As these researchers point out, it absolutely makes sense to engage in a significant emissions reduction program, even if India and China are going to pump out as much into the atmosphere as they can. Ultimately, preparing early for climate change is going to pay off down the road. But the political benefits of doing so, which are all short-term benefits, are very hard to see and discourage any action. Of course, as the huge methane emissions of Oklahoma and Texas demonstrate, we are far from showing any leadership on this issue.
Julia Ioffe’s article about Heritage Action is fascinating reading. As IB notes in comments, it’s not that Heritage was ever non-hackish, but “[w]hat has changed, however, is the organization’s ability to think strategically and act effectively. It’s gone from being an extremely effective hackish pressure group to becoming a much less effective one.” Their contempt for strategic thought, shared by crucial members of Congress, is dumbfounding:
After months of furious lobbying, Needham sold, at most, 20 members of the House on his plan of attack. In the end, this was enough to cement the party line—and lead the GOP to a spectacular, deafening loss.
Sorting through the wreckage, Washington conservatives can barely contain their anger at Needham for his ideological inflexibility and aggressive, zero-sum tactics. “Their strategic sense isn’t very strong,” griped a prominent Republican lobbyist. “They’ve repeatedly been wrong about how to handle this.” Says a senior House Republican aide, “Mike Needham played a large role in defeating ideas that would have worked out better.”
It’s not that this inability to think in terms of means and ends is entirely absent from the left; sure, there are people who think that because single-payer is better policy it could have been passed but Obama didn’t even try, or who think that 1. Elect Romney 2. ???? 3. ???? 4. ???? 5. ??? 6. The White House and Congress will be controlled by Scandanavian Social Democrats! is a viable strategy. But, particularly since 2000 discredited irrational spoilerism (and even that was a tiny faction of the left that mattered only because of an unusually close election), this segment of the left has very little influence. On the right, it’s influential enough to actually cause the Republican conference in Congress to run themselves off a cliff again and again.
Their irrationality has even extended to their own influence:
Shortly after this summer’s farm bill debacle (Heritage Action pushed members to rid the bill of its food-stamp half, then still sent out a “no” alert on the revised bill, hanging out to dry members from agricultural districts), the outrage was such that the Heritage Foundation was bannedfrom the weekly lunches of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative caucus of House Republicans. This was particularly ironic as the RSC and Heritage were once interwoven: In the 1970s, Feulner had been the RSC’s first executive director. “It really speaks volumes about a betrayal of trust,” says the Republican strategist. The House GOP aide puts it more starkly: “There are over two hundred thirty bridges to be burned in the House. Over two hundred of them are burned, and they maybe have about thirty more left.”
The frustration grew in the build up to the budget fight as Heritage Action organized DeMint’s nine-city tour, and Needham blitzed the conservative media—giving constituents the impression that defunding Obamacare in one knockout move was perfectly plausible. In meetings, congressional staffers couldn’t even get Heritage Action to entertain the possibility that the strategy might fail. “They never wanted to discuss anything past defund,” recalls the Republican staffer. “We would ask, ‘What if [Democrats] say no and don’t budge, what do you do then?’ They kept saying: ‘That’s not our role. You figure it out.’ ” In an August interview with CSPAN, Needham was asked a similar question: How can Republicans achieve their goal of defunding Obamacare without control of the Senate or the White House? “I think that, rather than trying to figure out where we’re going to be at the end of September,” Needham said, his underbite jutting contemptuously, “we should actually fight for something.”
I also enjoyed this:
DeMint was known nationally as a warrior for purity, spending more of his time seeking out like-minded candidates for the U.S. Senate rather than passing legislation. But, at Heritage, DeMint found kindred spirits in Saunders and Needham, who created a Heritage Action scorecard to grade Republican members of Congress on their ideological mettle. (The standard is so high that, at this writing, the House Republican caucus gets a paltry 66 percent rating.)
But the whole thing is worth etc.
Shocking that Tom Coburn’s report on the national parks would be nothing but a justification for slashing budgets, eliminating the Antiquities Act (one of America’s best laws and one that western legislators have hated ever since it was passed in 1906 and Theodore Roosevelt used it to get around the despoiling businesses and legislators of the West) and opening up lands for oil exploration.
Over the past few weeks, a number of people employed by and connected to Penn State’s law school have helped draw the following portrait of what’s going on there:
PSU’s law school is the brainchild of Graham Spanier, who early in his tenure at the university’s president decided that the university ought to have a law school, because prestige etc. At that time, Tom Ridge was Pennsylvania’s governor. Ridge is an alumnus of the Dickinson School of Law, a small private law school in Carlisle, which is the seventh-oldest law school in the country, having operated since the early 19th century. (It’s never been affiliated with Dickinson College, the well-regarded liberal arts college in the same town).
Spanier decided that the best way to advance this scheme was to convince Ridge to allow PSU to acquire Dickinson. Over the next few years complex political negotiations — in which Ed Rendell apparently played some role as well — eventually produced the following deal: The law school would become part of PSU, and a second campus for the school would open in State College, site of PSU’s flagship campus. PSU agreed to keep the Carlisle campus open until at least 2025, or 2020 if the university declared a financial exigency. The university committed to spending an enormous sum — about $130 million — on creating the new campus and updating the old one. Consequently, PSU built a $60 million law school building in State Park, which opened in 2009, and spent an additional $50 million on a new building and the upgrading of the existing physical plant at the Carlisle campus. The new Carlisle facilities were completed in 2010.
Spanier’s “vision” called for a law school with a typical first year enrollment of around 240 students, with two thirds of these in State College and the rest in Carlisle. This exercise in classic imperial administrative overstretch began to fall apart almost immediately. Predictably, the faculties of the law school’s two campuses didn’t get along. The State College faculty wanted to chase after rankings, which meant playing the academic prestige game, which in turn meant trying to hire faculty who would publish lots of law review articles. The righteous remnant in Carlisle, also quite predictably, started thinking of itself as focused on professional training — “experiential learning” in the current jargon — rather than on “theory.” (“Theory” is the buzzword for anything smacking of academic pretentions in this thing of ours).
The spat got bad enough that, even though the State College campus had been open for just a few years, the two faculties voted to file for academic divorce, and accepted an arrangement whereby the law school would be spun off into two separately accredited law schools. The ABA is currently finishing up on giving its blessing to the split, which should be completed by next fall or shortly thereafter.
If you think this sounds like a terrible idea, you haven’t heard the half of it. While the faculty was fighting over the wedding china and custody of the kids, enrollment and revenue were both collapsing. The two campus model was premised on having around 700 JD students enrolled at any particular time, while jacking up tuition drastically (it went from $25,500 in 2004 to $42,000 this year). The school enrolled first year classes of between 205 and 230 students in the late aughts, but over the last three years enrollments have plunged. This fall PSU 132 students matriculated at the two campuses, with just 34 of those matriculants beginning their legal educations in Carlisle’s new $50 million digs. (The decline in applications has been even steeper, from 5,326 in 2010 to 1,885 in 2013. H/T JDU.)
Not surprisingly, this whole operation is currently bleeding red ink at what I’m told PSU’s central administrators consider an unacceptable rate. Student-faculty ratio has plunged from 17.3 to 1 in 2004 to 8.8 to 1 in 2013 (for comparison purposes, average law school student-faculty ratios across the nation were 25 to 1 in 1990, 18 to 1 in 2000, and 14.3 to 1 in 2012). The school is spending millions of dollars a year more than it’s bringing in — perhaps $10 million more this fiscal year — and apparently things are going to get worse before they get better, because PSU announced this week that it’s cutting tuition in half for Pennsylvania residents. This announcement provides a dire hint regarding what the school’s current application volume looks like.
Note that this $20,000 annual “scholarship” doesn’t feature any stipulations, and is granted automatically to any state resident the school admits, so it’s really nothing but a straight up 50% price cut. Note too that current PSU 1Ls and 2Ls aren’t eligible for these “scholarships,” which means that next year many if not most of the school’s 2Ls and 3Ls (only 18% of last year’s student body got tuition discounts of half or more) will be paying twice as much in tuition as the entering 1Ls.
PSU’s law school has a total endowment of only $46 million, which is currently being split up between the soon-to-be separate schools. Assuming something like an equal split, each campus will be getting about a million dollars a year in endowment income going forward.
From a financial perspective this can’t and won’t work. Why then, given this ongoing collapse in law school operating revenue is, the university choosing to greatly increase operating costs, by forgoing all the economies of scale generated by being a single law school with two campuses? Now PSU will have to finance two separate law school administrations, two admissions processes, two career services operations, two development offices, etc. etc. Why would PSU’s central administration agree to this obviously untenable arrangement?
One possible answer is gross administrative negligence, which, given the current state of higher education in general, is a theory that has Occam’s Razor to recommend it. I suspect the real answer is rather more Machiavellian. On this account, the faculty divorce is providing central with an opportunity to downsize PSU’s law school operations relatively — at least from central’s perspective — painlessly. Once it has been spun off, the Carlisle version of the school will simply be allowed to die (recall that the campus can be closed in a little more than six years from now if the university declares a financial exigency), thereby permitting PSU to offload around a third of its tenured faculty all at once. The physical plant will be sold off to Dickinson College for pennies on the dollar, the university’s budget will unburden itself of about a dozen expensive faculty lines, and the Dickinson College of Law, will, after nearly two centuries, cease to exist.
It may well be that the Carlisle faculty — who are for the most part quite senior — even recognize this, and would prefer to run out the clock in this fashion, rather than remain tied to their State College brethren. We shall see.
I don’t know which of these is funniest:
- I do, however, know that the skree has gone well past 11. Here’s Roy’s–funny and awesome–take on the rightblogger response to ending the filibuster and the nukes deal with Iran.
- On the other hand, this bizarre bit of gymnastics from Victor David Hanson is really impressive. For an old guy, he really can twist himself into some pretty pretzely positions. This rumination on how people are dumb doody-heads because they like Lady Gaga and Kanye West ergo vote for the dumb negro leaves me with no doubt that VDH has learned how to human centipede himself. It’s just a flawed premise from the start, though, because if you know anything about Lady Gaga and Kanye West–and of course VDH doesn’t– you’d know that Kanye has actually made some artful, worthwhile music. And you’d know that Lady Gaga mostly writes her own stuff and has crafted some fun, listeneable, danceable Top 40. If you want to have a discussion about gratuitous vulgarity and the commercialization of music, they’re hardly where you’d start, unless you’re human centipede Victor Davis Hanson.
- I think this young NRO writer wins the internet, however, by complaining that Star Wars has, like, totally SOLD OUT, MAN. I especially love the ideas that there were no faceless bureaucrats involved SW before now and that there are no nerds who work at Disney.
Oh, wingnuts, I want to star in a romantic comedy with you.
If you think your life isn’t depressing enough, reading the excellent history site Executed Today is a good way to do accomplish this task. What is Executed Today? It’s a website with daily postings about someone executed on that day in history. Good times, no? Today in 1838, Tsali, a Cherokee who refused to leave his home in North Carolina to go to Oklahoma, was executed. An excerpt:
So it’s also fitting to remember that this day in 1838** was the execution of Tsali, the hero of those escaped North Carolina Cherokee whom Brown mentions — a man tied to a tree and shot this date by the U.S. Army for resisting “Indian removal”.
While assimilated Cherokees like Chief John Ross were themselves right in the thick of the debate about deportation, Tsali was a traditionalist farmer in North Carolina who had little contact with such sketchy political machinations.
When Washington’s ethnic cleansing policy shed its diplomatic cover for naked force, Tsali and his family killed some of the soldiers sent to capture them for removal.** General Scott was not amused.
The individuals guilty of this unprovoked outrage must be shot down; & there is another object demanding equal & immediate attention, viz: –the protection of the white families, residing in that region, who are, doubtless, much alarmed (& may be in great danger) at the most unexpected spirit of hostility evinced by the fugitive Indians about them by the murders in question.
A useful list of food products for your Thanksgiving made in union shops. If you have a choice, choose union-produced food.
I know we frequently talk about a benefit of marijuana legalization undermining the cartel violence in Mexico. But at this point, the cat is out of the bag on that. The cartels have plenty of ways to make money. Such as taking over the entire avocado industry by violence. Scary stuff.
I happened to catch most the romantic comedy, “Addicted to Love” this weekend, as my son napped. I’m not quite sure why I stayed with the movie, as I didn’t particularly like it, but for some reason I felt compelled to keep watching until it ended.
I think it was probably by the late nineties that I’d decided that most films billed as “romantic comedies” were neither funny nor romantic, so I didn’t catch this one when it was released in 1997. It turns out I didn’t miss much but a film bubbling over with lost opportunities.
“Addicted to Love” is about a man who follows his ex to New York after she ditches him for a dashing French chef. He ends up meeting the chef’s ex and together they begin spying on their two ex lovers. In the meantime, they develop feelings for each other, but it’s not quite as pat as all that.
And I think that’s why the film didn’t work for me. See, it had a bit more depth than your average Hollywood romcom. Plus–like the vastly superior “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”–there weren’t really any villains in the piece. Sure, Anton, the French chef, is an arrogant goof, but he’s also bright and interesting and –at times–downright likable. So, it’s hard to reconcile the creepy invasions into his privacy and the life-ruining revenge the scorned lovers get on him with the light romantic comedy vibe the film had going on.
And, as is often the case, the laughs were tepid and spare and the romance was too. Which is a shame, because Broderick and Ryan actually had a decent amount of chemistry. If the movie had capitalized on that more, I think it could have gone two ways: wickedly sexy dark comedy or pat Hollywood romantic comedy with actual, viable romance. The weird lukewarm middle ground it utlimately achieved felt mediocre, meandering and off-putting.
If I understand correctly, Europe has been mostly conquered by the Hitler-of-the-week roughly 500 times since Obama took office. Frankly, it’s amazing that the world economy isn’t in worse shape.
Can We at Least Tell the One about the Wealthy Privileged People Who Do Moderately Tasteless Things?
Brian Lowry, “writer” for Variety, is upset that Sarah Silverman is “limiting herself” by “appearing determined to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys” Yes, that’s right. Sarah Silverman isn’t trying to be funny, she’s trying to be like the boys. Which makes sense, really, because only boys are funny.
I’m afraid that Brian Lowry is limiting himself by being a sexist butthole. It’s simultaneously fascinating and maddening.
I spent some time reading terrible arguments — in good faith or otherwise — that Democrats will regret using the nuclear option. I explain why all the forms of this argument are transparently wrong. Of these, the strangest is liberal sentimentalism about the filibuster:
Some liberal writers whose work I respect enormously have an attachment to the idea of the filibuster that I find frankly unfathomable. For example, the eminent legal scholar Geoffrey Stone argues that the nuclear option is “a sad day for America.” But like most such arguments, his defense of the filibuster exists entirely in the abstract, with no attempt to grapple with the actual effect of the filibuster on American politics. In what is always a bad sign, Stone begins by invoking the Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which makes about as much sense as invoking Henry V to argue that monarchy is preferable to democracy. More unfortunate is that Stone does not depart the realm of the Hollywood tear-jearker to consider how the filibuster has been used by the actually existing United States Senate. Stone does not identify any example of the filibuster being used to protect an oppressed minority, presumably because as far as I can tell there aren’t any. Nor does he deal with the frequent use of the filibuster to obstruct federal civil rights legislation, a much more representative use of the filibuster than Jimmy Stewart’s stand for the little guy.
The depiction of the filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a nearly precise inversion of how the filibuster actually works. Far from protecting the interests of powerless minorities, the filibuster in practice is far more likely to allow powerful, overrepresented minorities like segregationist and business interests to thwart legislation intended to protect oppressed minorities. The Republican blockade of Obama’s judicial and executive nominees is very much consistent with this tradition, which is why the use of the nuclear option was a clear victory for progressives.
Another example of an excellent writer with an attachment to the filibuster I find inexplicable is Johnathan Bernstein, whose defense of the practice I missed until after my article went to the editors. One of his points — “Have you actually looked at the House of Representatives lately? Do we really need a second body organized that way?” I address directly in the article. The problems with this argument are that 1)the Senate looking more functional is a historical anomaly, and 2)House dysfunction is not caused by its majoritarian structure. Indeed, if Tea Party House Republicans had an effective veto like they would in the Senate it’s not clear that the planet Earth would exist anymore. Certainly, there would be not only no debt limit extension but no ACA, no repeal of DADT, and no stimulus, among many other things.
On his larger argument, I’m not sure Wendy Davis is any more relevant to the routinized filibuster of the United State Senate than a Frank Capra film is. Reducing the filibuster to a 55-vote threshold wouldn’t reserve the filibuster for unusual, lonely and ultimately futile stands against bad legislation; it would just be a de facto 55-vote supermajority requirement that would have no good reason for existing. And, really, the fact that defenders of the filibuster are unable to come up with the filibuster serving a useful purpose in the Senate itself and have to rely on hypotheticals, other legislative bodies, or Hollywood movies makes my case for me.
I should say that Bernstein does have a good explanation for why the Republicans may have pushed too far — the few remaining moderates were being hung out to dry. I would add that the Cruz faction seems to care more about posturing than actual policy substance, so the counterproductive results from their perspective may not matter too much to them.