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Archive for December, 2011

Happy New Year!

[ 11 ] December 31, 2011 |

Want to pause before the festivities begin and wish all of our readers a Happy New Year! Everyone at LGM is deeply grateful that you’ve chosen to spend your time reading, sharing, and commenting on our posts. It’s a level of attention that we certainly never expected, and probably don’t deserve. Nevertheless, we’ll try as best we can to continue to put together worthwhile content.

Thank you! Happy New Year! And whether you’re going out or staying in…

What’s Challenging About Paul?

[ 316 ] December 31, 2011 |

Apparently, a twitter storm has broken out about the post I don’t want to get into, but Greenwald’s latest has a couple things I wanted to respond to on the merits, so I thought I’d go ahead. On this:

As Matt Stoller argued in a genuinely brilliant essay on the history of progressivism and the Democratic Party which I cannot recommend highly enough: “the anger [Paul] inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.” Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

One thing missing from both Greenwald and Stoller are cites from people who find that Paul challenges their “desired self-perception.” Who, exactly, expects Obama or any Democratic president to be good on the drug war? I’m as strident a critic of Naderist “not a dime’s worth a difference” arguments as you can find anywhere, but I certainly agree that the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs really is one area where the differences between the national parties are trivial. On national security, the differences are less trivial (I don’t think that Al Gore or Obama would have invaded Iraq and I don’t think McCain would have wound it down), but certainly Obama has advanced any number of awful policies. Paul’s isolationism isn’t my ideal foreign policy orientation, either, but if you want to say that on balance it’s preferable I won’t argue with you. The thing is, I don’t know who disagrees with this. I don’t think I’m alone in not finding Paul to be an admirable political figure but is happy that he’s expressing positions on these issues, and I don’t think any civil libertarian is under the impression that Obama or any Democratic president is likely to share their values in an absolute as opposed to relative sense. Progressives are prone to idealizing past Democratic presidents — although I note that if anything especially with FDR this is rather more common among the harshest Obama critics — but not really current ones. And I don’t think it’s news that Paul expresses more agreeable positions in isolation than the other Republican candidates; I don’t know who disputes this.

My second puzzlement is why Greenwald thinks that for a conventional left-liberal Obama vs. Paul might be a tough choice. If you scroll to the italicized section — which does do a pretty good job of evaluating the real tradeoffs inherent in supporting Obama — there are two related problems. First, what Paul would like to accomplish is compared what Obama can accomplish under institutional constraints, and second the comparison is cherry-picked in a way that underplays the grotesque extremism of Paul’s economic agenda. Paul wants to return to a 19th century state, supplemented by a constitutional amendment that would make performing an abortion first degree murder in all 50 states. It’s true that this means an end to much of the bad stuff that the federal government does, but the modern welfare and regulatory state is an immense amount of babies to throw away with this bathwater. (And while it’s true that Paul wouldn’t succeed in eliminating the 20th century welfare state, it’s also true that “America’s minorities” would continue to be “imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason,” as there are severe limits to what the president could unilaterally do to end the drug war.) If you want to say that Obama/Paul is a clash between lesser and greater evils I don’t have any objection to that, but Paul is very much more evil, and it’s not close.

Anyway, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee and will not be president, so the question is whether his vision is an attractive one even compared to other political figures, and the answer is that obviously is an extremely unattractive one even if we leave his racist newsletters out of it. But I’m still glad he’s using his platform to make a case against the drug war and American imperialism.

UPDATE BY ROB:

I want to add a bit to this, focusing mainly on Tom Hilton’s post about the same subject:

Similarly, Paul’s positions on civil liberties issues aren’t actually about civil liberties as we understand them; they’re about his opposition to Federal authority. (An opposition that is somewhat conditional, it should be noted.) For example, in talking about the death penalty, he makes clear that he opposes it only at the Federal level. His opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, and domestic surveillance come from the same root as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He has no real objection to states violating the rights of their citizens; it’s only a problem if the Feds do it.

The assumption underlying this is that people are freer when states (as opposed to the Federal government) have more power. Now, it may seem obvious to some of us that the distinction between one arbitrary administrative unit and another isn’t exactly a human rights issue, but let’s just consider for a moment: does state or local control actually translate to more liberty?

It’s wrong to think of Ron Paul’s racism and his libertarianism as two distinct parts of his political persona, when in fact they are deeply tied together. White supremacists understand what Glenn, apparently, does not; the absence of Federal authority makes it easier for private actors and local governments to repress the civil and political rights of minorities. Paul’s libertarianism emerged in a regional and cultural context that was deeply hostile to Federal efforts at integration. The newsletters give strong indication that none of this is lost on Ron Paul. A notional President Paul is just as likely to use the powers of the office to gut Federal enforcement of a wide range of civil liberties protections as he is to do any of the things that Glenn would like him to do.

….Edroso with the shorter.

Essence of Grouse

[ 32 ] December 31, 2011 |

Here’s another menu from the New York Public Library historical menu collection. This is from the Third Panel Sheriff’s Jury of New York County dinner, February 20, 1900.

I don’t know which soup to choose, the green turtle or the essence of grouse.

The rest of the menu booklet is very exciting, with 2 pages dedicated to the Star-Spangled Banner. Sounds like a fun time….

Border Fence

[ 7 ] December 31, 2011 |

Another good piece on the worthlessness of the border fence. The fence itself just forces people desperate to cross into more dangerous and life-threatening situations. Undocumented immigration has declined the past few years since jobs in the U.S. have dried up and since Obama increased the number of work visas for Mexicans; the border fence had little or nothing to do with it. The fence is incredibly expensive to maintain and is at best an impediment to easy crossing. It’s also an environmental disaster. Meanwhile, the fence does nothing to stop the real danger of the border–drug smuggling:

At night, smugglers toss Hail Marys of pot-stuffed footballs and fling golf-ball-sized heroin nuggets over to waiting receivers. Stealthy ultra-light aircraft bomb the lettuce fields outside town with bundles of dope, then swoop back into Mexico, well below radar but high above the fence.

So long as there are cities on the border, smuggling will occur with impunity.

Of course, the border goes two ways and the U.S. has zero interest in stopping the real driver of mass murder in northern Mexico–the unregulated purchase of guns that are sent to Mexico.

The beginning of the end for the law school bubble

[ 12 ] December 31, 2011 |

escher

I suspect that in retrospect 2011 will be remembered as the year the law school bubble finally began to burst. It began with David Segal’s first big piece in the New York Times on the lengths law schools were going to in their attempts to hide the actual employment situation from prospective students, and it ended with numerous schools rushing — in the wake of several active and prospective class-action lawsuits — to put something resembling actual employment and salary data up on their web sites.

A commenter asks a $6.4 billion dollar question:

I used to believe that in ten years (which can pass in the blink of an eye), tuition will go from its current level of $45,000 to $73,000; the number of law schools would go from 200 to about 220 and the “% of law grads getting real lawyer jobs” would go from its current 50% rate to about 25-30%.

In other words I assumed that we were far from that critical point.

But now I wonder.

Could we see some of the really notorious low ranked school (e.g. that one that rhymes with stooley) have trouble filling all their seats this year? That would be such an incredible development if true.

No one can know precisely when the current model of American legal education will collapse, or whether that collapse will be sudden, or take place in the social equivalent of slow motion. But the crash is coming. Here’s the cyber-equivalent of an Escher drawing in regard to this question. First, a post from Top Law Schools, in which a Michigan State Law School 3L offers to take questions (Note that MSU is, to the extent such a definition makes sense, an ideal representative of an “average” ABA law school, in that it’s currently ranked 95th-99th out of 200 ABA-accredited schools. We are, in other words, a very long way from the bottom). Naturally, he’s asked if he and his law school friends and acquaintances have jobs. His response:

I do not have a job. Several of my friends have jobs lined up (two in large firms, two in a medium-sized firm, one with a corporation, etc). However, I have a lot of friends (I’m counting 8 just off the top of my head) who graduated last year and they all have jobs now. Of course this is all anecdotal…I don’t know what the percentage of employed 3Ls is. It’s a pretty dismal market (as I’m sure you know) but, honestly, I’m not too worried about it. I’ve received an outstanding education at Michigan State and I realize I may need to wait until after I pass the bar to find a job. It sucks but it is what it is. It’s just gonna take some flexibility and patience I think…through no fault of my own or MSU.

Obviously the placement is great in Michigan and pretty good in Chicago (especially if you spend 1L or 2L summer out there). Our DC placement is pretty rad too because we have a semester program down there. There’s a large MSU alum group in DC as well.

Here’s the other half of the drawing.

For all I know MSU just threw its NALP stats up on the internet this week (perhaps in response to the Law School Transparency Project’s request to all ABA schools that they do so), so this student doesn’t even know these stats are now available. Or perhaps he doesn’t want to know what they are. Under the circumstances, this would be a perfectly understandable defense mechanism.

The short version of these statistics can be summed up in less than 30 words: Nine months after graduation, MSU Law School had determined that 33 of the 348 graduates of its 2010 class were employed as attorneys in positions that paid $60,000 or more. The average law school debt of the 85% of the class that graduated with such debt was $108,444.

In the wake of those two sentences, it really shouldn’t be necessary to continue the autopsy in any greater detail, but those of a morbid disposition can linger over such factoids as the specific employment status of the 150 graduates listed as “employed” in the private practice of law. This group includes 12 solos, 69 [!] graduates employed full-time with firms of 2 to 10 attorneys, and nine more employed part-time with firms of that size — and one of these was listed a temporary employee. Think about that: part of what counts as “employed as an attorney” for the purpose of all those NALP figures is part-time temporary employment with a firm of ten lawyers or less . . . but again, what’s the point of lingering over the crash site’s gory details? Better to simply note most of the people at the scene were killed, a few escaped with injuries of varying severity, and one guy walked away without a scratch (he must have been the one paying attention in Drivers Ed).

A side issue about which I’m genuinely curious: what’s with the huge numbers of graduates who are listed as taking jobs with firms of 2-10 attorneys? Fully a third of the national class of 2009 who are listed as working in private practice nine months after graduation are in this category, and at lower-tier schools the percentage is much higher. Conversely, at elite schools practically no one is in this group. Intuitively, one would think it would be quite difficult to get a real job with an enterprise that would on average have to increase its total attorney workforce by 20% just to hire you. I suspect that many jobs in this category are semi-imaginary: that is, they are temporary contract positions, featuring low hourly pay and no benefits, or (often unpaid) clerking gigs that in palmier days were filled by law students, or they represent a couple of equally unemployed classmates banding together to start a “firm.”

Anyway, the juxtaposition of the MSU 3L’s post and the newly published MSU placement stats raises the fundamental question of just how much real transparency, when it arrives (and we are still far away from that point), will affect the decisions of people who will have to decide whether the kind of tradeoff represented in those employment and indebtedness stats makes any sense for them.

We have a long way to go, but, on the last day of 2011, we are a lot closer to answering that question than we were on the previous New Year’s Eve.

Which reminds me: Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Don’t Project Your Artifice on Me

[ 38 ] December 31, 2011 |

A new meme is born?

A Brief Movie Note

[ 30 ] December 31, 2011 |

I’m ambivalent about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But you have to admit that it was inspired for Fincher to make the first villain a dead ringer for Mark Steyn and the second one an Enya fan.

This Day in Labor History: December 30, 1905

[ 49 ] December 30, 2011 |

On December 30, 1905, former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg walked home after a snowstorm in Caldwell, Idaho. When he arrived he pulled open his outside gate, triggering a bomb that blew him ten feet into the air and killing him. The assassination of Steunenberg led to one of the biggest show trials in American history, as prosecutors decided to try several leading American radicals, most notably Western Federation of Miners executive and future Industrial Workers of the World head Big Bill Haywood.

Steunenberg

Steunenberg had arrived in Idaho from Iowa in 1887, quickly getting involved in local politics. In 1890, he was elected to the state legislature and in 1896 won the governorship at the head of a Democratic/Populist fusion ticket. Like a lot of Populists (William Jennings Bryan to his credit was an exception), Steunenberg was elected with labor support but became a tool of corporate power once he achieved office. The mines of northern Idaho were a hotbed of radicalism in the 1890s. The Western Federation of Miners, precursor to the I.W.W., were organizing workers around their terrible wages and working conditions, as well as violent suppression of unionization through the use of Pinkerton spies to fire anyone who signed a union card.

The miners had two reasons to elect Steunenberg. First, he claimed to represent working-class interests. Second, many of these miners were working in silver and silver coinage was a key part of the Populist platform. But when the workers went on strike in 1899, Steunenberg betrayed them, taking bribes from the miners to crush the strike.

Steunenberg declared martial law and convinced William McKinley to send in federal troops to crush the strike. Hundreds of activists were rounded up and kept in stockades for months without trial. Steunenberg stated, “We have taken the monster by the throat and we are going to choke the life out of it. No halfway measures will be adopted. It is a plain case of the state or the union winning, and we do not propose that the state shall be defeated.”

In 1900, Steunenberg retired from politics. His assassination five years later by Harry Orchard, a paid agent of the Canyon Creek Mine Owners’ Association, was bizarre. It’s not entirely clear even today why Orchard did it. He had a history of violence, some of it against scabs, but there’s also significant evidence that he was on the payroll of the mining companies. Orchard agreed to a lighter sentence by implicating the old WFM leadership, including Haywood and WFM president Charles Moyer. Orchard claimed, absurdly, that Haywood and the WFM had hired him to kill Steunenberg. Moyer was arrested attempting to escape to Canada; Haywood while having sex with his sister-in-law.

Haywood

The trial took place in 1907 in Boise. Clarence Darrow represented Haywood. Darrow completely dominated the leading prosecutor, James Hawley, a nationally famous lawyer in his own right, objecting to nearly everything and flustering Hawley repeatedly. Darrow called Haywood himself to the stand, where he stood up well to heavy questioning (being obviously innocent of the charges helped). The defense attacked Steunenberg himself for the murder, noting that for whatever reason Orchard, who had a long history of violence, killed the ex-governor, the man pretty much deserved what he got for his horrible treatment of miners in 1899. The defense also accused the Pinkertons of the murder, saying they and mine owners had the governor killed to destroy the WFM once and for all.


Haywood’s Trial

Finally, Darrow delivered his final statement for the defense.

I have known Haywood. I have known him well and I believe in him. I do believe in him. God knows it would be a sore day to me if he should ascend the scaffold; the sun would not shine or the birds would not sing on that day for me. It would be a sad day indeed if any calamity should befall him. I would think of him, I would think of his mother, I would think of his babes, I would think of the great cause that he represents. It would be a sore day for me.

But, gentlemen, he and his mother, his wife and his children are not my chief concern in this case. If you should decree that he must die, ten thousand men will work down in the mines to send a portion of the proceeds of their labor to take care of that widow and those orphan children, and a million people throughout the length and the breadth of the civilized world will send their messages of kindness and good cheer to comfort them in their bereavement. It is not for them I plead.

Other men have died, other men have died in the same cause in which Bill Haywood has risked his life, men strong with devotion, men who love liberty, men who love their fellow men have raised their voices in defense of the poor, in defense of justice, have made their good fight and have met death on the scaffold, on the rack, in the flame and they will meet it again until the world grows old and gray. Bill Haywood is no better than the rest. He can die if die he needs, he can die if this jury decrees it; but, oh, gentlemen, don’t think for a moment that if you hang him you will crucify the labor movement of the world.

Don’t think that you will kill the hopes and the aspirations and the desires of the weak and the poor, you men, unless you people who are anxious for this blood–are you so blind as to believe that liberty will die when he is dead? Do you think there are no brave hearts and no other strong arms, no other devoted souls who will risk their life in that great cause which has demanded martyrs in every age of this world? There are others, and these others will come to take his place, will come to carry the banner where he could not carry it.

Gentlemen, it is not for him alone that I speak. I speak for the poor, for the weak, for the weary, for that long line of men who in darkness and despair have borne the labors of the human race. The eyes of the world are upon you, upon you twelve men of Idaho tonight. Wherever the English language is spoken, or wherever any foreign tongue known to the civilized world is spoken, men are talking and wondering and dreaming about the verdict of these twelve men that I see before me now. If you kill him your act will be applauded by many. If you should decree Bill Haywood’s death, in the great railroad offices of our great cities men will applaud your names. If you decree his death, amongst the spiders of Wall Street will go up paeans of praise for those twelve good men and true who killed Bill Haywood. In every bank in the world, where men hate Haywood because he fights for the poor and against the accursed system upon which the favored live and grow rich and fat–from all those you will receive blessings and unstinted praise.

But if your verdict should be “Not Guilty,” there are still those who will reverently bow their heads and thank these twelve men for the life and the character they have saved. Out on the broad prairies where men toil with their hands, out on the wide ocean where men are are tossed and buffeted on the waves, through our mills and factories, and down deep under the earth, thousands of men and of women and children, men who labor, men to suffer, women and children weary with care and toil, these men and these women and these children will kneel tonight and ask their God to guide your judgment. These men and these women and these little children, the poor, the weak, and the suffering of the world will stretch out their hands to this jury, and implore you to save Haywood’s life.

Darrow thought the jury would find Haywood guilty. They did not. To everyone’s shock, they acquitted him.

It was hardly the last time the government would look to railroad Haywood on dubious charges. He was charged in 1918 for sedition after he urged a strike in a wartime industry. He fled to the Soviet Union while on bond in 1921, living there unhappily until his death in 1928.

Harry Orchard was sentenced to death, had his sentence commuted to life in prison, and died behind bars in 1954.

J. Anthony Lukas has written the most famous book on this case. Lukas committed suicide immediately upon completing the book in 1997.

This series has also covered the Everett Massacre of 1916 and the creation of the CIO in 1935.

Historical Menus

[ 36 ] December 30, 2011 |

I love historical menus. The New York Public Library has a fantastic selection up, asking for people to check the transcriptions. This might mean there are some check marks over menu items, but you can click those off and get a sense of what restaurants used to serve. As an example, here are a couple of pages the menu from Cronin’s, March 3, 1961.

I don’t know about you, but I could use the occasional 55 cent Manhattan.

Via Edge of the American West

Obama’s Climate Betrayal

[ 47 ] December 30, 2011 |

Thus is the title of Elizabeth Kolbert’s excoriation of the Obama Administration for fighting European attempts to regulate airline emissions. Rather than support European leadership on the issue, the Obama Administration is threatening a trade war against European nations.

Nowhere has Obama been more disappointing than on environmental issues. This is precisely the kind of issue where the executive can provide leadership. Yet Obama has been reticent to issue many strong environmental regulations or to protect land. Beginning with his appointment of Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior, continuing to his opening the east coast to offshore drilling without getting a single thing in return on climate change legislation from the Republicans, and now opposing regulating airline emissions, Obama has been an environmental disaster for a Democratic president.

Like on many issues, we should not look back to Bill Clinton as a better Democrat on the environment. He probably was, but only in his last year. As with labor and other consistuencies, Obama has continued a string of Democratic disappointments. Certainly the legislative climate is not conducive to leading on the airline emission issue, but Obama could also issue executive orders, craft regulations, or even do nothing. Instead, he is following the bidding of the airline industry, continuing America’s role as the climate bad guy of the planet.

Kolbert:

It’s pretty much impossible to imagine how the world can reduce the risks of climate change without imposing some sort of emissions limits, and airline emissions seems like as good a place to start as any. If the Administration disagrees with the European plan, then it would seem to be under a heavy obligation to propose its own. All it’s doing now is shilling for the airlines. Is this any way to run a planet?

Indeed.

Obama – Clinton 2012

[ 68 ] December 30, 2011 |

or so desires Robert Reich.

I have several quibbles with this, from an empirical perspective.  First, the strong implication is that Obama-Clinton would gain more votes than Obama-Biden, or specifically, “Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that’s been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.”

There is no empirical evidence that the VP nominee makes a substantive difference in the vote; indeed, the VP nominee only makes the most marginal of differences in their home state (at a whopping 0.3%, with this article an outlier at 2.5%).  Nor did Sarah Palin have a measurable effect on the outcome, either pro or con, though that 0.5% – 2.5% boost in Alaska quite likely secured those three critical electoral college votes for the Republicans as they were clearly in doubt.

Second, as Reich believes that the possibility exists for another recession prior to November, “Clinton would help deflect attention from the bad economy and put it on foreign policy, where she and Obama have shined.”  Again, empirically, foreign policy will not make much of a difference against the backdrop of a bad economy; ironically, those who give a damn about foreign policy would likely point out that removing her as Secretary of State is a negative, not a positive.

Finally:

The deal would also make Clinton the obvious Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 – offering the Democrats a shot at twelve (or more) years in the White House, something the Republicans had with Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush but which the Democrats haven’t had since FDR. Twelve years gives the party in power a chance to reshape the Supreme Court as well as put an indelible stamp on America.

I agree with the Supreme Court statement; that’s where presidential legacy is at.  However, this assumes an Obama-Clinton ticket wins in 2012, which is not obvious.  Losing as VP nominee doesn’t burnish Clinton’s credentials for 2016.  Second, Clinton will be 69 years old on election day 2016.  It’s not clear that she would even want to run at 69.

While I admire Robert Reich and find myself in agreement with him far more often than not, if we’re looking for a silver bullet to salvage Obama’s chances in 2012, this isn’t it.

Strange libertarian argument of the day

[ 76 ] December 30, 2011 |

This post, in which Andrew Cohen attempts to make a libertarian case for requiring licences to raise children, is apparently not meant as a parody. This argument pairs nicely, I think, with Murray Rothbard’s argument that parents should be free to starve their children to death if they wish (but not to assault them! Because that’s a distinction with tremendous moral importance!). I think the most succinct way to think about libertarian’s problem with children is this: Two of the central commitments of libertarianism are anti-statism and an a strong focus on individual rights, understood in strictly ‘negative’ terms. There’s more tension between these two commitments than most libertarians care to admit, but children expose in a precise and ruthless way. If you lead with anti-statism, you end up in danger of Rothbard’s vile madness; if you lead with individual rights protection, you risk Cohen’s path, in which case real and actual dangers of tyranny, which libertarians should be particularly attuned to, are casually theorized away. It is certainly true that just about any individualistic, rights-based theory has a very difficult time with children, but libertarianism in particular has a tendency to collapse spectacularly in the face of children.

In comments, Jacob Levy makes the argument that the real culprit here is so-called ‘ideal theory’ in which some constraints are treated as fixed, and others are assumed away. This is certainly true, and it bears a family resemblance to outlandish, ahistorical and transparently awful and/or appalling policy proposals from left-liberal philosophers  like Peter Singer and Philip Van Parijs (such as financial compensation for those who can’t find a marriage partner and maximum voting ages, in the case of the latter, and the permissibility of euthanasia for certain infants, in the case of the former).  On the other hand, I suspect there’s a distinction worth making between ‘really bad ideas that come excessively abstract thinking’ and ‘really bad ideas that come from excessively abstract thinking and badly violate an alleged core principle.’ It’s particularly striking that the thing that gets uncritically idealized by Cohen is state capacity, in an area where the reasons to be skeptical about state capacity are particularly and obviously strong.

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