Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, February 28, 2014

Yeah, This Is Good

I am looking forward to what Obama will do with his post-Presidency.  My guess is he will do more than make bad paintings of himself in the shower.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Knew Her When...

Great Googly Moogly...

This is the great conundrum of American politics.  And it comes down to those feckless "Independents" and "undecided voters."

When you ask the electorate, "Would you like the person you vote for to agree with you on most of the issues or the candidate with the best chance of winning?" not surprisingly, 70% of Americans want someone who agrees with them on the issues.

And when you ask about immigration reform, raising the minimum wage and increasing taxes on the wealthy, you get majority support for those positions.

Which is why the GOP currently has a slight edge in voter preference.  Wait, what?

A lot of this is the "six year itch" as people have Obama fatigue.

But there is a lot of just plain stupid out there, too.

People support the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but hate "Obamacare".  People support the provisions of immigration reform, but hate "amnesty".  The derp is strong among the American people.

The last four years have shown a complete and utter abdication of the responsibilities of governing from the GOP.  They have embraced a legislative nihilism that is equal parts cynicism and bug eyed craziness.

And yet, they will likely get rewarded at the polls because Democratic voters are too stupid to show up at the polls during Winter Olympics years and Independent voters are too enamored by their faux-savvy "both sides do it" bullshit.

We get the government we deserve, I guess.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oscars As They Should Be

Yeah, that will do.

Excuse Me, I Have To Go Stick My Head In An Oven

Some dipshit over at Faux News made the audacious claim that Abraham Lincoln started the Civil War over slavery, when he could have just bought them.

For decades after 1776, there were many Southerners who advocated a form of compensated emancipation combined with repatriation to Africa.  Usually these were Southern men of education and means who owned a lot of slaves but understood the moral implications of it.  Men like James Madison, for instance.

Once Northerners and free blacks started advocating for the end of slavery, about the same time Nat Turner made his "statement" against the peculiar institution, the South went from the "necessary evil" argument to the "positive good" argument.  They began to defend slavery and demand its unfettered expansion.

By the time Kansas was given the ability to choose whether or not to have slavery, Southerners and a few Northerners were willing to kill and die over the issue.

But it was the South who seceded.  It was the South who opened fire on Ft. Sumter.  And, as Jon Stewart notes, Lincoln did actively try the "buy and free" plan on the border states.  Lincoln had been an advocate of compensation and repatriation for decades before the Civil War.

Ultimately, the Civil War was about the spread of slavery into the West.  It was about whether Southern plans to annex places like Cuba should be patronized to extend the number of slave states in the Union.  This was not in dispute at the time.

And, you know, slavery was a great moral stain on this country.

Which makes Andrew Napolitano's screed on Fox a telling indictment of the wingnut understanding of our own history.  They have created not just an alternate news universe on Fox, but through the various right wing publishers and TV channels, they have created an alternative history.

Now, as I tell my students, history is not fact, it is interpretation.

But what is distressing is how people like Napolitano have to change the facts to support their interpretation.

But then that IS the modus operandi at Fox on all things.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Would could have predicted that a stateless, intrinsically valueless currency would turn out to be disaster?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Great Tribute

Harold Ramis was involved with so many of my favorite movies, including my all time favorite comedy, Groundhog Day.

The piece above nails what made him so essential to so many funny movies.

He spoke at my film school, and he was just as generous and kind as you would have guessed he would be.

He was a gentle man among anarchists.

Bullet Dodged

Last year, several of my students (almost all male) had prominent Romney stickers on their laptops.

I guess they don't know how lucky they are that their guy lost.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Walking Dead Deadblog

OK, time to pick this back up again...

Excited for the addition of Sargent Abe Ford.  But really was that die job necessary?  Or did he simply tint his hair with the guts of dead Walkers?

The kid who plays Carl is good, but he doesn't do mirth.  Glad we moved on from that.

The Rick,Carl, Michonne troika certainly lucked into a nice neighborhood.

Is there a more helpless feeling than hiding under the bed?  (That was a well done scene. Not seeing their face.)

Laughing Carl?  Soft Michonne?  WTF is up with this?

The two consistently excellent things in this show are the makeup effects and Bear McCreary's music.

How did that group (the intruders) possibly survive as long as they did being such colossal a-holes?

Uh, no, he doesn't...  Eugene is a liar.  You know why?  Mullet.

The multiple storylines are good.  Keeps the action flowing.

Loving the guy playing Eugene.  Creepier than a herd of Walkers.

Abe looks like the new "Moral Center".  That sort of messianic visionary the series needs.

Ah... Sanctuary.  The next great story point.

These Folks Deserve Better Than Putin

The Sister Souljah Moment

Back in 1992, when the Democratic party was seen as being held hostage to blacks, lesbian-feminists, tree huggers and socialists, Bill Clinton had what was called the Sister Souljah moment, when he called out a rapper for her violent statements in response to the Rodney King riots.  This allowed Clinton to distance himself from the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic party.

Clinton won, because the economy was in the toilet, Ross Perot was on the ballot and Republicans had held the White House for six years.  But it certainly helped to reduce what was seen as the extremism of the '70s Left within the Democratic Caucus.

Such "game changers" as this are almost entirely BS narratives foisted on political analysis by journalists who are trying to replace fundamentals with story points, to turn the chaos of real life into a tidy novel.

However, it isn't completely ridiculous.

And when a party is in the grips of extremist political interest groups, they have to work back to the center.  Sometimes you can re-define the center, but that takes years and it helps to actually control power for some time during that time.

So you have to tack center to win national election.

Which makes this somewhat interesting.  Jeff Flake is a conservative Senator from a Red state.  But he isn't 126 years old like the Senior Senator and the Governor.

When Arizona and Kansas start pressing laws to allow discrimination against LGBT people, I honestly don't give a damn.   These laws are going to be ruled unconstitutional by any federal judge who isn't ridiculous.  "Please proceed, Governor."

These are bad laws that won't be on the books for very long.

But they make the GOP look like bigots.  So, please proceed.  Bills like this insure that the GOP remains old, white, male and evangelical.

For a younger Republican like Flake, standing up against LGBT discrimination at its more naked is a smart play.

Of course, in Arizona he could get a primary from someone who wants to put LGBT people in prison.  And lose.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


It seems like once a year a country decides to fall apart into warring factions.

I don't know why that is, though obviously every country is different.

But I do know every country that seems to fall apart has a democracy deficit.

So despite the asshatery on display in Missabamasaw, I don't think we'll be breaking up soon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Long Day's Journey Into Night

I have six class meetings in each class, one JV wrestling tournament, a batch of comments and one school duty before I can collapse into March break.  I have twelve test essays to grade and twelve take home essays that I have to turn around in two days.  I have to finish an evaluation of a fourth year faculty member and start hiring at least three new faculty for my department in that time span, too.  I have been tasked with helping to create an end of winter event for the faculty at large.

I am currently stuck in the library doing duty when there are no kids here.  #efficiency

I would like a nap...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

This Begs The Question

Only 11% of Americans have a favorable opinion of North Korea.

That means 30 million Americans have a favorable opinion of North Korea.  How is THAT possible?  I mean Iran at 13% I can sort of understand, because Iranians as a people can be nice, and there are plenty of Iranian-Americans around.

But who likes the world's worst country?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Almost Feel Sorry For McConnell


When these guys are your enemy, maybe you're not the worst person in the world after all.

Sooner Than I Thought

I thought Yanukovych would wait until after the Olympics to start killing people.  And what's odd is that he apparently got pressure to do so from Putin.

Maybe Putin is worried that the men's hockey team will lose and he's already looking for a distraction.  I'm actually serious.  Within Russia, the success of these games is about the hockey team.

I've become more and more tolerant of the idea of secession, and think it could be a viable solution in Ukraine.  In fact, if Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana want to give it another go, I won't squawk.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Thaw

It's supposed to be above freezing tomorrow.  Maybe some rain.

Now that we've moved on from the incessant snow, I'm looking forward to the flooding.

Monday, February 17, 2014


The second prominent "Stand Your Ground" case has ended.  Michael Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder for the people he shot.  But for some reason, the jury couldn't convict him on the murder of Jordan Davis.

Davis and his friends were in a parking lot, listening to obnoxiously loud music.  Dunn asked them to turn it down.  They turned it up.  Dunn unloaded his 9MM into the car.  Davis died.

Dunn tried to say he was "threatened" by the loud music and thought he saw a shotgun in the car.

In some ways, it doesn't matter.  Dunn will be behind bars for the rest of his life in all likelihood, as he 47 years old and facing 60 years in prison.

But as so many others agree, I think the important words are those of Ta Nahesi-Coates:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Four Days Of Snow

All the shoveling and I've thrown my back into spasm.

I have a ton of grading to do, but I can't really sit in a chair.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

In Unions Their Is Strength

The news from Chattanooga - that workers declined to join the UAW at a Volkswagen plant - is really discouraging.

Volkswagen was very open to the workers joining a union, because it would allow them to set up a works council, like they do in Germany and everywhere else they build VWs.  Basically, a works council allows blue and white collar workers at the plant to determine benefits, work hours, vacation policy and work conditions in a collaborative effort.  This is common business practice in Germany, where it goes under the name neo-corporatism.

But then the GOP in Tennessee basically started threatening both VW and the workers.  Basically, the "anti-tax party" was going to raise taxes on Volkswagen if they had a union represent their workers.

Again, you can see the real agenda here.  The GOP didn't care that VW was eager to work with the UAW; the needs and wants of Volkswagen were immaterial.

What really mattered was that workers should not unionize.  That trumped their antipathy to taxes and their supposed "pro-business" ideology.  In fact, their desire to prevent unions would have extended to actively trying to hurt Chattanooga and its workers.

There is no other word for this than class warfare.

But it is also incredibly sad that workers gave in to these threats.  Of course, being compared to Detroit was the kicker because you know what sort of people live in Detroit. And the reason automakers left Detroit was because they could exploit cheaper labor elsewhere.  But VW wanted the union!

Jay Gould, titan and scumbag of he Gilded Age, famously said, "I can hire half the working class to kill the other half."

Today, the GOP used threats and intimidation to prevent workers from having a voice in their plant.  This should forever cement their place as the party of the 1%.  But just as the workers in Chattanooga only understood "Detroit" and its blackness and bleakness, so, too, will the average American's understanding of this dynamic be hopelessly muddied by race, relative privilege and "both sides do it."

We get, I suppose, the government we deserve.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Where Is My Pitchfork?

Shorter version: "Shut up you proles!  At least you aren't one of the poorly paid serfs to whom I've outsourced your job!"

Marx was wrong about communism.  It doesn't work, it's not a natural result of the dialectic struggle between capital and labor.

But he was possibly right about capitalism.

Let's take this as an example.  The UAW and Volkswagen are nearing a deal that would introduce the sort of neo-corporatist collaboration that has been so successful in Germany.  It would bring the workers into the decision making process and allow for a more harmonious and productive workplace.  Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world, practices this way of doing business.  It allowed them to sail through the recent depression/recession relatively unscathed.

But the Party of Money and their out-of-touch billionaire backers are trying to do everything they can to make sure that A) Americans don't get any health insurance that isn't tied to their employer's beneficence (better make sure you don't have a distressed baby) B) American workers are not able to earn better wages through collective bargaining C) any effort to ameliorate the condition of the working poor through social programs, food stamps, health insurance subsidies or education grants are to be gutted.

The more these privileged idiots keep spouting off, the angrier most Americans will become.  While the Tea Party has tapped into some populist anger by railing against "big government", the fact is that they are really tapping into racial panic as much as economic distress.

This economic issue is real and measurable.

I honestly believe that 2014 and 2016 can be shaped by this populist economic anger if it's properly messaged and massaged.  Whoever winds up running as the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat in West By God Virginia needs to talk about how the people who polluted Charleston escaped scot-free.  Whoever runs in South Dakota and Montana needs to talk about how the Keystone pipeline was bought and sold by wealthy oilmen who will pollute the aquifer.

And everyone should run against the 1%.

It does appear that this is the strategy, given the focus on the minimum wage and economic inequality, but Elizabeth Warren isn't the darling of the Left because she's a dynamic speaker.  Bernie Sanders isn't thinking about a presidential run in 2016, because of the tremendous appeal of a Jewish, Christian-Socialist agenda.

If Hillary is to be the nominee, she needs to get in front of this populist energy.  The Clintonistas are justifiable suspect on economic equity, so she needs to show more Warren and less Rubin.

Aquabuddha Strikes Again

I don't know what to make of Rand Paul.

Some of the more gullible like to note his strong positions against NSA spying.  OK, he's right.  But you can't ignore the totality of the man's positions, many of which are deeply retrograde.

But he's a Republican, so paleolithic positions on abortions or civil rights are to be expected.

No, I'm talking about Paul the person.

This new allegation of stealing other people's work suggests an intellectual laziness that would not be out of place in a high school senior who has just signed his letter of intent to commit to the Alabama football program.  He still has to "do the work" but he's not really invested in doing the work.  So a little cutting, a little pasting and voila!  You have your term paper lawsuit.

Maybe it's just the extreme polarization speaking, but it really is harder and harder to understand the basic motivations of the arch conservatives that make up our Congress.  Not Boehner or McConnell, I "get" them.  They play power politics as cynically as anyone else.

But what's weird is that the true believers don't seem to understand what they believe.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lesson Or Lessen?

Last Saturday, arguably our best wrestler was disqualified and thrown out of our tournament on a poor judgment call by the referee.  Basically, he was being crossfaced by his opponent, when his opponent forced his wrist into our kid's mouth, leaving teeth impressions on the top and bottom of his wrist.

The referees ruled that it was a bite, which is "flagrant misconduct" and brings an automatic disqualification.  As a consequence, he could no longer compete in the tournament.  He went from being on his way to the finals (it was a semifinal match) to being completely removed from the tournament, his team points removed and his medal taken away.

There is also a league rule that he can't compete in the following competition, which happens to be the New England tournament.  We appealed, and significantly, the opposing coach whose wrestler was "bitten" supported our appeal.  He noted that his wrestler did not think our kid bit him and the coach was in a position to see what happened and did not see any evidence of biting.

The appeal was denied today.

Basically this very good kid - who would've finished second in the league at worst - who had his season ended on a controversial judgment call.

And while I'm disgusted with the referees, I understand that refs make mistakes.  Heat of the moment, long day and all that.

But the appeal was sent to a committee of athletic directors who turned it down under the cold light of deliberation.  These people are supposed to be educators.  Instead, they behaved like rule-bound bureaucrats.

So today, when I address the team, I am going to have to talk about how rules/laws are not the same as justice.  That this poor kid - who has handled it with more dignity and restraint than I would have (or have) - was screwed because last year the tournament (which he would have won) was snowed out and this year he was DQ'ed on a bad judgment call.

This is, perhaps, a good lesson for kids to learn.  Sometimes injustice happens, and sometimes it happens to good people.  If we are to prepare them for the world, they should know that.

But as an educator, what a crappy thing to have to tell a roomful of kids.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Do These Things Have In Common?

Say it now and say it loud, I'm white as mayonnaise and I'm proud.

Here's a take on the current continued control of the GOP by the Tea Party.

On efforts supported constituencies that Republican operatives say the party must perform better with, conservatives not only block them, they sometimes dismiss the very notion that they're necessary. Bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which beefs up legal protections for women who face pay discrimination in the workplace, are stymied by Republican opposition. A Fox News host argued that many women who were paid less than men earned "exactly what they're worth." GOP leaders have also refused to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which appeals to supporters of gay rights, a burgeoning constituency across the country. ENDA passed the Senate recently and Boehner wasted no time before signaling that it was deadin the House.

Even initiatives that have enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the past, like the Voting Rights Act, are now toxic on the right. Conservatives oppose fixing the part of the historic law that was struck down by the Supreme Court, designed to preemptively snuff out voter discrimination in the state and local governments where it's likeliest to occur. Lawmakers recently introduced bipartisan legislation to rewrite and reform that provision, but Republican leaders have refused to sign on, amid opposition from conservatives who say the idea violates states rights and should be left alone.

Hmm, women...Hispanics...blacks...

But the important thing is not to call the Tea Party racists because white people are the real victims of racism, like that nice George Zimmerman.  And the real people suffering persecution are those poor billionaires suffering from the modern day krystalnacht or having to support other people's distressed babies.

And what's incredibly depressing is that they are likely to pick up seats in Senate and maybe even the House next November, despite being the retrograde face of America's long history of bigotry.

Shirley Temple

A few weeks ago, I saw a Buzzfeed piece, "10 People You Didn't Know Were Still Alive," headed by Shirley Temple Black.

Maybe there's a Buzzfeed Curse?

I remember back in the days of five channels that there would often be Shirley Temple movies on TV.  I mean, if your TV is black and white anyway....

They were curious movies, relics from a very different time.  I'm not sure I could sit through 15 minutes of one today.

But when you compare her life with the myriad of child stars from later eras who have become burned out, wasted shells of people, she gets my profound respect.  For the few times when a child star manages to become a functioning adult, one wonders if they shared some template with Temple Black.

So kudos to her and her remarkable life.

Even if she was a Reagan Republican...

Monday, February 10, 2014


Reprinted in full:

John R. Morales was sentenced this week to 16 years and three months in federal prison on drug and weapons charges after police found more than 1,000 marijuana plants and 27 weapons, including grenade launchers, at two indoor farms.
Morales wore the McGruff costume for the Harris County Sheriff's Association in the late 1990s.
A real crime dog - the drug-sniffing variety - detected pot plans in Morales' trunk after he was stopped for speeding in Galveston in 2011. Authorities say officers found a clipboard with maps to the indoor farms.
Defense attorney Ken Fesler II says Morales entered the drug trade to help sick relatives.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Walking Dead Summary

Carl decides to be an asshole.

Rick nears death.

Michonne deals death.

Hopefully get back to live blogging it next week.


OK, good Carl is back.

So... Sundays

Tonight at 9PM, we have The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey and True Detective.

The rest of the week we have bubkes.

I Got Some Dust In My Eye

This is a pretty amazing story from where we were ten... five years ago.

Winter Olympics

Ice Break Dancing, The Newest Olympic Sport

I can't really get excited for the Sochi games. Back when there were only a few options for watching sports, it was cool to see out of the ordinary sports.  But today, I curled up on the couch and watched Fulham pull a shocking tie out of Manchester United at Old Trafford.  Do I really need to watch Team Figure Skating?  I mean the testosterone soaked spectacle of curling still holds an appeal, but honestly I am not compelled to watch.

I intend, however, to say that this is a principled statement against Putin's repression of Russia's nascent civil society and absence of press freedom.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

All Day Tournament

Away at a tournament for the day.

Hopefully Nicky, Carl and Locke come home with some sweet hardware.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Party Of Nihilists

To sum up: a bunch of red states are trying to prevent people from getting federal subsidies for the federal exchanges.  This costs nothing to the states, they simply don't want Obamacare to succeed.
Basically, they are working with every fiber of their being to make sure Americans don't get health insurance.

You can argue against the role of the federal government in providing health insurance.  Every other advanced economy in the world does it, but whatever.  America, f%*# yeah!

But when the law is established and the exchanges are basically working to get millions of Americans health insurance, despite the GOP efforts to subvert it, to deny people access to the federal exchanges is just a massive dick move.

Part of it may be that as citizens get access to health care, they might vote Democratic.

But it seems like this is almost Maoist.

Mao believed in "Reds over experts"; that ideological purity trumped whatever short term practical benefit.  This gave China the Great Leap Forward which killed about 30,000,000 Chinese and the Cultural Revolution.  "Reds over experts" sucked.

But the GOP is basically saying that their ideological beliefs are more important than the practical benefit of providing millions of Americans with health insurance.

Red states over experts...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

CBO Derpitude

The Congressional Budget Office released a report that shows that many Americans will likely work fewer hours and move to more part time jobs, as they no longer have to work more than they would prefer in order to keep health coverage.

This report - being a nuanced and subtle thing - has led to the derpitude from the press that one might expect.

If, as the report suggests, this will lead to more early retirements and people working fewer hours, it could drive wages up.  It could also open opportunities for younger workers to move into jobs vacated by those holding on to health insurance.

But in the brain dead world of today's media, it's a bad thing for workers.


I made it a resolution this year to turn my grading around quicker this year, and this winter at least, I'm seeing some success with that.

While I still would be watching re-runs of the The 13th Warrior at night, I feel much less stressed about the fact that I'm not procrastinating.

There's a lesson in there.  Too bad it took 47 years to learn it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

This Is A Brilliant Idea

Seriously.  Given the unemployment among college graduates with few job skills, just hire a few as ScapeTerns.  Then when something goes amiss: Fire them!

Too bad for Chris Christie he didn't have a ScapeTern.

What More Is There To Say?

The most compelling story from last night's Superb Owl was not the game, which was a Fail Fest.

No, the most compelling story was the commercials.  And by commercials, I mean the one commercial that sent the Wingnutosphere into paroxysms of anger.

No doubt Fox News is working up a demand for an apology from Coke.  I hope Coke tells them to pound sand.  One of the interesting dynamics recently is how banks are trying to get people to refinance their homes with government programs and health insurance companies are working to get Americans to sign up for insurance via Obamacare.

Meanwhile, the GOP is trying to alienate everyone who isn't old, white or extracting hydrocarbons from the ground.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Death Of A Salesman

I looked over the WSJ's comment section on Philip Seymour Hoffman's death.

Somehow this is the fault of liberals blaming business owners or something.

I don't know, but if you're feeling good about anything, go to an online comments section.  That will learn you to feel good.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Check Out #30

The last cover on this list is the daughter of colleagues and friends of ours.

Here it is:

Here is the rest of her oeuvre:


While I was gallivanting around the Big Apple with the Fam, I would occasionally check into TPM to see what was shaking, and well aside from Chris Christie's jowls, it seems that the theme for Thursday and Friday was "APOLOGIZE, DAMNIT!"

Everywhere around the Internets, people had said or done things that upset other people.  Those people (the second group) got all shouty and demandy for apologies from the first group.

My favorite was when some intern at MSNBC suggested that conservatives wouldn't like an interracial couple in a Cheerios ad.  That's absurd, conservatives hate the KIDS of interracial couples, not the parents themselves.  Anyway, MSNBC apologized and fired the guy.  Just like Fox News does when someone on their network says something stupid or inflammatory about a Democrat or a liberal.

I have to agree with Dan Savage, you aren't going to appease anyone with an apology.  I did think Melissa Harris-Perry's apology was quite heartfelt, but there were reasons WHY she was apologizing from her own life story.

If you are sorry, apologize.  If you aren't, don't.

But don't think when political figures demand apologies from you, that you will actually change anyone's mind by doing so.