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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.

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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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You know who else suffered from paranoid delusions of grandeur as his world crumbled around him?

[ 80 ] April 15, 2015 |

Steiner has surrounded and destroyed Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front.

Obligatory embed:

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“We Are Proud to Announce Bull Connor Will Serve Vegan Meals to All Imprisoned Freedom Riders.”

[ 147 ] April 15, 2015 |


PETA is horrible, part the innumerable:

A controversial, anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff and a former Baywatch star will join together at a press conference Wednesday to promote an all-vegetarian diet for prisoners nationwide. Since 2013, the Maricopa County jail system, run by the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio, became the first in the nation to serve meat-free meals to prisoners. Pamela Anderson is an animal-rights activist representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as a spokeswoman.


Still, Anderson’s appearance with Arpaio is the latest in a string of tactics by PETA that seem inconsistent with their humanitarian values. Last year, the organization offered to pay one month’s water bill for Detroit, Michigan residents, who had their water shut off because of outstanding payments. PETA stipulated that residents had to agree to go vegan for one month. But for Detroit residents who live in food deserts, where it’s difficult to find fresh fruits and vegetables, going vegan was described as tone deaf. The group has used other kinds of gimmicks to promote a vegan lifestyle, often using graphic images or using naked women covered in “blood” and trapped in cages for PETA promotional materials.

Despite Arpaio’s assurance that he’s saving taxpayer money with the meat-free meals, taxpayers still have to help pay at least $21.9 million to implement changes recommended by a court order to combat his department’s systemic racial profiling of Latinos. Those changes include improving training and technology equipment, to show that the sheriff’s office will no longer systemically single out Latinos during traffic and immigration stops.

Trolling: not an effective activist strategy.

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Hernandez Guilty

[ 22 ] April 15, 2015 |

Of first degree murder.

In fairness, it all started with a very serious grievance, so you can see why three people needed to be killed.

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On Reimbursements…

[ 42 ] April 15, 2015 |

All you out there in academialand, I have a question. Does your institution reimburse for childcare costs associated with “normal” extra-curricular activities? I’m thinking of the need to hire a babysitter for a candidate dinner, or reception, or staff retreat, or other events that are part of the regular course of events during the semester? Please let me know in comments, or by e-mail (contact info in far right sidebar).

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Another Benefit of Our Laboratories of Democracy

[ 104 ] April 15, 2015 |

Regressive tax codes:

Second, it ignores the effect of state and local taxes, which fall disproportionately on the working and middle classes. The difference is shown by the latest annual report on “Who Pays Taxes in America,” released last week by Citizens for Tax Justice. (Hat tip to Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones.)

“Contrary to popular belief,” CTJ finds, “when all taxes are considered, the rich do not pay a disproportionately high share of taxes.”

CTJ shows that combined local, state and federal taxes produce a system that more resembles a flat tax than a progressive tax: In 2015, the top 1% will pay 32.6% of their income in taxes, while those in the 60th-80th percentile (with average income of $81,000) pay 30.4% and the next highest 10% (average income of $125,000) pay 32.1%. Overall, the bottom 99% pay 29.8% of their income in taxes, a ratio not much smaller than the top 1%.

And it’s not just red states:

Washington, despite its progressive, blue-state reputation, has the most regressive tax system in the country. There the poorest fifth of residents pay seven times as much of their income in state and local taxes as the top 1%.

One of the surest tests of irredeemable hackery is when someone conflates “federal income taxes” with “taxes.” (Cf. Niall Ferguson.)

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On Revisionism

[ 2 ] April 14, 2015 |

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at Chinese “revisionism”:

Competition within a given system is still competition, and the United States should worry about increases in Chinese military capabilities. Similarly, states invested in the South and East China Sea disputes should view the growth of Chinese power and assertiveness with wariness. But we should also take care not to overstate the degree to which China is challenging the global international order. We have plenty of examples from the 20th century of what revisionist states really look like.

I also have a quote in Peter Ford’s article on the same subject.


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Percy Sledge, RIP

[ 3 ] April 14, 2015 |

Dead at the age of 74.

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All The Hillaries

[ 149 ] April 14, 2015 |


Is Hillary Clinton the horrible monster Doug Henwood describes who is terrible on many, many issues the left should care about?

Is Hillary Clinton a corporate hack who will avoid economic populism like Zaid Jilani claims?

Is Hillary Clinton a brilliant politician whose seemingly inevitably is a sign of her political skill and not a media ploy, as Seth Masket explores?

Will Hillary Clinton be an unabashed liberal on domestic policy, as Peter Beinart argues?

Will Hillary Clinton rule to the right on Barack Obama on foreign policy, as Zack Beauchamp states?

I think the answers to all of these question is to some extent, yes. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Granting that Henwood’s obsession with the Clinton is a bit unhealthy and is pretty much the left version of those who think she killed Vince Foster, she does indeed suck on many issues. And she’ll be OK on some issues. In other words, she’s a complicated, corporate-friendly Democrat who will be quite liberal on social issues (regardless of her participation in the welfare battles of the 90s), irritating on foreign policy but hardly a Republican, and generally a mixed bag.

The real lesson to take from Hillary Clinton for progressives is that no one should see a president as the person who will solve their problems. If we wanted somewhere better than Hillary to run, we should have organized to move the party to the left. We haven’t, and if Hillary hadn’t run, the likely frontrunner would be one Andrew Cuomo, a politician far worse than Hillary. If progressives push her to the left through consistent organization, she’ll swing left. If she feels more pressure from Republicans, she’ll swing right. This shouldn’t be all that hard to figure out, yet it constantly surprises us how politics actually work in this nation.

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Trout Fishing in America

[ 43 ] April 14, 2015 |


The bull trout, an endangered trout species of the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada, in part because of introduced brook trout.

The cost of trout fishing upon our river ecosystems is high. That’s because we’ve industrialized the trout, like we’ve industrialized so many animals.

Twenty-eight million Americans will buy freshwater fishing licenses this year. Eight million of them will be trout and salmon anglers. Native wild trout have mostly disappeared in the face of this immense fishing pressure. They have been replaced by nonnative hatchery fish and their river-born “wild” trout offspring. Nationwide, state and federal fisheries agencies dump some 130 million trout in lakes, rivers and streams each year. Although this stocking lures people outside, the hatcheries that produce these trout create environmental problems.

Trout aquaculture is heavily reliant on pellet feed. The federal and state hatchery production of some 28 million pounds of trout per year requires roughly 34 million pounds of feed. These pellets are derived from herring, menhaden and anchovies harvested from oceans in quantities that the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say are unsustainable. We are devastating populations of marine species simply to support a freshwater hobby.

If that’s not bad enough, hatcheries are major polluters. Each year, much of the roughly six million pounds of fish excrement, uneaten food and dead and decaying fish that I estimate are produced by these hatcheries leach nutrients into wastewater that is often then dumped untreated into the closest stream or river. This wastewater can also contain medicines and antibiotics used to limit diseases in crowded pens, and disinfectants that sterilize holding tanks. Ultimately, these hatcheries may be contributing to the proliferation of “dead zones” — biological wastelands created by excess nutrients — that are choking estuaries and coastal ecosystems downstream.

Although stocking trout is harmful, eating them is far better than eating native wild trout. When these native fish die, their genetic uniqueness dies, too. (Brook and lake trout are the only trout native to the entire Northeast, for instance; nonnatives like brown, rainbow and golden trout are also released into Northeast streams.) Unfortunately, many states set uniformly high catch limits that draw no distinction between native versus nonnative trout. Therefore, anglers need to hold themselves to a higher standard than the rules that govern their actions.

It’s tough. Maybe we shouldn’t worry about it too much. After all, fishing is a major recreational activity for millions of Americans and just because it has screwed wild fish stocks, does that mean it should end? Should we just accept that we have industrialized this activity and go for it? Do wild fish stocks matter? I’d argue yes for the last question and say that managing this resource also means ensuring as much of a healthy ecological system as possible.

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Daredevil as a symbol of civic responsibility in the wake of tragedy

[ 71 ] April 14, 2015 |


Here’s my first long-read culture piece for Salon — and not surprisingly, it’s about something extremely nerdy. Excerpt:

The larger argument the show makes is about the nature and necessity of different kinds of heroism — and the kind of social responsibility they entail. “Daredevil” almost never strays from Hell’s Kitchen, an area of New York City which, the audience is repeatedly told, was effectively demolished by the events in Joss Whedon’s first “Avengers” film. The Avengers were responsible for repelling an alien invasion, which is highly commendable, don’t get me wrong — but someone has to pick up the pieces of the society that’s shattered by the collateral damage, and that’s what shows like “Daredevil” are explicitly about.

In fact, all of the shows Marvel will be producing with Netflix take place in this same small slice of the Marvel cinematic universe — and all of them address the human cost of having your city host a Hollywood action sequence. This is something Hollywood itself has never done, and television only rarely. Even the closest, the third season of “Battlestar Galactica,” had the feel of a reconstruction happening elsewhere, due its visual and narrative references to Iraq.

Daredevil’s certainty — and the desire for it — isn’t a reflection on the world the audience lives in, but in the large cinematic one Marvel is creating. Which is, I acknowledge, something of a cop out. The work is produced and proving to be quite popular in a historical moment rife with divisions between the authority of those who govern and the people they are supposed to protect — but in traditional noir fashion, the show is quite critical of the established authorities. “Daredevil” does not encourage viewers to kowtow to police, as the NYPD is institutionally and irrevocably corrupt…

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