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The Rhode Island Democratic Primary

[ 42 ] September 11, 2014 |

Dumpster-Fire

Above: the Rhode Island Democratic Party

On Tuesday, I voted in the Rhode Island Democratic primary. It was a dispiriting experience. The Rhode Island Democratic Party is a complete disaster. There are some good Democrats. But in a state where Democrats have a 69-6 majority in the House and a 32-5 majority in the Senate, for the most part, if you want power, you need to be a Democrat. And thus, the term “Democrat” means nothing. What has this enormous majority given us? A voter ID law. And then, earlier this year, the legislature decided to borrow a tactic from the great progressive state of Oklahoma and ban municipalities from setting their own minimum wage. This latter move was a response to the Providence City Council voting to place the $15 minimum wage on the ballot this fall.

So yes, the Rhode Island Democratic Party is openly implementing the ideas of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

All this means that the Democratic primary in Rhode Island is hugely important. Now, we aren’t talking about Georgia circa 1930 here. Republicans can win statewide office. Despite our very progressive senators and enormous Democratic majorities, Rhode Island has not elected a Democrat to the governor’s office since 1991, although Lincoln Chafee eventually converted to a Democrat in a failed attempt to win reelection (and according to a rumor I heard because his wealthy wife wouldn’t fund him as an independent since she didn’t want to foot the whole bill). But still, the real ideological divides are really in the primary.

Or they should be anyway. In fact, this primary consisted of nothing but terrible candidates. The winner of the primary for governor was Gina Raimondo. She is so deep in the pocket of Wall Street that she’s been attacked from the left in the page of Forbes Magazine. Forbes. Who knew that was possible. The state workers hate her because of her attacks on pensions. I could not vote for her in this primary under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, the other two options were almost as bad. At first, it looked like Providence mayor Angel Taveras would be a good option. Then Taveras fired all his progressive advisers and embraced Rheeism as a central tenet. Moving right to challenge a right-wing candidate made no political sense. Raimondo already had those votes wrapped up. Taveras ran a terrible campaign and ran out of money at the end.

The third option was Clay Pell, grandson of the famous senator. By most accounts, Pell is a wealthy plutocrat from a famous political family who is, to be kind, not very smart and has the charisma of a rock. We already have that exact thing in the statehouse right now. Although he is married to Michelle Kwan so that separates him somehow. He was also a Republican until just a few years ago. Youthful mistake perhaps.

Despite all of this, I voted for Pell. Do you know what it takes for me to vote for a dim plutocrat ex-Republican? That’s how bad these candidates were. But I figured he would govern to the left of the horrible Raimondo and increasingly terrible Taveras.

Of course, Raimondo is still probably better than the Republican candidate Allan Fung. Voting for her is going to be gross in November.

But wait, there’s more!

The Providence mayoral primary was also a lot of fun. First, you have the fact that ex-mayor, convicted felon, and unconvicted rapist Buddy Cianci is running again. He has a very strong chance of winning and making my adopted city a national embarrassment. He would also like you to know that he did not urinate on that man.

Who gets to face the vaunted Cianci? There were two, utterly horrible but very different, choices.

First, there was Michael Solomon. At first glance, this guy seems like the most generic kind of old-school Democrat with all the warts that entails. First of all, he’s a long time local pol and there are a lot of rumors about corruption which I have no doubt are true. Corruption is crazy widespread in this state. He is also the least articulate guy in the world. He makes Mumbles Menino in Boston sound like Bill Clinton. There wasn’t much reason to have faith in him until he bucked his long-time business allies and pushed the $15 minimum wage law. That was pretty impressive. Still, his negatives are real.

Then there is Jorge Elorza. This is an interesting case. He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants. In fact, that was the entirety of his campaign. Because of his story and because progressives will so often place a good story and diversity above the substance of a politician, Elorza received a lot of progressive endorsements. But not from the unions. And there’s a good reason for this. There is absolutely no evidence is he progressive on almost any issue. This is a powerful indictment of this right-wing empty suit, cut from the Cory Booker and Angel Taveras cloth, although he’s almost certainly worse than the latter at least. Specifically, Elorza publicly opposes raising the minimum wage, is an advocate for charter schools that comes right out of the Michelle Rhee playbook, and opposes raising taxes on the wealthy.

And of course Elorza wins, making the Democratic candidate for mayor in a poor city someone who opposes a fair wage for workers. Have to be pro-business after all. I voted for Solomon, corruption rumors notwithstanding. At least he stands for something positive. But at least Elorza is not Buddy Cianci.

Finally, there was my state House rep. To me, this summed up the incoherentness of the Rhode Island Democratic Party more than anything. I am represented by a woman named Maria Cimini who is reasonably good progressive with particularly strong environmental and gun control credentials. Her opponent was a right-wing Democrat by the name of Daniel McKiernan, who was supported by the horrible Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello. How did Mattiello become Speaker? Earlier this year, the slightly less terrible Gordon Fox resigned after the FBI raided his home and Mattiello won the race to replace him as Speaker. Cimini didn’t support Mattiello and he went after her.

McKiernan is a Republican in just about every other state. His whole campaign was anti-crime. He had these disgusting 1980s-style flyers about how Cimini opposed locking up child abusers, wanted to put criminals back on the streets, and the like. Every picture of him except a very few (the necessary one per flyer or ad) were with other white people in a district filled with Dominicans, Guatemalans, and African-Americans.

And of course McKiernan won too. Now the Rhode Island state assembly is even more right wing than before. Awesome.

What a state.

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What Does Zephyr Teachout’s Challenge Mean?

[ 71 ] September 11, 2014 |

In the aftermath of Zephyr Teachout’s surprisingly strong challenge to Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary for governor of New York, there are a number of articles proclaiming that it is really meaningful. Joan Walsh, writing just before the primary, talks about Teachout reminding Cuomo that there is a liberal base and that you have to run real progressives in order to get policy made. This I agree with entirely.

John Cassidy’s post-mortem argues that the Teachout run is emblematic of something larger.

The Democratic Party establishment survived. But Teachout and Wu both achieved more than seemed possible a couple of months ago. By thoroughly embarrassing Cuomo, New York Democrats didn’t merely deliver a blow to whatever national aspirations he may have. They signalled to other Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, that the political center of gravity has shifted, and that a significant segment of Democratic voters won’t suffer gladly a return to the timid, pro-corporate policies of the Clinton years, which Cuomo represents.

That’s why what happened on Tuesday wasn’t just a New York story: it has national implications. The progressive movement that emerged from the financial crisis, giving birth to Occupy Wall Street and the de Blasio campaign, may still be inchoate and splintered. But it can’t be ignored.

Possible. I don’t know that Cuomo’s national ambitions are completely ruined. But the combination of the scandal and the fact that he’s already been targeted by a left-wing insurgency in his home state certainly can’t help. As for Hillary Clinton, I don’t know. Clinton so far has floated above all of this in a way that she absolutely could not in 2008. When Clinton announces, will there will be a real left-wing challenge like this? One hopes so and that is it credible. If Warren isn’t going to do it, Bernie Sanders would be useful if he runs within the Democratic Party primaries. Otherwise, he is wasting his time. And even if a left-running Democrat did make Hillary work a bit, would it mean anything at all in the general election or after she entered the Oval Office? Doubtful because everyone is going to be working hard for her, despite her flaws, when the opponent is Ted Cruz or whoever comes out of the clown show that is the Republican Party.

I don’t doubt that the Occupy Wall Street energy is part of this challenge. But I also think that wealthier white leftists tend to overstate the power of other wealthier white leftists to create change. In other words, Cuomo won because of his huge numbers in New York’s outer boroughs and any attempt to create real political change in New York is going to have to deal with the machine politics and the fact that a lot of voters have priorities not entirely or at all based around policy. So where all this goes, I really don’t know, but it is fascinating to watch and obviously hopeful. But anything concrete remains nascent at best.

Another interesting facet to this election is the actions of Bill de Blasio. Like Obama in 2008, de Blasio’s campaign used a lot of rhetoric around change, but once the office is taken, both largely promoted the status quo they always believed in. However, at least in the articles I’ve read, the criticism of de Blasio is less strident than I would have thought. This could mean only that I’m not reading the right lefties, I don’t know. But he really went all in for Cuomo in a way that is going to be hard for a lot of people to forget.

Also, the big loser in all of this is the Working Families Party. Although not really a third party despite its name, WFP is supposed to organize the left for positive change. But the WFP is reliant upon its consistuent groups because it is not a social movement. So when parts of organized labor came out for Cuomo, for reasons that made sense to them since it is the unions job to represent their own members’ best interests, the WFP had no real choice but go along. I know that supposedly de Blasio and the unions enacted concessions from him for the endorsement, but I’ll believe Andrew Cuomo follows through on a promise to the left when I see it. So I’m having trouble seeing what the point of the WFP is in political races if it can’t even buck Andrew Cuomo.

Anyway, I guess I’m mostly skeptical that the Teachout run has much in the way of larger implications for New York or national politics. But it is part of the larger dissatisfaction the base has with right-wing Democrats. Whether that appears in the 2016 presidential primary or not answers the question over these implications.

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High Strung

[ 42 ] September 11, 2014 |

This is helpful.


And the tweet of the day…

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The Death of Western Forests

[ 36 ] September 11, 2014 |

The impacts of climate change upon my beloved American West are only just beginning to be felt:

Colorado alone could lose 45% of its aspen stands over the next 45 years, says the report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. Pine bark beetles alone have killed 46 million acres of trees across the west, an area nearly the size of Colorado.

“The wildfires, infestations and heat and drought stress are the symptoms; climate change is the underlying disease,” Jason Funk, the report’s co-author and a senior climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement.

Projections by the U.S. Forest Service that were included in the report, predict that if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue increasing at recent rates, by 2060 the area climatically suitable in the Rocky Mountains for lodgepole pine could decline by about 90%, for ponderosa pine by about 80%, for Engelmann spruce by about 66% and for Douglas fir by about 58%.

National forests and parks play a key role in the economies of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. National parks in those states, including Yellowstone and Glacier, host about 11 million visitors annually, generating $1 billion in tourist spending, the report, Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk, said. If the landscapes significantly change, tourists may no longer visit those areas, it said.

The last decades of my life are likely to be incredibly depressing.

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UIUC Reaches Peak Gibberish

[ 42 ] September 11, 2014 |

Shorter verbatim Phyllis Wise: “People are mixing up this individual personnel issue with the whole question of freedom of speech and academic freedom.”

This really says it all, doesn’t? “I believe in principles, so long as they never have to apply in individual cases. Especially if the development office is involved.” Joe Freeman Britt should have thought of this. “People are mixing up this individual criminal case with the whole question of due process and Maryland v. Brady and whether it’s appropriate to execute innocent people.”

And yet, it makes sense in its own perverse way. Salaita’s firing obviously cannot be squared with basic principles of academic freedom, even if UIUC can establish that it acted within its formal legal authority. Some UIUC apologists are willing to come out and say that academic freedom is just a racket and firing someone for their political views is perfectly OK, but Wise can’t say that either. So we’re left with pure distilled 100 proof nonsense.

…As expected, the vote goes 8-1 against Salaita. I have no idea how strong Salaita’s case will be under Illinois law, but if the lawsuit gets to discovery it will be interesting indeed.

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And the Adam Bellow Award For Regrettable Beneficiary of Nepotism Goes To…

[ 33 ] September 11, 2014 |

COO of what is sadly right now New York’s most talented baseball team, Jeff Wilpon.

Allegations only, yes, although credible ones. One thing about growing up in a bubble of wealth is that it can apparently cause you to act like a busybody sexist relative to your employees:

“He frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger,” it says. The lawsuit also alleges that Wilpon told a meeting “of the team’s all-male senior executives” that he was “morally opposed” to Castergine’s pregnancy, and told Castergine that her boyfriend should propose if he wanted his girlfriend to get a raise.

Your female employees I should specify. If Wilpon is universally appalled by employees engaging in extramarital sexual relations, I would suggest that he probably inherited the wrong line of work.

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Ugh Double Ugh

[ 203 ] September 11, 2014 |

Well, this just looks like a clusterfuck.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces…

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

The Syria side of the campaign remains a work in progress at the Pentagon, CIA and White House. The development of an operational plan is further complicated by a lack of intelligence — U.S. drones have not been flying over Islamic State-controlled parts of the country for long — and the absence of allied local forces that can leverage U.S. airstrikes into territorial gains.

And then we have this helpful group of assholes:

Progress has been encouraging. Arab states have scrambled to set aside differences to rally against the threat posed by the extremists, whose rampage through Iraq and Syria has unnerved rulers across the region.

On Thursday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry was to attend a meeting in Saudi Arabia with all of the major players in the Middle East, including the host country, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, to discuss ways to address the crisis.

Many of these countries are at odds over a range of issues and might not have been willing to send representatives to meet in the same room were it not for their urgent recognition of the new menace in their midst.

In common with their fear of the Islamic State, however, the region’s leaders also share a deep mistrust of the Obama administration, rooted in the past three years of increasing disengagement from the Middle East as the United States has sought to distance itself from the turmoil engendered by the Arab Spring revolts.

So, a group of countries that can’t agree on what should be done with Syria are deeply irritated that the United States has not sorted through what is to be done with Syria. Meanwhile, money pours out of the pockets of the Gulf states into the coffers of ISIS, which leaves everyone in the Gulf states deeply concerned that the US isn’t doing enough about Iran.

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Hopper

[ 87 ] September 10, 2014 |

Dennis Hopper’s personal journey may have brought him to Taos. But according to my New Mexico people who know Taos well, locals are furious that Hopper was buried there because now their little cemetery where they remembered their dead now has a bunch of hippies leaving joints and booze and smoking and drinking some of that weed and booze in it. And it’s hard to blame them since from Mabel Dodge Luhan and Georgia O’Keefe to Dennis Hopper and the thousands of recent arrivals to these places today, bohemian whites have been co-opting the cultures of non-white New Mexico for their own purposes. Stories like Hopper’s never have the local people in them except as a quaint backdrop. And in the end, that’s really wrong.

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Blue Whales

[ 51 ] September 10, 2014 |

MARIA_(CRUISE-1854)_WHALE_HUNTING_IN_WESTMANNSHAVEN_BAY

It seems that the eastern North Pacific population of blue whales has recovered to its pre-hunting totals–about 2200.

2200 animals makes it pretty easy to drive an animal to extinction. I was just talking about the Pleistocene extinctions with my students and saying that the enormous size of the American megafauna made it pretty bloody easy for them to die off entirely when the combination of the end of the Ice Ages and the arrival of humans hit them. After all, how many beavers the size of the modern black bear can a forest support?

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Japanese Flying Fortresses

[ 19 ] September 10, 2014 |

This is a fascinating picture:


Some more information here.

The first B-17 to come under Japanese control was an B-17D which was pieced together from the remnants of other destroyed B-17Ds on Clark Field in the Philippines. The same thing was done to to two B-17Es on Bandung Field on Java. At the time, this was the newest model of the B-17 available. The Japanese were impressed with the simplicity of the cockpit for such a large aircraft. One of the B-17Es was used for a test bed for a captured Norden bombsight, coupled to the Sperry automatic flight control system. Also of great interest was the B-17′s gunnery equipment, especially the Sperry automatic computing gunsight. The May 1943 issue of Koku-Asahi was devoted almost completely to the captured B-17s. Nearly every major component was shown in photos and drawings. Since the Japanese also had instruction manuals for the aircraft, no detail was overlooked.

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Oh, *that* video

[ 85 ] September 10, 2014 |

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

[SL] Good questions.

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About those walking dead…

[ 77 ] September 10, 2014 |

wd00161

A dead Facebook friend literally went zombie today — a mile-walking app hijacked his account and started posting how far he’d traveled and how many calories he’d burned doing so.

I would’ve been deeply saddened if I didn’t think he’d find it damn hilarious.

But it brings up an interesting question — how would you like to be memorialized online?

For the record, when I die, I encourage everyone to treat it in the spirit I would. Bad jokes aren’t merely welcomed, they’re required. Remember me at my worst best and best worst, is how I’d like it.

If y’all sit shiva and don’t swap “SEK was a world-class dumb-ass” stories, I’d be very disappointed, you know, if I wasn’t dead.

 

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