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Caldwell Jones, RIP

[ 8 ] September 23, 2014 |

Caldwell Jones has died. Jones was not a great NBA player, but he was an excellent defensive and rebounding center on the 76ers and, more importantly to me, the Trail Blazers teams of the late 80s. For some reason, I still remember watching a Blazers game as a teenager and getting very excited as the offensively challenged Jones got a rebound and took it all the way down the court for a dunk. And while I could do without the “memorial violins Academy Awards death list” obituary music here, the NBA put together a nice highlight reel of this underrated player after his death.

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We’re About Solutions

[ 81 ] September 23, 2014 |


On the September 22 edition of his show, O’Reilly claimed that the only credible plan to defeat the Islamic State had to include a mercenary force of 25,000 “English-speaking” fighters that would be recruited and trained by the United States. O’Reilly explained that his mercenary army would be comprised of “elite fighters who would be well-paid, well-trained to defeat terrorists all over the world.”



And North Korea needs the hard currency… and North Korean soldiers need the food. It’s a match made in heaven!

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Some thoughts on Gotham and its potential

[ 33 ] September 23, 2014 |

So, as noted yesterday, I went on Graphic Policy Radio and discussed the series of premier of Gotham, which you can listen to here:

The more serious discussion concerned how a show whose conclusion is foregone can actually survive — after all, even though Gotham is going to focus, somewhat Wire-like, on the internal conflicts of the police and various criminal organizations, in the end we all know that the situation’s going to deteriorate to the point at which the only answer is a wealthy orphan patrolling the night in a fetish bat outfit.

Still, that leaves room for a good 10 or so seasons of watching the city fall apart, and that could certainly be gratifying, but only if the series creators understand what they have and how to use it. Which brings me to the second David Simon reference in this post, because I think the show’s ceiling could be something like Homicide: Life on the Street.

Consider how that show began, with Tim Bayliss catching the Adena Watson case, and how it haunted him through all six-ish seasons. In a similar fashion, you know the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne are going to haunt Gordon, and you know that he — like Bayliss — is going to form an unhealthy attachment to both the case and those left in its wake. Do I think Gotham is going to reach these heights?

In all likelihood not. But do I think that it has a higher ceiling than most quasi-procedural cop dramas currently on television? I most certainly do.

On a side note, we also established the most appropriate possible context for one of those Internet traditions I started awhile back:


You know — because he is.

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Math And Its Well-Known Liberal Bias

[ 176 ] September 23, 2014 |

The very, very, very Serious Paul Ryan is still going on about the deficit. He’s also proposing massive upper-class tax cuts, and arguing that his budget will somehow the avoid savage cuts to programs to the poor the two policies would make inevitable if we’re supposed to take the initial premise seriously. How can he reconcile this? DYNAMIC SCORING!

Ryan has found himself caught between his career-long obsession with cutting taxes for the rich and the problem of what happens to the revenue that would be lost. During the 2012 campaign, he swept aside the problem by couching his plan as “tax reform,” promising not to cut taxes for the rich. Ryan’s new plan is just to go ahead and cut taxes.

He tells Klein, “Those of us who live in the tax system want to lower everybody’s tax rates.” If you lower everybody’s tax rates, then everybody will be paying less in taxes, and then the government will have less revenue, right? That’s where Ryan’s solution comes in: He plans to press the government budget agencies to adopt the optimistic assumption he prefers, which is that cutting tax rates for the rich creates faster economic growth. Ryan spent much of the Bush years assailing what he called “static scoring,” which is the standard budget practice of measuring the fiscal impact of tax cuts as if they do not contain magic pixie dust.

As Danny Vinick has noticed, Ryan has announced his intention to change the rules. Ryan reaffirmed that plan in his interview with Klein: “I’d like to improve our scorekeeping so it better reflects reality,” he said. “Reality” is Ryan’s description for a world in which Bill Clinton’s punishing tax hikes on the rich hindered the economy, which was restored to health when George W. Bush cut taxes.

If only there was a state that enacted massive upper-class tax cuts, only that because it’s a state it couldn’t just use the George W. Bush approach of just running massive deficits when tax revenues came in under expectations. Then we could see if tax cuts produced so much dynamic economic growth that they actually increased revenue. Sadly, we’ll never know.

In related news, the Republican health care is “nothing but the 2009 status quo ante.”

good Sunflower State roundup from DeLong.

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This Insight Brought To You By Ambien and Tito’s Vodka

[ 22 ] September 23, 2014 |

Shorter Rick Perry: Our state’s new regulations requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of surgical centers in order to shut them down would have prevented Joan Rivers’s death in an licensed ambulatory surgery center.

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Imagine If Those Greedy Players Were Getting Paid!

[ 26 ] September 23, 2014 |

In addition to the comedy, I’d just like to note that (presumably non-premium) Michigan football tickets have a face value of 75 smackers. But don’t kid yourself, when professional owners take money from the players, they’ll totally slash ticket prices, scout’s honor!

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This Day in Labor History: September 23, 1969

[ 19 ] September 23, 2014 |

On September 23, 1969, President Richard Nixon issued the Philadelphia Plan, forcing building trades unions to allow black members into their ranks. Nixon did this believing that it would show him as a strong civil rights president without having to do very much to give in to the more radical demands of the civil rights movement. More importantly to Nixon, he saw it as a way to undercut organized labor, creating a coalition of African-Americans and Republicans against racist unions. Opponents of the new principle of affirmative action immediately sued to kill the new policy, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in its favor in 1971 and the Supreme Court rejected the appeal. Affirmative action was introduced into federal hiring practices for the first time.

A central tenet of the civil rights movement, and an underrated one in the popular memory of the movement, was equality at work. In the 1960s, the construction unions in Philadelphia, as they were nationwide, were almost exclusively white. These were good paying working-class jobs and also bastions of economic discrimination. African-American citizens in Philadelphia began organizing in 1967 to integrate construction work. This organizing eventually led to federal attention. In June 1969, a Nixon advisor announced the plan, including specific numerical goals, to the unions of Philadelphia. On September 23, Nixon made it federal policy through his secretary of labor, George Shultz.

The Philadelphia Plan required that 6 Philadelphia area building trades create numerical “goals” for integrating their locals if they wanted to receive federal contracts. White construction workers around the country opposed this idea. They did so for a variety of reasons. Overt racism drove many, but it’s also important to remember that the building trades had developed traditions of passing jobs down to family members. Setting affirmative action targets meant that for every African-American granted a job, someone’s son or cousin or nephew was not getting a job. They also thought they had worked hard to rise in the world and believed that this was the government letting a special class of people equal them without working. Of course, racism also infused these last two reasons, not to mention the mental gymnastics it took to talk about how you worked so hard to get your job compared to these blacks when it was your dad who secured it for you.

For the building trades therefore, being forced to integrate was seen as a direct attack on the white male enclave they had created. This hard hat anger at the overall tenor of social and cultural change became manifested in the Hard Hat Riot of 1970, an event that unfortunately created a stereotype of unions hating hippies even though this was just a couple of building trades locals in New York. In Pittsburgh and Chicago, construction workers held sizable anti-integration rallies. In the former city, 4000 construction workers rallied when the city government halted all contracts to negotiate with African-Americans demanding integrated work. AFL-CIO head George Meany strongly criticized the plan, siding with his building trades over the civil rights movement that always had a complex relationship with organized labor.

Southerners in Congress immediately attempted to not fund the program. Led by North Carolina senator Sam Ervin and West Virginia senator Robert Byrd, they hoped to kill it in its infancy and stuck a rider onto a bill funding relief for Hurricane Camille to do so. But the order survived after Nixon threatened to hold Congress in session over Christmas to pass the bill. Now, Nixon had little interest in strong enforcement of the plan. He certainly didn’t care about actually integrating these locals. Nixon used the Philadelphia Plan to defend himself when his administration’s civil rights record was attacked, as it often was. Nixon also hoped it would undermine union control over construction labor by creating non-union but integrated competitors to the unions. Many civil rights leaders saw through Nixon’s ploy, claiming he was doing virtually nothing here but to try and split the Democratic Party coalition. This was of course, correct. John Ehrlichman bragged about this very thing. And in fact, Nixon was angry that labor and civil rights groups had teamed up to defeat his nomination of Clement Haynesworth to the Supreme Court and splitting these two groups was a top political priority.

And in fact, real progress in desegregating construction work was very slow, in no small part because Nixon did virtually nothing to push the integration of construction after the Philadelphia Plan’s approval. In 1971, Nixon advisor Chuck Colson successfully weakened the plan’s enforcement and by this point, Nixon himself had no interest in the subject in the face of his coming reelection campaign and domestic political concerns about inflation. By 1971, Nixon realized the real political power was in white resentment, not civil rights. and that ended his interest in pursuing the implementation of the Philadelphia Plan. This move allowed many building trades and other conservative unions to support Nixon in 1972, with the AFL-CIO withholding support for George McGovern. Much had changed in three years.

When the courts did enforce integration, white workers hazed black workers and just refused to work with them. With this level of resistance, the federal government turned more toward voluntary desegregation programs without enforcement. Ultimately, the political will was not there to create widespread integration of the building trades. Yet the Philadelphia Plan did advance affirmative action as federal policy and so I guess Nixon deserves a certain amount of credit for this, even if he did it for crass political reasons. It brought the principle of specific numerical goals into affirmative action, the dreaded “quotas” conservatives of the 90s loved to talk about as they were largely rolling them back through the courts.

I drew on a number of historical works for this post, including Joshua Freeman’s article “Hardhats: Construction Workers, Manliness, and the 1970 Pro-War Demonstrations,” from the Summer 1993 issue of the Journal of Social History, Kevin Yuill’s Richard Nixon and the Rise of Affirmative Action, Dean Kotlowski’s Nixon’s Civil Rights: Politics, Principle, and Policy, and Trevor Griffey’s “‘The Blacks Should Not Be Administering the Philadelphia Plan’: Nixon, the Hard Hats, and ‘Voluntary’ Affirmative Action,” in Goldberg and Griffey, ed., Black Power at Work: Community Control, Affirmative Action, and the Construction Industry.

This is the 119th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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[ 162 ] September 22, 2014 |

So now we’re bombing Syria, in a way we never imagined we might be bombing Syria!

Oh, how the world turns. I realize that I should have a stronger opinion on all of this, both on political and professional grounds. I suppose on both the campaign leaves me feeling cold; it should be fairly clear by this point that there is always the potential for someone worse than the people we’ve decided to bomb at a given moment. I’m also deeply skeptical that either the Kurds, the FSA, the Syrian Army, or the Iraqi Army will be able to take advantage of the airstrikes to do anything very useful against ISIS, although the attrition factor will probably wear on the group over time.

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First Rule of Witch Club: You Must Have Fabulous Hair

[ 78 ] September 22, 2014 |

There are very few occasions when I have a sizable chunk of time to myself these days. When I do, I sometimes take the opportunity to binge-watch a show that’s captured my attention. Yesterday I finally got to delve into the second season of ” Witches of East End.”  I’m proud to have season one under my belt!

Anyway, here’s the scoop: “Witches of East End” is a treat. A very frothy, light, sweet treat. It’s got just enough thrills and laughs to keep it from veering into daytime drama territory and the acting is good enough to elevate the stories and characters (which may seem familiar but not annoyingly cliched).

Want to get a handle on what the show is like? Think “True Blood” but without the horribly muddled politics, a prettier cast, a prettier locale, less intense sex and less blood spatter. The setting is gorgeous (set in an idyllic Northeastern coastal town, filming was done in Wilmington, NC and Vancouver, British Columbia) and the set design is nothing less than sublime; I’m completely obsessed with the witches’ enormous, artfully-cluttered Victorian home.

“Witches of East End” is about two young women who find out they’re part of a family of witches. When their devil-may-care aunt arrives and shapeshifter begins terrorizing their mother their lives are completely upended. Add in some scandalous past lives and a love triangle that’s not exactly what it seems (although I guessed from the start what was up because I am the smartest person in the universe) and I think we all know what’s going to ensue. If you guessed “kookiness” you are correct and get a year’s supply of anal lube and this basin of male tears I’ve been collecting for the past week.

Reading fan comments, I wanted to riff on the show’s most controversial elements:

Joanna (mom witch): Julia Ormond’s not-quite-American accent takes serious getting used to but I think she brings a gravitas to the role that is very appropriate for a character that’s supposed to be at once nurturing and extraordinarily powerful. In the end, I really really enjoy her in the role.

Freya (hot, booby, love-triangle Daughter): Apparently some fans find her “woe is me I’m torn between two amazing lovers” shtick really grating, but I think Jenna Dewan Channing is so incredibly winning in the role, I don’t mind her at all. In fact, I kinda love her. She’s perfect in the as the beautiful,  open-hearted wild child.

Aunt Wendy (cool, crazy aunt you will never be so don’t even try witch): Surprise! Wendy was created by the show’s creators; she was not a part of  inspirational books. Surprise two! EVERYBODY likes Aunt Wendy. And why wouldn’t you?–SHE’S. AWESOME. Madchen Amick took the role and ran with it–she’s having so much fun, you can just tell.

The Infamous Love Triangle: *Sigh* So many feels. I give the author/writer props for making the “nice guy” in the triangle something other than the boring guy who’s face we’re supposed to stomp on on our way to the dangerous “bad boy.” Dash Gardiner is not just the “good guy,” he’s genuinely good. (But maybe not as good as we thought he was. SO MANY FEELS!) Problem is the writers did such a good job driving home the idea that Dash is handsome, successful, loving and kind (at least to his fiancé, Freya) that he is now more compelling than his brother, the “bad boy.” And then there’s the fact that the bad boy, Killian, simply doesn’t register as that bad to me. He’s not brooding enough, he’s not tortured enough. He’s good-looking, sure. I like his looks more than Dash’s. But I just like Dash better. I know there’s more to the story–who knows?…maybe Dash is the end game. But right now the writers are making it pretty clear Freya and Killian are star-crossed lovers, destined to be together in the end. It’s for that reason I wish I liked Killian more or liked Dash a whole lot less. Right now I am very much TEAM DASH and I’m pretty sure that’s not the winning team. That being said, I very much look forward to seeing what’s in store for the character. (And every other character.)

So here’s to season two. Won’t you watch with me?


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Alinsky! Alinsky! Alinsky!

[ 78 ] September 22, 2014 |

[Relevant background.]

Stanley Kurtz is excited about the Hillary Clinton/SAUL ALINSKY connection, and did I mention that it involved Saul Alinsky?

Alinsky’s original quarrel with the young radicals of the 1960s, which Hillary alludes to in her letter, was over the New Left’s tendency to make noise rather than get things done. Working effectively, Alinsky believed, requires ideological stealth, gradualism, and pragmatic cover. In his day, Alinsky took hits from more openly leftist ideologues for his incrementalist caution, as Obama and Hillary do now. Yet he was no more a centrist than his two most famous acolytes are today.


During her time in Arkansas, Hillary may seem to have moved to the center. The Rose law firm, after all, was nothing like Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein. It was an establishment law firm representing the most powerful economic interests in the state. With the help of Dick Morris, moreover, Hillary took on the Arkansas teachers’ unions from the right as she led Bill’s education initiative during his final governorship. In retrospect, all of this was largely pragmatic positioning. When Hillary finally got to the White House and assumed the co-presidency, she veered sharply back to the left on a whole range of issues, especially Hillarycare.

The same pattern will repeat itself should Hillary be elected president. Hillary has never abandoned her early leftist inclinations. She has merely done her best to suppress the evidence of her political past, from barring public access to her thesis on Alinsky during her time in the White House, to papering over the significance of her internship at Treuhaft, Walker, and Burnstein, to pretending that she turned away from Alinsky after her undergraduate years, when in fact she brought his methods and outlook into the heart of her political work. Her strategic preference for polarization and targeting enemies is well documented from her time in the White House, even, or especially, by sympathetic writers such as Bernstein.

Let’s leave aside the ridiculous idea that Hillary Clinton has some kind of revolutionary goals. Even according to Kurtz’s own analysis, it doesn’t matter. If you’re committed to incrementalism and pragmatism, whether you end goal is moderate liberalism or the public ownership of the means of production, you will govern as a moderate liberal and sometimes to the right of that. Like, er, Barack Obama. But, in conclusion, ALINSKY!

Kilgore has more.

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SEK on Graphic Policy Radio tonight! Call in and heckle him! Tweet mean stuff!

[ 20 ] September 22, 2014 |

I’ll be on Graphic Policy Radio again tonight discussing Fox’s new Batman-related show Gotham. The show begins at 10 p.m. EST and you’re more than welcome to call in, tweet at me, or drop me a line on Facebook if you have something you’d like to add to the program — or if you’d just like heckle or berate me. The choice is yours!

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[ 32 ] September 22, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest takes a look at the Chinese DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile:

The DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) has generated a tremendous amount of interest over the past five years. If it works, it poses a very serious threat to U.S. Navy (USN) carriers, as well as to the other advanced warships of the USN, of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, and others.

This is an expansion and revision of an old LGM post.

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