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Category: General

“But He Beat Southeastern Missouri!” Annals Of American Meritocracy I

[ 79 ] September 28, 2014 |


Charlie Weis was rewarded for failing catastrophically as not only a college head coach but as a college offensive coordinator by being given a cool $2.5 million a year to preside over unpaid employees in Lawrence.  Yesterday, KU decided to decline its decided schematic advantage.  Weis leaves the Sunflower state with many millions of dollars and a 1-18 conference record.

Speaking of which, a few years ago Chait wrote about the “negotiating” process behind the hiring of Brady Hoke.  Unlike Weis, Hoke was not a transparently stupid hire; he had a solid record at two lower-tier jobs and was a plausible candidate to step up to the Big 12.  But (to put it mildly) he was no proven major conference commodity like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer.  Despite the fact that he was desperate to come to Michigan and there were no other bidders for Hoke’s services, he was given a lavish contract with a guaranteed base pay of more than $18 million.  Hoke is, for some reason, still being employed as a head coach so that he can lose games and send badly injured unpaid players back on to the field.  The storied Wolverines were the 65th ranked team in the country before being curb-stomped by Minnesota (#56) in Ann Arbor.   I assume Paul will have more when the inevitable happens.

In conclusion, if a booster has taken a KU or Michigan player out for a Quarter Pounder, this would be the greatest scandal in known human history.  I will never stop being outraged by the attacks on this country’s most precious resource, its Noble and Consistently Adhered to By All Relevant Parties Ideals of Amateurism.

Meaningful 162

[ 57 ] September 28, 2014 |

My consistent pessimism about the Mariners was certainly in full force after Austin Jackson lined a 5-0 3-2 pitch to right field in the bottom of the ninth, squandering a bases loaded-none out opportunity.  But with Jackson busting ass to beat out a double play in the bottom of the 11th, they somehow pulled it out.  As bad as the last 10 days went, if you had told me at the beginning of the year that they would be alive on the last Sunday of the year with King Felix on the mound, I would certainly have taken it and how.

And, yes, I can’t complain because As fans have been going through this for two months.  I’d be surprised if they lost to Texas today but evidently I didn’t expect them to go 9-20, either…

Taking Dead Horses and Ketchup Rhode Island Wide

[ 65 ] September 26, 2014 |

I have long felt the decline in the newspaper industry is related to a lack of stories about me. Evidently, the Providence Phoenix agrees, which is why it is still in business. Thus, in a story about what professors do in its free time, it had me lead off. I cover many of the expected topics–silent film, dead horses, ketchup, the NRA. I thought about a vodka rant as well, but some of the students are under 21 and I wouldn’t want to be corrupting their pure minds and all.

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.

The Worst Person in the Universe Forever

[ 165 ] September 26, 2014 |

Debbie Schlussel, ladies and gentlemen.

Circling the Wagons

[ 68 ] September 26, 2014 |

ESPN’s attempt to defend the Simmons suspension probably speaks for itself, but let’s try to disassemble the multiple layers of illogic anyway. The insults to the intelligence start right at the beginning:

Roger Goodell is the sports world’s villain du jour, but until the NFL’s elevator of investigation reaches the top — or ESPN delivers a smoking gun that proves when the NFL viewed the Ray Rice video — the commissioner is not a certified liar.

And Bill Simmons has no license to call him one without more justification than “I’m just saying it.”

It’s hard to even know where to begin with this:

  • Simmons had no basis for believing that Goodell is not being truthful about what he knew? Really?  Despite the public video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator like a sack of potatoes, despite the fact that this happened in a casino and hence on videotape,  and most importantly despite the fact that the NFL’s stenographers reported, when it was favorable to the NFL, that NFL management had seen the internal elevator video?  It’s theoretically possible, though highly implausible, that the league office was lying then rather than lying now, but to assert that Simmons’s charge has no justification beyond idle speculation is false.  There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence and Simmons’s assumption is at the very least plausible.
  • Note that Lipsyte is requiring evidence that goes beyond what would actually be necessary to prove Simmons’s charges.  He didn’t say that Goodell had seen the tape; he said Goodell knew “what was on that tape.”  There are plenty of ways Goodell could have known that without having personally seen the tape, including Ray Rice telling the truth during the hearing.
  • The idea that a sports podcast demands standards of evidence that would hold up before an independent tribunal before a host has a “license” to make claims is utterly risible.  What percentage of the claims made on Pardon the Interruption or The Skip Bayless Trolls America Hour would hold up to this made-up-in-bad-faith standard?  Obviously, Lipsyte’s consideration here must be limited to the present circumstances, or ESPN will be reduced to showing raw footage 24 hours a day.

Things don’t improve from here:

A case could be made that Simmons, who had done excellent work taking Goodell and the NFL to task up to this point, undermined ESPN’s solid journalistic efforts on the Rice story with some Grantland grandstanding.

I mean, you can make a case; it won’t stand up to any scrutiny, but you can make it. One obvious problem is that suspending Simmons has given his remarks far more traction that had they just remained in the B.S. Report archives, which is kind of a problem. I think Lipsyte does not have the “license” to engage in such implausible speculation without a smoking-gun evidence that what Bill Simmons said on a podcast undermined ESPN’s other reporting (how? And to which audience?)

After some general criticism of Simmons, dismissing the person who (whatever his faults as a writer) presides over ESPN’s two highest-quality journalistic products as “by no stretch a leading journalist,” we get this:

“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell,” Simmons said. “Because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar, and I get to talk about that on my podcast. Thank you. … Please, call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.”

It sounded a little like Gary Hart’s nutty 1987 dare to the media to catch him in the act of adultery. That challenge eventually denied Hart a presidential bid. In Simmons’ case, the “dare” was widely interpreted as a challenge to ESPN President John Skipper, who just happens to be Simmons’ most important booster at the company. When asked, Simmons refused to comment on whether it was directed at Skipper.

But Skipper certainly thought it was, and that insubordination was one of the main two reasons for the severity of the suspension.

First of all, Lipsyte has once again violated his own standards by making assertions he has no “license” to make because of the lack of evidence. Just this week an obscure publication called the New York Times published a piece disproving the Gary Hart urban legend Lipsyte lazily recycles here. (“In truth, though, Hart never issued any challenge to The Miami Herald’s reporters, or to anybody else, really.”) Leaving that aside, this argument hasn’t become any less purely self-refuting. “Simmons suggested that his bosses were so in the tank for NFL management they’d sanction him for criticizing Roger Goodell. They decided to prove him right!” How this constitutes a defense of ESPN’s management is…unclear.

Finally, let me expand a bit on the point I made the day the suspension came down. Again, does anybody think that if Simmons was engaged in speculation that a player was lying about having used PEDs — even in the absence of a positive drug test — he would be suspended? We know the answer, because he has, and nothing happened. And while I strongly disagree with Simmons on the issue it would be ridiculous to say that he didn’t have the “license” to suggest that PED use is more widespread than tests reveal. For that matter, if you think Goodell is telling the truth than Ray Rice must have been lying — but apparently it’s OK to think that. It’s clear that this ad hoc standard is also a double standard — that the “license” ESPN personalities have to criticize players is much broader than the “license” they have to criticize management. Lipsyte’s feeble defense of management’s suspension of Simmons — the same length, it should be noted, as the initial Ray Rice suspension and the suspension Stephen A. Smith got for blaming the victim of Ray Rice’s assault combined — squares the circle.

Next At Cato: Martin Luther King Was The Lester Maddox of the 60s

[ 19 ] September 26, 2014 |

What are conservertarians saying about the resignation of Eric Holder? I wonder. Let’s see:

Like a modern-day George Wallace, Holder has called for racial preference now, racial preferences tomorrow, racial preferences forever.

Yes, this is the same Ilya Shapiro you might remember from such arguments as “maybe the Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was authorized by the so-called “15th Amendment”, but it still violates the lesser-known clause of the Constitution declaring that Congress shall not pass policies that contradict Ilya Shapiro’s terrible policy preferences. It’s somewhere in the back.”



[ 93 ] September 26, 2014 |

That thing you just heard was the sound of millions of women screaming and wailing in despair.



The real issue liberals are afraid to confront:

I hope to have time to write  more substantive posts soon, including a nifty Creature Feature!


If Not You, Then Who

[ 69 ] September 26, 2014 |

As in Ferguson, the combination of aggressive police tactics and racism once again proves not only toxic, but fatal:

The police officer who shot dead a young black man in a Walmart store in Ohio as he held an unloaded BB rifle had less than two weeks earlier received what prosecutors called a “pep talk” on how to deal aggressively with suspected gunmen.

Sean Williams and his colleagues in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton, were shown a slideshow invoking their loved ones and the massacres at Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech while being trained on 23-24 July on confronting “active shooter situations”.

“If not you, then who?” officers were asked by the presentation, alongside a photograph of young students being led out of Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012. A caption reminded the trainees that 20 children and five adults were killed before police arrived.

Williams shot dead John Crawford III 12 days later, after a 911 caller repeatedly said that Crawford was pointing a gun at Walmart customers, including children. Surveillance footage released on Thursday showed Crawford passing shoppers with the air rifle at his side.

Again, these incidents are not isolated. They are cultural within police departments.

One Small Step For American Journalism

[ 7 ] September 26, 2014 |

Our longish national nightmare is over:

The New York Times Magazine is gearing up for a big redesign in early 2015. But editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein tells Capital that readers will see a number of smaller changes in less than two weeks’ time.

“We’re cleaning up the book in anticipation of the redesign,” he said.

This coming Sunday’s issue will be the last hurrah for “The One-Page Magazine” and “Who Made That,” two front-of-book franchises that were created under Silverstein’s predecessor, Hugo Lindgren, who had in turn reimagined the Times Magazine during a three-year stint from fall of 2010 until his ouster in November 2013.

An easy test, but he passed it. Admittedly, the segment of the American population looking for humor marginally less funny than starving orphans getting cancer will be disappointed. This week’s “Compare and Contrast”: Agatha Christie and Chris Christie. Get it — they have the same last name! Clearly, this feature was cancelled to avoid an Infinite Jest scenario where people die of laughter.

Hot Soda

[ 113 ] September 25, 2014 |

Hot soda! Get your hot soda drinks from 1913 here!


Why can I not get a hot clam drink today?


[ 28 ] September 25, 2014 |

I have been light on the blogging lately because of a week that has gone as the following:

Monday–teach, drive to brother in law’s house, watch Jets be the Jets and lose hilariously
Tuesday–visit Valley Forge, give lecture at Muhlenberg College, forced to ditch all my Lutheran jokes after finding out there are hardly any of my people there.
Wednesday–tour coal mine with Muhlenberg students. Buy chunks of coal for office decorations.
Thursday–eat ridiculous and amazing breakfast sandwich at Allentown’s indoor farmer’s market that includes not only eggs and bacon–but deep fried bacon! Drive to Providence in rain.
Friday–move to a new apartment.
Saturday–clean old apartment in the futile attempt to convince my landlord not to screw me on the deposit.

That was actually the short version that left out a bunch of stuff. So all I have to say right now is this: Face/Off was awesome. I should watch it again.

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