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Archive for July, 2013

Due process, Bud Selig-style

[ 127 ] July 31, 2013 |

Alex Rodriguez to be banned for life?

I haven’t followed this very closely, but my understanding is that under the CBA the maximum punishment to which he’s supposed to be liable is a 50-game suspension. (Update: EF Goldman explains in comments that Selig can invoke the league’s anti-Soviet slander “conduct detrimental to the good of the game” clause).

Would it be irresponsible to speculate that letting the game’s most powerful franchise off the hook for about $100 million in future obligations might possibly have something to do with this?

. . . I missed Scott’s post on this yesterday. (FWIW a friend of mine has had professional dealings with Selig, and says he’d bet a lot of money that Selig wouldn’t hit three figures on an IQ test. He doesn’t say this in rancor — he claims to actually like and even somewhat admire the guy, but he swears he’s genuinely dumb).


On the Manning Verdict

[ 115 ] July 31, 2013 |

It’s good that the least justifiable of the charges against Bradley Manning has been thrown out, but particularly in context of what the Obama administration has chosen to prosecute he’s already spent more time in jail than his conduct merits.

Innovations In Leftier-Than-Thousim

[ 289 ] July 31, 2013 |

It must be said that lambert’s argument that single payer was there if Obama wanted it is a minor classic of the genre.  Every vacuous pundit cliche that can be used to ignore concrete realities of power and institutional structure is there — “mandate,” “Overton Window,” the bully pulpit — you know, all the tools that allowed Clinton to ram health care reform right down Congress’s throat in 1993.  We’ve been through this silliness before and I won’t reiterate the arguments here.

There are a couple of unique contributions, however.  First, lambert wishes you to know that 0% the blame for states denying Medicaid expansion funds should go to Republicans, even though the denial of funds by Republican state governments was made possible because Republicans on the Supreme Court struck down the provisions of the ACA designed to make this impossible.  (Clearly, Obama should have used the political capital of his mandate to move the Overtron Window right under the bus and removed the Republican appointees from the Supreme Court.)   You will also be informed that Obama invented federalism, which involves treating people in different states differently, making him history’s second greatest monster after only Franklin D. Roosevelt. (if you hate the geographic discrimination that Barack Obama unilaterally created, you must really hate the New Deal, which combined geographic discrimination with extensive race and gender discrimination.)

Still, this trademark move is my favorite bit:

There’s no point blaming the Republicans, whether in Congress or in the state houses, for unforced strategic errors by Democrats (if errors they were indeed, and not simply corruption; in 2008 Obama — unlike She Who Cannot Be Named — never advocated for a universal plan in the first place).

People who argue that Republicans should be elected until such a time as Bernie Sanders could occupy the White House and the median votes of both Houses of Congress are making a really dumb argument, but it’s at least internally consistent. Arguing that Obama is disgraceful corporate sellout…while arguing that Hillary Clinton is the reincarnation of Eugene Debs, however, takes things to a different level. In this case, it’s particularly good because (as you’ll be reminded if you click through the links) the dispute between Clinton and Obama over health care was whether the plan should have a mandate. (Obama’s pandering on this was wrong and he deserved Krugman’s criticism, of course.) So, the evidence that Obama is far to the right of Hillary Clinton is…that Obama ultimately supported Clinton’s health care plan. A unique perspective, I must concede.

Black Lung Blues

[ 19 ] July 31, 2013 |

Black lung is returning with force to the miners of Appalachia. Coal companies have fought against meaningful reforms (or even recognizing it exists) for over a century, and longer if you go back to the coal mines of 19th century England.* The only time workers have ever managed a major breakthrough was with the passage of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, which coincided with a larger move toward meaningful workplace safety reform at a time when social tumult (including grassroots activism against an unresponsive union leadership) combined with economic prosperity to create a new set of demands for working people. The Mine Safety and Health Administration made real progress against black lung. But new technologies have increased exposure to the increasingly few workers in the mines and black lung rates are rising again. The MSHA hasn’t done anything to stop it because the coal industry cares far more about stopping meaningful reform than any equally powerful consistency does about pushing it through.

*Read Alan Derickson’s Black Lung, if you are interested in this issue. Which you should be.

Legacy Pollution

[ 44 ] July 31, 2013 |

In Carson, California, Shell Oil used to have an oil tank farm. Then, thanks to America’s lax environmental regulatory state, a housing development was built on top of it when Shell no longer needed it. Shell claims the land is safe and they have no responsibility for it. Residents say their soil is poisonous. Soil tests taken five years ago show elevated levels of benzene and petroleum. Residents claim an array of health problems The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board has ordered Shell to clean up the soil, but there is significant debate over whether to clean it up right now as an emergency or do the necessary testing that would delay the cleanup for a year. Shell is unhappy.

A dark side of southern California’s landscape is the legacy of nearly a century of oil production. You don’t always see that legacy, but it’s there. It became famous during the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that spawned an array of environmental legislation, but the roots go back to the early 20th century, as does local resistance to it. Too often, corporations get away with improper cleanup, leaving a legacy of pollution for residents, often the poor who can afford to buy houses in a ecologically degraded neighborhood.

Law school in America moves toward an open admissions policy

[ 94 ] July 31, 2013 |

Here is the percentage of law school applicants who were admitted, over the last decade, to at least one ABA-accredited law school to which they applied, by year:

2004: 55.6%
2005: 58.6%
2006: 63.1%
2007: 66.1%
2008: 66.5%
2009: 67.4%
2010: 68.7%
2011: 71.1%
2012: 74.5%
2013: 76.8%

Keep in mind that somewhere around 3% of all law school applicants have the kinds of background issues that create serious liability issues for any school that admitted them. Another 5% or so have entrance qualifications (bottom 5% LSAT scores combined with 2.1 GPAs from bad colleges) that indicate their inability to do even basic college level work, and thus make it almost certain they will not be able to pass a bar exam, not matter how much remediation they are subjected to during law school (low enough bar passage rates could affect a law school’s accreditation). In addition, the average applicant applies to eight schools (there are 202 ABA law schools at the moment), and some significant percentage of applicants will, prudently, not apply to any school below a fairly high rank.

This in effect means that over the course of the last decade, American law schools have moved from a moderately selective admissions model to a quasi-open enrollment policy. If you have a college degree, can get 35 out of 100 questions on the LSAT correct (you are likely to get 20 right by simply guessing, and each year some people rack up perfect scores — it is not, in other words, a very difficult test), and don’t seem likely to go on a shooting spree, you’ll be admitted to a genuine ABA-accredited law school.

The long-term effects of this fundamental shift on the status of the legal profession, and more important, the quality of legal services available to non-corporate people, remain to be seen.

Not Allowing Prayer in Classrooms Is Totally the Same Thing as Genocide

[ 198 ] July 31, 2013 |

Conservatives in Kentucky are very angry. After all, the state might adopt scientific standards that teach actual science instead of Christian mythology. The responses are quite rational:

Matt Singleton, a Baptist minister, is one of the opponents who spoke to the board about why the standards should not be adopted, according to The Courier-Journal. “Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God,” Singleton said. “Instead, this fascist method teaches that our children are the property of the state.”

Another opponent, Dena Stewart-Gore, suggested that the standards will make religious students feel ostracized. “The way socialism works is it takes anybody that doesn’t fit the mold and discards them,” she said, per the The Courier-Journal. “We are even talking genocide and murder here, folks.”

What killed the Jews in the Holocaust was the Nazis teaching them that the Earth was not 6000 years old. They all dropped dead of heart attacks or something.

Ag-Gag Bills Defeated

[ 9 ] July 31, 2013 |

In just about the only good thing for progressives in this year’s horror film of state legislation, all 11 ag-gag bills were defeated. Attempts by agribusiness to criminalize anyone taking footage of their operations went down to defeat. However, I am extremely pessimistic that we will repeat such a record in 2014. After all, North Carolina will continue on its road to become America’s worst state and I have no confidence that lovely state legislature would reject such a bill twice.

BREAKING! New Deal Programs Extremely Popular

[ 135 ] July 30, 2013 |

Murc argues that conservative messaging has too been effective:

Well, the Republicans manage to get around 45% of the vote, minimum, while explicitly campaigning on destroying things that thirty years ago would have been considered political suicide to advocate.

I mean, remember the Ryan budget? That was part of Romney’s campaign platform, in fact pretty much the core of it, and it explicitly called for the dismantling of Medicare, a wildly successful and efficacious program. It got, what, 47% of the country voting for it? That says to me that this policy that benefits large numbers of people has gotten sufficiently less popular that trying to destroy it is no longer beyond the pale, and that seems like a win for long-term messaging discipline to me.

Hell, look at when Bush took a run at Social Security about eight years ago. That wasn’t popular enough to pass, but it sure as hell was more popular than it would’ve been in the eighties, judging by the nonexistent political price paid for it by those who were willing to sign on.

The problems with this argument are rather obvious, even if we leave aside the fact that “getting thumped in the subsequent two elections” seems like a political price to me. Bush’s Social Security plan was highly unpopular, and got less popular as he spent more time using the immense power of the BULLY PULPIT to sell it. Paul Ryan’s proposed destruction of Medicare is somewhat less popular than cancer of the rectum. Not only the public as a whole but a large majority of Tea Party members strongly support New Deal programs. Decades of conservative messaging (including an extensive campaign by a recently re-elected president) have not had any success in undermining the popularity of New Deal programs. Indeed, the Ryan plan wasn’t political suicide in some measure because it’ s so grotesquely unpopular people literally refused to believe that Romney was actually proposing it.

None of this is surprising, because if you look closely the whole argument it’s a non-sequitur. Positive electoral results can prove the popularity of individual messages only if elections are referenda on discrete issues, which they obviously aren’t.

And again, this is the problem with the tendency to vastly overrate the power of “messaging”: it obscures concrete issues of power. All things being equal, it’s better to have public opinion on your side. But just as public opinion gains are no guarantee of policy wins, individual unpopular policies are no guarantee of policy or electoral defeat. And if your plan for political success is based on using clever rhetoric to sell people things they don’t want, you’re misguided twice over.

Some People Say That There’s A Slutbag To Blame, But You Know It’s Your Own Damned Fault

[ 90 ] July 30, 2013 |

The whole Weiner campaign is just an elaborate put-on by a second-rate Armando Iannucci imitator, right?

Hunter Felt: “Somehow I’m not too shocked to find it takes a large amount of internalized misogyny to work for Anthony Weiner.”

Where Have All the Jobs Gone?

[ 119 ] July 30, 2013 |

Overseas, quite decisively.

The above chart measures percentage growth in employment from U.S. multinational corporations both in the U.S. and abroad.

Worldwide employment by U.S. multinational companies (MNCs) increased 1.5 percent in 2011 to 34.5 million workers, with the increase primarily reflecting increases abroad. In the United States, employment by U.S. parent companies increased 0.1 percent to 22.9 million workers, compared with a 1.8 percent increase in total private industry employment in the United States. The total employment by U.S. parents accounted for roughly one-fifth of total U.S. employment in private industries. Abroad, employment by majority-owned foreign affiliates of U.S. MNCs increased 4.4 percent to 11.7 million workers.

U.S. multinationals accounted for 20.9% of U.S. private sector payrolls in 2011, 21.8% in 1989. Yet from 1989 to 2011, U.S. MNCs decreased their employment in the United States by 3.3 million workers while expanding employment abroad by 6,5 million employees. The share of employment by MNCs in the United States went from 79% of their total employees in 1989 to 66.3% by 2011. Multinational corporations are clearly doing their hiring abroad.

This is why I don’t understand why so many people still think the current economic doldrums is just a product of the banking/housing crisis and a poor government response to it. These are permanent changes in the economy. There simply are not stable jobs for Americans anymore. Extreme capital mobility has shifted more and more jobs overseas. At first this was just manufacturing, now it is lower level law positions and middle management. What jobs that haven’t been moved are in the process of being mechanized to the point that the jobs won’t exist any longer (such as professors and MOOCs). People’s blind faith in capitalism’s ultimate beneficence to the American people have blinded themselves to the reality of 21st century America–a land increasingly without steady work or meaningful job creation, unless you are in the corporate elite.

More Farina

[ 5 ] July 30, 2013 |

An outstanding obituary of the great Dennis Farina by Alex Pappademas. Farina is one of those people who had a fairly minor career in the big scheme of things, but who affected so many people and who everyone loves and misses dearly upon their death.

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