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When Challenging the Expertise of Others, It’s Preferable To Be At Least Minimally Informed

[ 48 ] September 19, 2014 |

K.C. Johnson kinda sorta defends Steven Salaita’s academic freedom, but things go quickly off the rails:

The Steven Salaita case at the University of Illinois continues to engender controversy. The three most perceptive commentaries came from FIRE and Steven Lubet. In comments with which I entirely agree, FIRE condemned the public statement of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise, who justified the revocation of Salaita’s offer on the grounds “we cannot and will not tolerate . . . personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse . . . viewpoints themselves.” But why, as FIRE noted, should anyone be prohibited from “disrespectfully” “abusing” ideas”—such as racism or sexism or homophobia? Lubet analyzed the differences between Salaita’s academic freedom and legal claims, and correctly took to task a group of mostly left-of-center law professors who penned a letter defending Salaita but in the process minimized or even whitewashed Salaita’s extremist views. He spoke of his own experience with the ACLU defending the Nazis’ right to march at Skokie—but added that “the ACLU never soft-pedaled the Nazis as merely passionate critics of international banking.”

To argue that Salaita shouldn’t have been fired but his comments are more offensive than some of his defenders claim is, as far as it goes, a perfectly defensible position. The Lubet op-ed Johnson uncritically cites on this point, however, is a disaster. Lubet’s point about “whitewashing” Salaita is supported by three tweets, and he completely botches two of them:

That brings us to the political dimension, where Salaita’s position is weakest of all. Many of Salaita’s supporters have been unfortunately eager to obscure the true nature of his tweets, usually by calling him a passionate supporter of Palestinian rights who reacted strongly to recent events in Gaza. That does not begin to tell the whole story. Salaita’s demeaning comments about Israelis and Jews predate the current fighting, and they go far beyond the bounds of civil, or even passionate, discourse. For example, Salaita celebrated the kidnapping (and subsequent murder) of three Israeli teenagers and proudly called for more such crimes to be committed: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.” He once retweeted a vile suggestion that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg ought to get “the pointy end of a shiv.”

Salaita also traffics in anti-Semitism, having tweeted: “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” It should go without saying that racism — toward any group, for any reason — is never honorable, despite Salaita’s own indulgence of bigotry. Even bigots, of course, are entitled to academic freedom, but Salaita’s supporters have been regrettably disingenuous. A committee of the Illinois AAUP, for example, argued that Salaita had merely made “an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East.” This is manifestly untrue. Salaita has not called for an end to violence against Israelis. Quite the contrary, he has reveled in it.

The tweet about settlers, as I’ve said, is completely indefensible. But the Goldberg re-tweet — and, let’s repeat, re-tweet — did not say that “Jeffrey Goldberg” should end up “at the pointy of shiv,” but that his story should be. That’s a huge difference, particularly in a context in which UIUC apolgists like Cary Nelson are trying to argue that the re-tweet was a literal incitement to violence. And reading the “since 1948″ tweet as anti-Semitic makes little sense even in isolation and is transparently wrong in any kind of context. So well it might be true that some people are minimizing the offensiveness of Salaita’s tweets — although I still don’t know who this might be because no specific examples of minimization are cited — we can say that Lubet and Johnson are substantially exaggerating them. The fact that Johnson is not sufficiently informed enough about the case to spot Lubet’s howlers is not encouraging.

Johnson, however, does not let his ignorance about basic facts get in the way of making much larger claims. Johnson attempts to argue that Salaita is unqualified and was hired for solely political reasons. Much of his post is taken up, however, involves a running out the clock by returning to Ward Churchill. An extensive LGM investigation has determined, however, that Ward Churchill and Steven Salaita are different people, and so the former’s plagiarism says less than nothing about the academic work of another scholar hired by another department. When we finally get to the evidence about Salaita’s alleged lack of qualifications, we can see why Johnson decided to run out the clock discussion a decade-old reactionary cause celebre — he’s got nothing:

Salaita was hired for a position in an American Indian studies program. His academic specialization, to the extent it can be called that, appears to be Middle Eastern or Arab-American studies. (His last book was entitled, Israel’s Dead Soul). As the Kramer excerpt illustrated, it can be hard sometimes to distinguish between the quality, tone, and substance of Salaita’s “scholarship” and that of his tweets. Subsequent work by David Bernstein (examining some of Salaita’s book reviews) and Liel Liebovitz (discussing some of Salaita’s “academic” publications) reinforces the concern with the quality of his work.

So we have two sources cited to support the claim that Salaita was unqualified. The first is a discussion not of his scholarship but his Goodreads book reviews. So we can ignore this entirely, while pondering the extent to which Johnson is insulting the intelligence of his readers. The second we’ve been through in far more detail than it merited. To summarize, it was not a review of Salaita’s scholarship as a whole but a review of one of his books, a collection of essays written for a general audience and hence not where you’d begin. And the reviewer had already determined that Salaita was unqualified based on on a tendentious-at-best reading of his Twitter feed, so I’m not inclined to take his word even about the merits of this one book.

The fact that Johnson uses this pathetically weak evidence to attack not only Salaita’s qualifications but the value of an entire field puts is reminiscent of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s dismissal of African American Studies based on titles of dissertations she hadn’t read. Johnson, natch, defended Riley, and is still using similar techniques to issue broad attacks on fields of scholarship he knows virtually nothing about. I have no idea if Salaita was the best candidate for the position or not, but Johnson has given me less than no reason not to defer to actual experts in the field who are actually familiar with Salaita’s work.

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Organized Labor and Police Militarization

[ 76 ] September 18, 2014 |

The AFL-CIO has come out pretty strongly against police militarization. Most of the unions seem fine with this. There is of course one major exception: The International Union of Police Associations. The IUPA is bickering a bit with AFL-CIO leadership over it.

And you know what? That’s fine. It’s the job of the IUPA to defend the interests of its members. In this case, that’s probably to have ridiculous armor and weapons. But it is the interest of the AFL-CIO to defend the American working class. Many of its unions are made up of the African-Americans and Latinos victimized by police violence. But the IUPA is doing its job here. We can choose to ignore it or oppose their position. I certainly am. But it’s OK that it holds that position. It is representing its members.

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OK this is pretty cool

[ 43 ] September 18, 2014 |

Supposedly this is cinema verite a la Don Draper, done in one take:

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Thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum III: Ramifications

[ 133 ] September 18, 2014 |

Unlike my previous two posts on today’s referendum in Scotland, on electoral ramifications for the remainder of the United Kingdom, and on interpreting polling data, this piece is more of a speculative nature. Here, I consider constitutional, political, and international ramifications of a yes vote, as well as the constitutional ramifications of a no vote.

A No result, which I consider likely, will have both constitutional and political ramifications throughout the United Kingdom.  Constitutionally, the devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament will be greatly enhanced.  This, of course, presents as many challenges to the constitutional order of the UK as problems it solves by retaining the union. The legendary unwritten British “constitution” encourages muddling through, and the implementation of devolution in 1997-99 makes for clearly delineated (and fair) distribution of powers as Heathrow makes for efficient air travel.  What the UK has at present is a vague form of ersatz federalism, and one that is asymmetrically distributed at that. Among its powers, Scotland’s parliament has control over health, education, and policing primary legislation, and it can vary its income tax by 3% (up or down) from the national baseline. Among things it can not touch are corporation tax. This is considerably greater power than the Welsh Assembly, and of course infinitely more than any English region.

Any increase of these powers (an excellent overview of the nature of these enhanced powers on offer and some of the pitfalls surrounding implantation was posted yesterday at the UK Constitutional Law Association) will cause resentment not only in Wales and Northern Ireland, witnessing yet more constitutional preferential treatment given to Scotland, but perhaps most of all, in England. Made famous by then MP Tam Dalyell, arguing in opposition to the devolution legislation under consideration in 1977 (which eventually went on to be referenda in both Scotland and Wales in 1979), perhaps the most stinging critique of the current implantation of devolution in the UK is known as the “West Lothian Question”, which identifies the bizarre situation: MPs representing Scottish constituencies get to vote on legislation that impacts England, while MPs representing England (as well as those MPs representing Scotland for that matter) can not vote on a range of devolved areas of policy.  This perhaps was most stark in 2004 when tuition for English and Welsh universities was raised to £3000 per year (from something around £1500 if I recall correctly, and I likely do not). Education, including higher education, is a devolved matter in Scotland and thus under the remit of the Scottish Parliament. Even to this day, Scottish universities are free for residents of Scotland. Yet, in the 2004 debate,  while Labour had a strong majority, the legislation passed by only five votes. Remove the Scottish Labour MPs from voting, the Act would have failed. Hence, Scottish MPs voted on legislation affecting only English universities (hence, students) while those same MPs can not act in that policy area for Scotland (nor can English MPs, for that matter).

With the promise of expanded devolution should No prevail, this asymmetry will only become more apparent, and English resentment is emerging:

Support in England for Scottish devolution has fallen from 57% in 1999 to 43% now; on the one hand a quarter now think Scotland should leave the Union, while on the other almost as many feel that Scotland should not have any kind of Scottish Parliament at all.  Meanwhile, although it remains the case that only a minority feel that Scotland gets more than its fair share of public spending, the proportion that do feel that way has more than doubled from 21% in 2000 to 44% now.

That was written a year ago. The current edition of The Economist has several articles on this subject (unsurprisingly), and brings more current public opinion data to bear. In one case, a poll in April suggests that by a four to one margin, the English believe that Scotland should receive a smaller share of public expenditure. This isn’t surprising, where north of the border universities are free (as mentioned above) and so too are prescriptions. As it stands, under the Barnett formula, Scotland receives a larger share of public expenditure per capita than England. Additionally, as reported in The Economist, the Future of England Survey identifies a growing desire for Scottish MPs to not be eligible to vote on England-only issues, from 18% in 2000 to 55% in 2012.

None of the proposed methods to circumnavigate the West Lothian Question are perfect, so long as the existing unitary parliamentary structure is retained. For example, if Labour were to win in 2015, but with a majority dependent on Scottish MPs, and England-only rules were in force such that English (or English and Welsh) MPs could vote on matters not impacting Scotland, the Government’s majority suddenly becomes a minority, and the Government can’t pass legislation meant to affect the largest nation in the UK. Assuming a No victory tonight, and the implantation of Devolution Max with the beginning of the next government following the May 2015 election, calls for some sort of representational fairness will grow louder in England, and to me it seems logistically only a true federal response will ensure equitable representation combined with a workable parliamentary system.

A Yes result brings up many issues of its own, of course. The Yes campaign assumes that the admittance of an independent Scotland into the European Union will be a mere formality.  However, it might not be that easy:

First it was claimed that Scotland would automatically remain in the EU, inheriting its UK membership. Highly unlikely. Then it was asserted that Scotland would be put on a fast-track to membership under a different article in the Lisbon treaty from the one dealing with accession and the only process that has been used so far to admit new members. This is also extremely improbable.

While admitting an independent Scotland to the EU would be a smoother process than, say, Turkey, it’s not going to be automatic. Furthermore, there are several countries with regional separatist problems (smile for the camera, Spain) which would not want to set this particular precedent. It’s not difficult to imagine Spain blocking Scotland’s admittance, or at least make it extremely cumbersome. Cyrpus as well. To a lesser extent, Italy, France, Belgium, and even Germany would not want to see a precent of automatic entry to the EU for break-away nations. Remember, every one of the 28 member states has to agree on membership. While the right to self-determination should result in virtually unanimous recognition of Scotland as an independent state, admitting it to the European Union is a different issue altogether.

This neatly segues into what currency Scotland would use upon independence. The Yes campaign insists it will be the Pound Sterling in a formal currency agreement with the remaining United Kingdom. There are only two problems with this. First, all three major party leaders in Westminster reject this idea, and the governor of the Bank of England (which would remain the central bank of a “Sterling zone”) recently stated that this would be “incompatible with sovereignty”. The rUK has no interest in a formal currency union with an independent Scotland while having no control over fiscal policy; the Eurozone crisis has taught them that much. The Scottish government has since threatened to not pay any share of the accrued public debt of the United Kingdom if it is not allowed a currency union, which is, well, bonkers.

Scotland could continue to use the Pound regardless, as several minor countries use the Euro or the US Dollar as their de facto currency, but this would leave Scotland at the mercy of the Bank of England’s monetary policy, which would not be responsible for Scotland. Furthermore, financial services in Scotland, which is a significant share of the Scottish economy (12.5% of Scottish GDP according to the Economist, 7.1% of Gross Value Added according to the BBC) would flee to London.

The second problem takes us back to the European Union. As it’s likely accession negotiations with an independent Scotland would be treated like any other new member application, Scotland would be required to adopt the Euro eventually as a condition of membership.

Finally, Scottish independence would also have far-reaching ramifications in the rUK. On Tuesday I suggested that an independent Scotland would make a Labour government in the rUK less likely, and if it does happen, more fragile. This would seem to, eventually at least, give the Conservatives an opportunity to form an outright majority. The Conservatives are on record as promising a referendum on continued EU membership in 2017 for the United Kingdom. Without Scotland, the rUK becomes even more Eurosceptic, thus increasing the probability of a “British” exit from the EU.  Again, The Guardian:

If Salmond wins his vote and Cameron wins his for a second term next year, the bizarre situation may arise where a new country called Scotland is clamouring to be let in to the EU after having forfeited 41 years of membership at the same time as a shrunken UK is heading for the EU door marked Brexit.

 

 

 

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New Internet Film School column, on how Community and Winter Soldier are exactly the same thing…

[ 7 ] September 18, 2014 |

…at least in the way they establish and use space.

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So His Check Cleared?

[ 36 ] September 18, 2014 |

It seems pretty obvious at this point that the NFL isn’t getting its $44 million a year worth on Roger Goodell.  (Incidentally, the idea that “he’s made the owners lots of money” seems bizarre to me. Compared to what? How hard is it for an extremely popular, lavishly taxpayer funded league perfectly set up for TV in an era in which live events have become particularly valuable to make a lot of money?  He didn’t create that context.  Which of these factors would vanish if Goodell was replaced by another random executive?) But LGM is happy to present a contrasting view:

Is there any way to … well … defend Roger Goodell?

Well, yes.

When everyone is piling on, it’s time to take a breath and say: We need more facts, less reliance on media reports based on anonymous sources and over-heated pundits who are too ready to rush to judgment.

Not a rush to judgment! The best part:

The third rule is to authorize an independent investigation to answer all the questions and verify the facts. And that is exactly what happened. Of course the emphasis is on the word “independent.”

Two owners, John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom are attorneys, appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller III to conduct the investigation of how Goodell and the NFL headquarters handled the Rice matter.

Nothing says “independent” like an investigation headed by two particularly old-school establishment owners, conducted by a partner in a law firm that does lucrative business with the NFL. Who could possibly argue this nonsense with a straight face?

By Lanny J. Davis

I know we live in age in which parody is dead, but this seems a little on-the-nose. Maybe George Allen can get involved too.

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Five English Weapons of War the Scots Should Fear

[ 139 ] September 18, 2014 |
HMS Nelson during gunnery trials.jpg

“HMS Nelson during gunnery trials” by Priest, L C (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer. -
This is photograph A 9284 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-01)
. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

If the Scots vote “yes” on today’s independence referendum, they will begin a process that will result, in eighteen months or so, in the creation of a new state and the separation of a union that has persisted for over four hundred years. Although we have some examples of peaceful national dissolution, many, and perhaps most, secessionist efforts result in horrific violence along the lines of demarcation.  If the rUK government determines to undertake what some have called the “Longshanks Solution,” what sort of terror might the English inflict upon their former compatriots?  This article examines five English weapons that could decide the outcome of a British civil war.

Astute class nuclear attack submarine: Displacing 7400 ton submerged, the Astute class nuclear attack boats are among the most advanced subs in the world.  They can make up to 30 knots, are reputed to be remarkably quiet, and can carry a large load of torpedoes and land attack missiles.  Astutes carrying Tomahawk missiles can strike any part of Scotland.  Scotland’s limited anti-submarine capability cannot effectively protect either Scottish commerce, or Scottish access to offshore natural resources.  In effect, the Astutes give the Crown the ability to strike anywhere, at anytime, without concern over effective defense or reprisal. Also, all seven of the boats have been or will be constructed in England.

English Electric Lightning: This high speed interceptor can make the skies over Scotland dangerous. The most advanced Lightnings, employing their unique stacked engine system, can reach in excess of Mach 2.  The restricted range of the Lightning will not prove a major handicap over Scotland, which is well within range of most English airfields.  Scotland flies no aircraft competitive with the Lightning, and appears to lack much of an effective, integrated air defense system.  The English Electric Lightning has only limited ground attack capabilities, but its ability to create deafening sonic booms over much of the country should prove deeply annoying to many Scots.

Nelson class battleship: Displacing 35000 tons and carrying 9 16” guns in three triple turrets, the Nelson class battleships Nelson and Rodney overmatch any warship operated by the non-existent Royal Scottish Navy.  The BL 16” Mark 1 can strike targets at up to 35000 yards, delivering up to 9 2000# shells per broadside. These guns can substantially outrange Scottish coastal artillery.  The mobility provided by the two battleships should give the English Crown the capacity to bombard Scottish coastal cities at will, without concern over retribution.  Most importantly, both Nelson and Rodney were constructed in English shipyards, and named after proper English admirals.

English longbow: Constructed mostly from yew, these 6’ long bows require years of training to master.  In the hands of an effective archer, however, an English longbow can penetrate the armor of most Scottish knights and clansmen at considerable range.  English efforts to maintain an experienced, well-trained cadre of archers remain uncertain, but then again rumor has it that the art of armoring has fallen by the wayside among the Scots. Recent evidence has emerged indicating the House Windsor’s renewed interest in maintaining an effective archery branch.

The Welsh:  Those motherfuckers are crazy.

Everyone hopes that the war between Scotland and England will be long, destructive, exhaustive, and entertaining.  If Scotland hopes to resist English power, it is best advised to seek assistance from the Northmen or the Gauls, or to try to raise an army among the Irish.

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Cerro Rico

[ 29 ] September 18, 2014 |

The Cerro Rico silver mine in Potosí, Bolivia was the source of much Spanish wealth after the brutal colonization of the Americas. Although the Incas engaged in some small-scale mining there, the Spanish opened the modern mine in 1545, using it as one of their prime sources of money to kill Protestants in Europe. The Spanish enslaved indigenous labor to work the mine, as it did throughout its colonies. The mine was incredibly rich, making Potosi one of the largest cities in the world by the late 16th century. It was also mined under brutal conditions, with workers dying like flies. Once the silver was mined, it had to be separated from the rock. This was done through the use of mercury. That took a whole other mine, the Huancavélica mine in Peru. The Spanish enslaved indigenous people for that one too. Conditions in that mine were so bad, with people dying of mercury poisoning all the time, that parents would disable their kids to keep them out of mines. People would ingest so much mercury that upon their death, the Spanish would cut open their feet and drain the mercury out of them.

1024px-Cerro_ricco

Eventually, the good silver deposits were mined out and the mine went into decline. But it is still mined today by the indigenous people of Bolivia, taking out the last dregs of silver. Young boys go into the mines around the age of 15 and continue working as long as they can before the sicknesses of mine work force them out, often in their late 30s or early 40s. After the silver corporations pulled out in the 1980s, cooperatives took over and there’s no regulation of the mine, meaning conditions are not much better than they were 400 years ago.

How do I know all of this? Well, you can simply go into Cerro Gordo. I was in Bolivia in 2008. And I went into the mine. The miners are happy to show you around. But it is hardcore. This is no tour for most tourists. You want in the mine, you’d better be prepared to drag yourself up the logs the miners use to get in and out of the mine. You had better enjoy breathing in the disease inducing dust that kills these people from silicosis. In this photo of mine, you can see the killer dust in the air.

DSC02662

I was coughing up dust for a day after just 90 minutes underground. Safety precautions for the gueros? Uh, no. The price of admission is cheap–a few bucks and buying some coca leaves and dynamite for the miners.

DSC02647

This was an amazing and horrifying experience. You walk through the tunnel leading into the mine–the same tunnel the Spanish drove the Inca into beginning in 1545 (at least they provide the tourists helmets, otherwise I would be dead from the 4000 times I whacked my head trying to get into it). And you enter into the hellish underworld of an actual working mine where the workers aren’t even trying to hide their poverty and short life spans. But what else do they have? Bolivia is a very poor country. There aren’t other jobs in the region. Potosí is in the desert at 13,000 feet. Other options are basically nonexistent. I have seen sulfur miners at work in Indonesia and that was a bit horrifying to watch, but this was as close to truly brutal work–the kind of work you just don’t really see much in the U.S. these days, although very much the kind of work foreign workers do to serve the needs of American consumers–as I’ve ever been. You can see the processing of the silver as well, which includes open vats of mercury. I could have stuck my hand right down in it had I wanted, as you can see from my photo above. At the end of the whole experience, they take you outside to blow up some dynamite. Which, well, why not.

Today, the mine is actually collapsing at the top from nearly five hundred years of tunnels and explosions
. These people, proud of the work even as they know it kills them, don’t want it to close. But if it doesn’t, potentially hundreds of people will die. It’s a terrible situation. But these people need work and it’s hard to blame them for resisting, even though it may cost their lives. It’s just horrible all the way around–a legacy of colonialism, a challenge of fighting poverty in the present.

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Violence in a black and white world

[ 236 ] September 17, 2014 |

Read this.

It would be easy to demonize Peterson as an abuser, but the forthrightness with which he talked about using belts and switches but not extension cords, because he “remembers how it feels to get whooped with an extension cord,” as part of his modes of discipline suggests he is merely riffing on scripts handed down to him as an African-American man.

These cultures of violent punishment are ingrained within African-American communities. In fact, they are often considered marks of good parenting. In my childhood, parents who “thought their children were too good to be spanked” were looked upon with derision. I have heard everyone from preachers to comedians lament the passing of days when a child would do something wrong at a neighbor’s house, get spanked by that neighbor, and then come home and get spanked again for daring to misbehave at someone else’s house. For many that is a vision of a strong black community, in which children are so loved and cared for that everyone has a stake in making sure that those children turn out well, and “know how to act.” In other words, it is clear to me that Peterson views his willingness to engage in strong discipline as a mark of being a good father. . .

Stakes are high because parenting black children in a culture of white supremacy forces us to place too high a price on making sure our children are disciplined and well-behaved. I know that I personally place an extremely high value on children being respectful, well-behaved and submissive to authority figures. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a good thing.

If black folks are honest, many of us will admit to both internally and vocally balking at the very “free” ways that we have heard white children address their parents in public. Many a black person has seen a white child yelling at his or her parents, while the parents calmly respond, gently scold, ignore, attempt to soothe, or failing all else, look embarrassed.

I can never recount one time, ever seeing a black child yell at his or her mother in public. Never. It is almost unfathomable.

It has long been time for us to forgo violence as a disciplinary strategy. But as Charles Barkley notes, if we lock up Adrian Peterson, we could lock up every other black parent in the South for the same behavior. Instead, I hope Peterson is a cautionary tale, not about the state intruding on our “right” to discipline our children but rather a wakeup call about how much (fear of) state violence informs the way we discipline our children.

If the murder of Michael Brown has taught us nothing else, we should know by now that the U.S. nation-state often uses deadly violence both here and abroad as a primary mode of disciplining people with black and brown bodies. Darren Wilson used deadly force against Michael Brown as a mode of discipline (and a terroristic act) for Brown’s failure to comply with the request to walk on the sidewalk.

The loving intent and sincerity of our disciplinary strategies does not preclude them from being imbricated in these larger state-based ideas about how to compel black bodies to act in ways that are seen as non-menacing, unobtrusive and basically invisible. Many hope that by enacting these micro-level violences on black bodies, we can protect our children from macro and deadly forms of violence later.

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On Creeks

[ 53 ] September 17, 2014 |

We drive over little creeks all the time. They don’t register in our consciousness except maybe that the bridge is a bit narrower than the rest of the road. But those creeks and the plants along them, even in urban areas where you have high rates of pollution and too little protection for riparian zones, are actually incredibly ecologically important and very rich in wildlife. Yeah, you aren’t going to see a bear or elk along them so they might not get your attention, but snails, small fish, dragonflies, and songbirds are critical for ecosystem health.

Creeks are really important and we should take them more seriously!

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Today in the Horrors of Child Abuse

[ 223 ] September 17, 2014 |

Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush talks about “harshly disciplining” his 1 year old daughter.

And no, this is not just an NFL thing
.

…Bush now claims (per update at above link) that this he does not hit his daughter. But the original language leaves me very skeptical of that claim that could easily be made for PR purposes. When one says, “I definitely will try to obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her, but I definitely will discipline her, harshly, depending on what the situation is” there is no other real way to interpret that statement.

Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson
:

Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson called Peterson’s situation “unfortunate” but that he will still discipline his kids.

“Knowing when, how to discipline your kids. This whole situation, you know, it’s very unfortunate,” Johnson said. “Then you have pictures come out which made it even worse. I’m going to discipline my kids, you know, and can’t nobody tell me how to discipline my kids.

“Like I said, that’s not my situation right now. My situation would be private. It’s not a public matter when you discipline your family but unfortunately for him, it had become that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with disciplining your child. It teaches them discipline at the same time.”

Johnson did not indicate how he disciplines any current or future children, but said he felt child discipline should be private. He felt differently about domestic abuse.

“There are some things that just shouldn’t be done,” Johnson said. ” You shouldn’t put your hands on a woman, simple as that. Talking about Adrian and going from that to the domestic cases that we have are two totally different things to me.”

Yeah, no. The two things might have some differences, but they are both physical abuse.

….Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer arrested for domestic violence this afternoon. Of course, unlike the 49ers and Ray McDonald, Dwyer isn’t good enough for the team to ignore this, so they will probably cut him.

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Thomas Jefferson School of Law about to go under?

[ 61 ] September 17, 2014 |

tjsl

Thomas Jefferson is a big, although shrinking, ABA law school in San Diego, featuring horrible employment statistics (less than three in ten graduates have legal jobs nine months after graduation), terrible bar passage rates (over the past three years less than half of the school’s graduates who have taken the California bar have passed), and mind-boggling debt figures (the 2013 class took out an average of $180,000 in law school loans, which means its members had an average of around $215,000 in law school debt alone, not counting undergraduate debt, when their first loan payments became due in December).

A few years ago, this institution decided it would be a good thing to build a swank 305,000 square-foot eight-story building in downtown San Diego, at a cost of around $90,000,000. The project, which was completed in 2011, was beset by litigation over “alleged construction flaws and unpaid debts.”

The project has also been plagued by remarkably bad timing, as it opened just as the law school reform movement was generating the kind of major media coverage that led to a crash in applications to law schools generally, and to TJSL in particular. Applications to the school plummeted by more than 50% between 2010 and 2013, and even moving to a de facto open admissions policy (acceptance rates went from 45% five years ago to 80% last year) hasn’t stopped the student body from contracting.

Even as of July 2012, the school’s tax filings revealed an already-precarious financial situation, as revenue was failing to meet expenses, and the school’s assets consisted almost entirely of the new building and the land on which it sits (remarkably, the school, which is 45 years old, has literally no endowment). Meanwhile the school was carrying $92.5 million in bond liabilities, which in turn were requiring nearly $11 million per year in debt service. In addition, the building and land are apparently subject to what was as of two years ago a $33.4 million dollar mortgage.

This past December, the school’s new dean (his predecessor had been paid $529,000 in FY2012, apparently in recognition of his success in bringing the school to the brink of bankruptcy) announced staff layoffs and salary cuts, at the same time that the school’s bonds were being downgraded to junk status.

Now comes word that TJSL didn’t meet its payment obligations on its debt this summer, and that the school is frantically negotiating with its creditors to keep them from pulling the plug on this mess. The bondholders must now calculate whether it makes more sense to try to maintain the school as a going concern, or to get out while the getting is relatively not so bad, given the for the moment robust southern California real estate market.

A few months ago I did an analysis of 22 law school budgets, and discovered that almost all of them dedicated between 60% and 70% of their expenditures to employee (not just faculty) compensation. The major outlier was TJSL, which in FY2012 — that is, before the recent round of layoffs and salary cuts — dedicated only 39.5% of total expenditures on employee compensation. So it’s unclear how much more cutting of expenses the school can realistically do. Although TJSL has yet to officially report its 2014 class size, the admissions office told me that fall enrollment totaled 204 1Ls, to go along with around 60 spring matriculants (the school enrolled 440 1Ls three years ago). Given that the school is essentially 100% tuition-dependent, closing it down may well be the most prudent course of action from the perspective of its creditors.

But there’s another group of people whose interests are likely to be best served by the school closing: a large portion of its current students. Federal educational loans (and almost all postgraduate borrowing now consists of such loans) are almost never dischargeable, with one striking exception: if the school at which the debt was incurred ceases operations prior to the student’s graduation, and the student doesn’t subsequently complete his or her degree at another institution. In other words, the shuttering of TJSL would be a get out of debt jail free card for its students.

. . . A correspondent notes:

Edifice Complex

Term coined by the lawyer and historian Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson inParkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress, London (John Murray 1958, Houghton Mifflin, 1962) referring to the tendency of successful organizations to build new headquarters just before they begin to decline. See New Headquarters/Office Syndrome, Shiny;Business Week, Curse of.

http://www.ipglossary.com/glossary/edifice-complex/

New Headquarters/Office Syndrome, Shiny.

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