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Still with the Air Force Bit

[ 1 ] July 31, 2014 |

I have an op-ed at Aviation Week and Space Technology on abolishing the Air Force:

Institutionally speaking, we are living in 1947. We created military services in order to provide institutional voice to certain kinds of capabilities. Interwar airpower enthusiasts argued that aviators needed an independent service because land and sea commanders could not appreciate the transformative implications of military aviation. Innovation, industry and doctrine would suffer as the parochial interests of the Army and Navy prevented aviators from spreading their wings, so to speak.

U.S. Responsibility for the Central American Child Immigrant Wave

[ 4 ] July 31, 2014 |

The reasons for the wave of child immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are complex, but as Óscar Martínez correctly states, many of them are related to the United States:

As thousands of children like Auner, Chele and Pitbull arrive at the US border, it is important to remember the role the United States has played in creating this mass migration. In the 1970s and ’80s, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were in the midst of either bloody civil wars or fierce government repression in which the United States played an iron-fisted role. Fearing the spread of communism in Latin America, the United States supported the autocratic military governments of these three countries, which in turn generated thousands of northbound migrants. Some of these migrants went on to join gangs in California. The 18th Street Gang and the Mara Salvatrucha were not formed in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala but in the United States. Some fifty years ago, the 18th Street Gang splintered off from Clanton 14 in Southern California. The Mara Salvatrucha formed in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. At the end of the ’80s and the start of the ’90s, the United States deported close to 4,000 gang members. When they arrived back in Central America, they found fertile conditions in which to increase their numbers: countries devastated by war and poverty, with thousands upon thousands of corruptible and abandoned children.

But it would be an oversimplification to say that the flight of children to the United States is the product of violence alone.

Rubén Zamora is currently the Salvadoran ambassador to the UN and, until a month ago, El Salvador’s ambassador to the United States. With his replacement awaiting confirmation by the Salvadoran Senate, Zamora has been left to address the international implications of the child migrant crisis. Zamora explains that there is no single cause of the surge in child migrants. In addition to gang activity, Zamora says that the improving economic conditions experienced by Salvadoran migrants to the United States have acted as a draw. “From sharing a single room with a group of people, now some migrants can pay $1,000 a month and rent a two-bedroom apartment for themselves in the suburbs,” he says. And that means “more people can pay to bring their children to the US.”

Thousands of migrants from Central America are ineligible for temporary protected status—not because they’ve violated any law but because they missed the cutoff dates. The United States offers a mere 5,000 visas for low-skilled workers every year. For many, the only chance for gaining legal status in the United States is the asylum process, and it’s a long shot. Over the last few decades, in part as a response to the wave of Central American migrants fleeing the civil wars, the United States has narrowed the definition of who qualifies for asylum. Because most of those fleeing Central America are not doing so because of their “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” they are ineligible.

I recently asked two immigration lawyers from California and North Carolina how many requests for asylum they file each week. “At least ten,” they said. They’ve lost track of how many migrants they’ve represented over the years. But the tally of those who have been successful is easy to remember: none.

“Parents don’t see any chance of bringing their children legally to the US,” Zamora says, “so what options are left for them?”

Martínez is also correct on the point that the kids are not going to stop coming. There really is nothing the U.S. can do to stop this wave. It can make lives worse for the children fleeing violence to be reunited with their parents. It can militarize the border to all get-out. It can have coyotes extradited to the U.S. The kids are still going to come until a) gang violence ends in Central America and b) there is no reason for Central Americans to migrate to the U.S. without documentation.

And it’s worth reiterating the long-term damage U.S. Cold War policy had in poor nations around the world. The actions of Dulles and Eisenhower and Reagan and North destabilized these nations, creating conditions that continue to blowback to the U.S. today.

Immorality and Delulsion: Two Bad Tastes That Are Particularly Bad Together

[ 88 ] July 31, 2014 |

This, from Benny Morris, is amazing:

What should we do next time? The answer is clear and well known. All that’s needed is the courage to start down this path and the determination to finish the job. It won’t be either easy or quick. We’re talking about reoccupying the entire Gaza Strip and destroying Hamas as a military organization, and perhaps also as a political one (it’s reasonable to think that destroying Hamas’ army will badly weaken Hamas as a political movement).

This will require months of combat, during which the Strip will be cleansed, neighborhood by neighborhood, of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives and armaments. It will exact a serious price in lives from both Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Palestinian civilians. But that’s the price required of a nation like ours, which wants to live on its own land in a neighborhood like ours. After gaining control of Gaza, it must be hoped that some moderate Arab power, perhaps the Palestinian Authority, will take over the reins of government.

Advocating the re-occupation of Gaza is bad enough (surely the “cleansing” language gives away the show here.) But what’s worse the the pragmatic punchline. After an incredibly bloody and destructive occupation of the Gaza strip by the IDF, we could reasonably expect…a more moderate Palestinian government? Can anyone possibly believe that? In fairness, he did say “hope for”; I guess we could “hope” that if Roe v. Wade is overturned congressional Republicans would vote en masse to repeal the Hyde Amendment and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose, a result that is similarly likely to what Morris is asking us to consider.

The Lawsuit

[ 39 ] July 31, 2014 |

I guess I’m less than convinced that in this period of Republican extremism, the House GOP’s frivolous lawsuit against Obama is going to come back and bite them, certainly not to the point of being “politically disastrous.” Those who hate Obama love it. Those who hate the GOP are disgusted. For everyday people who don’t pay too much attention, it’s just another example of partisanship. If the GOP was to engage in another government shutdown or do something that actually affected people’s daily lives, sure. But unless they haul Obama before a court and make him look sympathetic on TV, I don’t see this as much of a difference-maker.

A screaming comes across the Internet…

[ 16 ] July 31, 2014 |

It just occurred to me that my daily output at Raw Story would make for a damn fine Pynchon novel:

Pro-choice satanists align with bare-breasted anti-gun advocates and a liberal pope against a cabal of baby-penis-sucking Orthodox Jews controlled by a blowhard television personality calling his followers to “rise up” against an abortion clinic where no abortions are performed — all while a cat walks around with guacamole on his head.

I don’t know about you — but I’d read that.

RELATEDLY: Every time I hear the host of the Diane Rehm Show, I’m convinced she’s a Pynchon pun come to life.

Beaned

[ 51 ] July 31, 2014 |

Whoa — I didn’t see this coming.

I agree that it’s a good trade for both teams. The A’s get an ace starter not only for the postseason but for the push to avoid the one-game playoff, and the Red Sox get a very good hitter for two (meaningless) months of Letser, who they can re-sign anyway.

The Impact of the NLRB McDonald’s Franchise Decision

[ 22 ] July 31, 2014 |

Yesterday’s decision by National Labor Relations Board general counsel Richard Griffin declaring corporations joint employers of the workers in their franchises is a big, big deal. Couple of key rundowns from Steven Greenhouse, Alec MacGillis, and Seth Michaels.

Effectively, Obama’s NLRB has moved the needle significantly toward some of the nation’s poorest and most exploited workers. It gives workers a significant legal tool in their fight for a $15 hourly wage in fast food and is likely to have a domino effect across the subcontracted, temporary, outsourced, and franchised economy. Corporations have spend decades coming up with shady labor practices in order to avoid responsibility for workers, leading to rampant exploitation of workers with no hope of rising toward a middle class. This ruling may well begin the process of changing that by taking away the incentives for corporations to not directly hire their workers. Of course, an appeal is coming and so there is a long ways to go and many fights still to come.

In other words, both parties are the same and Rand Paul is the only progressive alternative in 2016.

The More Effective Evil

[ 9 ] July 31, 2014 |

A good contrast to Mississippi is the lovely bluegrass state. Kentucky’s governor is Steve Beshear, who is not particularly progressive but is nonetheless a Democrat. As a result, the state has accepted the Medicaid expansion and is actually trying to ensure that as many eligible citizens as possible are enrolling. The result is a substantial reduction in the rate of uninsured in the state, a huge success story.

Of course, since not everyone in the state has precisely the same form of health care coverage, I can’t see a dime’s worth of difference between Kentucky and Mississippi.

Ivy League problems

[ 42 ] July 31, 2014 |

“First world problems” is a well-known internet meme. I’d like to suggest a subcategory of the genre, Ivy League problems, which, rather than reflecting American upper middle class angst in general, chronicles the struggles of people very close to the tippy top of the SES pyramid.

A nice example is this Atlantic piece on the sorrows of law school graduates, which focuses exclusively on the problems encountered by young lawyers at big law firms:

Through formalized on-campus recruiting (particularly at top schools), the path to the law firm is so well-paved that students can navigate it on auto-pilot. “My law school made it so easy to get a job at a firm that I barely had to do any work at all to generate several associate position offers,” says one of my former University of Pennsylvania Law School classmates. The appeal of the law firm is only enhanced by the reality of student loans. “Big law was really the only path I considered. With the level of debt I incurred by going to law school, taking the highest paying job felt like the only real, responsible choice,” says another Ivy League grad.

The parenthetical about top schools is the only acknowledgement in this piece — which is otherwise interesting on its own terms — that the problems it’s discussing are relevant to a small minority of law school graduates. At the vast majority of law schools, less than 10% (indeed often more like 1% or 2%) of graduates get jobs with big law firms. Thus this article is analogous to a piece on the problems encountered by former graduate students that focuses exclusively on people with tenure track jobs at research universities.

It’s too bad, because the problems the article talks about are real enough, and ought to be taken into account by prospective law students (somebody has described big law as a pie-eating contest in which the first prize is more pie). But failing to acknowledge that those problems represent the experience of a small subset of especially fortunate and privileged law school graduates inadvertently replicates the myth that going to law school means getting to be a lawyer, which in turn means getting a high-paying, high-status job. That’s not even true for a significant percentage of the graduates of the nation’s dozen or so elite law schools, let alone for those of the other 189.

Unemployed Northeastern sums the situation up nicely in the comments to the article:

Of course, much like the headhunters that specialize in finding lawyers new jobs inside the legal profession, this boutique industry of career advisers who assist attorneys in leaving the profession cater to an incredibly miniscule fraction of the profession: graduates of “top” law schools with BigLaw experience on their resumes. Frankly, they are the group that needs the least assistance.

Meanwhile, nearly 50% of all law school graduates are unemployed or underemployed nine months after graduation, and a plurality of those with *actual* lawyer jobs are so woefully underpaid that they also seek to leave the profession. Soon after the nine month mark, another class of law school graduates enters the workforce, and the labor supply becomes that much worse – and we are now in year seven of this phenomenon. These headhunters will not touch this group with a ten-foot pole.

Sadly, the author does not see fit to even mention the plight of these non-BigLaw attorneys and their Sisyphean efforts to leave the profession in her lengthy article. Mind you, Biglaw hiring at its peak in the Oughties never amounted to more than about 12% of all law school graduates, overwhelmingly concentrated at the schools at the top of the US News Rankings (like the author’s UPenn).

- One of America’s tens of thousands of un/underemployed attorneys

(I have a long piece in next month’s Atlantic on for-profit law schools, and how similar predatory behavior is found well beyond the formal for-profit realm, both in regard to law schools and to higher education in America generally).

Leftier-Than-Thouism, Defined

[ 209 ] July 31, 2014 |

Krugman draws some conclusions from California, where the ACA was permitted to work as intended:

So it now appears that most of California’s uninsured — 58 percent of the total, or well over 60 percent of those eligible (because undocumented immigrants aren’t covered) have gained insurance in the first year. Considering the complexity of the scheme, that’s really impressive, and it strongly suggests that next year, once those who missed out have had a chance to learn via word of mouth, California will have gotten much of the way toward universal coverage for legal residents.

But there’s something else the Kaiser report drives home: most of those gaining coverage are doing so not via the exchanges (although those are important too) but via Medicaid. And that’s important as an answer to critics of Obamacare from the left.

There have always been critics complaining that what we really should have is single-payer, and angry that subsidies were being funneled through the insurance companies. And in principle they’re right; the trouble was that cutting the insurers out of the loop would have made the plan politically impossible, both because of the industry’s power and because of the unwillingness of people with good coverage to take a leap into a completely new system. So we got this awkward public-private hybrid, which I supported because it was what we could get and despite its impurity it dramatically improves many people’s lives.

But it turns out that many of the newly insured are in fact being covered under a single-payer system — Medicaid.

All of which functions as a good intro to this shorter verbatim Lambert Strether:

I believe there should be equal access to health care for all, and so the fact that ObamaCare helps some people is just proof that it doesn’t help all, equally. Why is the random delivery of government services considered praiseworthy?

If a government policy cannot provide everything, we should not care if it helps anyone. Got it.

At this point, it’s probably superfluous to note that Lambert also refuses to criticize the irrational and immoral Halbig decision, while implicitly defending it with idiotic Republican talking points. Why shouldn’t he? His critique is for all intents and purposes incidental to the Republican one. Both would happily strip millions of people of health coverage to demonstrate their obsessive opposition to Obama. To both, no legal argument that could damage the ACA and strip people of insurance could possibly be too specious. Both would rather have a Republican in the White House (Obama, says Lambert, is the “more effective evil” because some people will purchase private insurance, and of course the whole industry would have spontaneously combusted without the ACA, and better millions of people go uninsured than any rentier make a profit.) That one side tries to cover up their cruelty by theoretically supporting bad alternatives they have no intention of enacting and the other tries to cover up their cruelty by theoretically supporting good alternatives that have no chance of being enacted is a distinction without a difference.

Lydia Loveless

[ 6 ] July 30, 2014 |

One album I recommend very highly is Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. This young, talented singer from Ohio is definitely someone to check out if you haven’t yet. If you haven’t heard her, this NPR performance is a good place to start, although quite a bit more subdued than her album. I read somewhere that her dad was in the band for awhile, but too many of her songs were about sex so it was too weird. Another excellent musician from southern Ohio as well, which seems to generate a whole lot of underrated music.

Oliver on the Nuclear Community

[ 26 ] July 30, 2014 |

Nice.

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