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Maureen Dowd Has Always Been Terrible

[ 104 ] May 8, 2014 |

Paul recently took one for the team, checking in to observe that Maureen Dowd is still terrible.  (Even for a “Obama should have the leadership to be leading, with leadership” column it was asinine.  Obama should…try to arrange it so that Al Bumbry and John Lowenstein get on base in front of Eddie Murray? Exercise the powers of a sports commissioner that sports commissioners don’t actually have either?  Sadly, these are her actual examples.)  For those who haven’t been keeping up, here is every Maureen Dowd column about politics: Democratic men are women, Democratic women are men, I figured out two years after you did that the Republicans I strove mightily to put in the White House are terrible.

You might be tempted to think that while Dowd has evidently been coasting forever, that she was once a decent columnist.  But, as Amanda Hess usefully reminds us, her nutty gender politics and casual relationship with the truth have always been there:

And how! It didn’t take long for Dowd to buckle under the power of the Clinton narrative and join the pile-on herself. By February, she was calling Lewinsky “a ditsy, predatory White House intern who might have lied under oath for a job at Revlon” and “the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school ‘in’ crowd.” At first, Dowd attempted to pass this nastiness off as a sly, satirical commentary on the caricature of Lewinsky that the Clinton administration had painted in the press. But soon, the artifice disappeared, and Dowd devoted her column to arguing that, come to think of it, Lewinsky was both nutty and slutty.

In May, Lewinsky was asked to submit a handwriting sample to the FBI, and Dowd wrote a satirical column imagining the scene. “Her stream-of-consciousness ramblings are on F.B.I. letterhead—in a girlish scrawl, with loopy letters, little hearts and breathless punctuation,” Dowd said. “Here’s what she wrote: Monica Clinton. Monica Lewinsky Clinton. Monica Lewinsky Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Big Creep. (Frowny face.) First Lady Monica. (Smiley face.) Menu for MY Italian State Dinner: Spaghetti Carbonara. Tiramisu. Spumoni. Table placement: Me between Leonardo DiCaprio & John Travolta. Also, cannoli.”

By June, no level of Lewinsky news was beneath Dowd’s scorn. She wrote that Lewinsky’s Vanity Fair photo shoot had “shades of JonBenet Ramsey” and that “It appears that there’s one thing Monica has immunity from: brains.” That same month, Dowd happened to run into Lewinsky while both were dining at Washington’s Bombay Club, so she transcribed the contents of Lewinsky’s dinner plate (“veggie appetizers and chicken tandoori”) and claimed that her presence at the White House–adjacent restaurant “suggested the former intern was still trying to grab the President’s attention, like some love-struck teen-ager, loitering outside Billy Clinton’s biology class.”

It goes on like that, with the punchline that Dowd attributed the effort to brand Lewinsky a dumb slut to nameless “Clinton defenders.”  The fact that Dowd not only somehow kept her job but won a Pulitzer Prize during this period says many things about American journalism, none of them good.

Sssh, honey. Jonah Hill is busy playing video games and denying the existence of god. Because god won’t let him be his authentic self.

[ 217 ] May 8, 2014 |

I found this in my twitter feed.

Sometimes, when a Jonah Hill, a Jeff Garlin and an anus love each other very much, they make a baby. And the baby looks like this picture.

 

I can’t decide if it’s a great thing or the greatest thing currently on the Internet. One thing I do know is that Jonah Hill is a.) very rude and b.) dates women who seem to have a disorder that makes them unable to discern seasons.

No, but seriously, this is just awful in so many ways I hardly know where to begin snarking. (I do wonder if anyone at Reason knows that girls/women also play video games. Probably not.)

So instead of doing that, I guess I’ll talk about something a little more substantive: organized atheism taking up social causes. The skeptic/atheist blogosphere has been slightly abuzz with the topic lately.

To sum things up, some prominent members of the community think that taking up social causes will benefit it in two ways: 1.) it will draw more people of color/women/people who feel similarly disenfranchised by the community to atheism 2.) it will drive out the riffraff. (By riffraff, I, of course , mean young misogynists libertarians.)

I think the argument that atheism, technically, has little to do with social causes–outside of making sure people remain free of religious burden–is sound. It’s just that I can’t think of a downside of taking them up anyway. It seems like a win-win proposition to me.

“‘Go to Mexico,’ she said. ‘Go to Mexico – or stay pregnant.’”

[ 18 ] May 8, 2014 |

The only two options for all too many women in Texas. 

Since these abortion clinic closures are being driven by state regulations with no serious health justification, you might think it’s obvious that the regulations constitute an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose an abortion.  Alas, you’re probably not the kind of neoconfederate Reagan or George W. Bush packed the federal courts with. 

Innovation!

[ 2 ] May 8, 2014 |

In this week’s Diplomat column, I touch on some of the questions associated with my latest academic project:

But whether, with respect to the defense industry, small firms play a large role, a small role, or a significant role in alliance with large firms, their presence in the broader civilian economy produces different expectations for differently structured defense-industrial bases. The Soviet defense-industrial base never took advantage of small firms, which did not exist in context of Soviet defense procurement. This hardly meant that Soviet industry couldn’t innovate, or that it couldn’t effectively serve its military customers. It does, however, suggest that innovation will take more incremental, capital-intensive forms than in systems (relatively) more friendly to small-firm input.

The Chinese system has developed in a much different manner than the Soviet one, at least since the 1980s. There are plenty of small, innovative Chinese technology firms. However, granting the opacity of the Chinese defense industrial system, there is little to suggest that the PLA relies on small firms for innovation. Rather, the PLA seems to utilize a combination of time worn and novel forms of espionage to remain abreast of the latest military innovations in the United States and elsewhere.

GMOs

[ 330 ] May 8, 2014 |

I’ve long thought GMOs were the most overrated scary issue current liberals care about. But I never quite had the right words. Mark Bittman does:

Then there are G.M.O.’s: OMG (the palindrome is irresistible). Someone recently said to me, “The important issues are food policy, sustainability and G.M.O.’s.” That’s like saying, “The important issues are poverty, war and dynamite.” G.M.O.’s are cogs in industrial agriculture, the way dynamite is in war; take either away, and you have solved virtually nothing.

By themselves and in their current primitive form, G.M.O.s are probably harmless; the technology itself is not even a little bit nervous making. (Neither we nor plants would be possible without “foreign DNA” in our cells.) But to date G.M.O.’s have been used by companies like Monsanto to maximize profits and further removing the accumulated expertise of generations of farmers from agriculture; in those goals, they’ve succeeded brilliantly. They have not been successful in moving sustainable agriculture forward (which is relevant because that was their claim), nor has their deployment been harmless: It’s helped accelerate industrial agriculture and its problems and strengthened the positions of unprincipled companies.

But the technology itself has not been found to be harmful, and we should recognize the possibility that the underlying science could well be useful (as dynamite can be useful for good), particularly with greater public investment and oversight.

Let’s be clear: Biotech in agriculture has been overrated both in its benefits and in its dangers. And by overrating its dangers, the otherwise generally rational “food movement” allows itself to be framed as “anti-science.”

Right–technology is neither a miracle nor evil. GMOs are part of the larger problem with modern agribusiness but it’s not like monstrous Frankenfood is going to destroy your body or put chips in your brain so that Obama can follow your thoughts. The actual evidence that GMOs are harmful is pretty much nil and while I do think there are problems around patents and non-reproducing plants that are serious, this is one left of center issue I just can’t relate to.

This Day in Labor History: May 8, 1970

[ 86 ] May 8, 2014 |

On May 8, 1970, 200 unionized construction workers attacked an anti-war march in the wake of the Kent State shooting a few days before. The so-called Hard Hat Riot placed an image in the American mind of right-wing workers opposed to social justice that sadly remains far too prevalent today.

Unfortunately, the actions of a small number of unionists are used 44 years later as evidence of why unions can’t be trusted by otherwise progressive people. Although the national AFL-CIO supported the Vietnam War, the reality is that the union movement is very ideologically diverse and was so even more at that time, when there were many more unions than the present. Many union members and union leaders opposed the Vietnam War. Many had fought there and came back bitter. Others fought there and were die-hard supporters.

But the building trades have long been bastions of conservatism in the labor movement, whether the United Brotherhood of Carpenters not endorsing a Democratic candidate for president until 1964 (and mostly not endorsing Dems today) or the Laborers supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline. There are exceptions to this–the Painters tend to be quite a bit more liberal. But the building traders generally supported the war. That was especially true of Peter Brennan, president of the powerful Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and vice-president of the state AFL-CIO. Brennan was moving significantly to the right in these years, around Vietnam and other issues. Hating hippies was pretty easy for Brennan.

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed 4 students at Kent State University, leading to the largest protests of the war. Protests continued after the Kent State massacre. New York mayor John Lindsey ordered flags to be flown at half mast to honor the 4 dead. On the morning of May 8, hundreds of young people gathered at Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan for a protest. Brennan coordinated construction workers to attack them. The construction unions were largely white male unions that had resisted desegregation and gender equality; they felt themselves and their cultural values under attack from many forces and that included those protesting the war in Vietnam.

Around noon, about 200 construction workers attacked them from all four directions. There was a police presence but it was thin and the police didn’t try very hard anyway. The construction workers, carrying American flags and patriotic slogans, singled out the men with the longest hair and beat them. They began tearing up nearby buildings as well as the attacks verged nearly out of control. One of the first things the construction workers did was to raise the flags back to full mast, a direct rebuke to Lindsay, who many saw as unmanly and cowardly for kowtowing to antiwar protestors and hippies. About 70 people were sent to the hospital, mostly students but including 4 policemen. Brennan claimed it was a spontaneous demonstration by workers sick of hippies desecrating the American flag. This was an obvious lie.

The construction unions were largely white male unions that had resisted desegregation and gender equality; they felt themselves and their cultural values under attack from many forces and that included those protesting the war in Vietnam.Around noon, about 200 construction workers attacked them from all four directions. There was a police presence but it was thin and the police didn’t try very hard anyway.

hardhat

Throughout the rest of May, building trades workers continued to rally. On May 20, the rallies became officially sponsored by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, with 100,000 people festooned with flags and signs reading “God Bless the Establishment” and “We Support Nixon and Agnew.” Construction workers in St. Louis held similar rallies. Very quickly, the hippies began distrusting labor unions as part of the corrupted establishment. In the 1971 hippie dystopian film Punishment Park, about a world where the hippies are rounded up, tried in kangaroo courts, and then given the option of fleeing from the army for their freedom in the eponymous park, one of the key figures on the courts is a unionist, masking his evil in vague language of workers’ interests but in fact just being a tool of the man. Such images of labor unions became all too common on the American left, sometimes not without reason, as we see in this post.

But again, it’s important that we today push back against “labor” being pro-Vietnam. Polls showed that manual laborers were more opposed to the war than the college-educated. These were not public sector unionists or industrial unionists or even all building trades unionists. This was a small sector of labor. Moreover, what galled many of the working-class people at the protest was not the lack of support for the war itself, but rather the privilege of the anti-war protestors who were using college deferments to avoid the war while they sent their sons and themselves to Vietnam. There were lots of tensions at work here, but they were more complex than presented at the time. And they are basically irrelevant today. People talking about this today with any relevance to the present might as well pull any event from the American movement 44 years ago. It would be relevant if American labor unionists began beating Occupy protestors or environmentalists rallying against Keystone. But even if such a horrible thing happened, it would be one very labor union acting very badly, not all of organized labor. We need to recognize this and place it in context of who is the problem here. In 1970, it was the New York building trades and their ambitious hippie-hating leader, not the United Auto Workers or United Steel Workers of America.

Of course Richard Nixon thought of all this was great. All his talk about “law and order” did not apply at all to rioting construction workers. Nixon repaid Brennan for his actions by naming him Secretary of Labor. Brennan continued in the job into the Ford Administration. Ford replaced him in 1975 whereupon he returned to his old post in the Building Trades Council. Brennan died in 1996. Congressmen Peter King, a man wrapped up in the politics that drove Brennan nearly a half-century ago, saluted him for “standing up to the antiwar protesters who tried to take over our streets.”

Bits of this are taken from Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the American Working Class, although he doesn’t talk about this event much. Joshua Freeman’s “Hardhats: Construction Workers, Manliness, and the 1970 Pro-War Demonstrations” from the Summer 1993 issue of Journal of Social History was also used. I understand that Penny Lewis’ recent book is quite good on this history, but I have not read it.

This is the 105th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Rootless Cosmopolitans

[ 24 ] May 8, 2014 |

This song by the great Jewish guitarist Marc Ribot

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(who I saw play in New York in January and oh my god) goes out to scumbag anti-Semitic blog trolls who would be better off gagging themselves everywhere. It comes off his Rootless Cosmopolitans album which is really great.

….Also, Ribot’s Yo! I Killed Your God is the greatest album title of all time.

On “Putz”

[ 27 ] May 7, 2014 |

My former students write essays:

My very first class in graduate school was Dip 600: National Security Policy with Dr. Robert Farley. It was the core course in my focus area and I couldn’t have been more nervous.

I’d just met my 42 colleagues at orientation and they were an impressive bunch—two Army Captains, a Marine, someone with a PhD, two people who spoke Chinese, and a significant number of impressive young minds. My greatest fear was being the dumbest kid in class and for the first time, it felt like a distinct possibility.

When Dr. Farley got to my name in the list he looked up.

“Are you related to J.J.?” he asked.

The Potential Return of Rick Perry

[ 274 ] May 7, 2014 |

The man who proved that you can too be too dumb to win the Republican presidential nomination is making noises about running again. He, first of all, wishes to note that he’s not some kind of crude Okie:

Appearing on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” Mr. Perry defended his state’s use of the death penalty as “appropriate and humane,” even after the bungled execution in Oklahoma last week.

So how humane is Texas’s death penalty? I would like to ask Cameron Todd Willingham. Except that he was killed by the state of Texas. Even though the state had essentially no evidence that he committed the crime for which he was accused.

At any rate, one thing I think should be emphasized about Perry is that his ineptitude wasn’t just about one case of forgetting some gibberish about what federal agencies he’d like to eliminate. He was unable to keep even the express even the most obvious attack lines against Romney in a remotely coherent manner (apologies for the title):

Almost anything can happen in a Republican race; Romney could have only run if he was effectively running unopposed, and he for all intents and purposes was. But it would take a much bigger run of luck for Perry to be a serious candidate.

Relatedly, Kilgore is excellent on the “next in line” myth.

California junior high school students asked to decide whether or not the Holocaust was a hoax

[ 200 ] May 7, 2014 |

The research assignment is here, and really needs to be read in its entirety. It includes three historical summaries, two of which are conventional if necessarily superficial descriptions of the Nazi regime’s mass murder of approximately two-thirds of Europe’s Jews, as well as enormous numbers of Roma, disabled persons, and Soviet prisoners of war. The third, which is presented to these 14-year-old children with no indication to them that its credibility might be in some way questionable, is a lunatic rant from a Holocaust denial web site.

Via TPM.

Johnny Cash as John Brown

[ 45 ] May 7, 2014 |

For the 1985 miniseries North and South, the producers hired the greatest actor of his generation to play John Brown. His name? Mr. John R. Cash.

Via

More on the NFL’s Cheerleader Exploitation

[ 154 ] May 7, 2014 |

To follow up to Erik’s post, Amanda Hess has a comprehensive roundup of the labor grievances of NFL cheerleaders. In addition to the low pay and huge amounts of unpaid labor required, there’s the humiliating amount of body micromanagement. It’s an outrageous set of practices.

As it happens, I’ve been reading Nicholas Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers, which shows similar things about coaching assistants, who are asked to work hours like BigLaw associates for almost nothing. This extremely profitable, generously taxpayer-subsidized league could actually pay all of these people well, but they exploit because they can.

Of course, I’m sure that all these labor cost savings that accrue to the NFL’s benevolent overlords are passed on to the fans, as so many credulous sportswriters have assured me…

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