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[ 13 ] May 2, 2016 |
A large submarine travelling on the surface of the ocean.

“HMAS Rankin 2007” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman James R. Evans – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Some Monday links for your reading pleasure…

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Eagle Cam Shows Nature in Real Life

[ 96 ] May 2, 2016 |

This is one of my favorite stories in some time. People love watching cute animals. Except that those cute animals are often brutal, whether they are male ducks engaging in what to humans looks like gang rape of female ducks (I have witnessed this with my own eyes and it was horrifying) or osprey that attack their own young, or some bald eagles snacking on little Fluffy.

Cat owners have been warned of the dangers their feline companions face when venturing outdoors after video emerged of bald eagles feasting on the body of a dead cat near Pittsburgh.

Footage from a live web camera mounted at the Hays bald eagle nest, located a few miles from the center of Pittsburgh, showed the eagles serving up the cat to hungry eaglets. Concerned cat owners bombarded the local Audubon Society about why the eagles had preyed upon the cat.

“After reviewing the footage, we believe that the cat was dead when brought to the nest,” the Audubon Society of western Pennsylvania in a statement. “While many may cringe at this, the eagles bring squirrels, rabbits, fish (and other animals) into the nest to eat multiple times each day.”

“To people, the cat represents a pet but to the eagles and to other raptors, the cat is a way to sustain the eaglets and help them to grow. While seeing a cat in the nest was difficult for many, we’re hopeful that people will understand that this is a part of nature, and nature isn’t always kind or pretty.”

In other cat news, here’s a cat who has not been eaten by eagles. His name is Torvald, he was born under my house in Albuquerque on May 1, 2003 and he turned 13 the other day. You can see he is already entering his teenage punk phase.

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I know some people like this site because we don’t post cat pictures very often. Well, tonight’s an exception.

Foxes!

[ 84 ] May 2, 2016 |

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Although I’m only a casual follower of the big Euro soccer leagues, I’m impelled to note what is in waging terms probably the most improbable upset in major sports history, as Leicester City won the English Premier League today, after Chelsea came back to fight Tottenham to a bloody 2-2 draw.

Leicester City, which was in the English third division less than a decade ago, and which little more than a year ago was dead last in the EPL and seemed certain to be relegated, was (were?) given 5000-1 odds by the London bookies at the start of this season to win the league.

Now hindsight is 20/20, but when a 5000 to 1 shot comes in that strongly suggests those odds were, ex ante, completely out of wack. Again I’m just a casual fan, but Leicester was the 14th-best team in the league last year in terms of points (and they were better than that in terms of goal differential, which is probably a better indicator of underlying quality). Anyway, the idea that it’s a 5000 to 1 shot for the 14th best team in one year to win the league in the next is obviously absurd on its face.

The 14th best team in the EPL is roughly equivalent to the 20th best team in MLB or the NBA or the NFL, in terms of distance from the top. Now obviously a whole bunch of things have to break right for for a 75-87 team to have the best record in baseball the next year. It’s quite unlikely — but quite unlikely as in 50-1 or maybe even 100-1. But 5000 to 1? That’s more like a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament winning the whole thing.

Yes I’m aware that only four clubs have won the EPL over the course of the last 20 years, and that the analogy with American major professional sports is inexact for a variety of reasons (in particular there are far fewer rules designed to maintain some sort of competitive parity in big time soccer leagues than there are in American major sports leagues.). But still — 5000 to 1? That kind of miscalculation should have put some bookmakers out of business.

All that aside, it’s a great story.

There Should Be Plenty More Where This Comes From

[ 92 ] May 2, 2016 |

If you vote for Kelly Ayotte or Mark Kirk or Rob Portman or Ron Johnson or Rob Portman etc. etc. you’re voting for Trumpism. He’s the Republican candidate and they own him. This is a point that the Democratic campaigns in swing states need to make effectively and relentlessly.

The Authoritarian Mind

[ 127 ] May 2, 2016 |

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I can’t describe the worldview of Roger Goodell and his apologists any better than Goodell does himself:

As the NFL continues to bask in the glow of a narrow, 2-1 appeals court victory in the #Deflategate imbroglio, Commissioner Roger Goodell is now defending his handling of quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension by attacking the NFL Players Association.

“I understand when there is a defense of any violation . . . that is part of the game, we all understand that nobody wants to discipline,” Goodell told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike, via Dan Werly of TheWhiteBronco.com. “I understand the union’s position. The union’s position is to eliminate discipline. That is what they do, we are going to protect the player, right or wrong. And I get that, that is understandable, go at it. My job is to protect the game. We are not going to relent on that, we are not going to compromise at all.”

That’s an incredibly cynical view of the union’s role, and an apparent attempt to counter NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith’s recent explanation on PFT Live about the union’s commitment to fighting for its players. But the union isn’t trying to ensure that players suffer no consequence for wrongdoing. The union wants any consequences to be fair and consistent and within the confines of the labor deal. The union also wants the process that determines those consequences to be fair.

Well, there you go. To Goodell, either you believe that Roger Goodell should have the unilateral, virtually unreviewable authority to issue any punishment to any team or player for anything, or you think that nobody should ever be punished for anything. If you believe in such concepts as “due process” or “proportionate punishments reasonably knowable ex ante” or “judges should not serve as their own appellate adjudicator” or “league officials should not leak prejudicial and false information about people they’re targeting to their court stenographers” it’s because you’re opposed in principle to any rules or punishment at all. If Trump decides to counter Cruz by naming his first Supreme Court nominee, he’s got his man.

I recommend the rest of Florio’s post as well. Since I’ve been guilty of unwarranted criticism of the union for this in the past, I should note that he’s persuasive that there was nothing the NFLPA could plausibly have done about this, even knowing the likelihood that a commissioner would eventually massively abuse his powers. The NFLPA is far from being in an equal bargaining position, the league flatly refused to consider placing more restrictions on the commissioner’s Article 46 powers, and short of a strike that almost certainly wouldn’t have worked anyway it’s not clear what could have been done about it. That the system is bad, though, doesn’t let Goodell off the hook: he has been far worse than his predecessor, which is why he didn’t want Tagliabue anywhere near Ballghazi although he could have let him review it like he did with the New Orleans bounty scandal.

On a related note, Jonah Keri has a good column about some of the reaction to the Dee Gordon suspension. You would think that a draconian suspension for a first time offense would be enough. But for a lot of people, no — it’s outrageous that there’s any appeal process! The team should be able to void his contract! It never ends.

Vote Suppression Laws Work

[ 15 ] May 2, 2016 |

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Whatever disarray the Republican Party might be in at the national level, Republican statehouses are able to pass policy initiatives that quickly fulfill their goals:

Thirty-three states now have ID laws, at least 17 of them — including Texas — requiring not just written proof of identity, but requiring or requesting a photograph as well.

Most research suggests that the laws result in few people being turned away at the polls. But a study of the Texas ID requirement by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy released in August found that many more qualified voters, confused or intimidated by the new rules, have not tried to vote at all.

“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”

A second study, by the University of California, San Diego, concluded in February that the strictest voter ID laws — those that require an identity card with a photograph — disproportionately affect minority voters.

After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.

Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.

Moreover, Dr. Jones of the Baker Institute said, “The confused voters said they would have voted overwhelmingly for Gallego.”

The laws are designed to stop racial minorities from voting, and they work. In other words, exactly the kind of law the 15th Amendment empowered Congress to address.

In its last twenty years, the Supreme Court has issued some opinions that combine self-refuting logic with horrible results — Bush v. Gore, the Medicaid holding in NFIB v. Sebelius. Shelby County certainly belongs near of not at the top of that list.

Keep RedState Drunk

[ 83 ] May 2, 2016 |

Yeah, I’m just gonna come out and say it: keep RedState drunk. ‘Cuz when RedState is drunk RedState writes stuff like this–“Keep Cheerleaders Hot.” And then I laugh and laugh and laugh. Then cry a little. Then laugh some more. And that’s good for my abs. And then my abs look good and I think “Hey, maybe I should try out for the squad.” So keep RedState drunk. It makes me pretty.

Verizon Strike

[ 28 ] May 2, 2016 |

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As many of you know, Verizon’s line workers are on strike. Basically, Verizon is looking to bust its remaining unions. It has invested heavily in wireless, but still has the remains of land-line workers. Those workers have good union contracts, unlike its vast workforce of nonunionized and thus poorly paid wireless employees. Verizon wants to crush those unions. This is a good overview of the problems, from the perspective of a striker. They range from Verizon not willing to accept what concessions CWA and IBEW have already offered because the company wants more to real and important issues around work/life balance and Verizon demanding that crews be away from their families for long periods of time.

This strike has received almost no media coverage. But there is this odd New Yorker piece by Mark Gimein that seems to fall into the frequent pundit trap of “I’m uncomfortable actually seeing strikes so they don’t work and instead unions are dead and workers should just vote if they want to see change.” After a strange beginning where he compares Democratic politicians love of a picket line to evangelicals love of a revival meeting, because of course Democrats have totally been all over picket lines in the last 30 years or something, he goes on to talk about Verizon’s business model and say that the unionized workers are probably doomed. Well, maybe that’s true, I don’t know. But it’s the conclusion that is jaw-dropping.

If, nationally, this is the endgame for unions, a lot still hinges on how that endgame will be played. It’s useful to think in the brutally reductive terms of Wall Street. The gains to be made from the legacy business of picket lines are limited, but there is still plenty of capital built up for unions to spend in the legislative arena. That effort has already started. Not long ago, policy-makers talked about raising the minimum wage by a dollar or two an hour. Now New York and California have approved a fifteen-dollar hourly minimum wage, and Fight For $15 has gone national.

That’s a bigger success for the labor movement than anybody would have anticipated five years ago. The way forward now is less in getting people to join unions and more in taking seriously the question that Sanders raised: what can be done for the millions of workers who don’t have a union and never will?

Oh yeah because the recent minimum wage struggle is the first time unions have played the legislative game???? The major leftist critique of organized labor since World War II is that unions have been too comfortable in the legislature and have rejected direct action tactics that put power in the hands of workers. We certainly know the limits of unions focusing on legislatures, including, among many other things, the Employee Free Choice Act dying almost as soon as Obama took the presidency. I don’t blame unions for playing the legislative game and I largely reject those who just say “forget politics and organize!” It doesn’t make sense.

But now journalists are coming along and saying that if only unions stopped with their silly strikes and instead just lobbied in legislatures, they could win real gains! Yeah, I don’t think organized labor needs to be told by journalists how to use legislatures to their advantage. Gimein also just assumes that unions are completely dead and always will be. That leads him to two conclusions. One, evidently, is that unions should use that supposedly endless capital for gains for all workers through legislative action. Again, they already are, but also, if the unions are busted, then they don’t exist and there is no voice for any workers in American politics as all of that capital disappears. Second, since these workers will never have a union, why try to organize them? That’s not only a defeatist attitude for organized labor, it would mean that his supposed desire to see real gains for workers would never come to fruition and we would see an endless supply of exploitable labor in the United States. Maybe that’s what will happen, but it’s hardly something we should just assume and therefore stop trying to organize.

In conclusion, publications need to have people write labor articles for them who actually know something about organized labor.

Saving Small Businesses in the Cities

[ 151 ] May 2, 2016 |

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Interesting piece on one of the less discussed problems with the incredible expansion of capital in the cities and thus rapidly rising prices for residents, which is the eviction of small businesses and their replacement in new developments by chains. With every other building in New York becoming a Duane Reade and my New York friends constantly bemoaning all the great restaurants, bars, bookstores, music clubs, local joints, etc., that are closing because of huge rent increases, doing something about this is something that should be part of our vision for future cities. There are concrete responses floated about already.

One strategy is to broaden ownership. Salt Lake City is considering a fund to help local businesses purchase their spaces. Mitchell also points out that small business development groups, even those that are developing cooperative businesses, should consider including the acquisition of a business’s space as part of its business plan. Broadening ownership also includes models for cooperative or community-ownership of spaces, such as the Northeast Investment Cooperative in Minneapolis, cited in the report.

Zoning or regulating for a local business environment is another strategy. San Francisco’s formula business ordinance, first enacted in 2004, requires business with more than 11 locations worldwide to apply for a special use permit in order to locate in the city’s neighborhood commercial districts. One of the criteria for such a permit is how many businesses of that type are already in the district, and whether the applicant business would add something that the neighborhood doesn’t already have. Between 2005 and 2013, according to ISLR, San Francisco received 104 applications to open formula retail stores and restaurants, rejecting about a quarter of them.

Another strategy is to address power dynamics, which are widely overlooked. “There’s a perception that businesses somehow have relatively equal power to landlords, but really there’s this incredible power imbalance between landlords and business tenants,” says Mitchell.

In 2014, NYC Councilwoman Annabel Palma, representing parts of the Bronx, reintroduced the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which has been introduced to no avail multiple times by multiple council members since at least 1984, according to ISLR’s report.

SBJSA aims to balance the power dynamics between landlords and business tenants. Among other measures, it mandates binding arbitration to settle cases where landlords justifiably must up rent by a certain amount to cover higher property taxes or maintenance costs, but tenants oppose exorbitant rent increases that may reflect irrational speculation as opposed to the economics of a given location.

To say, the New York real estate lobby is outraged by the mere suggestion of such a law. But what is the answer here? More Duane Reade’s, if we don’t do something about it.

How Right-Wing Transgender Fearmongering Hurts People

[ 19 ] May 2, 2016 |

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Powerful essay by Gabrielle Bellot about being transgender and using the bathroom in the mall. Read the whole thing. But let me point out the first paragraph.

For me, it is already a new year of old fears. 2016 has scarcely begun, and there is already yet another bill, from the end of December, being proposed to criminalize transgender persons—like myself—for using the restroom that corresponds with our gender identity. Republicans have largely lost the cultural debate on same-sex marriage, and so the question of who can use what restroom has become the new site of fear-mongering rhetoric—a shift made chillingly clear after the failure of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. And this new law, which has been proposed by Sen. Jim Tomes in the Indiana state legislature, is as draconian as they get. Tomes’ bill would put us in jail for up to a year and charge us as much as $5,000 for using any restroom that does not correspond with the sex we were assigned at birth—regardless of whether our gender is recognized by the law, regardless of whatever gender confirmation procedures we may have had. It is a bill that binds us to our bodies from birth, a bill unwilling to imagine that transgender people truly exist, a bill born out of a fundamental lack of understanding of how demeaning—and dangerous—it is for a transgender woman—like me—not to use the women’s restroom. It is a bill that fails to recognize the fears that follow so many of us into the restroom already.

A year in prison and a $5000 fine for using the restroom. I am nearly speechless. I imagine such a bill will have real support in the Indiana legislature as well.

Pro Forma

[ 120 ] May 2, 2016 |

I really can’t not recommend Andrew Sullivan’s return to the world of letters enough. And not because it is drawn out, self-regarding and tedious. I knew what I was getting before the page finished loading and I read:

As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic.

That’s not the only thing that gets tugged during the very, very, very dense article about how mean, pushy liberals made white people flock to Trump in droves and now America is going to be destroyed.

For the white working class, having had their morals roundly mocked, their religion deemed primitive, and their economic prospects decimated, now find their very gender and race, indeed the very way they talk about reality, described as a kind of problem for the nation to overcome. This is just one aspect of what Trump has masterfully signaled as “political correctness” run amok, or what might be better described as the newly rigid progressive passion for racial and sexual equality of outcome, rather than the liberal aspiration to mere equality of opportunity.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Sullivan is wrestling with the same damn strawliberal every member of the bigot defense league has attacked since they admitted that Trump wasn’t going to go away if everyone ignored him.

So let’s skip to some amusing bits. Like the mandatory cocktail anecdote!

And so, as I chitchatted over cocktails at a Washington office Christmas party in December, and saw, looming above our heads, the pulsating, angry televised face of Donald Trump on Fox News, I couldn’t help but feel a little nausea permeate my stomach.

As an aside, if running Fox News is standard entertainment for these soirees, I’m glad I don’t get invited to them.

And Sullivan’s solutions to Save America are a veritable LOLmine.

Step 1 – “We” should stop picking on the Republicans and enable them because the alternative is gloom and doom and things go boom.

More to the point, those Republicans desperately trying to use the long-standing rules of their own nominating process to thwart this monster deserve our passionate support, not our disdain. This is not the moment to remind them that they partly brought this on themselves. This is a moment to offer solidarity, especially as the odds are increasingly stacked against them.

For the record I have never said the Republicans partly brought Trump on themselves. I have always said it is entirely their fault. But pretending that the GOP became the clusterfuck that it is today sorta accidentally not on purpose is standard for these pieces, because addressing the real problem, or even reality, is very much not central to the point.

That brings us to Step 2 – The Republicans should offer the Democrats the Unity Ponies that must be buried under all this horse shit!

And if they fail in Indiana or Cleveland, as they likely will, they need, quite simply, to disown their party’s candidate. They should resist any temptation to loyally back the nominee or to sit this election out. They must take the fight to Trump at every opportunity, unite with Democrats and Independents against him, and be prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country.

Likelihood of this happening in this iteration of reality? Negative any percent. But reality didn’t stop the last 5,000 people who wrote this article, so why should it have stopped Sullivan?

Today In the American Meritocracy

[ 61 ] May 2, 2016 |

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Nice work if you can etc:

Yahoo (YHOO) just disclosed the size of its executive pay packages and Marissa Mayer stands to make millions coming or going.

The CEO of the embattled online news site, currently trying to sell itself, is entitled to severance benefits valued at $54.9 million in case she is terminated without cause, according to a regulatory filing after the market closed Friday. The potential payout would also be triggered by a “change of control,” which includes the sale of the company, according to the filing.

Mayer’s potential payout includes cash severance of $3 million, $26,324 to continue her health benefits, $15,000 for outplacement, and — if that’s enough — nearly $52 million worth of accelerated restricted stock and options.

But wait. That’s just what Mayer gets if she leaves. Mayer was already paid $36 million in 2015 as her regular annual compensation. That total pay package was down nearly 15% from the prior year, but is still well above the median of roughly $12 million paid by executives in the Standard & Poor’s 500. Mayer was paid $42.1 million in 2014, making her the most highly paid female CEO in the S&P 500.

Imagine what she’d be worth if she had been successful!

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