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How to Embarrass Yourself as a University Administration

[ 73 ] November 22, 2014 |

Graduate students at the University of Oregon are threatening to strike over the university not giving their demand of paid family leave. You can read the details of the bargaining in quite a bit of detail here. It is nearing the end of the quarter at UO, so the graduate students have as much power as they are going to have because all the grading needs to get done. So how did the university administration respond? Pretty much in the most embarrassing way possible, sending deans and directors this leaked memo concerning what to do if they had to give the finals without their TAs.

1. Consider whether the final exam can be reformatted so that it can be graded easily (e.g., Scantron or multiple-choice). Please note that the reformatted final exams should have an equal level of rigor as originally planned.

2. To provide proctor coverage for exams, please use the teaching function strategies above.

3. Provide students with the following options:

a. Forgo the final and take the grade they had going into the final

b. Take the final, but receive an “X” (missing grade) until such time that the finals can be graded

Give everyone Scantron exams! Now that’s education. Let’s not even get into the issue that students forced to take multiple choice exams do significantly worse because there is no partial credit (which is why it is basically impossible to fail a history course unless you don’t turn assignments in or never show up). In fact, let’s just forget about education entirely. Give the students their current grade without a final! Hire some scabs to serve as TAs! Make a mockery of your entire pedagogy!

Really, shouldn’t the University of Oregon just allow students to choose their own grade? That’s only fair way to deal with a labor conflict.

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Are the Mariners the best team in the American League right now?

[ 48 ] November 22, 2014 |

Ask 100 Mariners fans this question, and 85 would say immediately say no, and other 15 would eventually say it when they stopped laughing. So I expect I’m not the only Mariners fan struggling to process this. As the team managed to succeed and stay into contention through September this year, missing the playoffs by a single game, I became vaguely aware that the team was not, in fact, significantly overperforming or getting particularly lucky, but were, in fact, a borderline playoff team in true talent. But it never really sunk in or felt true.

Initially I approached this data with a similar skepticism. Surely this is a story about the flaws of projection systems in general.  But looking under the hood a bit, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable. The projections include some regression for Seager, Hernandez, and Cano, their three best players, as well as the bullpen as a group. The flawed prospects who underachieved in 2014, Zunino and Miller, are projected to continue to be flawed, making only modest improvements, mostly revolving around a correction for bad BABIP luck. Ackley is projected for a third consecutive modest step forward with the bat, to be cancelled out by regression on defense giving him no improvement at all. Austin Jackson is also projected for a modest bounceback from last season’s dismal showing, but given his age, talent, and three year track record, how could you not?

The most implausible sources of optimism, to my mind, are the playing time estimation for Saunders, the team’s fragile third best hitter and plus RF, as well as the IPs for Walker and Paxton. On the latter, though, it’s worth noting they’re not projected to be especially good, which will lessen the impact if they can’t stay healthy, assuming the team finds some passable inning-eaters on the cheap, which isn’t an implausible assumption.

As for DH, they’re projected to be just above replacement level, which would be a massive improvement over last year’s parade of horribles. I’m not buying the projections for non-prospect Romero; I’ve watched him try to hit at the major league level  and I don’t see a sustained 300+ wOBA there, but based on the current roster they could get that by using whichever SS isn’t playing the field that day. And, of course, they’ll presumably add a bat that projects to be above replacement level, although after the Hart/Morales fiasco it’s hard to be too optimistic about this seemingly modest task. So…huh. I’m not ready to be optimistic, but it’s nice to have a reason to think my pessimism might be not be entirely rational. Via Jeff Sullivan.

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Immigration Concern Trolling 2: Paul Ryan’s Empty Threats Edition

[ 30 ] November 22, 2014 |

Shorter Paul Ryan: The unprecedented tyranny of Emperor Obama issuing an unquestionably legal order as a term-limited elected official will prevent Congress passing upper-class tax cuts!

In addition to the obvious, Ryan’s response also highlights the silliness of #Grubergate, where the charge of “deception” revolves largely around CBO scoring. Ryan wants the CBO to use supply-side “dynamic scoring” to show tax cuts having magical stimulative effects they do not, in fact, have. Why, I’m almost beginning to think that a party that funded two rounds of upper-class tax cuts, two major wars, and a extremely inefficient Medicare expansion entirely through debt does not really care about the integrity of the CBO process!

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Another Example of the Reconquista Obama Has Instigated

[ 26 ] November 22, 2014 |

Here’s another example of the kind of horrible terrorist Obama is legalizing through the greatest oppression of whites known in human history: giving undocumented people the chance to live in this nation without fear of deportation:

I’m Odilia Chavez, a 40-year-old migrant farm worker based in Madera, California, the heart of the fertile Central Valley. I’m also a single mother of three: my 20-year-old eldest son came and joined me in 2004, crossing with a coyote. My son is now at the university, studying political science. The younger two were born here — American citizens.

I grew up in Santiago Yosondua, Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. I went to school through third grade, my dad was killed when I was 11, and we didn’t even have enough food to eat. So I went off to work at 12 in Mexico City as a live-in maid for a Spanish family. I’d go back each year to Oaxaca to visit my mom, and the migrants who’d come back from the United States would buy fancy cars and nice houses, while my mom still slept on a mat on the floor in our hut. A coyote told me he could take me to the United States for $1,800. So I went north in 1999, leaving my four-year-old son behind with my mother. I was 26.

In a typical year, I prune grapevines starting in April, and pick cherries around Madera in May. I travel to Oregon in June to pick strawberries, blueberries and blackberries on a farm owned by Russians. I take my 14-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son with me while they’re on their summer break. They play with the other kids, and bring me water and food in the field. We’ll live in a boarding house with 25 rooms for some 100 people, and everyone lines up to use the bathrooms. My kids and I share a room for $270 a month.

You come home really tired. I’ll come home, take a shower, put lotion on my hot feet, and be ready for the next day. I’m usually in bed by 9:00 to get up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to make and pack some tacos for the day. Also, undocumented workers don’t have any medical insurance — so the majority of us just buy over-the-counter pills for any problems. Luckily, I haven’t had many health issues yet.

Some contractors think they can abuse you because you’re undocumented. One time, a contractor who was an American citizen with Mexican parents called me a no-good illegal, and claimed he was going to call immigration on me. I said, “Send ‘em over, I’ll be waiting!” I left that job.

We all want immigration reform. First, I’d get a driver’s license, social security, and go see my mom in Mexico. (The last time I went was in 2008, and I had to cross the dessert again with a coyote to get back here — but it was the only option.) I would still work in the fields. I don’t know how to do anything else. A lot of workers haven’t gotten very far in school, and they can’t use a computer. What job are they going to do? We can’t get a better job. They were farmworkers in Mexico and we’re going to die as farmworkers. I do have a lot of pride in my work, though. It can be fun. We joke around.

My God! How can this nation survive with someone like Odilia Chavez just wandering around picking our crops without watching out for immigration officers!

Incidentally, I actually know Santiago Yosondua, Oaxaca very well. I’ve been to that town’s annual fiesta. It is a very remote town (like really bloody remote) way up in the mountains. It’s beautiful and poor. The surrounding area is about to be destroyed by mining companies. There is some resistance beginning there against this and I may be highlighting this going forward. As happens so often in these situations, there are town members who support the mine for jobs and others who say the few low-paying short-term jobs won’t be worth the long-term impact. It’s complex. But there certainly aren’t many jobs and that’s why people leave it to go work in the fields of the United States.

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Shorter Rand Paul: “Obama, Like FDR, Oppresses Minorities”

[ 45 ] November 22, 2014 |

The Only Progressive Alternative in 2016 points out how Democratic presidents oppress minorities. Just like FDR threw all the Japanese-Americans into internment camps, Obama is oppressing the white minority by allowing undocumented immigrants to go to school without fear their parents will be locked up when they return home from 5th grade or allowing immigrant business owners to apply for loans to fund their enterprises. The parallel is clear.

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[ 42 ] November 21, 2014 |

Looks like the revelation of the truth that Saul Alinsky was covering up for Hillary Clinton will have to wait for the next Gruber video.

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Concern Trolling on Immigration I

[ 86 ] November 21, 2014 |

Via Edroso, we have warnings of TYRANNY coming from Damon Linker:

The rule of law is far more about how things are done than about what is done. If Obama does what he appears poised to do, I won’t be the least bit troubled about the government breaking up fewer families and deporting fewer immigrants. But I will be deeply troubled about how the president went about achieving this goal — by violating the letter and the spirit of federal law.

To grasp precisely what’s so galling about Obama’s proposed actions, it’s necessary to reflect on the nature of executive power and its permanent potential to become despotic.

The main problem with this argument is that Obama is not, in fact, violating the letter of the law. He just isn’t. The Ross Douthat posts that Linker links to have a lot about alleged violations of norms and slippery slopes, but as far as I can tell no argument that Obama is violating the text of the statue, because he isn’t. Nor are his actions even unprecedented. The arguments that his actions are unconstitutional are so weak that one-note anti-immigration crank Mickey Kaus concedes that for the Court to so rule would be analogous to Bush v. Gore.

All of this is standard issue. But what’s unique is that Linker goes on to defend George W. Bush’s actual violations of the U.S. Code and specific provisions of the U.S. Constitution by comparing them to Lincoln’s actions during an actual ongoing military insurrection. That’s how you concern troll, ladies and gentlemen.

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Why did Obama claim he couldn’t do what he in fact could do regarding immigration policy?

[ 41 ] November 21, 2014 |

I have a piece at the Daily Beast on this question.

The real reason is surely far more prosaic: Obama claimed he didn’t have the power to do things he had the power to do because the administration calculated that it was politically expedient for him to do so. By claiming that his hands were tied, the president hoped to put more pressure on Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, which would produce longer-term results than executive orders.

The gambit failed, and now the administration is being forced to try to finesse the president’s fairly unambiguous public flip-flop on the issue.

Obama’s real excuse, if he were to be candid on the issue—an option not available to him because of the same practical considerations that led him to engage in these sorts of tactics in the first place—is that it’s extremely difficult to get anything done in the American political system, for structural reasons that have nothing to do with the characteristics of particular presidents or legislatures.

The immigration reform bill the president favors, for instance, has passed the Senate and is apparently supported by a majority of current House members. But it can’t pass the House because the Tea Party wing of the GOP is holding the House Republican leadership hostage on immigration.

This is yet another illustration of how, as contemporary American politics becomes increasingly ideologically coherent, the many barriers to enacting legislation, aka governing, become increasingly difficult to leap.

Under these circumstances, the kind of unilateral executive action Obama is undertaking will become more and more common.

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Obama’s Immigration Order: Good Policy, Legal, And Doesn’t Establish A New Precedent

[ 35 ] November 21, 2014 |

I have a piece up on Obama’s immigration order. It’s formally legal, it’s good policy for the reasons Erik explains below, and while it’s not the ideal means of establishing the policy it’s the only game in town. In particular, I reject the idea that this establishes some kind of dangerous new precedent:

If the Republican party was at all interested in actual governance, a mediocre immigration reform proposal passed by Congress would be preferable to an executive order, which can be undone with the stroke of a pen after the next election (which will not have Barack Obama on the ballot). But that also undermines claims that Obama’s executive order represents “tyranny”.

Does using executive privilege to achieve immigration reform set a dangerous precedent? Well, long before Obama even ran for elected office – as Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner observed at the New Republic – Ronald Reagan “took executive action to limit deportations for 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles” and the first President Bush did the same for some Chinese and Kuwaiti citizens. At most, Obama’s actions differ only in degree, not kind.

In a more general sense, presidents have been pushing the limits of their constitutional authority since the beginning of the republic. If you had asked Thomas Jefferson in 1799 if the Louisiana Purchase was constitutional, he would almost certainly have said no – but we aren’t giving the land back. (Admittedly, sometimes I’m tempted to say that the US should look for the receipt and return some of those now-red states to France in exchange for a few dozen cases of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.)

It’s understandable for liberals to worry that just because Obama used his executive authority in this way, some future Republican president – like Rand Paul the Terrible, or Emperor Marco Rubio, or His Highness Ted Cruz – might push the limits of the law over the edge. But it’s pretty unhelpful, too.

Both the second Bush administration and the actions of Republicans in Congress make it abundantly clear that the next Republican in the Oval Office is going to push toward – and probably beyond – the limits of his legal authority, no matter what Obama does. (For instance, George W Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, established by executive order, contradicted a statute outright, which Obama’s order does not.) If hypothetical president Rand Paul wants to refuse to enforce the Civil Rights Act, he’s not going to be dissuaded because Obama refused to act on immigration.

But read the whole etc. and discuss.

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The Impact of the Obama Immigration Action

[ 79 ] November 21, 2014 |

Obama’s executive order on deporting immigrants, while unfortunately temporary, makes the lives of people better. People such as Clara Cortes:

I came here illegally because there were few, if any, economic opportunities in my native Mexico. I was a lawyer and a single parent who could not afford to pay for my daughter’s schooling and cover the medicines for a sick brother with the $150 a week I earned.

I have been in the United States since 1999, and for nearly 15 years I have worked cleaning houses. It takes me 21/2 hours to get to work in Brooklyn from my home in Babylon Town. The commute is physically draining, but I don’t have a choice. I can’t work legally in the United States despite my education and legal skills.

My two daughters, my husband and I awaken every day with the fear that I will be deported. My husband and youngest daughter are U.S. citizens — which is why I should be eligible for legalized status under the president’s order. My oldest daughter benefited from the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offered a temporary reprieve from deportations.

But I remain illegal in this country and, as my 7-year-old daughter’s principal caretaker, I’ve agonized about what would happen to her if I were sent back to Mexico. The fear immigrants like me live under is suffocating, and politicians who have vilified families like mine fail to understand our plight.

When I started working, my wages were often stolen by employers and I was sexually harassed. But I never reported any of it because I dreaded my immigration status would be used against me. I had no sense of security. I have seen immigration officials working on Long Island, and I felt helpless knowing that I could be detained and deported at any time.

Now Cortes can feel a little more secure, at least until a Republican is elected president. Hopefully, Obama’s ruling, despite the racism of the responses to it by many leading Republicans, lays the groundwork for more permanent action. I feel that recriminalizing these people is going to be harder than decriminalizing them. At least I hope so. My only criticism of Obama here is that he didn’t do this years ago. Certainly waiting until after the 2014 midterms in hopes that it wouldn’t contribute to the losses of Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, and Kay Hagan proved futile.

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Native Americans on Route 66

[ 92 ] November 21, 2014 |

I admit I’ve always found the fascination with Route 66 a bit perplexing, since it’s really just another road that, outside of New Mexico, does not really go through our most fascinating landscape. Even in New Mexico, that’s a less than compelling road as far as touring goes than many other highways. But whatever, people like it. And so I am glad to see the many Native American tribes who live along the highway teaming up with the National Park Service to create a guidebook for travelers highlighting Native American life and tourism possibilities along the route. Route 66 comes out of a whitened version of America represented by John Steinbeck, post-war popular music, and television, all of which largely erased the indigenous, as well as Mexican-American, presence out of a mythical West the road represented. This is a welcome correction.

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[ 3 ] November 21, 2014 |

My latest at the Diplomat looks at the results of a recent simulation at the Patterson School:

Last weekend, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, in conjunction with the Army War College, conducted a negotiation simulation on crisis resolution in the South China Sea. The simulation began shortly after an incident between Chinese and Filipino ships resulted in the deaths of five Indians and 95 Filipinos.

The South China Sea simulation is the third simulation developed by the Army War College. The first two, on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and the Cyprus conflict, have become regular features at foreign policy schools around the country. The AWC regularly conducts these exercises in collaboration with several different schools across the country, as well as with students at the AWC.

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