Subscribe via RSS Feed

Talking Jessica Jones with Graphic Policy Radio

[ 80 ] November 23, 2015 |

As part of my ongoing mission to talk about the politics of the Marvel Universe whenever possible, I did a guest appearance on Graphic Policy‘s podcast (a fine production which you should all be following) to talk about Netflix’s new Jessica Jones show. For those of you who haven’t binged on the entire thing, don’t worry, each episode only covers one episode – on this initial outing, we’re discussing the pilot, “AKA Ladies Night.”


America’s Got Fascists: This fall’s hit reality TV show (now also known as “reality”)

[ 86 ] November 23, 2015 |


Scott notes that yesterday Donald Trump appropriated a fake graphic created by a neo-Nazi, who had made up some wildly false crime statistics for the purpose of racist fear-mongering.

It was a busy weekend for Trump. On Saturday at a Birmingham, Alabama, rally some of his supporters beat up a black protester, and Trump suggested the victim was only getting what he deserved. He also had this to say:

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

Yesterday, he doubled down on this claim on ABC’s This Week:

There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George [Stephanopoulos]. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.

In response to this toxic nonsense, Stephanopoulous politely demurred, merely noting that “the police say it didn’t happen.” (The relevant exchange takes place between 6:45 and 7:32 here).

Notice that even the Snopes takedown linked above tries to rationalize Trump’s behavior somewhat, by noting that people often think they remember seeing things that didn’t actually happen. (That’s true, but presidential candidates should probably be held to a higher standard, especially if they’re using their demonstrably false “memories” — if this isn’t just a pure lie from Trump, which is more likely — to incite racial and religious hatred and violence).

The media are in a tough spot here, because both the informal propaganda apparatus and a good part of the base of one of the two major parties has decided that a racist demagogue who lies pathologically about everything ought to be president. This means coverage of this person has to be “balanced,” which in turn means you can’t just point out over and over again that Trump is a racist demagogue who lies pathologically about everything, because that wouldn’t sound very balanced now would it?

. . . see also Dylan Matthews.

Tens of Thousands of People Flood the Streets…

[ 116 ] November 23, 2015 |

Am I the only one who doesn’t think that this question is naive?

With due respect to the Salon staff, why is this question “bonkers?” Every system of social organization, from anarchist to tyrannical, involves measures both punitive and celebratory. The fascist and communist regimes of the twentieth century insisted upon creating space for joyous celebration, and to some extent they surely succeeded. I read Oates as asking the question of whether and how ISIS manages the same thing. The Western discussion of ISIS concentrates on the punitive and puritanical, with some time set aside for ISIS’ delivery of social services and basic governance, but it has very little to say about how ISIS constructs and maintains a positive, forward looking worldview that can animate followers and attract support.

I think Oates is interested in this subject, and it’s surely an important question to ask.  It’s not clear to me why folks can’t see past their own noses on this issue.

Your Morning Maher

[ 109 ] November 23, 2015 |

Berkleyside, Oct. 28, 2014

If only the silly liberals would recognize that these people are different!

“If you are in this religion, you probably do have values that are at odds. This is what liberals don’t want to recognize,” Maher said. “This idea that somehow we do share values that all religions are alike is bullshit.”

I do not share Bill Maher’s values. But if a bunch of tedious sexist libertarian anti-vaccine Brosephs ever need to flee their country, I think the U.S. should grant them refugee status.

In the Eye of a Hurricane, There Is Quiet…

[ 14 ] November 23, 2015 |
The USS Ronald Reagan

USS Ronald Reagan, by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Elizabeth Thompson – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

My latest at the National Interest looks at some potential sparks for World War V:

Since 1756, the modern-state system has experienced four global wars; The Seven Years War, The French Revolutionary Wars, World War I, and World War II. The longest global peace came between 1815 and 1914, and it has now been seventy years since the last world war.

“World War III” would, in effect, be the fifth World War in the history of the modern state system. What might spark such a war, and how would it escalate into a global conflict? Here are five potential scenarios, none likely, but all possible:

Today In Racist Demagoguery

[ 65 ] November 22, 2015 |


The Donald:

Going back to at least Barry Goldwater’s “constitutional” opposition to civil rights and the strident “law and order rhetoric” of the early 1960s, the Republican Party has specialized in racist dog whistles. But Republican front-runner Donald Trump doesn’t do dog whistles. He specializes in train whistles. Consider the tweet he just sent out with bogus statistics on crime. According to the tweet, 81 percent of murdered whites are killed by blacks. In fact, that’s the reverse of the truth. Most people are killed by members of their own race because crime is motivated by proximity and opportunity. As the Huffington Post notes, “According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites.”

By wildly inflating the likelihood of a murderer of a white person to be black (an exaggeration of nearly sixfold), Trump is catering to the worst sort of racism. Perhaps the icing on the cake of this anti-black outburst is that the source of information cited in the tweet—the “Crime Statistics Bureau” of San Francisco—doesn’t seem to exist. What remains to be seen is if the Republican Party and the other candidates will repudiate this crude and dangerous race-baiting.

I think we can pretty safely conclude that the wished-for repudiation ain’t happening. And, of course, the media is ready with “shape of the world, both sides differ” stories.

And then there’s this:

Donald Trump is not directly inciting violence. But violence is happening at Donald Trump events — with some frequency. It’s alarming that Donald Trump is not saying, repeatedly, that this is wrong and needs to stop. It is even more alarming that after the August hate crime, and after the repeated incidents at Trump events since then, Trump is willing to say that “maybe he deserved to be roughed up.”

A disturbing postscript: if the Trump campaign had had its way, the incident in Birmingham wouldn’t have been witnessed by a journalist at all. It wasn’t easily visible from the “pen” where reporters were being held during the event; the CNN reporter had managed to slip into the crowd. In the past week, the Trump campaign has started tracking down reporters outside the “pen” and forcing them to return there — and after the CNN reporter taped the fight in Birmingham yesterday that’s what happened to her. The campaign’s attempt to keep reporters from witnessing Trump events from the perspective of attendees is worrisome in its own right. It’s especially worrisome when what’s happening in the crowd at those events could involve someone getting roughed up.

Trump is leading in the polls because in all this, he’s not an outlier within his party. It’s the inevitable song that was going to be played on Nixon’s piano. “Mainstream” Republicans are more likely to one-up him than repudiate him.

…The racist fake stat Trump re-tweeted came from an explicit fan of Hitler. The parody novel we’re living in continues to be a little too on-the-nose.

Labor’s Decline and Fall

[ 20 ] November 22, 2015 |


Above: Sewing workers strike, 1937

If you haven’t read Rich Yeselson’s discussion of why organized labor has declined so far from its postwar height, you should do so. It’s a pretty right-on analysis that combines how mechanization and efficiency has undermined unions throughout the developed world with the unique political scene of the United States that has led to a much more fundamentalist hatred of unions among employers than Europe (which the sociologist Kim Voss notes in her comparison between the U.S., Britain, and France extends back to the Knights of Labor era in the U.S.) that has created a political scene in this nation that has always made it harder for unions to succeed. The the South has always had outsized political influence here makes it all the harder.

With the brief exception of the late 1930s followed by the anomalous period of the Second World War when the government needed the active support of unions to maximize military production, labor has never had a juridical and statist presumption that it should institutionally survive, let alone flourish. For much of its history, and to this very day, the courts, business, and conservative media and politicians have sought to diminish labor’s power, if not crush it outright. With the exception of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (which opponents immediately sought to undermine and whose legal fate was unresolved for two years), there has never been a statist framework in the US that explicitly sought to ensure labor’s institutional viability across the branches of the federal government and state governments. And without that statist presumption, unions had to confront what historian Nelson Lichtenstein has labeled a special form of “American exceptionalism”: “the hostility managers have shown toward both the regulatory state and virtually all forms of worker representation.” Lichtenstein goes onto note that the absence in the U.S. of “self regulation or cartelization” found in Europe and parts of Asia. Decentralized “competitive disorder” made non-rationalized wage and benefit increases imposed by firm-by-firm unionization (rather than the sectorial model of collective bargaining found in Europe in which the extra cost burdens of unionization was socialized across economic sectors) a great threat to companies and triggered a particularly vicious, sometimes violent, response. The brief period of labor’s zenith did not diminish the desire of its enemies to undermine it—on the contrary, it was a persistent provocation: a reminder of the power business had lost and wished to regain. Thus when, via the decline in manufacturing and a corresponding loss of political influence, unions weakened in the 1970s, the business class seized that moment and, by the construction of politically and intellectually influential think tanks and a massive increase in their congressional lobbying, counter-mobilized to crush them. It only took a decade or so of labor’s increased vulnerability to prove how wrong Eisenhower’s benign notion was that “only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries” wished to bust American unions. In fact, the entire business class of the United States, large and small companies alike, wished to bust American unions and when, given a chance to do so, seized it.

The structural reasons for union diminution, i.e., trends in political economies that affected the entire advanced world, are well known, if sometimes distorted and misread under the rubric, “globalization.” Yes, millions of first world jobs in manufacturing and mining have disappeared since the Second World War. Manufacturing and mining jobs peaked in 1953 at about a third of total employment. After a steady decline through the 1973-74 recession, they briefly returned to a 22% figure in 1978, but a steady decline from there accelerated in the 21st century. Today, manufacturing represents fewer than 9% of all jobs (although productivity increases make manufacturing a significantly larger share of GDP). Many of these jobs did go overseas. But many others were just lost to productivity gains. In mining, for example, there are, perhaps 80,000 jobs today compared to over a half million—almost all of which were unionized–in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Coal provided close to 2/3rds of our energy then—making the imperious president of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, one of the most powerful people in the country, Now, coal provides under a third of our energy and, as climate change policy becomes more pressing, it is an industry which, like tobacco, has taken on an anti-social cast.

Very much worth your time.


[ 8 ] November 22, 2015 |


In about twenty minutes I’ll be going on Midrats to talk the procurement process.  Listen in!  Or listen later!

College football coaching salaries, excellence demander edition

[ 55 ] November 22, 2015 |

todd graham

(1) Arizona State won its sixth game in eleven outings yesterday, effectively guaranteeing head coach Todd Graham a $225,000 bonus, as his contract sweetens his three million dollar base salary with that sum if the team appears in a bowl game (all major conference teams with a non-losing record now appear in a bowl game).

Since ASU had three automatic wins on its schedule at the start of the year — Cal Poly, New Mexico, and Colorado — that means he only had to win three of nine games against legit to semi-legit opponents to collect a bonus which by itself would put him at close to the 99th percentile of individual wage income.

It’s also probably way more than he got for his role as the covert cyborg Ash in Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror film Alien.

(2) LSU is about to fire Les Miles, who they’ve paid about $40 million over his eleven years as the Tigers’ head coach. If they do so they will owe him an additional $16 million in liquidated damages (buyout) money over the next eight years, although that sum will be offset by any money he makes from subsequent employment over that time (he’s 62 so he might just retire).

Official salaries for the labor force that generates the income that pays for all this (and much, much more) remain stable at zero.

Run, the Donald, Run!

[ 94 ] November 22, 2015 |


Er, I mean, liberals would be very, very upset if Donald Trump were to use a third party campaign to bully pulpit the Overton Window on steroids. At least as angry and fearful as Republicans were towards Ralph Nader.

Sure, he doesn’t believe in the right to privacy, but he’s solid on the other issues!

[ 101 ] November 22, 2015 |

Or – An inquiry into the potential limits of “But the other guy is worse!” as a progressive political theory.

And John Bel  Edwards’ victory over David “Depends on Me” Vitter is as good a place as any to start.

In Louisiana’s gubernatorial contest you had a rancid Republican who has a larger than normal negative impact on the environment because disposable diapers last FOREVER.

On the other you had a Democrat whose views on the right to privacy and access to health care have devolved in less than a decade. In 2006:

Edwards indicated support for the following principles regarding abortion

  • Abortion is the freedom of choice, between the appropriate parties and their higher power.

In 2014, Edwards voted Yes on a number of bills supported by the fetus protection racket, including HB1274 (amended section underlined):

When interpreting this Part, any ambiguity shall be interpreted to preserve human life, including the life of an unborn child if the qualified patient is pregnant and an obstetrician who examines the woman determines that the probable postfertilization age of the unborn child is twenty or more weeks and the pregnant woman’s life can reasonably be maintained in such a way as to permit the continuing development and live birth of the unborn child, and such determination is communicated to the relevant classes of family members and persons designated in R.S. 40:1299.58.5.
Here’s the statute prior to the amendment, if your day is not complete without a little state law.

(And if the wording of the law rings a bell for non-Louisianans, it may be they’re thinking of case of  Marlise Munoz, the Texas woman a hospital kept on life support against her family’s wishes, because she was pregnant.)

In short, when Edwards talks about his anti-choice chops, he is not idly boasting. It’s hard to imagine an anti-privacy bill that he wouldn’t sign. Yet because he ran against someone who is far worse, some people are hastening to point out that being anti-privacy, anti-health care, and – in the case of keeping women on life support so they can incubate a fetus – anti-human dignity, isn’t that big a deal.

And apparently, it will remain not that big a deal. For the foreseeable future, the “Less of a walking nightmare than the Republican Candidate” bar will be easily cleared by anyone who isn’t a convicted mother stabbing father rapist, or Dagon. (And I’m not so certain about Dagon.) If one says that being anti-privacy is an acceptable stance for a Democratic candidate, what is unacceptable?

I’m thinking now of Sen. Joe Manchin, v. 3.0 (D-Mountaintop Removal). He was greeted with cries of relief by Democratic voters, and is now greeted with loud gagging noises, and rightfully so. What a Grecian-Formula’d knob the man is. However, the Just say no to deal breaker/purity politics theory dictates that if he receives the nomination Democratic voters should line up behind Joe because … he’s not for total repeal of Obamacare? Maybe? [Fingers crossed!]

But if he gets re-elected on the basis of not being as bad as the Republican candidate (who will of course be worse, even if they have to lure Cheney to the state with a trail of newborn babies’ hearts), where is his incentive to stop fighting to allow coal companies to remove the mountains from the mountain state?

Exactly. The same place as Edwards’ incentive not to further erode the privacy rights and access to health care of half the state’s population. (And to rein in fracking, apparently.)

Where’s the progress in that?


The Problem with Burgers is Ketchup, Not Sogginess

[ 125 ] November 22, 2015 |


It’s like this article was begging for me to comment. Ketchup leather is a stupid invention. Sogginess in burgers from ketchup is not a problem. I eat my share of burgers and when they do get too soggy, it’s rarely because of any kind of condiment barring a ridiculous amount of something being put on it. But the combination of our national technological fetishism combined with the need for capitalism to constantly find new products to create a completely unnecessary product to replace a nonexistent problem. The media thus goes crazy for this exciting new technology. All of a sudden, the new technology is a solution for a problem we never knew we had. Now our lives are so much more complete than they were before we knew said problem existed! And our technology fetish is satisfied once again, at least until we need another hit.

In other words, the problem with burgers is not solved by ketchup leather. It is solved by not polluting them with ketchup. If you do want such pollution, I guess there’s nothing wrong with it in leather form. But it solves no problem and we should reject the entire way of thinking that creates nonexistent problems to sell new products.

Page 4 of 2,148« First...23456...102030...Last »