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Cruzing in Cleveland?

[ 173 ] April 12, 2016 |


After some not-quite-denials of interest, Paul Ryan finally decided to go the full Sherman today, apparently having decided that inevitably failing at one job is enough.

One upshot of this, I suspect, is a recognition on Ryan’s part that the Republican nominee is going to be Trump or Cruz. The fantasy of an Establishment White Knight triumphantly parachuting in and taking the nomination requires, inter alia, that a party establishment that couldn’t turn a bottle of Tanqueray, a can of tonic water, sliced limes and ice into a Gin and Tonic execute an incredibly deft and complicated series of maneuvers on behalf of a hypothetical candidate who will apparently not be Paul Ryan. Anybody who thinks this is a plausible scenario really needs to explain specifically how this is going to work.

It’s also becoming increasingly apparent that if Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot the nominee will be Cruz. I would return here to the crucial distinction between having the support of the establishment and not being a politician at all. Trump has shown that it’s not literally impossible to win without a serious campaign apparatus, but it’s enormously difficult. Cruz is an actual politician with a serious organization, and the drubbing he’s giving Trump in selecting delegates at the state level would be repeated in Cleveland. Trump has no virtually no chance of beating Cruz in a contest for unbound delegates. If Cruz can deny Trump an outright majority — and that’s how to bet right now — it’s overwhelmingly likely that the nomination is his.


Victor Davis Hanson Is Drunk Again

[ 136 ] April 12, 2016 |


I’ve been trying to do less blatant stealing from Roy, but he when he dangles shiny, beautiful, glittering goods like this in front of me, I’m powerless not to make grabby hands. Anyway, Victor Davis Hanson is in rare form. He is shining on like the craziest diamond in NRO’s crown.

Trump is a gladiator, and his supporters are shrieking, thumbs-down spectators. Sheathing his blood-stained blade would empty the stadium and put him back on The Apprentice. Does a Kim Kardashian suddenly stop flashing her boobs on YouTube in worry over what others might think?



Trump is not so much appealing to the ethnic prejudices of the white poor and working class, or playing on their perceived resentments of the Other.

Or it’s very much like that but the fact that Hillary Clinton gives speeches to Goldman Sachs clouds my brain sometimes. I don’t know. Who knows who’s racist in this crazy, mixed-up world?


Our popular culture is one of Pajama Boy, Mattress Girl, and the whiny, nasal-toned young metrosexual with high-water pants above his ankles and horn-rimmed glasses who “analyzes” on cable news. Is it any wonder that millions sympathized with the heroism of Benghazi’s middle-class defenders rather than with the contortions of the far better-educated, smoother, more sensitive, and wealthier Rhodes scholar Susan Rice, novelist Ben Rhodes, or former First Lady Hillary Clinton?


It’s true, though. I’m always saying to millennials in ill-fitting pants “Hey, did you see that new Pajama Boy vine? It’s is much better than the Benghazi hearing channel on youtube. Only squares watch the Benghazi hearings.”

Trump is a dangerously effective classic demagogue not because the working white poor are empty-vessel racists, but rather because he has split white America along class lines and has

Who really knows why this split happened? I’m sure it wasn’t because the animus was already there. I’m sure Donald Trump just pulled it out of his tribble-wig and sprinkled it on a bunch of lower-middle-class white people. I know this–BENGHAZI!!


There are two characteristics common to popular uses of the term “white”: It is almost always used pejoratively, and it is mostly voiced by elites of all backgrounds — and usually as a slur against the white working and “clinger” classes. So “the Latino vote” reflects shared aspirations; “the white vote” merely crude resentment. Those who benefit from affirmative action are not privileged, but those who do not certainly are. Whites cling in Neanderthal fashion to their legal rifles; inner-city youth hardly at all to their illegal handguns. Buying a jet-ski on credit is typical redneck stupidity; borrowing $200,000 to send a kid to a tony private university from which he will graduate more ignorant and arrogant than when he enrolled is wise. White “evangelicals” are puzzling for their crude hypocrisies; not so the refined paradoxes of Congregationalists and Episcopalians. Smoking is self-destruction, while injecting a strain of botulism toxin into your face is not self-mutilation.


Losing Does Not Drive Democrats to the Left

[ 500 ] April 12, 2016 |


For the most part, Kathleen Geier and Joshua Holland do an excellent job on the correct side of The Nation’s four-part debate about #BernieorBust, so I don’t have a lot to add. There are, however, a couple of odd arguments in Doug Henwood’s entry, one idiosyncratic and one reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of the American political landscape. The former first:

…it’s likely [Clinton would] rip up the nuclear deal with Iran—more elegantly than Donald Trump, perhaps, but no less thoroughly

Um, what? There are plenty of good reasons to attack Clinton on foreign policy, but this is just nuts. It’s an excellent illustration of what obsessive personal hatred does to your political judgment. There really isn’t the slightest reason to believe that Clinton would rip up the Iran deal.

To get to the more common error:

I won’t argue with anyone who wants to vote for Clinton because the alternative is so horrible—though we’ve been hearing this for decades, without the least recognition that this lesser-evil habit lubricates the endless rightward shift of our politics.

This represents a collision between multiple erroneous assumptions:

  • There is of course no “endless rightward shift” in our politics. The federal status quo has shifted substantially to the left over the past 8 years — cf. health care policy, tax policy, environmental policy, financial and consumer regulation, LBGT rights, etc. etc. etc. The Democratic Party is well to the left of where it was not only in 1994 but in 1977. Only three presidents have complied an even arguably more impressive record of progressive achievement than Obama, and all 3 did so in substantially more favorable political circumstances.
  • It is true that the Republican Party continues to shift to the right. This is important, because the way this is happened is precisely the opposite of the rejection of lesser-evilism that Henwood implies is the path to political change. While #BernieorBusters tend to be obsessively focused on the presidency and challenges to the Democratic Party (whether through third party challenges or abstention), Republicans have 1)worked within the party and 2)focused more on Congress and statehouses.  While they have sometimes overreached, the right of the Republican Party has followed a very effective formula — try to get the most conservative viable candidate nominated and vote for the Republican win or lose in the primaries. It’s simple, but it works. Alas, the right has been much less susceptible to third party wankery, and their effective vote suppression efforts are appalling but also show that they understand that elections are important enterprises, not vehicles for individual consumer expression.
  • There’s an additional assumption here, which is that if the Democrats lose they will be forced to move to the left. But what is the basis for this assumption? They didn’t after 1968, they didn’t after 1972, they didn’t after 1984 (which produced the DLC), they didn’t after 1994. They have finally moved left now, but this was much more about the wins in 2006 and 2008 than the loss in 2000.

But, of course, most such arguments aren’t business; they’re personal.

A simple test

[ 186 ] April 12, 2016 |


Here’s a guide for politicians on how to handle ethnic humor in the United States of America in 2016:

Question: Is it OK to tell a joke making fun of some purported characteristic of an ethnic group, or other suspect classification, if you are not a member of the group in question?

Answer: No.

(I seem to remember that Polish jokes were a regular feature of Johnny Carson’s monologue in the 1970s. That was before liberal fascism though).

Uber, An Employer

[ 52 ] April 12, 2016 |


Uber and Lyft run their whole model on assuming their “employees” are independent contractors, meaning that the companies get to rake in the profit without assuming most of the risks and costs of the operation. This is of course dubious and hopefully the courts will find in this way. Alex Rosenblat sums up her research on whether Uber is in fact an employer:

Last year, my colleague Luke Stark at NYU and I spent nine months studying how U.S. Uber drivers interact with the platform. We analyzed online driver forums, where tens of thousands of drivers share advice and compares notes on their experiences and challenges with the Uber system. We also conducted in-depth interviews with seven drivers to explore worker experiences of the on-demand economy.

We found that through Uber’s app design and deployment, the company produces what many reasonable observers would define as a managed labor force. Drivers have the freedom to log in or log out of work at will, but once they’re online, their activities on the platform are heavily monitored. The platform redistributes management functions to semiautomated and algorithmic systems, as well as to consumers.

Algorithmic management, however, can create a deal of ambiguity around what is expected of workers — and who is really in charge. Uber’s neutral branding as an intermediary between supply (drivers) and demand (passengers) belies the important employment structures and hierarchies that emerge through its software platform.

Uber sets the rates. Uber has full power to unilaterally set and change the fares passengers pay, the rates that drivers are paid, and the commission Uber takes. While Uber’s contract with its “partners” outlines (section 4.1) that the fare Uber sets is a “recommended” amount (drivers technically have the right to charge less, but not more, than the pre-arranged fare), there is no way for drivers to actually negotiate the fare within the Uber driver app.

Uber sets the performance targets. Uber’s three main performance metrics are the driver’s rating, how many rides the driver accepts, and how many times they cancel a ride. Generally, Uber requires drivers to maintain a high ride acceptance rate, such as 80% or 90%, and a low cancellation rate, such as 5% in San Francisco (as of July 2015), or they risk deactivation (temporary suspension or permanent firing) from the platform.

Uber’s system enforces blind acceptance of passengers, as drivers are not shown the passenger’s destination or how much they could earn on the fare. While this could deter destination-based discrimination, and Uber markets this as a feature of its system, whenever Uber drivers accept a ride, they effectively take a financial risk that the ride will only cost the “minimum fare,” an amount that varies by city. In Savannah, Georgia, for example, the minimum fare is $5 for uberX, which drivers perceive as unprofitable, because Uber takes a $1.60 booking fee (formerly a “safe rides” fee) off the top, plus their commission of at least 20% on the remaining $3.40. That leaves the driver with $2.72, not accounting for any of their expenses, such as gas.

There are also sections on how Uber acts as management and plays a major role in “suggesting” drivers’ schedules. The conclusion:

In many ways, automation can obscure the role of management, but as our research illustrates, algorithmic management cannot be conflated with worker autonomy. Uber’s model clearly raises new challenges for companies that aim to produce scalable, standardized services for consumers through the automation of worker-employer relationships.

Today in the Sixth Extinction

[ 36 ] April 12, 2016 |


If you like diving, do it now because the coral reefs are going, going, gone.

The damage off Kiritimati is part of a mass bleaching of coral reefs around the world, only the third on record and possibly the worst ever. Scientists believe that heat stress from multiple weather events including the latest, severe El Niño, compounded by climate change, has threatened more than a third of Earth’s coral reefs. Many may not recover.

Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem, providing food and shelter to a quarter of all marine species, and they support fish stocks that feed more than one billion people. They are made up of millions of tiny animals, called polyps, that form symbiotic relationships with algae, which in turn capture sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars that feed the polyps.

An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods, more than one million in the Philippines alone. In Indonesia, fish supported by the reefs provide the primary source of protein.

“This is a huge, looming planetary crisis, and we are sticking our heads in the sand about it,” said Justin Marshall, the director of CoralWatch at Australia’s University of Queensland.

Bleaching occurs when high heat and bright sunshine cause the metabolism of the algae — which give coral reefs their brilliant colors and energy — to speed out of control, and they start creating toxins. The polyps recoil. If temperatures drop, the corals can recover, but denuded ones remain vulnerable to disease. When heat stress continues, they starve to death.

Damaged or dying reefs have been found from Réunion, off the coast of Madagascar, to East Flores, Indonesia, and from Guam and Hawaii in the Pacific to the Florida Keys in the Atlantic.

The largest bleaching, at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, was confirmed last month. In a survey of 520 individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section, scientists from Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force found only four with no signs of bleaching. Some 620 miles of reef, much of it previously in pristine condition, had suffered significant bleaching.

In follow-up surveys, scientists diving on the reef said half the coral they had seen had died. Terry Hughes, the director of the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, who took part in the survey, warned that even more would succumb if the water did not cool soon.

Meanwhile, it is slightly chilly in the North American east, meaning that climate change is a hoax. Brilliant climate scientist and Oklahoma senator James Inhofe will tell you so.

Public Lands Enemy #1

[ 24 ] April 12, 2016 |


As I have said a few times here, the Republican reaction to the Bundy occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is to embrace their policy positions, if not their direct action politics. Of course, that has been the policy of most western Republicans for a long time. No one personifies this anti-public lands attitude more than Utah congressman Rob Bishop, who will seek any opportunity to privatize all of the nation’s public land, even in areas he doesn’t care about like Puerto Rico.

A new bill to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis is drawing fire over a controversial provision that would enable the sale and private development of thousands of acres in the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.

The provision, authored by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), would give 3,100 acres of the popular wildlife refuge to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to sell off to private interests. Right now, the wildlife refuge is protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but in the hands of private interests, it could end up being developed — a scenario that could threaten the species that call the refuge home.

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is the largest and one of the most ecologically diverse refuges in the Caribbean. It is home to at least 14 endangered animals and plants and many other endemic species, and provides important habitat for 190 species of migratory and resident birds.

Bishop’s proposal to dispose of a portion of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge met immediate resistance from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “I think we need to be very, very careful,” Jewell said over the weekend while visiting Puerto Rico. “Giving up public lands or natural areas to development is not synonymous with economic growth and development.”

Bishop has repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to sell off national forests and other federally-managed natural areas around the country. In addition to sponsoring a bill that would dispose of 40,000 acres of public land in Utah, he organized an “action group” to sell off national public lands, and has sympathized with the armed militants who took over the Malhuer National Wildife Refuge earlier this year.

The proposal to dispose of a portion of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge could create an impediment to the passage of the broader debt relief bill. Puerto Rico did not request that the land be put up for development; disposing of the refuge won’t address the debt crisis; and selling off public lands repeatedly polls as an overwhelmingly unpopular idea. Similar proposals to dispose of or sell national public lands have attracted fierce opposition from hunting and fishing groups, the outdoor industry, conservation organizations, and others.

It’s all ideology with these people. Governance is irrelevant. Bishop doesn’t care about Puerto Rico’s debt issues. He just wants to destroy the ability of the public to enjoy public lands. Quite a principle.

Two Awful Tastes That Taste Even Worse Together

[ 47 ] April 12, 2016 |


This seems about right:

The Republican front-runner spoke to approximately 10,000 people at the downtown Albany arena Monday night but had to stop five times due to demonstrators.


Opening the rally, businessman Carl Paladino, who is organizing Trump’s efforts in New York, spoke about the candidate and the groundswell of support he has received.

“They call us the silent majority … how silent are you?” he asked the crowd, which erupted in a roar.

Using a theme that would repeat throughout the evening, Paladino asked, “Are we going to build that wall? Are we going to make Mexico pay for it?”

The thousands of supporters responded with a thundering “yes,” and followed up with their chant, “Build that wall. Build that wall.”

Ah, yes, Carl Palidino — the man who rode anti-Muslim demagoguery to the Republican nomination and then ran a disastrous general election campaign involving yet more racism, threats of violence, stuff like that there. Trump before Trump, one might say. Perfect.

The Unluckiest Pitcher of All Time

[ 63 ] April 11, 2016 |


We are barely a week into the 2016 season but it’s good that one tradition never dies, which is the Mariners scoring no runs for Felix Hernandez. A day after dominating performance that led to yet another no-decision, David Schoenfeld claims King Felix is statistically the unluckiest pitcher of all time.

It was the 45th start where he allowed zero runs or one run and didn’t get credit for a win. That ties him with Zack Greinke for the most such starts among active pitchers. With years of inept offenses behind him — the Mariners have finished higher than 11th in runs scored just once in his tenure, back in 2007 when they ranked seventh — you wonder: Is Hernandez the unluckiest pitcher of all time? Those 45 winless games account for 13.4 percent of his career starts.

Greinke’s 45 games actually account for a slightly higher percentage of his career starts at 13.8 percent. King Felix, however, has pitched a little better in his games, throwing 317 innings with a 0.88 ERA compared to Greinke’s 288.2 innings and 0.90 ERA. Hernandez’s average Game Score is 72.5 versus Greinke’s 67.0.

How do those two compare to other bad-luck hurlers? Sticking to this one idea of “bad luck,” Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Information reports that over the past 100 years (getting us past most of the dead-ball era when 1-0 or 2-1 games were common), only six other pitchers have had more winless games when allowing one run or zero runs: Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, Don Sutton, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Tommy John. So that’s good company, with four Hall of Famers, a would-be Hall of Famer and a guy who won 288 games.

Note that fewer losses means more bad luck, since you can’t lose if you allow no runs. Hernandez and Greinke are well ahead of the others in percentage of career starts that ended with these types of no-decisions. Note that Hernandez has the highest average Game Score — to be fair, he’s pitched in an era with more strikeouts, which is part of the Game Score formula — but notice as well that only Sutton averaged more innings per start.

That’s important because one reason starters don’t get as many wins these days is they don’t pitch as deep into games. That’s not the reason Hernandez isn’t winning, however; he’s pitching deep into games and just not getting any run support.

Argue around the edges, but Felix has consistently played on terrible teams throughout what should be a Hall of Fame career. But to Murray Chass, I guess Felix isn’t providing the proper amount of leaderocity and so better to elect Jack Morris.

Republican Sext

[ 13 ] April 11, 2016 |

Can’t take credit for this amazing image; one of my awesome tweeps showed it to me.

You up?

 for disenfranchising voters


Virtual Book Group Reminder – Out of Sight

[ 8 ] April 11, 2016 |

Wednesday (4/13) is the next virtual book group for Out of Sight. You’ll be able to ask Loomis about chapters 3 – Outsourcing Pollution and 4 – Concealed Food, Broken Workers.

And maybe he can give us guidance on what to do between the time sneering robots take all of our jobs and cheerful robots destroy us.


[ 11 ] April 11, 2016 |

RFS Pyotr Velikiy transiting the Suez Canal

I have updated the page for the Battleship Book with the latest reviews and podcasts; please check it out. Most importantly, take a listen to the recent podcast I recorded with Ankit Panda of The Diplomat. Note that the book is finally available from Amazon!  You can get the ebook direct from Wildside

If you’ve already bought the book, then let me encourage you to review it at Amazon or some other relevant retailer (even if you hated it). Amazon reviews are a huge help for any author, so if you’ve read any of these books, please take a few seconds:

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