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A potential solution to the law school graduate employment crisis

[ 33 ] November 25, 2014 |

travolta

HBO is backing a documentary based on “Going Clear,” a book about Scientology and Hollywood — and isn’t taking any chances with the legal side of things.

“We have probably 160 lawyers” looking at the film, HBO Documentary Films President Sheila Nevins told The Hollywood Reporter. . .

“Going Clear,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lawrence Wright (“The Looming Tower”), digs into the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and the influence his church has had on its believers, many of whom have close ties to Hollywood
.
Among Tinseltown’s famous Scientologists are John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

Some of Wright’s findings, including claims of abuse, didn’t go over well with the church.
“The stories of alleged physical abuse are lies concocted by a small group of self-corroborating confessed liars. The hard evidence clearly shows that no such conduct ever occurred and that in fact there is evidence that shows it did NOT occur,” the group’s spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, told CNN’s Miguel Marquez in 2013.

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A Ham Sandwich, But Not a Police Officer

[ 100 ] November 25, 2014 |

Jon Cohn’s assessment of the grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson is very useful. It’s hard to imagine a prosecutor essentially tanking his case for the grand jury in another type of killing, and this also explains why McCulloch sounded more like a defense attorney than a prosecutor at a press conference.

This would be a good time to read Radley Balko on Ferguson if you haven’t already.

…Toobin:

But the goal of criminal law is to be fair—to treat similarly situated people similarly—as well as to reach just results. McCulloch gave Wilson’s case special treatment. He turned it over to the grand jury, a rarity itself, and then used the investigation as a document dump, an approach that is virtually without precedent in the law of Missouri or anywhere else. Buried underneath every scrap of evidence McCulloch could find, the grand jury threw up its hands and said that a crime could not be proved. This is the opposite of the customary ham-sandwich approach, in which the jurors are explicitly steered to the prosecutor’s preferred conclusion. Some might suggest that all cases should be treated the way McCulloch handled Wilson before the grand jury, with a full-fledged mini-trial of all the incriminating and exculpatory evidence presented at this preliminary stage. Of course, the cost of such an approach, in both time and money, would be prohibitive, and there is no guarantee that the ultimate resolutions of most cases would be any more just. In any event, reserving this kind of special treatment for white police officers charged with killing black suspects cannot be an appropriate resolution.

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Life on the Road

[ 82 ] November 25, 2014 |

A good tale of a successful band that tours well, sells out shows, and comes up $11,000 in the hole for the tour. The whole “we don’t need to buy our albums because the artists will make the money on tour” is nothing more than justification for not buying albums. The artists aren’t making money on the tour.

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“You have to hand it to the old bastard, he’s highly original.”

[ 48 ] November 25, 2014 |

The Republican Party has an exciting new health care plan out. Against all odds, it involves throwing millions of people off their health insurance so the affluent get more tax breaks. And most people with pre-existing conditions are out of luck. Oh, and tort reform and plenty of it! It is the Party of Ideas (TM), you know.

Why, I’m beginning to think that the Affordable Care Act isn’t really a “Republican” policy initiative…

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The Antidote to #GamerGate: The Happy Gaming Gamers Thread–Whatcha Playing?

[ 130 ] November 25, 2014 |

#GamerGate has put a spectacularly ugly face on a perfectly respectable hobby. I used to be obsessed with arcades; I was obsessed with my friend’s Atari set. I played everything from pinball to Tempest. Granted, I haven’t played video games since I was regularly rescuing the princess in Mario Brothers, but I’ve always been down with gaming and I hope to get back into it at some point. Gaming is fun; we should celebrate that. In that spirit, now’s you chance to talk about what scratches your gaming itch.

  • What are you playing? What are you loving?
  • If you were recommend a video to beginning gamers, what would it be? I know there’s a lot out there to choose from, but let’s make this simple: What’s something fun and intuitive you can recommend?

Consider this a gaming open thread. Talk about whatever gaming-related.

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Bangladesh: No Corporate Responsibility

[ 5 ] November 25, 2014 |

In 2012, the Tarzeen Fire in Bangladesh killed 112 workers. It’s been slightly forgotten in the aftermath of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that killed over 1100, but was certainly horrible in its own right–remember, Triangle killed 146 so Tarzeen was nearly as deadly. Of course, it’s hardly coincidental that all three of these incidents were in the apparel industry, which has long thrived on an extremely exploitative model that sought to protect department stores from responsibility for production. Such was the case at Triangle and such is the case at Tarzeen. Of the 16 clothing firms linked to production at Tarzeen at the time, only 2 have paid any compensation to the survivors or the families of the dead. Neither are American firms. The American firms contracting to have apparel made at Tarzeen: Dickey’s, Wal-Mart, Disney, and Sears. None of these companies have paid a cent. They continue to profit off the long-established system of apparel worker exploitation and dead workers are an acceptable cost for those profits. Only with mandatory compensation and legal recompense for the affected will these companies be held to account. And that is what we need to be fighting for, as I argue in Out of Sight.

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The Michael Brown shooting

[ 78 ] November 25, 2014 |

Some preliminary thoughts.

I wrote this piece before the GJ proceedings were released. As expected, Darren Wilson’s testimony is obviously very problematic, given his legal position. I haven’t had a chance to look at much else yet.

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This Day in Labor History: November 25, 1865

[ 32 ] November 25, 2014 |

On November 25, 1865, Mississippi created the first of the Black Codes. Designed to recreate slavery in all but name, this signified the white South’s massive resistance to the freeing of their labor force and the lengths to which it would go to tie workers to a place under white control.

The impact of slavery’s end is hard to overestimate. But the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves immediately and the ratification of the 13th Amendment did not take place until well after the war’s end. The federal government was woefully unprepared, both in manpower and ideas, for ensuring that the rights of ex-slaves were respected after the war. Sure, slavery might be effectively dead as of April 14, 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, but was the U.S. military there to enforce freedom on the plantations? Largely, no. The immediate months after the war were filled with violence as whites killed newly freed people in the countryside, especially as they began to flee for cities like Memphis and New Orleans. For cotton planters, this black flight was a real threat. They prospered on owning black labor. If they couldn’t own that labor, planters at least needed to keep it on the land to pick the cotton that might allow them to rebuild their economic base.

The Black Codes thus intended to trap black labor in place. The plantation elite’s top goal immediately upon emancipation was to corral black labor, whose core goal was to avoid the plantation labor system, preferably replacing it with small farms they owned. The Black Codes intended to prevent this. Building upon the slave codes regulating black behavior, and especially black movement, before the war, the Black Codes was the South’s statement to the North that the end of the war did not mean the end of white supremacy. Blacks would have to show a written contract of employment at the start of each year, ensuring they were laboring for a white employer. At the core of the Mississippi code and copied around the South was the vagrancy provision. “Vagrancy” was a term long used in the United States to crack down on workers not doing what employers or the police wanted them to do. In this case, it meant not working for a white person.

Mississippi did not allow blacks to rent land for themselves. Rather, all blacks in rural areas must labor for a white under 1-year contracts. They did not have the option to quit working for that white person. If a black person in the countryside was found not working for a white person, the state would contract that worker out to a private landowner and receive a portion of their wages. If a black person could not pay high taxes levied on them by the state, they would be charged the vagrancy and the same process would result. As during slavery, any white person could legally arrest any black person. A Fugitive Slave Act-like provision was included that made it illegal to assist a black person from leaving their landowner with real punishments for whites who did so. That provision also stated that blacks caught running away would lose their wages for the year. Children whose parents could not take care of them, as defined by the whites of Mississippi, would be bonded to their former owners. Other forms of black behavior were also criminalized, such as preaching without a license or “insulting” language toward whites. Interracial marriage, it goes without saying, was banned as well.

In other words, Mississippi reinstituted slavery.

Other southern states quickly built on Mississippi’s black codes. South Carolina barred blacks from any occupation other than farmer or servant unless they played a very steep annual tax that sought to pauperize the large free black community in Charleston. Virginia included in its vagrancy law anyone who refused to work for the “usual and common wages given to other laborers” in order to eliminate whites competing for black labor. Florida’s Black Code allowed whites to whip those who broke their labor contract and then be sold for a year. Texas and Louisiana mandated that women and children who could work be working in the fields.

The response in the North to these laws was largely one of outrage. After all, what had they just fought this war over? While at the beginning of the war, northern whites could legitimately argue the war was about restoring the union and not slavery, no one could make that argument by the end of the war, for so it was so clearly about both. When word of this got out, the North, unclear what path toward Reconstruction it would take and still reeling from the death of Abraham Lincoln six months earlier and the ascendance of his successor, Andrew Johnson, was finally moved to take more decisive action against increasingly recalcitrant ex-Confederates.

Quickly after its passage, General O.O. Howard, head of the Freedman’s Bureau, declared the Black Code invalid. Congress met just a few weeks later for the first time since the end of the war. At this Congress, the South also sent ex-Confederate leaders such as former vice-president Alexander Stephens to represent them. Taken together, this led to the rise of Congressional Reconstruction and the war between Congress and Johnson. As the Southern elite did during the 15 years before the Civil War, its aggressive overreach created northern white backlash that then led to a significant commitment to black rights. That might not have lasted very long, but it did ensure that as unfair as postwar labor relations would become, they would look nothing like slavery. Congressional Reconstruction would void the black codes and put off the violent suppression of southern black labor for several years, opening at least the possibility of a future that provided the freed slaves dignity, although it was not to be.

In the end, it was sharecropping that would define the postwar southern agricultural labor force, not bonded black labor. There are a number of reasons for these complex arrangements that would still strongly exploit African-American labor, but it still provided ex-slaves more control over their lives than desired by the white plantation elite, who would largely be unable to recreate their economic dominance after the war.

As with all things Reconstruction, the work of Eric Foner is a great place to start, and some of this post is borrowed from his books.

This is the 125th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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No Indictment

[ 189 ] November 24, 2014 |

The grand jury does not indict Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Least surprising development ever.

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I Don’t Like the “Ugly Friendless Virgin” Insult

[ 116 ] November 24, 2014 |

It’s inevitable. Someone makes a comment/post about misogynists and someone comes along to say that said misogynists are probably ugly, sad, lonely, loser virgins. Aside from the fact that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a virgin (at any age), this stereotype of misogynists does a disservice to everyone who’s concerned about combatting misogyny.

There are plenty of people out there who are not conventionally attractive who manage to have exciting, fulfilling romantic lives. That’s because people who are not conventionally attractive can also be sexy and interesting and there are plenty of people out there who understand this. Conversely, the idea that all misogynists are ugly, friendless virgins needs to die in a fire because it’s simply untrue. Do I think there is a sizable contingent of #GamerGaters who are…let’s say…lacking? Yes. But not everyone who hopped dick-first into #GamerGate fray is some pitiable shut-in. In fact, some of them are probably serviceable-looking and successful with women. (For values of “successful” I’m saying “able to trick a woman into the sack.”) Let’s stop with the “ugly virgin” trope. It’s not just problematic, it’s inaccurate.

I mean, look, King Caesar is a giant, pantsless cat-dragon and he does just fine.

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You Forgot Bolton!

[ 114 ] November 24, 2014 |

Security policy HOT TAKES from Max Boot:

The immediate question is whether Obama will be able to stomach a stronger personality in the secretary of defense job–someone like Bob Gates or Leon Panetta. If so, Michele Flournoy or Ash Carter, both of whom served at the Pentagon earlier in the Obama administration, could fill the job description. But if Obama were truly intent on a radical break with some of his failed policies he would opt for a true outsider like Joe Lieberman or David Petraeus or John Lehman.

I dunno, I think I preferred the Boot who was a poor man’s Mark Levin to the one who’s a poor man’s Charles Krauthammer…

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Glacier Memorial National Park

[ 29 ] November 24, 2014 |

I suppose I should visit Glacier National Park and Glacier Bay National Park before the glaciers become one of our starkest memorials to human-caused climate change. The loss of these glaciers will have widespread negative impacts on the humans and ecosystems in entire region, as they will around the world, including in China and Bolivia.

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