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Against Truth For Power

[ 117 ] May 1, 2015 |

Wherever there’s a powerful source with a ludicrously implausible story to tell in order to justify its unjustifiable actions, the Washington Post is there to put it uncritically on the front page. (Have they hired Judy Miller yet?)

Thankfully, the State’s Attorney has a more rational view of the case, and godspeed.

a history of the “rough ride” technique for torturing suspects (or, as in the case of Gray, not-even-suspects.)

Americans: We Love Rioting

[ 67 ] May 1, 2015 |

draft-riot-no-draft-7.16.13

Despite every freak out when black people riot, white Americans love rioting too and always have. From the Boston Tea Party to any given sports championship, white people love raising some hell in the streets. But of course they are white and so it’s OK. Heather Cox Richardson with some context and many examples of white people rioting.

As long as America is a democracy, we will have riots. But they will not all be viewed in the same historical light. Riots bring popular attention to a perceived inequality. Once people start paying attention, the unfairness of the underlying situations in places like Ludlow or Watts or even colonial Boston, make them sit up and work to fix those inequalities. But as often, popular attention to the rage of rioters makes it clear that the rioters are the ones trying to maintain inequalities. Popular disgust for the mobs in the New York City Draft Riots or at Ole Miss moved society forward too, but not in the way those rioters anticipated. Far from achieving their ends, the rioters in New York City in 1863 or the ones a century later at Ole Miss created a backlash that advanced the very policies they opposed.

The people who are burning Baltimore are not thugs. They are Americans, acting in a grand American political tradition. Calling them thugs and demanding non-violence prejudges them as those who are out of step with modern America. It says that, like the New York City Draft Rioters or the segregationists at Ole Miss, the wrongs they are protesting are in their own heads. That the city of Baltimore has paid damages to more than 100 victims of police brutality in the past three years, and that Freddie Gray’s spine was mysteriously severed and his larynx crushed in police custody, makes it seem unlikely that today’s protesters are imagining injustice.

Education in North Carolina

[ 94 ] May 1, 2015 |

nastdebt

Art Pope’s lackeys are working to change North Carolina education standards in ways that make climate change denial, abstinence-only sex ed, and creationism almost seem rational.

The state Senate will vote Wednesday on whether to add the gold standard and other conservative principles to the state’s high school curriculum.

Senate Bill 524, sponsored by Sen. David Curtis R-Lincoln, builds on a law passed in 2011 requiring the addition of a “Founding Principles” curriculum to the state’s history standards.

The curriculum, a model bill from conservative free-market think tank American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, requires students to receive education on the nation’s “Founding Philosophy and Principles” as found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.

The five principles to be added to the curriculum are as follows:

“Constitutional limitations on government power to tax and spend and prompt payment of public debt”
“Money with intrinsic value”
“Strong defense and supremacy of civil authority over military”
“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none”
“Eternal vigilance by ‘We the People”’

“Money with intrinsic value – is that in the Federalist Papers?” asked Sen. Josh Stein D-Wake.

“Yes, it is,” Curtis replied, with agreement from Sen. Jerry Tillman R-Randolph.

In fact, it is not. A search of all 85 letters that make up the Federalist Papers turns up no mention of money with intrinsic value. It is, however, taken verbatim from the ALEC model bill.

These people aren’t just corporate lapdogs. They are also idiots. I also have to ask, wouldn’t a return to the gold standard be an absolute disaster for ALEC’s member corporations? Like with much in capitalism, ideology trumps rational thought.

NHL Round 2

[ 40 ] April 30, 2015 |

scorch

As a setup…well, let me turn things over to my partner. They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call him Deacon of American Literachoor, Michael “the Greek except without the racism” Berube:

I think the lessons of our first-round LGM NHL playoff predictions, 2015 edition, should be clear. I made four predictions about the Eastern Conference playoffs based on whim, desire, whimsy, anecdote, unexamined prejudice, whimsicalness, and a hurried review of the participants that didn’t even manage to describe the Tampa Bay lineup correctly.

Scott made four predictions about the Western Conference playoffs based on knowledge, observation, statistics, evidence, puck possession ratios divided by turnover multipliers, and actual information about actual players.

The results? I said Rangers in 5, and the Rangers won in 5.

I said Canadiens in 6. The Canadiens won in 6.

I said Capitals in 7. The Capitals won in 7.

And I said Lightning in 6. The Lightning won in 7. Seriously, you didn’t think they would lose three games at home?

Scott can tell you more about his appalling 1-for-4 performance (perhaps he just couldn’t believe that his Flames would send the Canucks packing?). The important thing, for me, is that my vastly underinformed predictions held up so well against the predictions of someone who is substantially more knowledgeable about the actual game and the actual players in this actual season.

And now, peoples, you know why 90 percent of sports commentators have their jobs. Ignorance and glibness– an unbeatable combination. Boo-yeah!

And for those of you who complained about the Steely Dan lyrics lacing our predictions: you can speak your mind, but not on my time. Next year, I will seed my hockey commentary with Billy Joel lyrics, and you will come crying, crying, I say, “come back, clever soulless Steely Dan lyrics, all is forgiven.”

Rangers over Caps in 6. Canadiens over Lightning in 7. Just because.

I will point out that I salvaged myself a .500 record with my Eastern Conference picks, but nonetheless quite terrible. We’ll see if we can do better:

Flames v. Ducks I should give due credit to Vox’s Brad Plumer, a Canucks fan who emailed me before the series to observe that “Willie Desjardins is a WHL coach who makes WHL decisions,” and the Flames had a big edge behind the bench. And this was indeed the x factor I missed. Desjardins was rightly criticized for not giving enough ice time to the Sedins, who just destroyed Calgary’s hobbled top line in the first game of the series, but the ice time he gave his awful bottom defensive pairing at the expense of his one very good and one decent pairings might have been even more destructive. (It was Sbesia and Bieksa who were on the ice in the interminable shift that led to the Russell goal and a stolen road win for Calgary in Game 1, which was ultimately decisive.) Hartley went for the jugular from the opening faceoff, while Desjardins spent the first half of the series going 1-2-3-4 1-2-3 like it was a game against Carolina in January, and combine with the emergence of Sam Bennett and the Irrelevant Micheal Ferkland it was enough to put the Flames over the top. Will it be enough against Anaheim? I can’t see it. Bourdreau’s not going to get taken to school like Desjardins, and the Ducks are both a better team than the Canucks and a much better matchup against Calgary. I still think Anaheim isn’t quite as good as their record and would like to have had a crack at them with Giordano in the lineup, but especially with this roster I see more of a Hobbesian state of nature series. I hope to receive another email from my mother criticizing me for my lack of faith after this round. DUCKS IN 5.

Rangers v. Capitals
I don’t think either team bowls your over with their rosters, although certainly I think the Blueshirts have more talent than their mediocre possession numbers this year indicate. Given what is otherwise a fairly even matchup, I have to go with King Henrik. RANGERS IN 7.

Hawks v. Wild Hell of a series. Dubnyk did come to earth a little in the first round, although he was fine, but St. Louis’s goaltending was so bad it was beside the point. Nobody well ever mistake Darling or Crawford for Tony Esposito, but they are much less likely to just blow games outright, and I think will give the Hawks enough to get to the conference finals one more once. HAWKS IN 7.

Lightning v. Habs Although they underwhelming in the first round — and, by the way, the Red Wings would be insane to let Babcock get away given what he gets out of that roster every year — I think the Lightning a lot more 1-though-18 than Montreal, and Stamkos will get it going eventually. The wildcard, of course, is Carey Price, who has played at a Vezina level for two straight seasons and can certainly win a series in which Montreal gets outplayed (cf. round 1.) I don’t think he’ll be enough against Tampa’s superior firepower, though. Besides, everyone knows that the winner of the Calgary/Vancouver series goes to the finals, so the other half of the 2004 series has to live up to its end of the bargain, right? LIGHTNING IN 6.

There’s no such thing as law school

[ 63 ] April 30, 2015 |

unemployment line

Updated below

Employment data for the law school graduating class of 2014 are out (These numbers reflect the status of graduates ten months after graduation. In previous years the measuring point was nine months after graduation, but some California schools complained this was unfair to them, as California bar results tend to come out a few weeks later than in most states, i.e., about six months after graduation rather than five, leaving newly-barred California grads with less time to find a job. The change seems to have made no real difference, as all but the very top California schools still had ghastly employment numbers).

Anyway, the employment picture for new law grads remains about the same that it’s been, although the percentage of grads who got full-time long-term bar-required jobs ticked up a couple of percentage points, from 56% to 58% (excluding putative solos). This percentage increase took place despite an actual decline in the total number of such jobs, because this year’s graduating class was about seven percent smaller than the previous year’s. (A big decline in total annual law graduates is going to take place over the next two to three years, and then we will see real improvement in overall employment outcomes, assuming the market for entry-level lawyers remains fairly stable over this time).

If you look at the numbers by school, they drive home just how unhelpful it is to talk about “the” American law school in generic terms, by for example trying to determine the economic value of “a” law degree. The top dozen schools in regard to graduates acquiring jobs as lawyers had percentages ranging from 90% to 96%. The graduates of the bottom unlucky thirteen — not including the three ABA schools in Puerto Rico, who are something of an island to themselves — got lawyer jobs at rates ranging from Santa Clara (35.6%) to Golden Gate (25.7%).

An even more extreme spread applies to high-paying legal jobs. A dozen schools sent between 60% and 79% of their grads to large firms, or to federal clerkships (the latter are often, though not always, precursors to high-paid employment). Meanwhile, 77 of 201 ABA schools — again excluding Puerto Rico — placed 5% or less of their grads in such jobs (14 placed less than one percent).

Again, under these circumstances, asking whether it’s a good idea to go to law school is like asking if it’s a good idea to get married. The question needs to be a little more specific, or next thing you know you’re going to be hitched to Maureen Dowd, except she’s been fired from the NYT, and divorce has been outlawed.

Update: This probably deserves its own post, but Steve Diamond appears to be having some sort of mental breakdown. Here he is trying to warn Orin Kerr that such apparently mild-mannered figures as Deborah Jones Merritt and Brian Tamanaha have a Hidden Agenda, one that involves a conspiracy so vast that none dare call it by its true name:

It’s a “fact” that this crowd is out to destroy the American law school and higher education itself as an institution. That is the clear goal of the Koch Brothers backed Cato Institute. Anyone who tries to deny that is either collaborating in that effort or naive beyond belief. I have made this crystal clear from the earliest days in which I joined this debate. See LUN.

In the longer run I believe the intent [of law professors such as Merritt and Tamanaha] is to undermine the rule of law itself. As law faculty we have a responsibility to defend the rule of law and I have argued that means defending the American law school as an autonomous institution.

The slanderous treatment of (least of all) me but much more against many others by this crowd is aimed precisely at shutting us out of the debate and that of course is critical to the longer term strategy of destroying law schools themselves. Instead of worrying about my reputation – as much as I appreciate your concern (in all seriousness) – perhaps you should consider the agenda these people are attempting to carry out.

A subsequent commenter is interested in Diamond’s ideas and would like to subscribe to his newsletter:

Steve: who else are members of the conspiracy? Do we have secret handshakes? Do Campos, Merritt and Tamahana have secret meetings with Derek Tokaz and those you keep attacking? Are they also members of the Trilateral Commission? Is Campos’ left wing politics all a charade – his criticism of modern capitalism in the US? Why have they never been invited to the Bilderberg conference? Maybe they are all members of the Illuminatii? Are they conspiring with or against L. Ron Hubbard?

Please, we need to know more details. The future of democracy depends on ripping the veil away from these evil people – please, we need to know. Save us.

The Rumsfeld Principle

[ 46 ] April 30, 2015 |

donald-rumsfeld-documentary

If we apply the brilliance of Donald Rumsfeld to Baltimore, it’s clear that the violence is an acceptable first step toward the people of that city finally becoming free of police oppression. And since it’s Rumsfeld, where’s the Bill Kristol column nodding in approval? From April 11, 2003:

U.S. forces should not be blamed for the lawlessness and looting in Baghdad as it is a natural consequence of the transition from a dictatorship to a free country, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday at the Pentagon.

“The task we’ve got ahead of us now is an awkward one … It’s untidy. And freedom’s untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here,” Rumsfeld said.

“And for suddenly the biggest problem in the world to be looting is really notable.”

Rumsfeld said he believes time will take care of the problem in Baghdad, as it seems to have in the southern cities of Umm Qasr and Basra, where looting has largely abated and the streets are back under relative control.

I wonder how that all turned out? Anyway, more Rummy:

“While no one condones looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime,” he said. “And I don’t think there’s anyone in any of those pictures … (who wouldn’t) accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.”

Rumsfeld said in the United States there has been looting and riots and they eventually come under control.

“Think what’s happened in our cities when we’ve had riots and problems and looting. Stuff happens!”

Stuff happens indeed. And like the people of Iraq, the people of Baltimore can expect a paradise of peace and freedom going forward.

Leeches

[ 28 ] April 30, 2015 |

Sucking_leech

Above: Los Angeles school teacher April Bain

The latest Rheeist attack on unions is quite special. Her organization Students First is helping a woman named April Bain, featured above, in a lawsuit against the California Federation of Teachers. Bain admits that the union does good things. But she doesn’t want to pay the dues the union uses for political activities. I’ll let Moshe Marvit explain the details of how this incredibly ludicrous but very dangerous case is being argued.

At issue in Bain is not that teachers may choose to opt out of membership with their union and pay a reduced dues rate while still receiving all the benefits of the contract. Those fair share fee cases, such as the seminal Beck v. Communication Workers of America, focus on the process of opting out of membership and the types of fees that would be refundable. At issue are those teachers who choose not to be members of the union and do not receive the members’ benefits from the union, such as being able to vote in union elections and access to any union-sponsored insurance programs. Bain and other teachers in the suit argue that it is unfair and unconstitutional for them to be denied any benefits of membership as a result of their decision to opt out of membership and pay a reduced amount in union dues.

They want to be able to both opt out of membership in the union and a significant portion of union dues, but to still be able to vote for union officers and direct the union (which they’ve chosen not to join). In other words, they want the full benefits of a union without having to pay for them. And they are asking the federal courts to intercede and say that the First Amendment guarantees them that right.

“The complaint equates joining the union with ‘giving up’ First Amendment rights.” Seattle University School of Law professor Charlotte Garden explained to In These Times. “But joining or not joining are both exercises of the right of free association. It seems that the plaintiffs wish their choices were different—and that they could join the union on their own terms—but I can’t think of any other circumstance in which an individual would attempt to bring a First Amendment claim to force a private association to change its terms of membership.”

In other words, Bain not only wants to have access to what the union wins in contract negotiations, which she of course receives, but she also wants all the privately held benefits unions offer to their own members as well. This takes non-union members leeching off their fellow workers to a whole new level. To say that it’s a violation of the 1st Amendment to not receive union disability insurance because you are not a member of the union is completely absurd. The legal case also revolves around admitting that unions provide real benefits for workers, but saying that the unions should force employers to grant those provisions and that they violate non-members rights by granting the benefits themselves. Thus, unions do a great job and destroying unions is part and parcel of the same argument.

But of course Michelle Rhee will do anything to destroy teachers’ unions. And as for the Supreme Court, well, I’m not sure there is any argument too ridiculous for the 5 Republican justices if it serves their agenda of destroying workers’ rights. If the case goes there, I get scared.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love”

[ 134 ] April 30, 2015 |

An oft-repeated theme in Rod Dreher’s lengthy, frequent, and increasingly unhinged posts (no need for links, they comprise around 40% of his voluminous output) about the increasing respect of the full equal citizenship (and humanity) of LGBT people and decreasing respect for those who insist on publicly denying them that status in various way is his insistence (against mounting evidence) that from a Christian (sometimes he remembers to add the ‘orthodox’ or ‘traditionalist’ modifier here, but he often, revealingly, drops it) perspective, rejecting same sex marriage and family formation is simply non-negotiable; it’s too close to core, unchanging and unchangeable Christian teachings. To succumb to social pressure on this issue is tantamount to abandoning Christianity, properly understood. That this position has no merit is obvious in both theory and practice. The reason same sex marriage (and equal rights and social acceptance for LGBT people) has made such progress is primarily because Christians are changing their minds, at more or less the same rate as everyone else. The liberal Christians and Catholics lagged behind non-religious people, and conservative and evangelical Christians lagged behind them, for predictable and easily understood reasons. But what we’re witnessing is the latest iteration of an utterly banal fact of American life playing out yet again: Christianity has always been, its various affectations of countercultural status notwithstanding, a fundamentally and deeply mainstream American identity and set of values, and has demonstrated, time and time again, sufficient flexibility to remain mainstream as the content of American values has shifted over time. And, of course, when the mainstream is split (with respect to, for example, slavery and white supremacy) we see a split in Christianity as well; as it became deeply tied to the defense and the attack of these institutions.

These reflections were motivated by Dreher’s deeply ugly post yesterday about Baltimore and Freddie Gray. Rod Dreher’s reflected on the deadly police violence and its aftermath was to piss on the grave of the recently deceased victim of state violence. If you tried to square this with his avowed devotion to traditionalist, orthodox Christianity by examining the teachings, actions and attitudes of the Jesus as presented in the Gospels, you’d be hopelessly lost. If you tried to square the argument of post with Dreher’s own general mode of social explanation, you’d be equally confused. (His sneering contempt in this post toward societal and structural explanations for social behavior might be easier to swallow coming from someone who didn’t routinely assume that the sexual mores and practices of the upper middle class is clearly and straightforwardly responsible for the broken families of the lower middle class.) The post makes sense only when you remember that solidarity with the downtrodden–the victims of excessive abuses of the power of the state and the choices of powerful economic actors–is tainted by liberals, the declared enemies of American Christendom, properly understood.

Update: fairness compels me to note that Dreher has put up a lengthy and somewhat rambling post that expresses regret over his lack of mercy in describing Gray. While it’s nice to see Mr. Gray removed from the role of scapegoat for Baltimore’s woes, his replacement candidate for that role–the dangerously excessive generosity of America’s social welfare state–provides further support for the point I’m trying make here.

ISDS

[ 19 ] April 30, 2015 |

TPP_protest

Statements made in books by politicians gearing up for the presidency aren’t really worth the paper they are printed on. But I’d rather have Hillary Clinton saying she opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership’s Investor State Dispute Settlement courts that will allow corporations to sue countries (or state and regional level governments) for enacting legislation that they perceive hurts their interests than have her not say that.

Currently the United States is negotiating comprehensive agreements with eleven countries in Asia and in North and South America, and with the European Union. We should be focused on ending currency manipulation, environmental destruction, and miserable working conditions in developing countries, as well as harmonizing regulations with the EU. And we should avoid some of the provisions sought by business interests, including our own, like giving them or their investors the power to sue foreign governments to weaken their environmental and public health rules, as Philip Morris is already trying to do in Australia. The United States should be advocating a level and fair playing field, not special favors.

Does it mean much? Again, I doubt it and I still think President Clinton will support the TPP even if Candidate Clinton does not. But opposition to the TPP as central to the Democratic Party agenda is a positive.

The Peer Review Process Is Only As Good As the Peers

[ 39 ] April 30, 2015 |

Although, really, editors should know better than to rest on sexist claptrap if that’s what they get:

Evolutionary geneticist Fiona Ingleby was shocked when she read the review accompanying the rejection for her latest manuscript, which investigates gender differences in the Ph.D.-to-postdoc transition, so she took the issue to Twitter.

Earlier today, Ingleby, a postdoc at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, posted two excerpts of the anonymous review. “It would probably … be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal peer review from, but better yet as active co-authors)” to prevent the manuscript from “drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically biased assumptions,” the reviewer wrote in one portion.

“Perhaps it is not so surprising that on average male doctoral students co-author one more paper than female doctoral students, just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile a bit faster than female doctoral students,” added the reviewer (whose gender is not known).

Well, yes — this is why Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan should have recused themselves from the same-sex marriage cases. There is only one objective, disinterested standpoint, and it’s the white, male, heterosexual, Christian one.

Ambition and Social Control

[ 69 ] April 30, 2015 |

The_Wire_Carcetti

David Simon on Martin O’Malley:

The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was Martin O’Malley. He destroyed police work in some real respects. Whatever was left of it when he took over the police department, if there were two bricks together that were the suggestion of an edifice that you could have called meaningful police work, he found a way to pull them apart. Everyone thinks I’ve got a hard-on for Marty because we battled over “The Wire,” whether it was bad for the city, whether we’d be filming it in Baltimore. But it’s been years, and I mean, that’s over. I shook hands with him on the train last year and we buried it. And, hey, if he’s the Democratic nominee, I’m going to end up voting for him. It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights. But to be honest, what happened under his watch as Baltimore’s mayor was that he wanted to be governor. And at a certain point, with the crime rate high and with his promises of a reduced crime rate on the line, he put no faith in real policing.

[…]

But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation. And so there were people from City Hall who walked over Norris and made it clear to the district commanders that crime was going to fall by some astonishing rates. Eventually, Norris got fed up with the interference from City Hall and walked, and then more malleable police commissioners followed, until indeed, the crime rate fell dramatically. On paper.

How? There were two initiatives. First, the department began sweeping the streets of the inner city, taking bodies on ridiculous humbles, mass arrests, sending thousands of people to city jail, hundreds every night, thousands in a month. They actually had police supervisors stationed with printed forms at the city jail – forms that said, essentially, you can go home now if you sign away any liability the city has for false arrest, or you can not sign the form and spend the weekend in jail until you see a court commissioner. And tens of thousands of people signed that form.

Dead Horses in American History (XVI)

[ 14 ] April 30, 2015 |

Given how often the Dead Horses in American History series comes up in comments, the only conclusion I can make is that there’s a huge demand for more dead horse images. And if there’s one thing in the world I care about, it’s making the masses like me. So in that vein:

3a17370r

Alfred Waud drawing of dead horse during the Civil War.
This image is actually a gift to the Library of Congress from J.P. Morgan. Perhaps this gift is the least loathsome thing the evil man did in his entire worthless life.

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