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Coming to Your Chest Soon. Maybe.

[ 91 ] January 29, 2014 |

I’m not sure how cafepress could make trying to get merch to your storefront more difficult than it is currently. Perhaps if somebody physically emerged from the website and poked you in the forehead over and over again while repeating “Is this annoying? Is this annoying? Is this annoying?”  as you try to design a t-shirt. I dunno. Maybe. Long story short, the interface is extraordinarily unintuitive, I’m trying like hell to get this t-shirt design to the storefront, but I’m pretty sure I still haven’t been successful. But being the huge attention whore I am I could not resist showing you the design now.

Read more…

I am become famous, destroyer of worlds…

[ 30 ] January 29, 2014 |

(this is another guest post from Steven Attewell of Race for the Iron Throne, the LGM podcast, and the comment threads)

So…who knew you could get paid for writing about this stuff?  Don’t worry, I don’t intend to forget all the people who got me to where I am today…they shall be the first targets of my intricately-planned revenge.

Let Them Eat States’ Rights

[ 45 ] January 29, 2014 |

I have more on the abominable GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act:

The Medicaid expansion of the ACA is perhaps the most important achievement of the ACA, greatly expanding health coverage to the working poor. The Republican plan would undo most of this progress, eliminating both the requirement raising Mediciad eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty line and the requirement that all individuals within this window (rather than a relatively small subset) be eligible. It would also eliminate the increases in Medicaid payments to physicians that will make medical care more accessible to Medicaid recipients. What the Republicans offer instead is the familiar conservative refrain justifying opposition to social progress: let them eat states’s rights. Rather than the expanded eligibility of the ACA, Burr-Coburn-Hatch would just give states a fixed amount of money per head reflecting the eligibility standards of a given state (which in the majority of cases would be much less expansive than the ACA’s standard.)

In the current political context, the idea that giving more autonomy to the states is a magic formula that will lead to more efficient health care coverage for the working poor is particularly absurd.  The Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision to invent new doctrine and strike down the funding mechanism that would have made a 50-state Medicaid expansion likely provides a natural experiment revealing how serious Republican governors in red states are about covering the working poor. The results are in: most conservatives at the state level would rather leave huge amounts of money on the table than increase health care access for the working poor. The assumption that giving the states less money with many fewer strings attached would in itself result in superior coverage for the working poor is a cruel farce.

And yet, using this awful proposal as the baseline for Republican health care policy is probably too charitable. History suggests that absent the need to pretend to have an alternative to the status quo the Republican proposal for reform is non-existent. But even if one assumes that this proposal is in good faith, it shows Republicans treating those without access to decent medical care the same way they’re increasingly treating the unemployed and those who can’t afford to put food on the table: with callous indifference.

“Think Tanks and Cocktail Conversations”

[ 64 ] January 29, 2014 |

Well now this is interesting…

Now, even the Air Force’s basic mission is uncertain, as a once-unthinkable question has been put on the table in Washington: Does the United States even need a separate Air Force? Privately, Air Force officials nervously scoff at the suggestion. But nobody’s suggesting the U.S. could make do without the Army, Navy or Marine Corps. That the question is even making rounds amid think tanks and cocktail conversations is a telling sign that the Air Force needs to define its post-war purpose, and soon.

The legendary Beltway cocktail circuit!

Old and In the Way

[ 141 ] January 29, 2014 |

Today, I turn 40. Shall I start measuring myself for a coffin?

…..I’ve already made a new friend after turning 40.

A Good Question Without A Good Answer

[ 21 ] January 29, 2014 |

The salutary executive order on the minimum wage does indeed make this failure more glaring:

White House press secretary Jay Carney’s abrupt response Monday to a question about protections for LGBT workers reflects the unusual position the White House finds itself in — and the unanswered questions many have for the administration — when it comes to a proposed executive order to bar federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees or job applicants.

Certainly, the closest the administration has come to an explanation — a focus on the ENDA — makes absolutely no sense as of 2011, since the legislation is DOA in the House under any possible circumstance. This is a lacuna in Obama’s otherwise excellent record on LBGT rights that really needs to be addressed quickly.


[ 34 ] January 28, 2014 |

I do confess some curiosity over what would happen if the entire government went down due to some alien disease or poisoned ketchup mishap during the State of the Union address and a nuclear physicist became president.

Sexism is Dead

[ 136 ] January 28, 2014 |

Worth remembering 10 years later how the wardrobe incident at the Super Bowl halftime show effectively ended Janet Jackson’s career with zero repercussions for Justin Timberlake.


[ 88 ] January 28, 2014 |

This spring, I am teaching a graduate seminar on the Environmental History of the Americas. Since I know how much extra time everyone has, I thought I’d post the readings so that people can read along if they wish. I hope it is enough reading for everyone. I can always assign more.

February 4—William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
Brian Donahue, The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord

February 11—Cynthia Radding, Landscapes of Power and Identity: Comparative Histories in the Sonoran Desert and Forests of Amazonia from Colony to Republic.

February 18—John McNeill, Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914
Elizabeth Fenn, “Biological Warfare in Eighteenth-Century North America,” Journal of American History March 2000

February 25—Linda Nash, Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge.
Gregg Mitman, “Geographies of Hope: Mining the Frontiers of Health in Denver and Beyond, 1870-1965, Osiris 2004

March 4—Thomas Andrews, Killing for Coal: American’s Deadliest Labor War
Stefania Barca, “Laboring the Earth: Transnational Reflections on the Environmental History of Work,” Environmental History January 2014

March 18—James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

March 25—Raymond Craib, Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes
Neil Safier, “The Confines of the Colony: Boundaries, Ethnographic Landscapes, and Imperial Cartography in Iberoamerica,” in James Akerman, ed., The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire

April 1—Marsha Weisiger, Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country
Paul Rosier, “’Modern America Desperately Needs to Listen’: The Emerging Indian in an Age of Environmental Crisis,” Journal of American History December 2013

April 8—Emily Waklid, Revolutionary Parks: Conservation, Social Justice, and Mexico’s National Parks, 1910-1940
Mark David Spence, “Crown of the Continent, Backbone of the World: The American Wilderness Ideal and Blackfeet Exclusion from Glacier National Park,” Environmental History July 1996

April 15—James Morton Turner, The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964

April 22—John Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States
Edward Melillo, “The First Green Revolution: Debt Peonage and the Making of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Trade, 1840-1930,” American Historical Review 2012

April 29—Mark Carey, In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society
Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses” Critical Inquiry Winter 2009

Enough reading for you?

A New Republican Health Care “Plan”

[ 236 ] January 28, 2014 |

Not satisfied with the “Republican plan” that was enacted into law with no ex ante, contemporaneous, or ex post facto support from any national Republican, some congressional Republicans are pretending to have an alternative to the ACA. Its most salient issues:

  • The end of guaranteed issue.  You do have some pre-existing coverage protection if you’ve been lucky enough to have been continuously insured for 18 months and would never miss a deadline.
  • The regulations requiring that insurance actually provide things are eliminated, as are the regulations requiring more equitable premiums among age groups.
  • The subsidies are much less generous.
  • Tort reform, and plenty of it!
  • Perhaps most importantly, the Medicaid expansion would mostly be eliminated — only a small subset of the working poor would be included rather than everyone within 138% of the federal poverty line.  As Avik Roy enthuses, “Under the per-capita cap approach, the federal government would give states a fixed amount of money per person enrolled in Medicaid. It would be up to the states to use that money in the most cost-efficient way possible.”  Oh, goody — if the aftermath of the ACA has shown us anything, it’s the strong commitment of red states to provide health care to the poor.

Like the actual rather than the imaginary Heritage Plan although configured slightly differently since Republicans discovered that a tax penalty for not carrying insurance was the greatest threat to human liberty ever, this is what Republican health care reform would look like if Republicans actually supported health care reform.   That is, 1)horrible and 2)radically different from the ACA.  Admittedly, if you’re the kind of progressive for whom it’s better that millions of people go uninsured than anyone make a low-margin profit insuring them, you might like this proposal — private insurers will certainly have fewer customers.  Which will surely cause them all to vanish soon, because…look, it’s the people with the most influence on the contemporary Republican Party, John Paul Stevens and Zombie John Chafee!

A Good Start

[ 109 ] January 28, 2014 |

Obama will announce a minimum wage of $10.10 for all federal contractors. Obviously, it would be better if he would use the bully pulpit to force the Republican House to enact a national increase in the minimum wage, but if he has to adopt the Heritage Foundation’s minimum wage plan instead I guess we can live with it.

This order should have a very real impact — currently, the federal government is responsible for more low-wage work than Wal-Mart and McDonald’s combined.

Unionize the NCAA

[ 62 ] January 28, 2014 |


For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” has learned.

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.

Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB — the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.

“This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table,” said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker, who created the NCPA as an advocacy group in 2001. “Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections.”

Huma told “Outside The Lines” that the move to unionize players at Northwestern started with quarterback Kain Colter, who reached out to him last spring and asked for help in giving athletes representation in their effort to improve the conditions under which they play NCAA sports. Colter became a leading voice in regular NCPA-organized conference calls among players from around the country.

Now this is a story worth following. Given the difficulty graduate student unions have had in getting universities to admit they are employees, I think this is going to be an even harder struggle for athletes since they aren’t even paid, but I wish them the best of luck.

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