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Artists in the Mist

[ 110 ] December 11, 2014 |

Hey, folks, I don’t think we’ve ever done a formal “artists in our midst” thread, so I wanted to do one today. Show us your photography, paintings, pics, poetry, plays, etchings, or dinosaur erotica. Do we have artists in our midst? Don’t be shy–show us your stuff.

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The Nicest Man in Texas

[ 92 ] December 11, 2014 |

Rick Perry is a very nice man:

Despite a significant rise in income inequality in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry (R) is arguing that it’s not something the state ought to be worried about.

“We don’t grapple with that here,” Perry told The Washington Post in a recent interview, while acknowledging that the state’s richest residents have seen the greatest spike in earnings.

“Biblically, the poor are always going to be with us in some form or fashion,” he added, an apparent reference to Mark 14:7. While Perry takes the message from the Bible to mean poverty is hopeless and therefore not worth grappling with, Jesus Christ was actually delivering a different lesson: “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good,” the Son of God advises in the King James version of the Bible.

Yet the Biblical shoulder-shrugging is consistent with what Perry said while briefly running for president in 2011, when he proposed a tax plan that would have helped wealthy Americans while potentially raising the taxes of lower- and middle-income people.

“I don’t care about that,” Perry said when asked by The New York Times about the effect on income inequality. “If that’s what comes, I’ll take that criticism.”

Have to give him credit though. This should raise his standing in the 2016 Republican primary.

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Today in the Machinery of Death

[ 16 ] December 11, 2014 |

Robert Wayne Hosley was executed Tuesday night:

Holsey was represented at his murder trial by an alcoholic lawyer who was under investigation at the time for stealing from a client and who drank a quart of vodka every night of the trial.

He was sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of a police officer. The Georgia supreme court refused to stay the execution and the US supreme court also declined to intervene.

Even in a capital system that has seen its fair share of incompetent and negligent legal representation, the story of Holsey’s 1997 trial stands out as particularly egregious. His attorney, Andy Prince, had a history of heavy drinking since the age of 14.

Every night during the trial he drank the equivalent of more than 20 shots of vodka. He was also under police investigation at the time for having stolen more than $100,000 from a client – a theft for which he was convicted soon after Holsey’s trial ended, sentenced to 10 years in prison and disbarred from practising the law.

As a further indication of his mind not being entirely focused on Holsey’s life-and-death legal struggle, shortly before trial Price was arrested for disorderly conduct and accused of threatening to shoot three black neighbours to whom he was shouting racial slurs. Price was white and his capital client defendant black.


Holsey’s current lawyer, Brian Kammer, has argued that Price’s alcohol-sodden incompetence was not merely academic – it effectively put Holsey on death row. A key piece of information about Holsey, that should have been emphasised at the sentencing phase of his trial, was that he was intellectually disabled with a level of functioning equivalent to a nine-year-old.

Why should a little thing like the lack of effective counsel get in the way of a good execution?

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Back from Brasilia…

[ 5 ] December 10, 2014 |

Thoughts from the day of no sleep:

  • Some cities acquire charm through age and decay. Brasilia is not one of these cities.
  • There’s a great deal of very interesting thinking on the future of warfare going on in Brazilian military circles. More on that later.
  • The hard sell is definitely the order of the day in the shopping mall, but fortunately it founders on the language gap (“Eu nao falo Portuguese”). In the local outdoor market, vendors were friendlier, much less aggressive.
  • Watching Andy Dalton fumble in Portuguese was every bit as entertaining as you would expect.
  • The food…IMG_2933
  • And the drink…IMG_2961
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[ 23 ] December 10, 2014 |

Worth remembering who influenced Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, the CIA, and all the other architects of American torture:

The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government — whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community — has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: “I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.” He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. “Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,” he replied, “just gasping between life and death.”

Nielsen’s experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan’s military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.

In this case from the tribunal’s records, the victim was a prisoner in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies:

A towel was fixed under the chin and down over the face. Then many buckets of water were poured into the towel so that the water gradually reached the mouth and rising further eventually also the nostrils, which resulted in his becoming unconscious and collapsing like a person drowned. This procedure was sometimes repeated 5-6 times in succession.

The United States (like Britain, Australia and other Allies) pursued lower-ranking Japanese war criminals in trials before their own tribunals. As a general rule, the testimony was similar to Nielsen’s. Consider this account from a Filipino waterboarding victim:

Q: Was it painful?

A: Not so painful, but one becomes unconscious. Like drowning in the water.

Q: Like you were drowning?

A: Drowning — you could hardly breathe.

Here’s the testimony of two Americans imprisoned by the Japanese:

They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.

And from the second prisoner: They laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air. . . . They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breathe without sucking in water.

As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the “water cure” to question Filipino guerrillas.

The Bush Administration’s respect for human rights during times of war: worse than during the conquest of the Philippines.

But America is awesome, so whatever.

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“They Should Have Made Sure Ed Brooke and John Chafee Were On Board Before They Went Forward.”

[ 26 ] December 10, 2014 |

Ah, Bob Kerrey, the Democratic senator from Nebraska who makes Ben Nelson look good.

Of course, I blame Obama for not creating bipartisan comity by joining with receptive congressional Republicans to pass the Republican agenda, as Kerrey so sagely suggested.

Relatedly, I’m glad Atrios salvaged this classic from the archives.

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The Opium Power

[ 37 ] December 10, 2014 |


The aftermath of the Civil War brought on America’s first drug epidemic. The massive amount of pain caused by the war, both spiritually and physically, led to a wave of opium usage. Dealing with dead loved ones, the pain of being shot, PTSD issues, missing limbs–all of this created the need to numb that pain. While morphine and other opium derivatives certainly did the job, they also caused a lot of problems and it didn’t take long for commenters to note that this was an enemy that needed to be fought. That this coincided with the rising temperance movement certainly didn’t dissuade this campaign. It also shaped it in odd ways. On January 6, 1878, the New York Times published an article titled “The Opium Habit’s Power.” Most of it consisted of the usual opium is bad stuff. But then the author compared it to alcohol. And in that section of the article, it sounds almost like an endorsement of opium:

Far from disordering the mental faculties as wine and spiritous liquors do, opium, in its immediate effect, strengthens the mind, composes what has been agitated, and communicates calm and serenity to all the faculties. Alcohol robs a man of his self-possession, deprives him for the time being of his intellect; opium, on the contrary, controls the passions, and imparts additional vigor to his thoughts. Liquor generally arouses the animal, the brutal part of man’s nature, but opium subdues this completely and in its place awakens the diviner part and brings into full activity all the nobler emotions of the human heart. The writer knows of a case where an habituate was constantly under the influence of opium, at times taking potential doses, yet on no occasion could anyone detect this fact either in his manner or his conversation, and whatever may have been his trials, sufferings, and anguish, he was always able to perform his professional duties, without giving the slightest evidence of his infirmity.

So, like, where do I get some of that? This piece reminds me of the gentlemen’s guides created during this era that told everyone where the brothels were by supposedly warning men not to go this particular building which has these particular bad ladies. Given that it is the Times, it probably isn’t actually endorsing opium, but it sure takes a rather odd way of doing that.

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“The Occasionally Repulsive Gift That Keeps on Giving”

[ 60 ] December 10, 2014 |

The above quote is how Michael Powell describes the NFL in this Times article on the horrible treatment of the Buffalo Bills’ cheerleaders, a problem experienced by these workers through the NFL.

Supervisors ordered the cheerleaders, known as the Buffalo Jills, to warm up in a frigid, grubby stadium storeroom that smelled of gasoline. They demanded that cheerleaders pay $650 for uniforms. They told the cheerleaders to do jumping jacks to see if flesh jiggled.

The Jills were required to attend a golf tournament for sponsors. The high rollers paid cash — “Flips for Tips” — to watch bikini-clad cheerleaders do back flips. Afterward, the men placed bids on which women would ride around in their golf carts.

A not-incidental detail: The carts had no extra seats. Women clung to the back or, much more to the point, were invited to sit in the men’s laps.

For these and more humiliations, and for hundreds of hours of work and practices, Alyssa and her fellow cheerleaders on the Buffalo Jills received not a penny of wages, not from the subcontractor and certainly not from the Buffalo Bills, a team that each year makes revenue in excess of $200 million.

I’m sure if more cities would fund the stadiums of billionaire owners, they’d finally have enough to pay cheerleaders a living wage. Or, you know, any wage. The Bills are only team to pay the cheerleaders nothing, but most pay them horribly.

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In which intrepid journalist SEK experiences some “Growing Pains”

[ 103 ] December 10, 2014 |

So I almost landed an interview with Kirk Cameron about why he thought his new film was the lowest rated movie on IMDB, but I heard back from his people and apparently he found something I wrote yesterday “terribly disappointing” and called it off — which I found weird given that I didn’t work yesterday.*

But in case you’re wondering what it’s like to be vetted by Kirk Cameron’s people, it goes something like this:

SEK is being interviewed by Kirk Cameron’s Handler (KCH) for a potential article.

KCH: Kirk wants to know if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Christ the Savior.

SEK: I attended CCD for a few years and studied Latin in college. I translated a lot of the Church Fathers — Augustine, Aquinas, and the like.

KCH: That’s really interesting, really. So you know about sin?

SEK: I know more than anyone cares to about the danger stealing pears from your neighbor can pose for your soul.

KCH: So you were raised Catholic? 

SEK: Catholic and Jewish.

KCH: You know Hebrew? 

SEK: Passably.

KCH: Kirk’s a big fan of Hebrew, big fan. 

SEK: It’s the only dead language to be revived.

KCH: I didn’t know that, did not know. That’s really interesting. Are you gay?

SEK: I am not.

KCH: Good, good, just need to dot those “t”s. Have you ever been gay?

SEK: I have not, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant to my ability to discuss film. Did you read the links I sent?

KCH: I did, and they were great, great. Loved them, loved. But some of the language was not quite Christ-like. 

SEK: I can adapt to my audience — we’ve been talking for twenty minutes and I haven’t cussed once.

KCH: That’s true, true. Good. What are your feelings about “gotcha” interviews?

SEK: They get you one good moment, but burn your reputation for being fair-minded to people you disagree with. 

KCH: So you don’t like them? Hate them?

SEK: I can’t do my job if people don’t trust me to treat them fairly.

KCH: That sounds fair, really fair. How do you think this is going? 

SEK: Pretty good. 

KCH: I think so too. I think we can make this work. I like you.

SEK: Thanks. I like to be likable.

KCH: Which is why I’m worried about the state of your soul, but we can talk about that later. 

SEK: Do I need to be saved to do the interview? 

KCH: Kirk would definitely be more comfortable, definitely. 

SEK: ?

KCH: Definitely.

SEK: ?

KCH: Let me pass this on to Kirk, and I’ll let you know.

*I did however write this on Facebook and I suppose he could’ve found that offensive.

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Just Invite Yourself to the de Sader and Bring Some Gorbachev Fish And You’ll Seal the Deal. Happy Chernenko!

[ 37 ] December 10, 2014 |

Today in Republican minority crossover appeals:

Walker told Gimbel his office would be happy to display a menorah celebrating “The Eight Days of Chanukah” at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and asked Gimbel to have a representative from Lubavitch of Wisconsin contact Walker’s secretary, Dorothy Moore, to set it up.

The letter is signed, “Thank you again and Molotov.”

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Panel Of Ivy League Graduates Determines That Wage Laborers Should Perform Required Tasks For Employers Without Compensation

[ 85 ] December 10, 2014 |

Earlier this year, I argued that 9CA was right to interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act as requiring employers to compensate employees for mandatory security checks. This being the Roberts Court, it took them less than two months to unanimously conclude otherwise. The Sotomayor concurrence (joined by Kagan) suggests that the Obama administration siding with the employers helped foster the unanimity, although the workers were obviously drawing dead when it comes to securing a majority.

This is a statutory interpretation case, so Congress could step in and protect the worke….sorry, probably too soon for black humor.

…[Erik] It’s also worth noting how pervasive this sort of unpaid labor was in the early 20th century and it’s centrality to union campaigns at that time. The Triangle workers had to go through these checks to make sure they weren’t stealing. Loggers had to walk from the logging camp to the logging site without pay. Miners had to timber their own mines so they wouldn’t collapse on them–on their own time. All of these workers fought to end these injustices through their union campaigns and union contracts. Reinforcing the ability of employers to force workers to do things like this without pay is a real step back toward those principles of the Gilded Age. That it is a 9-0 decision really reinforces how far the ideology of employer domination over workers has come in this country and how far we have to go to turn this nation back toward one where workers and their time and their dignity is respected.

…[SL] Noah Feldman:

But there’s still something fundamentally wrong with the court’s formalistic reasoning. The trouble lies in the logic of defining “principal activity” as though it were some abstract philosophical question about the essence of the warehouse employees’ job.

In reality, the “principal activity” is the job as defined by the employer. Amazon need not define the job to require security screening, because of course you can work at a warehouse without stealing anything. But once the employer says that the job can only be performed if you get screened, it’s redefining the principal activity from “warehouse work” to “warehouse work including screening.”

Compare the court’s examples of security gear. You don’t work at the chemical plant in order to wear protective gear — it’s just necessary if you want to do the job safely. Similarly, you don’t need to be screened to fulfill orders in the warehouse — it’s just that it’s necessary (according to Amazon) if the job is to be performed profitably.

Ditto for knife sharpening. You can cut meat with a dull knife but it reduces employer’s profits if you do. An activity included in the job as part of the employer’s profit motive should count as a principal activity.

The court’s liberals should see this. They should have looked at the idea of “principal activity” in functional, economic terms — not like a problem in pure definition, but like a problem in the real world.

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Newly-former FSU communication lecturer says her racist comments are “the only black mark” on her record…

[ 94 ] December 10, 2014 |

without irony.

Her hatred apparently extends to Dutch bassoonists, about which I don’t even know what to say.

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