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Archive for April, 2012

Do Cleveland Sports Fans Really Need More Misery?

[ 191 ] April 27, 2012 |

Bill Barnwell is making sense:

What is it going to take before teams realize that spending money on running backs is a misuse of precious resources? Both these teams have enjoyed success from backs on the cheap over the past couple of seasons, and they both totally ignored that process in targeting running backs in the first round. The Browns might not have had much fun with Peyton Hillis last season, but remember that he looked to be a franchise back in 2010 and only cost Cleveland Brady Quinn, who was a candidate to be released. Did that convince the Browns to go back to the well and try to find the next Peyton Hillis for $500,000? Nope! Instead, they used the third pick on Trent Richardson, who will be spinning his wheels in the backfield next year behind an unimproved offensive line. Of the 14 running backs who have been taken in the top five since 1990, only a handful have delivered on their promise. Most have flashes of brilliance mixed with injuries, which is exactly what you get from guys like Jerome Harrison, who cost nothing.

Taking a running back with a #3 pick in itself is insane; trading up to do it is even stupider. And it’s not just that running backs are inherently unpredictable and injury-prone. It’s that — the romantic attachment so many still have to “ground-and-pound” notwithstanding — the quality of a team’s running game has almost no correlation with a team’s ability to win. Having a good running game is like stealing bases effectively in modern baseball; it doesn’t hurt, exactly, but it’s of marginal importance. If you can pass and/or defend against the pass effectively you don’t need a high-quality running game, and if you can’t move the ball through the air a good running game won’t help you. (The Giants, Super Bowl champions with a below-average running game, are hardly rare.) For a team with as many fundamental holes as the Browns to worry about their running game to the extent of wasting a #3 overall pick on it is bizarre, and is also pretty clear evidence that the Browns are unlikely to significantly improve anytime soon.

Caving In

[ 100 ] April 27, 2012 |

And the Obama Administration caves on the child labor rule for farmers I discussed here.

I, For One, Want America to Fail

[ 109 ] April 27, 2012 |

This is how conservatives see environmentalists:

There is so much about this that is remarkable. On a personal level, I love that the spotted owl still drives conservatives nuts 20 years after the issue was settled. It also increases my concern that the killing of spotted owls by barred owls will become a real problem for environmentalists, as the use of the Endangered Species Act as the single tool to stop old-growth logging on federal lands makes the unintentional disappearance of the species a threat for the continued protection of those trees.

I also love how the video talks about Europe as if it were Zimbabwe, the anti-Chinese imagery (even as the companies behind this all send their own manufacturing jobs to China), and the pot shot at Al Gore.

Also, we need more shots of the Statue of Liberty from people who probably also oppose immigration.

This is pure conservative resentment, honed in on the hippies.

Ernest Callenbach, RIP

[ 18 ] April 27, 2012 |

Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia, has died. One of the most influential books of the environmental movement, Ecotopia tells the story of a secessionist Northwest that has committed itself to living sustainability.

I must admit, I rather strongly dislike the book. Published in 1975, the book tells the story of William Weston, a mainstream reporter who goes to investigate the new nation of Ecotopia, consisting of Washington, Oregon, and northern California. It explores various ways of green living, but is really about the conversion of Weston to the cause, not only through the demonstration of sustainability, but though smoking a lot of pot, uninhibited sex, and absurd games of warfare meant to foster a particular kind of hippie manhood. While it’s interesting to imagine a sustainable America, there’s much to roll your eyes over. The sex scenes are laughably bad. The manhood exercises are totally ludicrous. And while it was written in 1975 and under the ethnic nationalist context of the times, the fact that not only is virtually everyone in the novel white but that the other secessionist black republic of Oakland is treated in a stereotypical way is deeply frustrating. Is environmentalism only for white people? In Ecotopia, it sure seems this way.

On the other hand, my students LOVE Ecotopia. I’ve only assigned it once actually and I thought they’d see through the ridiculous parts of it to find an interesting window into 70s environmentalism. I think they were sucked in by the drugs and sex, but in any case they clearly saw it as a model of living in 2010. And that’s fine I guess, there is a vision for them to follow in the book, though I hope they can combine with a vision of critical reading skills.

Certainly part of my issue with the book is growing up in Eugene around a counterculture heavily influenced by Callenbach. A hippie, I am not. But Callenbach’s heart was in the right place with the novel and his impact still resonates today.

CISPA: Still Unsupportable

[ 17 ] April 27, 2012 |

I wrote recently about the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which in most of its proposed forms posed a serious threat to privacy. The bad news is that 1)it passed the House 2)in a form that, if anything, is even worse.

…a chance for Obama to follow through on a veto threat.

Franklin Graham: Airpower Can Re-Grout My Shower

[ 55 ] April 26, 2012 |

I know what will solve this problem: Airpower!

In the Bible, Jesus gave us an example in Luke Chapter 10 about a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Leaders passed by and saw that the man desperately needed help. But they continued on their journey, looking the other way. Then a Samaritan came along and had compassion. He bandaged the man’s wounds, put the man on his own animal and took the man to an inn to care for him. America historically has been that good Samaritan: defending the weak, standing up against the strong and providing liberty and justice for all.

Now I am asking him and his administration to do something that may sound unusual for a preacher of the Gospel. I am asking him to use our Air Force to destroy Mr. Bashir’s airstrips – the airstrips his military uses to launch bombers that carry out daily attacks in the Nuba Mountains. The Nuba people don’t want American soldiers – they can fight for themselves. They just want to be free. But they have no defense against bombs dropping from the sky on their villages, schools and hospitals.

As a pilot with 40 years of experience, I can assure you that an airplane doesn’t do well with holes in the runway. I certainly am not asking the president to kill anyone, just to break up some concrete to prevent the bombers from taking off. I think that by destroying those runways, we can force Mr. Bashir to the negotiating table.

Let’s see…

Overrate the importance of aerial bombing to state repression: Check
Praise the antiseptic nature of aerial bombing: Check
Underestimate the ability of the enemy to resist or change tactics: Check
Underestimate the ancillary demands of an air campaign: Check
Ignore the broader political implications of the use of force: Check
Implicitly analogize the Good Samaritan to the F-15E Strike Eagle: Double Plus Check

Plastics

[ 25 ] April 26, 2012 |

Graduate

One of the more excruciating scenes in the 1967 film The Graduate, which centers on an aimless young man who can’t figure out what he’s supposed to do with his life after graduating from an Ivy League college, takes place when the protagonist attempts to have an actual conversation with the middle-aged married woman with whom he’s having an affair. Desperately fishing about for a topic, he tries to get her to talk about art. She refuses, stating that this topic holds no interest for her. Moving on to more personal questions, he goes on to discover that she is a profoundly bored alcoholic who hasn’t slept in the same room as her husband in five years, and who married him because he got her pregnant when he was a law student and she was a freshman at the same fancy university. The conversation ends like this:

BEN
What was your major?

MRS. ROBINSON
Why are you asking me all this?

BEN
Because I’m interested, Mrs. Robinson.
Now what was your major subject
at college?

MRS. ROBINSON
Art.

BEN
Art?

She nods.

BEN
But I thought you – I guess you
kind of lost interest in it over
the years then.

MRS. ROBINSON
Kind of.

Now I’m actually a big fan of liberal arts education. I believe in learning for its own sake, that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, that civilization is superior to barbarism (whether neolithic or post-industrial), that a genuinely educated citizenry is crucial to maintaining democracy as something more than a word, and all that sort of thing. On a related point, I believe if university academics are going to study and write about law, they should do it in a genuinely academic way, as opposed to cranking out glorified briefs and bench memos that are supposedly “helpful” to lawyers and judges, i.e., traditional doctrinal law review articles. So I have nothing against “Law and . . .” Indeed to the extent that law school is structured as a form of graduate education there should be nothing but “law and.”

But law school should not be structured as a form of graduate education, because structuring that way makes it cost far too much. It’s a mistake to think that law school used to be cheap but is now expensive. Law school was always expensive, even a generation ago when Harvard cost barely more than $10,000 per year in 2011 dollars, and resident tuition at state law schools was almost nominal (the University of Colorado’s law school tuition 30 years ago was $975, i.e., about $200 per month in real current money).

Law school has always been expensive because the opportunity cost of going to law school has always been high. Taking yourself out of the labor market for three years at the beginning of your working life is a very costly investment in your future. So a generation ago, when private school tuition was in real terms a fourth of what it is today and public law school tuition was practically free, law school still cost a lot in real economic terms. Today, of course, the cost of law school has gone from significant to basically insane. On top of the opportunity cost you’re supposed to pay borrow at very high interest rates a sum of money that would outright buy a fairly decent three-bedroom house in many parts of this fair nation.

At no time in the past would the present cost of law school have made sense for anything approaching a majority of law students, and looking forward it makes even less sense. It’s one of those things, like three-bedroom houses in Las Vegas selling for $600,000 in 2006, that happened because it was in the interest of powerful political and economic interests for it to happen, not because it made the slightest degree of sense as matter of rational social action.

Law school in America has developed or devolved into a kind of faux-graduate school experience, in which with limited exceptions less pretense than ever is made of engaging in vocational training. But here’s the punch line: Do you know what graduate school generally costs? Nothing. Now this isn’t true at all in genuine economic terms, as graduate students still incur big opportunity costs and avoid paying tuition by providing plenty of slave labor to keep the wheels of the great American university system turning. Of course at the end of all that there’s a good chance graduate school will end up not being worth it, since the large majority of graduate students don’t end up getting anything like the jobs they went to graduate school in order to get. In other words they’re just like law students, minus the six-figure high interest non-dischargeable debt.

Law school as graduate school is very much a luxury that the vast majority of people who are forced to purchase it can neither afford, nor would they want to buy even if they could actually afford it. This was true when it was practically free, but it’s far more true today, when the total cost of attendance at many schools is approaching a quarter million dollars.

This, I think it’s fair to say, represents something of a market failure.

Which Republican Governor is the Biggest Asshat?

[ 59 ] April 26, 2012 |

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for everyone’s favorite game–”Which Republican Governor is the Biggest Asshat?” I’m your host, Erik Loomis, and today, we are going to tour the nation visiting our favorite Republican asshat governors. Vote early and often!

Behind Door A, we have one Scott Walker of Wisconsin:

While Wisconsin Gov, Scott Walker (R) fights to keep his job in a recall election scheduled for June, he is being forced to confront a harsh reality in his state: It lost more jobs during the past 12 months than any other state in the United States.

Wisconsin lost 23,900 jobs between March 2011 and March 2012, according to data released Tuesday by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s lead in job losses is significantly greater than the rest of the 50 states: No other state lost more than 3,500 jobs.

The majority of the losses in Wisconsin, 17,800, were in the public sector. However, the state lost more private-sector jobs, 6,100, than any other state. The only other states to report private-sector job losses in the same time period (instead of private-sector gains) were Mississippi and Rhode Island.

Walker gets the vote of Angela Merkel and David Cameron.

Behind Door B: Rick Scott of Florida!

Timing has not been on Gov. Rick Scott’s side lately.

Earlier this week, I pointed out that the governor eliminated $1.5 million in state funds for 30 rape crisis centers across the state during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. A day after that news began to spread, Scott attended an awards ceremony at the Capitol for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Among those who received an award that day: Nicole Bishop, the director of Palm Beach County Victim Services, which was one of the rape crisis centers that lost funding due to Scott’s veto.

“I thought it was unfortunate,” Bishop says. “Those funds were definitely needed.”

And behind Door C: A cliff in which to dive into a sea of lava!!

I know how I’m voting….

What’s At Stake in 2012

[ 206 ] April 26, 2012 |

Jamelle Bouie:

Gerson says that the terms of the debate this fall will be between “Reform Conservatism” and “Obama’s surprisingly unreconstructed liberalism.” Now is not the place to define Obama’s liberalism, but even if it were, this is wrong. The 2012 election isn’t a debate between two variations on welfare state capitalism—it’s a choice between two visions of American society. Will the United States be a place of solidarity between people? Will we build a society where everyone has the tools to succeed? Will we care for the least advantaged in the best way that we can? Or will we indulge the hyper-individualistic id of American life, and create a place where opportunity is reserved for those who already have it, and everyone else is left to defend themselves against the unbridled market?

Believe me when I say that I’m not exaggerating for the sake of the election. The Ryan/Romney/Republican is a complete departure from the post-war political consensus in a way that wasn’t true of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, or even McCain/Palin. Ryan wants to return to a world of tremendous social and economic injustice, and the GOP has signed on wholeheartedly. It’s alarming, and those of us who fall within the liberal tradition, that’s a necessary and reasonable response.

Two things make me want to discount this statement a bit. First, people say this every 4 years. Second, Obama has been disappointing on a number of levels, including, as Scott pointed out earlier today, in his response to the economy.

On the other hand, Jamelle is right. The Republicans are so determined to recreate the Gilded Age that this election is absolutely vital for the continuance of the America we grew up with, a deeply flawed nation but one that has slowly increased its citizens’ freedom and economic opportunities. A Romney administration will effectively mean the end of the New Deal state, the end of legalized abortion, and the end of civil liberties.

The Third Party Leader We Need!

[ 50 ] April 26, 2012 |

Michael Bloomberg, sensible American and our only hope to return from the brink of something:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vetoed a City Council bill that would have raised the minimum wage in New York City to $11.50, calling the measure “a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked.”

The measure would have allowed workers to be paid $10 per hour if benefits were included. It was hailed by supporters as a way to boost the fortunes of the poorest New Yorkers. A full year’s salary at the minimum wage is less than $16,000.

Oh you minimum wage workers milking those private business owners by asking to be paid a wage that will still leave you in poverty in New York!

But hey, Bloomberg has handled this situation with the kind of professionalism and respectability we need in our centrist third party that will pull us back from the brink of something:

On his regular appearance on WORS radio, Bloomberg said, “The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn’t work out so well,” adding, “You cannot stop the tides from coming in.”

And then this:

The mayor also took the opportunity to call a measure requiring certain businesses to offer their employees paid sick leave a “god-awful bill.”

Please Mayor Bloomberg, you are the only one who can save America from the tyranny of $10 an hour jobs and sick leave!!!

Bemoaning Democrats Acting Like Democrats

[ 20 ] April 26, 2012 |

Here we see example #520 of villagers gnashing their teeth and rending their garments when Democratic voters elect real Democrats over the kind of Republican-lite Democrats political elites think they should vote for.

Where is the bipartianship? Won’t somebody think about the children?

Of course, this law only applies to Democrats and possibly New England Republicans.

“Credible”

[ 56 ] April 26, 2012 |

That word, I do not think…

The Cameron government is a very, very special. To get well to Herbert Hoover’s right after seeing the consequences of austerity the first time is really amazing.

Or one can put it this way. The reaction of the Obama administration has been bad, indeed inadequate enough that it could well torpedo his re-election — probably leaving stimulus money on the table, failing to use appropriated funds to assuage the housing crisis, and most importantly letting vacancies at the Fed linger on and on. And yet, compared to his British and European counterparts he looks good. And while on the first and third points Obama faces serious constraints because key veto points are controlled by wingnuts, Cameron was free to do pretty much anything he wanted, and what he wanted to do was to sink the British economy in the name of a policy that doesn’t even make any sense in theory.

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