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What if Ted Kennedy had announced during his 1980 presidential campaign that one of his chief foreign policy advisers

[ 61 ] August 14, 2015 |


. . . was going to be Robert McNamara?

One of the fair-goers asked the Republican presidential candidate during his appearance on the Des Moines Register Soapbox whether he was being advised by Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush’s deputy secretary of defense and the architect of his Iraq War policy.

Jeb Bush tried to spin the question away from his legacy as the son and brother of the last two Republican presidents, but he did so awkwardly.

“Paul Wolfowitz is providing some advice,” Bush said. “I get most of my advice from a team that we have in Miami, Florida. Young people that are going to be … they’re not assigned, have experience either in Congress or the previous administration.”

He continued: “This game, the parlor game that’s played, you know, where you have 25, 30 or 40 people that are helping you with foreign policy, and if they have any executive experience, they’ve had to deal with two Republican administrations — who were the people that were presidents, the last two Republican? I mean, this is kind of a tough game for me to be playing, to be honest with you.”

Mmmm, beer.


On “hard work”

[ 87 ] August 12, 2015 |


“I always wanted you to admire my fasting,” said the hunger artist. “We do admire it,” said the overseer, affably. “But you shouldn’t admire it,” said the hunger artist. “Well then we don’t admire it,” said the overseer, “but why shouldn’t we admire it?” “Because I have to fast, I can’t help it,” said the hunger artist. “What a fellow you are,” said the overseer, “and why can’t you help it?” “Because,” said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and speaking, with his lips pursed, as if for a kiss, right into the overseer’s ear, so that no syllable might be lost, “because I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else.” These were his last words, but in his dimming eyes remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was continuing to fast.

Kafka, “A Hunger Artist”

One of the most basic ideological divisions found in political life can be measured by the extent to which someone agrees with this statement: “Rich people are rich because they work hard, and poor people are poor because they don’t.”

Now of course only a complete idiot would agree with this statement without any reservations or caveats. So no more than 30% of the public in the US, approximately. (I kid. Somewhat).

But it would be interesting to measure the extent to which people agree with it, with 1 representing a perfect correlation between “hard work” and wealth, 0 representing no correlation between the two, and -1.0 representing a perfectly inverse correlation. Since we’re on the internet here and not in the pages of Science or the University of Chicago Press it’s OK to just make up our data, so in that spirit I would bet that your average GOP primary voter thinks the correlation is .87, while your average progressive blogger is going to put that number way lower, and indeed quite possibly in negative territory.

There’s an important definitional ambiguity here though, which is, what exactly is “hard work?” I’m assuming that what people call “work” can be sorted into two categories:

(A) Something people do because, and only because, they’re paid to do it. (“Paid” here means receiving a benefit, not necessarily pecuniary in nature, to do it. I don’t like mowing the yard, and I’m not paid money to do it, but I get the psychic benefit of a neatly trimmed less than feral yard by doing it, even though I wouldn’t mow the yard absent this “payment.”)

(B) Something people do because they enjoy doing it, and would do it even if they weren’t being paid.

For the purposes of the above analysis, only (A) should count as “work,” and in particular “hard work.”

The reason this distinction is critical is that sometimes people get some sort of moral credit for “working hard” at things that they positively enjoy doing for their own sake, which is ridiculous. Academia is a particularly good place to observe various “hard workers” who are actually lazy as hell when it comes to doing any work. For example, Professor X is a very “hard worker” when it comes to his writing, which he loves, and his teaching, which he likes, but he does a lousy job on committees, he blows off office hours, he writes half-assed peer reviews etc. because he doesn’t actually like to do any of that stuff, so he puts minimal effort into it. Prof. X is the opposite of a “hard worker,” because he manages to get away with doing almost nothing he doesn’t want to do anyway, without regard to whether he’s getting paid. But he may well “work” 60 hours a week, if (B) counts as “hard work.”

Anyway, my own view is that the whole idea that there’s a strong positive correlation between hard work, properly defined, and wealth is pretty absurd. (A difficult intermediate case, conceptually, is the person who loves to make money for the sake of making money, not primarily because money allows him to buy things. That is, the person derives pleasure from the mere fact that “working hard” correlates for him with making money, because he loves the idea that he’s making money, even though he doesn’t particularly enjoy the things money can buy. So even though he wouldn’t bill 2300 hours per year proofreading financial documents if he wasn’t being paid big money to do it, he “enjoys,” in some perverse sense, proofreading financial documents at 11 PM on a Friday night because he’s “making lots of money,” not because he actually enjoys either proofreading or the consumption/leisure money can buy).

Age is just a number — now updated to include first-ever LGM tennis blogging

[ 65 ] August 10, 2015 |

barry sanders

Unless you’re an NFL running back.



Age of winners of men’s grand slam tennis events, 1973-2015:


Inoculating the herd

[ 74 ] August 7, 2015 |


Apparently a couple of Michigan tea party legislators who were having an affair decided that the best way to handle the eventual revelation of their liaison would be to smear one half of the happy couple with a fake email, claiming he had been caught having sex with a male prostitute. The idea was this false claim would then “inoculate the herd” (their political supporters) when the true claims became known, since a straight up affair would seem positively benign by contrast.

State Rep. Todd Courser planned the distribution of a fictional email alleging he had sex with a male prostitute in a bid to conceal his relationship with Rep. Cindy Gamrat, according to audio recordings obtained by The Detroit News.

Courser, a Lapeer Republican, said on one recording the email was designed to create “a complete smear campaign” of exaggerated, false claims about him and Gamrat so a public revelation about the legislators’ relationship would seem “mild by comparison.” . . .

A now-former House aide recorded Courser in mid-May directing him to send Republican activists and operatives an email that would appear to be from an anonymous political enemy that said Courser had been “caught behind a Lansing nightclub” having sex with a man.

During the May 19 meeting, Courser instructed Graham to send rank-and-file Republicans across Michigan what he called “an over-the-top story that’s obscene about me.” It was designed, Courser said on the recording, to “inoculate the herd” — an apparent reference to Courser and Gamrat’s followers in the tea party movement.

“It will make anything else that comes out after that — that isn’t a video — mundane, tame by comparison,” Courser, a married father of four, told Graham.

“I need a controlled burn,” said the lawmaker, who used the term three times during the meeting.

I haven’t had any coffee yet this morning so I don’t want to leap to any conclusions, but this strikes me as a less than optimal way of handling this sort of thing.

You and the Atom Bomb

[ 121 ] August 6, 2015 |


70 years ago today, much of Hiroshima was obliterated by a nuclear weapon. A few days later Nagasaki suffered a similar fate. It says something about the indescribable barbarism that was normalized during the second world war that the act of instantaneously incinerating 200,000 people, most of them women and children, was considered at the time not merely defensible, but actually laudable, by many people who a few years earlier had been sickened by something like the bombing of Guernica. (Today one can still turn to the pages of the Wall Street Journal for a paean to the virtues of the atom bomb.).

A couple of months later, George Orwell wrote a prescient essay, which pointed out that the political significance of this terrifying new weapon depended on how relatively easy or difficult it would be to manufacture (I believe this essay features the first modern usage of the phrase “cold war.”)

For forty or fifty years past, Mr. H. G. Wells and others have been warning us that man is in danger of destroying himself with his own weapons, leaving the ants or some other gregarious species to take over. Anyone who has seen the ruined cities of Germany will find this notion at least thinkable. Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham’s theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications — that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbors.

Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state. If, as seems to be the case, it is a rare and costly object as difficult to produce as a battleship, it is likelier to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a ‘peace that is no peace’.

70 years on, it seems remarkable that only nine nations are known to have nuclear weapons, and even more remarkable, given the history of the first half of the 20th century, that these weapons haven’t been used to blow significant parts of civilization, if not the world as a whole, into a million little pieces.

I was in college at the height of the nuclear freeze movement, and at that particular moment it seemed that the thick shell of denial surrounding the eschatological significance of a world featuring tens of thousands of nuclear weapons was breaking down, as reflected by things such as Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth, and the television program — which caused something of a sensation — The Day After.

Then the moment passed, and everyone went back to sleep.

Ballghazi, a continuing series

[ 86 ] August 5, 2015 |

brady house

We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something and turned around.

‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’

I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.

Having read through a good chunk of yesterday’s NFLPA document dump, including all of Tom Brady’s direct and cross testimony before The Lord Protector of the Shield, let it be known by these presentments that:

(1) The NFL’s case against Brady is a joke. It doesn’t even come close to meeting the (absurdly lax) evidentiary standard of being more probable than not that Brady knew “in a general way” that some monkey business was allegedly happening to his balls. It’s increasingly clear that Goodell et. al. prejudged this case and then went looking for any evidence to confirm their conclusion, while ignoring everything that contradicted it.

(2) Exponent is a hack outfit that provides bespoke “expert testimony” to suit the precise desires of whoever is writing the check. (Yes, very shocking).

(3) Paul Weiss has billed the NFL around three million dollars (so far) for its services.

(4) All of this doesn’t necessarily mean that a federal court would overturn Goodell’s sanctions against Brady, because the relevant rules give Goodell a lot of discretion to make substantively horrible decisions without being overturned. But the decision to suspend Brady for a quarter of the season, which probably means something like 10% of the rest of his career, is totally indefensible.

Deflategate prediction

[ 54 ] July 31, 2015 |


Stephanie Stradley has a good summary of the current state of the legal issues in the deflategate matter (Btw was there a handy suffix for scandal neologisms prior to Watergate? And will we ever come up with another one? I suppose the persistence of the -gate formulation is another tribute to the power of baby boom demographics).

TL;DR: The NFL’s case is pretty shaky from the perspective of labor and employment law, physics, and economic common sense.

That may help explain why Tom Brady has decided not to pursue an injunction, which could have put his quarter-season suspension into limbo for the life of the litigation, which, given the number of lawyers involved and their billing rates, could well have lasted until Brady was kicking it on a beach somewhere permanently with Giselle. (Miss Flite, in re Jarndyce v. Jarndyce: “I expect a judgment. Shortly. On the day of judgment.”)

Reckless prediction: The parties will settle on a one-game suspension, after somebody finally convinces Roger Goodell that he isn’t paid $44 million per year to shoot himself and The League in their collective feet.

Bill Clinton is like Bill Cosby because not taking your mistress on an expensive vacation is very much like drugging and raping dozens of women

[ 93 ] July 29, 2015 |


Also, too, they have the same initials (Someone was paid to write this).

You win a million Internet dollars if you can guess who makes these arguments without clicking on the link.

And believe me, you don’t want to get out of the boat.

Right from the start, when the Bill Cosby scandal surfaced, I knew it was not going to bode well for Hillary’s campaign, because young women today have a much lower threshold for tolerance of these matters . . . And Monica got nothing out of it. Bill Clinton used her. Hillary was away or inattentive, and he used Monica in the White House–and in the suite of the Oval Office, of all places. He couldn’t have taken her on some fancy trip? She never got the perks of being a mistress; she was there solely to service him.

Bill Cosby and the return of the repressed

[ 123 ] July 29, 2015 |

cosby victims

Scott links below to the remarkable New York Magazine piece, in which a few dozen of the women and girls Bill Cosby raped, usually after giving them drug-spiked drinks, tell part of their stories.

After reading it, I looked up the infamous “Pound Cake” speech that Cosby gave at a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The whole thing has to be read to be believed, but let’s just say it’s a text whose interpretation has been enriched by subsequent developments:

You got to tell me that if there was parenting, help me, if there was parenting, he wouldn’t have picked up the Coca Cola bottle and walked out with it to get shot in the back of the head. He wouldn’t have. Not if he loved his parents. And not if they were parenting! Not if the father would come home. Not if the boy hadn’t dropped the sperm cell inside of the girl and the girl had said, “No, you have to come back here and be the father of this child.” Not ..“I don’t have to.”

Therefore, you have the pile up of these sweet beautiful things born by nature raised by no one. Give them presents. You’re raising pimps. That’s what a pimp is. A pimp will act nasty to you so you have to go out and get them something. And then you bring it back and maybe he or she hugs you. And that’s why pimp is so famous. They’ve got a drink called the “Pimp-something.” You all wonder what that’s about, don’t you?

Here is a TNR piece on the extra-creepy hyper-racist fetishism of the “cuckservative” meme:

The term has emerged out of the white supremacist movement as a term of abuse for white conservatives deemed race traitors unwilling to forthrightly defend the interests of white America. Borrowing shadings from porn (“cuck” is a genre where husbands, often white, watch their wives have sex with other men, often African-Americans) . . . the term cuckservative is popular because it pushes psycho-sexual hot buttons. Racism and sexism have always been connected, with one of the prime justifications for racial hierarchy being the supposed need to protect white women from black men and also, more implicitly, to keep black women sexually submissive to white men. A cuckservative thus conjures up one of the supreme nightmares of the white supremacist imagination, the fear that white men will assume a submissive role (or position) in the sexual hierarchy.

And here is a NYT op-ed deploring the way Israeli politicians other opinion makers have handled the campaign to release Jonathan Pollard:

The Israelis who employed Mr. Pollard also failed to take into account the risk he posed to the American Jewish community, which was subsequently suspected of disloyalty. Documents from the C.I.A. reveal that the agency viewed Mr. Pollard as an American Jew who had translated his support for Israel into two alternatives: immigrate to Israel or spy for it. For years afterward, the Pollard affair made it difficult for Jews in the United States government to get security clearances for sensitive jobs. . . if Israelis celebrate his release and possible “homecoming,” there must be a responsible adult in Israel who understands how turning a spy into a returning hero will be interpreted in Washington. Israelis must realize, even if 30 years too late, that Americans see Mr. Pollard as a traitor of the worst kind and that celebrating his release will only further harm Israel’s already strained relations with America.

While researching something else, I was struck recently by the striking extent to which anxieties about miscegenation were a problem for the civil rights movement in the post-Brown era, even among many liberals. Significant portions of American history become much easier to understand if they are understood as reflecting the fears of white men that black men will rape/have sex with (the distinction is often far from clear) white women.

Consider that in 1959 Hannah Arendt was taking a controversial stand among readers of the New Republic, when she wrote a piece advocating the repeal of statutes barring blacks and whites from marrying. The magazine held a symposium on the subject, in which one contributor argued thus:

To fight now, as a matter of first principle, for the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws is, I believe, to give strength to the very contention that is most frequently, and by all accounts most tellingly, employed by those who resist the repeal of segregation laws—namely, the contention that this is but a device to promote sexual intercourse among the races.

In light of this history, Cosby’s Pound Cake speech is an astonishing act. Here is an African American man who has spent most of his adult life committing, over and over again, the very worst crime*, in a psycho-political sense, that any black man can commit — the crime that inflames the most destructive fears and morbid fetishes of every overt racist, crypto-racist, and I’m-not-a-racist-but white man in America — and he chooses the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision to lecture the entire African American community about — wait for it — “personal responsibility,” and in particular, personal responsibility in matters of sexuality.

This is roughly analogous to Jonathan Pollard doing what he did if he had been Secretary of Defense, as opposed to a pathetic schmuck in the grip of delusions of grandeur. ETA: Apparently the OP isn’t clear that the point of this analogy is that Cosby and Pollard each committed the precise crime that triggers the most intense racist and anti-Semitic reactions, respectively. (To be fair, Pollard didn’t give a speech berating the American Jewish community for dual loyalty before he was caught, so the analogy is inexact). The NYT article emphasizes the special damage that this sort of crime causes for the communities of the wrongdoers.

Perhaps the ultimate question here is if the Pound Cake speech was a manifestation of profound denial and neurotic repression, or rather just another example of the conscious pleasure a sociopath takes in ignoring the most minimal standards of human decency, and getting away with it, over and over again.

*Cosby seems to have raped many women of color as well, and it should go without saying that those crimes were no less horrible.

Law dean calls grads on night before bar exam to try to bribe them not to take it

[ 26 ] July 29, 2015 |

HL mencken

Not the Onion.

There’s nothing like a last-second call from the dean of your law school telling you that you’re about to fail the bar exam to boost your confidence. These are the reports that started pouring in last night from various sources at Arizona Summit Law:

The dean of ASLS is calling several bar sitters trying to talk them out of sitting for the bar exam tomorrow. I do not know if any accepted the offer. I spoke with an acquaintance that received a call from Dean Mays at 5:40 p.m. last night. The bar sitter was so upset by the call that she couldn’t clear her mind and hardly slept.

Another tipster told us that the bar exam deferral stipend being offered by Dean Mays was $10,000 — in case you haven’t been paying attention, that’s the same amount Arizona Summit pays to its repeated bar failures as some sort of a consolation prize.

Capt. Louis Renault is shocked to report that the school in question is one of the Infilaw outfits. The Infilaw schools started cutting their admissions standards from “very modest” to “carbon-based life form” about four years ago, and now various chickens are beginning to roost.

The collapse of bar passage rates for the schools’ grads could in theory lead to the ABA Section of Regulatory Capture Legal Education yanking the schools’ accreditation, although since Infilaw has managed to get a bunch of its shills embedded deep within that august body, this is roughly similar to expect Roger Goodell to do an excellent job at reviewing Roger Goodell’s previous decisions.

This is the business we’ve chosen

[ 30 ] July 28, 2015 |

hyman roth

Dybbuk is in fine form at OTLSS, where he lingers over the program at the annual Southeastern Conference of Law Professors, at the Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton Resort and Club, before bringing the sardonic heat:

The lawprofs can attend a discussion of role-play and other innovations in teaching constitutional law. Then they can hobnob at the dozen or so receptions, galas, luncheons, and the, uh, teen pizza party. Some of these foodfests are sponsored by legal book publishing companies. (Explain again, law “prawfs” how there are important pedagogical reasons to assign $200 casebooks instead of instructing students to print out or read particular cases online). Lots of “sponsored breaks” too, not to mention “a myriad of unforgettable” on-site restaurants and bars, so no law prof need role-play constitutional history or articulate his or her baseball and the law insights on an empty tummy.

They can hear what Indiana Tech Law honcho and jet-setting party animal andre douglas pond cummings has to say about Ferguson. Then they can hit the links at either of the resort’s two exclusive 18-hole golf courses. (West Publishing is sponsoring a golf tournament).

They can ponder whether Edward Snowden is a “Patriot, Traitor, Whistleblower, [or] Spy.” Then they can rejuvenate at the 50,000 sq. ft. spa, rated No. 1 in the world by Conde Nast, and designed to look like the Nasridian royal digs in Granada, Spain, with stone arches, cypress-lined gardens, and Moorish-style windows. I dread the day when the crisis in legal education has reached such proportions that lawprofs are forced to have their prestigious bods exfoliated at a spa that does not resemble a medieval palace.

They can attend a panel on “International Comparative Inequality,” or listen to the head of the oh-so-progressive SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) organization advise fellow law faculty on “navigating identity” and “finding your voice.” Then they can pluck refreshments from the trays of silent low-wage immigrant caterers.

The resort boasts seven pools, four on the waterfront with personal butlers and cabanas. Granted, the lawprofs deserve a few moments of tranquility and ease after gifting a suffering planet with their advice on “International Crisis: Ebola, ISIS, and Late-Breaking Events.” If only the personal poolside butlers were authorized to pass out Nobel Peace Prizes along with tropical-themed drinks.

There is a panel called “Innovations in Academic Support and Take-Aways for Law School Pedagogy.” Isn’t that fine professorial wording? Much better than “Adjusting to the Fact that Our Students are a Lot Dumber than They Used to Be Because We Keep Lowering Admissions Standards to Keep the Money Flowing.” Afterwards, the law professors can take resort shuttle boat transports to “half a mile of golden private beach.” Because the real “Take-Aways” of this event are callous self-indulgence and exploitation.

On a purely economic level, when a law professor blows a couple or three thousand dollars a year of student tuition money (most law schools, and all low-ranked law schools, are largely or almost wholly tuition-funded operations) on these kinds of “free” vacations masquerading as academic events it doesn’t have much effect on the $40,000 to $90,000 per year cost of attendance at these institutions (With an average student to faculty ratio of around 13 to one these days, each student is kicking in a couple of hundred bucks per year — the cost of just one textbook! — toward his or her professor’s well-earned summer, or winter, or spring vacation.

On a symbolic/psychological/can’t-we-at-least-pretend-to-maintain-some-integrity level, it’s another story.

Jeff Harrison attends a Commercial Monetary Policy Conference:

I have been in hot water lately with most academics because I took a vacation and did not figure out a way to get my School to pay for it. Several faculty complained to the Dean. I was so out of line, I complained about me.

Problem solved. I was checking out of the 7 room Volcano Hotel and asked if they took US dollars. They do but I did not quite have enough to cover the tab. Together the manager and I determined how many dollars and how many Iceland Krone (the coins are so cute, the have fish on them, more fish more value).

We took some time and I realized we were having a CONFERENCE on Contract Law and International Currency. And, it was kind of a conference version of cinema verite. So I had some programs printed up and they looked like this:


July 15, 2015

Volcano Hotel (about 10 miles west of Vik, Iceland)

Meeting Room: Check Out Desk in Entry Area

Speakers: Jeffrey Harrison
Jeff’s wife, Sarah

Papers Delivered: On the Complexity of Dividing Everything By 750.

Skype is available for those unable to attend.

Registration Fee: $500
Late Registration $300
No Registration $200.

20 Feet From Stardom

[ 96 ] July 22, 2015 |

let it bleed

In the midst of what is something of a golden age for documentary films, 20 Feet From Stardom stands out as a truly extraordinary work. The film documents the careers of Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, Claudia Lennear, and Judith Hill, among others. All these women have spent most of their lives in the music industry as backup singers. Almost all of them remain completely unknown to the average music fan (This being the internet someone is going to post that they have every single recording on which Darlene Love has ever appeared, which is fine, but the film is called 20 Feet From Stardom for a reason).

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about music, but this film literally changed the way I hear a lot records. Here’s a clip:

Mick Jagger’s expression at 2:34 says it all.

The film is also a fascinating glimpse into the largely invisible collaboration that is behind a lot of art, the randomness of fame, and the arbitrary nature of what has been called in another context the politics of glory.

. . . along similar lines, a reader recommends this, which took eight years to make, and another seven to raise enough money (apparently a kickstarter campaign played a key role) to pay for the licensing rights that allowed it to be generally released earlier this year.

. . . this also looks pretty great.

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