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UIUC Reaches Peak Gibberish

[ 42 ] September 11, 2014 |

Shorter verbatim Phyllis Wise: “People are mixing up this individual personnel issue with the whole question of freedom of speech and academic freedom.”

This really says it all, doesn’t? “I believe in principles, so long as they never have to apply in individual cases. Especially if the development office is involved.” Joe Freeman Britt should have thought of this. “People are mixing up this individual criminal case with the whole question of due process and Maryland v. Brady and whether it’s appropriate to execute innocent people.”

And yet, it makes sense in its own perverse way. Salaita’s firing obviously cannot be squared with basic principles of academic freedom, even if UIUC can establish that it acted within its formal legal authority. Some UIUC apologists are willing to come out and say that academic freedom is just a racket and firing someone for their political views is perfectly OK, but Wise can’t say that either. So we’re left with pure distilled 100 proof nonsense.

…As expected, the vote goes 8-1 against Salaita. I have no idea how strong Salaita’s case will be under Illinois law, but if the lawsuit gets to discovery it will be interesting indeed.

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And the Adam Bellow Award For Regrettable Beneficiary of Nepotism Goes To…

[ 33 ] September 11, 2014 |

COO of what is sadly right now New York’s most talented baseball team, Jeff Wilpon.

Allegations only, yes, although credible ones. One thing about growing up in a bubble of wealth is that it can apparently cause you to act like a busybody sexist relative to your employees:

“He frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger,” it says. The lawsuit also alleges that Wilpon told a meeting “of the team’s all-male senior executives” that he was “morally opposed” to Castergine’s pregnancy, and told Castergine that her boyfriend should propose if he wanted his girlfriend to get a raise.

Your female employees I should specify. If Wilpon is universally appalled by employees engaging in extramarital sexual relations, I would suggest that he probably inherited the wrong line of work.

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Ugh Double Ugh

[ 203 ] September 11, 2014 |

Well, this just looks like a clusterfuck.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces…

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

The Syria side of the campaign remains a work in progress at the Pentagon, CIA and White House. The development of an operational plan is further complicated by a lack of intelligence — U.S. drones have not been flying over Islamic State-controlled parts of the country for long — and the absence of allied local forces that can leverage U.S. airstrikes into territorial gains.

And then we have this helpful group of assholes:

Progress has been encouraging. Arab states have scrambled to set aside differences to rally against the threat posed by the extremists, whose rampage through Iraq and Syria has unnerved rulers across the region.

On Thursday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry was to attend a meeting in Saudi Arabia with all of the major players in the Middle East, including the host country, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, to discuss ways to address the crisis.

Many of these countries are at odds over a range of issues and might not have been willing to send representatives to meet in the same room were it not for their urgent recognition of the new menace in their midst.

In common with their fear of the Islamic State, however, the region’s leaders also share a deep mistrust of the Obama administration, rooted in the past three years of increasing disengagement from the Middle East as the United States has sought to distance itself from the turmoil engendered by the Arab Spring revolts.

So, a group of countries that can’t agree on what should be done with Syria are deeply irritated that the United States has not sorted through what is to be done with Syria. Meanwhile, money pours out of the pockets of the Gulf states into the coffers of ISIS, which leaves everyone in the Gulf states deeply concerned that the US isn’t doing enough about Iran.

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[ 87 ] September 10, 2014 |

Dennis Hopper’s personal journey may have brought him to Taos. But according to my New Mexico people who know Taos well, locals are furious that Hopper was buried there because now their little cemetery where they remembered their dead now has a bunch of hippies leaving joints and booze and smoking and drinking some of that weed and booze in it. And it’s hard to blame them since from Mabel Dodge Luhan and Georgia O’Keefe to Dennis Hopper and the thousands of recent arrivals to these places today, bohemian whites have been co-opting the cultures of non-white New Mexico for their own purposes. Stories like Hopper’s never have the local people in them except as a quaint backdrop. And in the end, that’s really wrong.

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Blue Whales

[ 51 ] September 10, 2014 |


It seems that the eastern North Pacific population of blue whales has recovered to its pre-hunting totals–about 2200.

2200 animals makes it pretty easy to drive an animal to extinction. I was just talking about the Pleistocene extinctions with my students and saying that the enormous size of the American megafauna made it pretty bloody easy for them to die off entirely when the combination of the end of the Ice Ages and the arrival of humans hit them. After all, how many beavers the size of the modern black bear can a forest support?

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Japanese Flying Fortresses

[ 19 ] September 10, 2014 |

This is a fascinating picture:

Some more information here.

The first B-17 to come under Japanese control was an B-17D which was pieced together from the remnants of other destroyed B-17Ds on Clark Field in the Philippines. The same thing was done to to two B-17Es on Bandung Field on Java. At the time, this was the newest model of the B-17 available. The Japanese were impressed with the simplicity of the cockpit for such a large aircraft. One of the B-17Es was used for a test bed for a captured Norden bombsight, coupled to the Sperry automatic flight control system. Also of great interest was the B-17′s gunnery equipment, especially the Sperry automatic computing gunsight. The May 1943 issue of Koku-Asahi was devoted almost completely to the captured B-17s. Nearly every major component was shown in photos and drawings. Since the Japanese also had instruction manuals for the aircraft, no detail was overlooked.

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Oh, *that* video

[ 85 ] September 10, 2014 |

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

[SL] Good questions.

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About those walking dead…

[ 77 ] September 10, 2014 |


A dead Facebook friend literally went zombie today — a mile-walking app hijacked his account and started posting how far he’d traveled and how many calories he’d burned doing so.

I would’ve been deeply saddened if I didn’t think he’d find it damn hilarious.

But it brings up an interesting question — how would you like to be memorialized online?

For the record, when I die, I encourage everyone to treat it in the spirit I would. Bad jokes aren’t merely welcomed, they’re required. Remember me at my worst best and best worst, is how I’d like it.

If y’all sit shiva and don’t swap “SEK was a world-class dumb-ass” stories, I’d be very disappointed, you know, if I wasn’t dead.


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[ 27 ] September 10, 2014 |

This semester, I’m taking my first step towards becoming a “genuine” academic by teaching my first class as an adjunct assistant professor at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. The class in question is Urban Studies 621, “Delivery of Urban Public Services” (which mostly means New York City social welfare services). It’s a fascinating course to teach, not least because the overwhelming majority of my students currently work in New York City social welfare agencies, and thus have an enormous wealth of experience with how urban public services function.

I thought I’d post the syllabus here for anyone interested in the topic. And if anyone has recommendations for more documentaries, I’d love to hear them.

Read more…

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What Halbig Troofers Are Trying to Do

[ 169 ] September 10, 2014 |

Chait on the political dynamics of the ACA:

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell — who had vowed publicly and privately to “repeal this monstrosity” — was asked whether he would repeal the insurance exchange in his own state, and replied with word salad (“I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question here”). When asked about repealing his state’s Medicaid expansion, he replied, “I don’t know that it will be taken away from them.”

Unpopular Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett recently agreed to accept Medicaid expansion. Four more Republican governors — in Tennessee, Utah, Indiana, and Wyoming — have taken steps toward following suit. In Washington, the river of attacks against Obamacare issuing from Republicans has slowed to a trickle. (The number of Congressional news releases attacking the law has fallen by 75 percent this summer from last.) The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson is warning darkly of an “anti-repeal wing” within the party. “Root and branch repeal is starting to look more like twig and leaf,” concedes Reason’s Peter Suderman.


The Republican crusade against Obamacare is not ending; rather, it is shrinking and mutating. The party base will demand a presidential nominee who promises to repeal the hated law, just as it did in 2012. But the next Republican candidate will be running in an environment where repealing the law would create millions and millions of now-identifiable victims. Since the start of the year, Obamacare has gone from a weakness Republicans were salivating at the chance to exploit to an issue they no longer want to talk about. Two years from now, matters could be worse still.

The desperation of the Halbig troofers is, in this sense, rational; the more the ACA is entrenched, and the more beneficiaries it has, the harder it is to get rid off.

Which makes it a good time to make clear what the troofers — not to mention the Republicans who won’t take the Medicaid expansion — are trying to accomplish:

In a five month span, however, two things changed that offered Jenn a new chance at life. The first was a double lung transplant. On August 29, 2013, Jenn received two new lungs that were free of cystic fibrosis. Not long thereafter, she drew her first breath as an adult from lungs that were not constantly filling up with choking mucus. Although Jenn will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life, she can now speak on the phone again. Her husband Eder can touch her face again or kiss her cheek again without triggering a fit of coughing. Jenn is not confined to a hospital anymore. She lifts kettlebells instead.

The second change came on the first day of 2014 when the most important provisions of the Affordable Care Act took full effect. That meant that, for the first time in her life, Jenn knew that, no matter what happened, she would have health insurance. For Jenn, Obamacare means that insurers must cover her, despite her expensive preexisting condition. And it means that she is not facing a death sentence if she is unable to obtain health insurance through her own job or her husband’s.

Except for the fact that a group of lawyers are trying to take this certainty away from her. Last July, two Republican judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted to defund much of the Affordable Care Act, including provisions which ensure that Jenn’s insurance is affordable. Moreover, although the full DC Circuit recently withdrew this decision and announced that it would rehear the case before a much larger panel of 13 judges, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit have not exactly hidden their desire to get this case before the conservative Roberts Court where four justices already voted once to repeal Obamacare. If the justices ultimately take this case, which is known as Halbig v. Burwell, and if one more of them agrees that Obamacare should be defunded, that could trigger a death spiral that could collapse the law’s health insurance marketplace in much of the country.

Five men in Washington could sentence Jenn to the same uncertainty she endured before the Affordable Care Act. They could potentially sentence her to die.


On January 1, 2014, Jennifer Causor woke for the first time knowing that, no matter what direction her health turned, she would at least live without fear that she would not be able to afford treatment. She shared that certainty with millions of Americans who once feared that each trip to the doctor would bring a choice between death and bankruptcy.

Eight days before next Christmas, a lawyer will walk into a courtroom, approach a podium, and stand before 13 judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He will then open his mouth, and in a calm, lawyerly manner, ask those judges to take from Jenn the certainty Obamacare has given her.

Freedom! And for that matter, the same thing applies to people who would have forgone the passage of health care reform until it was possible to pass the Single Payer and a Pony Act of 4545.

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Wednesday Odds and Ends

[ 98 ] September 10, 2014 |

Last night I was at a loss as to what to make for dinner. I knew two things: I wanted to use some salmon and I wanted to use up some of the fresh veggies in my fridge. So here’s what I did…

  1. I sautéed some thinly-sliced onions, fennel, tomatoes, and zucchini in olive oil, salting and peppering to taste .
  2. I deglazed the pan with a generous splash of white wine and dumped in some chicken stock, along with some tomato paste.
  3. I let everything simmer together for several minutes. I was basically just trying to make a vegged-up tomato-fennel broth, which is my favorite thing to bathe seafood in.
  4. I nestled four salmon fillets in the broth and covered everything until the fillets were cooked through.
  5. I served the salmon fillets, veggies and broth over rice. I topped everything with some fresh fennel fronds. O…M…G.
  • Whenever I hear about the money woes of wealthy and/or upper-middle-class people it always strikes that those woes are due to extremely poor budgeting skills. And then I wonder why people who are poor or middle class are expected to live within in their means but rich people aren’t. I mean, isn’t that the weirdest thing?
  • I actually only watched a handful of episodes of “Homicide” back in the day, but I remember it being a chronically low-rated critics’ darling. So I’m not sure why I found this Margaret Lyons article arguing that the show was underrated so compelling–I really have no dog in the “which is the best cop drama?” fight. Speaking of which, which is your favorite cop drama?
  • Here’s a wonderful summation of #GamerGate.
  • As always, Alicublog is a great read.

Here’s my latest:

In Darkness Forged

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Lillian Gobitas Klose

[ 16 ] September 10, 2014 |


Minersville School District v. Gobitis was one of the darker days in Supreme Court history. The Court upheld a mandatory flag salute statute that caused Gobitas to be expelled when she refused to comply. The opinion was authored by Felix Frankfurter, who on the Court was sort of the liberal equivalent of Scalia. At times, he seemed to revel in the fact that his opinions would produce bad consequences, even if they contradicted his principles and even if there was pertinent constitutional language that would seem to permit a favorable application.  And in this case, the bad consequences were immediate and severe: Jehovah’s Witnesses were subjected to a wave of not only school expulsions but violence. Fortunately, the Supreme Court quickly corrected its error, with several justices (although not Frankfurter) changing their votes. This produced one of the most famous passages in the United States Reports, from Justice Jackson’s majority opinion:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

Of course, where many contemporary universities are concerned, this needs to be amended with “one exception occurs to us: when unorthodox opinions upset the development office.”

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