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Category: General

The Intervention Paradox

[ 0 ] April 25, 2011 |

In text form.

In cartoon form.

A Bow Tie Does Not Make Someone An Intellectual

[ 45 ] April 25, 2011 |

The funny thing about Roger Kimball’s ongoing campaign of complaining about the decline of academia and western civilization is that they come from a man who knows essentially nothing about anything. And the next time he makes an argument about how academia has no standards that consists of citing the names of departments, remember the pending McCain landslide! Maybe his career is a kind of performance art dedicated to proving the proposition that America is “dumbing down.”

The law school employment crisis

[ 80 ] April 25, 2011 |

I have a piece in TNR that tries to answer what ought to be a straightforward question: What percentage of graduates of the 198 ABA-accredited law schools are getting real legal jobs within nine months of graduation?

If a real legal job is defined as a permanent full-time job that requires a law degree, the answer appears to be something on the order of 30% to 35%. Of course this figure will vary enormously between schools, but given that the overall “employment” rate for their graduates reported by law schools is over 90%, it’s safe to say that the real rate is drastically lower than what individual schools are claiming it is, wherever they may be in the hierarchy.

The real rate is a problem for several reasons, the two most pressing being skyrocketing tuition and declining legal salaries. In constant inflation adjusted dollars, media annual law school tuition since 1985 has gone from $3582 at public schools to $17,757, and from $14,762 to $37,950 at private schools. (In other words public law schools cost more now than private ones did 25 years ago). The median law school debt incurred by students (not overall educational debt, let alone overall debt) is approaching six figures, and is above that already among private school grads (60% of ABA law schools are private).

Then there’s the salary situation. Legal services are being rationalized in ways that are driving down salaries, especially entry-level salaries. Accurate entry level salary information is very difficult to obtain (less than half of graduates report any salary information at all, and those that do are not anything like a representative sample), but it appears that only a minority of the perhaps one-third of law graduates who are getting real legal jobs are getting jobs with salaries that would allow a person to service a six-figure law school debt amortized over ten years (the traditional period) and still eat and pay rent.

Then there’s the matter of how many of the few legal graduates who are getting high paying real legal jobs are doing the kind of work they wanted to do when they went to law school. There’s a lot of data suggesting that associates at big law firms are currently even more miserable than usual, as firms increase billable hour requirements, as they attempt to maintain profits while under increasing pressure from cost-conscious clients.

One obvious question all this should raise is: Why does law school cost so much more than it did just a few years ago? It’s a question to which legal academics haven’t paid nearly enough attention.

Early Questions About The Newly Leaked Classified Data on Guantanamo…

[ 9 ] April 24, 2011 |

… which hit the stands this evening via NYT, WAPO, the Telegraph and numerous other media outlets; courtesy of Wikileaks, many say.

Interestingly, NYT reports Wikileaks was not responsible for this release, claiming the documents were originally leaked to Wikileaks but were released to the media by “another party”:

These articles are based on a huge trove of secret documents leaked last year to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks and made available to The New York Times by another source on the condition of anonymity.

If not Wikileaks, who? Read more…

We’re Not Entitled Enough!

[ 26 ] April 24, 2011 |

If there was any question that the Yankees are the closest non-political party approximation to the Republican Party now in existence, the amount of bitching and moaning that follows any Rivera pitch eight inches off the plate not being called a strike settles the question. The umpires, who respond by calling strike three on said pitch on the next AB, represent the Democrats.

…and the ol’ “every play is a force play” blown call to rob the Orioles of the winning run as the cherry on top. When Michael Kay says that it’s “too close to call,” it reminds me of how Thurgood Marshall said that if he knew one of his defendants was innocent if a Southern jury only gave him life without parole.

Who Cares About the Royal Wedding?

[ 50 ] April 24, 2011 |

We had a debate recently about whether my lack of interest in the royal family/wedding (or other famous-for-being famous people with an equal independent claim on people’s attention, like the Kardashians or the cast of Jersey Shore) makes me part of a minority (as a commenter claimed) or as what media attention tends to conceal as being a very large majority (my contention.) Well, in fact if you’re an American interest in the royal wedding makes you part of a very small minority indeed. People forget that it doesn’t take a very high percentage of the American public to produce enough ratings to sustain a profitable TV show or move magazines from supermarket check-out racks.

The politics of birtherism

[ 30 ] April 23, 2011 |

A new CBS/NY Times poll finds that 47% of Republican voters say Barack Obama was born outside the United States. (Only a third say he was born in this country, while another 22% say they don’t know one way or another).

This can be interpreted in a number of ways. Jon Chait points out that part of the explanation could be low-information voters who don’t really care much about the issue but have some vague idea that questions have been raised regarding it. That’s true — I know several people who tend to vote Republican who fall into this category: they say they don’t care much whether or not Obama was actually born in the US, but they don’t understand why he doesn’t [sic] release his birth certificate and “end the controversy.” But the problem with this explanation is that barely a fifth of Republican voters express doubts about the issue, while nearly half claim to know Obama is lying about being constitutionally eligible to be president, which hardly seems like a trivial complaint.

My take on the matter is that the astonishing number of Republicans who claim to have gone Full Birther is evidence of the extent to which the GOP base has been even more fully taken over by the classic mindset seen among many members of marginalized minority groups — a mindset that is particularly prone to accepting exotic conspiracy theories, and demanding that others in the group accept those theories too, if they wish to fully share in the group identity.

It’s important not to under-estimate the role of Fox News in all this. Fox’s commercial success is based on its intense appeal to a quite narrow demographic: Old white men dominate Fox’s audience to a startling extent (the network’s median viewer is 65, nearly 99% are non-black, and the audience skews heavily male). That appeal is based in large part on Rupert Murdoch’s and Roger Ailes’s canny calculation that many members of this demographic now perceive themselves to belong to a besieged minority group, and many of these people are beset by the classic paranoia that is common among such groups. The genius of Fox is that it has transformed the cohort that has run the country forever – older white Christian men (see, e.g., it’s more than comprehensive coverage of the “War on Christmas”) – into an oppressed minority group, that buys into fantasies of conspiratorial oppression. Indeed, the modern Republican party is based in part on its ability to transform, on a national scale, whiteness into a distinct and defining social identity, which allows people who share it to bond self-consciously over that identity. Fox’s shameless flogging of the barely concealed crypto-racism at the heart of birther fantasies is of a piece with its overall commercial/ideological strategy, which could be summed up as selling identity politics for white people.

A Republican Legislator’s Votes Are A Private Matter!

[ 24 ] April 23, 2011 |

Since I’ve seen some discussion on the Twitter today about whether Reid should force a vote on the Ryan destroy-Medicare-to-finance-upper-class-tax-cuts program (answer: “hell, yes”), I thought I’d highlight what is the very dumbest argument in the thoroughly ridiculous PoliFact piece I discussed yesterday:

And finally, the ad neglects another critical fact: The Republicans voted on a budget resolution that states policy preferences, but the vote did not actually change Medicare, much less end it. As we’ve noted before in previous fact-checks, budget resolutions are non-binding documents that cannot be viewed as the equivalent of legislation that establishes law. Deeply desiring something and accomplishing it are different.

I swear that it goes on to consult an expert who explains that bills based in the House do not, in fact, become part of the U.S. Code until passed by the Senate and signed by the president. You learn something new every day!

But anyway, this as about as dumb as fake-equivalence centrism gets. It’s now out of bounds to criticize the public votes of legislators? That as long as there’s another veto point they can’t be held accountable for positions they’ve taken? If taken seriously, this would make effective democracy impossible — if public positions aren’t a fair basis to evaluate candidates, we might as well pick them out of a hat. But to fake-centrist pain caucus types, this is of course the point…

In Defense of the New Wildcard

[ 20 ] April 23, 2011 |

We have to start with this: MLB is not going to eliminate the wildcard. Given this, as I said at the time it seems pretty clear that a wildcard play-in game/short series is a substantial improvement over the status quo. As long as we’re stuck with the wildcard, the second-best alternative is to substantially devalue it and simultaneously make pennant races between good teams possible again. And as to complaints that in some cases the wildcard team will be better than other division winners, there’s an easy way to avoid the injustice: win your damn division. You don’t, feel lucky that you’re in the playoffs at all.

New and improved Kinetic Humanitarian Intervention now includes robot killing machines

[ 6 ] April 23, 2011 |

blade runner

Still not a war though.

Interesting thoughts from former Pentagon analyst on the politics of drone warfare.

Friday Nugget Blogging Challenge

[ 50 ] April 22, 2011 |

“Mom, which is worse for the environment, making energy from coal or wood?”

Admittedly this question is not as off the wall as many, but hey: Read more…

When Faculty Attack!

[ 52 ] April 22, 2011 |

A conservative sent me a passive-aggressive email concerning University of Iowa professor Ellen Lewin’s intemperate response to a passive-aggressive email the College Republicans sent about “Conservative Coming Out Week.”  Instead of completing the Circle of Irony by responding to that conservative in an equally intemperate fashion, I would like to spend a moment pointing out the obvious:

The professor’s response (“FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS”) is clearly inappropriate, but in her defense, the College Republicans were just as clearly trying to be “provocative” by appropriating the language of the causes they oppose.  They claim, for example, that they can host something called “Conservative Coming Out Week” without ever stopping to think about who exactly kept homosexuals afraid to exit the closet.  Thin as liberal support for gay and lesbian causes frequently is, it is safe to say that the people who currently wish “those people” were back in the closet weren’t the most ardent supporters of them exiting it.

Similarly, I’m sure the College Republicans chuckled to themselves when they first saw the phrase “Animal Rights BBQ” because they’ll be asserting their rights to barbeque animal … while simultaneously demonstrating their commitment to punning ungrammatically.  I should add: that latter commitment extends to all matters ungrammatical, as evidenced by their decision to host the discussion “Whose Conservative Anyway?  Guess which athletes, movie stars, and performing artists are Republican.”  This is not to say that Dr. Lewin’s response was appropriate, even if

In 2010, Lewin’s salary from the University of Iowa was $94,800.00 plus benefits.  In her spare time, [she] was written books entitled, Inventing Lesbian Cultures in America, and Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America.

My annoyance at the grammar of these proponents of English as an official language aside, the strange juxtaposition of Dr. Lewin’s salary and what she does “[i]n her spare” times speaks to the fundamental misunderstanding about what academics do and what their responsibilities are that snakes through the article and the comments below it.  Professors don’t write books in their “spare time” because they have no spare time.  Academics devote what these conservatives are calling “spare time” to professional duties these same conservatives would call “was written books.”  Obviously, the implicit claim is that this professor on the public dole has enough “spare time” to “was written books” about gays and lesbians instead of how awesome George Washington was, because as Dr. Lewin herself pointedly noted, this is all about conservatives’ tactically “delicate sensibilities.”

Were the College Republicans actually offended that a professor responded to their offensive provocation in a manner that demonstrated she was provoked by their offense?  Absolutely not.  As their faculty advisor (and fellow devotee to writing English good) wrote:

It’s not my place at this point to debate the merits of whether the CR message was offense, but let me remind you that they have First Amendment rights as much as you do[.]

The point can’t be the merit of a conservative student organization openly mocking homosexuals and animal rights activists, because so long as they do so without explicitly saying “FUCK YOU, HOMOSEXUALS” and “FUCK YOU, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS,” they’re merely exercising their right to implicitly say “FUCK YOU, HOMOSEXUALS” and “FUCK YOU, ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS.”  In short, the point can’t be about the merit of the College Republicans’ argument because it has no merit: it’s all about the tactical employment of rhetorical legerdemain in the service of a hateful ideology.