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It’s been said a paranoid person is somebody who suspects what’s really going on

[ 32 ] September 11, 2012 |

That’s so funny I forgot to laugh.


Camille Andrews threatens to keep it real

[ 16 ] September 11, 2012 |

Rutgers-Camden is playing the role of Secretariat at the Belmont in this year’s Most Preposterous Law School derby:

When New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews used campaign funds to pay for a family trip to Scotland, an unusual compliance officer signed off: his wife.

Camille Andrews, a lawyer and associate dean at the Rutgers-Camden law school, also oversees legal questions about Andrews’ political spending.

So when the Democratic congressman decided in 2011 that the couple and their two daughters should fly to Edinburgh and stay in a five-star hotel for a wedding, he relied on her judgment that they could use campaign accounts to cover the $30,115 tab, according to statements in a recently unveiled ethics investigation.

You may remember Dean Andrews and Rutgers-Camden from such emails and press releases as “many [of our 2011 graduates] accepted positions with firms paying in excess of $130,000,” [“many” in this context turned out to be a term of art meaning “one”] and “we understated our graduates’ debt levels by a factor of three while claiming to be one of the biggest bargains in legal education.”

Now Andrews has dusted off her Con Law casebook, and skimmed New York Times v. Sullivan, so she could bluster to the Philadelphia Inquirer that she’s not kidding around about protecting her professional reputation, such as it is:

The wedding was for a onetime political operative Rob Andrews said he hoped to recruit to help in campaigns, so he has argued that the expenses were tied to his political work.

Details of Camille Andrews’ role emerged in a 244-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, a nonpartisan board that reviews ethics complaints and sends potential violations to the House ethics committee.

Testimony in the report, released Aug. 31, offers a revealing glimpse of the 22-year congressman, highlighting his hopes to expand his influence in the House and his reliance on a small circle of advisers, including his wife.

The trip to Edinburgh, a bustling city that blends ancient spires and an imposing castle with modern shopping and restaurants, drew the most attention from the ethics board.

Andrews, 55, decides which events to attend, he told Office of Congressional Ethics investigators. His wife determines whether campaign funds can pay for them.

That pattern held for the Scotland trip. Andrews told investigators he was “perfectly comfortable and confident” in his wife’s judgment.

“Camille serves as our compliance officer. . . . She is one of the three best lawyers I know – maybe five,” he said in a 57-minute interview with the board March 6.

“I made an evaluation and decision that I thought it was an appropriate expenditure,” Camille Andrews said in her meeting with the board.

She was referring to the $16,575 in flights to Scotland paid for by the congressman’s leadership fund.
The rest came from Andrews’ campaign account, which is used for a range of expenses as varied as $2.50 for cafeteria coffee to $1,123 in Tiffany’s purchases. Rob Andrews told investigators that the Tiffany’s items were not personal purchases and were likely gifts for a campaign donor or volunteer.

Other members of Congress have used spouses as compliance officers, said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.

“It is a conflict of interest, and it lacks all credibility,” he said . . .

Camille Andrews wrote that her husband’s responses to questions about this article “reflect my position.”

“I am not a public figure,” she wrote. “I will respond to any reports or comments that disparage me or portray me deliberately in a false professional light by pursuing appropriate legal recourse.”

I wonder what Camille Andrews teaches at Rutgers-Camden? Hmmm . . . let’s see . . . ah yes.

There are days when the jokes just write themselves.

“Bad things happen in bars”

[ 95 ] September 7, 2012 |

Judge Hatch

The Honorable Jacqueline Hatch

I’ll say.

Prosecutors contended that [Officer Evans] drank eight beers and then drove himself to the Green Room, where he flashed his badge in an attempt to get into a concert for free. While inside, he walked up behind the victim, who was a friend of a friend, put his hand up her skirt and then ran his fingers across her genitals.

When bouncers threw him out, Evans told them he was a cop and they would be arrested.

The 43-year-old former Arizona Department of Public Safety officer was facing between six months and 2 1/2 years in prison, but the crime was eligible for probation. He will not be required to register as a sex offender, according to the sentence.

The judge said she considered the defendant’s lack of a criminal record and strong community support in her sentencing.

She also advised the victim to be more vigilant.

A jury convicted Evans of sexual abuse, a class 5 felony, on July 2.

DPS fired Evans shortly after his criminal conviction and following an internal investigation, according to officials.

The judge sentencing Evans, Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch, said she hoped both the defendant and the victim would take lessons away from the case.

Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.

Mountain man

[ 156 ] September 5, 2012 |


Paul Ryan’s phony claim that he ran a sub-three hour marathon has gotten a good deal of attention. Another one of his claims regarding his feats of strength and endurance seems similarly dubious. Last week in the Denver Post John Andrews, former president of the Colorado senate and a very connected guy in GOP circles, published an op-ed in which Ryan’s physical prowess is used not merely as a metaphor but as a literal evidence of the content of his character:

[Consider] the hard-charging congressman’s love for the Colorado high country (he has climbed 40 of the state’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet) and you have the most potentially transformative VP selection since President William McKinley put Theodore Roosevelt on the ticket in 1900. (Not the genteel Roosevelt, squire of Hyde Park, but his “strenuous life” cousin who ranched in Dakota and hunted bear in Glenwood Springs.)

Why does it matter that Paul Ryan is a mountain man, at home above timberline on the fourteeners? Because there is no better index of character. It tells of someone’s backbone under pressure, resourcefulness in facing adversity, and trustworthiness for power. Conservative or liberal isn’t the point. The high peaks simply test your mettle. Declinists and defeatists need not apply. Excuses are for flatlanders.

Describing the summit approach for Capitol Peak near Aspen (14,130 feet), the Colorado Mountain Club guidebook says with jaunty understatement: “Scramble around a pinnacle or two, stroll along the knife edge,” and you’re there. Ryan told me last week that Capitol and nearby Pyramid Peak (14,018 feet) are his favorite climbs so far.

Can you imagine Vice President Joe Biden even wanting, let alone being able, to stroll the Capitol knife edge? Or forging to the top of a “very rough and steep” Pyramid, with its “precariously poised rocks” warned of in the same guidebook?

I can’t — and it’s not just that Biden always has one foot in his mouth. Nor is it merely differing leisure preferences: golf greens for the presidential incumbent, boulder fields for the would-be veep. Rather the contrast goes to the core of what the men on these two tickets expect of themselves and what they believe free Americans are capable of.

Unlike marathon times, ascents of 14ers aren’t officially recorded on the interwebs, so Ryan can keep claiming he’s climbed 40 of Colorado’s 54 14,000+ peaks, but I would bet a lot of money the real number is way lower. Just the logistics of getting to many of these mountains are daunting, requiring several hour drives from population centers. I know plenty of dedicated climbers who’ve spent years climbing Colorado peaks while actually living here year-round who are still a long way from climbing 40 of the 54.

That Ryan, who has never lived in Colorado and who has spent all of his adult life playing the political game in DC, would have found the time to climb a couple of dozen remote mountains seems extremely unlikely. What probably happened here is that he’s climbed a few 14ers, some more than once, and that he gave an exaggerated answer to a Wisconsin newspaper three years ago about having “made close to 40 climbs” of 14ers, which then morphed into the claim that he had climbed 40 14ers.

At this rate, if he hadn’t gotten busted for the marathon thing, by election day he would have been credited with free climbing K2 in the winter, with a large-print edition of Atlas Shrugged in his backpack.

Making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy

[ 89 ] August 31, 2012 |

Student loans aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy except under extraordinary circumstances. This unjust, inefficient, and socially destructive exception to the bankruptcy laws was extracted from Congress by shills for the financial industry, who in the 1970s began mounted an effective propaganda campaign based on classic Nixonland tropes about dirty hippies flipping off the man and then making millions off the system anyway etc. etc.

Getting rid of this exception is going to be a long hard political battle. A good place to start is with professional degrees in general, and law degrees in particular. The law school scam is in some ways an ideal launching pad for a campaign to make student loans dischargeable.

(1) More than any other supposedly respectable institutions of higher education, law schools have taken full advantage of the combination of federal loan financing and non-dischargeability to price-gouge naive students, through highly deceptive marketing practices, that would never be tolerated if engaged in by ordinary businesses.

(2) As a result, law school graduates carry truly extraordinary levels of student debt. A recent estimate puts the percentage of student loan debtors who carry balances of $100,000 or more in student loans as around three percent. Yet the average (mean) educational debt of people currently enrolled in law school is going to be about $150,000 at graduation.

(3) A professional degree that is a prerequisite for obtaining a license to practice that profession is a perfect candidate for discharge through bankruptcy. This is because essentially all of whatever net positive economic value that degree has is captured by whatever value it adds by enabling those who have it to obtain that professional license. This creates an opportunity for a simple, eminently fair trade: A graduate can give up his or her license to practice the profession in exchange for making the graduate’s student loans dischargeable.

Creating this opportunity would create real-world consequences for offering degrees that end up having negative net present value. (Omniscience isn’t a prerequisite for determining the net present value of an asset. A degree has negative net present value if the holder of it is at present willing to in effect give it back in return for consideration less than that which the holder paid for it. Obviously the right to discharge student loans in bankruptcy is much less valuable than actually getting your direct costs and opportunity costs incurred while attending law school refunded). In addition, allowing people to discharge student loans in exchange for renouncing their law licenses would begin to reduce the massive oversupply of lawyers in the American economy at present.

A law degree has economic value to the extent that the right to practice law has economic value. (It’s to say the least extremely unclear if a law degree is on net a positive on the typical law school graduate’s resume if that person isn’t practicing law). If holders of law degrees are willing to go to the extreme of renouncing the latter right, then what argument could there be for not allowing them to in effect treat the degree as a toxic asset, whose toxic effects should be able to be — very partially — ameliorated through bankruptcy?

“Obesity” and “homosexuality”

[ 171 ] August 28, 2012 |

I have a piece in Salon about how the concepts of “homosexuality” and “obesity” are examples of how deviance from social ideals gets medicalized, and how recognizing this requires recognizing that definitions of health and disease often have an unavoidably political component.

Update :Responding to a couple of comments:

(1) LP2 suggests that food is to the relapsing “obese” person who cannot maintain enough weight loss to become and remain non-obese as cocaine is to the relapsing drug addict. This seems to me a problematic analogy for a number of reasons. Most people who have used cocaine do not become drug addicts, and most people who eat, including most fat people, don’t become food addicts (some fat people, of course, engage in addictive behavior toward food, but so do some non-fat people). Furthermore while the person who does become addicted to cocaine can stop using cocaine, the person who has an addictive relationship to food can’t stop eating. Beyond this, saying that someone who has a BMI of 30+ is “sick” in the same way that a drug addict (as opposed to a drug user) is sick seems to me clearly wrong. So the food to fat people = drugs to drug addicts analogy doesn’t really work very well.

(2) Bijan asks if I consider anorexia a disease. Anorexia is a disease, but the problem with identifying anorexia with a particular body state, so as to make the analogy between anorexia and obesity a close one, is that defining anorexia as a certain level of thinness is both over and under-inclusive. Unfortunately the clinical definition of anorexia uses an absurdly low criterion (you have to be significantly below a BMI of 18.5, which is already in the second percentile of BMI for the population), which means that many people who have every diagnostic criteria for anorexia except for extremely low body weight aren’t clinically considered anorexic. In addition there are some very thin people who aren’t eating disordered — they’re just very thin. Again, the point is that a body state in and of itself shouldn’t be considered diseased, except in truly extreme situations.

Buzz Bissinger is off his meds

[ 21 ] August 25, 2012 |

crazy guy

Assuming this really is his Twitter account (it’s so hard to tell in this topsy-turvy pomo world). Samples of his wit and wisdom:

I put my ass out there in Newsweek. I still believe in Armstrong. Some will like. Some will hate. At least not another pussy sports writer.

Exactly the problem with this pussy-whipped country: somebody says fuck and people pass out. Then buy a gun legally shoot themselves in ass.

. . . and in response to further criticism that his discourse lacks a certain delicacy and circumspection:


I kinda sorta agree with his take on the affair Armstrong, and I’m not averse to the occasional well-placed expletive for emphasis, but referring to the U.S. of A. as “pussy-whipped” seems . . . ah fuck it.


[ 16 ] August 23, 2012 |

I have a Salon article that will be up shortly [link] on Joe Posnanski’s biography of Joe Paterno, in which I didn’t touch on any matters other than Posnanski’s handling of the Sandusky scandal (this on the theory that under current circumstances the rest of the book is an other than that how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? exercise).

But I do want to mention here what would be a big flaw if the book wasn’t already a total disaster because of the way it deals with the scandal, which is that Posnanski doesn’t actually know very much about college football. This comes out in a hundred little details, a couple of which Allen Barra mentioned yesterday. Here’s another, which in itself is no big deal but which indicates that the guy doesn’t really know the subject matter in the way you would want somebody writing the semi-official biography of Paterno to know it: In discussing the 1999 Michigan-PSU game, Posnanski refers to “Michigan’s young quarterback Tom Brady.” Young of course is a relative term — all college football players are young, so referring to a college player as young means he’s a freshman or maybe a sophomore. Brady was a fifth-year senior at the time.

There are a bunch of things in the book like this, which on an individual level are just pedantic quibbles, but which collectively are symptomatic of somebody who’s not really in control of a lot of the basics of his subject matter. This in turn is important because it allows Posnanski to uncritically swallow a bunch of nonsense about The Grand Experiment and the supposed uniqueness of PSU, which itself plays a role in leading him to draw truly preposterous judgments about Paterno’s behavior in the Sandusky matter.

How does a tax rate of zero sound?

[ 55 ] August 21, 2012 |

Is zero low enough?


[ 79 ] August 16, 2012 |


This is damn fine beer.

That is all.

Posnanski on Paterno

[ 30 ] August 15, 2012 |

GQ has an excerpt, or rather an excerpt of an excerpt, from Joe Posnanski’s biography of Joe Paterno, which I’m sorry to hear is being published next week.

Posnanski had the remarkably good luck to be invited by Paterno to spend the fall of 2011 in State College, for the purposes of giving him semi-inside access to the program as he completed his biography. Given subsequent events this would seem to require something of a re-conceptualization of the whole project (I wasn’t a big Joe Paterno fan before last November, but I would never have guessed he was a criminal sociopath).

Given that it normally takes several months to get the final text of a book from the edit to the book store, it now appears Posnanski is going to publish more or less the same book I assume he had already largely written by last November, with a grim epilogue more or less tacked on.

Oh well.

An immodest proposal

[ 37 ] August 14, 2012 |



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