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When a Historian of Sexuality Live Tweets an Abstinence Only School Presentation

[ 132 ] April 16, 2015 |

So the historian of hermaphroditism and intersex Alice Dreger has a son in East Lansing, Michigan public schools. His class received an abstinence-only school presentation in his sex class. Dreger attended and live tweeted and storified it. It’s epic. A couple of highlights.

My favorite is the last:

Is Laurence Tribe Right That Liberals Should Like His Bad Conservative Arguments? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 35 ] April 16, 2015 |


I see Laurence Tribe is trying to argue that if you buy the argument that the willful misreading of the ACA by the King v. Burwell plaintiffs would produce an unconstitutionally coercive scheme then you’re also bound to buy his nutty, radical theories about the Clean Power Plan. You will be unsurprised to know that this argument doesn’t make any sense:

King challengers’ interpretation of Obamacare is exceedingly strange, which in turn makes it difficult to weaponize against other regulatory programs in an honest way. King posits that Congress sought to create universal health care programs on a state-by-state basis by threatening to ruin insurance markets—to frustrate their ultimate universal health care goal—in non-capitulating states.

The Clean Power Plan is nothing like that. It encourages states to implement plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and says the federal government will step in and implement a different plan toward the same end in states that decline. Tribe describes the federal fallback derisively when he says, “EPA claims the power to impose severe sanctions, including the loss of highway and Clean Air Act funds, as well as the imposition of a centrally planned and administered federal scheme that could harm not simply the State but also its citizens and economy.”

But even on his own terms, this is nothing like the coercive scheme at issue in King. For the parallel to hold, the EPA would have to be encouraging states to implement their own clean power plans by threatening to exacerbate pollution in states that don’t, or something similarly counterproductive.

“If the Clean Power Plan example looked like King vs. Burwell,” University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley told me, “what you’d have is a federal scheme that didn’t provide power to people, didn’t reduce emissions, and torched the energy market in each state.”

Boston University law professor Abby Moncrieff is of a similar view. In a detailed post on Harvard Law School’s website, she explains why King and the Clean Air Act, from which EPA derives its authority to implement the Clean Power Plan, are nothing alike.

And, of course, this is additional problem with Tribe’s attempted neener-neener. The correct answer in King v. Burwell is not “Congress set up a federal backstop that was designed to fail, which is unconstitutionally coercive.” The correct answer is “Congress established a federal backstop that was intended to work, and hence makes tax credits available to purchasers of health insurance on federally established exchanges.” That the former argument may be the only way of getting Kennedy and/or Roberts not to wreck the exchanges still doesn’t put liberals in much of a bind, and even if the Court does so rule it still would say less than nothing about the constitutionality of the Clean Power Plan.

Incidentally, Tribe tried the same kind of routine to defend the Medicaid expansion holding in Sebelius: “the spending power can be used to threaten the First Amendment rights of individuals, so liberals should approve of arbitrary, nonsensical limits on the federal spending power than have nothing to do with the First Amendment rights of individuals.”

I believe that the primary influence on Tribe’s new theory of “inventing non-existent contradictions to bootstrap terrible neoconfederate arguments” was Homer Simpson:

“First you didn’t want me to get the pony. Now you want me to take it back. Make up your mind!”

The Stadium Grift Reaches Rhode Island

[ 110 ] April 16, 2015 |


Above: Boston Red Sox CEO, co-owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox, and extremely poor man Larry Lucchino.

The Pawtucket Red Sox (or PawSox as they are known) is Boston’s AAA baseball team. The stadium is, frankly, a dump. Historic but not a great place to see a game. So the team’s owners want to move the stadium to Providence. It’s only 5 miles away, but in Rhode Island terms, it’s a whole other world. Of course, they want to bilk Rhode Island taxpayers out of millions for it. The park is estimated to cost $85 million. The owners want the state to pay $120 million over 30 years for it. This is a state with a serious unemployment problem, terrible roads, massive pension payment problems, declining funding for higher education, etc. I hope Rhode Islanders flat out refuse this. Of course, since our politics are so incredibly corrupt, I’m sure a few bribes will take care of any meaningful opposition.

“What Did That Exercise Equipment Say…’I’m Just A Patsy?’ You’d Better Believe It!”

[ 17 ] April 16, 2015 |

Harry Reid is still covering up for the mafia and Moops Resistance Army goons who roughed him up. But good luck getting the lamestream media to get to the bottom of it.

New York Slave Market

[ 53 ] April 16, 2015 |

The first slave auction in New Amsterdam in 1655, painted by Howard Pyle, 1917

Glad to see New York City finally acknowledging its long history as a slave market.

The city’s slave market stood at the corner of Wall and Pearl Streets and operated from 1711 to 1762. Today, the spot lies several blocks inland. But it was once on the East River waterfront, where oceangoing ships unloaded their goods. The market was a wooden structure with a roof and open sides, although walls may have been added over the years. Renderings show that it could hold perhaps 50 men.

Over the course of those 51 years it was operated, the market trafficked in thousands of slaves: men and women, shiploads of children, even captured Indians.

“It’s not a feel-good story,” said Thomas J. Davis, a professor at Arizona State University who writes about slavery in the north. “It’s not a story that people have wanted to hear.” Davis and other historians say Americans in the north tend to think of slavery as a fever that gripped the south, a fever which was cured by the Civil War.

But New York and other northern cities accrued vast wealth from slave labor and profited for centuries from dealings in the slave trade. Africans who passed through the Wall Street slave market contributed to the prosperity of some very famous companies, some of which are still around: Aetna, New York Life and JPMorgan Chase, to name a few. Various units of these and other financial companies bankrolled southern plantations, insured slaves as property, and used slaves as collateral for loans.

New York was the center of northern slavery, both in the Dutch patroon estates of the Hudson Valley and in the city itself. In 1703, 42 percent of New York City households owned slaves, the 2nd highest slave concentration of any colonial city, only behind Charleston. Around 20 percent of the city’s population during the late colonial period were African slaves.

Richmond Has Fallen!

[ 34 ] April 16, 2015 |

In comments yesterday, heckblazer alerted me to this brilliance of 1865 advertising.


That is now one of my favorite advertisements of all time. Can’t wait to use it in a class.

Mobile Site Down

[ 17 ] April 16, 2015 |


Our mobile site is down; we are working to resolve the problem. Thank you for your patience.



UPDATE: Fixed, thanks to the fantastic folks at SunAnt.

Throw out the hardware, let’s do it right: NHL Playoff Preview 2015

[ 45 ] April 15, 2015 |

It’s NHL playoff time: if you can’t fly, you’ll have to move in with the rhythm section. Last year the dreary architecture of my soul compelled me to immerse in the analytic literature, and coincidentally or not I went 13-2 pretty much going with the numbers, so I have every intention of doing that again. But first, let’s turn things over to Grand Poohbah of English Literatoor Emeritus Michael Berube, who in our annual tradition will pick the Eastern Conference. Back when his day gig was stacking cutouts at the Strand, Michael acquired a rooting interest in the Rangers, so he has an emotional stake in a contender. We’ll turn to him first:

It is that time of year again, when Scott asks me for my picks in the NHL playoffs, Eastern Conference edition, and I reply with a bunch of predictions salted liberally with Steely Dan lyrics. So let’s break out the hats and hooters, and get to it! You should know how all the pros play the game. Scott gets the West, with its angry race of fallen Kings.

# 1 Rangers v. # 8 Penguins Oh, this is tempting. Just when I say boy we can’t miss, you are golden, I get a matchup like this– just the one I wanted, and that worries me. I was hoping the Rangers would not have to face Boston in round one, because the powerful Bruins insignia makes the Rangers cough up the puck; and I was hoping my guys would not have to face Ottawa, because the Sens have lost only four games in regulation since February 10. But now I wonder: even though the Pens look like they can’t wait to make their tee times in May, might they be motivated enough to make the Rangers pay for all the severe damage they did to the Penguins franchise last year? Maybe. But then again, the Penguins don’t have any defensemen left. They got a name for the winners in the world: Rangers in 5.

# 2 Canadiens v. # 7 Senators Did I mention that the Senators are hot? I mean, crazy hot and scary hot? Then again, Carey Price. It’s nice to see some kind of rivalry crop up between a team from Québec and a team from Ontario, at least until we wait to see whether professional hockey will return to Toronto. But if the Sens really imagine that their little wild time has just begun, I got the news: Carey Price. Habs in 6.

# 3 Lightning v. # 6 Red Wings It is so weird seeing Detroit in the Eastern Conference. I’m not one to look behind, I know that times must change, but has anyone stopped to think that if you have 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East, and eight playoff spots in each, uh, imbalance? Not that it matters to the Red Wings, who are in the playoffs for the 24th consecutive year. I have been betting against the boys from Hockeytown for years, believing that I was feeling a change in the guard, but they are always dangerous, even when they’re not sure they have a real NHL goalie behind them, ahem. Then again, they’re facing the killer line of forwards Johnson, Palat, and Stamkos– and a team that does not lose at home (32-8-1). Oh yeah, and the Lightning GM is a guy named Yzerman, so there’s that angle. So the question for me, finally, is whether Zetterberg and Datsyuk will turn out to be shadows of the men that I once knew. Lightning in 6.

# 4 Capitals v. # 5 Islanders The Isles are thinking that the danger on the rocks is surely past. They are legitimate contenders for the first time in thirty years, and no one can say they aren’t leaving the hideous Nassau Coliseum in style. As for me, I’ve been around the world and I’ve been in the Washington Zoo, and I can tell you that home ice advantage (which the Islanders managed to squander in the final minutes of their season) will mean nothing to the Capitals. DC is like whatever the opposite of Hockeytown would be. But will this be a short series? Only a fool would say that. It will go the distance, it might even involve a 4-OT finish like in ’87, and I’m saying Caps only because I want to see a Caps-Rangers matchup in the second round. Next year when the Islanders move, I feel sure they will make the playoffs again, and I will be able to say something about Brooklyn owing the charmer under me, if I can manage to figure out what that means. Caps in 7.

And now, I will tackle the West:

#1 Anaheim (51.5 Fenwick even strength and close, 14th in NHL) v. #7 Winnipeg (54.1 FF%, 2nd) That’s right — what looks like the quintessential plucky underdog is actually one of the best possession teams in the league. (My Jack Adams vote would go to Paul Maurice without a second’s hesitation.) That doesn’t mean that I think this is an easy series to predict or that I would put a lot of money on the Jets should I find myself in Vegas with a handle in my hand. Anaheim has been outperforming their possession numbers for long enough to make me wonder if there’s something about Boudreau’s coaching or the Ducks’ frontline talent that doesn’t show up in what after all are pretty crude metrics. But what the hell, I want to see the Jets shine in your Brandon and sparkle in your Flin Flon, so I’ll go with the numbers and hope Winnipeg’s goaltending hold up. JETS IN 7.

#2 St. Louis (52.3 FF%, 9th) v. # 6 Minnesota (52.0 FF%, 11th) With the Western Conference playoffs having seen the last of Good King Thornton for now, the Blues are poised to take over the mantle of “excellent regular season team that can’t get over the hump.” The divisional alignment doesn’t do them any favors, as they face a talented Minnesota team that comes into the playoffs sizzling like an isotope. One key variable is Devyn Dubnyk, who played like Dominik Hasek (.936 SP%!) since coming over in midseason. I like Dubnyk and the Oilers selling him low is the kind of thing that makes me hope Kevin Lowe is in charge of the Oilers in perpetuity (which apparently he is), but on the other hand nothing in his record suggests he’s that good and Yeo rode him like Secretariat down the stretch; I can see a regression to the mean coming. Since Good King Ken is a superb coach but also a hardass with a short shelf life, this is a crucial year for the Blues, and I think their superb defensive corps will allow them to get through what should be a great series. BLUES IN 7.

#3 Nashville (53.6 FF%, 5th) v. #4 Chicago (53.0 FF%, 7th) Another great matchup. Nashville is a very, very good team, a little light on offense but a tremendous top 4 on the blueline and (unlike St. Louis) first-rate goaltending to go with it. Chicago needs no introduction; they’re not quite as formidable as they were 2 years ago but we’ve seen their iron and seen their brass and they have as good a chance of getting out of the conference as anyone. The Preds did tail off a bit in the second half, and with Kane apparently ready to go I’m not quite feelin’ the change of the guard here. BLACKHAWKS in 7.

#5 Vancouver (50.7 FF%, 18th v. #8 Calgary 46.2 FF%, 26th The existential question for people in my position: is it better to lose to the Canucks than not to have made the playoffs at all? Despite the possession troubles the Flames have had, a surprising number of people are picking them. But while I’ve already been accused of one correspondent of expectations management, like a castle in his corner in a medieval game I foresee a terrible trouble. Admittedly, if Giordono was healthy this wouldn’t be a mismatch; despite the perception of improvement Vancouver has also become below-average possession team, and if the Flames can continue to stay out of the box they can be competitive. But the injury to the captain really is crucial. There’s obviously no non-devastating way to lose the presumptive Norris frontrunner, but it attacks Calgary where it’s most vulnerable: defensive depth. Brodie is great, but he’s paired with Deryk Engelland, who’s not even an acceptable bottom-pairing guy, leaving the Flames with zero defensive pairs you’d feel comfortable putting out against another team’s top line. On the other hand, even though Bieksa never really developed Vancouver still has an underrated defensive core with Tanev, Edler and Hamhuis. The Hudler/Monahan/Gaudreau line can go toe-to-toe with the Sedins, but while I’ll be praying like a Roman with her eyes on fire for the opposite, I just don’t think Calgary will be able to keep the Canucks off the scoresheet well enough to win. CANUCKS in 5.

In the East, I will dissent from Michael only on the Islanders. They’re never going back to their old dump after the playoffs, but I think Nassau County will get at least 2 series this year.

Better Conditions = Happier Workers = Higher Profits

[ 30 ] April 15, 2015 |

MI Touring Nike's Factories

It’s long been known that better working conditions and higher pay lead to happier and more productive workers. Yet short-sighted greed and corporate resentment over treating workers like human beings has contributed to a global production system that strips workers of basic dignity. But even in Vietnamese sweatshops producing clothing for western markets, the evidence suggests that better conditions create happier workers which creates higher profits.

The Land of the Free

[ 52 ] April 15, 2015 |


The wages of the U.S. immigration system:

Six months after he was deported back to Mexico from the United States, Constantino Morales was shot and killed Sunday night. Morales, an undocumented immigrant who fought for immigration reform in Iowa, was twice denied asylum in the United States before he was found dead in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

“If I am sent back, I will face more violence and I could lose my life,” Morales said at a meeting with Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) in August 2013, according to an Iowa-based, immigration advocacy group Citizens for Community Improvement’s (CCI) Facebook page. “We are in severe need of fair immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship. We don’t want any excuses; we know you can make this happen.”

CCI explained in a public Facebook message that Morales was “a former police officer in Mexico who publicly stood up against drug trafficking. After many attempts on his life, he came to the US in search of asylum and an opportunity to continue to work to support his family. He was a kind man. He never let his legal status limit his advocacy for immigrant rights.”

Morales fled to Des Moines, Iowa in 2010. Natalie Snyders, a CCI organizer, told ThinkProgress that since his arrival in the United States, Morales has worked at a local restaurant. He came to her organization’s attention because he was a victim of wage theft and “became quite involved in the organization as a leader speaking out about immigration reform and other issues related to the Latino community. … He was never afraid to speak out for the community, for the immigration system. A lot of people are afraid to speak out when they’re undocumented, but he wasn’t.”

Maria [last name withheld], a close family friend, mournfully told ThinkProgress that Morales came to the attention of immigration officials after the police pulled him over for a traffic violation and found out that he didn’t have a driver’s license. According to his asylum application, Morales was pulled over and let go twice, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) later showed up at his workplace “saying I had to go with them.”

We are truly living up to the noble rhetoric of our nation’s mythologies here.

Clinton and Campaign Finance

[ 40 ] April 15, 2015 |


I have some thoughts at the Guardian on Hillary Clinton’s call for a constitutional amendment for campaign finance. The amendment itself is a non-starter, but having Clinton replace Scalia and/or Kennedy would help enormously in the long run.

The Civil War’s Aftermath in Graphic Novel Form

[ 13 ] April 15, 2015 |


Above: Lincoln’s funeral

Ari Kelman and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm excerpt their new graphic novel on the Civil War. You should read it.

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