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Everything Becomes Crystal Clear…

[ 8 ] September 1, 2014 |

Now, at this late hour, we finally come to understand:

Thirty-six hours after the Obama administration banned importation of the classic brand of AK-47 assault rifles as part of sanctions against Russia, a Maryland dealer specializing in the weapon took stock of its inventory.

There was nothing left.

Laboring almost nonstop, workers at Atlantic Firearms in Bishopville, a Worcester County community on the Eastern Shore, had shipped hundreds of Russian-made AK-47s — an assault rifle prized by both consumers and despots — as buyers wiped out gun dealers’ inventories around the country. The frenzy was brought on, in part, by a suspicion among some gun owners that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was a backdoor excuse to ban guns many Democrats don’t like. Some customers bought eight to 10 rifles for nearly $1,000 each or more, stockpiling them as investments.

Did Putin and Obama meet secretly at the G-20 in September 2013, arranging a plan by which Putin could carve up Ukraine and Obama could carve up our Second Amendment rights? It would be irresponsible not to speculate!

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Labor History on Labor Day

[ 2 ] September 1, 2014 |

I don’t have time for a major post on Labor Day, as I have just completed the manuscript draft of my logging book and am exhausted. But I do have 116 This Day in Labor History posts, helpfully archived, for your perusal. That ought to serve your Labor Day needs.

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Sunday Links

[ 68 ] August 31, 2014 |

Some links for your reading pleasure…

 

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The Cats of World War I

[ 19 ] August 31, 2014 |

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There were lots of cats hanging around soldiers during World War I. They were cute. That is all.

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Law school discovers giving away a formerly expensive service increases demand

[ 17 ] August 31, 2014 |

UC Davis law school dean Kevin Johnson was crowing to the media last week about a surge in applications to his school, in the midst of a shrinking national applicant pool that has hit California schools particularly hard:

Law school applications nationwide dropped again in 2014. But at least one California school is defying the trend.

UC-Davis School of Law saw its applicant pool surge by nearly 25 percent.

The school had ramped up outreach efforts and eliminated its $75 application fee, said Dean Kevin Johnson, adding that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the results.

UC Davis received 3,007 applications, nipping at the heels of UC-Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, which received 3,118. . .

“I do think the market is coming back,” he said. “And I do think the nay sayers of law schools and being a lawyer, their days are limited in number.”

Davis got 2,420 applications in 2013, when the school was charging $75 to apply. Readers may be wondering why dropping the price of applying from $75 to zero produced such a relatively modest increase in applications: the answer, in part, is that to apply to an ABA law school you have to pay LSAC $21 to process your application materials, in addition to whatever the individual school charges, so applying to Davis still costs money.

I bet Dean Johnson would be “pleasantly surprised” by yet another surge in applications in this coming application cycle if Davis started actually paying people to apply (by for example sending them an I-tunes gift card, although I imagine cash money would be even more effective, if somewhat less discreet).

Leaving aside the dishonesty and/or cluelessness of touting an increase in demand that’s almost wholly the product of a 100% price cut, Johnson’s crack about “the market’s” comeback, and how this comeback augers the Twilight of the Naysayers makes no sense on its face, since he’s boasting about how well Davis is doing in comparison to a steep ongoing decline at other law schools. (Note that even with the increase produced by its new giveaway strategy, applications to Davis are still down 25% relative to four years ago).

UC Davis Law School resident tuition and mandatory fees:

2002: $11,502

2014: $50,712

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Scams, Law School and Otherwise

[ 11 ] August 31, 2014 |

A for-profit grift mill is shutting down:

After years of enrollment losses, Anthem Education, a for-profit chain of colleges and career institutes, filed for bankruptcy Monday. The company has abruptly shut down a number of its campuses, leaving state agencies struggling to funnel displaced students into other institutions. Nine more campuses may close today, Anthem officials said.

This is actually good news for existing students and taxpayers, since the loans will mostly now be dischargable.

In Oregon/Idaho, the ABA isn’t willing to go along with a new scam as of now, although the grift is still in operation:

Nearly half of the third- and second-year students at Concordia Law School in Boise, Idaho, have left the school in the last three weeks after it failed to get provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association.

Without accreditation, Concordia Law grads cannot take the Bar exam in Idaho, and most other states, necessary to get a license. At least 48 of the school’s 102 third-year and second-year law students have withdrawn, transferred or taken temporary leave from Concordia, school officials said Thursday.

The story is unusually candid about why a school was started to issue essentially worthless degrees in a saturated market:

The situation provides a glimpse into the business of higher education.

Amid difficult times in due to high costs and tough competition, Concordia has launched a dramatic diversification effort, opening the law school and a popular on-line master’s in education program.

The new programs have successfully grown Concordia’s annual revenue from $80 million to $100 million, according to school officials in Portland.

Inconsiderate of the ABA to interfere with this program of revenue maximization scheme.

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Viewing the Great Depression

[ 14 ] August 31, 2014 |

Between 1935 and 1945, photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration documented the nation and its people as it suffered through and emerged from the Great Depression. 170,000 images remain. Yale University has now placed them online for your exploration and you can even explore by county, which is incredibly awesome. Have fun!!

More here.

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Running in Cemeteries

[ 56 ] August 31, 2014 |

I find cemeteries pretty fascinating places for a number of reasons. First, I have a bit of a weird hobby of visiting the graves of random famous people from American history that interest me in some way. You can only imagine how much my wife loves random stops at cemeteries. I am going to start a series one of these days about the various people who I have visited in the ground. Sometimes they are horrible people like Henry Clay Frick. Other times, well, just random famous people. Like just the other day, I visited the grave of former Wilderness Society head Howard Zahniser, which I actually have reason to blog about in more detail in a couple of days. Why did I visit the grave of Howard Zahniser? Isn’t the better question why haven’t you visited the grave of Howard Zahniser?

Anyway, that’s just part of my interest in cemeteries. Because cemeteries are also public green spaces, albeit of an odd kind. In many towns, they are the nicest parks around. When I am with my wife, who teaches at a university in a very small town a couple of states over from Rhode Island, I run in the cemetery. Other people use them too–walking the dog, taking the babies on a stroll, etc. And of course for mourning and remembrance. Anyway, maybe it’s because I’m a historian and one more interested in the lives of everyday people than the famous, but when I run through the cemetery, I keep thinking, “Who are these people.” I was running the other day and passed the grave of a man named Jose Garcia, who died in 2000. How did this man, who I assume (rightly or wrongly) came from Mexico or maybe Puerto Rico, end up in this 99% white and very politically and racially conservative town (evidently the official town color is camo based upon the dress of the citizenry)? What was it like for him? What is his story? How did he end up there? What are the stories of everyone else? What was life like here in the 1950s? In the 1890s? Through the hard times and the good times?

I suppose there are some who think people shouldn’t run through cemeteries, and certainly if there’s any, uh, activity going on, I turn around. But I think that by at least thinking about these people and wondering about them, it’s honoring them in a certain way. Some of them were no doubt horrible human beings who committed heinous crimes, treated their families like garbage, and were unloved. Others were great people who made the lives around them better. Who knows. But I’d like to think that when I’m dead and buried in the ground, that someone might run past my marker and think, who was that guy? Kind of gives a person something to die for.

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The Worst Person in the World

[ 129 ] August 30, 2014 |

Victor Davis Hanson, for comparing the IDF to William Tecumseh Sherman and the people of Gaza to the Confederate slaveholding class.

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Book Review: Quicksand House

[ 24 ] August 30, 2014 |

When you hear about a book called “The Faggiest Vampire,” you can’t help but be intrigued, especially if you are eight, which I am. So, one day while I was “researching” a post for this site, I looked into the works of Carlton Mellick III, the author of the aforementioned. His book titles are all pretty remarkable–funny and shocking. But I was most intrigued by his “sci-fi”-horror story, “Quicksand House.” The premise–two children who’ve lived their entire lives in a huge nursery venture out into their enormous house, dodging “creepers” in search of their parents (whom they’ve never seen)–sounded so claustrophobic and sad and creepy to me. I bought the book.

The author is not without talent. He’s clearly passionate about his weird stories, and I respect that kind of passion. He’s also got one hell of an imagination, almost Kingsian in scope. (Yes, I just made up the word “Kingsian,” deal.) And occasionally, he really has a way with words. His description of the paper mother of his dreams (because she’s only existed in his drawings of her) was creepy and sad. She always gave him paper cuts as she stroked his face. Because she was made of paper. Clever, really. And the book is not devoid of cleverness and humor. Papercuts I like. It’s the shortcuts I like less.

As I mentioned earlier, the book has a sort of sci-fi element to it. Granted I have not read much sci-fi so I’m hardly an expert on the genre, but my understanding is that it it supposed to be part science, part fiction. Mellick is down the fiction, notsomuch with the science.  It always seemed as if he were trying to get from point A to point C by bypassing point B. For example, we’re told women now have antlers and go into heat occasionally. We are never told how or why this happens, it just happens. Similarly, we are told that “evolution” has made newborns disgusting worm-like creatures who suck blood from their hosts (usually an older) sibling. Again, we are never told how or why evolution went down this path, we’re just supposed to accept it and enjoy the weirdness that ensues because of it. Well, I can’t do that. I’m really into the weirdness, but even weirdness needs some basis in reality. I need to know why things are the way they are. Bear in mind, I watch daytime soaps. I am pretty great at suspending disbelief, so the fact that I had a hard time doing it here should tell you something.

And then there’s the no editor factor. I don’t think this guy has one and he needs one–DESPERATELY. He actually used the phrase “on accident,” which almost made me put the the book down. But I persevered. Until I read…bear with me here…I’m recalling and paraphrasing…”as he left he could hear her squirming and pouting.” Apparently in the future, pouting has become audible. More of that weird evolution, I guess.

I won’t even get into the cheesy cover art. There’s only one master of the antlered-women genre and it’s me.

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That’ll Show Those Dastardly Unions!

[ 83 ] August 30, 2014 |

Today in idiots:

Just when it seemed the right wing couldn’t get any more divorced from reality around here, a local conservative group has launched a protest against what it sees as a pernicious cultural touchstone.

Labor Day.

Yes, bittersweet old Labor Day — the first Monday in September, the holiday that’s been around for generations and is known to most non-ideologically blinkered Americans as an end-of-summer free day honoring all the hard work you put in the rest of the year.

But to the Freedom Foundation, a business-backed Olympia think tank, the day is evidence of the power of unions, which to them equals the decline of America. Rather than stoop to taking a union-backed day off, they plan to fight the power by … working all day Monday instead!

“I can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, so it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe, in announcing the “work-in.”

That’ll show those unions who control everything around here. Let’s all go into the offices and the factories and work like dogs instead of barbecuing or watching parades! Who’s with me?

Of course, if McCabe followed this principle to its logical end, he’d have to work every Saturday, too. Year round.

If the Freedom Foundation is truly committed to this idea, might I recommend 19th century working conditions and wages as well?

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Cushing and Gettysburg

[ 176 ] August 30, 2014 |

President Obama is granting Lt. Alonzo Cushing, who played a critical role in repelling Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, the Medal of Honor. It’s pretty amazing he didn’t already have it since had Pickett taken the hill, it’s possible at least the war would have ended differently. Personally, I tend to not believe the world changes that much with an individual event, but I’ll grant the possibility. Certainly defeating the Confederates at Gettysburg did kill their chance of moving the war into the North and forcing a peace, something that would have kept millions of people in slavery for who knows how long. Decades at a minimum. Possibly until the present, who can tell.

Speaking of such things, I happened to visit Gettysburg last week. I had a great time. It was super cool to visit the key spots of the battle, try to imagine all the dead on the huge field that the location of Pickett’s Charge, below Little Round Top, and around the battlefield. Much credit goes to the National Park Service for not only emphasizing slavery as the core reason of the war but for enforcing that interpretation. What do I mean by that? For a very long time, the main attraction at the Gettysburg Visitor Center was the cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge. A cyclorama was a Gilded Age entertainment that tried to bring a scene to life through a 360-degree painting. These were a huge hit in France and were imported to the U.S. A cyclorama painter was hired to do one of Pickett’s Charge and people love it. It was a huge reason why people went to the site. You can still see it today and it’s OK. It’s cool as a Gilded Age relic. As something of value outside of that, it’s pretty silly, what with the sound and light show that goes along with it.

In recent years, the NPS built a very nice new visitor’s center. Now in order to see the cyclorama, you have to sit through the 15 minute film intrepreting the battle for you. Morgan Freeman narrates the video and it says in no uncertain terms that slavery was the cause of the war, which is great. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who hate that (one of the first people I saw there was a guy wearing a Stonewall Jackson t-shirt, which in my world is like wearing a Himmler t-shirt), but it was very well done, really expressing the complexity of the situation too. I also discovered that I find discussion of military maneuvers so incredibly boring that even Morgan Freeman can’t make me care. Anyway, the exhibits in the Visitor Center are good throughout, combining the old guns that are crack for American white men who like to wear camo as casual wear with real historical interpretation.

Of course the monuments are among the most interesting parts of the experience. They are all interesting relics expressing martial values at a time when the Civil War generation was beginning to pass away (turn of the century Americans had their own Greatest Generation crisis of masculinity). They were also part of the reconciliation taking place between the North and South during the period that erased the black experience from the war and helped underwrite Jim Crow and segregation. At Gettysburg, the memorials generally went up earlier, in the 1880s, so that meant that the Confederate monuments were put up later and are in one general area, more or less the Confederate lines as they embarked on Pickett’s Charge. But they are there. As you can imagine I find the Confederate monuments irritating. However, I have a foolproof way to deal with that problem. I mock the monuments on Twitter. A couple of examples:

Unfortunately autocorrect on my phone knocked the “i” out of that one.

My wife said that I was having entirely too much fun doing this. But it beat muttering curses toward the Confederacy under my breath. And I did not get accosted by a neoconfederate, so that was something.

There may however be an addendum to this post. I seem to have a mission to be the last Civil War death. While at Shiloh about 15 years ago, I came within a few inches of stepping on a copperhead slithering past the marker I was walking up to. Talk about jumping back! This time, I cut my hand messing around in my car trunk at the battlefield site. If there’s any justice in the world, the gangrene is setting in right about now.

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