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13 Jul 14:28

The Amazing Early Progress of #AbolishICE

by Erik Loomis

This Politico piece is supposed to be dismissive of #AbolishICE, but in fact, it shows just how far this movement has come in a very short time.

A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that most voters oppose eliminating Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the homeland security agency some liberal Democrats have called for abolishing.

Only 1 in 4 voters in the poll, 25 percent, believe the federal government should get rid of ICE. The majority, 54 percent, think the government should keep ICE. Twenty-one percent of voters are undecided.

OK, not so popular right now. But then:

But a plurality of Democratic voters do support abolishing ICE, the poll shows. Among Democrats, 43 percent say the government should get rid of ICE, while only 34 percent say it should keep ICE. Majorities of Republicans (79 percent) and independents (54 percent) want the government to keep ICE.

Calls to abolish ICE have been amplified over the past two weeks — since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a liberal challenger, defeated House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary for Crowley’s New York City-based seat. Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on the issue, and has said that ICE represents “the draconian enforcement that has happened since 2003 that routinely violates our civil rights, because, frankly, it was designed with that structure in mind.”

A handful of liberal figures — including some potential 2020 presidential candidates, like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — have also called for eliminating or replacing ICE, as have other Democratic primary challengers, like Cynthia Nixon, who is running against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

This movement was basically started by Sean McElwee on Twitter in the early part of the year. I and others chipped in where we could, highlighting American ethnic cleansing on Twitter and in our writing. And by July, we have 43% of Democrats supporting the abolition of an evil agency of American ethnic cleansing. That’s amazing! Despite the 24-hour news cycle, social movements aren’t built overnight. Tiger Beat on the Potomac has no way to compute this because social movements don’t fit its model. So it seems unpopular. But it’s not. It is just being introduced to voters and a full plurality of Democrats want to eliminate this evil agency. Really, we should be very proud of this and continue to move forward demanding its complete abolition and a totally different immigration system as part of the 2020 Democratic platform. Anyone who wants to win the Democratic nomination needs to embrace this. Kirsten Gillibrand, being better at her job than her competitors, understands this and has gotten ahead of them all.


08 Jul 12:49

Why Does No One Care About Meatpackers?

by Erik Loomis

It’s remarkable to me that basically no one cares about the lives of the people involved in producing our meat. I went into this in some detail in Out of Sight, but compared to the other issues I raised in that book, it didn’t get much attention. These are people in our nation, in factories under much concealment and often but not always away from the cities, and yet, even among liberals and the left concerned about labor and food issues, they are basically forgotten about. As I wrote in an essay in this recent issue of the Journal of Food Law and Policy, the Trump years are going to be very bad for food labor issues, but it’s not as if the Obama years were any good either–because, basically, no one cares. It’s remarkable as well, because liberals cared much more about this decades ago than they do today. I find that remarkable because today’s liberals and left are more concerned with workers of color, more concerned about food politics, more concerned about safe consumption, and more concerned with a global outlook. And yet, food workers, even in the U.S., are almost totally ignored.

In case you want to begin doing something about the condition of meatpackers in the U.S., here’s a good story on all the amputations workers suffer producing your steaks and tasteless chicken breasts.

US meat workers are already three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker, and pork and beef workers nearly seven times more likely to suffer repetitive strain injuries. And some fear that plans to remove speed restrictions on pig processing lines – currently being debated by the government – will only make the work more difficult.

Government and industry bodies point out that there have been reductions in worker injury rates over the last couple of decades, although the figures still remain higher than average. They argue that despite the lifting of speed restrictions, the need to adhere to strict rules on food safety will impose its own limit on line speeds.

Records compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveal that, on average, there are at least 17 “severe” incidents a month in US meat plants. These injuries are classified as those involving “hospitalisations, amputations or loss of an eye”.

Amputations happen on average twice a week, according to the data. There were 270 incidents in a 31-month period spanning 2015 to 2017, according to the OSHA figures. Most of the incidents involved the amputation of fingers or fingertips, but there were recordings of lost hands, arms or toes. During the period there were a total of 550 serious injuries which cover 22 of the 50 states so the true total for the USA would be substantially higher.

Recorded injuries include:

An employee’s left arm had to be surgically amputated at the shoulder after it was pulled into the cubing machine during sanitation.

A worker was reaching down to pick up a box to clear a jam when his jacket became caught in a roller. As he tried to pull it out, his hand got pulled in as well. His hand and lower arm were crushed.

While an employee was attempting to remove the ribs from the spine of a cattle rib set, his hand made contact with a running vertical band saw and two of his fingers were amputated.

An employee working on a sanitation crew pushed the stop button after removing parts from the upper portion of a machine. The employee then placed his foot into a horizontal grinder while climbing down from the machine, causing all five toes on his right foot to be amputated.

A worker was clearing the hydrolyzer when back pressure caused hot feathers to discharge on to him. As he moved out of the way, he fell six feet, breaking a bone over his left eye and suffering first- and second-degree burns to the hands, arms, face and neck.

But I like bacon, so who gives a shit, right.

It does not have to be this way. Not at all. The United Packinghouse Workers of America fought to make the workplace much safer in the mid-century years. But then the Eisenhower administration actively worked with rural interests to bust those unions and move meat production into the countryside in order to lower meat costs for consumers and take political pressure off itself over rising meat prices. Customers didn’t care, so here we go. Now these jobs are largely done by immigrants, often undocumented, with no political power and fearing a return to their often dangerous countries if they complain. There are all sorts of ways to fix this–demanding stronger workplace safety regulations, a real inspection process open to all, etc. Yet, in all the great things the left is proposing over the last few years, meat production is approximately 0 on the list. That really must change. Workers are literally dying.


06 Jul 22:50

A mother and daughter reunited at Logan

by adamg

CNN posted this video of Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia, a Guatemalan national, being reunited with her 8-year-old daughter at Logan this afternoon, 55 days after they were separated by immigration officials in Arizona - who let Gonzalez-Garcia fly to Massachusetts, where she is now staying in Framingham, but sent her daughter in Harlingen, Texas.

CNN reports:

The reunion was made possible by lawyers from two firms and the ACLU of Massachusetts. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, helped speed up the reunification process.

In a declaration filed as part of a lawsuit by the state of Washington against the federal government over the separations, Gonzalez-Garcia wrote:

On May 10, 2018, the day after our arrest, Officers came into the room and told me that they intended to take my daughter away from me. The Officers told us that the law with minors was "done" and again said 1 was going to be deported. Most devastating of all, the Officers said 1 would never see my daughter again. When the Officers told me this, 1 felt like collapsing and dying. I cannot express the pain and fear I felt at that point. My daughter was only seven years old and she was much too young to be taken from me. When I asked why the Officers said that I had "endangered" her by bringing her here. They told me to sign a consent form to take my daughter, but that it did not matter whether or not I signed, because they were going to take her either way.

The officer came into the cell and called my daughter and me into the big office space. They told me that if I did not sign the paper they would still take my daughter from me, and they also said it would be worst for me. During this same conversation one of the officers asked me "In Guatemala do they celebrate mother's day?" When I answered yes he said, "then Happy Mother's Day" because the next Sunday was Mother's day. I lowered my head so that my daughter would not see the tears forming in my eyes. That particular act of cruelty astonished me then as it does now. I could not understand why they hated me so much, or wanted to hurt me so much.

Her complete statement (11.8M PDF, search for "Exhibit 6").

03 Jul 20:32

Female hosts of NBC’S SATURDAY NIGHT (later called SATURDAY...

Female hosts of NBC’S SATURDAY NIGHT (later called SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) during its first two seasons:  Jill Clayburgh; Jodie Foster; Sissy Spacek; Dyan Cannon; Shelley Duvall; Ruth Gordon; Candace Bergen; Lily Tomlin; Louise Lasser; Madeline Kahn.

28 Jun 22:44

Thoughts On Justice Kennedy’s Announcement

by Josh Marshall
Matthew Connor

“Optimism isn’t principally an analysis of present reality. It’s an ethic. It is not based on denial or rosy thinking. It is a moral posture toward the world we find ourselves in.”

Elections have consequences. Often they are profound consequences stretching years or decades into the future from their inception point. Trumpism is civic poison. There is a temptation to think that this is another reverse coming after Trump’s election, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the reversal of DACA protections and more. I don’t see it that way. These jolts are really only absorbing, fully recognizing the consequences of what happened in November 2016. Once we ingested it into the body politic all sorts of outcomes became either inevitable or possible. This is just one more of them, though perhaps the most consequential yet.

Jeffrey Toobin says Roe v Wade will be overturned and abortion in 20+ states within 18 months. This is far from the only change we are likely to see in short order. The most visible, high-profile Court issues tend to be those centering on questions like abortion rights, LGBT equality, religious liberty. Far less visible, though no less consequential, are the issues I expect a new Court to focus on most: using the scaffolding of the law to block legislatures from addressing key economic questions facing our society, much as the Court did in the late 19th and early decades of the 20th century. They are all important; they’re all down by six runs in the 9th inning.

How do we react? I wrote yesterday that we can’t expect the courts to save us? That was clear with yesterday’s decisions. It’s even more overwhelmingly clear today. Litigation remains critical. But the fight for voting rights, for instance, will be won at the ballot box. Change will come through robust political coalitions — at the local and state level, building to the federal level. Everything else must follow the same path. We are on our own, left to our own devices. The history, whatever mistakes, misfortunes and interventions, is simply the terrain we now grapple with.

Coming off the brutal 2004 election, George Bush was reelected with his Republican majorities after an unexpected midterm election pick-up in 2002. There were numerous articles and even books explaining the Republicans’ “permanent majority,” a mix of wedge issues, money and geography which locked in a Republican majority something like forever. Two years later the entire Republican congressional party was shattered. Things change quickly – often dramatically and at the worst moment. I continue to believe that the Republican right is involved in an essentially defensive action, trying to lock in policy gains and anti-democratic obstacles to stave off an electorate which is growing and largely hostile to their views.

That’s an analysis, a prediction. But predictions and analyses can be wrong. We don’t know the future. As an historian, I know we don’t even really know the past. I wrote this the day after President Trump’s election: “At such a moment I come back to a thought I’ve told family members at times of stress or grief. Optimism isn’t principally an analysis of present reality. It’s an ethic. It is not based on denial or rosy thinking. It is a moral posture toward the world we find ourselves in. If everything seems great, there’s no need for optimism. The river of good news just carries you along.”

Our commitment to our values and to our country, which we express through political action, is an ethical commitment, not a read of the odds. The greater the crisis, the greater the national affliction, the more your country needs you. Our journalism, your activism, your commitment are simply more important today than they were yesterday. We can lie down. We can stand up. We can walk forward. For my part, I can’t think the future is on the side of the American right when the man who now embodies is it is so consistently unpopular. But I will walk forward regardless.

19 Jun 22:40

Racist Demagogue

by Josh Marshall
Matthew Connor

it's getting worse (i mean unless you're Pia i guess)

This requires an explicit mention.

The use of the word “infest” to talk about people is literally out of the Nazi/anti-Semites’ playbook for talking about the Jewish threat. It was also a standard for talking about Chinese in the western United States and it remains part of the vocabulary for talking about Romani (Gypsies) in parts of Europe. This is the most hard-boiled kind of racist demagogic language, the kind that in other parts of the world has often preceded and signaled the onset of exterminationist violence. The verb “to infest” is one generally used to describe insects or vermin (rats), creatures which are literally exterminated when they become present in a house or building or neighborhood.

17 Jun 10:03

Cult of personality

by Paul Campos
Matthew Connor

don't know what's up with the formatting here but ugh this made me feel actually sick to my stomach :\

For some reason this strikes me as the most obscene moment of the Trump presidency yet:

Jacob Soboroff‏Verified account @jacobsoboroff
FollowFollow @jacobsoboroff

Starting to get some handout photos from our tour with @HHSGov. Here’s the Trump mural I mentioned to @chrislhayes inside the shelter for incarcerated child migrants. Also their beds and the towels they shower with.

6:25 PM – 13 Jun 2018
If you’re wondering where that quote is from:
Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump
FollowFollow @realDonaldTrump

Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war. Don’t ever get down on yourself, just keep fighting – in the end, you WIN!

5:27 AM – 23 May 2014
This is America.


17 Jun 09:55

Trump Admin: Bible Supports Family Separation Policy

by Josh Marshall
Matthew Connor

i don't believe in hell but i almost wish it existed just so these people could rot in it

Remarkable discussion today from Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders explaining why the Bible supports aggressive enforcement of the administration’s family separation policy.

Here’s Jeff Sessions, who went first.

And here’s Sarah Sanders responding to that argument.

A good place to start on this discussion is that we don’t govern ourselves by the dictates of the Bible. But even on its own terms this is a pretty weak argument. The Bible is replete with injunctions against gratuitous cruelty inflicted on the weak. It even has explicit passages enjoining good treatment of immigrants! The reference is to Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which Paul says that everyone should “subject themselves to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

This is a controversial and highly contested passage and there are good reasons to believe Paul had historically contingent reasons for making this argument. Indeed, numerous Christian movements have been based on the clear rejection of this view. Paul foresaw the imminent end of the world. He saw no point in courting persecutions against nascent Christian congregations. But the most noteworthy point is that the passage doesn’t say what either Sessions or Sanders claims.

This is a quietist argument. Subject yourself to whoever is in lawful authority. It’s deliberately indifferent to the righteousness or morality of their rule. It simply says that they’re in charge because God wills it. It says nothing about the aggressive enforcement of the law. Nor is this some picayune technicality. Because enforcement of the law, what the law is goes directly to whether it is right and just, a point Paul intentionally ignores.

In any case, you can ‘enjoy’ the moral tawdriness of this latest argument on a number of different levels.

15 Jun 14:32

Sit Up At Attention, People

by Josh Marshall
Matthew Connor

sorry to keep sharing political shit but this is giving me the shakes

President Trump: “Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” Video.

06 Jun 11:15

I Guess It Makes Sense that the New Gilded Age Would See the Return of Coercive Medical Experiments

by Erik Loomis

This sure isn’t alarming at all…..

Suppose you wanted to do a study of diet and nutrition, with thousands of participants randomly assigned to follow one meal plan or another for years as their health was monitored?

In the real world, studies like these are nearly impossible. That’s why there remain so many unanswered questions about what’s best for people to eat. And one of the biggest of those mysteries concerns salt and its relationship to health.

But now a group of eminent researchers, including the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, has suggested a way to resolve science’s so-called salt wars. They want to conduct an immense trial of salt intake with incarcerated inmates, whose diets could be tightly controlled.

The researchers, who recently proposed the idea in the journal Hypertension, say they are not only completely serious — they are optimistic it will happen.


Using inmates as study subjects is controversial, to say the least. History is laden with horror stories. In the 1940s, prisoners were deliberately infected with malaria. In the 1950s, inmates were infected with hepatitis. A decade later, scientists irradiated prisoners’ testicles.

“Prisons are an inherently coercive environment,” said Ruth Macklin, an ethicist and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

I wonder if we should from those mistakes and maybe not turn prisons into medical testing zones. Naaaahhhh, think of the potential for cool experiments we can conduct! That people of color make up a vastly disproportionate number of prisoners and thus test subjects? Hey, why does everything need to be about race you commie liberal!

In conclusion, STEM students need to be forced to take a whole lot more humanities courses so they can think about the actual impact of their actions upon real life human beings. Of course, that potential is precisely why humanities courses are being deemphasized and humanities departments destroyed.


16 May 14:08

A bear is wandering around Newton Centre

by adamg

Last night, Newton Police issued an alert about a bear in a tree near the Green Line tracks in Newton Centre:

Caution Wildlife Advisory: There is a Black Bear up a tree in the vicinity of 1320 Centre St. Please use caution and avoid the area...An officer is standing by.

This morning, police updated the situation:

Sometime during the night, the bear made its way down the tree and moved on. If seen in the area, please don’t approach it!

29 Apr 09:59

An Asshole Says What?

by Scott Lemieux
Matthew Connor

this, um..... what

Matt Bevin, everybody:

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) lashed out against teachers participating in a statewide protest Friday, saying educators exposed some of the “hundreds of thousands” of children to sexual assault and drug use by walking out of class.

“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin told reporters Friday evening after teachers swarmed the Capitol by the thousands over a battle to raise education funding in the state. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”

“Children were harmed — some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time — because they were vulnerable and left alone,” he added.

Bevin, whose veto of a two-year spending bill with a nearly half-billion-dollar tax increase was overridden by fellow Republicans in the legislature, has recently sparred with teachers groups amid educator protests across the country fueled by claims of low pay and underfunded school systems.

The fact that a state could produce the world’s best whiskey and this chud is proof of the fundamental irrationality of the universe.


29 Apr 09:58

Edgy new bar thinks Bostonians ready for some homeless-alkie chic

by adamg
Matthew Connor

this is so fucking gross

UPDATE: It's not even all that edgy. The Bukowski Tavern had the same idea a few years ago, only with a 40 of malt liquor in a bag.

The Herald interviews the general manager of a new Theater District bar that is trying to give Bostonians the "cosmopolitan and worldly" feel of New York, through drinks such as the "Hobo Experience:"

A vodka-based beverage with Combier, papaya, basil and lime - all combined, rebottled and brought out in a brown paper bag, so you sip as if you were hanging on a street corner.

10 Apr 14:29

Avoid Post Office Square at rush hour

by adamg
Matthew Connor


Vice President Pence will be in town for a private Republican fundraiser (no, Charlie Baker won't be there) at the Langham that starts right about, oh, the time the afternoon rush hour begins.

05 Apr 00:10

Brazilian Girls' 'Karaköy' Is A Teary Daydream

by Andrew Flanagan
Matthew Connor

i’m SO HAPPY to have brazilian girls back :’)

Brazilian Girls.

From Brazilian Girls' first album in a decade, Let's Make Love, Sabina Sciubba sings a little sun-dappled novella of pain.

(Image credit: Nora Lezano/Courtesy of the artist)

27 Mar 19:36

Building More Housing Does Not Necessarily Lead to Cheaper Housing Without Government Regulation

by Erik Loomis

I have long railed against simplistic ideas that the solution for housing costs in cities is to simply build more housing. First, the so-called “law of supply and demand” is more of a simplistic ideological construction of capitalism than a reality, yet it’s power in our society blinds people to the many factors that go into to determining economic markets. Housing is one example. Given that the cost differences between constructing urban housing for the poor and urban housing for the wealthy are not that great, all the profit margin for developers is at the high end. And while the supposed law of supply and demand says that if those high-end apartments remain empty that costs will come down, that’s not actually true, as we are seeing in New York.

There’s a hidden city in the five boroughs. Though its permanent population is zero, it is growing faster than any other neighborhood.

Early numbers from the Census Bureau’s Housing and Vacancy Survey show the unoccupied city has ballooned by 65,406 apartments since 2014, an astonishing 35% jump in size in the three years since the last survey.

Today, 247,977 units — equivalent to more than 11% of all rental apartments in New York City — sit either empty or scarcely occupied, even as many New Yorkers struggle to find an apartment they can afford.

The Vacant City — let’s call it that, with a tip of the hat to the 1948 movie and old TV series “Naked City” — has tripled in 30 years. A generation ago, there were just 72,051 apartments in the Vacant City. Back in 1987, when rents were cheap by today’s standards at a median $395 a month, the Vacant City made up less than 4% of rental apartments.

Today, the median rent is $1,450, having risen twice as fast as inflation, even while the Vacant City tripled in size.

The numbers just don’t add up the way conventional wisdom said they should.

For years, development officials, the real estate industry and think tanks have told us that artificially low rents are holding the city back. Higher rents, the argument went, would free landlords to make a reasonable amount of money and serve as an incentive to increase the housing supply.


The article goes on to state that AirBNB may be one reason for this, and in cities like New York and Seattle, where you really do have a shortage of hotels, I don’t doubt it is. But also, it just makes no financial sense for the developers to move their high-end places for less money, not when they figure New York will continue going through financial boom cycles. What is actually required is government action to more tightly regulate what sorts of housing is built and who is it is for. The government has to ensure that there is affordable housing for people in cities. And yes, that should include public housing projects, which were always a good idea in theory. It was in execution, i.e., blindly assuming that they would pay for themselves and thus having no backup funding plan when they became housing for the truly poor, that they failed. It doesn’t have to be that way and we should be proposing a vigorous public housing program in our cities. Right now, you have a major homelessness crisis in New York and many other cities around the nation and there are hardly any real answers on what to do about it. Going back to the article:

We’ve largely conquered dilapidation and abandonment. Statistically, there are no more slums in New York City. But we’ve achieved this through a supply-side fantasy that created an unaffordable and increasingly vacant city.

More than 63,000 New Yorkers are living in homeless shelters (almost three times more than in 1987), and 30% of city households are shelling out more than half their income in rent. What they and all New Yorkers need is not simply the construction of more housing, but better means to keep rents within reach.



24 Mar 12:44

The John Bolton I Knew

by MWaxman
Matthew Connor

I’ve been good at managing my feelings of “we are well and truly fucked” lately, but this latest turn has really put a pit in my stomach.

Former Ambassador John R. Bolton speaks at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Most of the commentary about John Bolton's appointment as national security adviser has focused on his extreme policy views, especially with regard to military strikes against North Korea and Iran. I want instead to offer here a few firsthand thoughts about his formidable skills—which are what make him so dangerous. The Trump White House is something of a clown show, but Bolton is no clown. Rather than just adding a Fox-newsy ideologue who shifts the balance of the administration team’s view further toward the president’s most hawkish outlook, Trump has added someone who can actually help him make that outlook into reality.

Amb. Bolton may not remember me, but I certainly remember him. In the summer of 2001, I joined George W. Bush's National Security Council staff, serving first in the West Wing as the Executive Assistant to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and later as a National Security Council director coordinating, among many other issues, U.S. policy toward the International Criminal Court (an issue on which Bolton dominated at the time, but later lost influence). I later served the Bush administration in the Defense and State Departments, where I watched Bolton often run circles around rivals or chew them to pieces.

Yes, Bolton is militantly aggressive about wielding American military and economic power. But what I saw in him also was an operator who was relentlessly effective in implementing—or stymying—policy, at least in the short term.

Here are three things to know about what Bolton brings to this job.

First, he's a masterful bureaucratic tactician. Unlike his predecessors, Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster, Bolton is a very experienced and adept creature of Washington institutions. Similar to former Vice President Dick Cheney, he knows the levers and knobs of the vast national security and foreign policy machinery: how they work, who works them, and how to exert control over them. He’ll work to put loyalists in key vantage points and marginalize those he distrusts (both of which I watched him do as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security). In particular, he has the already-weakened State Department, now lacking a secretary, especially mapped out for further hostile takeover.  

Second, he’s a crafty negotiator. I’ve never believed that Donald Trump is the artful dealmaker he pretends to be; he has a few plays that he just runs again and again. But Bolton is truly clever. He picks his battles much more carefully than Trump does. As U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Bolton is mostly remembered for his hostility to the institution and for his coarse bluntness. Yet in that multilateral diplomatic maze, he often delivered for the administration, including on North Korea at the U.N. Security Council. 

Third, he's thorough and methodical. Most senior policymakers simply cannot keep up with the details across so many issues. I watched Bolton dominate ICC policy meetings with mastery of the minute particulars, preserving a strategy that was more hardline—and unnecessarily costly—than I think even the president would have wanted (though I’d note that Bolton’s early victories on this issue didn’t last into Bush’s second term). Expect the same diligent readiness from him on issues like Iran and North Korea, but with the added advantage that he'll face less pushback than he might otherwise because of the fact that so many senior diplomatic posts remain unfilled. His ability to be meticulous and bombastic will probably serve him very well in this White House.

It’s anyone's guess whether the relationship between Bolton and President Trump will last. The president is, of course, a wild card. My best guess is that Bolton will be effective at managing his relationship with Trump and will be far more influential than Flynn or McMaster ever could have been. But, maybe the president will quickly turn on him as well, or just decide he hates mustaches. What’s more, John Bolton doesn’t suffer fools gladly—and that's bad news for Trump.

For now, the key takeaway is that Bolton brings to the president's national security agenda a competence that this White House has lacked. I generally agree with Benjamin Wittes that some of the president's worst instincts have often been tempered by sheer ineptitude. What makes Bolton dangerous is his capacity to implement those instincts effectively.

Matthew Waxman
Matthew Waxman is a law professor at Columbia Law School, where he co-chairs the Program on Law and National Security. He is also co-chair of the Cybersecurity Center at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute, as well as Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He previously served in senior policy positions at the State Department, Defense Department, and National Security Council. After graduating from Yale Law School, he clerked for Judge Joel M. Flaum of the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter
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22 Mar 20:24

In the ’80s, Ursula K. Le Guin & Todd Barton Recorded an Imaginary Civilization

by Editorial
Matthew Connor

wait WHAT

Kesh, Ursula Le Guin

Photo by Brian Attebery, 1988

If you came across Music And Poetry Of The Kesh blind, with no idea of its contents of context, you could spend an eternity trying to understand it.

Its 13 tracks span instrumental pieces, field recordings of nature, folk songs, and poetry in an unfamiliar language. There is yearning verse, beautiful lullabies, and choral pieces like “Yes—Singing,” which threads three female voices together in haunting harmony, set to handclaps and the distant chirrup of cicadas. Based on the vocal pieces alone, you might assume this record was the work of a wandering Alan Lomax sort, tracking down and recording secluded communities for release on Smithsonian Folkways. But other tracks suggest a different story: “Heron Dance,” with its chiming, zither-like strings and gentle drones recall the music of New Age icon Laraaji; on “A River Song,” the sound of flowing water becomes one with a bubbling, babbling synthesizer. Music And Poetry Of The Kesh doesn’t quite sound contemporary, nor ancient, nor futuristic. It feels like all of them, all at once. It poses a peculiar paradox: The more you know about language, or music, or culture, the stranger it sounds, the more mercurial its reference points become.

As it turns out, Music And Poetry Of The Kesh was recorded in the early ‘80s by the late sci-fi novelist Ursula K. Le Guin and her friend and collaborator, a musician from Oregon named Todd Barton. It was recorded over two years, in parallel with the writing of Le Guin’s 1985 novel Always Coming Home, an imagined history of a peaceful, pastoral future society based in and around California’s Napa Valley, which Le Guin tells through a mixture of first-person narrative, illustration, and cartography. Long out of print and largely forgotten, the music has now been uncovered and prepared for reissue by RVNG Intl. sub-label Freedom To Spend.

“One of the primary concerns of the label has been around the utopianism and problematic elements of fourth world music—this sort of notion of breaking down creative borders and creating a true ‘world’ music,” says Pete Swanson, Freedom to Spend’s cofounder. “I see this album fitting in awkwardly with that whole thread of work. A whole culture and language and anthropology had to be imagined, articulated, and put to page to eventually result in these strange languages and sonic traditions that never really existed.”

Always Coming Home is typical of Le Guin’s broad horizons. Her take on fantasy and science fiction looked beyond the familiar tropes of the genre to encompass themes of feminism, anarchism, and questions of race and sexuality. Music And Poetry Of The Kesh was originally released on cassette in 1985, and packaged with select editions of Always Coming Home. But, according to Barton, the music was far more than mere musical accompaniment. “It wasn’t just a case of, ‘This is music inspired by…,’” he explains. “The music was actually integral to what you were reading in the book. They were always meant to be together.”

Barton and Le Guin first crossed paths in the early ‘80s, while Barton was working as a composer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, a city near the California border. Le Guin, already an author of international repute, was on tour, reading from some upcoming works. “Afterwards, I went up to say, ‘Hi, I’m Todd, I’m a fanboy,” says Barton. He discovered that the university radio station was adapting some of Le Guin’s radio plays so he offered his services as a composer, and soon he and Le Guin struck up a friendship. She and her husband Charles invited him out to their family homestead in the Napa Valley. “We were out for a walk and she said, would you like to write music for my next book?” he remembers. “And I said yes…please!”

Le Guin had only just started writing Always Coming Home, and the pair’s written correspondence rapidly defined the parameters of the work. “Pretty quickly, it became clear that the book was going to be a collection of this ethnologist findings of this culture—be it dance, music, poetry, daily life, tools, rituals. The way she framed it was it was this imaginary archaeological dig into this culture. So I adopted the same mindset. I started doing imaginary musicological digs into the Kesh culture, and would bring back sounds, or instruments, or things I had found.” It was a means of working that spurred the pair on to granular levels of detail. “The first poetry she sent me to be set to music was called ‘The River Song,’” he recalls. “I said, ‘Ursula, it’s in English…do they speak English?’” Le Guin conceded that they did not. “So she took six months off to create a language so that she could then write the poetry in Kesh.”

Ursula Le Guin

For his part, Barton busied himself building instruments to Le Guin’s design, which included a seven-foot horn, the Houmbúta, and the Wéosai Medoud Teyahi bone flute. For the long singing pieces, he enlisted colleagues from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and he also travelled the Napa Valley in search of field recordings: “I would get up at four in the morning and sit in a meadow and record the sounds of the world waking up for two hours, freezing my butt off.” But technology also played a key role. It’s a surprise to hear that many of the sounds are recreated skillfully with a Roland Jupiter-8 synthesizer. Likewise, that all the poetry on the album is spoken by Le Guin herself, with Barton sonically manipulating the author’s voice “so she would sound like an old man, or a young girl,” he explains.

The pair’s dedication to detail paid off: Music And Poetry Of The Kesh takes its imagined subject matter and makes it feel vivid and real. After the music was wrapped, Barton filled in and sent off some forms to the Library Of Congress to claim copyright before the pair embarked on a short book tour. “And they wrote me back to say I’d filled out the forms wrong: ‘You can’t copyright indigenous music, but you can say you arranged it. And you can’t copyright the poetry, but you can copyright your translation.’ I had to call them up,” he laughs, “and I said, ‘Wow, OK, I think you missed the boat here. Ursula Le Guin created the language, and she and I are the only people on the planet who understand and can speak it.’” After Always Coming Home hit shelves, Le Guin’s descriptions of Kesh instruments caught the attention of her fans, who set out to build them for the first time. Barton sounds satisfied that the facsimile sounds he worked out on the Jupiter sounded just about right.

Barton and Le Guin remained firm friends after the recording of Music And Poetry Of The Kesh. They worked together on subsequent collaborative projects; Barton even named his daughter after her: “They would get together to chat—the younger Ursula mentored by the older Ursula.” Le Guin was fully involved with the reissue of Music And Poetry Of The Kesh, but sadly she will not see its release; the author passed away, aged 88, on January 22 of this year.

Barton, meanwhile, is preparing to play a few tracks from Music And Poetry Of The Kesh at a launch party in April. “It’s so different from what I’m doing now, which is very abstract electronic music,” he says. “But I’ve been trying to figure out how I can do a few tunes, and it’s taken me back to some of the eight track masters.” It’s been fun looking back, he says, and remembering how this strange, singular collection of music came together. “Ursula was happy with the recording, very happy—both at the time, and throughout her life. It was an important work for her.”

-Louis Pattison
14 Feb 21:59

'Charlie on the MTA' could be updated with new people to vote for to fight the fare increase: Members of the Boston City Council

by adamg
Matthew Connor

The T is legit getting worse, which shouldn't be possible but it is definitely noticeable on both my morning and evening commutes. (I don't even commute during rush hour in the morning, but the trains keep getting slower and more infrequent, often stopping for 10 minutes at a random stop for "schedule adjustment.") It's really a joke.

Boston City Councilors say the $85 million the city directly pays into the MBTA every year should at least buy them a meeting with T officials to press their case to do more than just maintain an increasingly unreliable system they say particularly penalizes residents who don't live near a subway stop.

"It's cheaper to go from Hyde Park to Providence than to go from Hyde Park to Ruggles on the commuter rail," Councilor Michelle Wu (at large) said, in filing a formal request for a hearing at which to try to get T officials to attend to explain everything from fares on commuter rail to why the T thinks it deserves a possible fare increase.

In her formal request for a hearing, she added:

At current MBTA service levels, certain buses and subway trains are so crowded during rush hour that many commuters must “go out to go in,” traveling first in the opposite direction from their destination to be able to access transit in the intended direction, yet the MBTA is considering fare increases for the next fiscal year, which would disproportionately burden Boston residents and especially lowincome and working class residents who most need access to affordable, reliable public transit.

"If the MBTA was a business, they'd be out of business," fumed Councilor Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan), who has been complaining about commuter-rail fares in Hyde Park and Roslindale for years.

"It's absurd that residents of the city of Boston pay different fares to go into town," Councilor Matt O'Malley (West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain), said. "It's simply unjust," agreed Councilor Ayanna Pressley (at large).

Unlike Mayor Walsh, who has been reluctant to raise the issue, councilors said the $85 million a year the city of Boston directly pays the T each year for the privilege of being in the T district should be a lever to get both more equitable fares and better service.

"That's real money," McCarthy said. "The MBTA does not service Boston residents well."

"The city of Boston pays a huge amount of money into the T and deserves to have a seat at the table," agreed Councilor Josh Zakim (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, Fenway), who added state officials need to start thinking about real investments in the system, not just fare increases and cost cutting. He added, "we had a very different response when Gov. Patrick was there."

10 Feb 15:08

Good Move

by Erik Loomis
Matthew Connor

I think "Darker, Gayer, Different" is a great motto, personally.

This is how you act when oppressive assholes in power want to meet with you because you snapped back at them.

Vice President Pence is set to arrive here soon to lead the official U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremony, a delegation that is making a strong political statement against North Korea’s oppressive regime by including the father of Otto Warmbier, the student who died not long after being held in captivity in North Korea.

But on the afternoon on Jan. 17, Pence had another focus: He was so concerned about the criticism he received from U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon that his staff went to the extraordinary length of asking the U.S. Olympic Committee to set up a conversation between the two – an offer Rippon turned down.

The spat between the vice president and the figure skater began when I asked Rippon last month about Pence’s selection for the ceremonial role of leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympic opening ceremony.

“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it,” Rippon said.

I love it. Of course, the fact that there are gay figure skaters (I too was shocked to learn this in 2018), Asian-American skiers, and the like is making Fox executives very upset.

Fox News’ Olympics coverage has started, and it’s already a doozy.

John Moody, the network’s executive editor and executive vice president, published an op-ed Wednesday lamenting Team USA celebrating its diversity.

“Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger,‘” Moody wrote on hours before official competition would begin at the Winter Games. “It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’ If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work.”

In conclusion, Colin Kaepernick committed an unpardonable sin by bringing politics into sports.


02 Feb 23:46

The Dancing video: come for Kylie chucking an acoustic guitar across a room, stay for the dance with DEATH

by Popjustice
Matthew Connor

this video makes me so so happy y’all don’t even know

Nobody could really claim the guess-what-Kylie-went-to-Nashville-for-a-few-weeks-last-summer influence is subtle, but this Sophie Muller-‘helmed’ video for the new Kylie single is just what the doctor (in-house video commissioner) ordered.

  • Proper dance routine
  • Kylie tossing a guitar
  • Bit at the end where she dances with the Grim Reaper (?)

That’ll do nicely.

It’s reassuring, also, to see Sophie Muller reprising the ‘line dancing, ballroom dancing and sparkly shoes’ theme of one of her finest works. Do you think she’s had those shimmer curtains in storage since 2001?

The post The Dancing video: come for Kylie chucking an acoustic guitar across a room, stay for the dance with DEATH appeared first on Popjustice.

01 Feb 17:23

The director of Pulse leads an invasion of the body snatchers in the goofy-creepy Before We Vanish

by A.A. Dowd on The A.V. Club, shared by Laura Adamczyk to Film
Matthew Connor

YAY Kiyoshi Kurosawa is one of my very favorite directors and this sounds like a lot of fun. I highlight recommend seeking out his last movie, Creepy, it's a good intro to what makes him so weird and magical (and it is unnerving as fuck). It's on Shudder and I think Amazon.

One of Japan’s premier gooseflesh provokers, Kiyoshi Kurosawa made an international name for himself in horror, specifically with 2001’s technophobic, ghost-in-the-machine creepfest Pulse. But he’s no genre monogamist; the director has applied his command of unnerving atmosphere—that ability to get skin crawling with…


01 Feb 05:39

The Hereditary trailer only hints at the horrors that await you

by A.A. Dowd on The A.V. Club, shared by Katie Rife to Film
Matthew Connor

Here’s that trailer, Christal! I’m not watching but in case anyone else wants to...

About the closest there came to a consensus opinion out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival was that Hereditary, the latest horror movie scooped up by indie distributor A24, is really, really scary. Of course, just saying as much—as yours truly did after stumbling shell-shocked out one of the first screenings—risks…


24 Jan 16:45

Hereditary is the most traumatically terrifying horror movie in ages

by A.A. Dowd on The A.V. Club, shared by A.A. Dowd to Film
Matthew Connor

Whoa. Comparisons to The Bababook (which I thought was kinda lousy tbh) and the fact that it's A24 (which has been consistently disappointing lately in the art horror category) give me pause, but... Whoa.

I don’t scare easily. As much as I love horror movies, and have since I was young, they don’t usually shake me in any real, lasting way: “It’s only a movie” is always there for me like a security blanket, smothering any genuine panic. So it’s a special kind of awful, a rare treat of sorts, when something comes along…


23 Jan 15:48

Green Line low energy once more; commute yet again a chore

by adamg
Matthew Connor

I’ve been on the train for over an hour and I’m still three stops from work, send help

Yes, once again, the C and D lines are suffering those mysterious power problems that are slowing trolleys to a crawl.

18 Jan 13:48

Kylie launches comeback single Dancing — and it’s all about LIFE

by Popjustice
Matthew Connor

i need it nowwwwwwwww

Kylie’s new single Dancing premiered on Radio 2 this morning and it’s out tomorrow, but it leaked on Saturday and on the same day The Sun ran this headline.

Except, right, the song isn’t really about DEATH and dying, is it? It’s about life and living.

The line “when I go out I wanna go out dancing” (WHICH IS A VERY VERY GOOD POP LYRIC BECAUSE IT MEANS ONE THING BUT ALSO ANOTHER THING) does take into account the fact that one day all of us will make our way to the great bargain bin in the sky.

[This post was ready to go at 8am today based on the assumption that Kylie’s team would put the audio online following the radio premiere, which didn’t happen, but this is almost certainly where the embed would have gone]

But Dancing is (one would have imagined) unmistakably a song about what you do with your life between this point and that point. As the 0.57-litre-sized 1 ‘pop’ ‘princess’ notes in the song: “Everybody’s got a story, let it be a blaze of glory.”

There really aren’t enough heart emojis in the world for this sort of sentiment, are there?

  1. This epithet has been modified under EU metrification laws and will revert to its original state following Brexit, which is very much the ‘blue passports’ of the pop world

The post Kylie launches comeback single Dancing — and it’s all about LIFE appeared first on Popjustice.

11 Jan 20:23

Caffinated colons

by Shakezula
Matthew Connor

excuse me

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop — the company that takes money from wealthy women in return for dangerous things to stick in their orifices — is catching some well-deserved flack for hawking coffee enemas and a $135 kit to jet java up the far end of your digestive system.

Down the hatch, coffee can jump start a day. But, according to dubious advice from Gwyneth Paltrow’s posh lifestyle and e-commerce site, Goop, the popular brew can also kick off a whole year—when taken up the bum.

Yes, Goop suggests that a coffee enema is a “clutch” way to “supercharge” your “annual goop detox” and start the year in tip-top health. In its latest guide for “deep detoxification,” the Goop team recommends a device called an “Implant O’Rama” for squirting coffee up your keister at home. The product, sold by Implant O’Rama LLC for a bargain $135, is merely a glass bottle with silicone tubing attached.

Implant O’Rama, in addition to having a name that is almost as dumb as Goop, is one of those concerns that clearly knows the difference between what it claims to be selling

For its part, Implant O’Rama LLC claims on its website that coffee gulped from the glutes “can mean relief from depression, confusion, general nervous tension, many allergy related symptoms and, most importantly, relief from severe pain. Coffee enemas lower serum toxins.”

And what it is actually selling: An ass full of coffee. Just hand over the cash, and keep the lawyers out of it.

But the claims are quickly followed by a lengthy disclaimer that notes such claims are “not necessarily” based on scientific evidence and the company’s products are not intended to “treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease.” The company ends by stating that by “using this site for any purpose whatsoever… you are agreeing to indemnify Implant O’Rama LLC… from any claims or responsibility for anything.”

I do wonder how a coffee enema can relieve confusion. Perhaps after scalding his cecum the patient realizes the difference between his mouth and his asshole and is cured!

The fact is, using coffee enemas — brewed with raw water, no doubt — to supercharge an anual detox is one of the newer and less screwed up reasons people encourage other people to do this to themselves, or let someone else do it to them.

For example, there’s the Gerson Institute. In addition to claiming that coffee enemas can treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease and several other conditions that cannot be treated with any sort of enema, and MAYBE it’s OK for caner patients to have chemotherapy or radiation therapy in conjunction with putting dry roast up their rectums, Gerson also has the horrible ideas for home-made gifts.

If you’re a Gerson patient, chances are you’ve got tons of coffee grounds from all of those enemas. The most common approach to utilize spent grounds is to use them in the garden. This Holiday season, the gift of coffee is perfect to detox and treat your skin!

However, Gerson’s enema kit is far more reasonable; only $14.95 (no returns, please).

I think people who mislead people who are ill in order to support their stupid theory of health care — or simply for the money — should be treated with a ride on an old pine fence post. In part because the treatments themselves are dangerous, but also because they’re taking advantage of people who are scared shitless and not thinking rationally.

I could have posted an image of an online tutorial, but I was feeling merciful.



05 Jan 23:10