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The 1970s: America’s Finest Culinary Decade

[ 213 ] December 12, 2015 |

There’s a new Twitter feed dedicated to the food of the 1970s. You should follow it. Some examples:

I was born in 1974 so I missed most of this hell. But I think those of my parents’ generation, which includes a lot of you readers, have never publicly explained what you people were thinking. Why add canned pineapple and/or hot dogs to everything? What’s with molding fish into various shapes? And I love mayo, but really, making it the central ingredient to half the dishes made is a problem.

What happened to this nation in the 70s? Can we blame Nixon for this? Too many drugs floating around? Cooking while on acid flashbacks? Help me out here.

…Speaking of food of this era, I was just reading the classic Gay Talese profile of Frank Sinatra. I knew I liked Sinatra for more than just his singing:

For example, when one of his men brought him a frankfurter with catsup on it, which Sinatra apparently abhors, he angrily threw the bottle at the man, splattering catsup all over him.


You’ll never guess who NROC says we should hate

[ 48 ] December 12, 2015 |

After assuring us that the anti-abortion movement is a movement of peace, David French is back in the NRO’s corner explaining that it is OK to be an Islamophobe. Why? Because U.S. soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq told us they were icky:

…I wonder if the media is missing a powerful, largely-uncovered influence on America’s hearts and minds — the experience and testimony of the more than two million Americans who’ve served overseas since 9/11 and have experienced Islamic cultures up-close.

Got that? The media is failing to account for the fact that every single American who “experienced Islamic cultures up-close” has been disgusted by what they saw. How do we know? because JAG French told you so, and if you question him, you hate the troops. The same goes for anyone you know who did experience Islamic cultures up-close and was not disgusted and horrified. It’s O.K. to hate those troops, I guess. [Crosses several names off Christmas card list.]

Yes, they were in the middle of a war —

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, dudbro is about to “Yeahbut” a friggin’ war.

but speaking from my own experience — the war was conducted from within a culture that was shockingly broken.

Don’t ask him how Iraq came to be broken. Sorry, shockingly broken, or what its state might have been before he rolled into town in 2007. It’s a silly question because the answer is Islam and only liberal whitewashing and the scourge of P.C. is making you hesitate before you answer.

I’m not sure about the construction “the war was conducted from within a culture.” Or rather, I wonder if French thought he could passive-voice the U.S. invasion out of existence, or if he’s a crap writer in addition to being crap.

I expected the jihadists to be evil, but even I couldn’t fathom the depths of their depravity.

Well lawks a mercy, don’t those savages know how to behave when people invade their country for no fucking reason, destroy their infrastructure, torture and rape and murder to alleviate their boredom and try to pass off a death trap as a state of the art police academy? Of course not, because Islam.

I know that the default neocon mindset is Projection, but French is such a nincompoop that watching him do his thing almost creates a case of contact embarrassment.

And it was all occurring against the backdrop of a brutally violent and intolerant culture. Women were beaten almost as an afterthought, there was a near-total lack of empathy for even friends and neighbors, lying was endemic, and sexual abuse was rampant. Even more disturbingly, it seemed that every problem was exacerbated the more religious and pious a person (or village) became.

Sounds like a neo-con wet dream. I’m surprised he could tear himself away.

And no, you may not connect any dots between a culture where women are beaten as an afterthought and an ideology that says they should not be allowed to control their bodies.

(Alternate music selection for the traditionalists.)

Successes and Failures in Intersectionality

[ 63 ] December 12, 2015 |

This bell hooks interview is full of pleasures. You should read all of it. I found this passage particularly cheering:

My militant commitment to feminism remains strong, and the main reason is that feminism has been the contemporary social movement that has most embraced self-interrogation. When we, women of color, began to tell white women that females were not a homogenous group, that we had to face the reality of racial difference, many white women stepped up to the plate. I’m a feminist in solidarity with white women today for that reason, because I saw these women grow in their willingness to open their minds and change the whole direction of feminist thought, writing and action. This continues to be one of the most remarkable, awesome aspects of the contemporary feminist movement. The left has not done this, radical black men have not done this, where someone comes in and says, “Look, what you’re pushing, the ideology, is all messed up. You’ve got to shift your perspective.” Feminism made that paradigm shift, though not without hostility, not without some women feeling we were forcing race on them. This change still amazes me.

Now on to even more important things, like complaining about two sentences on a month-old episode of The Good Wife, specifically the episode described (in positive terms) here by Sonia Soraiya.

In short, the episode concerns a black female applicant, Monica, to a law firm on the show. The white partners are shown debating whether to hire her, and everyone’s attitude toward her is a different flavor of racist. In the end they do not hire her. Diane, the white liberal partner, brings her back offering her mentorship of some sort, but not a job. It turns out that the applicant has secretly recorded her interviews, and she edits ttogether the racist bits and puts them on the internet. Diane brings her back in to tell her that she knows what it’s like to struggle on the way up because she’s a woman. Monica is furious, and tells her off. Soraiya quotes her:

“There is no comparison,” she says, between Diane’s difficult choices to get ahead and the discrimination she faces. “I don’t choose to have women hold their purses tighter when they see me coming down the street. I don’t choose to have cops pull me out of my car and frisk me for failing to signal…. I don’t want your understanding. I don’t need your advice. What I need is a job.”

I agree with Soraiya’s overall take: the episode was mostly interesting. Where it was successful was in depicting white racism, including well-intentioned liberal condescension. But Soraiya edits out of her description the most difficult, and to my mind, totally implausible lines of dialogue, which come right before the part she quotes.

“If you chose to lay on your back for a male partner or two just to get ahead, that was your choice. I don’t choose.”

While it’s totally believable that Monica is furious at Diane’s claim to understand her experience, I don’t find it believable that an educated, professional woman with enough consciousness about injustice to make a secret tape to expose racism would have spoken these lines. It seems that in the writers’ mind, being black trumps being a woman, whereas I hear that you can actually be both at the same time. If you are a woman, you don’t think it is no bigs to feel you need to sleep with someone for a job. When I try to imagine who would more probably say this, I think of either: a man, a woman who is already sleeping with someone for a job and is saying it as a defense mechanism, or a very young woman attempting to sound sophisticated by affecting a shoulder shrugging jadedness. It doesn’t seem likely to me from someone who has certainly experienced sexism in her professional career and is more than aware enough to notice and name it. Maybe more to the point: why give her this line? Was there no other way for Monica to express that she found Diane ignorant, presumptuous, and condescending than by trivializing women’s historical and current struggle for workplace equality? It might make sense in terms of some backstory for Monica where we see her very involved in the racial justice movement but also struggling with her need to curry favor with powerful men in her social circle. But I don’t think we’re ever going to get any treatment of her character so nuanced. Instead she reads like a cartoon that defensive white people imagine when they hear the word “privilege”: someone to tell them that no difficulty they’ve experienced is important or worthy of consideration or remedy.

I am now caught up on The Good Wife, so any further TGW complaint blogging will at least be up-to-the-minute.

Buying Climate Change Denialism

[ 57 ] December 12, 2015 |


It’s so easy for corporations to buy climate change denialism that pranksters can pretty much walk into the offices of known professors who have become corporate hacks and do it themselves.

The case of Frank Clemente of Penn State University has similarly damning details. Investigators asked Clemente, a sociologist, if he could publish a paper to “counter damaging research linking coal to premature deaths (in particular the WHO’s figure that 3.7 million people die per year from fossil fuel pollution).”

Clemente said that he could be quoted in support of the report using his university job title, and that it would cost $15,000 for the 8-10-page paper. Asked for assurance that the oil and gas funding would be kept secret, Clemente referenced past articles and even testimony in front of state legislatures and said, “In none of these cases is the sponsor identified. All my work is publised as an independent scholar.”

“There is no requirement to declare source funding in the U.S.,” he explained.

Clemente also took home the biggest paycheck of any in this particular sting. He said he was paid $50,000 for a report titled “The Global Value of Coal,” which was actually published by the International Energy Agency in 2012.

I guess I need to sell my soul. Then I’d be able to buy a house.

Demographics of the New Gilded Age

[ 22 ] December 12, 2015 |


The Institute for Policy Studies has a new report on income inequality:

America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet –­ now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.

The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation’s entire African-American population ­– plus more than a third of the Latino population ­– combined.

The wealthiest 100 households now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States. Among the Forbes 400, just 2 individuals are African American –­ Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith.

The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Just five members of the Forbes 400 are Latino including Jorge Perez, Arturo Moreno, and three members of the Santo Domingo family.

With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.

The median American family has a net worth of $81,000. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 36 million of these typical American families. That’s as many households in the United States that own cats.

Slavery Apologies

[ 40 ] December 12, 2015 |


Regardless of the complex debate over reparations for slavery discussed here, I can’t help but say that I don’t want a black president issuing a national apology for slavery. It needs to be a white president.

In Better Albany-Related News

[ 22 ] December 11, 2015 |

2428758,1ebr0NNurHg7pyGaqTGvKFi1mYu8tK50F3X2zZsiWwC5vlLma+InCuf+WGyZGONpFG54BcGDKzs2m9EcdXUIwQ==“You have got me there. Old Adam is as useless as tits on a boar.”

The felony corruption in the New York state legislature of the week:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara got to continue his anti-corruption-in-Albany victory tour this Friday with a guilty verdict for former State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, and his son Adam. Just two weeks ago, former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side, was found guilty on federal corruption charges too, definitively turning the state’s powerful “three men in a room” into a new arrangement in which Governor Andrew Cuomo is just sitting there by himself.

Skelos, who was kicked out of the state legislature when the jury announced its decision, was charged with using his political power to help his son, who was not at work to make friends — or do work — keep various high-paying jobs. The pair, convicted on eight counts of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy, could face up to 130 years in jail, and will be sentenced on March 3. Skelos, like Silver, plans on appealing the decision.

Sports and the Sexual Double Standard

[ 44 ] December 11, 2015 |


Even when female athletes become national heroes, as which happened with the U.S. soccer team, they receive second-class citizenship compared to male athletes. This isn’t just in pay or television exposure. It’s in working conditions. Whereas the U.S. men’s team flat refuses to play on artificial turf and grass is placed down when they play in turf stadiums, the women’s team is forced to play on turf during their victory tour. Or there at least until Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL on the practice field (which was actually grass but poorly maintained) and the conditions on the field in Honolulu were so bad that the team simply refused to play the match. This will probably end the women’s national team playing on turf, but it’s telling how deep sexism runs in the treatment of athletes.

Daniel Holtzclaw – Guilty, guilty, guilty …

[ 55 ] December 11, 2015 |

For about six months, Holtzclaw preyed on women — all African-American — in one of Oklahoma’s poorest neighborhoods, exploiting his police badge to intimidate them into keeping quiet.

Prosecutors say the Oklahoma City officer selected his victims based on their criminal histories, figuring their drug or prostitution records would undermine any claims they might make against him.

Then, he would subject them to assaults that escalated from groping to oral sodomy and rape.

He was also happy to assault women during traffic stops and girls who were sitting at home.

On Thursday, his 29th birthday, Holtzclaw rocked back and forth in his chair, sobbing, as the judge read the verdict.

Never has the phrase “Boo fucking hoo” been more appropriate. No word on whether his tears were bottled and served to his 13 victims. Or 13 known victims.

Holtzclaw was found guilty on 18 of 36 counts.

The jurors recommended a total of 263 years of prison time for Holtzclaw’s crimes. Formal sentencing is set for next month.

It’s a start.

Americans You Should Know

[ 65 ] December 11, 2015 |


Yesterday in 1909, the great Lakota leader Red Cloud died. He’s someone you all might have heard of but probably don’t know very much about. Heather Cox Richardson helps you fill that gap:

In the summer of 1865, after winning a war to spread the northern system of individual enterprise to the American West, the U.S. government became determined to push back the Lakota who seemed to be standing in the way of that system. Miners, farmers, storekeepers, cowboys, and railroad men stood poised to rush into the rich northern plains. The Lakota promised to kill them if they tried. To break Indian resistance, General U. S. Grant put General William Tecumseh Sherman, fresh from his total war in the South, in charge of defending eastern emigrants from Lakota attacks.

In 1866, Sherman negotiated a treaty with some Lakota leaders. When Union reinforcements arrived during the negotiations, though, Red Cloud and legendary fighter Man-Afraid-of-His-Horse accused Sherman of bad faith and vowed to fight. Sherman misjudged the situation. He believed the angry Lakota were only a few outliers and that settlement would soon overrun the Indians. But Red Cloud was so effectively marshaling his warriors into resistance that the ensuing fights would be known as Red Cloud’s War.

While Sherman plotted to push Lakotas onto a reservation that would keep them away from the transcontinental railroad, soldiers marched up the Bozeman Trail and built forts to protect the miners and settlers pouring into the region. The army had established Fort Reno in 1865; soldiers built Fort Phil Kearny, then marched another ninety miles to the Bighorn River and knocked together Fort C. F. Smith. But Americans were tired of war, and the troops at the forts were understaffed, underequipped, and undertrained.

In December 1866, trouble erupted when an arrogant and inexperienced officer at Fort Phil Kearny, Lieutenant Colonel W. J. Fetterman, set out to whip the Lakota once and for all. Ignoring orders to stay close to the fort, Fetterman led his eighty men directly into an ambush. Red Cloud and his men killed Fetterman’s entire party. By summer 1867, the Lakota forces controlled the Bozeman Trail and the Powder River Country, keeping the troops holed up in their raw forts. In August, the Lakota attacked men haying near Fort C. F. Smith. The soldiers drove them off, but the next day, the warriors returned. They descended on a corral made of wagon boxes near Fort Phil Kearny, killing an officer and five soldiers. Within days of the “Wagon Box Fight,” Lakota warriors attacked a Union Pacific freight train in Nebraska, causing the president of the Union Pacific to warn the Secretary of War that construction on the road would have to stop unless the government protected the railroad workers.

Government officials decided they could not defend both the Bozeman Trail and the transcontinental railroad. In 1868, they decided to negotiate a treaty with Red Cloud promising to abandon the Bozeman Trail if the Lakota would leave the railroad alone. For his part, Red Cloud refused to talk until all the troops left Forts Phil Kearny and C. F. Smith. The government had little choice. It abandoned Forts Reno, Phil Kearny, and C. F. Smith, and agreed that the Lakota could follow the buffalo so long as they stopped attacking the railroad. By August, the troops had left the forts and Red Cloud’s people burned Forts C. F. Smith and Phil Kearny.

The Lakota had won their war against the U.S. Army. Red Cloud signed the treaty, but announced that, while he and his people agreed to stop killing settlers, they would not change their way of life.

It didn’t turn out well in the end of course. After the Lakota were put down in 1877, by which time Red Cloud had moved from a leading warrior to someone calling for peace with whites, he ended up at the Pine Ridge Reservation, which quickly became one of the poorest and most desperate places in the nation, and remains so to this day. He died old, blind, and deeply depressed.

It’s also worth noting that the very military methods we praise Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan for because they crushed the South and ended slavery were immediately used to commit genocide in the American West.

Slow Fashion?

[ 98 ] December 11, 2015 |


In case you thought the Slow Food movement wasn’t white and elite and privileged enough, we now have the Slow Fashion movement.

So why not slow clothing? That’s what then-33-year-old weaving teacher Rebecca Burgess thought in 2011 when she challenged herself to wear garments sourced within 150 miles of her California home. It wasn’t as simple as only buying from local stores: She had to wear clothing with fibers, dyes, and labor exclusively from her region.

“What started as a personal project spiraled into a community of people who helped create this one-year wardrobe: artists, designers, ecologists from UC Berkley who were getting their PhDs in environmental science,” Burgess says. “They felt passionate about the reduction in the toxic load, and of the prospect of making clothes from organic natural fibers.”

The toxic load Burgess speaks of are chemicals and heavy metals generated from producing and dyeing textiles, according to the EPA. In addition, Burgess says the textile industry in California alone produces a tremendous amount of material waste. “After my one-year wardrobe challenge, [Fibershed] did an analysis and found over 3.1 million pounds of wool in the state,” she says. “Over a million pounds are thrown out every year.”

Burgess’ creation of Fibershed, a non-profit 50c3 that invests in locally-sourced clothing, was a direct result of her year-long local fashion experiment. A fibershed (a term Burgess coined) is a “geographical landscape that defines and gives boundaries to a natural textile resource base, engendering appreciation, connectivity, and sensitivity for the life-giving resources within our homelands.”

In the thick of her yearlong experiment, Burgess realized that for slow clothing to take off, there had to be something that everyone would identify with and be willing to wear. The staple she went after? Blue jeans.

She spent the next four years growing indigo herself and fermenting it as dye, cultivating a relationship with local cotton farmer Sally Fox, and employing Levi’s veteran Daniel DiSanto to design a pair of jeans that looked pretty close to the jeans that the public knows and loves. The aim was to combine the traditional jean with everything she loved about slow clothing: supportive of local artisans, using materials only from her region, and 100-percent compostable.

They solved the button and zipper problem that Burgess had experienced in 2011 by using buttons created from the horns of local sheep. They also found a solution to the thread issue, finding a capable mill in Kentucky.

Oh boy…

I should just let this go. No one is being hurt here. If people want to do this, fine. I guess it’s not that different than the knitting revival anyway, which makes people happy.

But let’s be clear–this is going to do absolutely nothing to create any sort of social change at all. It’s not going to help the poor people who are making modern clothing. It’s not going to impact the clothing industry. It’s not going to be something that the world’s billions can do for themselves. It’s not a movement at all. It’s just privileged people wanting to feel good about themselves. If it wasn’t for the self-regard, I suppose I really wouldn’t care at all. But there’s a lot of self-regard here.

Dilapidated Schools and Race

[ 148 ] December 11, 2015 |


Kids in Dallas are staging walkouts over the terrible conditions of their schools.

About 250 students at South Oak Cliff High School walked out Monday to protest leaky roofs, unbearably hot or cold classrooms and other problems they say make learning difficult.

“We have been through so much and today we got fed up,” said David Johnson, a 17-year-old senior who helped organize the walkout.

For instance, he said, the heating and cooling systems don’t work properly, and some rooms get so hot and stuffy that teachers and students must hold class in the hallways.

Shortly after 3 p.m., Johnson and other students left the building and gathered on the front lawn as classes continued inside. They marched down one side of Marsalis Avenue and back up the other. They held signs that read “Fix leaks now,” “We need a new school,” and “Help!!! Call code compliance!!!”

Of course, nearly all the students in this school are African-American, another sign of the racism that plagues our education system that never integrated after Brown in the face of whites resisting actually sending their special snowflakes to school with large number of black kids. They justified it and continue to justify it in all sorts of ways. Some are actually racist. Some just benefit from structural racism and have the ability to get their kids out. Some are even parents of color who see no choice but to go along with the system of racism that forces their public schools into these situations and do what they can to get their kids out too.

And as for the many comments in my recent posts on structural racism and education, I am pretty disappointed in how many commenters were unwilling to reckon with or perhaps even understand the realities of structural racism. Just because you choose to send you child to a better and of course whiter school does not mean you are doing the wrong thing. It also means that you are contributing directly to inequality. The two are by no means mutually exclusive. We so often have this vision of racists being the worst people in the world, but that actually causes more problems than it solves because it allows us to point and say “It’s Those People!” because they are waving a Confederate flag. And that’s one part of a racist nation, no question. But as white people, you benefit from white supremacy every day, especially if you are middle or upper class, including in your ability to live where you want and send your children to better schools. And even if you say, I have black neighbors or whatnot today, remember that you as white children also benefited from this racism when you were children and federal housing policy ensured lily-white suburbs with good schools and tax-starved urban districts with all-black schools. Residential segregation and educational segregation are tied together and those inequalities last for generations and are repeated in the present. Admitting this doesn’t make you a bad person per se, even if it means that you are personally playing a tiny role in increasing inequality. It’s complicated, like most everything. I figured this was self-evident and not particularly controversial, but then I forgot about the special snowflake syndrome.

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