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Category: General

Supporting Law School Transparency

[ 1 ] August 12, 2014 |

Law School Transparency is a classic example of the potential power of small-scale grass roots organizing. LST was founded five years ago by two Vanderbilt law students, who were concerned about the lack of reliable information about employment outcomes for law graduates. Operating on a budget of zero dollars, they campaigned for schools to release real employment figures, as opposed to the deeply misleading statistics almost all law schools were publicizing at the time (For example, these employment statistics made no distinction between working as a lawyer and a ten-hour per week barista, and they often featured “average” salary figures that failed to note the averages were based on the tiny percentage of class members who reported their salaries, who were almost always the people with high-paying jobs).

At first LST ran into a brick wall, but over time the organization — which if my understanding is correct has never included more than four people — has ended up playing a key role in successfully putting pressure on the ABA to force law schools to disgorge something that has begun to resemble actual employment information. LST’s web site has become an invaluable resource for prospective law students, where people can find answers to the two questions every such student should care about, almost to the exclusion of anything else, i.e., how much is this going to cost, and what are the most likely outcomes if I spend the next three years of my life at this school?

This past weekend LST’s co-founder Kyle McEntee spent a good deal of time and money flying to Boston, in order to appear before an ABA task force on the financing of higher education. I’ve known McEntee for three and half years now, and I never cease to be amazed by his tireless advocacy for a more rational and just system of American legal education.

To say LST operates on a shoestring budget is an understatement. The important work the organization continues to do requires a great deal of time and effort, and they need contributions to continue to do it.

Please consider making a donation to this fundraiser. All contributions are tax deductible.

Americans Don’t Care about Climate Change

[ 80 ] August 12, 2014 |

Environmentalism as an active political movement with the ability to create major change has declined to its weakest point in several decades, with the failure to pass the cap and trade bill a shock to the movement’s leading organizations and a sign that their multi-decade strategy of expertise, lobbying, and fundraising was not working. That said, surveys show people still care about the environment. But they don’t care about climate change (or more accurately, they care about it less than all other major environmental issues). So the chances of really doing anything to stop it seem increasingly remote.

Unity Trip

[ 53 ] August 12, 2014 |

Andrew Cuomo, fleeing scandal that is torpedoing his presidential ambitions (world’s smallest violin playing) decides to visit Israel in a show of support of that nation’s racist indiscriminate killing of civilians of Gaza as it seeks to double down on its apartheid policies.

Jerks of the World, Unite!

Standing Athwart History, Indeed

[ 142 ] August 12, 2014 |

It seems right that in the same week Kevin Williamson argued that as long as you ignore African-Americans American federalism has been awesome, he would also write something like this:

There are a few lines in here that a good editor would cut but could be waved off as unwitting bad judgment — the Heart of Darkness reference, three fifths, making fun of the hair. But when the writer also decides the best comparison for a young black kid’s behavior is a monkey and to gratuitously question his parentage, there’s really not much question, is there?

There’s also the unstated humor of Williamson describing his subject as “racially aggrieved,” as if the description does not apply to Williamson himself, or as if the kid’s aggrievedness is not, in this case, warranted.

I assume that the National Review was looking for someone who combined John Derbyshire’s racial politics and the pretentious pseudo-intellectualism of Roger Kimball, and on these criteria the Williamson hire has to be considered a major coup.

Marxist Lincoln

[ 74 ] August 12, 2014 |

Look, if you have mainstream Republicans looking to return the nation to the next Gilded Age, it only makes sense that really crazy right-wingers would be longing wistfully for the earlier period of slavery, interfered with by the same perfidious activist government bringing you such horrors as roads, sewers, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Religious right broadcaster Kevin Swanson agreed with one of his guests that Abraham Lincoln imposed socialism on the United States during the “war against the South” – more commonly known as the Civil War.

Swanson hosted neo-Confederate author Walter Kennedy last month on his radio program, reported Right Wing Watch, where the pair argued the Republican Party had been founded by “radical socialists and communists.”

“The Democrats, both Northern and Southerners, believed in limited government, and the Marxists hated that concept,” Kennedy said. “They wanted to do away with states’ rights and limited government so that they’d have one big all-powerful indivisible government that could force its will upon the American people.”

Of course, the same guy said that Frozen was a plot to turn young girls into satanic lesbians. Given the plague of 2014, i.e, any gathering of more than 3 children between the ages of 4 and 12 singing that annoying theme song, I’d like to agree, but then I think, as a liberal, I objectively want all of us to become satanic lesbians, not to mention become Marxists that free black people from treasonous Confederates and their idiot racist Glenn Beck listening descendants longing to rape enslaved black women again without consequences. So sing away annoying 6 year olds, sing away. And then burn a crucifix, just like Barack Obama taught you.


[ 32 ] August 12, 2014 |

Have to give Yao Ming a lot of credit. He could have taken the Jordan/Kobe/(to a lesser extent) LeBron path of superstardom, but instead he has engaged in political causes. Going the Jabbar/Ali/Jim Brown route has no doubt made him enemies, but his work on behalf of wildlife conservation in China is very, very important.

Sarah Palin is Just Drunk All the Time Now, I Think

[ 87 ] August 12, 2014 |

I’m…confused more than anything. More here (including transcript).

Robin Williams

[ 195 ] August 11, 2014 |


…RAF lists his favorite performances. I am compelled to note that despite being an academic I hate Dead Poet’s Society, although not because of Williams’s performance. I’ll add praise for his performances in Cadillac Man and the season 2 opener of Homicide.

...Dahlia Lithwick:

Robin Williams did all the voices, all of them. Ranging from the tiny breathy narration of tiny Shawn himself, to the voice of his mom, whose Spanish accent Williams replicated so perfectly that I kept wondering if she had coached him on the way over. Except that she lived in Florida. He nailed everyone in the chapter, from Paula, the beautiful, soulful healer who understood Shawn better than any of us, to the brisk oncologists who flitted in and out of Shawn’s people-packed life.

That afternoon, I was briefly introduced to Williams and then dispatched to the other side of the glass in the recording booth, where I was allowed to sit and watch him inhabit each of these characters. It was the most electric, frantic, high-energy few hours I have ever spent in my life. The whole performance, as he read, and then hit his mental delete key and reread, trying out voices of people he didn’t know and yet capturing them completely—was unforgettable. I was aware that I was in the presence of a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime talent who could not even for a moment settle down enough to breathe himself in. For the few minutes that he was himself, talking to me, he was this sweet gentle, big-hearted guy. But he was happiest doing the voices. And you see this quality in everything he ever did, including an interview about his history of addiction where he only really seems happy when he is doing the British, the French, and the Italians. That sunny day while I watched him read, he was overtaken almost completely by the people he met, and the joy he packed into them—and into the characters he played—was, in some way, stolen from himself.

That day, Robin Williams did all the voices, read all of the paragraphs, read them again, and channeled every character in the chapter, flawlessly and without taking breaks. He just sat there and read the words Shawn wrote, and it was as if he were speaking them and the words as written were almost unnecessary. For days after I met him I was exhausted; totally depleted. And I was also aware that there was no filter, no membrane at all between Robin Williams and the rest of the world; and of what it must have cost him to so fully inhabit so many people—including a dying child he would never meet but to whom he had pledged to give voice. All I could think was very how hard it must have been to take a leave of absence from himself to do that, every day, and how hard it must have been—having done that—to find something to come home to.

Depression is a harrowing and ultimately gutting disease and Robin Williams was open about his struggle. I want to thank him for what he did for Shawn Valdez, for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and for all of us who benefitted from his generosity with his talents. Mostly I wish that his lifetime of sharing himself with us had somehow nourished him as much as it fed us all.

All Hail Our Benevolent Local Overlords

[ 106 ] August 11, 2014 |

Shorter Kevin Williamson: With notably rare exceptions, federalism and localism have been awesome for integration and equality under the law in American history.

Halbig Trooferism: Bad Faith All The Way Down

[ 44 ] August 11, 2014 |

Nice catch by Abbe Gluck:

It is no secret that the people bringing the challenge to the Obamacare subsidies in the Halbig and King cases—challenges now seeking review from both the full D.C. federal appellate bench and the U.S. Supreme Court after federal appellate courts in Virginia and D.C. came out in opposite ways last month—are some of the same people who brought the 2012 constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the high court (the same counsel, and one of the same plaintiffs).

What’s less known, however, is that in the 2012 constitutional case, these same challengers filed briefs describing Obamacare to the court in precisely the way they now say the statute cannot possibly be read.


The challengers have spent more than a year arguing that no reasonable reader of text could construe the statute in any way other than denying federal subsidies to insurance purchasers on exchanges operated by the federal government. But what about their statements from 2012—statements then echoed by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito in their joint dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the constitutional challenge, NFIB v. Sebelius?

And, as Gluck says, it must be remembered here that the “but the card says Moops!” challenge to the ACA does not merely have to show that their alternative reading of the statute is plausible. They have to show that there is no other reasonable interpretation of the statute, or they lose. The argument that the statute could not possibly have meant what everyone on both sides of the political spectrum thought it meant in 2010 is so preposterous it’s profoundly embarrassing that even two federal judges bought it.

This litigation, admittedly, does seem to be based on a principle that has been around for nearly two decades; namely, Judge Costanza’s dictum that it’s not a lie if you believe it.

Nazi Camps and HUAC

[ 16 ] August 11, 2014 |

Michael Hiltzik has useful commentary to add to the story of Nazi youth camps in mid-30s New York. The scare over them led to the creation of the Dies Committee, later HUAC.

In Washington, panic about the camp rumors struck Rep. Martin Dies Jr. as a career opportunity.

Dies, a Democrat from the Texas gulf coast, was a slovenly excuse for a congressman. But he had made it onto the powerful House Rules Committee thanks to his connection with Vice President John Nance Garner, who had served in Congress with Dies’ father.

Dies Jr. made himself the leader of the anti-New Deal bloc in the House, a sort of proto-Tea Party group who swore never to vote “aye” on a tax bill or support any New Deal legislation. In May 1938, he offered a resolution calling for an investigation of the purported Nazi summer camps. House leaders saw a chance to keep the indolent Dies out of their hair, by providing him with a distraction. The probe was approved with Dies as chairman, and given a paltry $25,000 for investigating, enough for about a month.

Thus was born the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities.

It’s again worth nothing here how awful John Nance Garner would have been as a president had FDR not run in 1940.

Drought and Farmworkers

[ 25 ] August 11, 2014 |

The California drought has not only devastated owners, but the workers who rely upon migrant farm work to survive:

On July 11, Camacho was working at a health resource fair in Mendota, a rural farming community west of Fresno. Of the 100 or so farmworkers who attended, Camacho says more than half were being affected by the drought. “What people are saying is that there’s just not the same amount of work that there was prior to the drought,” Camacho says. “People are out of work. People can’t pay their bills, their mortgage. They can’t support their families.”

Camacho says the decrease in work may be depressing wages as well. “We hear about workers asking for wage increases and getting laid off because there’s someone else willing to work for $9 per hour,” he says, which is below the mean wage for farmworkers in Fresno County, according to the BLS. “People should be paid more but there are others willing to work for less.”

Camacho has also heard about farmworkers who are giving up on finding work for the season. Workers who came up to Fresno County from Coachella and El Centro have gone back home, he says, “because there’s no work.”

Cortes, of the UFW, says he is even seeing farm worker families leave the area. The UFW has contracts with many growers in the area, but Cortes says the farms have all reduced planting by 30 to 40 percent this year because of the drought. The season started about a month ago, he says, and it will be over in just three to four weeks because of the smaller crop size.

For some growers, reducing the size of this year’s crop has not been enough to stave off economic ruin. One UFW-contracted grower hired just 400 farmworkers instead of its usual 600 to harvest its tomato and melon crop this year. Despite these cuts, Cortes recently received a letter informing him that the grower is going out of business. Now those 400 farmworkers will have to find other jobs. (He did not reveal the name of the employer because negotiations for possible severance pay are confidential and ongoing.) According to Cortes, many of the workers are considering moving to Oregon or Washington, where they hope to find steadier employment.

As a former farm worker who has been on staff with the union for six years, Cortes describes a season of hopelessness for farmworkers around Madera, the county north of Fresno where he’s based. “Farmworkers are not getting any support from the growers,” he says. “The growers have support from the governor and the federal government, but the farmworkers get nothing.” According to Cortes, more than 90 percent of the farmworkers he organizes are undocumented immigrants, which limits their ability to receive government aid. According to the California Economic Development Department, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to seek unemployment insurance.

And of course the government does nothing for the workers because the unjust immigration system makes them “illegal.”

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