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Chantal Akerman

[ 5 ] October 6, 2015 |


More here.


Finally, Someone With the Courage and Originality to Write About New York City in the 70s

[ 99 ] October 6, 2015 |


City on Fire, or “We Didn’t Start the Fire?”

For all I know, Hallberg’s novel is a towering masterpiece of American letters that is being ill-served by the people fawning over it. But the “finally somebody willing to discuss that most underdiscussed era and locale, gritty New York City in the 70s when men were men and artists were artists and muggers were muggers and Times Square had porno theaters and subway cars had graffiti” vibe of the reviews makes my bullshit detector go to about 50. (What potential reader of the book doesn’t know the things about the city in the 70s that Kakutani cites as examples of Hallberg’s attention to period detail?)

Sometimes a bit of police brutality might be nice

[ 106 ] October 6, 2015 |

The specimen in this nine-minute video is Luke Gatti. He seems to have a little too much to drink Sunday night. In the world of the cyber-panopticon, that can make you famous:

The blog entry below is slightly more than a year old, so props to our aspiring scholar for not getting arrested again for 54 weeks:

Apparently Phillips Street, alcohol, Luke Gatti and late night weekends, make for a bad combination. Perhaps because he’s only 18-years-old, but still no excuse for such outlandish behavior.

Arrested two weeks ago on Phillips Street for disorderly conduct (which included calling a detective the N-word), this time around Mr. Gatti seemed to go out of his way to get arrested yet again on that same notorious street, and when taken back to the police station, assaulted an officer.

With his father looking on, Luke Gatti was arraigned this morning before Judge John Payne who set bail at $250, taken out of the $1,000 bail posted over the weekend to get out of jail.

Noting the arrest only two weeks ago Judge Payne said to Gatti, “I’m a little concerned you’re going to pull a trifecta before the month is over.”

Gatti will appear in Eastern Hampshire District Court with his hired lawyer on October 15 for a pre-trial conference.

Unless of course, in the meantime, he gets arrested again.

So, You’re Offering George W. Bush With More Tax Cuts?

[ 93 ] October 6, 2015 |


Rubio’s answer to the question of whether he disagrees with Romney or G. W. Bush about anything is indeed priceless:

Well, we’re in a different era. For example, my policies are about taking free enterprise and limited government, but applying them to the unique challenges of the 21st century. So you’ll hear me spend a tremendous amount of time talking about higher-education reform. Our higher-education model is outdated. And I proposed concrete bipartisan ideas about how to fix some of those things. We’re in an era now of increased global competition where America no longer can put in place policies because we think ideologically it’s a good or bad idea. The fundamental question is does it make us competitive again. And on many of those issues, I’ve offered solutions and ideas that no Republican’s ever talked about before because they were not part of the 20th century debate.

I’ll take these words next to each other as a “no.” In addition, I will observe that there’s a long history of both politicians and pundits using the march of time as a substitute for an argument. My favorite example of this is Joe Klein’s assertion that while Social Security was fine for the “industrial age” we need private accounts for the “information age.” So, work is becoming less stable and less likely to offer pension benefits, so we need public pensions…less? What? Somehow, it makes even less sense than Rubio’s “to respond to the unique challenges of the 21st century, we need the upper-class tax cuts and wars Republicans brought to the 20th and all previous years of the 21st century.”

Guns, Slavery, and America’s Permanent White Wingnuttery

[ 148 ] October 6, 2015 |


Conservatives, including the conservative I ended up across the table from last weekend who I told that I wanted the government to invade his home and take his guns, love to say that their ability to have 8000 high-powered guns was the direct intent of James Madison. To say the reality is a wee bit more complicated is a huge understatement. The supposed iron-clad judicial approval of unlimited gun control is only true if you take the decisions of pro-slavery southern judges as your guide. If you consider what is happening in the antebellum north, it’s a different story.

The slave South’s enthusiasm for public carry influenced its legal culture. During the antebellum years, many viewed carrying a concealed weapon as dastardly and dishonorable—a striking contrast with the values of the modern gun-rights movement. In an 1850 opinion, the Louisiana Supreme Court explained that carrying a concealed weapon gave men “secret advantages” and led to “unmanly assassinations,” while open carry “place[d] men upon an equality” and “incite[d] men to a manly and noble defence of themselves.” Some Southern legislatures, accordingly, passed laws permitting open carry but punishing concealment. Southern courts followed their lead, proclaiming a robust right to open carry, but opposing concealed carry, which they deemed unmanly and not constitutionally protected. It is this family of Southern cases that gun-rights advocates would like modern courts to rely on to strike down popularly enacted gun regulations today.

But no similar record of court cases exists for the pre-Civil War North. New research produced in response to Heller has revealed a history of gun regulation outside the South that has gone largely unexplored by judges and legal scholars writing about the Second Amendment during the last 30 years. This history reveals strong support for strict regulation of carrying arms in public.

In the North, publicly carrying concealable weapons was much less popular than in the South. In 1845, New York jurist William Jay contrasted “those portions of our country where it is supposed essential to personal safety to go armed with pistols and bowie-knives” with the “north and east, where we are unprovided with such facilities for taking life.” Indeed, public-carry restrictions were embraced across the region. In 1836, the respected Massachusetts jurist Peter Oxenbridge Thacher instructed a jury that in Massachusetts “no person may go armed with a dirk, dagger, sword, pistol, or other offensive and dangerous weapon, without reasonable cause to apprehend an assault or violence to his person, family, or property.” Judge Thacher’s charge was celebrated in the contemporary press as “sensible,” “practical,” and “sage.” Massachusetts was not unusual in broadly restricting public carry. Wisconsin, Maine, Michigan, Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania passed laws modeled on the public-carry restriction in Massachusetts.

But then having unlimited access to guns has always been the goal of conservative white men. And this brings us to Douglas County, Oregon sheriff John Hanlin, who has come under a lot of criticism for his own embrace of extremist gun culture now that his county was the site of a mass murder.

John Hanlin, the sheriff of Douglas County who has been in charge of the police response and investigation of Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, has fallen under media scrutiny because he’s left an eyebrow-raising trail of gun nuttery that shades into conspiracy theorist territory. His past behavior calls into question not just his own office’s ability to handle this case responsibly, but tells us a lot about why it’s so hard to even begin to have a reasonable conversation about guns in this country, much less move towards sensible policies to reduce gun violence.

Conservatives aren’t lying when they say they need guns to feel protected. But it’s increasingly clear that they aren’t seeking protection from crime or even from the mythical jackbooted government goons come to kick in your door. No, the real threat is existential. Guns are a totemic shield against the fear that they are losing dominance as the country becomes more liberal and diverse and, well, modern. For liberals, the discussion about guns is about public health and crime prevention. For conservatives, hanging onto guns is a way to symbolically hang onto the cultural dominance they feel slipping from their hands.

This comes across clearly in the letter that Hanlin wrote to Vice President Joe Biden in 2013 where he asked that the administration “NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment” and where he threatened ominously, “any federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the president offending the constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County Oregon.”

Despite all the attempts at formal, legalistic language, Hanlin is clearly writing more in a mythical vein than he is actually addressing any real world policy concerns. His absolutist language about the 2nd amendment ignores the fact that there are already federal and state regulations on guns and who can buy them. More disturbingly, his posturing about open rebellion against the federal government evokes the conspiracy theory-mindset of the hard right, the kind of paranoid hysteria about federal power that led to so much violence during the Clinton administration, from shootouts at Waco and Ruby Ridge to the federal building bombing in Oklahoma City. This is not a letter from someone soberly assessing the pros and cons of proposed regulations on firearms. This is the letter of someone wrapped up in childish fantasies of revolution.

But then this plays so well in Douglas County. The county just south of my hometown is still recovering from the end of the timber industry and the cultural changes that have transformed Oregon in the last 30 years. A place like Douglas County, rural, poor, and white, feels threatened by a secular America, one with a scary black man with a scary name from a scary city as president. With the gays marrying and the women running around, and the libtards in Eugene ruining their resource exploitation state, everything is threatening. Everything. The America they dreamed once existed is no more. And they don’t know what to do. So they arm themselves and kill each other. And this scenario is played out over and over again around the nation, such as Tennessee Attorney General Ron Ramsey urging Christians to arm themselves against the impending atheist-led apocalypse. With white male hegemony under supposed threat from so many places, even as white men still control most of the levers of society, only putting down the strange new people with guns will make them feel remotely safe. But of course they will just put down each other.

Oregon’s White History Uniforms

[ 89 ] October 6, 2015 |


Oregon loves its white heritage. As a native, I’ll be honest, Oregon history is really boring. It missed out on most of the interesting flash points of US West history. It lacked almost all of the Old West violence that people love. There were no major wars with Native Americans. There was almost no mining, especially compared to every other state. It experienced relatively little transformation during World War II, especially as its major World War II city was wiped out by a flood soon after the war. So what Oregon as its central mythology is logging, which is controversial enough in an environmentalist-oriented state with an embittered pro-logging minority that is too recent to embrace, and its pioneer history. That is pretty boring to tell you truth. It’s a bunch of conservative white people moving from Ohio and Indiana and starting farms in the Willamette Valley. And that’s pretty much it. But at the beginning of that is the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Oregon loves it some Lewis and Clark. It’s kind of unclear why. It’s an exciting story in a sense. But it’s also a story that is central to American conquest. Yes, the expedition was relatively nonviolent toward Native Americans. But there’s no question what this was about–Clark’s brother George Rogers Clark was an architect of the late 18th century Indian conquest and William came from the same cloth. And that this is so central to Oregon historical mythology makes sense in how the state is so white. Portland has become the nation’s white paradise, but it kind of always was, with the original Oregon constitution banning African-Americans from the state and with the state never developing a large African-American population.

And then there are the Oregon uniforms. Largely, I love them, even the ugly ones, because I want the Ducks to win, as challenging as that has been with the atrocious quarterbacks of the 2015 edition. They help Oregon win because the kids love crazy uniforms. So it really helps a team in a state with a big zero of high school talent to recruit quality players. They keep coming up with new ideas. And on Saturday, Oregon will be wearing Lewis and Clark uniforms. I have trouble with this because it’s another example of Oregonians embracing a white supremacist history as its core mythology. I can’t be comfortable with this. No, it’s probably not the equivalent of Mississippi fans bringing Confederate flags to games. But then we still downplay racism toward Native Americans in American culture, even on the left, as we often forget about them when thinking about racism in the present. Lewis and Clark uniforms are uniforms celebrating American conquest. That’s not cool. Not at all.

Maybe I’m taking this too seriously. But the politics of history matter and so much of American history is based upon exclusion and white supremacy. That includes the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Supreme Court History: THE MOVIE

[ 20 ] October 6, 2015 |

As both an educator and quasi-journalist whose specialty is judicial politics, this looks potentially useful. I will be upset, however, if the films do not involve a lot of historical re-enactments.

Brilliant filmmaking, even if it lets Marshall off the hook for showing insufficient deference to the equal sovereign dignitude of the states. Now pipe down or I’ll CLAMP YOU IN IRONS.

Diapers and Poverty

[ 71 ] October 5, 2015 |

It’s great that San Francisco is developing the nation’s first government-run diaper bank for poor families. It’s totally ridiculous that this is not a national program or that we don’t see diapers as a human right for children.

Government benefits have extremely restrictive spending rules that can place challenging limitations on beneficiaries. Diapers are classified like cigarettes under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as “food stamps”), one of the primary resources for low-income families in the United States. While cash benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can be used at the beneficiary’s discretion, most families sink those resources into housing and other critical needs — like menstruation supplies, which are also not covered by SNAP. That leaves them struggling to afford diapers, especially when paychecks have dwindled down at the end of the month.

5.3 million children in the United States live in poverty, and 33 percent of families report “diaper need,” a shortage of diapers at some point during the year. Toddlers typically need approximately eight diapers daily, while infants can require 12 or more. That’s a lot of diapers, and for many low-income people, predatory merchants overcharge them, knowing that diaper purchases are a critical life necessity. Corner stores and other establishments in low-income neighborhoods, already famous for inflated prices, charge $0.50 or more per diaper, in comparison with prices much lower than that at discount and warehouse stores which low-income families can’t access because they may be out of reach of public transit or inconvenient to get to — or it may be too hard to bring supplies back along a meandering assortment of public transit transfers. Affording an economy pack can also be a barrier, as it may not be possible to spend a large amount of money all at once even with a per-diaper cost savings.

Leaving children in wet diapers comes with health risks like rashes, inflammation and infection. A dry baby is a happy baby not just because wet diapers are uncomfortable, but because they’re dangerous, and many low-income parents are forced to watch their children suffer because they can’t change their diapers often enough. San Francisco’s diaper bank aims to change that, sinking nearly $500,000 annually into diaper assistance for parents who are already on CalWORKS, the state’s welfare program. Parents can show up to distribution centers to request diapers in a range of sizes for their children.

You’d think that anti-abortion activists would rally around this and promote this as a national policy. They care about babies, right? Oh yeah, actual human babies they don’t care about at all. Instead, it’s those heathen atheists in hippie California who are doing something for real life humans.

The End of Many Errors

[ 108 ] October 5, 2015 |

Matt Williams

Hmm, who was the most incompetent coach/manager fired today? Well, we can start with Matt Williams. I’m very disappointed. I was looking forward to the inevitable incident next year in which Williams asked Bryce Harper to bunt a runner from second to third with one out on a 3-0 count, popped it up, was stabbed three times in the dugout by Jon Papelbon for NOT PLAYING THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY, Papelbon was arrested after being sent in to pitch the next inning, and Lee Judge argues that while of course Harper deserved the stabbing it should have been done in the clubhouse by Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals were probably right to keep Rizzo, although his decision to hire Williams in the first place was foolish.* Meanwhile, enjoy this article about the Nationals unraveling, and this recounting some of Williams’s greatest hits.

But how about we also give it up for Mr. Joe Philbin? (I also urge Ryan Tannehill to record “ENJOY YOUR PRACTICE SQUAD PAYCHECK!” as a ringtone.) With the Rams yesterday assisting in making my assessment of the NFC West look a little less stupid, I should acknowledge that my picking the Dolphins second in the division was really dumb at the time. I of all people should have realized that the team was not going to realize its potential with a coach inexplicably kept after two straight years of underachievement. And while Philbin didn’t deserve to keep his job, if you aren’t committed enough to a coach to keep him after a bad 4-game start you shouldn’t have let him start the year.

While we’re discussing AFC East coaching, it really looks like the Jets made a good hire with Bowles. Getting Rex Ryan’s defensive mind without the ludicrous number of stupid penalties is a coup.

*I’m sure that, say, Willie Randolph and Dusty Baker would be thrilled to read about the “process” that led to the hiring of a completely unqualified candidate. “Well, I knew him in Arizona and he seemed very gritty and hardnosed.”

Kasich’s War on Ohio Minorities

[ 39 ] October 5, 2015 |


Much like voter ID laws have little to nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with stopping black people from voting, so is the anti-welfare movement about stopping black and brown people from receiving government monies, while preserving it for whites when possible. In 1996, John Kasich voted for a bill in Congress that limited food stamps for childless adults. But he also pushed for an amendment to it that would allow states flexibility to do with high unemployment areas. Today, as Ohio governor, Kasich is using that amendment to grant food stamps to whites while denying them to blacks.

In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich’s first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state’s 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.

The decision would result in a drastic downsizing of food aid in the state, but the administration moved with surprising speed given the enormity of the impact. “It was really fast,” says Kate McGarvey, deputy director of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. In August 2013, she says, the legal services community had heard that Ohio qualified for a statewide waiver, and was setting up meetings with the ODJFS to discuss how the state might proceed. “Within a week or two, we were told, ‘It’s going to be a partial waiver, it’s already been submitted, it’s done,'” McGarvey says. “No advocates that I know of were given a chance to give feedback on the wisdom of the partial waiver.”

The policy went into effect in October 2013. By January—the three-month mark where those without waivers began losing their food stamps if they couldn’t meet the work requirement—it had become clear that the policy had spawned a stark racial disparity in food aid. Across the 16 counties the state had selected for waivers, about 94 percent of food stamp recipients were white. Overall in Ohio in December 2013—immediately before the new policy’s effects began to surface—food stamp recipients were 65 percent white.

By March 2014, six months into the new system, the six counties with the highest rate of terminating food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults were all counties populated mostly by minorities.

This of course will be seen as a positive by Republican primary voters. Whether or not Kasich and his people intended this to discriminate is not known. But they do know it currently discriminates and have done nothing to alleviate that.


[ 24 ] October 5, 2015 |


It took a bit longer than expected and there were a few more “oh, this issue over rice imports could blow up the whole thing” stories than I thought, but the 12 nations involved came to an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This deal is awful for American workers and gives a great deal more power to pharmaceutical companies to extend their monopolies on drugs. It greatly expands the Investor State Dispute Settlement courts that give companies tremendous power to derail national law that would promote labor or environmental standards. It accedes to the Malaysian use of slave labor. Supposedly, the TPP was supposed to help leverage U.S. power in Asia against the Chinese, but this never made any sense on the face it and the Chinese themselves are interested in joining.

We still don’t know exactly what’s in the TPP and the full text won’t be available for at least a month. We know that Obama says there are protections for labor and environmental standards that were not in NAFTA and other trade agreements. But that there were no seats at the table for labor or environmentalists, I am extremely skeptical they will be meaningful except at providing cover for the agreement as a whole.

There is almost no way this does not pass Congress. It may however be delayed unless Obama can push it through quickly. Hopefully, Bernie Sanders will make a big deal of this in the primaries and force Hillary Clinton to say she opposes it, which she does not in her heart. But making her say it at least could delay its implementation.

Along with education policy, trade has been the biggest policy demerit of the Obama administration.

A sad day.


[ 38 ] October 5, 2015 |

[At least it’s an excuse to post this again]

A man who will not be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 barring force majeure may or may not announce a decision about whether or not he will run for president. Keep it tuned RIGHT HERE for more on this important story.

We’ve won the morning now, right?

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