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Violence in a black and white world

[ 26 ] September 17, 2014 |

Read this.

It would be easy to demonize Peterson as an abuser, but the forthrightness with which he talked about using belts and switches but not extension cords, because he “remembers how it feels to get whooped with an extension cord,” as part of his modes of discipline suggests he is merely riffing on scripts handed down to him as an African-American man.

These cultures of violent punishment are ingrained within African-American communities. In fact, they are often considered marks of good parenting. In my childhood, parents who “thought their children were too good to be spanked” were looked upon with derision. I have heard everyone from preachers to comedians lament the passing of days when a child would do something wrong at a neighbor’s house, get spanked by that neighbor, and then come home and get spanked again for daring to misbehave at someone else’s house. For many that is a vision of a strong black community, in which children are so loved and cared for that everyone has a stake in making sure that those children turn out well, and “know how to act.” In other words, it is clear to me that Peterson views his willingness to engage in strong discipline as a mark of being a good father. . .

Stakes are high because parenting black children in a culture of white supremacy forces us to place too high a price on making sure our children are disciplined and well-behaved. I know that I personally place an extremely high value on children being respectful, well-behaved and submissive to authority figures. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a good thing.

If black folks are honest, many of us will admit to both internally and vocally balking at the very “free” ways that we have heard white children address their parents in public. Many a black person has seen a white child yelling at his or her parents, while the parents calmly respond, gently scold, ignore, attempt to soothe, or failing all else, look embarrassed.

I can never recount one time, ever seeing a black child yell at his or her mother in public. Never. It is almost unfathomable.

It has long been time for us to forgo violence as a disciplinary strategy. But as Charles Barkley notes, if we lock up Adrian Peterson, we could lock up every other black parent in the South for the same behavior. Instead, I hope Peterson is a cautionary tale, not about the state intruding on our “right” to discipline our children but rather a wakeup call about how much (fear of) state violence informs the way we discipline our children.

If the murder of Michael Brown has taught us nothing else, we should know by now that the U.S. nation-state often uses deadly violence both here and abroad as a primary mode of disciplining people with black and brown bodies. Darren Wilson used deadly force against Michael Brown as a mode of discipline (and a terroristic act) for Brown’s failure to comply with the request to walk on the sidewalk.

The loving intent and sincerity of our disciplinary strategies does not preclude them from being imbricated in these larger state-based ideas about how to compel black bodies to act in ways that are seen as non-menacing, unobtrusive and basically invisible. Many hope that by enacting these micro-level violences on black bodies, we can protect our children from macro and deadly forms of violence later.

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On Creeks

[ 30 ] September 17, 2014 |

We drive over little creeks all the time. They don’t register in our consciousness except maybe that the bridge is a bit narrower than the rest of the road. But those creeks and the plants along them, even in urban areas where you have high rates of pollution and too little protection for riparian zones, are actually incredibly ecologically important and very rich in wildlife. Yeah, you aren’t going to see a bear or elk along them so they might not get your attention, but snails, small fish, dragonflies, and songbirds are critical for ecosystem health.

Creeks are really important and we should take them more seriously!

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Today in the Horrors of Child Abuse

[ 185 ] September 17, 2014 |

Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush talks about “harshly disciplining” his 1 year old daughter.

And no, this is not just an NFL thing
.

…Bush now claims (per update at above link) that this he does not hit his daughter. But the original language leaves me very skeptical of that claim that could easily be made for PR purposes. When one says, “I definitely will try to obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her, but I definitely will discipline her, harshly, depending on what the situation is” there is no other real way to interpret that statement.

Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson
:

Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson called Peterson’s situation “unfortunate” but that he will still discipline his kids.

“Knowing when, how to discipline your kids. This whole situation, you know, it’s very unfortunate,” Johnson said. “Then you have pictures come out which made it even worse. I’m going to discipline my kids, you know, and can’t nobody tell me how to discipline my kids.

“Like I said, that’s not my situation right now. My situation would be private. It’s not a public matter when you discipline your family but unfortunately for him, it had become that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with disciplining your child. It teaches them discipline at the same time.”

Johnson did not indicate how he disciplines any current or future children, but said he felt child discipline should be private. He felt differently about domestic abuse.

“There are some things that just shouldn’t be done,” Johnson said. ” You shouldn’t put your hands on a woman, simple as that. Talking about Adrian and going from that to the domestic cases that we have are two totally different things to me.”

Yeah, no. The two things might have some differences, but they are both physical abuse.

….Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer arrested for domestic violence this afternoon. Of course, unlike the 49ers and Ray McDonald, Dwyer isn’t good enough for the team to ignore this, so they will probably cut him.

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Thomas Jefferson School of Law about to go under?

[ 31 ] September 17, 2014 |

tjsl

Thomas Jefferson is a big, although shrinking, ABA law school in San Diego, featuring horrible employment statistics (less than three in ten graduates have legal jobs nine months after graduation), terrible bar passage rates (over the past three years less than half of the school’s graduates who have taken the California bar have passed), and mind-boggling debt figures (the 2013 class took out an average of $180,000 in law school loans, which means its members had an average of around $215,000 in law school debt alone, not counting undergraduate debt, when their first loan payments became due in December).

A few years ago, this institution decided it would be a good thing to build a swank 305,000 square-foot eight-story building in downtown San Diego, at a cost of around $90,000,000. The project, which was completed in 2011, was beset by litigation over “alleged construction flaws and unpaid debts.”

The project has also been plagued by remarkably bad timing, as it opened just as the law school reform movement was generating the kind of major media coverage that led to a crash in applications to law schools generally, and to TJSL in particular. Applications to the school plummeted by more than 50% between 2010 and 2013, and even moving to a de facto open admissions policy (acceptance rates went from 45% five years ago to 80% last year) hasn’t stopped the student body from contracting.

Even as of July 2012, the school’s tax filings revealed an already-precarious financial situation, as revenue was failing to meet expenses, and the school’s assets consisted almost entirely of the new building and the land on which it sits (remarkably, the school, which is 45 years old, has literally no endowment). Meanwhile the school was carrying $92.5 million in bond liabilities, which in turn were requiring nearly $11 million per year in debt service. In addition, the building and land are apparently subject to what was as of two years ago a $33.4 million dollar mortgage.

This past December, the school’s new dean (his predecessor had been paid $529,000 in FY2012, apparently in recognition of his success in bringing the school to the brink of bankruptcy) announced staff layoffs and salary cuts, at the same time that the school’s bonds were being downgraded to junk status.

Now comes word that TJSL didn’t meet its payment obligations on its debt this summer, and that the school is frantically negotiating with its creditors to keep them from pulling the plug on this mess. The bondholders must now calculate whether it makes more sense to try to maintain the school as a going concern, or to get out while the getting is relatively not so bad, given the for the moment robust southern California real estate market.

A few months ago I did an analysis of 22 law school budgets, and discovered that almost all of them dedicated between 60% and 70% of their expenditures to employee (not just faculty) compensation. The major outlier was TJSL, which in FY2012 — that is, before the recent round of layoffs and salary cuts — dedicated only 39.5% of total expenditures on employee compensation. So it’s unclear how much more cutting of expenses the school can realistically do. Although TJSL has yet to officially report its 2014 class size, the admissions office told me that fall enrollment totaled 204 1Ls, to go along with around 60 spring matriculants (the school enrolled 440 1Ls three years ago). Given that the school is essentially 100% tuition-dependent, closing it down may well be the most prudent course of action from the perspective of its creditors.

But there’s another group of people whose interests are likely to be best served by the school closing: a large portion of its current students. Federal educational loans (and almost all postgraduate borrowing now consists of such loans) are almost never dischargeable, with one striking exception: if the school at which the debt was incurred ceases operations prior to the student’s graduation, and the student doesn’t subsequently complete his or her degree at another institution. In other words, the shuttering of TJSL would be a get out of debt jail free card for its students.

. . . A correspondent notes:

Edifice Complex

Term coined by the lawyer and historian Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson inParkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress, London (John Murray 1958, Houghton Mifflin, 1962) referring to the tendency of successful organizations to build new headquarters just before they begin to decline. See New Headquarters/Office Syndrome, Shiny;Business Week, Curse of.

http://www.ipglossary.com/glossary/edifice-complex/

New Headquarters/Office Syndrome, Shiny.

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Due Process: A Real Thing

[ 39 ] September 17, 2014 |

I may be misreading, but Margaret Hartmann’s tone seems to suggest that she thinks the NFLPA is being disingenuous and shouldn’t be defending Ray Rice:

The NFL Players Association finally filed their appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension on Tuesday night, but emphasized that they’re only defending a man who knocked out his wife in a elevator because that’s their job. “When we look at facts and reach a determination that there are appropriate grounds to appeal any decision — any disciplinary decision — that is the role of the union, that’s the duty of the union. And we really don’t shy away from that duty at all,” DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, told CBS News. “Public outrage notwithstanding, it’s part of my legal training … to understand that everybody has due process rights.” So please keep directing those angry comments to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, not to the union!

Goodell suspended the Baltimore Ravens running back for two games in July, then admitted he “didn’t get it right” and put him on indefinite suspension after TMZ released video of the incident. The union said it needs to “protect the due process rights of all NFL players,” as this sets a precedent that players can be punished twice for the same incident.

I’m not sure if I’m disagreeing with Hartmann or not, but let me say that the NFLPA is clearly right here. Not only right in the narrow sense that everyone deserves due process and a defense, but right on the merits. The NFL has (rightly or wrongly) set the maximum punishment for a first domestic violence offense at 6 games. Rice’s NFL punishment shouldn’t exceed that. While what Rice did is far, far worse attempts to suspend him for more than that are comparable to MLB’s indefensible season-long suspension of A-Rod. The idea that allegedly lying to Roger Goodell could merit as much or more punishment than the underlying offense of knocking a woman unconscious is farcical on multiple levels, and the potential for abuse is very real. The Ravens can release Rice, of course, but apart from the 6 suspended games at most they should pay him his signing bonus.

The NFL does use due process disingenuously, but it’s a real value. To be clear, what process is due is not necessarily the process that’s due in a criminal trial. In Greg Hardy‘s case, even if his jury trial counts as a de novo hearing under North Carolina law, a conviction in a bench trial is sufficient for the NFL to suspend him. If a player is being suspend with pay, like Adrian Peterson, I think credible allegations are sufficient. But if the NFL wants to suspend players without pay for off-the-field actions, waiting for the legal process to play out is not unreasonable. And the penalties should be specific and preferably collectively bargained.

Sally Jenkins makes good points about the dangers of putting arbitrary discipline powers in the commisioner’s hands.

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When She Gets Around the Internet She Really Gets AROUND the Internet: Wednesday Links!

[ 96 ] September 17, 2014 |

Just for fun, some Wednesday morning inspiration:

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The ISIS Conundrum

[ 77 ] September 17, 2014 |

Lance Mannion has a very thoughtful essay on the difficulties of being a liberal trying to figure out what to do about ISIS. Read it. I agree with it. I have no idea what to do either. Nothing is probably a terrible idea. So is something. Whatever that something is.

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Early Link Day!

[ 7 ] September 17, 2014 |

Some links for your morning:

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Thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum II: The Polls

[ 13 ] September 17, 2014 |

As I indicated yesterday, polling on the Scottish independence referendum has tightened significantly in the past couple of weeks, perhaps best illustrated here. Not surprisingly, I’ve been asked to do a bit of local media on this issue over the past few weeks, and yesterday on air I was asked the inevitable “who will win?” question. I suggested that the current polling is overstating the estimate of the yes support, and that in the end I’m expecting at least a four point (i.e. 52% No, 48% Yes) victory for the unionists. While interpreting the accuracy of polling data in this context is atypically difficult (which could be interpreted as a shifty, thinly veiled move to hedge my bets), we do have some theoretical and empirical guidance.

There are at least three variables to consider when evaluating the accuracy of these polling data. First is the effect of turnout on the accuracy of the likely voter models employed by the various polling houses. As discussed here at UK Polling Report, estimates of likely voters based on previous elections are of less help in this referendum than for a typical election., and additionally, turnout is expected to be impressive:

A stunning 97% of the electorate has registered to vote in the referendum, meaning turnout is expected to be very high, which could also delay the vote. There will be a lot of ballots to count. Turnout in Scotland at the 2010 general election was 64%.

To add some empirical lustre to this anecdotal extrapolation (again, from UK Polling Report):

Polls aren’t very good at predicting an actual percentage for turnout – people overestimate their likelihood to vote, and the actual turnout figures they are compared to are a bit ropey because of inaccuracy and incompleteness of electoral registers – that aside, they are pretty good at predicting relative turnout, and the referendum looks set to have a much higher turnout than any recent election.

If turnout is impressively high, the negative effect of variations in the reliability of likely voter models is somewhat attenuated. Likewise, expectations that we ordinarily would have based on variance in turnout, such as a lower turnout would mean a disproportionately older and wealthier electorate, are of lesser significance. Furthermore, as I discussed yesterday, the eligible voter pool for the referendum is, well, strange:

First, the eligible electorate is an interesting question, with the primary criterion being residence in Scotland.  Any British citizen resident in Scotland can vote, as well as residents of Commonwealth countries (with “indefinite leave to remain” in the UK, which is the British version of the green card), EU citizens resident in Scotland, and a few others. As a student of turnout, the voting age has been lowered to 16 for the referendum, which is intriguing. However, while a French (or German, or Polish, or Lithuanian, or Jamaican, or Canadian) citizen resident in Scotland is eligible to vote in the referendum and help determine whether or not Scotland becomes an independent country, Scots living in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or New Zealand can not.

This is not an ordinary Westminster or Holyrood electorate, so extant likely voter models have to take this into account, yet there’s limited empirical experience to draw upon. This is not to say that we’re flying blind, because we’re not, but I expect polling data to be less reliable than it is for a Westminster, US Presidential, or US Congressional election.  Yet, as support for independence is stronger among the young, any decline in turnout from these super high predictions will asymmetrically reduce the Yes vote, as the young will stay at home at a higher rate than older cohorts.

Second is the social desirability factor, or to put it in British parlance, a variation on the “shy Tory” voter, what they also call “differential response”. Briefly, on average people prefer to offer what they perceive to be a socially desirable response to a polling question. The guess, given the enthusiasm and emotional appeal to nationalism and patriotism displayed by the Yes campaign, is that should social desirability have an effect in these polls, it would be a “shy No” supporter. In other words, the perception by any given respondent would be that the desirable response is pro independence, so the suspicion is that there’s a marginal, but significant, percentage of the pro Independence estimate that in reality will vote no on the day. I think this might be overstated a bit, however. The effect of social desirability is directly related to the form of the polling methodology. Not surprisingly, face-to-face interviews have the strongest impact on social desirability, as when one is confronted with a real live human being right in front of you, the desire to give the acceptable response is considerably stronger than in other polling settings. As the majority of the polls in the field are internet based, where the respondent is speaking neither to a physical presence nor a human voice at the end of a telephone line, this effect should be mitigated to a certain extent. Intriguingly, yesterday’s piece in UK Polling Report suggests a slightly different take on this phenomenon:

I think there’s more risk from the other side of the same coin – “enthusiastic yesses”. It is very clear from activity online and reported campaigning activity that YES supporters are more enthusiastic, what if that is also reflected in responses to opinion polls? What if the yes supporter, full of zeal and keen to share their view, happily agrees to do the phone interview while the less enthused No supporter doen’t want to interupt their tea? Eagerly clicks on the email when the No voter doesn’t bother?

Ultimately, while I think that social desirability could be overstated in this context, if it does have a role to play at the margins, it will be to over-estimate pro-independence support.

Additionally, while we’re in somewhat uncharted territory with the unique composition of this electorate and the difficulty in constructing likely voter models, we do have some historical precedence to draw upon, as discussed on Monday by Stephen Fisher here, with the takeaway:

So overall the evidence is mixed, but not balanced. It seems more likely that the headline poll figures are over- rather than under-estimating the vote for Scottish independence – and that this might be especially true of the final polls published between now and polling day.

Finally, Fisher highlights something that has been downplayed in both the media and in polling aggregators: the interpretation of the don’t knows:

The tendency for final polls to differ from the actual result does not necessarily mean that referendum polls are biased towards Yes responses. It might be that the Don’t Knows split disproportionately towards No, that those in favour of the proposition tend to be less likely to turnout to vote, while late swing is also a possibility. Whatever the reason, the experience of referendum polls in the UK and internationally suggests that the findings of final polls (from which the Don’t Knows have been removed) are typically flattering for the Yes camp.

We do have empirical evidence to make some reasoned, if imprecise, estimates regarding the don’t knows. As the ICM poll released yesterday still reports 14% Don’t Knows, this remains a significant chunk of the potential electorate. The literature on direct democracy, specifically referenda and initiatives in the United States (the literature about which I’m most familiar), suggests that in a yes / no dichotomous decision, the No option has some of the advantages of incumbency. I strongly suspect that of the DKs that do turn out to vote, they will break significantly to No. This makes sense. Given this is the most important and far reaching election in Scotland in a lifetime, if a voter has yet to make up their mind 48 to 96 hours before the election, the odds of them sticking with the safety of the status quo rather than the riskier unknown of independence is compelling. People tend to attempt a minimisation of maximum regret. Information about the status quo, even with the promises of “devolution max”, is readily available. Information about how an independent Scotland will operate, including basics such as the currency, the status within the European Union, the armed forces, and uncertainty of the disposition of companies currently based in Scotland is, at best, murky as hell. Hence, it’s safe to assume that those DKs that do vote will significantly favor the No side.

Considering the weight of the above, it’s safe to suggest that the extant polling data is overestimating support for Scottish independence.

 

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LGM on the Road

[ 6 ] September 17, 2014 |

For anyone in the proximity of the Lehigh Valley, I will be delivering a Constitution Day lecture at the lovely campus of Muhlenberg College, “From the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Calhoun: The Supreme Court and Voting Rights in Historical Perspective.”

Rumors that a labor historian of interest is speaking at Muhlenberg next week may well be founded.

[Erik] That a Center for Ethics would bring me in to speak seems a contradiction in terms!

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Huge Labor Victory in the South

[ 9 ] September 16, 2014 |

This is a major win for labor:

9,000 American Airlines passenger service agents, after a 19-year struggle, joined together today in a vote with the members of the US Airways CWA-IBT Association to form a new bargaining unit of 14,500 agents at American Airlines. It is the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades.

Three-quarters of the agents work in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona and 2,300 are home-based reservations agents.

By an 86 percent vote, airport and reservations agents overwhelmingly chose representation by the Communications Workers of America-Teamsters Association in the National Mediation Board election; results of the vote were announced this afternoon. US Airways and American Airlines merged to form the New American Airlines in 2013.

The vote clearly shows that workers who can make a fair choice about union representation want bargaining rights. New American agents are concentrated in southern states, and work at diverse locations, including large and smaller airports, call centers and at home. Across every group, they voted for bargaining rights and union representation.

That the addition of 9000 members would be the largest labor advance in the South in decades is depressing, but such is the reality of modern America. This is a big victory and hopefully can lead to more.

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Fake Canadians

[ 29 ] September 16, 2014 |

Normally I would oppose Americans pretending to be Canadian citizens, as the existence of the northern menace is a threat to us all. But I will make an exception for ex-slaves claiming Canadian citizenship while enlisting for the Union in the Civil War so that if they were captured, they would not be returned to slavery.

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