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How to Throw a Case

[ 57 ] December 20, 2014 |

Bob McCulloch is the master.

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Presenting Guest Op-Ed Writer Samuel Beckett

[ 37 ] December 20, 2014 |

Shorter Fred Hiatt: “China and Vietnam prove that normalization of relations does not necessarily guarantee freedom. Therefore, we should maintain the embargo of Cuba, which has a superb 50-year track record of promoting freedom, with plenty of unnecessary impoverishment as a side benefit.”

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A Critical Presidency

[ 133 ] December 20, 2014 |

Ygelsias is correct here:

On November 26, the Obama administration put forward new anti-smog regulations that should prevent thousands of premature deaths and heart attacks every year. About two weeks later, Obama’s appointees at the Federal Reserve implemented new rules curbing reckless borrowing by giant banks that will reduce profits and shareholder earnings but increase the safety of the financial system. Yet both of these were minor stories compared to normalizing relations with Cuba after decades and his sweeping plan to protect millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Somewhere in the meantime, Democrats broke the congressional logjam and got a whole boatload of nominees confirmed.

It has been, in short, a very busy and extremely consequential lame-duck session. One whose significance is made all the more striking by the fact that it follows an electoral catastrophe for Obama’s party. And that is the Obama era in a microcosm. Democrats’ overwhelming electoral win in 2008 did not prove to be a “realigning” election that handed the party enduring political dominance. Quite the opposite. But it did touch off a wave of domestic policymaking whose scale makes Obama a major historical figure in the way his two predecessors won’t be.

[…]

In an excellent November 26 article, Coral Davenport observed that Obama will likely “leave office with the most aggressive, far-reaching environmental legacy of any occupant of the White House” even though “it is very possible that not a single major environmental law will have passed during his two terms in Washington.” The Clean Air Act of 1970 simply turns out to be a very powerful tool crafted by very ambitious legislators, who wanted to make sure future administrations would be able to address not-yet-foreseen environmental problems. He’s used that law to issue a “series of landmark regulations on air pollution, from soot to smog, to mercury and planet-warming carbon dioxide.”

In his second term, Obama has also managed to get a record number of judges confirmed thanks to Democrats’ use of the nuclear option to reduce filibustering. When Obama took office, 10 of the 13 appeals courts had Republican majorities — today only four do

As I’ve said before, the only two presidents who can even arguably been said to have presided over a more substantial body of progressive policy-making in the last century are FDR and LBJ, and both did so in significantly more favorable contexts.

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Stringer Bond

[ 45 ] December 19, 2014 |

If North Korea hacking Sony e-mails actually leads to Idris Elba playing James Bond, it will be that country’s greatest gift to humanity.

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Bowl! Miasma?

[ 7 ] December 19, 2014 |

Last day to register for the LGM Bowl Mania league…

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

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Worst. Letter. To. Penthouse Forum. Ever.

[ 70 ] December 19, 2014 |

Yikes, Paul Berman writes terrible porn:

I think that anyone who sits down to read the Wieseltier decades of critical reviews in The New Republic will notice that at some mysterious philosophical level a great many of those hundreds of essays seem to cohere. It is not because they display a particular ideological bent or follow a political line. Something deeper is at work, which I do not know how to describe. (It is a task for a philosopher-historian.) I note a nearly uniform predisposition against the doctrines of determinism, whether they be scientific or economic or identity-political. There has always been, in any case, an intellectual ardor, as if the entire “back of the book” were asmolder with passion—a passion for the creative labors of certain species of writers and artists and thinkers. For the uncorruptible ones, for the ones-of-a-kind, for the people who are allergic to fads and factions and the stratagems of self-advancement. Perhaps the entire section has been animated by the belief, keen and insistent and unstated, that humanity’s fate lies in the hands of those people. This is not the sort of belief that researchers will declare one day to be scientifically confirmed. But it has the advantage of generating a hot-blooded criticism—occasionally cruel or trigger-happy, but always intense, which means thrilling.

Look, I think the New Republic circa 2014 was a very fine magazine, and I’ve also said many times that Wieseltier’s back-of-the-book was generally good and useful even when the political content of the magazine was dubious-to-actively-pernicious. But this kind of purple-prosed overselling of its virtues tempts me to join with the critics happy to celebrate at the funeral. It was a well-edited book review section that good work out of a lot of good writers and critics, as well as its share of misfires (it was TNR that briefly loosed Lee Siegel on to the wider world, let us remember.) That’s far from a negligible virtue, but let’s calm down with the “asmolder with passion” and “intellectual ardor” and “ones-of-a-kind,” shall we?

Or perhaps I should have started with “humanity’s fate lies in the hands of those people” instead, because it reminds us how and why Berman permanently destroyed his reputation by falling for one of the most transparent and destructive cons in known human history. For public intellectuals like Berman and Hitchens and Ignatieff support for the Iraq catastrophe was above all a form of self-aggrandizement; as FDR and Churchill Bush and Blair were saving us from the new Nazis overruling Europe, the hacks that supported them believed themselves to be the new Orwells. As it turns out, a strong belief that the fate of the world rests in your hands tends to be highly inconsistent with clear thinking, with ghastly results.

And then there’s this:

There is also the fact that, if you were to print out a roster of critics who contributed notable essays over the years to The New Republic’s back of the book, the roster would differ significantly from what you may have been led to expect by the accusations of racial or male exclusivity that have just now been tossed at the magazine. But discoveries and diversities do not sum up the achievement.

The first thing you’ll note is that this rebuttal to serious charges about a lack of diversity remains at the level of a bare assertion; he can’t even be bothered to rustle up some random examples. (In terms of brilliant stuff TNR’s culture section has published by women, I can give him a head start: try Adelle Waldman on Revolutionary Road, Ruth Franklin on Freedom, Martha Nussbaum on Harvey Mansfield, Deborah Friedell on Neal Stephenson.) But this is an empirical question, and as it happens in 2013 4 out of 59 bylines in the book review were female, in 2012 it was 9 out of 88, and in 2011 it was 11 out 82. This stands out even among the dismal standards of the industry — the gender diversity of the TNR back-of-the-book was terrible and actually getting worse, although Franklin has been one of the writers most responsible for bringing attention to the problem. And if the book review has a better record than the front-of-the-book in terms of racial diversity, that would be because it would be nearly impossible to be worse. Berman’s casual hand-waving away of the problem illustrates why it persists.

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Wearing Gay History

[ 5 ] December 19, 2014 |

Super cool online archive of historical gay themed t-shirts from Indiana. Well worth exploring, even if it is overwhelmingly male.

Additional commentary here.

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Coastal Cities and Climate Change

[ 50 ] December 19, 2014 |

Norfolk residents are trying to adapt to climate change by raising their houses to protect them from increasingly frequent floods. The problem is that it’s really expensive to do this, a lot of people in Norfolk are poor, and they can’t afford it. Meanwhile, because people buying homes and especially insurance agencies have to make real world decisions and thus aren’t going to be persuaded by James Inhofe spewing climate denialism, these low-lying homes are really hard to sell and insurance rates on them are skyrocketing. This is what substitutes for real climate change planning from government.

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Work in the Walmart Economy

[ 44 ] December 19, 2014 |

This is why unionizing Walmart is so important and why just ballot measures for the minimum wage isn’t enough to improve the lives of workers. Unions are about dignity and power on the job, which is why companies hate them. Because those companies want to make pregnant women work with chemicals and then fire them when they complain:

Candis Riggins says that she isn’t the only pregnant worker who was discriminated against by Wal-Mart. And despite having a policy stating it will make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers, Riggins alleges that Wal-Mart made it virtually impossible for her to safely work through her pregnancy.

“I made it clear to my supervisors that I wanted to keep working and that I could do several other jobs well,” Riggins said this week in a statement. “I just needed to keep away from the chemicals, but Wal-Mart said, ‘No,’ even though I know they gave light duty to a coworker of mine when he hurt his back. Finally, I was forced to choose between a healthy pregnancy and my paycheck. No pregnant worker should have to make that decision.”

In the claim, Riggins states that the chemicals she was forced to work with while cleaning bathrooms at the store made her ill, and that bending over for hours at a time caused her severe back pain. The pain became so intolerable that she went to see a doctor, who recommended lighter duty during the rest of her pregnancy. When she went to her supervisor with this information, she was moved to mopping and sweeping the store, work she said still exacerbated her back pain and involved chemicals that made her ill.

Finally, she was moved to be a greeter at the door. But the time on her feet, at least 8 hours, according to the claim, was still hard on her, so she asked if she could sit on a stool. She was told she could not sit, despite other workers with injuries being allowed to sit while greeting customers. According to the claim, “Wal-Mart has engaged in a pattern or practice of gender discrimination against female sales associates and in policies or practices that have a disparate impact against women.”

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Hack Republican Judge of the Day

[ 16 ] December 19, 2014 |

Arthur Schwab.

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Eastern Airlines

[ 30 ] December 18, 2014 |

Discuss.

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Thatcherism

[ 133 ] December 18, 2014 |

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The leaders of Thatcher-era Great Britain were really marked by high personal moral standards:

London police say they believe a claim made by a man named only as “Nick,” who alleges he saw a Conservative member of Parliament kill a boy at a child sex party in the 1980s, The Guardian reports.

Nick, whose real identity is being withheld by police and the media, previously told the Exaro news site that when he was a boy he was taken to child sex parties in the 1980s. He watched a boy being strangled to death in front of him by the unnamed MP. On another occasion, he says he saw another boy killed while a Conservative cabinet member looked on. A third boy is also alleged to have been killed by the Westminster pedophile ring that included senior political figures in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

Even better:

Jackie Malton, a former detective sergeant who investigated the death of eight-year-old Vishal Mehrotra in 1981, has told The Telegraph she believes the crime may have been covered up to protect senior Westminster political figures. In that case, the father of Vishal Mehrotra has claimed that he passed to the police a tape recording of a phone call he received after his eight-year-old son was killed in which a male prostitute said the boy might have been abducted and murdered near the notorious Elm Guest House, a building nearby where Vishal went missing. Elm Guest House had been the focus of a police investigation into whether it was a base for child abusers.

An inquiry into the disappearance of a dossier that named alleged pedophile MPs has already proved inconclusive. In 1983, Leon Brittan, the former home secretary and member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, was handed a 40-page dossier naming eight senior civil servants and politicians who were allegedly involved in a secret ring of pedophiles. And then the dossier … vanished.

Thatcherism–a government rotten to its very core.

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