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The Gilmore boys

[ 33 ] February 12, 2016 |

gilmore

Time has a nice little photo essay about Jim Gilmore’s quirky presidential campaign. Gilmore’s campaign staff appears to consist largely of his brother-in-law, and the photographs of the two of them tromping around in the New Hampshire snow while being ignored by everyone around them are affecting in an odd way.

Why a former governor of a large state would spend many months engaged in an extended Stephen Colbert sketch as directed by Werner Herzog is something of a mystery.

. . . an hour or so after this post appeared, Gilmore suspended his campaign. I hope it wasn’t the last straw.

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Larry Tribe protects the Rule of Law at $5,000 an hour (est.)

[ 38 ] February 12, 2016 |

london

That’s really more of a guess than an estimate but whatever.

The most improper aspect of Tribe’s behavior is his very public and continual insistence that he really believes the arguments he’s making. Here’s why those claims in particular are an abuse of his position: Under the rules of professional conduct, lawyers owe a duty of zealous advocacy to their clients. That means that, once Tribe agreed to represent Peabody Coal, he was, as a matter of professional ethics, obliged to make whatever legal arguments would, in his judgment, advance Peabody’s interests, without regard to whether he himself thinks those arguments are valid.

By officiously advertising the supposed sincerity of his arguments in favor of Peabody, Tribe is trying to have it both ways. Tribe is trying to advance Peabody’s legal interests by claiming that he’s not really trying to advance Peabody’s legal interests, but merely sharing the legal views held sincerely by Even Liberal Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe.

In other words, Tribe is claiming he’s not just a lawyer being paid to advance a client’s interests. But that is in fact exactly what he is, and indeed, under the circumstances, he would be violating the professional obligations he has chosen to incur if he were to be anything else (such as, for example, a disinterested constitutional law scholar, limiting himself to giving his sincere opinion regarding what the law requires).

I don’t care whether or not Tribe actually believes the arguments he’s making. After all, when somebody is being paid the stupendous sums Tribe is surely getting from Peabody Coal, that person’s evaluation of his own psychological sincerity is essentially worthless, precisely because if you pay a man enough to believe he believes what he says he believes, you’ll probably manage to get him to believe it eventually.

I do care that he’s trying to confuse the roles of an advocate and a scholar, in a way that improperly blurs the lines between those roles. That he is blurring those lines to better advance an especially bad policy outcome is both deeply irresponsible, and an abuse of the privileges of his academic position.

Law school stuff

[ 25 ] February 12, 2016 |

ggr

(1) Applicant totals, which crashed between 2010 and 2014, appear to have stabilized at the 2014 level. This is the third cycle in a row that is going to feature around 55,000 applicants.

(2) The ABA is considering a couple of important proposals that cut in opposite directions as regards law school reform:

(a) The reformist proposal is to simplify and toughen up bar passage requirements by requiring schools to get 75% of the graduates of a class who take the bar to pass it within two years of graduation. This still rather lax standard (note that students who don’t graduate or don’t take the bar don’t count) is something a whole bunch of low-ranked schools couldn’t meet now, and a whole bunch more won’t be able to meet as plunging admissions requirements are reflected in declining bar passage rates.

(b) On the other hand, the ancien regime is still slinging crack rock, with a proposal to eliminate not only the LSAT but any standardized test at all as a requirement for ABA law school admission. This would mean that literally anybody with a four-year college degree (in Michigan, anyone with 60 credits of college; Donald LeDuc says hello) could apply to law school on a sudden whim, which of course is very much the idea.

(3) Access Group, the consortium of almost all ABA law schools that used to originate loans to students in the bad old days before GRADPLUS removed any barriers to borrowing the full cost of attendance from an indulgent Uncle Sam, commissioned a paper by an economist to investigate the question of when law school is and isn’t a good investment. The results were, to put it mildly, problematic from the perspective of the status quo, with the analysis suggesting that for large numbers of potential matriculants, it’s not a good idea to borrow more than $100,000 to get a law degree (the average educational debt of current law graduates is probably about 50% higher than that).

Unlike the much-publicized MILLION DOLLAR PREMIUM study from a couple of years back, which didn’t bother to try to make a distinction between, say, a Harvard and a Cooley law degree, this paper acknowledges that asking whether people should go to law school is an unduly and indeed misleadingly broad question.

h/t OTLSS

(4) The University of Minnesota, a top 20-ranked law school, is estimating that it will have incurred $16 million in net operating losses by the time it prospectively balances its budget two years from now. Sacrifices are being made:

“We cut the coffee in the faculty lounge, and I get more complaints about that than all the other faculty cuts combined,” dean David Wippman told the Board of Regents’ finance committee Thursday.

Obligatory video.

As far as I can tell, the difference between Minnesota and a huge number of other university-affiliated law schools (90% of ABA schools are university-affiliated) is that the central administration has put its foot down in regard to further subsidization. A couple of years ago I estimated that somewhere around 80% to 85% of law schools were running deficits, and given the sharp decline in total enrollment since then, that number has if anything probably increased.

h/t Law School Truth Center

The tragi-comedy of the commons

[ 87 ] February 10, 2016 |

commons

Jon Chait points out that the looming Trump Tower casting its shadow over the Babylon of the GOP nomination struggle is a product of a classic collective action problem: it’s in the interest of the Republican establishment as a whole to unify to stop Trump (and Cruz), but doing so isn’t in the interest of individual establishment candidates, unless and until they become the Anointed:

Before New Hampshire, National Review’s Tim Alberta reported that, if Bush finished ahead of Rubio, it might “prove crippling” to the younger Floridian. That proved prophetic. After Rubio’s debate choke, Bush can claim vindication that Rubio is not up to the challenge of a presidential campaign, let alone the presidency. Yet Bush is nowhere close to consolidating Establishment support. He carries the fatal burden of a last name that is a general-election branding disaster, while also being a massive liability within his own party (a shockingly high percentage of Republican voters disapprove of Bush — perhaps as a reaction against his brother, and perhaps as an expression of contempt for his status as a regular victim of Trump bullying). John Kasich has neither the money, the organization, nor the message to plausibly unite his party.

That leaves Bush and Rubio in a death struggle to be the sole alternative acceptable to a party Establishment that loathes both Trump and the candidate who has given Trump his strongest competition, Ted Cruz. The Texas senator may have finished third, but he enjoyed a strategic victory greater than his outright win in Iowa. Cruz saw the crippling of the strongest competition for a candidate of the conservative movement, Rubio. If he finds himself ultimately matched up against either Bush or Trump, Cruz will enjoy something close to unified conservative-movement support.

Trump has performed better than any of his critics (myself included) imagined possible when he first seized control of the race last summer. If he has a ceiling, it’s no lower than that of any of his competitors. His internal opposition has declined. He has gotten better at politics. But he has also benefited from a hapless Republican Establishment that now faces the prospect of a takeover by an outsider it cannot control, and that richly deserves its predicament.

The problem here is not merely game theoretical but ideological: Since the contemporary GOP got a gentleman’s C- in Econ 101 and never took any of the advanced courses, it doesn’t believe in collective action problems, because such concepts suggest that a blessedly unregulated Market might not always be a source of omniscient beneficence for rich people society as a whole.

Anyway the odds of Trump being the next president of the United States are now 24.763% (approximately).

New Hampshire

[ 282 ] February 9, 2016 |

hb

On the GOP side, this was the best possible result for Trump: a blowout win, combined with a continued fracturing of the Not-Trump/Not-Cruz vote. Kasich is polling at around negative two percent in South Carolina and Florida, but it’s not completely unreasonable for him to hope that somehow he’ll now emerge as the establishment darling. Jeb! did just not-horribly enough to trudge on. The night was a total disaster for Rubio, but since he was the favorite to win the nomination until about 17 minutes ago among the very large contingent of pundits etc. who continue to assume that Trump certainly can’t win and Cruz probably can’t, he’s not going anywhere soon. Christie may well stay in it for a couple of more weeks just so he can steal Rubio’s milk money a couple more times.

This is probably the end of the line for both Fiorina and Dr. Carson’s Traveling Medicine Show and 24/7 Griftathon, but they have been total non-factors for weeks now, so their departure affects nothing.

Trump has got to be the solid favorite at this point, as bizarre and terrifying as that prospect is.

As for the Democrats . . . I’m not sure what to think. Yes New Hampshire is a much better state for Sanders than almost all the others going forward, but Clinton did beat Obama here, and she got destroyed tonight. My guess is that this is going to be a real battle now.

Sanders, Clinton, and loss aversion

[ 186 ] February 8, 2016 |

loss aversion

Consider the following categories of Bernie Sanders’ supporters:

A: People who support Sanders without regard to what effect a Sanders candidacy would have on the chances of the GOP candidate winning the general.

B: People who support Sanders at least in part because they believe Sanders would have a better chance of winning the general than HRC.

C: People who support Sanders and who are at least at this point essentially agnostic on the question of whether he would have a better chance of winning the general than HRC.

D: People who support Sanders, but who believe that HRC would have a better chance of winning the general. People in this group have a preference for Sanders over HRC that is strong enough to cancel out the cost incurred by HRC’s better chance of winning the general.

E: People who support Sanders only in the sense that they are supporting him in order to help push HRC left, but who don’t actually want him to win the nomination, largely if not wholly because their risk tolerance for a GOP candidate winning the general if Sanders is nominated isn’t great enough to take the risk involved in nominating Sanders.

I suspect that a large portion of Sanders’ support comes from people in the last two categories. What will the effect be on people in these latter groups on the growing realization that Sanders could actually defeat HRC? In other words, how much increased risk of a GOP victory are Sanders supporters who believe, reasonably enough, that HRC would have a better chance in the general willing to run?

This is the kind of question that can only be answered, individually and collectively, when it starts to get real, as opposed to remaining an abstraction, which it seemed to be when Sanders’ candidacy appeared to be an extreme long shot.

A key factor here is loss aversion: most people hate losing about twice as much as they like winning. This is something that one would expect will begin to hurt Sanders’ support among people in groups D and E, as his chances of winning the nomination start to become real as opposed to merely hypothetical.

Super Bowl thoughts

[ 48 ] February 7, 2016 |

(1) I’m really happy for Manning, who was a great QB for Denver for 2.5 seasons and a frankly terrible one for the last 1.5. I’ll be curious to see how the media evaluate his performance tonight: I’d give it an A for effort and a D- for actual performance — indeed overall that has got to be the worst postseason performance ever by the quarterback of the winning Super Bowl team. Off the top of my head I believe Denver had a grand total of two TD drives of more than 15 yards in the entire postseason. But he did just enough not to lose, and that’s all that people will remember in the long run.

(2) I doubt it’s a coincidence that the only downfield passes Manning completed in the game were on the first drives of each half. His arm must give out after a few throws.

(3) Von Miller has always been a massive talent but in the postseason he put on one of the greatest single performances by any defensive player ever.

(4) What a bizarre decision by Rivera to punt the ball with two minutes to go down 14. At least take a safety and try an onside kick if you’re not going to go for it.

(5) Very shaky officiating and it definitely helped Denver overall, although probably not enough to make any real difference.

A great coach would bring in Osweiler for the second half

[ 25 ] February 7, 2016 |

That is all.

Post-debate debriefing

[ 43 ] February 7, 2016 |

Lowry: He’s a replicant, isn’t he?

Koch: I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot them?

Lowry: I don’t get it Chuck.

Koch: How many questions?

Lowry: Twenty, thirty, cross-referenced.

Koch: It took more than a hundred for Marco, didn’t it?

Lowry: He doesn’t know?!

Koch: He’s beginning to suspect, I think.

Lowry: Suspect? How can it not know what it is?

Koch: Commerce is our goal here at Koch Industries. More Reagan than Reagan is our motto. Marco is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognize in them strange obsessions. After all they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we give them the past we create a cushion or pillow for their emotions, and consequently we can control them better.

Lowry: Memories. You’re talking about memories.

That’s where the money is

[ 169 ] February 5, 2016 |

hrc and gs

I have a piece on Hillary Clinton’s tin ear in regard to questions regarding the relationship between her personal finances and the financial industry:

“That’s what they offered,” she explained on Wednesday, when asked why she accepted $675,000 from Goldman Sachs alone. That response carried an unfortunate echo of bank robber Willie Sutton’s explanation for why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” he supposedly said. (This in turn brings to mind Bertolt Brecht’s remark that robbing a bank is nothing compared to founding one.)

Clinton could have protected her purportedly progressive bona fides in two ways. First, of course, she could have not taken the money. There is something disgusting about the spectacle of someone who was already wealthy far beyond the imagining of ordinary Americans continuing to accept what she claims were unsuccessful attempts to bribe her, even as she was on the eve of launching a presidential campaign supposedly dedicated to protecting the interests of those ordinary Americans against the depredations of the very masters of the universe funneling millions of dollars into her personal bank account.

Alternatively, she could at least ask voters to hate the game, not the player.

“Yes, it’s a rotten system through and through,” she could have said. “The revolving door that allows politicians to rotate out of office, take huge fees from people trying to win their favor, and then rotate back in, is absurd and wrong. I plan to do my best to make sure that in the future people can’t do this, because I know after seeing it from the inside just how corrupt it is.” (This, by the way, is not too different from what Donald Trump has been saying, which helps explain his popularity, since it’s so obviously true).

Instead, Clinton is taking the line that this is just how the system works (and will apparently continue to work), but that for unspecified reasons she happens to be the kind of person who can be trusted to defraud the people whose money she took.

That she believes this is a satisfactory response provides a glimpse into the extraordinary complacency and self-satisfaction of our elite political class in general, and of Hillary Clinton in particular. (It also helps explain the remarkable success of Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign).

Clinton would do well to contemplate the words of the English writer G.K. Chesterton, in response to the claim that rich politicians cannot be bribed: “The rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.”

Annals of the academic rat race

[ 185 ] February 3, 2016 |

demon liquor

A prominent molecular biologist at the University of Chicago has resigned after a university recommendation that he be fired for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. His resignation comes amid calls for universities to be more transparent about sexual harassment in their science departments, where women account for only one-quarter of senior faculty jobs.

The professor, Jason Lieb, made unwelcome sexual advances to several female graduate students at an off-campus retreat of the molecular biosciences division, according to a university investigation letter obtained by The New York Times, and engaged in sexual activity with a student who was “incapacitated due to alcohol and therefore could not consent.

If you want to get all technical about it this is what is known as “rape.”

Dr. Lieb, who has received millions of dollars in federal grants over the last decade, did not respond to requests for comment.

Always the dollars.

At Chicago, students praised the university for swift and decisive action. But some students and faculty members also raised pointed questions about whether the university had placed female graduate students at risk by hiring Dr. Lieb . . . He was put on staff despite potential warning signs.

Such as?

Before he was hired, molecular biologists on the University of Chicago faculty and at other academic institutions received emails from an anonymous address stating that Dr. Lieb had faced allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct at previous jobs at Princeton and the University of North Carolina.

Hmmm, better get our crack investigative team on this one.

Yoav Gilad, a molecular biologist at Chicago who was on the committee that advocated hiring Dr. Lieb, said he and his fellow faculty members knew that in February 2014 Dr. Lieb had abruptly resigned from Princeton University, just seven months after having been recruited from the University of North Carolina to run a high-profile genomics institute.

That’s what you call an industrial-sized red flag. So we check the story out and . . .

But Dr. Gilad said that when it was contacted, Princeton said there had been no sexual harassment investigation of Dr. Lieb while he was there.

OK these GUYS are scientists not lawyers, but do you really have to be a lawyer to recognize how meaningless such a statement from the previous employer is under these circumstances? (For instance, have these people never heard of a confidentiality agreement, or the potential difference between looking into claims of sexual harassment and a formal “sexual harassment investigation?”) In short, shouldn’t your candidate have some super-convincing explanation about why, although this all looks really bad on its face, it’s not what it appears to be? Yes, he should! And Leib’s explanation for flat-out quitting a better job than the one you’re deciding whether or not to offer, seven months into the better gig, in the wake of an allegation that this was the second time he had gotten out of Dodge ahead of the posse was:

[Gilad] said efforts to find out more about what prompted Dr. Lieb’s departure proved fruitless.

Well not exactly:

Faculty at Chicago said that Dr. Lieb had told them during the interview process that Princeton faulted him for not informing them about a complaint of unwanted contact filed against him at North Carolina, where he had taught for 13 years. But he told them he had seen no reason to do so because the investigation had not found evidence to support the claim.

Subsequently, he gave permission to Princeton to examine his personnel file. Chicago, too, received permission to look at the file, Dr. Gilad said, adding that the examination of the records did not raise red flags.

Separately, Dr. Gilad acknowledged, during the interviews of Dr. Lieb, he admitted that he had had a monthslong affair with a graduate student in his laboratory at the University of North Carolina.

Maybe these people were born yesterday, but was it in the afternoon? Again, he quit his tenured position at Princeton seven months after he got there, and was flat-out unemployed when Chicago was interviewing him.

At Chicago, the hiring committee struggled, Dr. Gilad said, to balance a desire to protect students with a desire not to convict someone without evidence. He said Dr. Lieb had not been found guilty of any offense at North Carolina. The department of human genetics voted unanimously to hire him.

“It’s hard to say this in retrospect,” Dr. Gilad said, “but what’s the value of investigating anything if an unsubstantiated allegation itself invalidates the candidate?”

OK, again, not lawyers, but — come on. This isn’t a criminal trial. Or a civil action. Or an investigation of a current employee, where considerations of exactly how much evidence you need before you take somebody’s job away from him are vastly more difficult and pressing. This is a job interview. And there’s a lot of at least circumstantial evidence that your potential candidate might be kind of rapey. Why in the world would you hire him — in a world full of superbly qualified candidates for this kind of job — especially after “efforts to find out more about what prompted Dr. Lieb’s [extraordinarily suspicious] departure proved fruitless.” (Not actually a true statement of course, but accepting it as true for the purposes of evaluating the decision to hire Lieb in the light most favorable to the quasi-defendant here, i.e., Chicago).

But Joe Thornton, a faculty member in the department who raised objections before the vote, said in an interview, “I don’t think that’s the right standard to use.” He added, “It may be a legal standard, but we should be capable of making more nuanced judgments about the environment we’re creating for human beings that are doing and learning science.”

Bless you, other Joe Thornton, for talking some basic common sense, but it sounds as if somebody tried to snow you with the claim that it would in some way be violating Lieb’s legal rights not to hire him under these circumstances. If so, that claim was absolute nonsense. “We think there’s an unacceptable risk this guy may sexually assault a student or three at some point” is — check this out — a perfectly legal basis for deciding not to hire somebody.

So why did they hire him anyway?

Dr. Lieb brought scientific cachet and a record of winning lucrative grants to a department that had recently lost two of its stars to other institutions.

Well then.

Meanwhile, the world’s top science journal noted recently:

How many senior scientists — usually men and usually with significant power over the careers of those in their labs — have been sanctioned and disciplined by their universities for sexual harassment? Nobody knows, especially not young researchers who eagerly apply for their first jobs, spend long hours on fieldwork and feel under pressure to socialize and make contacts after hours and at academic conferences. How many times have colleagues turned a blind eye to inappropriate comments and actions, and made excuses for people who should know better — and who are morally, legally and contractually obliged to behave better? How many young scientists have left positions, or left science completely, because of such behaviour, or because it is seemingly not taken seriously?

We don’t know the answers to those questions. But one thing we do know is that sexual harassment is a serious problem in science. And we know that young female scientists are speaking up about it. We know this not because universities are being transparent about such complaints and how they are dealt with, but because, dissatisfied with the official responses, victims, journalists and others are bringing the facts about these complaints to light.

This was the social context in which the University of Chicago decided to “take a chance,” as they say in parole board hearings, on what they apparently decided was the spectacularly unlucky (but extremely well-funded) Dr. Lieb. Shame on them.

Most predictable lazy framing move ever: David Gergen (natch) asks whether GOP will nominate the “moderate” Rubio over the “extreme” Cruz

[ 126 ] February 2, 2016 |

cruz rubio

Voters on both sides were sending a clear message of no confidence in the economic order. Who can remember a presidential campaign in which the most extreme candidates have done so well in the first round?

It is true, of course, that each party may ultimately embrace a nominee closer to the center. That is obviously the case with Democrats where Hillary Clinton remains the favorite, and Marco Rubio’s surprisingly strong showing will encourage GOP elites to believe they, too, can secure the nomination for a more moderate candidate.

Here’s a list of 20 key issues. Cruz and Rubio either strongly or substantially agree on 18 of them. The dime’s worth of difference between them is that Cruz wants to privatize social security and Rubio says he doesn’t (Florida!), and Cruz says he doesn’t think marijuana is a gateway drug (Rubio probably has to play the unrepentant drug warrior because of his Miami Vice uncle). So even the tiny differences between them split in terms of which one of them is more politically moderate, relatively speaking.

On basically everything else they’re indistinguishable, except that Cruz is despised in a purely personal way by GOP insiders, which hardly makes Rubio more moderate, as opposed to less slappable.

But the conventions of political journalism more or less require Gergen to spew this nonsense from his MacBook Pro, so there you go.

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