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Archive for October, 2012


[ 311 ] October 26, 2012 |

It ain’t limited to religious discourse.

Paul has already mentioned the disgraceful behavior of Richard Dawkins, but the additional detail Watson provides here is both instructive and chilling.


Texas: Doing a Pretty Good Imitation of a Dictatorship

[ 69 ] October 25, 2012 |

I’m impressed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s bluster about arresting international election monitors coming to his state to observe the upcoming presidential election. I’m not sure what actual law such monitors would be breaking. But then, it’s not like Texas has ever needed people actually breaking the law to arrest, imprison, and execute them. Although it certainly helps if they are not white. ‘

But hey, this is a good way for us to get to know our next Texas governor, so that’s exciting or something.

Workplace Political Intimidation

[ 58 ] October 25, 2012 |

Ever since Mike Elk broke the story about the Koch Brothers intimidating Georgia Pacific mill workers in Oregon to vote for Mitt Romney, we’ve seen a tidal wave of corporate overloads trying to influence their workers’ votes. Just in last 24 hours, I’ve seen a number of stories.

Here’s Jack DeWitt, CEO of Request Foods which owns, among other things, Campbell’s soup, sending a letter to his workers urging them to vote for Romney, despite receiving $5.5 million in stimulus money.

Here’s David Siegel, owner of the nation’s largest house, threatening to fire his employees if Obama gets reelected.

Here’s the letter the Cintas Corporation send to its employees urging them to vote for Romney to overturn such evils as Obamacare and the EPA.

Mike White, owner of Rite-Hite, based out of Milwaukee, warned his workers of the “personal consequences” they would face if Obama was reelected.

David Graham has an interesting piece up about the legal ramifications of all of this–which boils down to the fact that there’s not much anyone can do about it unless the employer directly threatens workers with their jobs if Obama is reelected. But it’s clear that there’s a coordinated attempt going on by emboldened employers to badger workers into voting for Republicans–or at the very least to not talk at the workplace about voting for Democrats.

“The Roots of the Crisis”

[ 39 ] October 25, 2012 |

This is just hopelessly lazy:

To understand the roots of the crisis in Libya, after all, would mean examining how, for years, the United States helped Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and other Arab leaders hold on to power and terrorize their opponents anywhere in the world, in the name of the “war on terror.” It would mean exposing successive administrations’ rendition and torture policies, and their collusion with despotic Arab regimes to carry them out. Though many Arabs targeted by the United States remained focused exclusively on challenging the regimes in their home countries—and refused to harm civilians to achieve their aims—some came to regard the United States, its assets and civilians as legitimate targets in some circumstances.

There are surely some time periods and some leaders for which the “hold on to power and terrorize their opponents” would be an appropriate description of US policy; in the case of Libya, the US became more willing to cut Qaddafi slack after 2003, in return for cooperation on the Libyan nuclear program and for the assistance of the Libyan intelligence. For approximately the 34 years prior to the nuclear deal of 2003, US policy (pursued with uneven enthusiasm) was to support the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime. It’s entirely reasonable to complain about US willingness to cooperate with the Libyan security services after 2003, but it should bear mention that Qaddafi was rather adept at holding onto power and terrorizing his opponents anywhere in the world without any assistance from the United States. In face, active US opposition was incapable of preventing Qaddafi from undertaking these two projects. Moreover, I don’t recollect that the Nation was particularly enthusiastic about US policy towards Qaddafi prior to 2003.

It isn’t just Qaddafi; I feel like pulling my hair out every time I read that Mubarak was a US puppet/creation. There’s an element of truth to the claim, but only an element; Mubarak was the third in a line of dictators, the first two of whom had demonstrated every capacity for holding onto power even in context of active US opposition. Similarly, the United States has been more and less willing to deal with the Assads over the years (including utilizing Syrian security services), but it makes no sense whatsoever to claim that the resilience of the Assad regime is because of US assistance. Simply because the US is periodically willing to work with a particularly dictator does not indicate that the US is responsible for the survival of said dictator; it may be convenient for domestic opponents to make such an argument, but authoritarian regimes can survive with no assistance whatsoever from the United States.

Michelle Rhee: Union-Buster

[ 47 ] October 25, 2012 |

Michelle Rhee’s organization StudentsLast is not just anti-teacher union. It’s anti-collective bargaining more broadly. The organization has contributed $500,000 against Michigan’s Proposal 2, which would make the right to collective bargaining a part of the state constitution.

Vote Gary Johnson!

[ 223 ] October 25, 2012 |

I would like to point out that voting for Gary Johnson is a sign of deep moral seriousness:

Johnson advocates severe near-term fiscal and monetary policy austerity. When we talked at (or rather, outside of) the Republican National Convention, he told me he would cut Medicare spending by 43 percent in the short term. He repeatedly insists that “we are in the midst of a monetary collapse” and says he favors returning the United States to a (deflationary) metallic currency standard. He says he would have opposed TARP and allowed systemically important banks to fail.

In other words, if Johnson had been president in 2008, he would have allowed the U.S. financial system to collapse and the country to fall into depression. And if he became president now, he would do his best to strangle the tepid recovery we are enjoying and turn it into another severe recession.

But when you’re as morally serious as Conor Friedersdorf, the deaths caused by a depression and by the collapse of the US health care system don’t count.

Gated communitarians

[ 50 ] October 25, 2012 |

One thing that has been driven home to me with extreme prejudice in the course of examining the current economic structure of legal education is that law schools are run primarily for the benefit of their tenure-track faculties. This observation, which will strike almost all law students outside the 1L bubble — let us not even speak of our graduates — as blindingly obvious, will, from my experience, be treated as a horrible heresy by large portions of those very faculties, for reasons that are equally obvious. (I will not comment here on the extent to which these observations are applicable to higher education in general, other than to note that law schools are hardly unique in this respect).

Yet — again in my inevitably limited experience — whenever law school faculties discuss anything that involves their interests, it would be an understatement to say those interests trump all other possible considerations, and most particularly considerations of whether what we’re proposing to do is actually in the interest of our students and graduates.

Last week the CU faculty met to vote on whether to reauthorize and greatly expand our LLM program, which was started three years ago on an explicitly experimental basis. In a cursory memo, the administration laid out its justification for expanding the program from its current average of six students per year to a projected 26 per year by 2014. The memo featured no data regarding whether our program or similar programs are likely to be worth it for people who enroll. Instead it would be fair to say that its argument consisted of pointing out that, at least with appropriately aggressive promotion on the part of the school, there will be a “market” for enrolling 26 LLM students per year, who will collectively generate nearly a million dollars in annual revenue for the school.

When the motion was presented for discussion, I laid out a series of concerns regarding the potential this expanded program would have to exploit the desperation of current law students and recent graduates — the groups which the memo revealed would be primary targets for our greatly enhanced marketing efforts — given the dismal employment market for new law graduates in general.

Naturally I didn’t think there was any real possibility of blocking the expansion, let alone the re-authorization, of the program, given the overwhelming short-term economic incentives at work. What I did expect, in retrospect naively, is that there would be some discussion of the merits of the proposal. At a minimum, I expected something in the form of an argument from the supporters of the proposal, as to why we ought to aggressively market $36,000 LLMs to current law students, in effect representing to them that it would be, under present circumstances, a good idea for them to extend law school from three years to four, and to spend another $55,000 or so on their legal educations.

What happened was that, after I had voiced my concerns and extracted some predictably awkward revelations regarding exactly where the LLM tuition money was actually going, nobody said anything. There was literally no discussion of the proposal, and after about thirty seconds of even more awkward silence, the motion passed by a vote of approximately 30 to 1.

In retrospect, it’s easy enough to see why no one was willing to speak in favor of (let alone to oppose) the proposal. After all the most plausible, and indeed perhaps the only, justification for the decision would, I suppose, have to be an appeal to the crudest form of economic self interest, i.e., “if people are willing to give us a million dollars per year for quite possibly useless LLM degrees who are we to say no?” In addition, if we actually engaged in some sort of discussion regarding the potential justification of the LLM program from the perspective of the interests of our students who knows where such a discussion might lead?

Given that law school faculties are full of gated communitarians, who are to put it mildly not interested in exploring whether their institutional behavior can be reconciled in any way with their putative political commitments, it shouldn’t have surprised me that no discussion at all took place.

Codifying the Arbitrary Executive

[ 177 ] October 25, 2012 |

Since I certainly don’t believe in any policy of avoiding criticism of the Obama administration during the campaign*, I have some thoughts about Greg Miller’s reporting on the disposition matrix. I particularly want to emphasize that even if we stipulate that the AUMF provides legal cover for the program, systematic arbitrary killings on this scale and with this lack of transparency remains terrible (and almost certainly counterproductive) public policy. And as the fact that there’s no chance that the AUMF will be ended anytime soon indicates, the problem is much deeper than any individual administration. There’s no usurpation of congressional power per se; this, alas, is how Congress, regardless of the partisan configuration, wants it.

*I, of course, endorse our policy of opposing bad critiques from the nominal left. But whether it’s “let us seriously consider the thoughts of a conservative making a silly argument that we should be indifferent about the outcome of the election” or — even worse — “Obama has betrayed me on the most important issue of our time, the excessive use of scripted zingers,” these arguments would be equally bad the day after the campaign ended.

Of Course He Does

[ 59 ] October 25, 2012 |

Why shouldn’t Mourdock stand by his comments? They represent what he thinks, whether other anti-choicers are willing to admit it or not.


[ 79 ] October 24, 2012 |

I got nothing against the Giants, but as an associate member of the Detroit diaspora, I gotta cheer for the Tigers in this one. Let this serve as an open thread for Game 1.


[ 36 ] October 24, 2012 |

Obviously former Mossad director Efraim Halevy is a self-hating Jew like the large majority of American Jews who vote for the Democrats. Otherwise why would he write an op-ed for the Times exposing the truth that Democrats have traditionally been greater friends of the Israeli state than Republicans. I don’t think the true Jew-lovers in this country–Pat Robertson let’s say–are going to approve of this.

2012-13: A Year Without Hockey, A Year Without Beethoven

[ 20 ] October 24, 2012 |

We’ve seen a lot of coverage of lockouts lately because professional sports league owners have used the tactic to try and wring major concessions out of unions. But it is an increasingly common phenomenon around the nation. Emboldened bosses see the end of their hated unions in sight and are capitalizing. This includes in classical music, as orchestra bosses around the nation are locking out their musicians in order to squeeze more money from them and concentrate resources at the top, where The Gospel of Wealth says they belong.

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