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Archive for September, 2011

In All Fairness…

[ 5 ] September 30, 2011 |

Newt also considers heterosexual marriage a temporary aberration, so he’s not really being discriminatory…


The Appalachian Gut Shot

[ 27 ] September 30, 2011 |

Building on my post from the other day about what the decline of coal is going to do to the already horrible economy of southern Appalachia, Brad Plumer weighs in on the matter. Like myself, he notes that while it’s probably best for the country to get off its coal addiction and for Appalachia to diversify its economy. But of course while that all sounds good, it’s all pretty theoretical to the thousands of people who could lose their jobs:

If that’s true, then Central Appalachia could eventually thrive from shifting away from its single-minded focus on coal. The Downstream Strategies report observes that the region has a wealth of clean-energy resources, from wind to solar to sustainable biomass. West Virginia, for one, is looking to get into shale-gas drilling. Still, it’d be a mistake to gloss over how disruptive — and painful — that transition could be. Just look at Detroit’s struggles in shifting away from its longstanding reliance on the auto industry.

The natural comparison for West Virginia and Kentucky transitioning from an extractive economy would seem to be the Pacific Northwest weaning itself off logging. The difference though is that the Northwest not only had a more developed tourist economy, but also had already begun its embrace of the tech and information economies and on top of that was already capturing the American imagination for its beauty. West Virginia especially has a pretty robust tourist economy in places, but the Appalachian place in the American imagination is Deliverance, the only other real economic engine for the region is drug production, and, let’s face it, not many people go to eastern Kentucky for most any reason.

I really don’t know what those areas are going to do, but the comparison with Detroit is much more apt than with the forests of Oregon. It’s going to get ugly.

Playoff Picks 1

[ 32 ] September 30, 2011 |

Tigers v. World’s Greatest Manifestation of Evil. This year has seen a truly wonderful development for a Yankees hater: the complete implosion of the Twins. Allah be praised, not only this year but for several years we should be spared watching a team trying to beat the Yankees in the ALDS by throwing some pitch-to-contact retreads and Jose Guillen imitators at them. The Tigers aren’t a great team either, but as a playoff challenger they have the crucial things the Twins lack — a genuine ace backed up with two guys capable of striking out quality major league hitters and two outstanding hitters (one with tremendous power) in the middle of the lineup. So they’re live dogs. But that’s not to say I’m going to pick them, either. Verlander is better than Sabathia, but not that much better — the only matchup where they have a big edge is in game 3, and that’s taking Fister’s 2011 at face value. Cabrera is the best hitter in the series, but the Yanks have a lot more depth; beyond Cabrera/VMart/Peralta the Tigers are disturbingly Twinkiesque. Valverde’s been terrific, but as (to pick a completely random example) Joe Nathan has demonstrated, a Mariano Rivera regular season doesn’t make someone Mariano Rivera. And unless Leyland goes back on his pledge not to start Verlander on short rest, the Tigers had better be ahead going into game 4, because Porcello and Penny would fit very nicely into the Twins rotation. Should be a terrific series, but I think the Yanks pull it out. [Howard — shall we make this charitably interesting?) YANKS IN 4.

Brewers v. D-Backs. Interesting series. I’ll be cheering hard for the Brew Crew, and they have a nice post-season configuration — three real good power pitchers (don’t be misled by Grienke’s ERA), power hitting core, underrated bullpen. The DBacks have also had a very good year — unlike their last postseason appearance, they really were the best team in the division, and while they don’t have a Fielder or Braun, 1)Upton is close and 2)they don’t have a Betancourt either. Still, I like the Brew Crew a lot here, especially since the DBacks high-K hitters will have trouble taking advantage of the awful Milwaukee defense.   BREWERS IN 3.

Fer Chrissakes

[ 18 ] September 30, 2011 |

Shorter NYPD: We could do our jobs and protect women from sexual assault. Or women could just stop wearing shorts, which I’m sure would inhibit sexual assault, since victims must be asking for it amiright? Let’s focus on the latter.


[ 192 ] September 30, 2011 |

I lack strong opinions about the Al-Awlaki hit, but here are some links:

This amounted to the assassination of a US citizen on secret evidence, even if there were understandable reasons for keeping the evidence of his operational involvement in Al Qaeda activities secret.  In this Ben Wittes post, you can see just how much weight “is believed” is supposed to carry.  I don’t find the argument that al-Awlaki could never have been apprehended particularly compelling; if drones can operate in Yemen, then potentially special forces can operate in Yemen.  I also very much doubt that granting an American citizen a certain degree of immunity from assassination-by-drone would do much to hamstring US operations, even if were were to allow for the sake of argument that the drone war is sensible and legal.

All that said, my “lack strong opinions” reflects a belief that the killing of al-Awaki is not the most troubling state sanctioned killing of the last two weeks; the process that killed Troy Davis is to my mind more likely to be replicated and more likely to kill innocent people than the process that led to the death of al-Awaki.  The state is the state; it kills when it makes road policy, when it makes health policy, and when it rolls out of bed in the morning. The killing of al-Awaki doesn’t represent the crossing of some sort of Rubicon, rather an assessment of the cost of legal inconvenience, and this is obviously nothing new. But then this simply represents an assessment of the gravity of the killing, not of its justice.

Golden Parachutes

[ 23 ] September 30, 2011 |

But how could companies compete if they couldn’t lavishly reward failed executives? It’s the magic of the unfettered free market!

Being Unaesthetically Appealing To Michael Kinsley Is A Sign of Bad Character. Or Something.

[ 41 ] September 30, 2011 |

I think this is the key passage in this very dumb and offensive column:

You’re on firmer ground claiming a bond with all humanity on the basis that the flesh is weak. On approximately this basis, we (at least I) have forgiven President Barack Obama his secret smoking (oh, of course he does) and some people (including me again, I guess) have forgiven President Bill Clinton his … well, you know. So why should Christie’s weight be more than we can bear in a president? Why should it even be a legitimate issue if he runs?

One reason is that a presidential candidate should be judged on behavior and character, not just on policies — especially because the chance these days of any actual policies being enacted is slim.

So, in other words, we don’t really care about setting a perfect health or moral example, not least because thus would be a really stupid way of judging presidents (unless you want to argue that George W. Bush was a better president than FDR.) But if it’s the kind of “health” issue that makes Michael Kinsley feel icky, then it matters, and indeed is some sort of moral issue. For all the high-minded sounding “obseity crisis” crap, this is about junior high school aesthetics. Which is really dumb and offensive and (sarcasm that doesn’t actually offer any refutation notwithstanding) irrational discrimination. Christie would not be a good president but his weight is neither here nor there.

…cf. also Eugene Robinson. And, actually, I don’t remember Robinson writing multiple columns about how Obama’s smoking habit made him unfit to be president, not least because this would be incredibly stupid.

…Chait, with as assist from some obscure law professor in the Mountain West, gets it right:

The only real reasoning I see here is that American elites view obesity with disgust, and they’re repulsed at the notion that a very fat guy could rise to a position of symbolic leadership. It’s not a very attractive sentiment.

Chait also notes another bizarre aspect of Kinsley’s argument, which is that 1)to justify his prejudice against fat people he accepts right-wing frames about how Runaway Government Spending in a period of mass unemployment is the greatest problem there absolutely ever was, but 2)then has to evade the fact that Christie in fact has cut spending. At some point, I lose count at the number of ways in which Kinsley’s ugly argument is self-refuting.

Look here for great suede leather jacket and splendid belted trench coat if you want to buy online leather duster coat as well. We are also selling good quality womens motorcycle gloves and superb heated motorcycle jacket.


[ 70 ] September 30, 2011 |

…apparently out.

I suspect this will be a minority position, but I think this probably best for all involved. Francona has, on balance, done a good job in Boston. And I don’t think he’s committed a clearly firable offense, such as screwing up an elimination game a la Little 2003 or Showalter 1995 or running his lineup into the ground up to and including a third baseman who couldn’t throw like Zimmer 78. But:

  • It’s very rare for a manager to do work comparable to his best in the second decade of his tenure.   Maybe Francona is a truly cream of the elite manager like Weaver or Cox or McGraw, but it’s much more likely that he’s a more typical good manager whose effectiveness attenuates severely over time.
  • Keeping Francona will probably keep more emphasis on this year’s debacle than is helpful in an intense media market.
  • Because flops like this are by definition rare, there’s no way of clearly judging based on past instances.   But, still, what anecdotal evidence there is isn’t encouraging.   The Sox regressed under Zimmer, although since he was a bad manager who enjoyed very little success I’m not sure what this proves.   Mauch did a very good job with three other teams but never had a year in Philadelphia as good as 1964 again.   The Cubs underachieved under Durocher, once a great manager, after 1969.   In retrospect I think most Mets fans would agree with me that Randolph should have been fired after 2007, although I think overall he did a decent job — the team certainly started in 2008 as if he had lost the clubhouse.    I wouldn’t say this proves it would be better for Francona should move on, but I don’t think it’s meaningless either.
  • I don’t know if I would say that it’s Francona’s fault that the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs. exactly.   But it’s hard to say that he’s done a great job over the last three years either.    What I said about Friedman doing more with far less than Epstien also applies vis a vis Maddon and Tito. You can whine about injuries all you want, but it doesn’t explain why the Red Sox had a worse September than the Astros or Mariners or Pirates.

Francona has had a very successful tenure, and I can understand Sox fans not wanting his tenure to end on this note. But I think it’s probably for the best (and the reports seem to imply that Francona agrees.)

50,000 people are taking the LSAT tomorrow

[ 143 ] September 30, 2011 |

There are a lot of bad reasons to go to law school. Here are some of the most common:

(8) Everybody in my family is a lawyer

Is everybody in your family also a workaholic with a drinking problem who hates their spouse and never sees their kids? Seriously, as bad reasons go this is a relatively benign one (maybe somebody you know can actually help get you a job), but do you really want to have the same life as your whomever? And law professors may not know very much about the actual practice of law, but I’ve been struck over the years by how few of them seem to have any interest in encouraging their children to become lawyers.

(7) I want to help poor people/save mountaintops from being blown up in West Virginia/stop human right violations in Africa/make a difference in this world.

Cynical law students tend to dismiss their classmates’ interest in doing anything but trying to make money by pointing out how these noble ideals soon crumble in the face of the realities of On Campus Interviewing. But that’s the point: It turns out there’s very little money in law for doing anything other than representing the interests of the rich and powerful. That doesn’t mean people who claimed to want to do something else were disingenuous: more likely they were merely naïve. If you want to go to law school to help poor people, please keep in mind that in America in 2011 nobody who matters gives a rat’s ass about the interests of poor people, so unless you’re independently wealthy or extremely lucky you will not be able to help poor people by going to law school.

(6) I want to be rich

Going to law school in order to become rich is a bad idea. Very few lawyers end up making big money, even loosely defined. If you’re very fortunate you’ll make just enough money to feel poor by comparison to the vastly wealthier people you’ll be dealing with regularly in your professional life. Plus you’ll be making about $12 an hour. Go be an I-banker if working insane hours in the pursuit of filthy lucre is your thing. Oh right — it’s really hard to get a good I-banking gig. (Unlike becoming a partner at an AM100 firm – that’s a piece of cake these days).

(5) Lawyers do all kinds of interesting work

I once saw a T-shirt emblazoned with the message, “Everything you’ve learned from TV is wrong.” Words of wisdom Lloyd, words of wisdom. Most legal work is boring and stressful. Not surprisingly most lawyers are bored, stressed people. (That is, the ones who actually have jobs. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)

(4) The previous paragraph is irrelevant to me, because I’m going to graduate in the top ten percent of my class at a T-14, work at a big firm for five years while living like a monk to pay off my debts, and then do what I really wanted to do all along

You get the hell out of here.

(3) My parents will be disappointed in me if I don’t do something respectable instead of pursue my dream of being a ____

Semi-employed permanent bankruptcy is in no way respectable, and there’s a very real risk that that’s where going to law school will leave you. Your parents don’t understand this because their knowledge of what being a lawyer entails is based on TV (see (5), supra). If you want to write the Great American Novel you’ll probably fail, but it won’t be the kind of failure that produces $200,000 in non-dischargeable debt while filling you with self-loathing.

(2) What am I supposed to do with this useless undergraduate degree in English/PoliSci/Sociology/Assyrian Musicology?

It’s a fair question. Here’s the best answer I’ve got: Don’t double down on useless degrees. People who already have educational debt from undergrad and then pay $60K a year in tuition and living expenses to go to law school are like people in a terrible relationship who decide to have a baby because maybe the kid will bring them closer together.

(1) I don’t know what to do with my life

Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my life – so I’m going to spend three years of it going deeply and irreversibly into debt, in a quite possibly futile attempt to enter a profession that I have no actual desire to join?” I bet you haven’t, because who would ever say something that idiotic? Every year, however, thousands of people are perfectly capable of doing something that idiotic. If they weren’t, half the law schools in the country would be out of business tomorrow.

c/p at ITLSS


[ 119 ] September 30, 2011 |

Ye Gods is this stupid.

LGM Baseball Challenge Won By Guy Who Wins it Every Year

[ 3 ] September 29, 2011 |

Yawn.  Matt Ricci’s Free Leonard wins the LGM Baseball Challenge.  Again.

1 Free Leonard, mattricci 3919 8757
2 Jersey Burkers, john theibault 4025 8588
3 Roberts Steals Second, Smokin Joe 70 4050 8293
4 Ambulance Chasers, jsmdlawyer 3798 8286
5 Headless Thompson Gunners,hickes01 3605 8232
6 Carmalita, JeffLOrth 3762 8058
7 Too Much Coffee, PeterFD59 3603 7937
8 Hosmer Mubarak, DocPaisley 3775 7902
9 Petes Players, 54Pete54 3530 7861
10 BValer entry 2, BValer 3578 7711

The winner should contact me for information about the prize he always declines etc. etc. etc.

A Very, Very Special Attack on “Political Correctness”

[ 90 ] September 29, 2011 |

Via one of the editors of the book under attack comes this instant classic from Joseph Epstein, which I can only assume was designed to bait Berube into temporarily re-starting his blog.   (Well, the book is sort of under attack; I think Epstein just downloaded the generic Cranky White Would-Be Highbrow screed and plugged in the name of the book vaguely under review.)  I’m no grand poobah of literachoor, and I have no idea about whether the Cambridge History of the Novel is any good.   But whatever its merits there’s no doubting the inadvertent entertainment value of Epstein’s witless recycling of the column Roger Kimball has written 10,000 times.   Professors who actually think race, class and gender might be in any way relevant to the novel as the root of all literary evil?  Check.  Assertions without argument that works a limited generation of American critics consider to be canonical are all anyone needs to now?   Check.   Assertions that the only role of literary critics is to distinguish between “high” and “low”?   Check.  Bizarre assumptions that if there’s no consensus about the greatest literary works of the 20th century, this means critics are incompetent?  Oh, yes.

But I must admit there’s a punchline that gives Epstein a hint of originality and makes it extra special.   In the midst of the eleventy millionth attack on political correctness of the academy and the unwillingness of contemporary critics to appropriately consider Literary Merit, he asserts that nobody in the future will read Phillip Roth because his books have too much sex in them.    Really.   I can’t imagine why anybody would consider Epstein’s pronouncements of literary value as anything less than statements of unassailable truth.

…we won’t get new material, but we are offered a classic from Berube’s archives.

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