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Archive for October, 2013


[ 30 ] October 31, 2013 |

You can find the latest edition of the Grounded argument over at Medium: War is Boring:

And so, in effect, we argue that the conflation of air and space is wrong; when properly conceived of as a commons, space is more like the sea than like the air. Military culture structures how an organization envisions its role, and its relationship with other organizations, and the cooperative, commerce oriented framework in which the Navy conceives of the commons makes more sense in application to space than the Air Force’s militaristic “dominance” approach.

Moving from the abstract to the concrete, the organizational assets that currently find a home in the Air Force can easily be shifted to the Navy. We won’t miss the Air Force; indeed, our space policy may improve in its absence.

Essentially, the argument combines the work of Alex Vacca with some of the more interesting stuff on maintenance of the commons. While space has effectively defaulted to the Air Force (one of the first questions I get is “What about space?”), when we think about how the services approach the commons, it turns out that the Navy’s way of thinking makes more sense than the USAF’s approach. My co-author (Max Lord, a student of mine), put the argument together in a term paper at the end of last year; this is the distillation of the case.

See also an argument that we should create a “Coast Guard” for space, and this account of the role played by the escort carrier USS Croatan in space exploration.


And the D.C. Circuit Filibusters Begin

[ 83 ] October 31, 2013 |

Senate Republicans have followed through on their threat to block Obama’s attempt to usurp the constitutional order by using his mythical so-called “Article III” powers to engage in the unprecedented action of nominating judges to fill vacancies. Today, it was Patricia Millett:

Senate Republicans filibustered one of President Barack Obama’s top judicial nominees on Thursday, the clearest sign yet that the Senate may be heading for a messy partisan showdown that could result in Democrats revamping Senate filibuster rules.

The Senate voted 55-38 to advance D.C. Circuit Court nominee Patricia Millett. Democrats needed 60 votes to clear a procedural motion, which meant they needed at least five Republicans to join them. In the end, only two did: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Three senators voted “present.”

Again, Millett “lost” with 55 yes votes and 38 against. The question is how much longer Senate Democrats will tolerate this behavior, particularly since Republicans aren’t even really bothering to pretend that there’s any issue with the nominees other that they were selected by a Democrat. This is a good sign:

Just before the vote, Leahy, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, railed against Republicans for planning to filibuster an “outstanding” nominee like Millett. He warned that Democrats may be forced to take “drastic measures” if Republicans keep obstructing key Obama nominees for political reasons, suggesting that Democrats may change Senate rules to strip Republicans of their power to filibuster certain nominees.

“If the Republican caucus finds that, despite her amazing, stellar legal reputation and commitment to her country, that somehow a filibuster is warranted, I believe this body will need to consider anew whether a rules change should be in order,” Leahy fumed.

More of that, please.


[ 79 ] October 31, 2013 |

Ron Fournier, ladies and gentlemen:

This is what happens when the two parties ruling Washington lose touch with America and pander to their crazy-extreme base.

What follows is an exhaustive list of Fournier’s examples of Democrats pandering to a “crazy-extreme” base:

[Insert audio recording of the reaction when someone announces an opening bid of $25 for Joba Chamberlain at a 2013 fantasy draft.]

Hmm. But, in fairness, if Obama would only show the leadership to lead, with leadership, Republicans wouldn’t be able to pander at all.

[Via D.E.M.]

Oklahoma’s War On Women

[ 39 ] October 31, 2013 |

Irin Carmon has a fantastic piece about the effects of “moderate” regulations of abortion on the ground. It needs to be read in full, but a teaser:

Earlier that month, at home in Oklahoma City, the Davises were told that the boy she was carrying had a severe brain malformation known as holoprosencephaly. It is rare, though possible, for such a fetus to survive to birth, but doctors told them that he would not reach his first birthday. “He would never walk, lift his head,” Jessica, 23, recalled in an interview.

“I could let my son go on and suffer,” she said. Or she could accept a word she didn’t like – abortion – “and do the best thing for my baby.”

The Davises’ ordeal was always going to be painful. But the grim path that led them to a night in the car was determined, nearly every step of the way, by a state that has scrambled to be the most “pro-life” in the nation. There are no exceptions for families like the Davises.

But surely Matt Stoller is onto something when he says that abortion policy is completely disconnected from partisan politics?

For decades, under Democratic control, legislative committee chairs would block abortion restrictions from a hearing. But new term limits, alongside rising conservatism, helped rapidly drain the legislature’s long tradition of Democratic control. Republicans took over the House in 2004, the Senate in 2008, and the governor’s mansion in 2010.

The last hope for pro-choice advocates in Oklahoma is the state judiciary, where many of the laws have been successfully challenged, often on technical grounds.

“We are growing weary of admonishing the Legislature for so flagrantly violating the terms of the Oklahoma Constitution,” the state Supreme Court wrote in 2010, after striking down a law that required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and hear a description of the images. “It is a waste of time for the Legislature and the Court, and a waste of the taxpayer’s money.”

Lauinger blamed the losses on the fact that “eight of the nine members were appointed by pro-abortion Democrat governors.”

In addition to the obvious point that elections matter, it should also be clear that there’s nothing “moderate” about “moderate” abortion regulations. They impose substantial trauma and expense on the women who can least afford without any actual benefits.

This Is Your Mayor On Crack

[ 68 ] October 31, 2013 |

“It’s safe to say the mayor does appear in the video,” Blair told reporters.

Black Lung Blues

[ 47 ] October 31, 2013 |

The Center for Public Integrity is running a really great series about how coal miners get black lung from decades in the mines and then face a wall of denial of their claims far harder than any coal seam. The second part of the 3-part series came out yesterday, detailing how doctors at Johns Hopkins deny all black lung claims. This is just awful.

Doctors have come and gone from the unit over the years, but the leader and most productive reader for decades has been Dr. Paul Wheeler, 78, a slight man with a full head of gray hair and strong opinions.

In the federal black lung system, cases often boil down to dueling medical experts, and judges rely heavily on doctors’ credentials to resolve disputes.

When it comes to interpreting the chest films that are vital in most cases, Wheeler is the coal companies’ trump card. He has undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University, a long history of leadership at Johns Hopkins and an array of presentations and publications to his credit. In many cases, judges have noted Johns Hopkins’ prestige and described Wheeler’s qualifications as “most impressive,” “outstanding” and “superior.” Time and again, judges have deemed him the “best qualified radiologist,” and they have reached conclusions such as, “I defer to Dr. Wheeler’s interpretation because of his superior credentials.”

Yet there is strong evidence that this deference has contributed to unjust denials of miners’ claims, the Center found as part of a yearlong investigation, “Breathless and Burdened.” The Center created a database of doctors’ opinions — none previously existed — scouring thousands of judicial opinions kept by the Labor Department dating to 2000 and logging every available X-ray reading by Wheeler. The Center recorded key information about these cases, analyzed Wheeler’s reports and testimony, consulted medical literature and interviewed leading doctors. The findings are stark:

In the more than 1,500 cases decided since 2000 in which Wheeler read at least one X-ray, he never once found the severe form of the disease, complicated coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Other doctors looking at the same X-rays found this advanced stage of the disease in 390 of these cases.
Since 2000, miners have lost more than 800 cases after doctors saw black lung on an X-ray but Wheeler read the film as negative. This includes 160 cases in which doctors found the complicated form of the disease. When Wheeler weighed in, miners lost nearly 70 percent of the time before administrative law judges. The Labor Department does not have statistics on miners’ win percentage in all cases at this stage for comparison purposes.
Where other doctors saw black lung, Wheeler often saw evidence of another disease, most commonly tuberculosis or histoplasmosis — an illness caused by a fungus in bird and bat droppings. This was particularly true in cases involving the most serious form of the disease. In two-thirds of cases in which other doctors found complicated black lung, Wheeler attributed the masses in miners’ lungs to TB, the fungal infection or a similar disease.
The criteria Wheeler applies when reading X-rays are at odds with positions taken by government research agencies, textbooks, peer-reviewed scientific literature and the opinions of many doctors who specialize in detecting the disease, including the chair of the American College of Radiology’s task force on black lung.
Biopsies or autopsies repeatedly have proven Wheeler wrong. Though Wheeler suggests miners undergo biopsies — surgical procedures to remove a piece of the lung for examination — to prove their cases, such evidence is not required by law, is not considered necessary in most cases and can be medically risky. Still, in more than 100 cases decided since 2000 in which Wheeler offered negative readings, biopsies or autopsies provided undisputed evidence of black lung.

It’s not clear why this one doctor has dedicated himself to denying black lung claims, but this is a person who has committed a great evil in the world. Despite his self-serving rhetoric about his ethics, he has done nothing but deny relatively small amounts of money to very sick people. Workers have no recourse once the experts at Johns Hopkins led by Wheeler deny their claims. They work for decades. They die in misery. Wheeler is a big reason why.

Seriously, read the whole thing. This is how the system defeats working class people’s attempts at a dignified life. Very powerful stuff.

Today In Particularly Inane GOP Talking Points

[ 75 ] October 31, 2013 |

I have scary news about the most recent example of executive overreach by Barack HUSSEIN Ayers Obama. He — and you may want to sit down for this — is trying to “pack the court” by…nominating judges with the support of a majority of the Senate to fill existing vacancies on federal courts. I ask you, where in the Constitution can you find any warrant for this unprecedented action?

Also, a little advice to the GOP: this line of argument might look marginally less foolish if you find someone who wasn’t in the Senate in 2005 to lead the charge.

Wanker of the Day

[ 92 ] October 31, 2013 |

Jeff Goldstein.

By the way, who exactly were the Republicans who drove the movement for civil rights in the 50s and 60s? Martin Luther King? Lyndon Johnson?

And while it doesn’t quite rise to the level of lecturing John Lewis about how the Affordable Care Act is so exactly like slavery and by the way neoconfederates like Goldstein likely would have been Democrats in 1960, Robert Samuelson deserves a shout-out here too.


[ 13 ] October 31, 2013 |

No doubt the solution to drug smuggling tunnels between the U.S. and Mexico is higher border walls. And the drones America’s favorite racist Sheriff Joe Arapio wants to deploy to catch the brown people.

Bad publicity leads to tragic consequences for law school dean

[ 28 ] October 31, 2013 |


Last week somebody at New England Law decided to leak the fact that John O’Brien was strong-arming the faculty into accepting a host of buyouts, via various forms of bureaucratic terrorism.

On Tuesday, the Boston Business Journal reported that next year (not now) O’Brien will take a 25% pay cut, which will reportedly reduce his salary to $650,000. (NEL’s Board of Trustees saw fit to pay O’Brien $867,000 in FY2011 and $865,000 in FY2012. His salary for FY2013 and FY2014 is not public information).

As a point of comparison, the University of Michigan paid the dean of the law school $186,000 in 1980 (in 2012 dollars), $325,000 in 2005, and $470,000 in 2012.

In Case of Zombie Apocalypse, Break Wind

[ 147 ] October 31, 2013 |

SPOILER ALERT. Please don’t read this entry if you have not seen the first three episodes of this season’s “Walking Dead.”

A few thoughts…

  • I’ve been bothered by one thing ever since Rick and Co. moved into the prison. I’ve wondered–since day one–why they didn’t immediately start fortifying the fences. Those chain link fences have always seemed flimsy to me. And, sure enough, in episode 2, it looked like the walkers might topple them. Had I been in charge of the prison operation…and it goes without saying that you always want bspencer in charge in the event of a zombie apocalypse…my first order of business would have been building up those fences. Provided they had the materials and know-how, the survivors really could have made prison nearly impenetrable, a true safe haven. (Although now I’m wondering if the whole point of episode 2–with the flu outbreak–wasn’t meant to make everything I just wrote a foolish dream.)
  • I love the zombie genre, but one thing that’s always bothered me about it is that the zombie bite seems to be an indiscriminating killer, turning everyone–good, bad and everything in between–into mindless, slavering monsters. I’ve always thought it would be interesting if zombie bites only “took” with people who were already “bad.” Like, say, murderers and rapists. Maybe bankers. Most Republicans. I think making zombies a true representation of evil would be really interesting.
  • “Talking Dead” needs to really rethink its guest policy. I really like hearing from the show’s actors and producers because they really give me insight into what goes into making the show. But a lot of celebrity guests are painful to listen to. Although I suppose there’s a audience for Marilyn Manson rambling on about Carol burning her bra and mumbling about “suffragette city” out there somewhere.

Happy Halloween

[ 47 ] October 31, 2013 |

Happy Hail Satan Day Halloween! Pay your respect to the dark lord by indulging in some candy corn that is horrible to actually eat but is so charming in this 1950s ad

Goblin approved indeed.

Meanwhile, let Roky provide the appropriate tunes for the day.

I will be spending my day at the Rhode Island DMV, a hellish experience that no one can replicate in a Halloween costume. There’s not really a human experience that quite matches the Rhode Island DMV. But to give you a sense of it, I have to get a Rhode Island driver’s license so I can get my new union-made vehicle. Yeah sure it’s been 2 years that I’ve lived here and I haven’t done but my Texas license was still valid and we all know how awesome it is to represent the Lone Star State. Anyway, to get a driver’s license in Rhode Island you have to go to 1 specific DMV. That serves the entire state. The last time I was there I waited in line for 2 1/2 hours. Which is why I still have a Texas driver’s license. Luckily, I have a big stack of papers to grade, which the DMV makes look pretty appealing.

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