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This is real

[ 98 ] October 24, 2012 |

Or perhaps I should say “real.”

. . . and to cleanse the palate:

The disposition matrix

[ 211 ] October 24, 2012 |

Pursuant to LGM’s official policy* of not criticizing the administration until after the election, I’ll merely link to this article rather than comment on it.

*Joke#

#Sort of^

^Yes Romney would no doubt be just as bad on the issue of targeted “disposition.” (I almost reflexively wrote “even worse,” but what would “even worse” look like?).

Former law school career services employee admits to falsifying employment data, says she was ordered to do so

[ 17 ] October 23, 2012 |

A former assistant career services director at Thomas Jefferson School of Law has admitted in a sworn statement to fabricating graduate employment data, and claims she was ordered to do so by her boss, the director of the of the office. Law School Transparency broke the story this afternoon:

Grant alleges that her fraud was part of a deliberate scheme by the law school’s administration to inflate its employment statistics. She also claims that her direct supervisor, Laura Weseley, former Director of Career Services, instructed her on multiple occasions to improperly record graduate employment outcomes and justified the scheme because “everybody does it” thus “it is no big deal.” TJSL could face sanctions from the American Bar Association as severe as losing accreditation.

Grant was Assistant Director of Career Services at TJSL from September 2006 to September 2007, during which she was tasked with tracking and recording employment outcomes of recent graduates. Grant is a licensed California attorney and made her sworn declaration on August 2, 2012 in connection to the class action lawsuit filed by Anna Alaburda, et al. against TJSL in 2011. (Complaint; Original Story.)

Specifically, Grant admits that she “routinely recorded currently unemployed students as ‘employed’ if they had been employed at any time since graduation,” which is a violation of both ABA and NALP reporting guidelines. Graduates should only be recorded as employed if they are employed as of February 15. Exhibit B, A handwritten note by Karen Grant from a meeting with Laura Weseley on Oct. 16, 2006.

TJSL denies both Grant’s allegation that she was ordered to falsify data, and that the data Grant submitted was false. In an email to LST, Rudy Hasl, the school’s dean, also questioned Grant’s motivations:

“The law school stands behind the accuracy of the data that we submitted to the American Bar Association.” Sources report that Grant was terminated in 2007, though when asked for clarification, Dean Hasl would not comment on internal personnel matters beyond suggesting that LST “do a due diligence analysis … including the reasons for her departure from the School of Law.”

I’ll have more on this story shortly.

A debate between the war parties

[ 56 ] October 22, 2012 |

Tonight’s debate will among other things serve as a reminder that there is no longer an anti-war party, or even anti-war wing of a party, in American politics, at least among those political parties whose existence is acknowledged by the people who define the borders of acceptable public discourse. It’s completely impossible to imagine a “serious” presidential candidate saying anything about our current wars even remotely like what George McGovern said to his fellow senators in September of 1970 regarding the Vietnam War:

Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land-young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes.”

There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes.

And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.

So before we vote, let us ponder the admonition of Edmund Burke, the great parliamentarian of an earlier day: “A contentious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.”

What the world needs now

[ 31 ] October 22, 2012 |

If you guessed “another folk singer” you are incorrect.

James Shadid, a federal judge in Peoria, IL has a dream: He wants to start a new law school at Bradley University (h/t LSTB). Now the state of Illinois already has nine law schools, and indeed the University of Illinois itself is a mere 90 miles from Peoria. So it’s not as if kids who grow up on the shores of the Illinois River have to undertake a heroic quest to reach their long-cherished goal of attendance at an actual ABA-accredited law school: a fairly short drive down I-74 will do the trick.

But it’s true that Peoria itself (pop. 115,007) doesn’t have a law school yet. This troubles Judge Shadid, who graduated from Bradley 33 years ago, and John Marshall Law School shortly after that, and who exhibits severe symptoms of Baby Boomer Delusion Syndrome. It also troubles Gary Roberts, dean of Indiana University-Indianapolis’s law school, and another Bradley alum:

[Roberts] says the absence of a law school in Peoria means not just inconvenience for local would-be students, but added expense in that they have to pay room and board to study law. And whereas wage-earners in other, bigger cities can earn law degrees at night, that’s impossible in Peoria.

“There’s this large lacuna in the middle of Illinois where people can’t afford law school,” Roberts says. Roberts says the study showed that U of I law grads tend to head to Chicago or out of state, often to seek high-paying jobs, to better pay off massive tuition loans. But if tuition were kept relatively low at a Peoria law school, grads would be less beholden to big loans and more apt to seek work hereabouts, Roberts says.

This brings to mind a headline from America’s most trusted news source.

There’s a large lacuna in the middle of Dean Roberts’ analysis, namely any evidence that there are people ready, willing, and able to pay for legal services “hereabouts” who are having difficulty securing such services because of a shortage of lawyers in the greater Peoria metropolitan area. This hypothesis is implausible in the extreme.

Another gap in the data that needs filling is the answer to the question of how many people who live in or near Peoria aren’t going to law school because, if there were a law school in Peoria, the savings produced by not having to pay for room and board would convince them to do so. Let’s do a little math here. Approximately .1% of the US population lives within a 45-minute drive of downtown Peoria. Assume this population contains an average number of potential law students. This means about 45 people who live within commuting distance of our hypothetical law school enroll in all ABA law schools in America, combined, each year.

According to Roberts, the marginal value generated by Bradley’s law school would be generated largely by the fact that it would allow people who live within a reasonable drive of Peoria, who currently aren’t enrolling in law school because of cost considerations, to choose to enroll at a new law school in Peoria because they wouldn’t have to pay room and board. (Of course these people still have to incur expenses for room and board — what Roberts means is that they won’t have to borrow money for these expenses because they will be gifted to them by long-suffering parents, or shorter-suffering domestic partners).

On average, how many people per year are going to fit this description? Three. (This is an estimate. It might be five). So the theory is that these three people per year who aren’t going to law school now because of cost will go to this new law school where they won’t have to pay living expenses, and will subsequently get jobs as lawyers in or near Peoria, thereby ameliorating the lawyer shortage in the Peoria area.

The other justification for starting yet another law school is that this school will burst the shackles of Langdellian pedagogy, by sending its third year class off into the world of legal practice:

Instead of taking classes during the third and last year, students would be placed in legal settings – with private attorneys, with county prosecutors and public defenders, or with corporations’ legal teams – to assist on real cases.

I’m no expert but I suspect it’s illegal for students to work for private attorneys or corporations for free, and that it violates ABA rules to give academic credit for paid work. Beyond that, this innovative idea is of course merely a more elaborate version of the growing trend all across legal academia to turn the third year into an outsourced apprenticeship while still collecting another year of tuition.

Now for whatever reason I’m feeling optimistic this morning, and I doubt this proposed law school is actually going to come into being. What’s interesting to me are the motivations of people like Shadid and Roberts. They don’t appear to be in any position to profit from this school, at least in any pecuniary sense. (Indeed as a dean at competing law school Roberts’ straightforward economic interest, however tenuous, would be to oppose this project).

Rather I suspect their motivations are more benign, which in a sense makes those motivations more dangerous. What’s going on here, I think, is that these Bradley alums want their alma mater to benefit from the “prestige” of having a law school. The benefits they would get from this project are psychic, which makes it easier for them to interpret their own motivations as genuinely altruistic. They really believe they would be doing their university and its surrounding community a service by starting a law school.

This idea, which to those of us who have passed over to the other side of this implicit debate is obviously insane on its face, seems to them eminently sensible. After all, look how well things have worked out for them personally. In other words, they really believe their own propaganda, which is the mark of a fully internalized ideology. And people like that are way more dangerous than self-conscious scam artists, because they have moral righteousness on their side.

George McGovern

[ 79 ] October 21, 2012 |

George McGovern has died. That McGovern suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Richard Nixon is as good example as any of everything that has gone wrong with politics in this country over the past 40 years.

Some team or the other beat the Yankees

[ 163 ] October 18, 2012 |

Having the best pitcher and hitter in baseball might have had something to do with it.

In all semi-seriousness, the ARod situation is going to be extremely awkward going forward. Traditionally, a player in this circumstance would insist on a trade and would get one, but unless NY is willing to light about $100 million of his contract on fire he can’t be traded.

UPDATE [SL] The happiest day of the year, Yankee elimination day!

Congrats to the Tigers, who I’ll be rooting for in the World Series. And I’ll also be giving $50 to Planned Parenthood, my usual bet with Howard that I’ll be doubly happy to pay up on.

In Obama’s America

[ 59 ] October 18, 2012 |

Shorter literal William Kristol:

When The Decline and Fall of the American Republic is written centuries hence, the date October 17, 2012, will occupy a prominent place in the narrative. On this day, a playoff game between the Yankees and the Tigers in Detroit was called not because of rain, but because of … the threat of rain. Just as today’s “liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism,” so, in Obama’s America, Major League Baseball cancels games not because of rain but because of trembling in the presence of the threat of rain.

OK he’s kidding.

Right?

The magic of the market

[ 67 ] October 18, 2012 |

Master of the Universe emeritus Vikram Pandit has gotten bounced from his perch as CEO of Citigroup, but, unlike most unemployed Americans, he won’t have to worry about how to pay the bills until he can find another job.

Citigroup’s stock today is worth about a tenth of what it was trading at when Pandit took over. Indeed the company exists today only because the U.S. government saw fit to deploy many billions of taxpayer dollars to keep it from going bankrupt in the fall of 2008, after Citi and friends caused a global financial meltdown through their grotesque mismanagement of their clients’ assets.

As a token of the firm’s gratitude for the role he played in all this, Pandit is walking away with approximately $260 million in compensation. (In America in 2012, this is known as “letting the market reward performance.”).

This heartwarming success story ought to be appreciated in the context of the latest statistics regarding the distribution of wealth in America. In what follows, I’ve used the consumer price index to transform all the figures into current, inflation-adjusted dollars:

*Median household income in the US was approximately $51,000 in 2011. This means half of all households lived on $4,250 per month (before taxes) or less.
*One out of five American households, or about sixty million Americans, lived on $20,000 or less, or $1,667 per month before taxes.
*Forty years ago, median household income in the US was $47,000 per year. The poorest fifth of American households lived on $19,500 or less.
*Over the past forty years, America’s gross domestic product has tripled. When taking into account population growth, this means Americans are on average more than twice as rich as they were in 1972. But the word “average” is tricky: as the old statistics joke has it, if you’ve got one foot in a campfire and the other in a bucket of ice water you are on average comfortable.

Obviously neither average American families nor poor ones are appreciably better off in economic terms than they were four decades ago: Household income for most Americans in general, and the poorer half of the population in particular, has barely budged since the early 1970s.

So where have all those trillions of dollars in increased wealth gone? Consider: in 1972 the 95th percentile of household income was $127,500. In 2011 it was $186,000. So what Paul Ryan thinks of as the very bottom rung of the “upper middle class” is doing somewhat better for itself.

But when we look at people even Mitt Romney would think of as “well off” we get a real glimpse into where all the money has gone. In the late 1970s the richest 10,000 American families had an average annual income, in 2011 dollars, of $5.8 million per year. Today this same group’s income has increased more than five times in real terms, to an average of $30 million per year (thanks to the mysterious wisdom of The Market, Vikram Pandit has been smack in the middle of this cohort).

It wasn’t always this way in America. Between 1950 and 1965 the nation’s economy boomed – but so did median family income. Indeed, every dollar of increased GDP during these years resulted in an eighty-one cent increase in median family income, which rose from under $30,000 to nearly $50,000 over that time span, where it’s been stuck ever since.

During the post-war boom, as America got rich, most Americans shared in the wealth. Over the past several decades, the nation as a whole has gotten vastly wealthier, but the vast majority of Americans have seen little or no improvement in their economic circumstances. Instead, crony capitalists like Pandit have profited from a political system that’s more interested in bailing out irresponsible financiers than it is in doing anything about the economic circumstances of people who can’t list “almost wrecked the world economy” as a professional accomplishment.

Division series previews

[ 52 ] October 12, 2012 |

Here’s LGM’s official ALDS and NLDS previews:

American League:

Baltimore v. New York:

Much as we would like to see this series pushed to five games, the Cinderella story ends with a three-game sweep by the Evil Empire. We foresee big series from ARod and Granderson in particular, while Derek Jeter racks up a range factor that brings back memories of Nap Lajoie in 1917.

Detroit v. Oakland:

This will be a tough five-gamer, with Justin Verlander making the difference for the Motowners in the first and last game of the series.

NL:

Cincinnati v. San Francisco;

Look for the Redlegs to storm out to a two game lead, only to have San Francisco push the series to a decisive fifth game, which will be taken by Cincinnati.

St. Louis v. Washington: On paper, this is an easy win for the Nationals. Baseball isn’t played on paper. St. Louis in four.

Politics as entertainment

[ 137 ] October 8, 2012 |

margie

This Andrew Sullivan post takes the view that the first debate has come close to handing the election to Romney. That claim — based largely as far as I can tell on the results of one three-day post-debate tracking poll — seems like a huge exaggeration, but it does highlight the essential absurdity of the whole “debate” rigamarole.

Obama has been president for four years. Mitt Romney is understood even by most of his supporters to be a political opportunist of the first order, who will use an occasion like one of these deeply phony infotainment pseudo-events to say whatever he needs to say to maximize his chances of getting elected.

That anyone — even what are described delicately as “low-information voters” — would base any part of their vote on a candidate’s performance (le mot juste) in one of these things is a sobering thought.

Time for another drink!

A blizzard of special snowflakes

[ 22 ] October 3, 2012 |

I have a Salon piece inspired by Erik’s Duke-bashing post.

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