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LG&M Game of Thrones podcast: “A Golden Crown,” Part 1

[ 28 ] March 13, 2014 |

And we’re back, just in time to finish up the first season before the fourth starts. We recorded this a few months back, so our pop culture and political references may seem dated — as might some of our facial hair. Also, it ends with a real bang. Enjoy!


The second part will be posted tomorrow, and the rest of the season covered next week.

An audio version of this podcast can be found here.

Items SEK discusses:

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

  • Eddard X (The Tower of Joy, and the critical importance of timing for Robert’s death)
  • Bran V (class, disability and the meeting with the wildlings, the history of vagrancy)
  • Tyrion V (Tyrion’s hearing and the nature of Westerosi justice, Tyrion as a political observer,  the history of judicial duels)
  • Dany V (the complications of Dothraki culture, who was Viserys, the history of the golden death)
  • Eddard XI (Eddard’s political strategy in going after Gregor, the history of the Percy/Nevillle blood feud, and more)
  • Catelyn VII (the War of Five Kings begins, Catelyn compared to Lysa, why the Bronn/Ser Vardis duel is historically inaccurate)
  • Sansa III (what did Sansa actually cause to happen by going to Cersei, what would have happened if she hadn’t, and the symbolism of the white hart)

“Every child craves love. And not every child gets the love they deserve at home. And so whose job is it to provide that love for them? I think it’s mine. I know it’s mine.”

[ 43 ] March 13, 2014 |

That is what a former Florida “Teacher of the Year” who was sentenced to 40 years in jail for sexually assaulting a fourth grader told The Florida Times-Union in a profile they did of him in 2012.

Way to go, Florida. Way to go.

(And yes, I do seem to be on the “awful teachers of Florida” beat.)

That New Bomber…

[ 75 ] March 12, 2014 |

At the Diplomat, I express some doubts about the LRS-B next generation bomber:

What is the LRS-B for?  Conflicting reports have emerged over the likely cost of the USAF’s next generation bomber. Last week, the Lieutenant General Charles Davis (USAF) acknowledged that the per unit price for the new stealth bomber will climb from $550 million to $810 million, taking into account research and production costs. A later press release insisted that the USAF remains committed to the $550 million target.  Given that the B-1B cost twice the estimated development pricetag, and the B-2 nearly triple, it’s not at all unreasonable to suggest that we’ll reach a $1 billion per plane cost by the time the program gets up and running.

This brings us back to the question: What requirement does the LRS-B fill?


Divergence At the State Level

[ 208 ] March 12, 2014 |

Konczal’s response to the widely-discussed Adolph Reed essay makes an excellent point:

This [assertion that "the two parties converging in policy"] is the kind of stuff that drives liberals up the wall, and for good reason. The two parties at this point are pushing two very different, ideological visions of the role of the state and the market. Ignore for a second cuts and expansions. Conservatives want to privatize Social Security, while liberals want it to remain a public program. Conservatives want to turn Medicare into a coupon to buy health insurance on exchanges, while liberals want to use Medicare’s footprint to control health-care costs. Liberals see a greater role for the federal government, for instance in absorbing the costs of a major expansion of Medicaid. Conservatives want to turn everything over to the states where it will be easier to starve and replace with private control. These aren’t minor differences.

These battles are clearer if you look at the fighting in the states. States taken over by conservatives have waged an all-out war on workers, reproductive health, and public goods. Meanwhile liberal states and cities have moved to expand paid sick-leave, minimum wages, and reproductive health. Even the so-called culture wars have a hard economic edge. Reed dismisses feminism as a set of fake cultural politics. Yet health-care reform has eliminated “woman” as a pre-existing condition, and minimum wage hikes, which disproportionately benefit women of color, and equal pay are in the forefront.

The divergence between the parties at the national level is atypically large and growing, but is nonetheless inevitably blurred by the necessities of keeping a national governing coalition together. (Consider what Obama’s first term would have looked like with a unicemeral House — not just a better ACA but major climate change legislation and very likely card check as well.) In states, where the cores of the parties have less need to attract moderates, the differences between the parties are yet more stark. As I said in my recent post about PR, I simply don’t buy the idea that the crucial problem is a lack of imagination among progressives. There are plenty of good ideas, some of which are getting traction in states; it’s getting American political institutions that inherently protected the status quo to enact them.  And as Konczal points out, this is hardly a new problem.

Meatpacking, Immigration, and Capital Mobility

[ 174 ] March 12, 2014 |

In comments last night, dollared said this about the decline of unionized meatpacking:

Allowing free immigration and mass union busting by illegal aliens. Never, ever, ever should have happened. 800,000-1M union jobs lost in meatpacking. Bill Clinton.

Now I don’t want to pick on dollared except for his demonizing of migrant labor through describing human beings as “illegal aliens,” which he has an unfortunate tendency to do and then claim those who call him out on it “don’t give a shit” about the American working class. Rather I want to use this comment as a way to understand how corporations use capital mobility as a way to bust unions while concealing the real reasons for job loss behind blaming immigrants (or environmentalists or many other scapegoats). I talk about meatpacking for a couple of pages in my forthcoming capital mobility book. Let’s look real fast at why those union jobs were lost in meatpacking and who is to blame. I’m basing a lot of this off Shane Hamilton’s Trucking Country: The Road to America’s Wal-Mart Economy, which you should read.

Most readers here probably have some sense of the early history of American meatpacking, thanks to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Sinclair wrote his novel to expose the terrible lives of workers and convert readers to socialism. But Americans mostly ignored those messages. Workers stood on floors soaked in blood and water in very cold temperatures, with flying hooks and knives risking their limbs and lives every second. They began forming unions in the 1890s to improve their lives but it was not until the creation of the CIO-affiliated United Packinghouse Workers of America in 1937 that they achieved major gains in pay and working conditions. Organized labor increasingly played a big role throughout the nation’s food economy in the 1930s. UPWA members cut beef in Chicago. Milkmen delivering glass jars of fresh milk to your doorstep were Teamsters. The conditions that led Sinclair to write his novel faded. The UPWA was one of the nation’s most progressive unions. It worked for racial and gender equality and had a strong tradition of internal union democracy. By the 1960s, unionized meat cutters made twenty-eight percent more money than average workers made for nondurable manufacturing.

While meatpackers came to terms with the UPWA, for trucking companies, grocery store chains, and the Republican Party however, unionization and good wages were a bad outcome. Here starts the recent history of capital mobility in food production. A 1955 union contract won by the meatpacker unions put a collective $50 million dollars in workers pockets. This frustrated Eisenhower Administration officials who faced heat over high beef prices. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson and his undersecretary Earl Butz, who later created the modern farm subsidy system, wanted to raise farm profits without raising consumer costs. The answer was to undermine unions and squeeze wages through moving meat production out of the cities and into nonunion plants in the countryside, near where the cows and pigs were farmed.

New upstart meatpackers, with the support of trucking and grocery chains who profited from cheaper meat, introduced refrigerated trucks that allowed meat processing in union-free rural areas. This undermined the big Chicago packinghouses and their unions. The new rural corporations had ruthless anti-union mentalities. Iowa Beef Packers (IBP) became a leading meatpacker in the 1960s. Today part of Tyson Foods, IBP rapidly consolidated the rural meatpacking operations in the Midwest, built enormous feedlot operations on the Great Plains, and created nonunion workplaces with low wages. In 1969, IBP workers in Dakota City, Iowa went on strike. IBP hired scabs to replace them. Violence broke out on both sides and one person was killed. When union butchers in New York City refused to sell IBP beef, the company made a deal with the mafia to break the boycott, undermining the strike. Wages were soon fifty percent lower than in the Chicago plants. The big meatpackers could not compete, closed their unionized slaughterhouses, laid off 12,000 workers, and moved to the Plains as well. Further IBP hardline anti-union strategies led to the rapid weakening of what was now the United Food and Commercial Workers.

The new geography of meatpacking, with its decentralized production, low wages, and poor working conditions meant that farmers earned more money and consumers maintained low beef prices. Workers were caught in the middle, people never seen by meat consumers. Nonunion factories demanded vastly increased production from workers. Fatigue, repetitive motion injuries, serious accidents on the job, and high turnover followed. One IBP manager considered an average annual turnover rate of 96% at a plant “low,” showing how little the corporation cared to provide labor dignified enough work to keep them on the job.

Companies might not have wanted unions, but many in the new rural workforce did. The UFCW had major successes organizing southern poultry factories during the 1980s. Poultry truck drivers joined the Teamsters in North Carolina. The largely African-American workforce in these plants took major personal risks to improve the low wages and unsafe working conditions. Companies responded by closing unionized factories and opening new non-union plants nearby, threatening new hires into signing union decertification petitions, and declaring bankruptcy and then reopening the plants without union contracts. They also began replacing African-American workers with immigrants from Mexico and Central America, often undocumented. Beef plants in Iowa and Nebraska did the same thing after workers went on strike in the 1980s. An Immigration and Naturalization Service investigation led to 1991 accusations that Tyson Chicken paid smugglers to bring employees up to their plants from Mexico and Guatemala. Most unionized plants faded in the face of this determined effort.

In other words, Republicans, trucking companies, and anti-union rural business interests teamed up to reshape the beef industry for each group’s political gains. That forced Hormel and other big meatpackers to do the same to compete. Each were more than willing to sacrifice the American working class to make this happen. Capital mobility was the tool to see this project through. Yes, if the borders are closed to migrant labor, the new anti-union meatpackers have a harder time treating labor poorly, but they were determined to find a way to do this anyway. In any case, undocumented migrants are hardly to blame for the situation. Yet dollared, like so many people, first points to the workers forced to take jobs in this new system as the problem, not the underlying causes of why these factories moved. IBP, Tyson, and other meat companies covered up their own culpability through creating the same kind of scapegoating of migrant labor that has separated the American working class since the arrival of the Irish in the early 19th century.

And let’s note, if a president deserves blame for this situation, it isn’t Clinton, as dollared claims. It’s Eisenhower. That isn’t to say that Clinton did enough on this issue, but it’s important to place blame where it most properly belongs.

Today in balding, feminist-hating teachers

[ 162 ] March 12, 2014 |

Which one is worse?

Be sure to show your work, as partial credit will be given.

Tomorrow on Today: “Ted Bundy: Monster, or Merely Misunderstood?”

[ 28 ] March 12, 2014 |

There are many, many potential stories, from fluffy to serious, that a major news organization can plausibly consider covering. “Were the many children Jerry Sandusky was convicted of raping really easily manipulated money-grubbers? Views differ!” does not strike me as one of them.

…in comments, Froley reminds us that the conservative producer pushing these Sandusky conspiracy theories was the talk-radio crank DFW wrote about so memorably.

Which “We” Are You Talking About, Mickey?

[ 33 ] March 12, 2014 |

While I’m sure there are plenty of hilarious bits, the price that someone would have to pay to get me to watch this would seem to be prohibitive:

Among other reasons to oppose reform, Coulter said: It would help Democrats.

“You want the Democrats who want more immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, because they need brand new voters, just warm bodies, more votes,” she said. “Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters. I just don’t think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters.”

The debate was ostensibly between a conservative and a liberal — Kaus said he voted twice for President Barack Obama — but the two speakers shared the same view on immigration. Although they discussed a variety of topics, immigration became the principal focus — and not exactly in the softer tone many Republicans have been attempting on the issue to avoid alienating Latino voters.

On that front, Kaus wasn’t much different from Coulter.

“Democrats have a perfectly good reason to be for amnesty, which is craven ethnic pandering that’s going to ensure our power for the next two generations, but what is the Republican excuse?” Kaus asked while talking about Republicans who support reform.

The greater part of Mickey’s career over the past decade has been an effort to find friends and publications that he can’t embarrass. Seems to be working.

HT Joseph.

True lies

[ 86 ] March 12, 2014 |

I have a piece in The Week about True Detective.

What sort of moral responsibility do artists have not to exploit, and thereby perhaps propagate, moral panics? The aesthetic power of The Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will has not absolved their creators for choosing to exploit racist and anti-Semitic beliefs. Our shameful history of panics and persecutions over the imaginary satanic ritual abuse of children should have been treated by artists as talented as the makers of True Detective as a cautionary tale, rather than as an opportunity for further invidious myth-making.

Keep slinging crack rock

[ 132 ] March 12, 2014 |



One of the most predictable responses to any criticism of a heretofore socially respectable entity is that the critics have hidden and disreputable motives. The critics, it’s said, want to sell something, and/or get publicity for themselves, and/or advance their careers via perverse contrarianism, or what have you.

There are two problems with this charge: it’s too easy to make, and it’s almost always irrelevant.

Nothing illustrates the ease with which it can be made better than how easy it is to level the exact same charge on the critics of the critics.

Consider this especially ludicrous example: a professor at an 11th-tier law school, featuring sky-high tuition, a per se open admissions policy (the school admitted 83% of its applicants last year, which probably represents close to 100% of the pool of functionally literate applicants not sporting serious criminal records), catastrophic employment outcomes for graduates, and plunging enrollments (the student body has shrunk by a third over the past three years, from 525 to 350) — that is, someone employed by exactly the kind of law school that has no business staying in business if critics who claim there is a crisis in legal education in America are correct — begins an article contesting that claim by questioning the motives of the New York Times for publishing stories about the struggles of recent law graduates.

The Times, per Prof. Reich-Grafe, only published these stories because it was trying to attract readers. It should be unnecessary to point out that the explanatory power of this startling insight is somewhat undermined by the fact that the exact same claim could be made about literally any and every story the Times (or for that matter any other publication) decides is fit to print. It should also be unnecessary to point out that the Times’ purported motives in this matter would not be considered by any halfway sane person to be nearly as questionable as Prof. Reich-Grafe’s own, given his “positionality” in regard to what he refers to as the “supposed” crisis in American legal education.

In any case, the charge of disreputable motivations is not only all too easy to make, it’s also irrelevant to the merits. Law school critics and defenders may or may not be greedy self-interested publicity whores, but whether they are or not has no relevance on the extent to which their various arguments are correct. Those arguments should be evaluated not on the basis of the supposed motivations of those who make them, but on the basis of whether they’re good arguments on their own terms.

On this score, Prof. Reich-Grafe’s piece is frankly embarrassing — a series of egregiously assumed can openers, tied together with pseudo-empirical guesswork, and injected with enough optimism bias to float a Madoff-sized Ponzi scheme — in sum an argument so flimsy that it can be (and was) demolished immediately by an anonymous scam blogger, on a site normally dedicated to pointing out to prospective law students that Legally Blonde does not provide a sound basis for the decision to spend $250,000 to get a law degree.

Legal education, we are told over and over again, is so expensive in large part because law faculty must have the leisure to produce “scholarship.” In theory, that means the million law graduates extruded by American law schools over the past 25 years have been subsidizing the production of what in the academy are termed “valuable contributions to the literature.” In practice that means those graduates paid their professors to write and publish things like Prof. Reich-Grafe’s article.

But a million law graduates is merely a statistic. Here is a glimpse into the life of a single one of them: someone who could have been one of Prof. Reich-Grafe’s own students (he attended a very similar law school):

I graduated from [ ] in 2010. I am approximately $215,000.00 in debt; I’m currently looking for work and have been struggling with Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety as a result of this ordeal. After passing the bar in 2011 I tried to start a solo practice and did a little bit of lawyering during that brief endeavor, but very minimal. I helped another attorney out at one point, too, but just in a very limited way. I have not been able to find a lawyer job or any professional employment since graduation in 2010. My last job was as a cashier at a supermarket making $12/hr.

For more than a year I have been applying for various non-legal jobs, in an attempt to take advantage of my “versatile” JD. In particular I’ve applied for a broad range of HR positions I’ve seen advertised, and have even employed a recruiting agency to help with this search. Such positions range from entry level on up. During law school I took employment law and also clerked for two summers and during a regular semester for an employment law firm; I therefore have a lot of direct HR related knowledge. Here’s some correspondence I just had with the agency:

“Hi Emily – I know Gwen is handling the HR area, but I never heard back from her about those jobs that I mentioned to you I thought I’d be a strong fit for. I know I would be great in the HR arena, and am interested in this listing now on the BW site: [ ]. It notes that “We are looking for talent at every level…”; it also says: “…we are on the hunt for talented candidates with experience in a range of HR functions to fill those needs.” I have a wide spectrum of direct and detailed knowledge of HR related laws, both state and federal, and therefor I believe I’m a great candidate for one of the Human Resource Contractor positions.

Thank you.”

“Hi [ ],

I apologize that you and Gwen weren’t able to connect. I appreciate you reaching out and inquiring about the HR contract roles. Since our clients are paying us fees to fill these positions, they tend to be very picky in the experience they are looking for. Although I’m sure you are more than capable to handle many HR tasks and issues, they will be wanting to see direct HR assistant, HR manager, HR coordinator, etc. type experience in your background and resume. It is tough to make a strong argument for candidates who do not have those direct titles in their backgrounds for these positions.

I understand your goal of wanting to find work and we want to help in any way we can but we are not a great resource for someone looking to move industries, for example from Legal to Human Resources. Our clients are coming to us because they are looking for that direct experience, and although I am sure you are qualified for the roles, they are wanting that direct industry experience. Our clients have proven reluctant to hire JD candidates into non-attorney roles.

I hope my correspondent (I regularly get emails of this sort) can take some solace in the knowledge that the most advanced forms of legal scholarship have concluded that “the legal profession market is moving into the direction of close-to-guaranteed legal employment for all law school graduates over the course of the next two decades.”

No, No, Arbitrary Executive Power Is For Terrorists

[ 27 ] March 12, 2014 |

Historical item:

Two months ago, Dianne Feinstein used her position on the Senate Intelligence Committee to enable passage of Bush’s FISA amendments, granting the President vast new warrantless surveillance powers.

Last month, Feinstein used her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure confirmation of Bush’s highly controversial judicial nominee Leslie Southwick, by being the only Committee Democrat to vote for the nomination (The Politico: “Sen. Dianne Feinstein had emerged as a linchpin in the controversial nomination”).

This week, Feinstein used her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to enable confirmation of Bush’s Attorney General nominee by ensuring that the frightened Chuck Schumer didn’t have to stand alone (Fox News: “Schumer’s and Feinstein’s support for Mukasey virtually guarantees that a majority of the committee will recommend his confirmation”).

And now, Feinstein is using her position on the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee — simultaneously — to single-handedly ensure fulfillment of Bush’s telecom amnesty demands…

Contemporary news item:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA on Tuesday of violating the law and the Constitution of the United States by interfering in a committee investigation into Bush-era torture of terror suspects.

Feinstein said the CIA had removed documents provided to the committee through a special, segregated network set up by the agency for the committee to pursue its investigation. Among the documents removed was an internal review of CIA interrogation techniques conducted by then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, which committee members have said corroborated committee findings critical of the agency’s interrogation program. In an interview with msnbc later Tuesday morning, CIA Director John Brennan disputed Feinstein’s allegations.

Over to you, Justice Jackson:

I regard it as a salutary doctrine that cities, states and the Federal Government must exercise their powers so as not to discriminate between their inhabitants except upon some reasonable differentiation fairly related to the object of regulation. This equality is not merely abstract justice. The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally. Conversely, nothing opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as to allow those officials to pick and choose only a few to whom they will apply legislation, and thus to escape the political retribution that might be visited upon them if larger numbers were affected.

Overtime Pay by Executive Order

[ 108 ] March 11, 2014 |

Some of our more third party oriented commenters like to say that Obama has done nothing for workers. Well….

President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated.

On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement.

Mr. Obama’s decision to use his executive authority to change the nation’s overtime rules is likely to be seen as a challenge to Republicans in Congress, who have already blocked most of the president’s economic agenda and have said they intend to fight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25.

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