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Separating art from its creators

[ 243 ] August 19, 2016 |


I don’t have any substantive comment about the Nate Parker controversy, but I did want to flag this interesting reaction from Roxane Gay:

We’ve long had to face that bad men can create good art. Some people have no problem separating the creation from the creator. I am not one of those people, nor do I want to be. I recognize that people are complex and cannot be solely defined by their worst deeds, but I can no longer watch “The Cosby Show,” for example, without thinking of the numerous sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby. Suddenly, his jokes are far less funny.

I cannot separate the art and the artist, just as I cannot separate my blackness and my continuing desire for more representation of the black experience in film from my womanhood, my feminism, my own history of sexual violence, my humanity.

“The Birth of a Nation” is being billed as an important movie — something we must see, a story that demands to be heard. I have not yet seen the movie, and now I won’t. Just as I cannot compartmentalize the various markers of my identity, I cannot value a movie, no matter how good or “important” it might be, over the dignity of a woman whose story should be seen as just as important, a woman who is no longer alive to speak for herself, or benefit from any measure of justice. No amount of empathy could make that possible.

This response is the opposite of my own (which isn’t a criticism of it, just an observation). That Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl doesn’t affect my experience when I watch Chinatown. Maybe this is in part because a film, at least of that sort, is a highly collaborative work, meaning that Robert Towne and Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway and many others contributed to its creation in ways that collectively were just as if not more important than Polanski’s contribution. (By contrast, I don’t think I could even read let alone admire Lolita if Nabokov himself had been a child rapist).

Or maybe this is just a rationalization for a kind of aesthetic selfishness. Anyway, I’m looking forward to The Birth of a Nation.


Infilaw school transitions from normal villainy to cartoonish super-villainy

[ 99 ] August 19, 2016 |


The ABA, which is finally under serious fire from federal regulators for rubber-stamping a seemingly endless cavalcade of crazily expensive new law schools with horrible admissions and bar passage statistics, is on the verge of actually putting some teeth into its bar passage requirements.

If adopted, the new rules would require 75% of a school’s graduates who take the bar to pass it within two years of graduation. When I wrote about this a few months ago, some incredibly cynical and mean-spirited commenters noted that a school could tweak its stats by paying graduates not to take the bar, or even better yet just flunking out students right before they were set to graduate.

Not surprisingly, the Infilaw schools — the 9th circle of the law school scam — are becoming visionary thought leaders in this field. Here’s an email that Dean Shirley Mays of Arizona Summit just sent to the school’s third-year (!) students:

I strongly encourage each of you to take the pre-bar prep class. It will help prepare you to take the bar exam. The pre-bar prep class will have as a final a mock bar exam which will contribute significantly to your grade. Taking the mock bar exam will afford you the opportunity to receive feedback about your strengths and areas of improvement going into the bar exam. It also will give you a taste of what you will experience two months after graduation as you prepare for the February or July 2017 bar exam.

To facilitate taking the pre-bar prep class, we will offer the class from 0 – 4 credits. Thus, for example, if taking the class will shift you from part-time to full-time status, take the class for 0 credits and you can take the class for free. Kudos to those of you who already have taken the initiative and added this class to your schedule. If you would like to take the class for fewer than 4 credits, we will send instructions on how to do so prior to the add/drop period.

Please note, effective with the May 2017 graduates, even though taking the class is not a requirement, a passing score on a mock bar exam will be a graduation requirement. We will share these specifics in a subsequent email early next week.

Warm regards,

Dean Mays

Note, this brand new and very substantial requirement for graduation (and thus for eligibility to take the bar), has been imposed on people who are a week away from starting their final year of law school, at an institution that has already charged them nearly $90,000 in tuition, and is about to charge them $45,000 more.

Yet given the complete cratering of the school’s bar passage rates and the impending possibility of the ABA imposing real standards, this sort of grift on steroids is only to be expected.

Will thinkfluence for food

[ 28 ] August 19, 2016 |


The University of California, Berkeley, paid $200,000 to consultants to improve the national and international image of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who announced Tuesday that he was stepping down, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The contracts with a primary consultant and a subcontractor were for the companies to “‘increase exposure and awareness’ of Dirks’s vision for higher education, elevate the chancellor ‘as a key thought leader,’ and ‘form key partnerships’ so that potential donors would understand his philosophy,” the article said.

Dirks hired Williamsworks, a Seattle consulting firm, and their subcontractor, Rosshirt, to seek out high-profile speaking engagements and partnerships that would “improve the Chancellor’s strategic profile both nationally and internationally,” according to a contract obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Question: If I get the university to spend $200K to wrangle me a bunch of “high-profile” (aka high-paid) speaking engagements, do I still get to keep the money generated by my oratorical talents? Asking for a friend.

Also, I’m still very unclear as to what exactly a university chancellor’s day to day job is, as opposed to being a thought leader and visionary, which are tasks we here at LGM perform in our spare time and practically for free yo.

Donald Trump’s campaign is basically a RSS feed of Russian disinformation and white supremacist sites

[ 229 ] August 18, 2016 |

white pride

This is not hyperbole:

On Sunday’s CNN State of the Union show, now deposed Trump chief Paul Manafort told Jake Tapper that “You had — you had the NATO base in Turkey being under attack by terrorists. You had a number of things that were appropriate to this campaign, were part of what Mr. Trump has been talking about.”

Only this didn’t happen.

Now, spouting nonsense on a Sunday show is nothing new. But this was a certain kind of nonsense, as a sharp-eyed Hayes Brown from Buzzfeed noted. This ‘story’, albeit fake, got a huge amount of push from Russia Today and the Russian alt-propaganda network Sputnik News that I wrote about yesterday. Now if you wanted to be really ungenerous you might say Manafort was getting his talking points from someone at least east of Kiev or more plausibly that he reads a lot of Russian propaganda websites. But as Brown notes, it wasn’t just RT and Sputnik. Their stories were also “passed along on Twitter by accounts that are both pro-Trump and pro-Russian.”

Maybe it’s just that he’s awash in the Trumpite, white nationalist world where pro-Russian propaganda (specifically propaganda from Russia’s various state-backed English language propaganda networks) has become ubiquitous and he picked it up there. What’s notable is that this bit of misinformation germinated in a Russian propaganda mill and ended up on Manafort’s lips on CNN. The precise pathway it took from origination to final destination is fascinating but in some ways beside the point.

And then there’s this fascinating little development:

GOP nominee Donald Trump attacked his Democratic opponent’s stance on immigration and refugees by comparing her to the chancellor of Germany. “Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel,” he said.

He fired off two press releases that same day calling Clinton “America’s Merkel,” and took to Twitter to warn of the dangers of #AmericasMerkel. . .

The line of attack “baffled” political analysts, who wondered why Trump would possibly think referencing a largely-unknown European leader would help him win votes in the United States. A Pew survey last year found that “Germany is not on the radar of many Americans,” with more than a third reporting “no opinion” of Merkel at all.

But there is at least one group of Americans well familiar with Merkel, her immigration policies, and her connections to Hillary Clinton: white supremacists.

To white nationalist communities that fervently support Trump, Merkel has been a popular villain. Sites like the Daily Stormer, the White Genocide Project, American Renaissance, and The White Resister have posted constantly about her since the Syrian refugee crisis began escalating earlier this year. They have accused her of making a “deliberate attempt to turn Germany from a majority White country into a minority White country.” They have called her a “crazy childless bitch,” “Anti-White Traitor,” and “patron saint of terrorists.” They have asked in articles about her, “Why would you allow a woman to run a country, unless you were doing it as a joke?”

In fact, Trump’s new line about Clinton wanting to become “America’s Merkel” can be found almost verbatim in these white supremacist forums. “If Hillary takes power she will be to America what Merkel is to Germany,” a member of Stormfront wrote in March. “Hillary Clinton is America’s Angela Merkel,” wrote a commenter on American Renaissance in April.

Heidi Beirich, who investigates and tracks white nationalist groups for Southern Poverty Law Center, told ThinkProgress that Trump “seems to be parroting the hate sites” and speaking to their concerns.

“There is no question that the people who call him their ‘glorious leader’ know exactly what he’s talking about,” she said. “That is the audience that is concerned about this issue. Merkel is hated by Trump’s white supremacist supporters, and she and Clinton are seen in the same light.”

Read both pieces. Trump is going to lose, and lose badly, but he is merely a symptom of a much bigger problem, which is that there’s a good chance the GOP becomes an explicitly ethno-nationalist party before it either flies apart, or just sags like a heavy load into electoral oblivion.

Math problem

[ 88 ] August 17, 2016 |


Somebody who is better at mathematical extrapolation than your average pseudo-lawyer may want to tackle this one:

Suppose a law school charged $30,644 in tuition in 2010.

Suppose that school is charging $50,790 this fall.

Suppose that this school received 4,922 applications for admission in 2010.

Suppose this school received 1,222 applications for admission last fall.

Assuming these trends hold, in what year will the school receive a single application, and what will tuition be at that point?

TIA xoxo

My old school

[ 74 ] August 16, 2016 |

becker and fagen

Leo Botstein has been, among many other things, president of Bard College for the past four decades. This profile, published in the New Yorker a couple of years ago, describes Botstein as being extremely good at raising money but even better at spending it:

Botstein has built Bard in his own polymath image. (In addition to his duties as president, he is a historian and a busy orchestral conductor; he has led the American Symphony Orchestra for more than twenty years.) He is celebrated for his grand schemes and the rich donors they attract. Though he has raised more than a billion dollars during his tenure, the college’s finances remain precarious. Bard has lacked both a large body of wealthy alumni and a developed infrastructure for soliciting their donations. One of Botstein’s daughters has joked that he should consider renting out the campus for weddings in the summer. “There are lots of very good things going for Bard,” David Schwab, a chairman emeritus of the board of trustees, told me. “Money is not one of them.”

Where is all that money going? From a 2014 piece:

Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded Bard’s bond rating three notches, a sign of what the firm sees as long-term risks. Its analysts also raised delicate but larger questions about Bard’s future without Botstein, who said he’s not going anywhere, and his longtime chief financial officer.

Bard, located about 100 miles outside of Manhattan, is unusual among colleges. It operates its undergraduate program largely without an endowment and plows much of its money – from donors and tuition – into educational and cultural offerings in five states and five countries.

Botstein, who has led Bard since 1975, dismissed Moody’s criticism and called questions about Bard’s finances a “terrible distraction.”

“When you have bond raters peering over your life’s work, it’s like hanging a painting in front of semi-blind people,” he said. “You could be in real trouble.”

Botstein – a world class fund-raiser and Renaissance man – has expanded Bard and its mission. There’s a top-notch conservatory building, college campuses in Eastern Europe and on the West Bank and partnerships with public school systems in New York and New Orleans.

These are expensive projects, often with little revenue generating potential. But Botstein would rather spend what money he has on education than squirrel it away, unused. He said Bard is an “educational cause” rather than “some retirement portfolio’s safe pension investment.”

Anyway, our renaissance polymath has now turned his attention to American higher education as a whole, with a piece in Money magazine that argues the government should simply forgive all $1.3 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt, and then set up a loan forgiveness program for new borrowers:

Once having wiped out existing debt—as an investment in our nation’s human capital—we need a new loan program for current and future students. It should include a structured forgiveness provision. As an incentive to recruit our best talent into public service, loan holders who work in key public sector fields, from teaching to law enforcement, should receive a forgiveness benefit. After 20 years of being a public school teacher, for example, one’s debt should be marked down to zero.

This is such a brilliant and paradigm-shattering idea that President/Maestro/Prof. Botstein will be excited to learn that somebody has already thought of it: specifically, the United States federal government, which actually instituted a much more generous version of Botstein’s proposal, featuring complete forgiveness after ten years rather than 20, back in 2007.

Reminder: this guy has been president of a kind of famous American institution of higher learning for 41 years. In other words, he’s not opining on whether Ted Williams was a better hitter than Babe Ruth, or whether it’s acceptable to make a Martini with vodka. You would think the basic finances of American higher education would be right in his professional wheelhouse — or at least that he would have a worshipful flunky or three Google the subject before casting his analytic pearls before swine.

A Wharton man

[ 218 ] August 15, 2016 |


Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton. There was a certain inner comfort in knowing he could knock down anybody who was snooty to him, although, being very shy and a thoroughly nice boy, he never fought except in the gym. He was Spider Kelly’s star pupil. Spider Kelly taught all his young gentlemen to box like featherweights, no matter whether they weighed one hundred and five or two hundred and five pounds. But it seemed to fit Cohn. He was really very fast. He was so good that Spider promptly overmatched him and got his nose permanently flattened. This increased Cohn’s distaste for boxing, but it gave him a certain satisfaction of some strange sort, and it certainly improved his nose. In his last year at Princeton he read too much and took to wearing spectacles. I never met any one of his class who remembered him. They did not even remember that he was middleweight boxing champion.

The Sun Also Rises

“Still — I was married in the middle of June,” Daisy remembered, “Louisville in June! Somebody fainted. Who was it fainted, Tom?”

“Biloxi,” he answered shortly.

“A man named Biloxi. ‘blocks’ Biloxi, and he made boxes — that’s a fact — and he was from Biloxi, Tennessee.”

“They carried him into my house,” appended Jordan, “because we lived just two doors from the church. And he stayed three weeks, until Daddy told him he had to get out. The day after he left Daddy died.” After a moment she added as if she might have sounded irreverent, “There wasn’t any connection.”

“I used to know a Bill Biloxi from Memphis,” I remarked.

“That was his cousin. I knew his whole family history before he left. He gave me an aluminum putter that I use to-day.”

The music had died down as the ceremony began and now a long cheer floated in at the window, followed by intermittent cries of “Yea-ea-ea!” and finally by a burst of jazz as the dancing began.

“We’re getting old,” said Daisy. “If we were young we’d rise and dance.”

“Remember Biloxi,” Jordan warned her. “Where’d you know him, Tom?”

“Biloxi?” He concentrated with an effort. “I didn’t know him. He was a friend of Daisy’s.”

“He was not,” she denied. “I’d never seen him before. He came down in the private car.”

“Well, he said he knew you. He said he was raised in Louisville. Asa Bird brought him around at the last minute and asked if we had room for him.”

Jordan smiled.

“He was probably bumming his way home. He told me he was president of your class at Yale.”

Tom and I looked at each other blankly.


“First place, we didn’t have any president ——”

Gatsby’s foot beat a short, restless tattoo and Tom eyed him suddenly.

“By the way, Mr. Gatsby, I understand you’re an Oxford man.”

“Not exactly.”

“Oh, yes, I understand you went to Oxford.”

“Yes — I went there.”

A pause. Then Tom’s voice, incredulous and insulting: “You must have gone there about the time Biloxi went to New Haven.”

Another pause. A waiter knocked and came in with crushed mint and ice but, the silence was unbroken by his “thank you” and the soft closing of the door. This tremendous detail was to be cleared up at last.

“I told you I went there,” said Gatsby.

“I heard you, but I’d like to know when.”

“It was in nineteen-nineteen, I only stayed five months. That’s why I can’t really call myself an Oxford man.”
Tom glanced around to see if we mirrored his unbelief. But we were all looking at Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby

But for Trump, the ultimate insult came at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. “Everybody wanted me to make a keynote speech,” Trump told me. “People were writing me thousands of letters and emails, all going crazy.” Yet despite the pleading of these vast letter-writing multitudes, the Romney campaign turned him down. Trump was indignant. “What, I wouldn’t say the right thing?” he told me. “Hey, I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I did great.” Anyway, as consolation, the campaign said he could produce a short video to show at the convention — but in the end, even that got scuttled. . .

“Somehow, when you go to Wharton, you don’t go back,” Trump told a biographer in 2005. “It’s not a knock on Queens … [but] you go to a school like that, and you do well at the school, and you know, somehow you want to break out of that mold. I think it brought me into a different world.”

The rough-edged rich kid from Jamaica Estates had spent his teens swaggering his way through high school at an upstate military academy. But at Waspy, well-mannered Wharton, Trump’s shtick didn’t have the same winning effect. When, one day shortly after transferring to the school, he stood up in a business class and cockily declared his intention to become “the king of New York real estate,” his classmates reacted with snickers and eye-rolling. . .

“You know, in Palm Beach there’s an in-crowd and an out-crowd and no matter how much money he has, he will never be a part of Palm Beach’s inner circle,” socialite Marlene Rathgeb told the Miami Herald in 1986, adding, “The fact that Trump is Jewish and because he’s nouveau riche turns a lot of people off.” When a rumor circulated that he’d been denied membership to the exclusive Bath & Tennis Club, Trump furiously disputed the claim, insisting even decades later, “I can get in if I wanted to. If I wanted to, I can get anything. I’m the king of Palm Beach.”

When the whole nasty ordeal was finally over and Mar-a-Lago was his, Trump looked endlessly for ways to take revenge on his stuck-up neighbors. He had DJs blast music loud enough for all the “stuffy cocksuckers” in town to hear. In 2006, he installed an 80-foot flagpole in brazen defiance of local zoning ordinances, and then left it up for six months — a towering middle finger to the Palm Beach pooh-bahs who were heaping fines on him.

The last quote is from this very interesting portrait of Trump. Also interesting is the authorial/editorial choice to let the Palm Beach social gatekeeper’s identification of Trump as Jewish go uncorrected.

Bleg: What is the politically correct position in regard to climate change on the American right at this moment?

[ 198 ] August 11, 2016 |


I don’t have the patience to try to figure this out myself, so I’m asking for free help from our learned commentariat. (BTW one of the few times I’ve felt sort of like a lawyer in recent years was when I was watching The Intern a couple of days ago, and kept being bothered by the fact that the movie’s plot is just a giant FLSA violation. Why must Hollywood be so unrealistic?).

My very rough understanding of right-wing orthodoxy on climate change is that it’s slowly evolving along something like the following spectrum of positions:

(1) The earth is not actually getting hotter.

(2) The earth is getting hotter, but human activity is playing no role in this development.

(3) The earth is getting hotter, but human activity is only playing a relatively small role in this development.

(4) The earth is getting hotter, human activity is playing a major role in this development, but any and all attempts to mitigate the situation will do more harm than good.

Does this about cover it? I would expect the next stage would be something like “OK we have to do something, but it should be done through huge tax breaks for corporations, not Wasteful Government Programs.” Or are we there already?

Speaking of conspiratorial thinking

[ 58 ] August 10, 2016 |


At this point, if an “unsuccessful assassination attempt” were to take place against the candidate at a Trump rally my initial presumption — and I assume that of tens of millions of my fellow Americans — would be that it was a publicity stunt, staged by Trump himself.

In this way, we are all slowly becoming Alex Jones.

Kinder, gentler, more thoughtful Trump 2.0 only jokes about shooting Hillary Clinton

[ 154 ] August 9, 2016 |


Remember yesterday, when everyone was amazed that Donald Trump managed to go 24 hours without saying anything in public that would normally end a presidential campaign? Well that was yesterday:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared to joke about the possibility that Hillary Clinton could be shot in remarks at a campaign rally Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C.

Trump was discussing the possibility that Clinton, the Democratic nominee, would be able to appoint liberal justices to the Supreme Court if she wins the race for the White House.

He then said that there was nothing that could be done in that scenario, before mentioning “Second Amendment folks.”

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said to boos from the crowd.

“By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” he then added.

“Though the Second Amendment folks, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

On Twitter, a number of observers noted that it appeared that Trump was discussing the possibility, even if he were joking, that Clinton could be shot.


Trump becomes the first person with Secret Service protection to be investigated by the Secret Service.

Kind of hard to imagine this lasting to November, but a lot of things that were hard to imagine have ended up happening in the last year.

. . . in comments, Bitter Scribe flags this perceptive Wonkette piece:

I have a compulsive need to be entertaining… just like Donald Trump.

This compulsion is a keystone of Donald Trump’s personality, yet as far as I can tell, none of the far, far too many “pieces” on Trump’s mental makeup have specifically focused on this as a major reason for the beshitted state of his campaign.

Most long-range analysis of Donald Trump’s peculiar character focuses on three prominent traits: his shameless, constant lying; his Jovian ego (which likely conceals deep insecurity); and his desire for legitimacy and validation in the eyes of his betters.

These are all supposed to be impediments to his political success, but Nixon was a bipedal dozen dump trucks of these traits and they didn’t keep him from getting elected and then re-elected.

But Nixon wasn’t the class clown. Trump is. That’s a key difference. . .

Trump’s not as funny as I am, and he’s a lot richer than I am. These factors make him much more prone to bombing when trying to be funny. People laugh at rich people’s jokes because they want rich people to like them, which has given Trump a warped idea of what’s actually funny. So Trump probably makes bad jokes more often than I do, yet suffers fewer consequences thanks to his status. People pretend they weren’t hurt by the joke. Or if they protest, Trump can write them off because he doesn’t need them.

At least he could, before he ran for president. Now it’s a little different. Now his bad jokes have consequences. Now he can’t play exclusively to his audience of coddled, cloistered white males because they’re not the only ones in the room.

Very Serious People

[ 246 ] August 9, 2016 |


This bit of semi-sourced Politico gossip posing as reporting should be taken with a pillar of salt:

As Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign reaches out to Republicans alarmed by Donald Trump’s national security blunders, there’s a group of high-profile GOP hold-outs whose endorsement would be a major coup if the Democrat could win them over.

Condoleezza Rice, James Baker, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger are among a handful of so-called Republican “elders” with foreign policy and national security experience — people who have held Cabinet-level or otherwise high-ranking positions in past administrations — who have yet to come out for or against Trump.

A person close to Clinton said her team has sent out feelers to the GOP elders, although it wasn’t clear if those efforts were preliminary or more formal requests for endorsement, or if they were undertaken through intermediaries. Clinton campaign aides did not respond when asked if they had solicited endorsements or tried to persuade the elders to speak out against Trump.

However, Pierce has a point that, if there is anything to this, it’s a war criminal too far:

If Hillary Clinton actively seeks, or publicly accepts, the endorsement of Henry Kissinger, I will vote for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on November 8. (Jill Stein, you might’ve been a contender, but going off to Red Square to talk about Vladimir Putin and human rights? Being an honored guest of a Russian propaganda channel? I don’t think so.) Kissinger is a bridge too far. He is responsible for more unnecessary deaths than any official of a putative Western democracy since the days when Lord John Russell was starving the Irish, if not the days when President Andy Jackson was inaugurating the genocide of the Cherokee. He should be coughing his life away as an inmate at The Hague, not whispering in the ears of a putatively progressive Democratic presidential candidate. I can tolerate (somewhat) the notion of her reaching out to the rest of the wax museum there, but Kissinger is a monster too far. He is my line in the sand. I can choose who I endorse to lead my country, a blessing that Henry Kissinger worked his whole career to deny to too many people.

(Note that he prefaces this with the observation that he’s in the bluest of blue states, so his presidential vote is purely symbolic in any case).

The other thing that’s noteworthy about this is that Bush administration foreign policy figures like Rice, and their hangers-on in the form of whatever Kagan is being quoted in the Politico piece, have somehow retained their Very Serious credentials, even after constructing and cheerleading one of the two biggest foreign policy debacles in US history. By way of comparison, the historical parallel would be George H.W. Bush trying to get Robert McNamara’s endorsement in 1988.

The LGM 2016 Presidential Election Contest predictions

[ 77 ] August 5, 2016 |

In regard to the LGM presidential election contest, the prospect of acquiring wealth uncountable $100 in return for a quick back of the cyber-envelope calculation proved to be a powerful lure to our dedicated and knowledgeable readership. No less than 118 commenters and lurkers came forth, and the results are below. Read more…

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