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Cooley Law School and the collapse of standards in American legal education

[ 71 ] December 21, 2015 |


45 years ago Thomas Brennan had an idea. At that time Brennan was the youngest chief justice in the history of the Michigan supreme court. Brennan already had an extensive background in Michigan law and politics: back in 1955 he was the GOP candidate in a special congressional election to replace John Dingell, Sr. Brennan, who was just 26 at the time, and had already unsuccessfully run for Congress twice, was defeated by Dingell’s son John Jr., who went on to have the longest tenure of any member of Congress in US history (he retired this year).

Brennan was something of a protege of George Romney’s, which is how he ended up on the state supreme court at the age of 37. But then he got his idea, which was to found a new law school. It was a canny move, as the first baby boomers had just started flooding into legal education, and in addition women began to attend law school in significant numbers. Enrollment exploded, nearly doubling between 1968 and 1979. Thirty new law schools were approved by the ABA between 1969 and 1980. Cooley was part of this group, starting operations in 1972 and gaining ABA accreditation in 1975 (Brennan resigned from the supreme court at the end of 1973; I’m curious regarding whether he was forced to do this as a consequence of his educational adventures).

But Cooley wasn’t just any new law school. Even though the enrollment boom ended soon after Cooley got approved (the total number of law students nationally was barely higher in 2000 than it had been twenty years earlier), Cooley grew and grew. Brennan’s ambition was to create the largest law school in the country, and by 1995 Cooley’s total JD enrollment of 1,711 had it on the verge of achieving that questionable distinction.

Cooley maintained its remarkable growth rate via a simple strategy: it made itself the law school of last resort, for applicants who were unlikely to be admitted to any other ABA school. Between 1995 and 2005 it nearly doubled in size, and did indeed become the nation’s largest law school, by a wide margin. But — and this is the part of the story that highlights how much has changed in the last decade — it would have been quite inaccurate to characterize Cooley as a quasi-open enrollment institution.

Although a large percentage of Cooley’s class was made up of people who couldn’t get into another law school, a decade ago Cooley was still rejecting almost half of its applicants. That situation has since changed drastically:

Cooley percent of applicants admitted

What has happened is that, especially over the past five years, applicants with credentials which would have precluded them from getting into any ABA law school, including Cooley, suddenly have found themselves with dozens of options. Until about four years ago, an applicant with a 145 LSAT score — the 27th percentile on the test — would almost certainly be rejected by every ABA school but Cooley. Today, no less than 37 ABA schools are matriculating classes in which at least a quarter of the students have an LSAT of 145 or below.

Cooley, which for reasons that will become evident had followed a long-standing policy of rarely dipping below 144 for marticulants, suddenly saw its traditional applicant pool raided by close to 20% of all ABA schools. While the total number of applicants to law school declined by 35% between 2008 and 2015, the total number of applicants to Cooley fell by no less than 80%:

Cooley applicants

Something had to give, and what gave was any semblance of admissions standards:

Cooley LSAT

Despite going to a de facto open enrollment system, Cooley’s enrollment still crashed, declining by nearly two thirds over the past five years:

Cooley JD enrollment

The school, which had prided itself for many years on its status as one of the most “affordable” private law schools in the country (until three years ago it consistently charged about 20% less than the average private law school), tried to ameliorate the fiscal damage by raising tuition by leaps and bounds, to the point where the school now charges about 10% more than the average private school:

Cooley tuition

Since essentially all the school’s revenue is in the form of tuition, the collapse in enrollment figures has led to a very steep decline in income:

Cooley revenue

(In 2009, the school’s revenue was $22.6 million greater than its expenses, meaning that, if it were a private business, it would have had earnings equal to 21% of revenues. Of course Cooley is a “non-profit,” so among other things it didn’t have to pay any taxes on that surplus).

Last summer Cooley fired nearly 60% of its full-time faculty.

What all this signifies in regard to legal education’s present and future will be the subject of another post.


That joke’s not funny any more

[ 181 ] December 18, 2015 |

hulk hogan

Who is endorsing Donald Trump for president? It’s a motley crew (Use of stock phrase is not intended to imply an endorsement from Motley Crue.)

U.S. Representatives (former)

Virgil Goode of Virginia (former; also presidential candidate in 2012)

Executive branch officials (former)

Jeff Lord, former White House associate political director for the Reagan administration (1987–88)

State legislators

Two Alabama State Representatives: Ed Henry, Jim Carns
Two Georgia State Senators: Burt Jones, Michael Williams
Iowa State Senator: Brad Zaun
Nine New Hampshire State Representatives: Jenn Coffey (former), Fred Doucette, Lou Gargiulo (former), Werner Horn, Paula Johnson (former),Joe Pitre, Stephen Stepanek (Deputy Majority Leader),Dan Tamburello, Joshua Whitehouse
New Jersey State Senator: Michael J. Doherty
Two Oklahoma State Senators: Ralph Shortey, Mark Allen
Three Oklahoma State Representatives: Mike Christian, John R. Bennett, Mike Turner (former)
South Carolina State Senator: John Russell (former, also former rep, son of former Governor Donald S. Russell)
South Carolina State Representative: James H. Merrill (former Majority Leader)


Carl Icahn, billionaire activist investor
Robert Kiyosaki, businessman and author of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series of books. Authored two business books with Donald Trump.
Charles Kushner, real estate developer and co-owner of Kushner Properties
Jared Kushner, businessman, co-owner of Kushner Properties, owner of The New York Observer, son-in-law of the candidate
Nancy Mace, businesswoman and author
Willie Robertson, businessman, CEO of Duck Commander, star of Duck Dynasty
Phil Ruffin, businessman and partner of Trump Hotel Las Vegas
Dana White, businessman and president of Ultimate Fighting Championship

International political figures

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and leader of United Russia
Matteo Salvini, Italian MEP and leader of Lega Nord
Geert Wilders, Dutch MP and leader of the Party for Freedom


New England Police Benevolent Association

Celebrities, commentators, and activists

Stephen Baldwin, actor
Zoltan Bathory, guitarist of Five Finger Death Punch
Dan Bilzerian, professional poker player (previously endorsed Rand Paul)
Conrad Black, Canadian-born British former newspaper publisher and author.
Gary Busey, actor
Ann Coulter, political commentator and writer
Adam Curry, political commentator and former MTV VJ
Robert Davi, actor, singer, and director
Mike Ditka, retired NFL player and coach and television commentator
Lou Ferrigno, actor and bodybuilder
Jim Gilchrist, leader and co-founder of the Minuteman Project
Hulk Hogan, professional wrestler, actor, television personality, entrepreneur, and musician
William Daniel Johnson, chairman and cofounder of the American Freedom Party
Alex Jones, radio host (previously endorsed Rand Paul)
Charlotte Laws, TV host and author
Matt Light, retired NFL offensive tackle
Gavin McInnes writer, creative director, actor, comedian, and co-founder of Vice Media.
Wayne Newton, entertainer and singer
Ted Nugent, musician, singer-songwriter and political activist
Terrell Owens, retired NFL wide receiver and television personality
Trisha Paytas, YouTube personality and entertainer
Dennis Rodman, retired professional basketball player and television personality
Michael Savage, radio host (before Trump announced, Savage endorsed Ted Cruz and Rand Paul)
Tila Tequila, model, actress and television personality
Ivana Trump, ex-wife of the candidate, socialite and former athlete and fashion model
Mike Tyson, professional boxer
Herschel Walker, retired NFL running back
Chris Weidman, former UFC middleweight champion
Milo Yiannopoulos, British journalist and entrepreneur

Peak law school?

[ 29 ] December 17, 2015 |


One of the curiosities of current debates about tuition increases, both at American law schools and in higher education in general, is that there’s very little if any understanding of how much tuition rose in real terms in the 1950s and 1960s. In the case of law schools, average private law school tuition actually went up faster, in percentage terms, than it has over the past 30 years. Of course the increases in recent decades have been from a radically higher baseline:

Private law school tuition 2014

I’ve only collected data on public law school resident tuition since the mid-1970s, but average tuition levels were still barely more than nominal at that time, and remained so well into the 1980s:

Public law school tuition 2014


(1) The very rapid rise of private law school tuition in the 1950s and 1960s took place in the context of steadily rising median incomes during these years. Since the 1970s median incomes have remained practically flat.

(2) Any criticism of the cost structure of higher education is sure to produce a bunch of nonsense about “Baumol’s cost disease” from defenders of the status quo. In fact per capita faculty compensation has fallen sharply since the 1970s. For idiosyncratic reasons this hasn’t been true for law schools in particular, but it would be perfectly possible to cut entry level law professor compensation in half with little or no loss of quality. As anyone who has any experience with the hiring market recently is well aware, huge numbers of superbly qualified job candidates, both in traditional legal academic and more pragmatic terms, are finding it impossible to get a job.

(3) The current cost structure of legal education features fantastic levels of successful rent-seeking. If we measure the pedagogic quality of law school by the extent to which it prepares people to become licensed attorneys, there is no evidence that, over the past 40 years, the quadrupling of tuition at private law schools, and seven-fold increase in resident tuition at public schools has produced any quality improvements whatsoever. This is illustrated by the fact that scores on the Multi-State Bar Exam — a scaled and equated test, meaning the scores from which account for changes in the ability of test takers — are actually lower now than they have been at almost any time in the past 40 years.

(4) Econ 101 says that, all things being equal, firms that radically raise prices without commensurate improvements in quality will be immediately undercut by competitors, who will seize market share via lower prices. Econ 201, 301 etc., points out that this model of economic behavior is way too simple. In areas such as higher education, information gaps, Veblen effects, and the like cause potential tuition payers to treat price as a straightforward proxy for quality. This helps explain why every single private law school in the country is now charging vastly more in constant dollars than Harvard and Yale were charging 30 years ago, even though it seems safe to assume that Harvard and Yale Law Schools were providing acceptable-quality legal educations at that time.

(5) All this aside, there is some evidence that Peak Law School is now in the historical rear view mirror. Sticker tuition increased by “only” 5% in constant dollars between 2010 and 2014, while at the same time the percentage of students paying full freight at private law schools plummeted from 48% to 36%. This suggests that, over the past five years, effective per capita tuition has actually declined. Since overall JD enrollment has declined by 23% over this time, law schools on average are pulling in around 25% less in tuition than they were in 2010. (On average is a deceptive term here, as elite law schools are pulling in more tuition than ever, while a school like Thomas Cooley, which has seen enrollment fall 65% over the past five years, is probably getting less than half as much out of its student loan conduits as it was in 2010). Once again, if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

Man engaging in legal theft also indulges in the illegal kind

[ 66 ] December 17, 2015 |



A boyish drug company entrepreneur, who rocketed to infamy by jacking up the price of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750, was arrested by federal agents at his Manhattan home early Thursday morning on securities fraud related to a firm he founded.

Martin Shkreli, 32, ignited a firestorm over drug prices in September and became a symbol of defiant greed. The federal case against him has nothing to do with pharmaceutical costs, however. Prosecutors in Brooklyn charged him with illegally taking stock from Retrophin Inc., a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, and using it to pay off debts from unrelated business dealings. He was later ousted from the company, where he’d been chief executive officer, and sued by its board.

In the case that closely tracks that suit, federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of engaging in a complicated shell game after his defunct hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management, lost millions. He is alleged to have made secret payoffs and set up sham consulting arrangements. A New York lawyer, Evan Greebel, was also arrested early Thursday. He’s accused of conspiring with Shkreli in part of the scheme.

Yet more inspiring tales from the New Gilded Age:

Shkreli initially responded to the criticism by saying he would lower the Daraprim price and then changed his mind again. When Hillary Clinton tried one more time last month to get him to cut the cost, he dismissed her with the tweet “lol.” At a Forbes summit in New York this month, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, he said if he could have done it over, “I probably would have raised the price higher,” adding, “my investors expect me to maximize profits.”

In fact, it is not only his drug pricing that has turned him into an object of public derision. He recently spent millions on the only copy of a Wu-Tang Clan album that music fans would love to hear and then told Bloomberg Businessweek that he had no immediate plans to listen to it. He spars often on Twitter and message boards, parading his business strategies, musical tastes and politics; he live-streams from his office for long stretches.

What’s the deal with Star Wars?

[ 567 ] December 16, 2015 |

star wars

Updated below

When near the beginning of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Capt. Willard is given his assignment to terminate Col. Kurtz’s command, his mission is explained to him by an officer played by Harrison Ford. The officer’s name is never mentioned, but the name tag on his uniform is “G. Lucas.”

Apparently George Lucas was originally slated to direct the film, and had some involvement in the early stages of its development. Apocalypse Now was released in 1979, in the wake of the phenomenal success of Lucas’s first Star Wars movie, and it’s hard to say if the name of Ford’s character is a respectful nod or a sardonic comment on Coppola’s part (the general in this scene tells Willard that “sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature.'”).

The release of the seventh installment in the Star Wars series is being greeted by rave reviews. Many of these reviews note that the previous four films in the series varied in quality from really bad to utterly wretched, which would make this the first good Star Wars movie since the Carter presidency.

“Good” of course is a relative concept. The first two Star Wars films were entertaining semi-Sci Fi action films, but nobody would ever confuse either of them with anything that had serious aesthetic ambitions. The characters were thoroughly cartoonish, the writing was often sophomoric, and the plots were hackneyed in the extreme. They were fun movies, and certainly charming in their own unpretentious way, but comparing Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back to films like 2001 or Blade Runner would be like comparing John Grisham to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Which raises an obvious question: How did Star Wars become such a big deal, culturally speaking? Why does the franchise — which again, even most of its biggest fans admit consists of four pretty terrible movies out of six total — have such a vast and fanatical following? Why, for example, is Cass Sunstein, of all people, writing a book about Star Wars?

I have my own thoughts on the matter, but I would like to hear from LGM’s vast and fanatical fan base.

Updated: After reading all 391 comments, I’ve been reminded of all the reasons to love the original SW movies for what they are — in many ways brilliantly crafted pieces of pop culture (I don’t buy the Joseph Campbell stuff). Among other things I should have mentioned the music in the OP, which as Bianca Steele says is a kind of bubblegum Wagner, and extraordinarily effective. The passage of time has made the films iconic, and perhaps this new one will, unlike the wretched prequels, add to the affection so many people feel for Lucas’s original creations.

Entering law school class smallest since 1973

[ 40 ] December 15, 2015 |

academy award

The ABA released 2015 enrollment stats today. A few high or low lights:

*Total first year enrollment this fall was 37,058, which is almost exactly the same number of 1Ls who enrolled in the fall of 1973. There were, however, 151 ABA-approved law schools at that time, meaning the average entering first year class had 245 students. Now there are 204 such schools, meaning the average entering first year class has 182 students.

*152,831 first years enrolled between 2009 and 2011. Over the last three years, total first year enrollment was 114,627. This is a decline of exactly 25%. Applicant totals were down 29.9%.

*Total JD enrollment this fall is 113,900. This is the lowest total since 1977.

*The last time fewer men enrolled in law school than this fall was probably 1962.

*This year’s Scamblog Sinverguenza Award — known affectionately to members of the academy as “the Cooley” — goes to none other than LGM favorite Steve Diamond’s Santa Clara Law School, which, undaunted by the raging dumpster fire that is the market for entry-level attorneys in California in general, and the Bay Area in particular, increased the size of its first-year class by an impressive 69%. It achieved this feat, in part, by becoming the newest member of the exclusive 75/25 club. These are law schools that have slashed admissions standards to the point that the 25th percentile LSAT for their entering class five years ago is now higher than the 75th percentile for their current entering class. A quarter of SCU’s 2010 entering class had an LSAT of 158 or lower, while today a quarter of the entering class has an LSAT of 157 or higher. SCU’s California bar passage rate fell by 22% between 2011 and 2014, and, given that the bottom quarter of the 2014 graduating class had similar credentials to the top quarter of the entering class of 2015, that percentage is likely to go a good deal lower.

Congratulations Santa Clara!

Sandy Hook and the paranoid style

[ 230 ] December 15, 2015 |


At the beginning of his famous 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter makes clear that he is using the word “paranoid” in a loose or perhaps metaphorical sense, rather than making a literal psychiatric claim:

I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. [Emphasis added]

It’s of course potentially very dangerous to classify political or other types of dissent as forms of mental illness, and repressive regimes have abused the language and methods of psychiatry to sanction dissenters. So Hofstadter’s squeamishness in this regard is probably a good thing.

On the other hand, some dissenters from conventional belief are in fact certifiable lunatics, or would be if we still certified lunatics instead of dumping them on our city streets.

Consider the case of James Tracy, a tenured professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University, who has become convinced that the Sandy Hook mass murder of 20 schoolchildren and six staff members was an elaborate hoax:

Nobody Died at Sandy Hook
James Tracy, Ph.D.

The attack upon me and Jim Fetzer, Ph.D., McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth, is only the latest in an ongoing campaign to conceal the deception known as “Sandy Hook”. In a December 10 opinion piece published by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel Lenny and Veronique Pozner seek to intimidate my employer into firing me because of the extensive research several academics, including Fetzer and myself, have done on the Sandy Hook massacre.

The Pozners write:

The FAU Academic Affairs Faculty Handbook clearly states that “A faculty member’s activities which fall outside the scope of employment shall constitute misconduct only if such activities adversely affect the legitimate interests of the University.”

Do “the legitimate interests of the university” include the pursuit of truth?

As the new book, NOBODY DIED AT SANDY HOOK (2015) demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt, the school had been closed by 2008, which means there were no children there for Adam Lanza to have shot.

The book—-which presents hundreds of proofs that the shootings at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES) on 14 December 2012, was a staged, elaborate hoax—-enjoyed brisk sales of around 500 copies since Amazon initially offered it on October 22nd of this year. But it was abruptly removed–banned–by Amazon on November 19th, despite nearly 80 reviews.

The Pozners would like you to believe that Jim Fetzer and I are the only Sandy Hook researchers to conclude that it was an elaborate hoax, but the book has thirteen (13) contributors—six (6) current or retired Ph.D. professors as well as a half-dozen other experts—including a Los Angeles school safety expert, Paul Preston, who consulted his contacts in the Obama Department of Education to confirm that it was a drill, that no one had died and that it had been done to promote gun control.

Tracy’s mania (based on the principle of interpretive charity I will assume he is insane) has led him to harass the parents of at least one of the murdered Sandy Hook children:

“Although many of these tormentors persecute us behind anonymous online identities, some do so openly and even proffer their professional credentials in an attempt to lend credence to their allegations,” Lenny and Veronique Pozner wrote. “In this piece we want to focus on someone who is chief among the conspiracy theorists — Florida Atlantic University Professor James Tracy.”

According to the Pozners, the Florida professor has engaged in a campaign of harassment against them, including sending them a certified letter demanding proof that their son ever existed.

“Tracy is among those who have personally sought to cause our family pain and anguish by publicly demonizing our attempts to keep cherished photos of our slain son from falling into the hands of conspiracy theorists,” they wrote. “Tracy even sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. We found this so outrageous and unsettling that we filed a police report for harassment. Once Tracy realized we would not respond, he subjected us to ridicule and contempt on his blog, boasting to his readers that the ‘unfulfilled request’ was ‘noteworthy’ because we had used copyright claims to ‘thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event.’”

Tracy has also suggested that the Boston Marathon bombing may have been staged by the government.

What, if anything, should FAU do about this? Note that Tracy’s claims are based on his professional expertise: his academic bio says that his work examines “the relationship between commercial and alternative news media and socio-political issues and events,” and he teaches a class entitled “Culture of Conspiracy.” He’s not the equivalent of a chemistry professor who posts Holocaust denial craziness on the internet in his spare time: he’s much more akin to a history professor who comes to believe that the Holocaust didn’t really happen, and that the conventional account of the event is the product of an international Zionist conspiracy.

I’m not suggesting there’s an easy answer to this question, but I do think it should be asked.

For he is the Kwisatz Haderach

[ 166 ] December 14, 2015 |


Although that does sound suspiciously Syrian.

Dr. Bornstein, M.D., F.A.C.G.:

If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest ego individual ever elected to the presidency.

Further affiant sayeth naught.

The latest Monmouth University Poll finds Donald Trump building a commanding national lead in the race for the Republican nomination.

When Republicans and Republican-leaning voters are asked who they would support for the GOP nomination forpresident, Donald Trump leads the pack at 41%. Ted Cruz (14%), Marco Rubio (10%), and Ben Carson (9%) are far behind. All of the other ten candidates tested poll in the low single digits, including Jeb Bush (3%), JohnKasich (3%), Chris Christie (2%), Carly Fiorina (2%), Mike Huckabee (2%), and Rand Paul (2%). All but Huckabee have been invited to the main stage for tomorrow’s debate.

Affirmative action, judicial activism, and original intent

[ 60 ] December 11, 2015 |


A few observations on the Fisher king:

From a historical perspective, the claim that courts ought to use the 14th Amendment to strike down democratically adopted affirmative action programs looks like the rawest sort of judicial activism. It is, in other words, exactly the kind of thing conservatives have spent the last several decades decrying, whenever it resulted in the invalidation of laws they liked.

Now that this same procedure is being used to invalidate laws conservatives don’t like, what used to be “judicial activism” suddenly becomes enforcing the constitutional rights of discriminated-against Americans — in this case, white people — against the mob rule of biased legislatures.

That Justice Scalia can reconcile his supposed opposition to judicial activism and his supposed fidelity to originalist interpretation with his willingness to declare affirmative action programs unconstitutional is a nice illustration of the human mind’s ability to tolerate cognitive dissonance, and the human soul’s ability to tolerate rank hypocrisy.

At least he can still buy a gun

[ 116 ] December 10, 2015 |



A RIGHT-WING BLOG called “Pajamas Media” published an article on November 24 claiming that Saadiq Long, a Muslim American veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was arrested in Turkey for being an ISIS operative. Written by Patrick Poole, a professional anti-Muslim activist and close associate of Frank Gaffney, the article asserted that Long “finds himself and several family members sitting in a Turkish prison — arrested earlier this month near the Turkey-Syria border as members of an ISIS cell.” Its only claimed sources were anonymous: “U.S. and Turkish officials confirmed Long’s arrest to PJ Media, saying that he was arrested along with eight others operating along the Turkish-Syrian border. So far, no U.S. media outlet has reported on his arrest.”

Long’s purported arrest as an ISIS operative was then widely cited across the internet by Fox News as well as right-wing and even non-ideological news sites. Predictably, the story was uncritically hailed by the most virulent anti-Muslim polemicists: Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Ann Coulter, and Sam Harris. Worst of all, it was blasted as a major news story by network TV affiliates and other local media outlets in Oklahoma, where Long is from and where his family — including his sister and ailing mother — still reside.

But the story is entirely false: a fabrication. Neither Long nor his wife or daughter have been arrested on charges that he joined ISIS. He faces no criminal charges of any kind in Turkey.

Instead, he and his family are being detained at the Geri Gonderme Merkezi deportation center in Erzurum, Turkey, evidently because he was placed years ago by the U.S. on its no-fly list. And the U.S. Embassy in Ankara has been working continually with Long’s family to secure his release, and, if he chooses, his return to the U.S.

A press officer with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, who asked to be identified only as “a State Department official,” contradicted the Pajamas Media claim. “We are aware of Mr. Long’s case and are providing consular assistance. At this time, we are not aware that he has been formally charged with a crime,” the official told The Intercept.

The Turkish government would not comment on the record, but a Turkish source with substantial connections to law enforcement agencies in Gaziantep also told The Intercept that Long has not been arrested, but is merely being held for deportation.

Long received substantial media attention in late 2012, when he was told he would not be permitted to board a flight from Qatar, where he lived, to travel to the U.S. to visit his ailing mother. When he arrived at the airport in Doha, he was told by an airlines representative he had been secretly placed on the U.S. government’s no-fly list (The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, then with The Guardian, was the first to report on that story, writing an article about Long’s situation after interviewing him in Doha; Long was then interviewed on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show, along with his attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR).

Two weeks after that wave of media stories in 2012, the U.S. government issued a waiver from the no-fly list and permitted him to fly to the U.S. But he was once again denied boarding rights 10 weeks later when he attempted to fly from the U.S. back to Qatar, forcing him to take a bus to Mexico in order to get home. His situation became a case study in the injustices of the secret, due process-free no-fly list aimed overwhelmingly at Muslims. The Pajamas Media report trumpeted this angle in its headline:

MSNBC’s “No-Fly List Is Islamophobia” Poster Boy Arrested in Turkey as Part of ISIS Cell

Speaking of Sam Harris, it would be nice if the celebrators of “reason” and “science” against “superstition” and “fanaticism” were a little more reasonable and scientific, or even just bothered to google around a bit before opining on subjects which they actually know nothing about. Here’s Harris on how suicide bombing is supposedly an almost uniquely Islamic phenomenon:

We can also look outside the Muslim world to see that injustice and inequality rarely produces this kind of extraordinarily destructive behavior. Many countries in Latin America have legitimate grievances against the U.S. Where are the Guatemalan suicide bombers? Where are the Cherokee suicide bombers, for that matter? If oppression were enough, the Tibetans should have been practicing suicidal terrorism against the Chinese for decades. Instead, they practice self–immolation, for reasons that are totally understandable within the context of their own religious beliefs. Again, specific beliefs matter, and we deny this at our peril. If the behavior of Muslim suicide bombers should tell us anything, it’s that certain people really do believe in martyrdom. Let me be very clear about this: I’m not talking about all (or even most) Muslims—I’m talking about jihadists. But all jihadists are Muslim. If even 1 percent of the world’s Muslims are potential jihadists, we have a terrible problem on our hands. I’m not sure how we deal with 16 million aspiring martyrs—but lying to ourselves about the nature of the problem doesn’t seem like the best strategy.

Here’s the beginning of a recent interview with Robert Pape, who is probably the world’s leading expert on suicide bombing:

Your 2005 book, Dying to Win, documents a number of remarkable findings about suicide terrorism. Who are suicide terrorists, and what are they after?

Pape: For the most part they’re responding to the military occupation of a community that they care a lot about.

I put together the first complete data set of suicide attacks after 9/11. I did that because, like many people who come into suicide terrorism, I thought I was going to figure out when an Islamic fundamentalist goes from being a devout, observant Muslim to somebody who then is suicidally violent. But there was no data available, so I put together this complete database of suicide attacks around the world from the early 1980s to 2003.

I was really struck that half the suicide attacks were secular. I began to look at the patterns and I noticed that they were tightly clustered, both in where they occurred and the timing, and that 95 percent of the suicide attacks were in response to a military occupation.

And military occupation matters because it represents not exactly how many soldiers are on a piece of soil, but rather control of the local government, the local economic system, and the local social system. . . What you’re seeing with not all, but most, suicide terrorists is a response to loss of self-determination for their local community.

Happiness is a warm gun

[ 109 ] December 9, 2015 |


Matthew Short of Come and Take It and friend.

What could possibly go wrong?

Gun rights groups say they will conduct a mock mass shooting this weekend at the University of Texas campus as they try to end gun-free zones.

The Open Carry Walk and Crisis Performance Event will involve actors “shot” by perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons, said Matthew Short, a spokesman for the gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and

“It’s a fake mass shooting, and we’ll use fake blood,” he said. He said gun noises will be blared from bullhorns. Other people will then play the role of rescuers, also armed with cardboard weapons.

He said the group was not seeking any sort of permit for the event from Austin or UT. University officials were not immediately available for comment.

“Criminals that want to do evil things and commit murder go places where people are not going to be able to stop them,’ he said. “When seconds count, the cops are minutes away.”

Asked if he was worried the demonstration, which will be preceded by a walk through Austin with loaded weapons might appear in bad taste following the mass shootings in San Bernardino and Paris, Short said: “Not at all. People were able to be murdered people because no one was armed.”

Gun rights activists voice their opinion in a rally held by anti-carry gun protestors as they gathered on the West Mall of the University of Texas campus to oppose a new state law that expands the rights of concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons on public college campuses. Starting August 1, 2016, permitted gun holders can carry in campus buildings although schools can however designate limited gun-free zones.

Loaded weapons are currently not allowed on UT campus, but that will change next August when the new campus carry law goes into effect. The law will allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns into dorms, classrooms and other public university buildings, though universities may draft some campus-specific rules that may include limited gun-free zones.

Critics of the law have urged UT to take a highly restrictive approach, prompting the pushback from gun rights groups.

“We want criminals to fear the public being armed,” Short said. “An armed society is a polite society.”

“We love freedom and we’re trying to make more freedom,” he said.

The organizers of Gun Free UT, an organization supported by thousands of UT students and faculty that aims to keep guns out of the UT campus, were not immediately available for comment.

The infantilization of American politics

[ 93 ] December 6, 2015 |

trump with children

There, in those words, is his campaign. I am strong; politicians are weak. I speak truth and never retreat; they lie and wave the white flag to our foes. They have stripped us bare; I will build us back, make this country feared the whole world over. Everything he utters is a version of this, dressed in different raiment or reference — and he’s saying it to people, his “silent majority,” who have longed to hear these words since Richard Nixon. “He’s delivering a message of power and courage without any proof points called policy,” says Steve Schmidt, the Republican wise man and campaign warhorse who’s been watching Trump with mounting fascination. “A huge chunk of conservatives are unmoored from the issues.”

September 2015

“We look to our president as commander-in-chief and, at a time like this, as comforter-in-chief,” [Meygn Kelly] said to guest Charles Krauthammer. “And I don’t mean to say that this is the same as 9/11, but this is a terrorist attack, the FBI tells us it’s so.”

“So where is he?” Kelly asked. “And why isn’t he coming on camera tonight to address the nation.”

December 2015

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”

President Obama is giving a speech to the nation tonight. The choice of the Oval Office as the venue was no doubt made to emphasize the seriousness of the occasion. The topic is terrorism, with special reference to the threat of the sort of homegrown do-it-yourself jihadism that the San Bernardino attack apparently represented.

Rational risk assessment indicates that the latter threat is nearly non-existent, as it has killed a total of 45 people in the last 14 years — three less than have died at the hands of extremist right-wingers.

45 deaths over 14 years in a country of 320 million people represents such a tiny risk that focusing on it as some sort of special threat is both absurd as a matter of statistics and, practically speaking, utterly perverse, since it’s precisely that focus that gives what political power the perpetrators of such attacks gain by undertaking them.

Purveyors of the politics of hysteria respond that the threat is “growing,” which of course is, again practically speaking, impossible to say, given that these are such radically low probability events. In any case what would a “growing” threat constitute in this circumstance? America could endure a San Bernardino-type massacre every two weeks, and the resulting deaths still wouldn’t equal the total number of children who drown in swimming pools every year.

But on one level all this is irrelevant. People have a deep desire to “feel safe,” and they look — or are told to look — to political daddy figures of one kind or another to satisfy this need. Fascism, with its overt celebration of irrational feeling over intellect, and of the Strong Leader who exploits the former while openly despising the latter, is the ideology that is most congenial to the politics of moral panic.

At the moment Americans need to feel less and think more, but, also at the moment, this isn’t a message that any politician is likely to calculate is in his or her best interest to deliver.

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