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Category: General

Wednesday Links

[ 54 ] July 29, 2015 |

No Way, Brosé

[ 181 ] July 28, 2015 |


Dudes have discovered Rosé wine. It’s not like it hasn’t been mouldering on the shelves alongside whites and reds for forever now, but apparently since men have discovered it now has relevancy.

I don’t have a problem with people liking Rosé…like, at all. Most of them are too sweet for my taste, but if you dig sweet wine, rock on and swig that sweet wine. What I have a problem with is that this Rosé only became remarkable because men began remarking on it.

(Thanks to N_B for the link.)

Do The Planned Parenthood Videos Provide a Reason to Legally Restrict Abortion? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 210 ] July 28, 2015 |


It as inevitable as the tides that anti-choicers would use the non-news that abortion produces fetal tissue to advocate for the abortion restrictions they favor ex ante.  But the policies they’re advocating remain just as bad as they ever were:

There are numerous critical errors with Linker’s comparison. First of all, American abortion law has never been characterized by “absolutes,” and states have always maintained some leeway to regulate abortions. And even more importantly, state authority to regulate abortion is growing, not diminishing, in the US. Under Roe v Wade, states were permitted to regulate or ban (with an exemption for the life or health of the mother) post-viability abortions. And since 1992, Roe has been superseded by Planned Parenthood v Casey’s holding that weakened abortion protections by saying that pre-viability abortions could be regulated as long as these regulations do not constitute an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to obtain one. States have since been allowed to pass virtually any regulation that does not outright ban pre-viability abortions, and many have passed elaborate regulatory frameworks that make it enormously difficult to obtain safe abortions.

Even worse for Linker’s argument is that the Casey regime has been a disaster. Regulations like waiting periods, parental consent and restrictions on abortion clinics appeal to a vague sense among a lot of people that abortion shouldn’t be banned outright but that women should only obtain them for the “right” reasons. But even leaving aside how unattractive this paternalism is on its face, the fact is that state regulations of abortion don’t actually having anything to do with why women choose to have abortions. What they do is make it harder for poor women to get abortions than rich women, harder for women in rural areas to obtain abortions than women in major urban centers and harder for women in states like Mississippi and Texas to obtain abortions than women in New York and Washington state. And while self-styled moderates like Linker like to emphasize the problems of later-term abortions, these regulatory obstacle courses also make it harder for women to obtain first-trimester abortions.

The United States, in other words, has plenty of abortion “compromise.” The product of these compromises is a host of abortion regulations that are arbitrary, irrational and inequitable. One of the purposes of the Planned Parenthood videos is to support such regulations by advancing the idea that abortion is icky and compromise is civilized. But nothing in the videos dignify regulations that make it harder for more vulnerable women to obtain safe abortions while advancing no legitimate public purpose.



Sue, Tom, Sue!

[ 231 ] July 28, 2015 |

So it turns out that having Roger Goodell act as the appellate adjudicator for Roger Goodell’s rulings is not effective due process.

To state what I think should be obvious, the punishment for BALLGHAZI should be 1)the fine mandated by the rules, and 2)that’s it.  And since the Pats beat my favorite team in the Super Bowl and to the extent I have a favorite AFC team it’s the Bills, that’s not self-interest talking.

This is the business we’ve chosen

[ 30 ] July 28, 2015 |

hyman roth

Dybbuk is in fine form at OTLSS, where he lingers over the program at the annual Southeastern Conference of Law Professors, at the Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton Resort and Club, before bringing the sardonic heat:

The lawprofs can attend a discussion of role-play and other innovations in teaching constitutional law. Then they can hobnob at the dozen or so receptions, galas, luncheons, and the, uh, teen pizza party. Some of these foodfests are sponsored by legal book publishing companies. (Explain again, law “prawfs” how there are important pedagogical reasons to assign $200 casebooks instead of instructing students to print out or read particular cases online). Lots of “sponsored breaks” too, not to mention “a myriad of unforgettable” on-site restaurants and bars, so no law prof need role-play constitutional history or articulate his or her baseball and the law insights on an empty tummy.

They can hear what Indiana Tech Law honcho and jet-setting party animal andre douglas pond cummings has to say about Ferguson. Then they can hit the links at either of the resort’s two exclusive 18-hole golf courses. (West Publishing is sponsoring a golf tournament).

They can ponder whether Edward Snowden is a “Patriot, Traitor, Whistleblower, [or] Spy.” Then they can rejuvenate at the 50,000 sq. ft. spa, rated No. 1 in the world by Conde Nast, and designed to look like the Nasridian royal digs in Granada, Spain, with stone arches, cypress-lined gardens, and Moorish-style windows. I dread the day when the crisis in legal education has reached such proportions that lawprofs are forced to have their prestigious bods exfoliated at a spa that does not resemble a medieval palace.

They can attend a panel on “International Comparative Inequality,” or listen to the head of the oh-so-progressive SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) organization advise fellow law faculty on “navigating identity” and “finding your voice.” Then they can pluck refreshments from the trays of silent low-wage immigrant caterers.

The resort boasts seven pools, four on the waterfront with personal butlers and cabanas. Granted, the lawprofs deserve a few moments of tranquility and ease after gifting a suffering planet with their advice on “International Crisis: Ebola, ISIS, and Late-Breaking Events.” If only the personal poolside butlers were authorized to pass out Nobel Peace Prizes along with tropical-themed drinks.

There is a panel called “Innovations in Academic Support and Take-Aways for Law School Pedagogy.” Isn’t that fine professorial wording? Much better than “Adjusting to the Fact that Our Students are a Lot Dumber than They Used to Be Because We Keep Lowering Admissions Standards to Keep the Money Flowing.” Afterwards, the law professors can take resort shuttle boat transports to “half a mile of golden private beach.” Because the real “Take-Aways” of this event are callous self-indulgence and exploitation.

On a purely economic level, when a law professor blows a couple or three thousand dollars a year of student tuition money (most law schools, and all low-ranked law schools, are largely or almost wholly tuition-funded operations) on these kinds of “free” vacations masquerading as academic events it doesn’t have much effect on the $40,000 to $90,000 per year cost of attendance at these institutions (With an average student to faculty ratio of around 13 to one these days, each student is kicking in a couple of hundred bucks per year — the cost of just one textbook! — toward his or her professor’s well-earned summer, or winter, or spring vacation.

On a symbolic/psychological/can’t-we-at-least-pretend-to-maintain-some-integrity level, it’s another story.

Jeff Harrison attends a Commercial Monetary Policy Conference:

I have been in hot water lately with most academics because I took a vacation and did not figure out a way to get my School to pay for it. Several faculty complained to the Dean. I was so out of line, I complained about me.

Problem solved. I was checking out of the 7 room Volcano Hotel and asked if they took US dollars. They do but I did not quite have enough to cover the tab. Together the manager and I determined how many dollars and how many Iceland Krone (the coins are so cute, the have fish on them, more fish more value).

We took some time and I realized we were having a CONFERENCE on Contract Law and International Currency. And, it was kind of a conference version of cinema verite. So I had some programs printed up and they looked like this:


July 15, 2015

Volcano Hotel (about 10 miles west of Vik, Iceland)

Meeting Room: Check Out Desk in Entry Area

Speakers: Jeffrey Harrison
Jeff’s wife, Sarah

Papers Delivered: On the Complexity of Dividing Everything By 750.

Skype is available for those unable to attend.

Registration Fee: $500
Late Registration $300
No Registration $200.

David Attewell: The Strategic Populism of Podemos

[ 79 ] July 28, 2015 |

Jairo Vargas Martín / Flickr


The question of whether the Left can change the Eurozone from within has been tested to its limit by the recent humiliation of Syriza.[1] The potential for a Podemos victory in the upcoming Spanish general elections is probably the last chance for this reformist strategy.

I don’t speak Spanish, nor am I an expert in Spanish politics. But thankfully I don’t have to be.

The leadership of Podemos is heavily drawn from political scientists and other academics from Madrid’s Complutense University, and they don’t hold their cards close to the chest in the manner of most mainstream political leaders. Pablo Iglesias (Podemos’ leader) has offered an unguarded exposition of Podemos’ analysis of the crisis and its political strategy in a recent article[2] and interview[3] at New Left Review. The two documents give us insight into Podemos’ particular brand of populism and the challenges it faces during a key juncture for the European Left.

Read more…

Tuesday Links

[ 264 ] July 28, 2015 |

Some reading:

SCORCHING HOT Iran Take of the Day

[ 141 ] July 27, 2015 |


As a colleague observes, Leon Wieseltier has written an interesting critique of the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iraq:

The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.

This is nothing other than the mentality of disruption applied to foreign policy. In the realm of technology, innovation justifies itself; but in the realm of diplomacy and security, innovation must be justified, and it cannot be justified merely by an appetite for change. Tedium does not count against a principled alliance or a grand strategy. Indeed, a continuity of policy may in some cases—the Korean peninsula, for example: a rut if ever there was one—represent a significant achievement.

Alas, Wieseltier sees this as an argument against the distinctly non-disruptive Iran deal, as oppose to the catastrophic war he strongly supported. Oh, and against the Obama administration’s Cuba policy, which I concede is disruptive but since the existing policy has been a consistent failure for decades I’m not sure why this is supposed to be a bad thing.

Wieseltier then goes on to explain his opposition to the Iran deal on the grounds that it does not present an ironclad guarantee that Iran will never in the sweep of human history acquire a nuclear weapon, and not only that the deal doesn’t even nationalize the American health insurance industry. Anticipating the obvious objection of what exactly Obama could have done to guarantee that Iran would never again pursue a nuclear reaction, he responds with an outstanding achievement in the field of vacuous pomposity:

But what is the alternative? This is the question that is supposed to silence all objections. It is, for a start, a demagogic question. This agreement was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and it seems uncontroversial to suggest that it does not guarantee such an outcome—then it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve. And if it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve, then it is itself not an alternative, is it? The status is still quo. Or should we prefer the sweetness of illusion to the nastiness of reality? For as long as Iran does not agree to retire its infrastructure so that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon becomes not improbable but impossible, the United States will not have transformed the reality that worries it. We will only have mitigated it and prettified it. We will have found relief from the crisis, but not a resolution of it.

To the extent that there is content here, it is transparently wrong. A deal that makes it less likely that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, the status is not still quo. Oh, and the status will also not be quo for the Iranian citizens who are suffering due to the sanctions regime, citizens who do not feature in Wieseltier’s calculus at all. But, remember, his war-is-the-answer-to-any-question foreign policy views are rooted deeply in liberal humanitarianism!

Will the Clinton Rules Still Apply?

[ 77 ] July 27, 2015 |

The public editor assails the latest round of making stuff up about Hillary Clinton:

First, consider the elements. When you add together the lack of accountability that comes with anonymous sources, along with no ability to examine the referral itself, and then mix in the ever-faster pace of competitive reporting for the web, you’ve got a mistake waiting to happen. Or, in this case, several mistakes.

Reporting a less sensational version of the story, with a headline that did not include the word “criminal,” and continuing to develop it the next day would have been a wise play. Better yet: Waiting until the next day to publish anything at all.

Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome than publishing an unfair story and damaging The Times’s reputation for accuracy.

What’s more, when mistakes inevitably happen, The Times needs to be much more transparent with readers about what is going on. Just revising the story, and figuring out the corrections later, doesn’t cut it.

On one level, this is encouraging, showing that the Clinton campaign and its prominent supporters can effectively push back in a way that Gore in 2000 couldn’t. On the other hand, if the pushback means that splashy A1 stories are quietly correctly online later, it’s kind of a hollow victory. It will really matter if they just stop running inaccurate stories in the first place.

Today In Bad Pundit’s Fallacies: “Joe Lieberman Cost Gore the Election”

[ 223 ] July 27, 2015 |


Almost anytime either the 2000 election or Joe Lieberman come up in comments, someone will proffer their theory that Gore picking Lieberman was why he lost the election in 2000. Just so I have something to link to so I don’t have to go through this every time it comes up, here’s why this is a very silly argument:

  • First, let’s start with actual evidence. The political science literature shows that vice presidential selections generally have no discernible impact on election results, and 2000 was no exception. If either party had an advantage, it was the Democrats, but the effect is negligible. Reaction to the pick of Lieberman was more positive than is typical for a VP pick.
  • Yes, social science is far from perfect. But the stories told to justify the idea that Lieberman swung the election to Bush are massively implausible. The election came down to Florida. So…we’re being asked to believe that Lieberman was a net negative in a relatively conservative southern state with a large population of elderly people and a relatively large numbers of Jewish people? Please. Or you could also see the election coming down to New Hampshire, and, again, I don’t see how a New England Democrat who was immensely popular in his own state at the time was a net drag on the ticket there.
  • There’s also another important point, which helps to explain why Gore picked Lieberman although he didn’t particularly like him. The media, which was engaged in an all-out war on Gore, loved Lieberman. Picking Holy Joe earned Gore pretty much the only positive media coverage his campaign generated. I don’t know how much this helped but it couldn’t have hurt.
  • But “LIEBERMAN WANTED LABELS ON VIDEO GAMES” is one of the more hilariously solipsistic pundit’s fallacies I’ve ever heard. You will be unsurprised that exit polls do not find evidence that this issue drove voters in 2000.
  • Yes, Lieberman was terrible in the VP debate. As for how much vice presidential debates affect election outcomes, ask President Michael Dukakis.
  • We should also remember that while at the time Lieberman was an irritating squish, in 2000 he was bad like Dianne Feinstein, not bad like Zell Miller.
  • One thing that a lot of people have forgotten, willfully or otherwise, is just how much “Bill Clinton shouldn’t be impeached, but what he did was horrible” was a consensus position among the Democratic caucus during the impeachment. Lieberman has come to symbolize this just because he’s such an insufferable blowhard in general, but on this issue he was the rule, not the exception. Paul Wellstone, fer Chrissakes, called for a censure vote while going on about “the disgrace which those lies have placed upon his Presidency for all time” and “the President’s behavior was shameful, despicable, unworthy, a disgrace to his office” and “we all condemn the President’s behavior.”
  • As the consensus among even liberal Democratic officeholders suggests, the idea that using Clinton was a completely straightforward question for the Gore campaign because of the former’s good approval ratings is an anachronism. There were many people who approved of Clinton’s performance in general while believing that he had engaged in troubling, immoral behavior that also reflected badly on history’s greatest liar, the man who claimed he invented the internet Al Gore. Look at those exit polls again. Choosing Lieberman to try to diffuse this line of attack was not irrational.
  • Does this mean that Lieberman was a good pick by Gore? Well, no. Precisely because vice presidential picks don’t affect electoral results very much, the most important thing is to choose someone who would be an acceptable president if that is necessary and who could make a useful contribution as a vice president. Lieberman obviously fails both tests, and hence I think Gore shouldn’t have picked him. But did Lieberman cost Gore the election? It’s overwhelmingly clear that he did not.
  • …oh, and I forgot to mention this, but even worse is the idea that Lieberman cost Gore the election by calling for military ballots to be counted.  First of all, Lieberman was not the relevant decision-maker.  And second, “we should use an ‘intent of the voter’ standard for every ballot except those cast be people in the military” would be a massive political loser and the Florida courts would have rejected the argument anyway.  So…no.

Today In Editorial Misjudgment

[ 113 ] July 27, 2015 |


I love the NYRB in general, but…publishing a self-serving, fact-challenged defense of the nail salon industry that didn’t meet the standards of the New York Post (!) (No, really, !) is a doozy of a blunder. Hopefully, this is is an aberration — if I see “Massey Energy: The World’s Safest Workplaces” by Don Blankenship next week I’ll have to cancel my subscription.

Slave Labor in Fishing

[ 19 ] July 27, 2015 |


I’ve talked about this several times before and I discuss it in Out of Sight, but slave labor in the southeast Asian fisheries is endemic and basically no one cares. This is an outstanding report on that slave labor. Almost all of the fish in the southeast Asian seas goes to the United States in Europe–for pet food, for farm animal feed, for fish farming, and sometimes directly onto U.S. plates. It’s totally unsustainable from an environmental angle and the long-term overfishing of these waters makes the future of much of the U.S. meat supply in serious question, but that’s a secondary question to the sheer brutality these laborers face, which you can read about in great and disturbing detail at the link. It simply isn’t a priority of the federal government and certainly not of the American companies buying from these sources to make sure the fish are harvested within a basic framework of human rights for the laborers. And in fact, there are no human rights on these boats.

This is why we need real international frameworks that place the burden of proof on the American companies buying this stuff. How does this end? That’s a complex question, but American companies canceling contracts with the suppliers who buy from these boats is a necessary step. That will only happen if we make those American companies legally liable for these conditions. Simply put, the global supply chain exists in no small part to separate big western companies from any responsibility for global labor conditions. They don’t want to know and mostly they don’t have to know. That’s not acceptable. We can publish all the articles we want about these labor conditions on the boats and we can feel bad for those workers. But when you start looking at what to do, only by demanding that we hold western companies legally accountable for the conditions can we the consumer make a difference. Otherwise, we aren’t doing anything useful at all and that’s not OK either.

In other words, when you feel Fido or Fluffy today, think a little bit about where their pet food comes from and consider how you can ensure that their food isn’t produced on the backs of slaves.

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