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Archive for January, 2012

The law school scholarship game

[ 18 ] January 2, 2012 |

One of the most significant developments in the law school world over the past few years has been the explosion in so-called “merit scholarships.” The definition of a scholarship can be tricky: traditionally the term was used to describe money generated by endowed funds given to a school for the purpose of offsetting attendance costs, but now it tends to be used more generally to mean any discount off the advertised price of attendance, from whatever source. In fact at present the vast majority of “merit scholarships” offered to prospective law students don’t come from endowment income, but rather from tuition cross-subsidization. (Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, who are in the unique position of not really competing with other law schools for students, claim all their financial aid is need-based. Need-based financial aid at other law schools ranges from skimpy to non-existent. I’m not going to discuss in this post the dubious practice of handing out “merit scholarships” that come with continued eligibility requirements that, because of law school grading practices, guarantee that many recipients will lose those scholarships after their first year).

It works like this: Read more…



[ 10 ] January 2, 2012 |

Since I’ve seen numerous people make this mistake just in the context of educational choices, for the new year I wanted to emphasize this from Paul’s other place:

You’re wondering if you have any real choice about sticking this out, given that you don’t seem to have any other promising career prospects at the moment, and after all going to law school is the kind of thing that at least allows you to tell people you’re going to law school.  You do have a choice.  The biggest mistakes in life are committed by people worrying about what other people will think. Here’s what other people are thinking about you: They aren’t.  And even if they are, why do you care what they think about you? Have you ever thought they should make crucial life decisions on the basis of what impression those decisions might make on you?


Breaking! Wingnut Publisher to Publish Bad Wingnut Books!

[ 60 ] January 2, 2012 |

For some reason, every couple years a media outlet feels compelled to do a lazy puff piece on walking argument against nepotism Adam Bellow.   The latest one is definitive because of the sheer density of cliches.  It starts with a bunch of bullshit about conservatives being the “party of ideas” that you’d think nobody would be shameless enough to repeat in 2011.   And Bellow is a “former liberal,” don’t you know — he used to be a Democrat, but since someone said something dumb at an apocryphal Upper West Side cocktail party he’s outraged by the Voting Rights Act.   It also  does do us a favor by reminding us of the books that made Bellow’s reputation, such as it is:

Attention, conservatives: Adam Bellow says this is your moment.

The intellectual left, he contends, is in a vacuum. The right is where there are ideas, variety, excitement. And Bellow, a former liberal who has made a career of pushing conservative writers and controversial issues to the forefront of American publishing, wants to hear from you.

As an editor at the Free Press and then Doubleday, Bellow, son of the late novelist Saul Bellow, guided such provocative voices as Dinesh D’Souza (“Illiberal Education”), David Brock (“The Real Anita Hill”), Jonah Goldberg (“Liberal Fascism”), and Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein (“The Bell Curve”) to the top of the bestseller lists.

So let’s see. We have an attack on “political correctness” by someone with a strong self-interest in opposing “political correctness” given his strong tendency to say racist things. We have a smearing of an innocent woman so completely fraudulent it’s been repudiated by its own author. We have an intellectually fraudulent walking punchline.* And, tying everything together, some intellectually fraudulent racism.

So what new books are Bellow putting out that justifies this most recent fluffing? Do they look interesting? Are they selling at all?

Most of the digital offerings from “Voices” are on ways to beat the system, or at least expose it. One author is Milton R. Wolf, a Kansas physician and distant cousin to President Obama who opposes his health-care plan. He wrote “First, Do No Harm.” Another is Dallas tea party leader Lorie Medina, who wrote “Community Organizing for Conservatives.”

Sales have been “modest,” Bellow says. The health-care pamphlet had been the best-selling, at 500 copies, until a satiric offering by Frank J. Fleming titled “Obama: The Greatest President in the History of Everything” sold 2,300 copies in its first week. Starting this month, Broadside will add longer works, called e-originals and running 20,000 to 30,000 words, to the series. First out of the blocks: “The New Quislings: How the International Left Used the Oslo Massacre to Silence Debate About Islam,” by Bruce Bawer.

So that would be a “no” on both counts. Worse, he hasn’t given a contract to Alec Rawls, to complete the “talent leaps over a generation” circle.

*For more on the argument that had never been made in such detail or with such care, see here here, here, and here.

This Day in Labor History: January 1, 1994

[ 33 ] January 1, 2012 |

On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. NAFTA intended to bring down trade barriers between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. After a long fight against NAFTA’s passage by labor, environmental groups, Mexican farmers, and many other constituencies, the support of President Bill Clinton clinched its success. Clinton promised that “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.”

While judging the precise impact of NAFTA itself upon the number of employed Americans is complicated, NAFTA has had a highly negative impact upon high-paying blue-collar union jobs, a very bad environmental record, and did a great deal to spur the migration of Mexican farmers from the countryside and into the United States.

Even since the creation of the Border Industrialization Project in 1965, U.S. firms have had great incentive to move their operations to the Mexican side of the U.S. border. The Mexican government created BIP because it brought jobs to their country. American industry began lobbying the U.S. government to brush aside all barriers to globalization. As Jefferson Cowie shows in his fantastic book Capital Moves, American corporations had never bought into the Grand Bargain of the mid-twentieth century and looked to move away from unionized workplaces as soon as possible. When new factories in the United States, even in the South, proved too open for unionization, opening new factories in Mexico proved irresistible.

The passage of NAFTA allowed the fleeing of American manufacturing to enter its peak phase. Between 1994 and 2010, American trade deficits with Mexico were $97.2 billion, displacing 682,900 jobs. Of those, about 80% were in U.S. manufacturing jobs. Overall, since the passage of NAFTA, the United States has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs. Union membership plummeted. Today, only about 7% of American workers in private companies have union representation. In 1994, that number was 11%, down from 30% in 1965, when the Border Industrialization Project began. Companies used the threat of moving jobs to Mexico to force down wages and suppress unionization campaigns. Fearful of losing their jobs, American workers accepted rollback after rollback, but usually the companies eventually closed their American plants anyway.

NAFTA also spurred the migration of Mexicans into the maquiladoras, the cities, and the United States. While some will argue this is good for Mexicans (though anyone visiting Mexico City or Ciudad Juarez may have trouble making this argument), the reasons for it are really bad. American farm subsidies, a violation of NAFTA in spirit if not in rule, allowed American farm companies to dump commodities on the Mexican market. Soon, Mexican corn farmers could not compete with American corn and lost their land. Since 1994, approximately 1.3 million Mexicans have lose their farms or farm jobs. The states of central Mexico, including Jalisco, Guanajuato and Michoacan, where a huge number of farmers lost their land, have also been the states that have contributed the most migrants to the United States. In 2003, 1/3 of the Mexican migrants residing in the United States came from these states. Numbers of migrants have skyrocketed from the southern state of Oaxaca, largely again with agricultural workers moving north. Were the United States to have included humane immigration laws in NAFTA that might be one thing, but instead we have forced them into the desert to die.

American unions have tried to reach across the border and create transnational alliances between workers. When the textile industry moved en masse to Mexico, unions like UNITE sent delegations of workers to meet maquila workers in Mexico and gave them organizing advice and funds. But the major unions are part of the corporate structure of the Mexican government and have not exercised much if any independent action since the early 20th century. There are independent unions that struggle to survive, but between government discouragement, local intimidation of activists, and the same and worse anti-union activities by employers that you see in the United States, they have had a very difficult time getting off the ground. And the same threats of moving factories if workers form independent unions that provide real representation for labor that worked so well against American workers have been used in Mexico. After all, there are a lot of Hondurans looking for work, not infrequently because they have also lost access to the land and traditional farming economies.

While one may argue that NAFTA and American deindustrialization has created cleaner American environments, the Mexican environment has been severely denuded and degraded, particularly with the dumping of toxic chemicals and other pollutants. American environmental laws of the 1960s and 1970s forced companies to deal with pollutants responsibly. These companies did not see their profits depreciate significantly for this, but maximizing profit took priority to social and environmental responsibility. NAFTA also forced remaining Mexican farmers to depend ever more greatly on agrochemicals with poison both the land and the farmworkers who handle and are sprayed by them in the fields. Although it predates NAFTA, Angus Wright’s The Death of Ramon Gonzalez is a good primer on this issue.

The loss of manufacturing jobs due to NAFTA, other free trade agreements, and globalization more broadly has, I believe, helped contribute to the longevity of the economic downturn and threatens larger problems in the future. The promise of NAFTA was cheap products and information-based jobs that were easier on our bodies and allowed us to use our minds. But those jobs have hardly replaced well-paid manufacturing jobs and have left millions of older and poorly educated (disproportionately people of color) Americans behind. We managed to keep the charade of a successful new economy going for awhile, through the housing bubble and personal debt, but both have busted. Now we don’t know how to put people back to work. We have literally dismantled the infrastructure that would allowed us to put people to work in industrial labor. If the information economy doesn’t work and if there is little to no incentive for industries to open factories (or a government that doesn’t make it a priority), what is the long-term employment solution?

This series has also covered the merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955 and the Homestead Strike of 1892.

Death List ’12

[ 36 ] January 1, 2012 |

Last year was a tough year for my Death List. Only Andy Rooney died. I’ve replaced him with Phyllis Diller. The rest are the same:

1. Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand
2. Mike Wallace
3. Margaret Thatcher
4. Rev. Sun Myung Moon
5. Fidel Castro
6. Luis Echeverria
7. Ernest Borgnine
8. Phyllis Diller
9. Clark Terry
10. Little Jimmy Dickens

Let the outrage at my moral turpitude begin.

2011 Prediction Review

[ 31 ] January 1, 2012 |

In accordance with the requirements of the Pundit-Blogger Accountability Act of 2010, here is my review of last year’s predictions:

World Series Champion: Philadelphia Phillies
College Football National Champion: Oregon Ducks
Heisman Trophy Winner: LaMichael James
North Korean Nuclear Tests: 1
South Korean Fatalities due to North Korean military action: 25
Russian Nuclear Submarine Accidents: 1
Israeli Strikes on Iran: 0
Sarah Palin Presidential Candidacies: 1
December 2011 Unemployment: 9.2% (8.6%)
Barack Obama approval rate: 50.1% (44.9%)
US GDP Growth, 3rd quarter 2011: 3.1% (1.8%)
Iraq Coalition Military Fatalities: 48 (54)
Afghanistan Coalition Military Fatalities: 650 (565)
Best Picture: Social Network
NFL #1 Draft Pick: Andrew Luck
Victor, Kentucky Gubernatorial: David Williams
# of Jonathan Pollards released: 0
US Supreme Court Vacancies: 1

And of course, I also placed dead last in the LGM World Cup Challenge. Thank God the Russians came through with the submarine thing, else this might have been embarrassing.

2012, and remember that past performance is no guarantee of future results:

World Series Champion: Texas Rangers
College Basketball National Champion: Kentucky Wildcats
Israeli Strikes on Iran:0
3rd Quarter 2012 GDP Growth: 2.0%
Number of Syrian Presidents named Assad on 12/31/12: 1
North Korean nuclear tests: 1
November 2012 Unemployment: 8.1%
Democratic seats, Senate: 47
Democratic seats, House: 220
GOP Presidential Nominee: Mitt Romney
Barack Obama Electoral Votes: 272
Afghanistan Coalition fatalities: 485

The Clutchest QB There Absolutely Ever Was Update

[ 76 ] January 1, 2012 |

Tim Tebow is so great that he can get a team coached by Norv Turner to knock someone out of the playoffs!   He Just.  Wins.  Football Games.   To focus against his 20.6 QB rating is to miss the intangible qualities that make him a very, very, very special atrocious quarterback.

It’s funny because it’s true

[ 28 ] January 1, 2012 |


Standardized time and protecting the integrity of our Republic (and ultimately the purity of our precious bodily fluids).

UPDATE from davenoon:

Yglesias’ parable bears more than a slight resemblance to actual debates about Daylight Savings Time, which was initially part of the Standard Time Act. After Gore Vidal’s grandfather introduced a bill to repeal that part of the act in early 1919, a variety of religious groups joined the utility and energy interests chimed in, urging a return to early evening darkness. One group explained noted with “certainty that this iniquitous law will give deep displeasure to God” — a God who evidently had nothing in particular against standardized time zones but who might be inclined to unleash a plague of locusts if children had an extra hour’s time to play baseball during the summer. God had created the Sun so that everyone would know when it was noontime. For the government to declare otherwise would be “complete blasphemy.”

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