genius has to suck up the ego and deal with it.

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Historical Images

[ 12 ] March 5, 2015 |

After a long hiatus to finish the two books, I have begun updating my historical image blog again. I just put up a set of images on immigration. I like to collect historical images for teaching, as I always have PowerPoint presentations for my lectures that consist of nothing but an outline, key terms, and historical images. If they are useful to anyone, have at it.

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You Can’t Spell “Reformicon” Without “Con”

[ 34 ] March 5, 2015 |

Remember when Republicans were totally going to be the Party of Ideas (TM) because a small group of conservative intellectuals with little discernible influence on Republican legislators thought that George W. Bush-style supply side politics should be supplemented by some feints towards the middle class?

Well, funny thing about that. Reformocon darlings Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have taken their massive regressive tax cut and made it…much, more more regressive, eliminating taxes on investment and inherited income entirely. So are reformocons upset about the betrayal? Is the Pope a Seventh Day Adventist?

Perhaps the fullest measure of the supply-siders’ triumph can be seen in the acquiescence of many of the reformicons themselves. Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin, both reform conservatives featured prominently in the Times story, responded to the new Lee-Rubio plan with fawning praise. James Pethokoukis, a reformist conservative, calls the plan “a big step toward persuading middle-income America that Republicans care about more than just the richest 1 percent.” (If this is a big step toward persuading America that Republicans care about more than the rich, what would the next step be? Legalizing servant-flogging?)

Perhaps the reform conservatives have capitulated completely in the name of party unity. Or maybe they were misunderstood from the beginning and never proposed to deviate in any substantive way from the traditional platform of massively regressive, debt-financed tax-cutting. Either way, the movement has, for now, accomplished less than nothing.

But, gee, I can’t wait to hear their alternative health care proposal!

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The Best Case For Televised Hearings

[ 42 ] March 5, 2015 |

Were yesterday’s oral arguments. When people say that having cameras in the courtroom would undermine the solemn seriousity of Supreme Court oral arguments I never have any idea what the hell they’re talking about. Oh noes, if we have cameras in the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia might start ranting like a third-tier winger talk radio host! Stephen Breyer might start asking lengthy law school hypotheticals that sometimes don’t really go much of anyplace! Michael Carvin might come off like a sexist bully!

I don’t actually think that cameras in the Supreme Court would change much of anything. But even if they did, so what? The justices already play to an audience; there’s no neutral form of oral argument that televised proceedings would undermine.

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Strict Deconstructionism: Republican Legal and Political Values in 2015

[ 109 ] March 5, 2015 |


My take on yesterday’s oral argument is up.

The first main point is that unlike many smart observers I’m not really much more optimistic than I was yesterday.  And second, it’s like how much more hackish could Scalia be?  And the answer is none.  None more hackish:

Particularly remarkable, however, was this exchange:

SCALIA: What about Congress? You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue? I mean, how often have we come out with a decision such as the ­­ you know, the bankruptcy court decision? Congress adjusts, enacts a statute that takes care of the problem. It happens all the time. Why is that not going to happen here?

VERRILLI: Well, this Congress? [laughter]

VERRILLI: You know, I mean, of course, theoretically — of course, theoretically they could.

SCALIA: I don’t care what Congress you’re talking about. If the consequences are as disastrous as you say, so many million people ­­ without insurance and whatnot — yes, I think this Congress would act.

Scalia’s argument, of course, came straight from a land of willful fantasy. It’s tempting to dismiss Scalia’s comments as politically naïve, but I think it’s more pernicious than that. Scalia has long shown an affinity for the most witless Fox News talking points. Republicans have been making a conscious effort to reassure the court that they have a plan should the court gut the ACA. Needless to say, they don’t actually have any plan — pretending to have a plan is their only plan. Indeed, Republicans in Congress are so dysfunctional that they can barely even pretend to have a serious alternative, and any attempt to fix the law would assuredly be stillborn.

The Republican alternative should the court willfully misread the law and ruin the federally established exchanges is a con somewhat less sophisticated than selling oceanfront property in Wyoming — but it’s good enough for Scalia! That tells you all you need to know about the extent of his fidelity to judicial ideals.

There are two additional examples of hackery and cynicism I didn’t have space to get to but are also relevant:

  • There is an additional element of disingenuousness in Carvin citing the relatively low number of states that have undergone the “thankless task” of creating their own exchanges after the IRS ruled that subsidies would be universally available. One reason so many states declined to establish exchanges is that Michael Cannon spent a great deal of time flying around the country and urging states not to do so.  The architects of the suit obviously thought that even with the subsidies offered through federal changes many states would establish their own exchanges – and, indeed, even with this organized campaign 17 did. States had a reasonable opportunity to create their own exchanges and that’s all Congress wanted.  But it’s yet another new level of bad faith for the troofers to actively thwart the creation of state exchanges and then use this as a reason to wreck the federal exchanges after projecting their own views about federal power onto legislators who don’t share them.
  • Let’s consider another of Scalia’s talk radio soundbites: “This is not the most elegantly drafted statute.  It was ­­ it was pushed through on expedited procedures and didn’t have the kind of consideration by a conference committee, for example, that ­­ that statutes usually do.”  The “expedited procedures” claim is just erroneous; both the Senate and then the House passed the ACA using ordinary procedures, and then there was a set of amendments passed through reconciliation.  The implicit claim that the ACA was passed in unseemly haste is a joke to anyone who actually remembers the interminable process.   It is true that the bill did not have the usual benefit of being harmonized through a conference committee. But the reason that this didn’t happen is that the Republican minority in the Senate would not have permitted a vote on a new bill.  It’s a neat scam: A Republican minority prevents Congress from functioning properly, and then their political allies on the Supreme Court use this as an excuse to willfully misread the resulting statute, with disastrous consequences for many people.  When the same Supreme Court justice to then assert that congressional Republicans would never, ever dream of seeing large numbers of people go without health insurance it just completes the shameless hack cycle.

The grand theory of Republican politics and constitutionalism in 2015 would seem to be “stop hitting yourself.”  Stripping health insurance from millions of people based on a legal theory that would be laughed out of any courtroom not dominated by partisan Republicans is a logical endpoint.

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How Do You Brisket?

[ 96 ] March 5, 2015 |

Brisket is a cut of meat with which I’ve never had a tremendous amount of luck; I’ve never made a transcendent brisket dish, and, frankly, I just don’t know a lot about the cut. The other day I came pretty close to justifying its existence (And cost–Have you heard people say brisket is cheap??? That is so weird.) I made a sweet-savory sauce with half the ingredients in the fridge door and served it over mashed potatoes/parsnips/celery root. It was tasty but nothing to write home about.

Please sell me on brisket. Post your favorite brisket recipes below.

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Game of Thrones podcast: Season 2, Episode 3 — “What Is Dead May Never Die”

[ 6 ] March 5, 2015 |


Works Attewell discusses (warning all these posts contain spoilers for all five books):

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The War On Worker’s Comp

[ 30 ] March 5, 2015 |

The new Gilded Age:

It was exactly the sort of accident that workers’ compensation was designed for. Until recently, America’s workers could rely on a compact struck at the dawn of the Industrial Age: They would give up their right to sue. In exchange, if they were injured on the job, their employers would pay their medical bills and enough of their wages to help them get by while they recovered.

No longer.

Over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year, a ProPublica and NPR investigation has found.

The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty. Workers often battle insurance companies for years to get the surgeries, prescriptions and basic help their doctors recommend.

Two-and-a-half years after he lost his arm, Whedbee is still fighting with North Dakota’s insurance agency for the prosthesis that his doctor says would give him a semblance of his former life.


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Bobo: The Midlife Crisis Years

[ 47 ] March 4, 2015 |

Some thoughts should be shared on the op-ed page, and others are probably better confined to scotches at the 19th hole.  And you may want to consider the possibility that if you were less sexist you wouldn’t be thinking these things at all.

…Bobo, the movie!

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Deep Thoughts From Movement Conservative Superstars

[ 69 ] March 4, 2015 |

Shorter Verbatim Ben Carson: “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”

But remember, according to the man who invented the concept of same-sex marriage he’s only a homophobe by today’s unforgiving standards!

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HIJMS Musashi

[ 12 ] March 4, 2015 |

It appears that Paul Allen has found a very large battleship:

More about the expedition here. I suppose this means that a Gamilon attack is right around the corner…

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Lock Out the Kids!

[ 29 ] March 4, 2015 |

The refinery giant Tesoro has decided that it can’t allow youth baseball leagues to use the fields it owns next to its Martinez, California refinery. That’s because there are pickets at the plant due to the refinery strike. Oh, and also to protect the kids from the horrors of the outside agitator.

Oil giant Tesoro is locking out 600 youth baseball players from practicing on 15 fields located next to its refinery in Martinez, California. As part of a nationwide work stoppage involving some 7,000 workers, the Martinez workers have been on strike since Feb. 2, with regular pickets from the United Steelworkers and their allies protesting health and safety conditions.

“It’s for the safety of the kids and the parents and spectators that would have to cross picket lines,” Tesoro spokeswoman Patricia Deutsche explained to the local press. “We just don’t have to expose them to any negative interactions.”

In another interview, Deutsche specifically mentioned the threat of outside agitators from groups like Occupy, the California Nurses Association and Communities for a Better Environment, a group that works on environmental justice issues affecting low-income and minority communities.

These groups insist they pose no threat to children.

“This is a PR stunt,” said Nile Malloy, Northern California program director for Communities for a Better Environment. “It’s just really sad — like, really? … Everybody who protests is peaceful. They’re there to demonstrate solidarity with the workers, to protect the health and safety of the community, the climate.”

“Nurses are a threat to kids playing baseball?” said Charles Idelson, spokesman for the CNA. “How disgraceful [for Tesoro] to be blaming anybody else but themselves.”

“There’s just absolutely no way we’d picket a Little League field,” Scott told the Vallejo Times-Herald.

Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee told International Business Times “there have been reports of strike-related incidents deemed to be unsafe at the gates of our refinery and in the areas near the facility’s ballfields.” But when asked for more information about the “strike-related incidents,” Barbee said she did not “have additional details to share.”

That is pretty pathetic. I guess it is an attempt to turn the community against the strike, but that is lame.

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