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Crazy old man rants in Central Park about young black men committing 95% of all murders

[ 143 ] February 11, 2015 |

Wait, did I say in Central Park? I meant at the Aspen Institute:

Bloomberg claimed that 95 percent of murders fall into a specific category: male, minority and between the ages of 15 and 25.

Per the most recent FBI statistics, the actual percentage appears to be 22.8.

Here are a few more surprising facts, soon to be featured on various websites near you:

Becoming a plumber is on average a more lucrative career choice than graduating from Harvard College:

If a person has the option of going to Harvard or becoming a plumber, he said he would suggest thinking about the plumbing career.

“The Harvard graduate on average will never catch up to a plumber,” Bloomberg said. “Partially because the first four years — instead of spending $60,000, you make $60,000.”

Unionized New York City waitresses make $150,000 per year, while ordinary waitresses make only $50,000 to $60,000:

In New York City, where 56 million tourists visit annually, Bloomberg said the hospitality and service industries are key. Though some might say those aren’t good jobs, he claimed that a waitress in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel makes $150,000 a year because of strong union negotiations. A waitress in a decent New York restaurant will make $50,000 to $60,000 a year, he said.

Legalizing marijuana is going to significantly lower the IQs of children:

When an audience member asked the 72-year-old Bloomberg about Colorado marijuana, he responded that it was a terrible idea, one that is hurting the developing minds of children. Though he admitted to smoking a joint in the 1960s, he said the drug is more accessible and more damaging today.

“What are we going to say in 10 years when we see all these kids whose IQs are 5 and 10 points lower than they would have been?” he asked. “I couldn’t feel more strongly about it, and my girlfriend says it’s no different than alcohol. It is different than alcohol. This is one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country.”

Also:

Bloomberg, who is now worth $36.6 billion, according to Forbes, said the poor in the U.S. need better education.

OK I quit.

Why charge less when increasing the price increases demand?

[ 30 ] February 10, 2015 |

That’s a question that university administrators have been asking themselves for many decades now. A couple of days ago, when asked to opine on the issue, Elena Kagan delicately suggested that, in conventional economic terms, it doesn’t make sense for Denny’s to charge almost as much for its Grand Slam Breakfast as Le Bernardin charges for its Thinly Shaved Geoduck.

[Northwestern Law School’s dean Dan] Rodriguez asked Kagan about the troubled state of legal education. Kagan demurred, stating that she was no longer in a position to advise law schools. But she did say she thinks “there ought to be more than one mode of legal education.” Since graduates of different law schools have different job opportunities when they graduate, Kagan said, not all schools should have the same teaching model—or tuition level—as “the elite law school model.”

No it certainly doesn’t seem to make sense for schools that send 5% of their graduates to high-paying legal jobs and four times as many to the unemployment line to charge 80% as much as Harvard, but such schools have been consistently charging 80% as much as Harvard since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, aka the Eisenhower administration, if not earlier.

So why did they do so? The short answer is because they could. They could for a variety of reasons, but the one I’m going to focus on here is because the market for law degrees in this country seems to have featured an inverted demand curve — that is, one in which, all other things being equal, raising prices actually increased demand relative to competitors.

Consider a couple of natural experiments.

(1) The New York City area offers applicants about a dozen private law schools, and one public institution: CUNY. If you compare CUNY’s historical applicant pool to that of, say, New York Law School (not NYU), you’ll discover that until a couple of years ago, when after a blizzard of bad publicity NYLS’s applications started to collapse, NYLS was consistently getting about three times as many applicants as CUNY, even though it charged four times as much in tuition for New York residents relative to CUNY, and almost three times as much for non-residents. NYLS even had slightly higher entrance requirements, even though neither school carried any prestige on the hiring market (if anything, CUNY might have been the more desirable school from a prospective employment perspective, since it went and continues to go to great lengths to position itself as a law school dedicated to public interest practice).

Why, given the similar value of degrees of degrees from the schools on the employment market, would 6,000 people apply to NYLS in 2011 for the chance to pay $48,000 per year in tuition, when only 1,900 people applied to CUNY, where in-state tuition was $12,000, and non-resident tuition was $19,000? Why would three times as many people attempt to pay four times as much for what, in conventional economic terms, was pretty much the same thing?

(2) An even more stunning example of a radically inverted demand curve is provided by the tuition history of the University of Colorado Law School, where I teach.

Throughout the 1990s, CU raised its resident tuition (everybody gets resident tuition after their first year if they’re not already a resident, so for all practical purposes resident tuition represents the price of attending the school) by an average of about 8.5% per year, which incredibly enough was a markedly lower rate of increase than the typical public law school during these years. (Nation-wide, average public law school resident tuition nearly tripled between 1990 and 2002, but it only doubled at CU, from $3,130 to $6,352).

In 2003 the new dean convinced the central administration — I don’t imagine he had to break any arms or anything — to essentially quasi-privatize the school’s tuition over the next few years. This led to, even by the heady standards of American law schools, a truly mind-boggling series of price hikes, with the result that by 2011 tuition was fives times higher than it had been nine years earlier (four times higher in constant, inflation-adjusted terms).

What did this do to demand? Behold the wonders of the beneficent Market, home to sophisticated consumers, rationally maximizing their individual utility, world without end amen:

2.88% of all law school applicants applied to CU in the 2003-04 cycle.

4.13% of all law school applicants applied to CU in the 2011-12 cycle.

By increasing prices five-fold, CU increased demand by 43% relative to law schools nationally, even though over this same time average private law school tuition “only” went up by 61%, while average public resident tuition roughly doubled.

Did CU perhaps lower admissions standards, in order to make the school more attractive to a larger pool of potential applicants? Far from it stout yeoman: while the 2004 class had a median LSAT in the 84th percentile, the 2012 class’s median was in the 90th, and featured higher GPAs as well.

These experimental results are made even more vivid and robust by comparing CU’s outcomes to those at the University of Denver, just 30 miles down the road. While CU was quintupling its tuition, DU’s didn’t even double — meaning that in practical terms DU slashed its tuition relative to its neighbor’s — yet DU’s applicant pool was almost the reverse image of CU’s over these years, going from 4.18% of the national total in 2003 to 3.09% in 2011.

Note that if CU were a private corporation, its management would be violating its fiduciary obligation to the firm’s shareholders it they hadn’t raised tuition from $6,000 to $31,000, just as Honda’s management would be violating its legal duties if they hadn’t raised the price of an Accord from $20,000 to $100,000, if doing so would have led to selling 43% more cars relative to Toyota.

Now it seems, shall we say, unlikely that raising the price of an Accord to $100,000 would cause demand for the car to spike, but higher education in this country is clearly a very special sort of market.

60 years of law school tuition increases in the context of American family income

[ 22 ] February 7, 2015 |

Note: All dollar figures in this post have been converted to constant 2014 dollars.

Yesterday I wrote about Greg Crespi’s paper regarding the financing what he refers to as “Harvard-style” legal education. Crespi describes this model:

By this phrase, I am referring generically to the instructional approach that originated at Harvard Law School in the late-19th century and since then has been very widely replicated. This approach requires three years of full-time legal study or the part-time equivalent thereof over a longer period, where the instruction is provided by research-oriented faculties comprised primarily of well-paid, mostly tenured scholars with relatively light teaching loads. It makes only relatively modest use of inexpensive adjunct instructors and online courses. It also includes large and expensive clinical programs, library facilities, and extensive student services. This expensive educational approach is designed primarily to prepare students for prestigious public sector positions, highly remunerative associate positions with prominent private law firms, or academic positions, often after a short-term judicial clerkship after graduation.

In the last few years there’s been some — although not nearly enough — discussion of how much law school tuition has risen since the mid-1980s. People probably focus on the last 30 years for two reasons:

(1) Many current legal academics attended law school in the 1980s, so that’s their natural baseline for comparison.

(2) The ABA publishes easily accessible statistics on changes in law school tuition starting in 1985.

In fact law school tuition started rising dramatically 30 years before that, in the mid-1950s. In what follows, I outline how at that time a Harvard-style legal education was, by contemporary standards, practically “free” even at private law schools, and indeed even at Harvard itself, let alone at public law schools. I place quotation marks around “free” because something that’s often under-appreciated is how higher education in general and post-graduate education in particular always involves very considerable opportunity costs, aside from the direct costs of tuition and other direct expenses.

For example, although resident tuition was nearly nominal at almost all public law schools well into the 1970s, and continued to be so at many even into the 1990s, the typical graduate of these schools probably incurred around $100,000 in opportunity costs by spending three postgraduate years in school rather than the workforce.

Postgraduate education, in other words, always involves a significant financial commitment/gamble, even if the student is paying little or no tuition. This only serves to highlight how utterly extraordinary the increases in law school tuition have been.

Here are tuition and fees for Harvard Law School, along with mean figures for private law schools, and resident tuition at public law schools, over the past 60 years:

Harvard Tuition and Fees (2014$)

1953: $5,586
1963: $10,243
1973: $13,703
1983: $19,985
1993: $30,455
2003: $41,676
2013: $54,173

Average Private Law School Tuition and Fees (2014$)

1953: $4,575
1963: $8,400
1973: $11,330
1983: $15,400
1993: $24,293
2003: $32,904
2013: $42,666

Average public law school resident tuition (2014$)

1953: $1,473
1963: $2,305
1973: $3.465
1983: $3,921
1993: $7,238
2003: $13,920
2013: $24,266

While the overall increase in tuition across these decades should astound us, note that the rate of increase is far from smooth. For example, in real dollars, law school tuition rose modestly – relatively speaking of course — from the early 1970s through the early 1980s, especially at public schools (A similar pattern obtains for undergraduate tuition over these same years). I suspect this has something to do with the fact that inflation was very high during these years, and that it’s more difficult to raise real prices quickly when nominal prices are doubling over the course of a decade, as they did during this time.

The massive jump in tuition during the 1950s may have been in part caused by the GI Bill, but I would have expected the original Higher Education Act, passed in 1965, to have an even greater effect. The demographics of the baby boom are no doubt also significant here (the first baby boomers started enrolling in law school in the late 1960s, and law school enrollment doubled between 1968 and 1980, in part because women began to enroll in significant numbers). It may be that per capita tuition rose relatively slowly in the 1970s and early 1980s because revenues were being driven up so quickly by larger enrollments (enrollments increased much faster than the number of law schools).

Of course it’s important to place the cost of attendance in the context of larger economic trends. Here the story is fairly straightforward:

(1) Median family income shot up between the early 1950s and the early 1970s, so much so that even though private law school tuition skyrocketed, it remained relatively affordable relative to the average family’s income (Note that in the figures below I’m using family rather than household income, because family income, which tends to be about 20% higher than household income, is probably more significant in regard to financing higher education costs). Thus while a year’s worth of Harvard Law School tuition cost 16.8% of a median family’s income in 1953, that percentage had only grown to 23.9% 20 years later, even though HLS tuition rose by an amazing 145% in real terms over this time. During these years, the growth in the income thresholds for the 95th percentile of family income and the 99th percentile of family income were comparable to the growth in median family income.

1953:

Median family income: $32,918
95th percentile: $79,168
Threshold of top one percent: $141,000

1973:

Median family income: $57,391
95th percentile: $142,941
Threshold of top one percent: $263,500

(2) Starting in the early 1970s, growth in median family income stalled out. Over the next 20 years it remained essentially flat. Meanwhile the 95th percentile of income grew moderately, and that of the threshold of the top one percent increased a great deal.

1993:

Median family income: $59,623
95th percentile: $182,588
Threshold of top one percent: $393,000

While the average American family’s income wasn’t going anywhere, and that of those at the border of what can be thought of as the lower upper class (the 95th percentile) increased relatively slowly over the course of the two decades, private law school tuition doubled, and resident public law school tuition began for the first time to become a significant part of the cost of attending law school.

(3) Over the past 20 years, this pattern has continued:

2013:

Median family income: $64,690
95th percentile: $220,553
Threshold of top one percent: $510,000

Meanwhile, private law school tuition has nearly doubled yet again, and resident tuition at public law schools has more than tripled, reaching levels that exceed Harvard’s tuition in the 1980s, even though Harvard’s tuition had by that point already quadrupled in real terms over the previous 30 years.

One final note for now: it’s often claimed that the American economy boomed in the quarter century immediately after World War II, but has grown only modestly since then, which explains why median incomes have been flat for 40 years now. This is completely false:

Per capita GDP in 1953: $17,782
Per capita GDP in 1973: $28,241
Per capita GDP in 2013: $54,780

Per capita GDP grew by 58.8% between 1953 and 1973.

Per capita GDP grew by 94% between 1973 and 2013.

Most of this several trillion dollar increase in wealth per capita has of course gone to either the extremely rich, or the ordinarily rich, or the sort of rich. Meanwhile, the cost of a “Harvard-style” legal education* has gone from something that even a middle class family could afford without going into debt, to something that has to be debt-financed to the tune of several years’ worth of an average American’s income, unless one happens to already be in the upper-upper class.

This may work out OK if you’re getting a Harvard-style education at Harvard (although at these prices even that is getting dangerous for the not-already privileged). Of course the absurdity at the core of contemporary American legal education – and to a lesser extent at the center of American higher education in general – is that a 190-odd Not Harvard Law Schools have followed Harvard’s lead into the tuition stratosphere,* in a nation in which most families are at substantially the same income levels they were 40 years ago.

*In real dollars, Harvard Law School is currently collecting fives times as much each year in expendable endowment income as it received in total tuition in 1953, when the school’s endowment was comparatively negligible.

PAYE, PSLF, and the future of American higher education

[ 20 ] February 6, 2015 |

Greg Crespi, a law professor and economist at Southern Methodist University Law School, recently published a very interesting paper on the economics of the latest iterations of federal income-based repayment educational loan repayment programs, i.e., Pay As You Earn and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

These programs are only a few years old, and as of yet relatively few college graduates in general, and law school graduates in particular, are taking advantage of them (or perhaps are even aware of the option to do so). But with massive educational debt becoming more and more common, this seems certain to change.

Crespi’s direct analysis is limited to the economics of law school attendance, but it’s obviously relevant by extension to graduate and professional schools more generally, and indeed to American higher ed as a whole. As for law schools, he concludes that, if not for the generous loan repayment terms now available via PAYE and (especially) PSLF, law school would be a bad investment for the vast majority of graduates of non-elite law schools, almost all of which nevertheless now feature “Harvard-style” — aka extremely expensive — operating structures. If graduates take advantage of these programs, however, the picture changes:

My conclusion is that the IBR loan repayment and debt forgiveness provisions are sufficiently attractive so that Harvard-style legal education is now again a financially viable proposition for many law students, not only for those students attending the most elite law schools but also for many students attending non-elite law schools, specifically those students who will graduate in the upper half of their class or better at the 40 or so upper- or mid-tier non-elite law schools, and also for those students who will graduate in the upper quarter of their class or better from one of the more than 150 lower-tier law schools. For most other law students, however, who in the current employment market have only a slim chance of obtaining a full-time entry-level legal position paying even $60,000/year, and who have very slim chances of obtaining a qualifying public service legal position under the PSLF program, attending law school is no longer economically justified even with the IBR and PSLF loan repayment options.

Crespi notes that even his optimistic take on the economic effects of PAYE and PSLF on law graduates, the current cost of law school still makes it, on the basis of his model, a bad investment for a majority of graduates of non-elite schools. But, according to his analysis, these programs make — or will make, assuming that they become standard pathways for large numbers of graduates in the coming years — law school a reasonable investment for a much larger number of graduates than it would be otherwise.

The paper is long and fairly technical, but should be read by anyone interested in the economics of American legal education, or for that matter those of American higher ed more generally. As Crespi’s analysis of the law school situation makes clear, PAYE and PSLF may end up having significant and quite perverse effects on the spiraling cost of law school, and again these sorts of effects are likely to be seen in many other higher ed contexts as well.

PAYE works like this: If a graduate qualifies for a “partial financial hardship,” the graduate doesn’t have to pay the full amortized monthly payment on the graduate’s federal loans, even under the extended 25-year repayment plan. The standards for a partial financial hardship are rather liberal, to the point where even many law graduates who secure “market rate” entry level jobs with big law firms (such jobs pay $160,000 salaries, at least in the biggest cities) qualify for PAYE.

Few law graduates get six-figure jobs — the median salary of 2013 grads with reported salaries was $62,000, and only about 40% of graduates had reported salaries, which means the real median was undoubtedly much lower — and since the average federal educational loan debt of new law graduates is approaching and may have already exceeded $150,000, the large majority of current law grads qualify for PAYE. Those who sign up for the program are required to pay 10% of that portion of their adjusted gross income that exceeds 150% of the federal poverty line for their tax status.

This system will often produce outcomes in which graduates will never pay any of the principal on their loans, and only a relatively small part of the interest. For example, assume a graduate obtains a job with a starting salary of $50,000 (this is probably higher than the median salary for current law grads), and has $150,000 in federal educational loans (a typical amount among current law grads). This person will under PAYE owe $277 per month at the start of repayment, and, assuming the graduate remains single with no dependents, and receives average annual raises of 4%, will pay $411 per month after ten years, and $633 per month at the end of the 20-year repayment period (If the grad has or acquires any dependents all these payment numbers will be correspondingly lower. Here is a calculator that allows debtors to determine what they would owe under various scenarios).

After 20 years, the grad will have made just over $100,000 in total payments, which in turn represents just about exactly half of the interest due under the loans. The balance on the loans will have grown to $253,000 (the unpaid interest on the loans accrues but doesn’t capitalize). At this point, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, the entire balance is scheduled to be forgiven.

Crespi emphasizes that there’s a significant catch, which is that forgiven loans count as ordinary income, which means that the grad in this example would, in theory, owe federal income taxes on that $253,000. (This is what savvy law students and recent grads refer to as the “tax bomb,” waiting at the end of PAYE).

But Crespi’s otherwise accurate breakdown of the PAYE program omits an important detail, which is that the forgiven debt is taxable only to the extent that the forgiveness renders the taxpayer solvent. (The relevant sections of the IRC are 108(a)(1), 108(a)(3) and 108(d)(3)). Here’s an example. Suppose in the above hypo the taxpayer has a net worth, excluding the $253,000 in unpaid debt, of $100,000. That means that, prior to forgiveness, the taxpayer’s net worth is negative $153,000. This means the debt forgiveness puts the taxpayer $100,000 in the black, and he or she will owe federal income tax on $100,000, not $253,000.

The really great news is that the combination of the collapse of much of the traditional market for legal services and the general ravages of the Gilded Age II will undoubtedly leave many law graduates with no positive net worth even without regard to their student debt, which means they will owe nothing when that debt is discharged, no matter how large it may have grown.

The even better news is that the PSFL program has much more favorable terms than PAYE, as it requires only ten years of payments, and the forgiven amount will not be treated as income, which means no tax hit even if the graduate has significant net worth at the end of the repayment period. A very wide range of jobs qualify for PSLF: all government employment, all 501(c)(3) non-profit employment, and even many private non-profit jobs with non-501(c)(3) employees. (It will be interesting to see if government and other non-profit salaries begin to impute implicitly the benefits of PSFL into their compensation structures relative to for-profit employment).

As Crespi argues, all this adds up to a potentially powerful financial lifeline, not only to graduates drowning in debt, but to institutions that would otherwise be forced to alter their cost structures to take into account that their graduates were taking on debts that were completely out of proportion to the employment they were (or weren’t) subsequently securing.

Now it may be that law school, with its crushing cost relative to the employment outcomes for the graduates of all but a handful of elite institutions, may be something of a special case when considering the broader systemic effects of PAYE and PSLF. But, as is so often the case in regard to the financial structure of American higher education, I suspect that legal academia is just the canary in an increasingly toxic coal mine.

Future events such as these will affect you in the future

[ 11 ] February 4, 2015 |

criswell

Law schools for the last twenty years have been testing the elasticity of demand for their product. As tuition has increased each year, outpacing even the rate of inflation, law schools have been pressing toward the point where significant numbers of college graduates may decide that it makes good economic sense to seek less expensive forms of graduate education or forgo additional credentials altogether.

Research to date has yielded no firm answer to the question of how elastic the demand for legal education is. Superficial evidence, however, suggests that demand has proven amazingly inelastic with reference to price.

John R. Kramer, “Will Legal Education Remain Affordable, By Whom, And How?” Duke Law Journal

This article, written by the dean of Tulane’s law school, is a good example of how certain critics of the status quo in American legal education are prone to abuse statistical extrapolation to reach absurdly alarmist conclusions, in the pursuit of obscure agendas that deserve further investigation.

Kramer points out that average private law school tuition increased by 60% in real dollar terms between 1974 and 1986, to reach the startling total of $8,230. This is admittedly a massive increase in the real price of law school attendance, but Kramer’s claim (p. 244) that if private law school tuition increases by an average of 7% per year in nominal dollars between 1986 and 2000 it will be more than $21,000 (!) by the turn of the century is absurd on its face.

What Kramer fails to take into account is that the period between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s featured a very unusual combination of social and economic factors, which produced increases in real tuition that are so obviously unsustainable going forward that any extrapolation based on this period is the equivalent of claiming on the basis of similar statistical “reasoning” that two or three decades from now university presidents will be getting paid seven-figure salaries, with, we must suppose, most of the teaching at their institutions being done by the academic equivalent of drastically underpaid temp workers, in order to help fund this hypothetical orgy of administrative compensation.

The problem with this kind of thing is that it has no logical end point: as someone once said, extrapolation is the crack cocaine of the statistically-minded. After all, why does Kramer stop his extrapolation fourteen years into the future? Because 2000 is a nice round number? Why not extend his analysis out another fourteen years, and conclude that, if the extraordinary circumstances that led to a 60% rise in tuition in real dollars since 1974 continue until then, private law school tuition will average, assuming historical rates of inflation, $43,000, and that, if the gap between the average and the highest rates remain constant, some sufficiently audacious school will be charging $60,000 in tuition and fees?

Similarly, Kramer notes that over the last 12 years student-faculty ratios at ABA schools have declined by 17.5%, from 29.5 to 24.2 to 1. Why doesn’t he keep playing the same statistical game, and inform us that, given this trend, that ratio will be 13.5 to 1 fourteen years into the coming century? And who exactly is going to finance this parade of horribles, and how? Is Dean Kramer’s theory that students are going to take on $150,000 in debt to get a law degree, and that the government will simply loan anyone admitted to law school whatever amount of money law schools choose to charge?

In short, to state Kramer’s thesis is to refute it. All this makes one wonder what Kramer’s real agenda must be. In any case, someone should remind Dean Kramer that alarmism in the putative service of fiscal prudence is no virtue.

The Super Bowl trophy presentation ceremony

[ 50 ] February 2, 2015 |

In socialist regimes, the championship trophy is handed first to the captain of the team. This unthinking brute imagines that he and his team mates are responsible for the victory that has just been achieved, and his society reinforces this destructive fantasy through its public rituals:

trophy

In America (or at least in the NFL, same difference), the trophy is first handed to the real producer of the triumph:

trophyii

As a great philosopher once observed:

Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions—and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made—before it can be looted or mooched—made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability.

Night Will Fall

[ 69 ] January 30, 2015 |

Night Will Fall is an HBO documentary about one aspect of the Holocaust. Specifically it’s a documentary about the making of another documentary: German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey. GCCFS was filmed, written, and edited — by among others Alfred Hitchcock — in the spring and summer of 1945, but then shelved for political reasons; it was only completed recently, by members of the Imperial War College. It has not yet had any general release, but hopefully Night Will Fall will help change that.

Indeed the most compelling features of Night Will Fall are a few minutes of excerpts from GCCFS, along with digitally restored footage taken for the making of the older film. A few observations:

1. One of the striking aspects of both the British and American response to the liberation of various concentration camps in Germany was that military authorities in both nations immediately mobilized considerable resources to document what their troops had found. Gen. Eisenhower in particular insisted on having a delegation of leaders of both houses of Congress visit the camps at once, even though the war in Europe was still being fought. (The report to Congress this visit generated is well worth reading, as among other things it illustrates how relatively little understanding the Allies had of the true scope and nature of the Final Solution even by the end of the war).

The Russians also brought in cameras to Auschwitz and Majdanek immediately after capturing them. The latter camp was unusually well preserved, because the rapid advance of the Red Army caught the SS by surprise, and much of the sort of evidence that was destroyed at other camps was preserved there. German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey employees some of this footage as well.

All this demonstrates how the Allies appreciated at the the time that the enormity of the Nazis’ crimes would be met with incredulity, no doubt in part because both world wars featured the use on all sides of exaggerated or wholly invented atrocity stories for propaganda purposes. In the case of the Holocaust, the atrocity stories turned out to be considerable understatements.

2. Night Will Fall isn’t an easy film to watch. The restored footage from the camps is in many cases extremely disturbing — as an Imperial War College expert who took part in the restoration notes, the tradition among those who photographed and filmed war had until then been to avoid graphic representations of war’s carnage, but this tradition was certainly not followed by the camera operators (almost all of them military men who had just learned to use their equipment) who chronicled what they found in the camps.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the images is that they make clear the extent to which the deaths in places like Dachau and Bergen-Belsen were products of brute starvation: the sheer emaciation of the corpses (and the film features thousands of corpses, including those of many women and children) is almost beyond belief. A couple of the camera operators — hardened soldiers being interviewed nearly 70 years after the fact — break down in tears when recounting their memories of their roles in the making of the original film.

3. For all the indescribable barbarity and horror of the concentration camps, these camps were in a sense peripheral to the core of the Holocaust: a point which GCCFS cannot have possibly conveyed, since this wasn’t understood at the time, but which the makers of Night Will Fall should have noted.

Although I’m far from an expert in these matters, it seems to me unfortunate that the sites that did make up the core of the Holcaust — Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno, and Auschwitz Birkenau — are referred to in English, following the German usage of the Nazis themselves, as “camps.” The word camp is properly applied to the forced labor prisons, designed originally for political prisoners and other “undesirables,” that are the focus of GCCFS and Night Will Fall. These concentration camps were qualitatively similar to the Soviet gulags, in that, although they ended up killing large numbers of their inmates as a consequence of extremely brutal conditions, rampant disease, starvation diets, and arbitrary executions, they were not designed to carry out bureaucratized, industrialized, carefully cataloged mass murder on a daily basis. What could more properly be called the Nazi murder factories were designed for no other purpose. Indeed these “camps” had essentially no residents, since, with the exception of a handful of inmates conscripted into the sonderkommando, the millions sent to them were murdered within a few hours of their arrival.

The word “camp,” even in the form of “extermination camp” or “death camp” can, I think, obscure what the essence of the Holocaust really was. The Nazis went to extraordinary lengths to hide the existence of these places, and indeed unlike the concentration and labor camps, the murder factories were never liberated or filmed (Auschwitz Birkenau was shut down and mostly dismantled months before the Soviets captured the territory on which it had operated, while the other murder factories were obliterated by the SS when they were abandoned, well before the lands on which they had stood were overrun by the Red Army. The one exception was Majdanek, but it was primarily a concentration camp, and it operated as an extermination center on a relatively small scale).

Holocaust denial is based almost exclusively on this fact, which once again illustrates the prescience of the Allies in doing what they could to document through film those parts of the Nazi murder machine that could not be disassembled before Allied troops swept over them.

Hopefully now that it has finally been completed, German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey will have a general theatrical release, and be made available on DVD. In the meantime, Night Will Fall is a film that ought to be seen.

The end of something

[ 161 ] January 21, 2015 |

Anyone interested in the law school crisis and the reform movements it has engendered ought to read this state of the (dis)union message from Esq. Never. Here’s a brief excerpt but you should really read the whole thing:

For years, the strategy of the law school cartel was clear: dangle the ostensible treasures afforded to the top 10% in front of prospective students and then lump toilet law proles and document review slaves into the ‘ol “Employed – JD required” bucket for reporting purposes.

The masses bought it; the mystique and prestige of the law degree was preserved while unctuous law administrators and professors feasted on the ceaseless blood money flowing from Sallie Mae and Access Group via the financial futures of so many deceived souls. . .

The jig is up. Even the slickest deans haven’t been able to spin the situation. Their previously enticing coos of prestige and prosperity sound more and more like a cacophony of used car salesmen trying to unload those jeeps from the 90’s that used to flip over. . .

With fewer prospective students, law schools only have two unpleasant choices: Reduce tuition and hack away at the scam’s raison d’être or attempt to retain the present cash flow and torpedo the prestige to which these pseudo-august institutions so jealously cling.

There really is no other choice. Bread and circuses won’t fly anymore. If prospective students are unpersuaded that there are ample legal jobs available, no amount of moot court rooms with mahogany benches and cutting edge technology is going to drive them in.

American Sniper

[ 153 ] January 20, 2015 |

ww1

[Th]he movie gives America something it’s lacked since the start of the war — a war hero on a truly national, cultural scale. Yes, we’ve learned the stories of Marcus Luttrell and others who’ve achieved great and heroic things, but with the success of this movie, Chris Kyle has entered the pantheon of American warriors — along with Alvin C. York and Audie Murphy — giving a new generation of young boys a warrior-hero to look up to, to emulate. After all, our kids’ heroes can’t be — must not be — exclusively quarterbacks, rappers, or point guards.

No one is claiming that Chris Kyle is Jesus. Every human being has flaws. And he risked no more and no less than the thousands upon thousands of anonymous soldiers and Marines who fought house-to-house during their own turns downrange, but he undeniably did his job better than any man who came before him — or any man since — and he did that job as part of his selfless service to our nation. I’m thankful that my own son counts Chris Kyle as a hero.

Leftists such as Michael Moore will rage on, and professors will judge the movie without seeing it — and all that backlash may cost the movie an Oscar — but Clint Eastwood has done something far greater than win an Oscar. He reached a great nation with a story it needed to hear.

David French, National Review

Men who shed tears if they have to kill a chicken kill on the battlefield without a qualm. They do so purely for the common good, repressing their human feeling as a painful, altruistic duty. Executioners kill a very few guilty men, parricides, forgers, and the like. Soldiers kill thousands of guiltless men, indiscriminately, blindly, with wild enthusiasm. Suppose an innocent visitor from another planet were to ask which of these two groups was shunned and despised on earth, and which was acclaimed, admired, rewarded, what would we answer? “Explain to me why the most honorable thing in the world — in the opinion of the entire human race without exception — is the right innocently to shed innocent human blood?”

Isaiah Berlin, paraphrasing and quoting Joseph de Maistre, in “Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism.”

Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.

Samuel Johnson

Unfortunately, there is often a need of some concrete incident before one
can discover the real state of one’s feelings. Here is another memory
from Germany. A few hours after Stuttgart was captured by the French
army, a Belgian journalist and myself entered the town, which was still
in some disorder. The Belgian had been broadcasting throughout the war
for the European Service of the BBC, and, like nearly all Frenchmen or
Belgians, he had a very much tougher attitude towards ‘the Boche’ than an
Englishman or an American would have. All the main bridges into town had
been blown up, and we had to enter by a small footbridge which the
Germans had evidently made efforts to defend. A dead German soldier was
lying supine at the foot of the steps. His face was a waxy yellow. On his
breast someone had laid a bunch of the lilac which was blooming
everywhere.

The Belgian averted his face as we went past. When we were well over the
bridge he confided to me that this was the first time he had seen a dead
man. I suppose he was thirty five years old, and for four years he had
been doing war propaganda over the radio. For several days after this,
his attitude was quite different from what it had been earlier. He looked
with disgust at the bomb-wrecked town and the humiliation the Germans
were undergoing, and even on one occasion intervened to prevent a
particularly bad bit of looting. When he left, he gave the residue of the
coffee we had brought with us to the Germans on whom we were billeted. A
week earlier he would probably have been scandalized at the idea of
giving coffee to a ‘Boche’. But his feelings, he told me, had undergone a
change at the sight of ce pauvre mort beside the bridge: it had suddenly
brought home to him the meaning of war. And yet, if we had happened to
enter the town by another route, he might have been spared the experience
of seeing one corpse out of the–perhaps–twenty million that the war
has produced.

George Orwell, “Revenge is Sour”

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling, “A Dead Statesman”

A simpler more innocent time

[ 95 ] January 14, 2015 |

jfk

JFK campaigning in 1960.

The kid with the gun looks very bored.

The “people aren’t perfect, he made a mistake” theory of criminal law

[ 83 ] January 11, 2015 |

AKA the “hasn’t he suffered enough?” defense, ably articulated this morning by California’s senior senator:

A top Senate Democrat defended David Petraeus on Sunday, saying the Justice Department erred in recommending charges against the former top Army general and Central Intelligence Agency director.

“This man has suffered enough in my view,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, told Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Her comments come after news that the Justice Department is recommending charges against Petraeus, first reported by The New York Times.

Feinstein called Petraeus, who led U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush and later President Barack Obama, “the four-star general of our generation” and “a very brilliant man.”

She said Petraeus’ affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer, and his allowing her access to some classified government documents while she was with him was a mistake — but not one for which he should face criminal charges.

“It’s done, it’s over. He’s retired. He’s lost his job,” Feinstein said. “I mean, how much does government want?”

Her comments came on the heels of similar criticism by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who called the investigation “grievously mishandled.”

Note: Defense not applicable in all cases.*

*Use this easy test to check whether you’re eligible to have your advocates employ this line of argument in the offices of the executive branch and the courts of public opinion:

If you passed classified information to your mistress, how many senators would appear on Sunday morning talk shows to talk about what a great person you are?

(a) Zero.

Stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $2,000,000 from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

(b) One.

Defense may be applicable in your case. Consult the editorial board of the Washington Post for further guidance.

(c) Two or more, at least one of which is from each major party.

Congratulations, you are a Genuine American Hero(tm), and as such outside the jurisdiction of federal criminal law. Please be sure to collect your Augusta National Golf Club membership and other complimentary gifts at the door.

George Zimmerman victim of fourth unprovoked assault in the last two years (that we know of)

[ 44 ] January 10, 2015 |

George Zimmerman, the Florida man acquitted in 2013 of the shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, was arrested in Florida late Friday night on charges of aggravated assault with a weapon. . .

Zimmerman is being held on $5,000 bond and has been ordered to surrender all firearms even though this incident didn’t involve one, the judge said. [So much for the 2nd amendment]

Since his high-profile acquittal, Zimmerman has had three other encounters with the Lake Mary police.

In September 2013, Zimmerman’s estranged wife, Shellie Zimmerman, called 911 to tell police he had punched her father and was threatening her with a gun. She opted not to press charges.

In the second incident, which occurred in November 2013, Zimmerman was arrested and accused of domestic violence by girlfriend Samantha Scheibe, who later said investigators had misinterpreted her statements and dropped charges.

In September 2014, Zimmerman was involved in an incident of road rage.

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