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Mysteries of depression

[ 181 ] September 26, 2014 |

Four years ago, one of the best students I’ve had in 24 years of law teaching killed himself, a year to the day after graduating. This suicide, and what I eventually discovered about the events that led to it, played a key role in pushing me toward first educating myself regarding, and then trying to do something about, the law school crisis.

One thing I learned is that depression is apparently epidemic among both law students and lawyers. As I’ve written elsewhere:

(1) Law students are no more prone to depression than anyone else before starting law school. In the course of law school they develop both clinical and sub-clinical depression at extraordinarily high rates, so that by the time they are 3Ls they are roughly ten times more likely to be in these categories than they were prior to entering law school.

(2) Rates of depression among practicing attorneys are also very high. For instance, a 1990 Johns Hopkins study looked at depression in 104 occupational groups. Lawyers ranked first.

(3) These findings are remarkably consistent across studies, and have remained so for several decades.

(4) Although there is as of yet little work on what effect recent changes in the legal profession are having on these outcomes, the primary environmental cause of depression appears to be stress, which suggests an already serious problem is likely to be getting worse.

Why are law students and lawyers so prone to develop depression? The literature suggests numerous causes, most of which have something to do with the effects of an intensely hierarchical, competitive, emotionally cold, and high-stress environment, in which people are socialized to obsess on external status markers and to minimize or ignore things such as learning for its own sake, doing intrinsically valuable work, and maintaining healthy personal relationships.

Depression is a mysterious disease, and for me that mystery was if anything deepened by reading recently William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, his harrowing account of how an episode of deep depression took him to the brink of suicide. Styron’s account is both powerful and eloquent, but ultimately it left me with more questions than answers about this terrible illness. One very useful aspect of the book, for me, was that it conveyed what an inadequate and ultimately misleading word “depression” is to describe the phenomenon, at least in its more ferocious forms.

“Melancholia” would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a bland tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness. It may be that the scientist generally held responsible for its currency in modern times, a Johns Hopkins Medical School faculty member justly venerated–the Swiss-born psychiatrist Adolf Meyer- -had a tin ear for the finer rhythms of English and therefore was unaware of the semantic damage he had inflicted by offering”depression” as a descriptive noun for such a dreadful and raging disease. Nonetheless, for over seventy-five years
the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing, by its very insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control.

As one who has suffered from the malady in extremis yet returned to tell the tale, I would lobby for a truly arresting designation.

“Brainstorm, ” for instance, has unfortunately been preempted to describe, somewhat jocularly, intellectual inspiration. But something along these lines is needed. Told that someone’s mood disorder has evolved into a storm- -a veritable howling tempest in the brain, which is indeed what a clinical depression resembles like nothing else-even the uninformed layman might display sympathy rather than the standard reaction that “depression” evokes, something akin to “So what?” or “You’ll pull out of it” or “We all have bad days.” The phrase “nervous
breakdown” seems to be on its way out, certainly deservedly so, owing to its insinuation of a vague spinelessness, but we still seem destined to be saddled with “depression” until a better, sturdier name is created.

For someone who, at least until now, has been lucky enough to ponder serious depression strictly from a distance, but who wants to understand it as best he can, Styron’s book was both of great value, and a spur to try to learn more. I’d appreciate any suggestions commenters might have regarding other resources for helping to encourage a qualitative, as opposed to a merely statistical, understanding of this illness.

Every true story has an anticlimax

[ 47 ] September 25, 2014 |

simon

I’m personally observing erev Derek Jeter’s Farewell Game by re-reading Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”

Understand that we were a crowd of rational people. We knew that a home run cannot be produced at will; the right pitch must be perfectly met and luck must ride with the ball. Three innings before, we had seen a brave effort fail. The air was soggy; the season was exhausted. Nevertheless, there will always lurk, around a corner in a pocket of our knowledge of the odds, an indefensible hope, and this was one of the times, which you now and then find in sports, when a density of expectation hangs in the air and plucks an event out of the future.

Fisher, after his unsettling wait, was wide with the first pitch. He put the second one over, and Williams swung mightily and missed. The crowd grunted, seeing that classic swing, so long and smooth and quick, exposed, naked in its failure. Fisher threw the third time, Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.

Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted “We want Ted” for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.

This is the kind of moment that, much to the regret of ESPN et.al., can’t be scripted — the combination of the spontaneously perfect athletic feat, and the presence of the then-unknown great writer in the stands.

Updike’s essay also features a revelatory number: 10,454. That was the attendance at Ted Williams’ last home game of his career — and Updike even notes that he and most of the rest of the crowd were there primarily to see the greatest player of his generation one last time.

These are the good old days?

Minus 995 words

[ 111 ] September 25, 2014 |

Chart from Piketty’s/Saez’s latest data:

piketty

Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash accelerates

[ 335 ] September 24, 2014 |

Updated below

Most LGM readers are familiar with Leiter’s history of cyber-harassment and sock puppetry, so it should come as no surprise that lots of people in the world of academic philosophy are fed up* with his increasingly bizarre bullying.

*The statement of support for Carrie Jenkins (which has now been signed by 149 colleagues and counting) has been temporarily moved to another site, because someone (“no one knows who” — Hyman Roth) lodged a complaint with Google, claiming that the original site violated Google’s terms of service (which apparently include an agreement not to criticize Brian Leiter). Edit: The complaint against the original site has failed. It is now up again.

I’ll just add a few notes to a record that pretty much speaks for itself:

(1) A remarkable number of the targets of Leiter’s cyber-bulling in the world of academic philosophy are women, especially considering the extent to which the field continues to be dominated by men. These two facts are probably connected in some mysterious way, which perhaps the tools made available to us by analytical philosophy could help unpack.

(2) Leiter apparently loves to try to silence critics in the philosophy world with threats of defamation suits. Amusingly, this illustrates the extent to which he longs to play pretend lawyer, although it would be irresponsible not to speculate regarding whether he could even file a motion without professional assistance. He also seems remarkably sensitive (this is a rhetorical phrase; there’s nothing remarkable about it) to claims that he’s not really a philosopher, since he doesn’t have a joint appointment in a philosophy department. All this reminds me of somebody or the other’s remark to the effect that while formerly there were philosophers, today we must make do with professors of philosophy.

(3) Leiter’s current professional aspiration appears to be to end up as crazy as Nietzsche became, without the intermediate period of being an interesting thinker.

. . . if you have a strong stomach, check out the craven message Leiter sent to Carrie Jenkins, when he began to suspect that his latest vendetta wasn’t going to turn out well for him.

Update: The comment thread has dozens of excellent remarks; I wanted to highlight this one from Aimai, regarding why Leiter’s cyber-stalking of Carrie Jenkins is so invidious:

Her original post, which essentially celebrated her happy ascension to being a professor in a treasured field, was instantly stalked and trolled and attacked by a prominent professional in her field who put her on notice that nothing she wrote or published would happen without his eye falling on it, that whatever she wrote could be construed as legally actionable, that he would be watching her to make sure that she steered clear of the sin of ever impinging on his gaping wound of an ego. In other words: she’s minding her own business and an important, touchy, asshole turns out to be stalking her and turning her private and professional life into a legal cause of action.

In an instant she went from being a person celebrating and engaging with her field and her colleagues into, apparently, the enemy of a person with zero sense of proportionality and restraint–a person so narcissistic that they go out of their way to threaten legal action against a perfect stranger for a perfectly innocuous post that doesn’t reference Leiter at all.

Like all women she is instantly advised not to engage with her attacker/bully but to “ignore” him and to take actions (like filtering her emails) which might cause her to re-engage with him or provoke him. In other words she is to change her behavior in order to stop drawing his attention and if she finds that difficult to do–like “remembering to forget about the camel’s left knee” well, she’s no different than any other person who is told to continually steer around an obstacle while pretending the obstacle doesn’t exist.

And the proof that she needs to do that is in the second interaction when her innocuous tweet to a third party creates an opening that Leiter exploits to draw her back into an interaction and to imply that all her thoughts and writings and interactions exist only in reference to Leiter.

The guy is absolutely like a stalker and an ex–someone who forces an interaction onto you and then monitors you and your social media to make sure that he still matters to you.

. . . and a very nice summary from Nobdy:

Leiter appears to have lucked into power and influence just by doing something crass and simplistic that nobody thought to do before BECAUSE it was crass and simplistic but that gained an audience because even philosophers are apparently prone to wanting easy well-defined answers even if they are wrong.

At first blush he appears to be quite arrogant about this tiny accomplishment of being willing to oversimplify, but in reality it appears that he is aware of having accomplished nothing and is wracked by insecurity. His constant fretting about and threats re: his reputation reveal that he is terrified of being seen as the fraud he really is, and believes he must do everything in his power to control his image. It’s pathetic but one can’t be sympathetic because in his desperate increasingly unhinged scramble to hide the truth he does real damage to innocent parties.

OK this is pretty cool

[ 43 ] September 18, 2014 |

Supposedly this is cinema verite a la Don Draper, done in one take:

Violence in a black and white world

[ 236 ] September 17, 2014 |

Read this.

It would be easy to demonize Peterson as an abuser, but the forthrightness with which he talked about using belts and switches but not extension cords, because he “remembers how it feels to get whooped with an extension cord,” as part of his modes of discipline suggests he is merely riffing on scripts handed down to him as an African-American man.

These cultures of violent punishment are ingrained within African-American communities. In fact, they are often considered marks of good parenting. In my childhood, parents who “thought their children were too good to be spanked” were looked upon with derision. I have heard everyone from preachers to comedians lament the passing of days when a child would do something wrong at a neighbor’s house, get spanked by that neighbor, and then come home and get spanked again for daring to misbehave at someone else’s house. For many that is a vision of a strong black community, in which children are so loved and cared for that everyone has a stake in making sure that those children turn out well, and “know how to act.” In other words, it is clear to me that Peterson views his willingness to engage in strong discipline as a mark of being a good father. . .

Stakes are high because parenting black children in a culture of white supremacy forces us to place too high a price on making sure our children are disciplined and well-behaved. I know that I personally place an extremely high value on children being respectful, well-behaved and submissive to authority figures. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a good thing.

If black folks are honest, many of us will admit to both internally and vocally balking at the very “free” ways that we have heard white children address their parents in public. Many a black person has seen a white child yelling at his or her parents, while the parents calmly respond, gently scold, ignore, attempt to soothe, or failing all else, look embarrassed.

I can never recount one time, ever seeing a black child yell at his or her mother in public. Never. It is almost unfathomable.

It has long been time for us to forgo violence as a disciplinary strategy. But as Charles Barkley notes, if we lock up Adrian Peterson, we could lock up every other black parent in the South for the same behavior. Instead, I hope Peterson is a cautionary tale, not about the state intruding on our “right” to discipline our children but rather a wakeup call about how much (fear of) state violence informs the way we discipline our children.

If the murder of Michael Brown has taught us nothing else, we should know by now that the U.S. nation-state often uses deadly violence both here and abroad as a primary mode of disciplining people with black and brown bodies. Darren Wilson used deadly force against Michael Brown as a mode of discipline (and a terroristic act) for Brown’s failure to comply with the request to walk on the sidewalk.

The loving intent and sincerity of our disciplinary strategies does not preclude them from being imbricated in these larger state-based ideas about how to compel black bodies to act in ways that are seen as non-menacing, unobtrusive and basically invisible. Many hope that by enacting these micro-level violences on black bodies, we can protect our children from macro and deadly forms of violence later.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law about to go under?

[ 62 ] September 17, 2014 |

tjsl

Thomas Jefferson is a big, although shrinking, ABA law school in San Diego, featuring horrible employment statistics (less than three in ten graduates have legal jobs nine months after graduation), terrible bar passage rates (over the past three years less than half of the school’s graduates who have taken the California bar have passed), and mind-boggling debt figures (the 2013 class took out an average of $180,000 in law school loans, which means its members had an average of around $215,000 in law school debt alone, not counting undergraduate debt, when their first loan payments became due in December).

A few years ago, this institution decided it would be a good thing to build a swank 305,000 square-foot eight-story building in downtown San Diego, at a cost of around $90,000,000. The project, which was completed in 2011, was beset by litigation over “alleged construction flaws and unpaid debts.”

The project has also been plagued by remarkably bad timing, as it opened just as the law school reform movement was generating the kind of major media coverage that led to a crash in applications to law schools generally, and to TJSL in particular. Applications to the school plummeted by more than 50% between 2010 and 2013, and even moving to a de facto open admissions policy (acceptance rates went from 45% five years ago to 80% last year) hasn’t stopped the student body from contracting.

Even as of July 2012, the school’s tax filings revealed an already-precarious financial situation, as revenue was failing to meet expenses, and the school’s assets consisted almost entirely of the new building and the land on which it sits (remarkably, the school, which is 45 years old, has literally no endowment). Meanwhile the school was carrying $92.5 million in bond liabilities, which in turn were requiring nearly $11 million per year in debt service. In addition, the building and land are apparently subject to what was as of two years ago a $33.4 million dollar mortgage.

This past December, the school’s new dean (his predecessor had been paid $529,000 in FY2012, apparently in recognition of his success in bringing the school to the brink of bankruptcy) announced staff layoffs and salary cuts, at the same time that the school’s bonds were being downgraded to junk status.

Now comes word that TJSL didn’t meet its payment obligations on its debt this summer, and that the school is frantically negotiating with its creditors to keep them from pulling the plug on this mess. The bondholders must now calculate whether it makes more sense to try to maintain the school as a going concern, or to get out while the getting is relatively not so bad, given the for the moment robust southern California real estate market.

A few months ago I did an analysis of 22 law school budgets, and discovered that almost all of them dedicated between 60% and 70% of their expenditures to employee (not just faculty) compensation. The major outlier was TJSL, which in FY2012 — that is, before the recent round of layoffs and salary cuts — dedicated only 39.5% of total expenditures on employee compensation. So it’s unclear how much more cutting of expenses the school can realistically do. Although TJSL has yet to officially report its 2014 class size, the admissions office told me that fall enrollment totaled 204 1Ls, to go along with around 60 spring matriculants (the school enrolled 440 1Ls three years ago). Given that the school is essentially 100% tuition-dependent, closing it down may well be the most prudent course of action from the perspective of its creditors.

But there’s another group of people whose interests are likely to be best served by the school closing: a large portion of its current students. Federal educational loans (and almost all postgraduate borrowing now consists of such loans) are almost never dischargeable, with one striking exception: if the school at which the debt was incurred ceases operations prior to the student’s graduation, and the student doesn’t subsequently complete his or her degree at another institution. In other words, the shuttering of TJSL would be a get out of debt jail free card for its students.

. . . A correspondent notes:

Edifice Complex

Term coined by the lawyer and historian Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson inParkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress, London (John Murray 1958, Houghton Mifflin, 1962) referring to the tendency of successful organizations to build new headquarters just before they begin to decline. See New Headquarters/Office Syndrome, Shiny;Business Week, Curse of.

http://www.ipglossary.com/glossary/edifice-complex/

New Headquarters/Office Syndrome, Shiny.

I wonder if Roger Goodell is a drinking man?

[ 113 ] September 12, 2014 |

Fox Houston reports that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted in Montgomery County, Texas, for reckless or negligent injury to a child. A warrant has been issued for Peterson’s arrest.

The Vikings have deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game against New England.

According to Fox Houston’s Isiah Carey, the charges stem from allegations that Peterson “beat his young son.”

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport adds this detail:

Ian Rapoport ✔ @RapSheet
Follow

Arrest of Adrian Peterson (reported by @MarkBermanFox26) stems from the disciplining of a son with a switch, source says. He’s been indicted

(A switch is a narrow, flexible branch from a tree. A child being disciplined is often sent to fetch his own switch.)

CBS Minnesota has a lot more details:

Sports Radio 610 in Houston obtained a draft of the police report which says Peterson admitted that he did, in his words, “whoop” one of his children last May while the boy was visiting him in Houston.

When the 4-year-old boy returned to Minnesota, his mother took him to a doctor. The police report said the boy told the doctor Peterson had hit him with a branch from a tree.

The doctor told investigators that the boy had a number of lacerations on his thighs, along with bruise-like marks on his lower back and buttocks and cuts on his hand.

The police report says the doctor described some of the marks as open wounds and termed it “child abuse.” Another examiner agreed, calling the cuts “extensive.”

Nick Wright at CBS Houston reports that Peterson told police he hit his son after the boy pushed another child off of a motorbike video game.

The beating allegedly resulted in numerous injuries to the child, including cuts and bruises to the child’s back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the child’s hands. Peterson then texted the boy’s mother, saying that one wound in particular would make her “mad at me about his leg. I got kinda good wit the tail end of the switch.”

Peterson also allegedly said via text message to the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I (sic) thigh” and also acknowledged the injury to the child’s scrotum in a text message, saying, “Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!”

In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

According to police reports, the child, however, had a slightly different story, telling authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” The child also expressed worry that Peterson would punch him in the face if the child reported the incident to authorities. He also said that he had been hit by a belt and that “there are a lot of belts in Daddy’s closet.” He added that Peterson put leaves in his mouth when he was being hit with the switch while his pants were down. The child told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”

(For those who don’t follow the sport, Peterson is the best running back in the league, and a much bigger star than Ray Rice).

. . . also:

Greg Hardy, a Pro-Bowl defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, was arrested on May 13 for assaulting an ex-girlfriend. On the arrest warrant, a police officer made the following statement. The capital letters appeared in the document.

“I, the undersigned, find that there is probable cause to believe that on or about the date of the offense shown [May 13, 2014] and in the county named above [Mecklenburg County, North Carolina] the defendant named above [Hardy] unlawfully and willingly did assault [redacted], a female person, by GRABBING VICTIM AND THROWING TO THE FLOOR, THROWING INTO A BATHTUB, SLAMMING HER AGAINST A FUTON, AND STRANGLING HER. The defendant is a male person and was at least 18 years of age when the assault occurred.”

On the “complaint and motion for domestic violence protective order,” the accuser described the incident.

“On May 13, 2014, Greg Hardy attacked me in his apartment. Hardy picked me up and threw me into the tile tub area in his bathroom. I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded. Landing on those weapons bruised [my] neck and back. Hardy screamed for his “administrative assistant” (Sammy Curtis) to come into the room and hold me down. Curtis came into the room, grabbed me from behind and held me down. Hardy and Curtis then took me into the living room area. I wasn’t nearly strong or fast enough to escape. I begged them to let me go & I wouldn’t tell anyone what he did. They took me out into the hall, pushed me down & went back inside his apartment. I crawled to the elevator and ran into CMPD (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)

In court, the accuser testified: “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just,`Do it. Kill me.”

On June 15, a judge found Hardy guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats. She sentenced him to 18 months probation; a 60-day jail sentence was suspended. Hardy appealed, and since he was convicted of a misdemeanor, under North Carolina law he’s entitled to a jury trial, which is set for Nov. 17. In court, Hardy and Curtis denied that Hardy assaulted the victim, or communicated threats.

The world hasn’t seen this incident on tape. Hardy played in Carolina’s first game. He didn’t practice on Wednesday for what the team said were “personal reasons” — he met with his attorney. But Hardy returned to practice Thursday and as of right now, he is slated to play on Sunday, as the Panthers host the Detroit Lions.

The NFL has an implied message for Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy: Your face paint is a violation of league rules; your assault on your ex-girlfriend and your threat to kill her is not.

The league warned Hardy and the Panthers last week that he would be fined if he donned the face paint he often uses to bring alive his alter ego, “The Kraken.” His conviction on assault charges? Not a problem.

Oh, *that* video

[ 85 ] September 10, 2014 |

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn’t see the violent images until this week.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

[SL] Good questions.

Too disgusted to think of a snarky headline

[ 34 ] September 5, 2014 |

Dalia Lithwick on the mordant irony of a, as lawyers would say, “factually innocent” man being used by Justice (speaking loosely) Scalia as an exemplar of why it’s important to keep executing people:

It never fails to astonish me that the same conservatives who argue that every last aspect of big government is irreparably broken and corrupt inevitably see a capital punishment system that is perfect and just. If you genuinely believe that the state can’t even fix a pothole without self-dealing and corruption, how is it possible to imagine that police departments and prosecutors’ offices are beyond suspicion, even though they are subject to immeasurable political pressure to wrap up cases, even when the evidence is shaky and ill-gotten, and even as there are other avenues that have gone unexplored? Cops and prosecutors aren’t necessarily bad. But they are subject to political and community pressure that sometimes leads to improper conduct and the suppression of the evidence of that conduct.

Those who believe that we don’t execute the undeserving in America—or who aren’t too concerned about that possibility anyhow—have an ally in Justice Antonin Scalia. He famously insisted in Kansas v. Marsh that “”it should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.”

That same Scalia, in an unrelated case before the Supreme Court 20 years ago, name-checked McCollum as the reason to continue to impose the death penalty. In that case, Callins v. Collins, Justice Harry Blackmun famously announced in dissent that he would no longer “tinker with the machinery of death” and would never again vote for the death penalty in any case. As Blackmun put it at the time: “The problem is that the inevitability of factual, legal and moral error gives us a system that we know must wrongly kill some defendants, a system that fails to deliver the fair, consistent and reliable sentences of death required by the Constitution.” In response, Scalia questioned why Blackmun hadn’t chosen a more grisly murder to make this announcement, specifically citing McCollum’s case as the more appropriate vehicle to announce that position. Scalia noted that all sorts of cases of truly horrendous murders came before the court, “For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable,” he wrote, “a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!” Never mind that “quiet death by lethal injection” has little to do with how our executions are carried out these days.

When McCollum’s own case came before the high court, Scalia voted not to hear it. Blackmun again wrote a dissent from that decision, again chastising Scalia for failing to understand the stakes: “Buddy McCollum is mentally retarded,” he explained. “He has an IQ between 60 and 69 and the mental age of a 9-year old. He reads on a second grade level. This factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in his case is unconstitutional.” Interestingly, Blackmun never seems to have doubted McCollum’s guilt. He simply believed the man was mentally unfit for execution. What a difference a few decades of DNA exonerations make!

(Of course Scalia considers strict adherence to procedural rules more important than not executing innocent people, so the irony here is somewhat muted).

McCollum’s case involves an all-too-familiar combination of factors: defendants with the mental age of small children, corrupt prosecutors, credulous juries, venal politicians, and a legal system, epitomized by Scalia’s sanctimonious bloviations, that puts faith in forms of evidence that, empirically speaking, are no great advance on trial by ordeal.

Read the whole thing and get mad.

Joan Rivers

[ 36 ] September 4, 2014 |

When I started out, a pretty girl did not go into comedy. If you saw a pretty girl walk into a nightclub, she was automatically a singer. Comedy was all white, older men. It was Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope, Shelley Berman, Red Skelton … even Amos and Andy were white men, which is hilarious if you think about it.

Phyllis Diller was happening right before me. But even Phyllis was a caricature, and I didn’t want to be a caricature. I was a college graduate; I wanted to get married.

I didn’t even want to be a comedian. Nobody wanted to be a comedian. Nowadays, everyone wants to be a comedian. You look at a Whitney Cummings, who is so beautiful — she wanted to be a comedian! I wanted to be an actress. I was an office temp when one secretary said to me: “You’re very funny. You should go do stand-up, be a comedian. They make $6 a night some places.” And I said, “That’s more than I’m making as an office temp” — I made eight, but I had to also pay for my Correcto-Type because I was a lousy speller — so I thought, “Oh, I could do that and have days free to make the rounds.” And that’s why I became a comedian.

I had no idea what I was doing. The white men were doing “mother-in-law” and “my wife’s so fat …” jokes. It was all interchangeable. Bob Hope would walk into a town and say, “The traffic lights in this town are so slow that …” and it could be any town. When I went onstage, that just didn’t feel right. So I just said, “Let me talk about my life.” It was at the moment when Woody Allen was saying, “Let me talk about my life,” and George Carlin was saying, “Maybe I’ll talk about my life.” So I came in at the right moment.

My group was Woody and George and Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby. Rodney Dangerfield. Dick Cavett. All the ones who were coming up at the same time. But I never was one of the guys. I was never asked to go hang out; I never thought about it until later. They would all go to the Stage Delicatessen afterward and talk. I never got to go uptown and have a sandwich with them. So, even though I was with them, I wasn’t with them.

Everybody broke through ahead of me. I was the last one in the group to break through, or to be allowed to break through. Looking back, I think it was because I was a woman. Because in those days, they would come down to the Village and look at you for Johnny Carson. I was the very last one of the group they put on the Carson show.

I was brought up seven times to the Carson show — interviewed and auditioned seven times by seven different people, and they rejected me, each time, over a period of three years. Then Bill Cosby was filling in, and the comedian that night bombed. Bill said to the booking producer, Shelly Schultz: “Joan Rivers couldn’t be any worse than this guy. Why don’t you use her?” And that’s when they put me on the show. But they didn’t bring me on as a stand-up comic. They brought me on as a funny girl writer. I’m the only stand-up that never did a stand-up routine on the Carson show.

Carson, give him credit, said on air in 1965, “You’re gonna be a star.” Right smack on the air.

I adored Johnny. In the ’70s, I did opening monologues, I was hosting. The turning point was when I left the show. Everybody left the show to go to do their own shows. Bill Cosby. David Brenner. George Carlin. Everybody. I stuck around for 18 years. And they finally offered me my own late-night show.

The first person I called was Johnny, and he hung up on me — and never, ever spoke to me again. And then denied that I called him. I couldn’t figure it out. I would see him in a restaurant and go over and say hello. He wouldn’t talk to me.

I kept saying, “I don’t understand, why is he mad?” He was not angry at anybody else. I think he really felt because I was a woman that I just was his. That I wouldn’t leave him. I know this sounds very warped. But I don’t understand otherwise what was going on. For years, I thought that maybe he liked me better than the others. But I think it was a question of, “I found you, and you’re my property.” He didn’t like that as a woman, I went up against him.

And I was put up against him. In the press, he said, “She didn’t call me, and she was so terrible.” When you’ve told the truth and you read a lie, there’s nothing you can do about it. To this day, I’m very angry about that. Don’t f—in’ lie. You’re making, what, $300 million a year? What are you talking about? And I was going on Fox. Fox didn’t even have call letters at that point. Fox wasn’t Fox. Fox was six stupid little stations.

Looking back, and I never like to say it, the Carson breakup hurt me a lot, without realizing it. Even now, with our reality show Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? or Fashion Police, when I say, “No, this is wrong,” people say: “See? She is a bitch. She is a c—.” If I were a man, they’d say: “So brilliant. He’s tough, but he’s right.” Nobody ever says to me, “You’re right.”

I have a friend. She was a producer at NBC and so brilliant. And they fired her because she was very abrasive. Lorne Michaels has a reputation of being a tough nut. But they all say, “That Lorne, he’s mean, but he’s brilliant.”

This woman, they said, “Oh, she’s too nasty.” But she pulled in the numbers.

It’s very tough in the business. My act consists of my gown that I carry and two spotlights and a microphone. I’ll do my sound check, and sometimes they’re not happy when I say, “The sound isn’t right,” or “Can we try other lights?” Because they’re men at the board.

And lighting is very key for a woman, especially. I’ve been in the business almost 50 years — I know my f—ing lighting. And there is always pushback from the lighting people. They just don’t want to hear it from a woman. They just don’t want to give you that cookie.

I don’t want to hear that male comics want someone to match wits with. No, they don’t. They want someone to sit there and gaze at them adoringly. That’s still what they want. The upside is, they don’t get to wear the pretty clothes. They don’t get to have the pretty dressing room. Women comedians get the private bathroom first.

During women’s lib, which was at its height in the ’70s, you had to say: “F— the men. I could do better.” I think women did themselves a disservice because they wouldn’t talk about reality. Nobody wanted to say, “I had a lousy date” or “He left me.” But if that’s your life, that’s what they wanna hear. If you look around, very few women comics came out of the ’70s. It really started again in the ’90s, when they realized, it’s all right to say you wanna get married. It’s all right to say I wanna be pretty. That’s also part of your life. Thank God. Because now you know, we’ve got Whitney. I love Whitney. I think what she does is so smart. Sarah Silverman, oh my God. You just look at them and go: Good girls.

I love stand-up — the connection with an audience is awesome. I just played Royal Albert Hall, which is 4,500 people, probably not a lot for some. But for me, it was amazing. The energy! From the beginning, and to this day, I would never tell a lie onstage. So now I walk out, I go, “I’m so happy to see you,” and I really truly am so happy to see them. The one thing I brought to this business is speaking the absolute truth. Say only what you really feel about the subject. And that’s too bad if they don’t like it. That’s what comedy is. It’s you telling the truth as you see it.

I think it was Cosby who also said to me, “If only 2 percent of the world thinks you’re funny, you’ll still fill stadiums for the rest of your life.”

My advice to women comedians is: First of all, don’t worry about the money. Love the process. You don’t know when it’s gonna happen. Louis C.K. started hitting in his 40s; he’d been doing it for 20 years. And don’t settle. I don’t want to ever hear, “It’s good enough.” Then it’s not good enough. Don’t ever underestimate your audience. They can tell when it isn’t true. Also: Ignore your competition. A Mafia guy in Vegas gave me this advice: “Run your own race, put on your blinders.” Don’t worry about how others are doing. Something better will come.

Ignore aging: Comedy is the one place it doesn’t matter. It matters in singing because the voice goes. It matters certainly in acting because you’re no longer the sexpot. But in comedy, if you can tell a joke, they will gather around your deathbed. If you’re funny, you’re funny. Isn’t that wonderful?

If there is a secret to being a comedian, it’s just loving what you do. It is my drug of choice. I don’t need real drugs. I don’t need liquor. It’s the joy that I get performing. That is my rush. I get it nowhere else.

What pleasure you feel when you’ve kept people happy for an hour and a half. They’ve forgotten their troubles. It’s great. There’s nothing like it in the world. When everybody’s laughing, it’s a party. And then you get a check at the end. That’s very nice.

I’ve been told this is a good documentary.

Will life be worth living after Derek Jeter’s retirement?

[ 106 ] September 4, 2014 |

field of dreams

Not the Onion:

The New York Yankees announced Tuesday that the team will wear a patch of Derek Jeter’s final-season logo on all player hats and uniforms from Sunday, the day that the shortstop will be honored at Yankee Stadium, through the end of the season.

There’s an actual Derek Jeter “final season logo?” For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!

Meanwhile let us not begrudge a bit of beak-wetting among the solemn ceremonials:

The baseballs with Jeter logos that will be put in play on Sunday, and the uniforms used in the game and throughout the rest of the season will be sold by Steiner Sports, company president Brandon Steiner said.

New Era is selling a limited-edition three-cap box of Derek Jeter commemorative hats for $150.
Steiner also has an exclusive autograph deal with Jeter and has been selling more than 200 Jeter-signed products, including game-used jerseys that retail for $25,000.

Leading up to Jeter’s final games, an even greater flow of merchandise has hit the shelves. New Era is selling a three-cap box of Jeter hats for $150. The hats, which are available only at Yankee Stadium and official Yankees stores, are limited to 2,014 sets.

A man’s got to feed his family. (Per Baseball Reference Jeter has collected $265,000,000 in salary over the years.)

LGM is celebrating The Final Month of Derek Jeter’s Final Season with an official commemorative Derek Jeter Two Minute Hate:

(1) Derek Jeter has become in his logoized Final Season a truly awful player. Indeed he might be the worst regular in the entire league. The Yankees keep putting his .310 OBP and .312 SA at the top of the lineup because he’s Derek Jeter, and continue to play him at a key defensive position even though at this point he has the range of a sleeper sofa, and doing so is actively harming their already-tenuous postseason hopes.

(2) Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell had, per the most advanced metrics, essentially indistinguishable careers, in terms of regular-season value to their teams (Jeter played in a year’s worth of post-season games because he was on a bunch of great teams: games in which he played no better or worse than he did during the rest of his career, despite the endless hosannas to his reputed clutchiosity.) Trammell remains largely ignored by HOF voters, while Jeter is going to have a national monument put up on the DC mall eventually.

(3) Derek Jeter may or may not be an admirable person generally. His baseball career tells us exactly nothing about that. This insight is brought to you courtesy of People Who Are More than 12 Years Old (and don’t cover sports for a living).

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