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Category: General

Thursday Links

[ 173 ] April 23, 2015 |
  • Here’s a John C. Wright-proportioned take on the Rabid Puppies by Philip Sandifer.
  • This is an important take on rape jokes; I think they can be funny so long as they take on rapists and rape culture, not rape survivors. Amanda Marcotte agrees.
  • In other news, the new season of “Inside Amy Shumer” got off to a fantastic start with this hilarious take on the actual reason women have butts.
  • I honestly can’t understand why “rapeseed” can’t be shortened to “seed” instead of “rape.” I mean, come on.
  • This article on Lilly Pulitzer’s new line for Target has me genuinely confused. If you don’t like the aesthetic, fair enough. If you don’t like what its preppy resort wear look symbolizes, fair enough. But if you think about it for even a minute, what Pulitzer is doing is taking the “resort” out of resort wear, because she’s offering it to the hoi polloi on the cheap. If anything, that’s kind of a “fuck you” to resort clothing wearers.
  • PZ Meyers has a great take on how we should think about climate change.

Punishing Protest

[ 32 ] April 23, 2015 |

UGA-logo

Nice that participating in a protest to get your state to accept the provisions of the Affordable Care Act gets one in seriously hot water at the University of Georgia.

Law school denialism

[ 73 ] April 23, 2015 |

david irving

Updated below

Denialism, by which I mean the denial or unwarranted minimization of a disturbing reality, usually comes in several forms.

For example, Holocaust denialism covers a spectrum of arguments, ranging from:

(1) The whole idea of a “Holocaust” is a hoax from beginning to end.

(2) While it’s true Jews were targeted for imprisonment in labor camps, and many died there because of harsh conditions, the existence of death camps at which millions of Jews were systematically murdered in gas chambers is a Zionist myth.

(3) While several million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, including millions in the gas chambers at the various death camps, a lot of other people died in World War II, plus what about Stalin and the kulaks, and this doesn’t make the occupation of Palestine legitimate, so shut up already.

Moving on to racism in America:

(1) The blacks were better off as slaves.

(2) While slavery was bad, Jim Crow remains a reasonable social system, all things judiciously considered.

(3) The 1964 Civil Rights Act ended racism in America, so shut up already.

What about climate change?

(1) The climate isn’t changing.

(2) The climate is changing, but sunspots.

(3)The climate is changing because of human activity, but all proposed interventions will do more harm than good, especially to my position in energy funds, so shut up already.

We’re now having our own little bout of denialism in the law school world. It should be unnecessary to say that lying to a lot of college graduates and leaving them worse off economically and psychologically than they would have been if you hadn’t lied to them isn’t as bad as genocide or slavery or wrecking the world’s environment. On the other hand, “it’s not as bad as the Holocaust” isn’t what one would call a spirited defense of a social practice, plus we must all cultivate our own gardens etc.

Anyway, the denialism busting out among defenders of the law school status quo is a bit unusual, in that most species of denialism tend to manifest themselves as a series of rearguard actions, politically speaking. That is, the dominant form of denialism at any one time tends to move from the strongest forms to weaker ones, as the strongest forms become increasingly untenable.

By contrast, in the law school world, denialism has gone in the other direction. Thus when the law school reform movement first started to get cultural traction a few years ago, the reaction of the denialists was to deplore the use of obviously fake employment stats, but to minimize the extent to which schools were engaging in such practices, while at the same time emphasizing that “the ABA” was already cracking down on the handful of schools that had strayed from the path of righteousness.

Now that applications have cratered, the denialists have decided that the whole so-called law school crisis was just a big hoax from beginning to end. Bernie Burk (Burk himself is not in the denialist camp), describes the current party line:

[Michael Simkovic’s] recent posts have taken the strong and categorical view that law schools, NALP and the ABA ought to report law-graduate employment the same way the U.S. government reports on employment generally, and that any other view is ignorant or misinformed. Board of Labor Statistics and Census data (among others) report people as “employed” if they have any kind of work at all, including work that is part-time, short-term, or (in the case of law-school graduates) entirely unrelated to their legal education; and as “unemployed” only those who are actively looking for work. The widely articulated criticism “that law schools behaved unethically or even committed fraud . . . by presenting their employment statistics in a misleading way,” says Simkovic, “comes down to this: The law schools used the same standard method of reporting data as the U.S. Government.”

A correspondent writes:

Does Simkovic actually exist, or is this is all just a big troll job by Brian Leiter or Steve Diamond? I really can’t believe we’re here 5 years later still debating whether “99% EMPLOYMENT AT GRADUATION” is logically or morally justifiable. I thought we’ve moved on to the “transparency will cure all ills” phase of things.

Simkovic’s position is not merely that there was nothing wrong with law schools touting their graduates as “employed,” without further explanation, even when that employment included a large number of people doing things like working part-time stocking shelves at Lowe’s: he actually takes the position that it’s preferable for law schools to use the generic BLS definition of “employment,” rather than confusing potential law school applicants with more specific information, such as how many of a law school’s graduates are getting jobs as lawyers, as opposed to baristas etc. Any disagreement on this point, he claims, is “based on an incorrect belief that law school only benefits the subset of graduates who practice law . . . .”

I mean really, what is there to say about this kind of thing? In the end it should be allowed to speak for itself.

Update: Much pearl clutching and couch fainting at The Faculty Lounge. The important question isn’t how many lives law schools have wrecked with their deceptive practices, but whether somebody wrote something about legal academics that was unfair and hurt several peoples’ feelings.

Steel and the Trans Pacific Partnership

[ 42 ] April 23, 2015 |

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There aren’t a lot of steel jobs in the U.S. anymore but the ones that remain are about the disappear as U.S. Steel announces more layoffs. At the core of layoffs is unrestricted free trade that undermines the ability of American corporations to sell its own steel because it has to pay workers decent union wages and abide by environmental standards. The Trans Pacific Partnership will just continue to undermine the ability of Americans to work industrial jobs. And before we argue this is a good thing, note that for all the workers, like the rest of the American working class, they face unemployment, decreased earnings, and increased instability in their lives. Every United Steel Workers job lost means less ability for unions to influence American economic and social policy, giving more power to corporations and moving the New Gilded Age another step forward. Those who continue to say that these free trade agreements like the TPP need to reckon with these realities, especially liberals who do not trust corporations at home but want to empower them overseas. Everything that is wrong with this nation in the New Gilded Age can be traced back to the decline of union jobs and the disappearance of working class voices from politics.

A Timeline of DDT and Rachel Carson

[ 16 ] April 22, 2015 |

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Might as well mark Earth Day, that once meaningful day that now gives corporations an opportunity to pretend they care about the planet. Let’s note it a different way. American Scientist put together a useful timeline of the history of DDT and Rachel Carson, particularly how both have been discussed in the media. Quite worthy of a bit of your time.

History’s Greatest Monster in the History of History Itself May Escape Punishment For Horrible Crimes

[ 78 ] April 22, 2015 |

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You may recall federal prosecutors wasting tens of millions of dollars prosecuting Barry Bonds. Bonds committed the Very Serious crime of breaking non-enforced non-rules threatening the sentimental fog of various narcissistic sportswriters, and hence was targeted in an indirect War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs prosecution. While prosecutors came up with a goose egg in their similarly asinine prosecution of History’s Other Greatest Monster Roger Clemens, they were able to secure a conviction against Barry Bonds. The conviction was on an obstruction of justice charge. What was the basis for the obstruction charge? Bonds was asked a question in court and gave a rambling non-answer to a question…that he answered directly in a follow-up question.

It’s as absurd as it sounds, and Bonds’s conviction was thrown out today by the 9th circuit. A superb use of taxpayer dollars!

I’ll give the final word to Judge Kozinski’s concurrence:

Making everyone who participates in our justice system a potential criminal defendant for conduct that is nothing more than the ordinary tug and pull of litigation risks chilling zealous advocacy. It also gives prosecutors the immense and unreviewable power to reward friends and punish enemies by prosecuting the latter and giving the former a pass. The perception that prosecutors have such a potent weapon in their arsenal, even if never used, may well dampen the fervor with which lawyers, particularly those representing criminal defendants, will discharge their duties. The amorphous nature of the statute is also at odds with the constitutional requirement that individuals have fair notice as to what conduct may be criminal.

Today in the History of Cannibalism

[ 77 ] April 22, 2015 |

GeorgeIII

Another reason I’m glad the U.S. broke free from these savages in 1776:

Some 14,700 years ago, in a cave in southwest England, humans were dining on the flesh of other humans and drinking from their skulls.

We know of these gory events because the Paleolithic inhabitants of this natural shelter—which is called Gough’s Cave today—left an enormous amount of fossil evidence of cannibalism, in addition to amassing a large cache of animal and human bones.

But wait, it gets creepier. According to a study published this week in the Journal of Human Evolution, the bulk of the disturbing remains were deposited within a short period of time, suggesting a sudden and brutal occupation.

Moreover, the authors of the study, led by paleontologist Silvia Bello of London’s Natural History Museum, identified new evidence of ritual bone modification from the cave.

“The human remains have been the subject of several studies,” Bello said in a statement. “In a previous analysis, we could determine that the cranial remains had been carefully modified to make skull-cups.”

“During this research, however, we’ve identified a far greater degree of human modification than recorded earlier,” she continued. “We’ve found evidence for defleshing, disarticulation, human chewing, crushing of spongy bone, and the cracking of bones to extract marrow.”

This of course would never happen in a civilized country like the United States.

Merry Krautmas!

[ 34 ] April 22, 2015 |

On a certain pundit’s permanent credibility problem, in the context of his accusing Obama of making Iran an economic and military hegemon:

This is a … remarkably un-self-aware … set of fulminations coming from a pundit who advocated invading Iraq as the second stage of a Grand Master Plan which would precipitate regime change in Iran by demonstrating “the fragility of dictatorship” next door. How exactly did that work out? Right. And I think we’ve already touched on Charles Krauthammer’s magisterial grasp of anti-proliferation issues – the man who confidently opined that we needed to go into Iraq, because Saddam “is working on nuclear weapons [and] … has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us,” should really just shut up. Forever. And not only shut up, but devote the rest of his life to doing whatever pathetically inadequate things he can to make up for the strategic and humanitarian catastrophe that he helped cheer-lead. Of course, Charles Krauthammer has no intention of shutting up. Which is why I’m marking this squalid anniversary yet again.

Dog Bites Man (But the Details are Worth Reading About)

[ 21 ] April 22, 2015 |

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that UC Berkeley conducted a survey of rates of depression and psychological well-being among its graduate students. They are high, which, the Chron says “surprised and alarmed” the experts when previous results came out. The suprise of the experts led others to wonder whether they were qualified to conduct the survey, since they had evidently never been in grad school themselves.

This current iteration finds that that 47% of Ph.D. students are depressed, and among the Ph.D. students, the highest rate of depression — 64% — was in the arts and humanities. These numbers are even more striking because they are current prevalence rates, not prevalence rates over the whole duration of their grad school tenure.

The full report reveals that career prospects was the variable second-most predictive of well-being, and the fifth-most predictive of depression. Because predictors for well-being and depression unsurprisingly overlap a great deal, in their summary they present these predictors together, with career prospects the most important variable. Other important predictors were overall health, living conditions, academic engagement, social support, financial confidence, academic progress and preparation, sleep, feeling valued and included, and adviser relationship.

A couple points. The first should be uncontroversial, and yet sometimes gets lost in the course of describing mental illess as a pathology of the individual, as I was arguing a couple of weeks ago. The onset and course of mental illness is heavily influenced by the context of the sufferer. Stressful, demanding working environments and extreme economic precarity cause depression, even if they are not sufficient, in and of themselves, to cause depression.

The second point: I’m a little rueful that the question this report needs to pose for itself, “Why do we care about well-being?”, is answered primarily in terms of the grad students’ productivity:

We care because we want to enable graduate students to do their best work andmake the most of their time here. Balanced, happy people are more productive, more creative, more collaborative, better at long-term goal pursuit, more likely to find employment, more physically and psychologically resilient, and more.

But if institutions need to think of their members as cogs in order to build structures to treat them as more than cogs, it’s better than nothing.

Journalism in the New Gilded Age

[ 47 ] April 22, 2015 |

Pulitzer

This certainly makes one feel bad about the future of journalism.

One of today’s Pulitzer winners for local reporting isn’t actually a reporter anymore.

The Daily Breeze’s Rob Kuznia won the prize alongside Rebecca Kimitch for a series on corruption in the Torrance, California school district. Now the former reporter, who had more than 15 years’ experience covering local affairs, is celebrating the career high in his new job… as a publicist.

Apparently, as Kuznia co-reported the award-winning series, he was slowly getting squeezed out of the journalism racket.

Appended to the LA Observed’s coverage of the awards was the following bittersweet update:

We should note that Kuznia left the Breeze and journalism last year and is currently a publicist in the communications department of USC Shoah Foundation. I spoke with him this afternoon and he admitted to a twinge of regret at no longer being a journalist, but he said it was too difficult to make ends meet at the newspaper while renting in the LA area.

The effective elimination of the profession that is most likely to expose the problems of the present sure is a great way for corporations and politicians to protect their behavior. What I do isn’t exactly journalism but I can do it because I have a full-time job of a very specific kind. Those I know who are freelancing and trying to make ends meet without being the partner of someone rich is really hard to watch. Its just a constant struggle. Even the best journalists have to leave the profession in order to eat.

The Vacuous Cynicism of Florida Republicans Who Oppose the Medicaid Expansion

[ 43 ] April 22, 2015 |

mr-plow3_

Jon Cohn has a good piece on Florida Republicans painting themselves into a corner on the Medicaid expansion:

To put it another way, expanding Medicaid in Florida would likely require a net investment by state taxpayers that, over the course of a decade, would work out to less than a half-billion dollars a year. That’s without accounting for any additional growth and tax revenues that the huge infusion of federal dollars might provide. That’s also without accounting for the more than $1 billion a year in that, without expanding Medicaid, Florida would probably have to scrounge up in order to help hospitals defray the cost of charity care.

In short, if the numbers were lopsided in favor of expanding Medicaid before, they are even more lopsided now. And it’s not as if anybody is arguing seriously that those grants are a superior way of financing care for the poor. If anything, the opposite is true — and it’s one reason the editorial page of the Tampa Bay Times called Scott’s position “indefensible.” Other editorial pages, civic organizations, and business groups across the state have made similar statements.

[…]

No, the level of hostility to Obamacare makes very little sense — unless it’s about something beyond the policy particulars. It could be the fact that Democrats finally accomplished something big, for the first time in several decades, thereby expanding the welfare state at a time when conservatives thought they were on their way to shrinking it. Or it could be the idea that, on net, the Affordable Care Act transfers resources away from richer, whiter people to poorer, darker people. Or it could be the fact that “Obamacare” contains the word “Obama,” whose legitimacy as president at least some conservatives just can’t accept.

Who knows? The only thing certain is that, in Florida, turning down Medicaid has even weaker logic than it did before — except for officials obsessed with Obamacare or determined to please the people who are. Rick Scott may belong in either category and he might just belong in both.

Greg Sargent observes that one anti-Medicaid-expansion Florida rep “chanted ‘liberty’ as he walked past reporters camped in the hallway.” Poor people suffering and dying because they lack access to health care is not a “liberty” that should be valued very highly. But, as Sargent says, the rather obvious problem here is that there isn’t even any such principle involved. Scott and his allies aren’t opposed in principle to the federal government giving Florida money to cover health care for poor people. They’re opposed to the federal government giving Florida money to cover health care for poor people if it’s done via “Obamacare.” It’s pretty hard to argue that there’s some sort of major liberty interest involved when you’re literally making (idiotic) arguments that the state of Florida is constitutionality entitled to federal health care grants.

Evidently, exposing the empty, posturing mendacity of the Florida Republicans who oppose the Medicaid expansion won’t be much consolation to the poor people who will be denied health care in the short term. But eventually (particularly after Obama leaves office), more and more states are going to start taking the money.

Speaking of which, it looks like despite the barrage of money from the lavishly taxpayer-subsidized Koch brothers Montana will be taking the Medicaid expansion. Not in an ideal form, but still a major improvement on the status quo. Every state counts.

Admit it — you’re surprised I didn’t end up getting shot

[ 84 ] April 22, 2015 |

SEK wanders out of THE BAR after saying many fond farewells one of his oldest friends only to find THE COP hunched over the side of his car in what appears to be a puking position.

SEK: Are you all right?

THE COP: Fine, fine — just had a bad Sprite.

SEK: I don’t think that’s a thing.

THE COP: Must have been bad.

SEK: Are you sure you’re alright?

THE COP: (grabbing his side) Yeah sure — you can just — I can —

SEK: Bad Sprite’s not a thing. When my wife grabbed her side like that she had to have her appendix re —

THE COP: I’ll be — I’m — just you —

SEK: I’m calling 911. (calls 911) I’m with a police officer and he’s in a lot of pain —

911 DISPATCHER: Where are you located?

SEK: I’m at [location]

THE COP’S CAR: Officer [In Extremis] are you OK?

THE COP: (moans)

911 DISPATCHER: Is the officer OK?

SEK: He doesn’t seem to be. Should I tell the person in the car that?

THE COP: I’M OK!

SEK: He’s not. Don’t listen to him.

911 DISPATCHER: Keep him still — help is coming.

SEK looks at THE COP, who is now moaning on the ground in pain not borne of bad Sprite.

SEK: I’m — on it?

911 DISPATCHER: This is on you now. Keep him talking.

SEK: So tell me more about this bad Sprite…

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