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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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Is Cheating On Standardized Tests the Worst Thing In Human History? Views Differ!

[ 30 ] April 14, 2015 |

Olympic_bombing_siteAbove: No tests were cheated on during this terrorist bombing

I will have more on the jail sentences, in some cases as long as seven years, handed out to teachers and administrators in the Atlanta cheating case. In the meantime, this is quite remarkable:

But those eight can appeal within 30 days, and they can be out of jail on bond while the appeals are pending. Those who took the deals—former teacher Pamela Cleveland and former testing coordinator Donald Bullock —waived their right to appeal. They also agreed to apologize to students, parents and the court.

During sentencing, Judge Baxter called the cheating “pervasive.”

“It’s like the sickest thing that’s ever happened in this town,” he said.

Uh, I’m…not convinced this is true. (Well, in fairness, while the 13-year-old girl was killed in Atlanta the subsequent anti-Semitic lynching of an innocent man was done outside of city limits.) Speaking of killing children, there’s this. And this. And then there’s this. And…well, I think we’ve established that the judge may have lost perspective here, just like the prosecutors did.

[via Anderson]

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Hang ‘Em High

[ 175 ] April 14, 2015 |


On this, the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, it’s worth considering which Confederates should have been hanged. Understanding that the Union couldn’t really execute all the high ranking Confederates, Gary Brecher makes the very strong case that at the very least, Nathan Bedford Forrest and Wade Hampton, two extraordinarily loathsome people, should gotten the rope.

Forrest was a slaver and a killer long before the war, but he distinguished himself among the bloody Southern officer corps by his fondness for “No Quarter” orders. “No Quarter” was much more common in the Southwestern theatre of the war than most people realize. The James brothers, Quantrill, Anderson—those guys didn’t come out of nowhere. They were typical of the Southern irregular cavalry, and Forrest was the best, most ruthless leader they had. Forrest didn’t like taking prisoners; he preferred killing them on the spot. And it worked for him, once his rep got around. Many weak commanders surrendered to him rather than face the prospect of being slaughtered if he won.

When he attacked Fort Pillow in April 1864, Forrest encountered a garrison that wouldn’t surrender, and was half African-American. The black troops were from two artillery units, backed up by raw infantry. Forrest’s raiders outnumbered them, 1,500 to 600, and Forrest expected to win easily. He issued one of his standard threats after initial skirmishing, telling the Union commander he and his men had fought well enough to be “entitled” to be treated as POWs if they surrendered, but if Forrest was “forced” to attack, he couldn’t guarantee their safety.

It worked, many times, but it didn’t work on the second-in-command at Fort Pillow, who replied, “I will not surrender.” Forrest’s men overran the fort and killed every black soldier they could find. One of the Confederates who took part in the massacre reported it like this:

“Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negroes would run up to our men fall upon their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The whitte [sic] men fared but little better. Their fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen.”

After a half hour of slaughter, Forrest resumed command, and sent a proud dispatch boasting that the “river was dyed red” with the blood of the African-American soldiers. Forrest was a master of terror in war, and saw the massacre as a good way to neutralize the growing number of African-American soldiers the Union was recruiting. He wrote, using the modest passive mode, “It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.”

And then there’s Hampton.

By the time the Civil War started, Wade Hampton III was 42 years old, with no military experience. But he was a mean bastard, he knew how to ride and kill, he was willing to use his own money to raise his own “legion,” and he rose fast. In fact, one of the best ways to identify candidates for hanging is to look at fast risers.

In the whole Confederate army, only two men who started with no previous military experience rose to the rank of Lt. General: Wade Hampton III and Nathan Bedford Forrest. That’s a good noose-fitting device right there.

And if you’re looking for good legal cause to hang ol’ Wade, you won’t have much work to find it. Hampton talked his head off to Sherman’s officers, late in the war, as they arranged the surrender of Johnston’s forces, and his main theme, as recorded in multiple Union officers’ memoirs, is shooting deserters and “recruiting” new troops at gunpoint. Military life, for Hampton and many another Confederate officer in the last year of the war, consisted of rounding up deserters, shooting every one who didn’t seem useful, and re-enlisting the rest by holding a pistol at their head until they sang “Dixie” in the proper key. There’s no knowing how many Union men Hampton killed, but he boasted about killing dozens of reluctant Confederates.

Nice guy.

This doesn’t even get into what these horrible people did after the war, what with Forrest starting the Ku Klux Klan and Hampton heading the Red Shirts.

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Irrational Basis

[ 31 ] April 14, 2015 |

I’m hoping this argument will work its way into the Scalia dissent:

There are a lot of terrible arguments against same-sex marriage, but this may be the worst: The Supreme Court must not protect gay couples’ marriages, because doing so would demean marriages between gay men and their wives.

That, in a nutshell, is the argument put forth in an amicus brief recently filed by a group who call themselves “same-sex attracted men and their wives.” These men don’t claim to have become straight through conversion therapy—though a group of self-proclaimed ex-gays did file their own deeply sad and strange brief. Nor do they claim to be bisexual. Rather, these men admit that they’re “same-sex attracted,” but insist that “a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage can only come at the cost of marginalizing and demeaning the marriages and families” of gay men married to straight women. And that risk, they say, is reason enough for the court to rule against marriage equality.

In fairness, I’m not sure it’s really worse than any of the others.

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Hillary Clinton — Good Enough to Win

[ 72 ] April 14, 2015 |

Your annual it’s-the-fundamentals-that-matter-most reminder from Jonathan Bernstein:

There are strong candidates for a presidential nomination, and Clinton is about the strongest in modern times. There can be weak general-election candidates, too. Those perceived as ideological outliers (Barry Goldwater in 1964, George McGovern in 1972, and possibly Ronald Reagan in 1980) can cost their party a few percentage points beyond what a generic Democrat or Republican would have received. It’s also possible to imagine a candidate so inept that he or she forfeits votes a generic candidate might have won — McGovern, with a mismanaged convention and a botched running-mate selection, might qualify.

But candidates who are so wonderful, whose appeal to swing voters is so strong, that they override the basic conditions of the election — the economy, war and peace, the popularity of the president, how long the incumbent party has held the White House? In the entire survey research era, the only presidential candidate who can plausibly make that claim is Dwight Eisenhower, and he just may have benefited from too many consecutive Democratic terms in office.

If the economy holds up, Clinton will probably win, and if it doesn’t any Democratic nominee would be in serious trouble.

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Our Struggle to Build a Better World Will Endure Setbacks

[ 2 ] April 14, 2015 |

“Endoftrailx” by Veever – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

With great power comes great responsibility. Consequently, it is with great sadness that I report that the LGM Tournament Challenge was, in fact, won by some asshole who picked Duke.

1 250 220 240 240 160 320 Duke 0 1430 98.7
2 220 220 200 240 160 320 Duke 0 1360 97.5
3* 260 200 160 240 160 320 Duke 0 1340 97.1
3* 240 180 200 240 160 320 Duke 0 1340 97.1
3* 240 180 200 240 160 320 Duke 0 1340 97.1
6 240 180 200 160 160 320 Duke 0 1260 94.5
7 270 180 200 240 320 0 Wisconsin 0 1210 92.5
8* 230 260 280 240 160 0 Kentucky 0 1170 90.8
8* 250 240 280 240 160 0 Kentucky 0 1170 90.8
10* 250 180 160 240 320 0 Wisconsin 0 1150 89.9
10* 210 180 120 160 160 320 Duke 0 1150 89.9


TNDevilFin13, a name which leaves open the grim possibility that “David” might not only be a Duke fan, but also hail from Tennessee, should feel free to contact me (e-mail address on the far right sidebar) with regard to prize information.

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