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Jazz Hot

[ 29 ] August 20, 2014 |

In 1939, a promotional film in English was made for Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France. It’s unclear why, probably for a tour of Britain the group was doing that year. The start of this is a bit slow, with a history of jazz for the British uninitiated listeners. And then the Hot Club starts. You ever wanted to see Reinhardt’s fingers move across the guitar with excellent camera work that makes this very clear? Now is your chance. Just amazing footage.

For whatever reason, YouTube doesn’t allow this to be embedded, but you can watch it if you link.

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Ferguson and Our Benevolent Local Overlords

[ 127 ] August 20, 2014 |

Paul Waldman is making sense:

So the local government, the one that’s supposed to be in touch with the people, is not only out of touch, it’s making their lives miserable. The events in Ferguson have also shown us a case of inept local government that has made the situation worse at every turn. First the Ferguson police responded to protesting residents like they were retaking Fallujah. Then when state troopers succeeded in calming things down for a night — a higher level of government trying to correct the failures of a lower level — the Ferguson police released the surveillance video from that convenience store, as though trying to make the case that Michael Brown had it coming, which enraged local residents and started a new cycle of unrest.

It’ll be great if this situation leads to liberals and conservatives joining together to do something about the over-militarization of law enforcement. And yes, that over-militarization is something that the federal government and local governments cooperated to create. But the next time you hear someone say that power should be devolved as far as possible to the state and local level, remember that those lower levels of government are often where the worst problems are.

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China’s New Emphasis on Mil-Dip

[ 0 ] August 20, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat investigates military diplomacy…

But today’s PLA is a professional force, and for the last two decades it has expanded its presence and influence in the international military community, a trendline that has ticked distinctly up in the last year. This includes not only the participation of the PLAN at RIMPAC, but also PLAAF exercises in Pakistan, PLAN joint exercises with the Russians, and PLAAF participation at Aviadarts.

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Compliments

[ 94 ] August 20, 2014 |

Some of you have probably seen this remarkably stupid column from the reliably stupid New York Post. If you haven’t, well, as always, you’re welcome. If your clicking finger is broken, the jist of the linked item is that catcalling is awesome provided you have alarmingly low self-esteem. It’s been lambasted here and on twitter. But I have to weigh in on the topic now that it has–in internet time–become nearly irrelevant.

I don’t think every instance of catcalling is an attempt to cow women. I’m sure that sometimes catcalls are attempts at a crude sort of flattery. At the very least, a man is just alerting you to what his boner thinks, which, if you ponder that, is pretty thoughtful. But for the most part, catcalling–even at its most (ostensibly) harmless–is boorish and bothersome. In other words, you’re not making a woman’s day if you scream at her that you want to motorboat her sweet hiney. Also, asking if fries come with the shake is irresponsible and anachronistic. Can’t we swap those fries for a healthier option, like salad? While we’re at it, let’s the ditch the shake. And if you think “Hey baby, does a salad come with that yogurt smoothie?” It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but maybe you should just abandon catcalling altogether if you can’t keep it fresh and modern.

I’ve digressed. The bottom line (omg, I just typed “bottom”) is that for every woman who finds catcalling flattering, there’s a woman who finds it irritating at best and threatening at worst. So if you err on the side of caution (and I believe you should do just that) catcalling really shouldn’t be a thing; it should cease to exist.

By the way, I should clarify that I don’t necessarily have a problem with a woman enjoying being catcalled. This ties in neatly with the subject of selfies, which I also too wanted to address. There’s been a bit of a disagreement about what purpose selfies serve. I even read a comment arguing that thinking selfies are a cry for attention/validation is misogyny. I disagree quite vehemently with that sentiment. I do think selfies often* are a way of searching out attention/validation. But my feeling is that that’s ok. It’s normal to want attention and validation sometimes. It’s normal to–if you’re a heterosexual woman– search out the male gaze once in awhile. Where I think it becomes a problem is if you’re searching out that validation all the time. And I think it becomes a problem if your self-esteem depends almost entirely on that validation. Doree Lewak, I’m looking at you.

 

*#NotAllSelfies

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“Textualists” Decline to Cite Inconvenient Text

[ 84 ] August 20, 2014 |

The premise of the Halbig majority is that if close attention to isolated textual clauses produces an outcome that will cause millions of people to lose health care coverage, “with reluctance*” these people must be sacrificed to the sacred principles of “textualism.” Never mind that your theory of textualism is a terrible one, and this case is a particularly good illustration of this since the theory produces an absurd result inconsistent with what everyone understood the statute to mean at the time — the text must be honored no matter what the costs! We must revere (isolated passages) of the text (neatly severed from the structure and purpose of the statute)!

[*As Matt W. says in comments, mentally read the "with reluctance" passage in exactly the same tone George Costanza says "Oh noooooo -- I'm so sorry, it's "The Moops."]

Needless to say, this theory has less than no chance of convincing anybody who doesn’t share the fanatical opposition to the ACA of the people who developed it. Fortunately, there’s a remedy for terrible decisions reached by randomly selected panels of appellate judges — the en banc rehearing. And since the D.C. Circuit no longer has a majority of fanatical ideological opponents of the ACA, the outcome an en banc review will result in Halbig being rendered inoperative. The architects of the Halbig litigation are desperate to avoid this outcome, particularly since if there’s no circuit split to resolve the Supreme Court may well decline to intervene. An obvious problem for these “textualists,” however, is that not only do the consequences of Halbig being affirmed mark it as a case of “exceptional importance,” the relevant textual passage of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure specifically cites circuit splits as an example of what can constitute the “exceptional importance” that merits en banc review.

So how do the Halbig architects in their deep reverence for textual language deal with this? Brianne Gorod explains:

And there’s a good reason the D.C. Circuit should rehear Halbig en banc, although you wouldn’t know it from reading the brief the law’s challengers filed yesterday.  Funnily enough, these ostensible textualists declined to cite—even once—the text of the rule that actually governs the issue: Federal Appellate Rule 35, which says that rehearing en banc is appropriate when a “proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.”  The Rule further explains that a proceeding is “of exceptional importance if it involves an issue on which the panel decision conflicts with the authoritative decisions of other United States Courts of Appeals that have addressed the issue.”  Sure sounds like the situation here.

In their brief, the law’s challengers try to distract from the governing Rule by pointing to a number of cases in which the D.C. Circuit (and other courts) declined to grant en banc review.  But almost all of the cases they cite are inapplicable, either because they predate the 1998 amendment to the Federal Appellate Rules that explicitly identifies a circuit split as a reason for rehearing en banc, or because they did not involve a situation—like this one—in which the court considering en banc review could have resolved such a split if the full court came out the other way, or both.  The Notes of the Advisory Committee on the Rules—which the law’s challengers also decline to cite—make clear that en banc review is particularly appropriate when it can resolve a circuit split: “If a panel decision simply joins one side of an already existing conflict, a rehearing en banc may not be as important because it cannot avoid the conflict.”  Here, of course, the full D.C. Circuit can resolve the conflict if it agrees with the Fourth Circuit.

Parody is killed again. Now, you might say that this is flagrantly unprincipled. But, to borrow Mark Tushnet’s line, it is simultaneously 0% and 100% principled. Obviously, they don’t really care about their particularly unattractive and unworkable version of “textualism.” The principle of “we must pursue any ad hoc legal theory that has a chance of sabotaging the Affordable Care Act,” though — they’re deeply committed to that one.

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The Worst Non-ISIS Person in the World

[ 106 ] August 19, 2014 |

asshole_lockhorns

Charles C. Johnson.

My mind cannot fully grasp the fact that a comically inept (although AWARD WINNING!) blogger safely in California feels compelled to inform you that he’s morally superior to an extraordinarily brave reporter humiliated and brutally killed by some of the world’s worst terrorist thugs. What the hell is wrong with some people?

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The Seafarers

[ 7 ] August 19, 2014 |

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced Stanley Kubrick’s 1953 film The Seafarers, a promotional film he did for the Seafarers International Union. I couldn’t find an easily accessible copy at the time but have since alleviated that problem. Here it is, although not entirely safe for work given that seamen love pictures of topless women and evidently so does Kubrick.

Now, this is not the greatest film ever, nor does it really showcase Kubrick’s future talents, although the long, languorous shot of the food in the cafeteria is pretty great. Really, it’s more interesting as a window inside the mid-20th century labor movement. If you are looking for your leftist ideal of a labor movement, replete with socialism, cross-movement solidarity, etc., you never were going to find it in the SIU. It was formed as an AFL counter to Harry Bridges’ International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). What this union is about, as it states repeatedly, is security for workers. For most workers, this is the most important thing a union can offer and it, not radical social change, was at the core of labor’s appeal. This film was intended for use in convincing new members to sign up and it’s pretty effective in that, focusing on the concrete benefits for workers and their families and the internal democracy of the union.

Narrated by Don Hollenbeck of CBS News (imagine the reaction if Brian Williams or Wolf Blitzer narrated a union promotional film today!), this is just a really useful document for understanding American unionism at the peak of its power.

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The NFL Shakedown

[ 160 ] August 19, 2014 |

This is impressive, if you are impressed by shakedowns:

Rihanna, Katy Perry, or Coldplay might be doing the Super Bowl halftime show this year—that is, if they’re willing to pay up. According to The Wall Street Journal, the NFL has narrowed down its list of potential performers for the 2015 gig to those three candidates, though it’s also asking “at least some of the acts” if they’d be willing to pay the league for the privilege of playing the halftime show—something that’s absolutely insane, but not 100 percent unreasonable, considering how many people actually watch the performance. Alternately (and this is where it gets wacky), they should “be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league.”

Billionaires demanding not only payment from performers to play on their big stage but then shaking them down for millions after the performance. Nice. How long until owners demand a cut of their players’ promotional deals?

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Advice From Your Mortal Enemies: Clinton Counterfactual Edition

[ 140 ] August 19, 2014 |

Megan McArdle argues that it would have been better for everyone, including Democrats, had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 2008. Why? Because she would have bailed on comprehensive health care reform. Let’s start with the easier, normative question first:

I’m actually going to disagree a bit here. I think that Hillary Clinton would have been more cautious when dealing with Republicans, and therefore ultimately more successful in some ways. At the very least, she would not be facing the same level of vehement opposition in Congress.

I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party’s perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacare collapses).

A few points:

  • The idea that abandoning health care reform would have significantly moderated conservative opposition is highly implausible.  The Tea Party would have just focused on the stimulus plan rather than the ACA.  Congressional Republicans had already decided to uniformly oppose Obama’s major initiatives before the ACA.  The ACA wasn’t the reason for the mania ostensibly about the deficit that led to the various crises created by congressional Republicans.
  • In addition, while it I suppose it’s possible that Obama would have maintained higher approval ratings had he never even tried health care reform, it’s extremely implausible that trying and failing to pass comprehensive health care reform would have been a net political positive.  Republicans would still be mobilizing against the greatest threat to freedom in known human history, while most Democrats would (correctly) feel betrayed.  Incidentally, this is where the analogy to Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme collapses.  Ending Social Security as a public program was a purely an elite-driven enterprise; most Republican voters don’t even favor benefit cuts, let alone privatization.  But comprehensive health care reform has been a major liberal priority for many decades.
  • And even if you assume an attenuation of conservative mobilization that isn’t balanced out by liberal demobilization, again, so what?  There was no way the Democrats were hanging on to the House of Representatives in 2010.  You would have to be dreaming in technicolor to think that contemporary House Republicans were going to pass major progressive legislation. Obama won re-election and held the Senate despite the unpopularity of the ACA.  So what would materially change had the ACA not been passed? The Democrats would have a few more House backbenchers?  There’s no positive legislative achievement trivial enough to be worth trading for that.
  • On the public opinion question, it’s worth noting that repealing the ACA is even less popular than the ACA. Combined with the fact that the individual components of the ACA are generally more popular than the whole, we shouldn’t assume that its unpopularity is permanent.
  • And, finally, even if you think the political cost is greater than I do, ultimately the point of winning elections is to do things.  The argument that Obama should have abandoned comprehensive health care reform in favor of…something else is analogous to the argument that it would be better for the reproductive rights of women to be held hostage for political purposes than to protect them.  There’s not much value in maintaining power for its own sake, and while you can sometimes attenuate opposition by not winning that’s not much of an argument to therefore never win.

McArdle’s argument that Democrats should have wanted Obama to abandon health care reform fails for the same reason her Halbig trooferism fails: it fails to comprehend how much the issue means to most Democrats.

Now, let’s turn to the more difficult empirical part of the counterfactual:

I think that Hillary Clinton would have pulled back when Rahm Emanuel (or his counterfactual Clinton administration counterpart) told her that this was a political loser and she should drop it. I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.

[...]

Of course, in my counterfactual, Hillary also probably wouldn’t have proposed ambitious health-care reform; she’d have done something more modest, like a Medicaid expansion. Progressives might well say that they’d rather have the first two years of the Obama administration, followed by gridlock, than steadier but more modest achievements by a Hillary Clinton administration.

Even leaving aside the fact that there was going to be gridlock after 2010 no matter what, I’m very confident that the second counterfactual is wrong. Any Democrat who took office in 2009 was going to propose the consensus health care reform of the primaries. To argue that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have proposed her signature domestic policy proposal when Barack Obama proposed it (in a form closer to hers than his) is implausible in the extreme. I also note that the behavior of Republican statehouses makes it pretty clear that Tea Partiers would not have perceived a major expansion of America’s largely single payer health care system for the poor as “modest” — that’s a job for progressives who are too good for your mere politics! — a rather major problem for her other core argument.

The only serious question is whether Clinton would have bailed after Scott Brown’s victory. In a general sense, there’s some reason to believe that Clinton would have been receptive to the Rahm narrative. While Clinton’s primary supporters see her as someone who would be tougher on Republicans, I see someone who was paying Mark Penn millions of dollars, suggesting that she hadn’t fully abandoned the tendency to political risk-aversion that major Democrats learned in the 80s.

That said, on this specific issue I think it’s enormously unlikely that she would have jumped ship when the going got tough. Do you think that Clinton would want to be remembered as someone who twice screwed up comprehensive health care reform? I think that’s enormously unlikely. It’s possible, I suppose, that she could have tried and failed, but again I doubt it; she would know better than anyone that the “just shove it down Congress’s throat” strategy preferred by the ACA’s left critics is a massive fail.

So not only do I not buy that it would have been good for Democrats had Clinton won and abandoned health care reform, I see no reason to believe that she would have.

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“just do what I tell you”

[ 162 ] August 19, 2014 |

Sunil Dutta, a former LAPD officer and current professor of (ugh) “Homeland Security,” on interactions with police officers at the Washington Post:

And you don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go.

Great! But wait–just a few sentences earlier in the article:

if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you…

Evidently the Washington Post doesn’t employ editors, because if they did, Professor Dutta would have been asked to clarify which of the above statements he’s actually serious about. I have a pretty good guess.

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Spokane, too

[ 47 ] August 19, 2014 |

Unfortunately, Seattle isn’t the only major city in Washington whose sole daily newspaper hackishly promotes the political and (percieved*) economic agenda of the family that owns it.

* I say perceived because it turns out the race and class biases of rich white people are misleading: public transit is not, in fact, bad for retail.

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And For Reasons We Cannot Fully Explain, the Use of Eye-Searing Chemicals Offends American Traditions of Honor

[ 33 ] August 19, 2014 |

This is well-executed:

Though Missouri is infamous abroad for its simmering sectarian tensions and brutal regime crackdowns, foreign visitors here are greeted warmly and with hospitality. A lawless expanse of dogwood trees and beer breweries, Missouri is located in a central United States region that Americans refer to, curiously, as the “MidWest” though it is nearer to the country’s east.

It is known among Americans as the home of Mark Twain, a provincial writer from the country’s small but cherished literary culture, and as the originator of Budweiser, a traditional American alcoholic beverage. Budweiser itself is now owned by a Belgian firm, in a sign of how globalization is transforming even this remote area of the United States. Analysts say some american communities have struggled as globalization has pulled jobs into more developed countries, worsening instability here.

Locals here eat a regional delicacy known as barbecue, made from the rib bones of pigs, and subsist on traditional crafts such as agriculture and aerospace engineering. The regional center of commerce is known locally as Saint Louis, named for a 13th century French king, a legacy of Missouri’s history as a remote and violent corner of the French Empire.

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