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Sagebrush Rebellion Politics

[ 125 ] January 6, 2016 |


I have resisted commenting on the Bundy occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge so I could gather my thoughts on what is an important topic to me. That this is happening at an extremely busy time personally doesn’t help me write what should be a long essay, some op-eds, etc. For me the Bundys and their idiot supporters are inherently mockable as the sewers of the American West are evidently running toward Burns at this moment. Shakezula’s posts have explored this side of the question here at LGM and I don’t see too much reason to talk about them.

This is all a little more personal to me than most of you because I spent time growing up around them. My aunt and uncle had a ranch way up in Wallowa County, Oregon, bordering the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, not too far from where Oregon meets Washington and Idaho. My dad, who was by far the youngest child, spent his summers working the ranch up there and we went there when I was a kid. The politics of the transforming rural West away from the natural resource based economy of the 20th century and into the tourism and tech based economy of the 21st played an enormous role in my life growing up and make up the core of my scholarship.

More interesting to me than the Bundys is the Hammond family, who instigated this mess by poaching deer and then setting wildfires to cover it up on two separate occasions. That they thought this was a good idea shows that they are idiots–after all, setting wildfires in the drylands of the West is tantamount to suicide and murder given how fast they can spread. And indeed one of the fires did nearly kill people. The Hammonds themselves are violent extremists with a long history of violating their grazing leases on the Malheur refuge, where the leases should be bought up and retired in any case, and of threatening violence to government officials. These people are horrible.

But it’s also worth noting that people like the Bundys and Hammonds are also the extremist wing of a huge amount of sentiment among whites in the rural West. The Hammonds and many others like them in the rural West have created a history that they are the rightful occupiers of land that they own. This is the core of the Sagebrush Rebellion. Never mind that they don’t own very much of that land–it’s federal land. Never mind that their lifestyle on the land of running cattle, often in ecologically sensitive places, has one of this nation’s biggest forms of welfare for more than a century. And of course never mind that the the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is on stolen Paiute land. This is their land. These people see themselves as the descendants of pioneers, carving a living out of a hard landscape. That project always had a complicated relationship with the government. The ancestors of the Hammonds and of my family wanted the government to kick out Indians, provide cheap land, and get their crops to market. They also wanted absolutely no regulation on their activities and assumed that even after the establishment of agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, that government should work for the ranchers and loggers. And for most of their history, those agencies did, often leading to severe environmental degradation.

But this began to change by the 1970s, with the rise of a very different Northwest and the rise of a national environmental movement. Bipartisan environmental legislation passed that would begin to hold ranchers accountable for their ecological footprint. The EPA, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and other legislation began to give environmentalists tools to start ensuring a clean environment for all Americans. Young suburbanites grew up spending their youthful leisure in nature during the 1950s and 60s and as they grew up, they began to bring a strong environmental sensibility to national environmental politics, creating the demand for saving old-growth forest and creating national wildlife refuges. The Northwest in particular became known as Ecotopia, to borrow from Ernest Callenbach’s influential if terrible 1975 novel of that name and people from around the country began moving to Oregon and Washington to enjoy the natural splendors of the region. They didn’t spend much time out in Burns or Harney County, but they did begin to influence state politics and the state legislature. That so many of these young people came from influential backgrounds and, moving out of their hippie phase, went back to law school or created tech companies in the Portland area provided powerful legal and economic engines that were opposed to the ranchers’ and timbermen’s interests and that began to be reflected in state politics. Relatively suddenly, these rural westerners found the ground shifting from below them. When combined with larger economic changes–mechanization and the exportation on unprocessed timber to Japan in timber and the rise of feedlots and the global beef market for the ranchers–the world began spinning out of control. For both, environmentalists and the government were far easier to blame than complicated social and economic forces.

Nancy Langston provides some key history of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and also contextualizes the Sagebrush Rebellion. I will build on her analysis here.

Years ago, when I first visited the refuge, I stumbled upon five dead coyotes tossed across a trail, their necks sliced open, blood clotted on their fur, paws hacked off, entrails draining into the river. Ranchers on the edge of failure feel threatened by predators snatching away their calves, and some lash out against that threat. But these five dead coyotes signaled more than just economic anxiety — they were emblematic of past hatreds that are still a powerful force in the Malheur basin. Anger at predators, environmentalists and federal managers who threaten the mythic past of cowboys on the range is as strong there as anywhere in the West.

In the late 1970s and the 1980s, many Western ranchers, miners and loggers felt increasingly threatened, partly by globalization, which created new competition, and partly by federal regulations that seemed to value wildlife more than people. What became known as the Sagebrush Rebellion gave locals a focus for their concern.

Environmentalists, they argued, were conspiring to destroy America, starting with rural communities. Many ranchers bitterly complained about the federal land management agencies. They felt powerless, hemmed in by policies they had little hand in shaping. They feared that economic gains were passing them by.

These complaints contain elements of truth: Rural communities in the West are poorer than urban communities, and environmental protections enacted since the 1980s have reduced grazing on federal lands. But locals told an interesting version of this history. Before the federal agencies came, they said, we lived in paradise. The grass was thick, the water was abundant and the towns were thriving. We were independent, working out our problems. When the feds came, they stole our resources, and our economies collapsed.

The implication was clear: If they got rid of the federal government, they’d have control over their land and lives again.

Basically the West has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, as have the rest of the nation. And as have whites around the nation generally, rural white Westerners have created mythology of better days in the past to explain why things have gotten bad for them. In many ways, this is not too different from the white-working class mythology of a better past that has fostered their support for Trump or for Christian conservative mythology of a moral past that has moved them against abortion and gay rights. The belief that the past was better is not only powerful but impervious to actual facts as to what the past is like and why things really have changed. The reality is that even if the government was to leave and turn all the land over to individual farmers, prosperity would not revolt. Areas like southeast Oregon have been violent and poor ever since whites started living there. None of the broader social and economic trends would change. But the environment would be devastated. These ranchers might blame the government for reintroducing wolves or protecting birds or demanding grazing permits (even if heavily subsidized), but their economic way of living is irrelevant and antiquated. Yet despite words about the free market and government interference, when environmental groups began buying up grazing permits on public lands and retiring them, cattlemen’s organizations flipped out and made this illegal because all of a sudden the supposed “free market” threatened their cherished government-protected industry, which is what they really want.

Everything I am saying here is opposed to the Hammonds and opposed to the ranchers’ position on grazing rights, wolves, and environmentalism, not to mention their view of themselves. And yet, I also think there is something a little sad here. These are the dying protests of a people whose of way of life is becoming increasingly irrelevant. And while the Bundys and Hammonds are menaces, we at least have to ask whether the chopping up of these ranches into developments so the urban wealthy can have second homes in the West is really any better for the region’s environment? This is one area where greens and ranchers have found common ground, because ranchettes and exurban development is disastrous for wildlife and the for the landscape. So what replaces the Hammonds when they finally disappear is a question we also need to ask ourselves, while we are mocking their awful actions.


Prop 13

[ 42 ] January 6, 2016 |


Sasha Abramsky makes the argument that maybe California voters have finally had enough of the impact of Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot measures that decimated the state budget and set in motion the anti-property tax movement nationwide that has contributed to a variety of problems, including spiraling tuition rates for college as states reduce their contributions to higher education in response to lower tax revenues. Not surprisingly, Prop 13 has served the interests of the extremely wealthy, as they have developed fictions to get around its limitations while allowing it to retain its electoral magic. Tax reformers are pushing for what’s call a split-roll approach to property taxes. An explanation:

 Coupal and his allies have recently come out in favor of a legislative fix to tackle the sorts of “abuses” embodied in the Dell case. They support a law that defines “ownership change” as having occurred whenever at least 90 percent of a property shifts hands, regardless of whether any one owner ends up with more than 50 percent. But they have drawn a line in the sand against the idea of a “split-roll tax,” which would impose a higher burden on corporations. Coupal accepts that such a tax would easily boost state revenues in the short term by several billion dollars annually. But his organization, the California Chamber of Commerce, and other opponents of change argue that the cost in lost jobs and leakage from businesses relocating out of state would more than cancel out the benefits in the long run. “Our position has always been that if you’re going to have a tax increase, it should be broad-based and universally applicable,” says California Chamber of Commerce policy advocate Jennifer Barrera. “A split-roll tax treats residential property differently from commercial property, so it’s discriminatory.”

 Reform advocates, however, believe that a split-roll tax is exactly the way to go, and their polling research suggests that, for the first time in a generation, they have a decent chance of persuading a majority of the electorate to support them. Over the last few years, they have been calling for a reform that would protect homeowners and renters while taxing corporations at closer to the market value of their properties. Far from being discriminatory, they argue, it is simply a matter of equity: In an era of growing inequality and wealth concentration, this reform would generate desperately needed funds to maintain and expand vital public services.

Economists at the University of Southern California’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity were recently hired by Make It Fair, a statewide coalition of reform groups seeking to put a split-roll-tax initiative on the ballot. When the PERE team crunched the numbers on more than 1 million properties across the state, they reached an astonishing conclusion: If a reform were enacted that maintained lower tax rates for residential homes but raised them to market rates for commercial and industrial properties, the state would generate $8.2 billion to $10.2 billion in additional annual revenues. It’s a figure large enough to restore the state’s education system, improve its mental-health infrastructure, and reform many of the other areas that have been left to lag in the decades following the 1978 tax revolt.

You can color me skeptical that this passes, but I’d love to be wrong. Abramsky cites California’s changing demographics, and that’s certainly true. But mobilizing young voters of color for criminal justice reform is a different beast than mobilizing them for property tax reform because the former is more obviously a justice issue, even as the latter is in reality as well. And the money pouring into California from corporations to defeat this is going to be amazing. But I am at least glad to see this issue on the table and maybe something positive will happen.

2015: Women and Sports

[ 84 ] January 6, 2016 |


Was 2015 the year women moved significantly toward something like equal to men in the sporting world? Zirin makes the argument.

 In many ways 2015 could not have ended with a moment that was more on the nose. Serena Williams was named Sports Illustrated Sports Person of the Year: a glaringly obvious choice after three grand slams at the age of 34. Yet a small sector of social media erupted with anger that the award—for Sports Person of the Year, remember—did not go to a horse, triple-crown winner American Pharaoh. It was dead-enders showing their own irrelevance, while Serena literally took the throne.

Time will tell, but I believe that we will remember 2015 as a pivot point when women in sports took it to that next level and through their play offered the sharpest possible rebuke to what has at times seemed over the years like an anchored, immobile state of second-class citizenship. Let’s see what 2016 and beyond will bring, but for the father of a daughter who often thinks sports is not for her and a son we’re trying to raise in the 21st century, 2015 was a game changer. This was the Year of Women in sports, and over the next years I think we will see the reverberations of last 12 months well beyond the playing field.

Maybe, although in my world equality means pay equality first and foremost and we know that ain’t happening for female athletes anytime soon. No question however that Serena Williams dominated the year like no one else, while the media attention around Ronda Rousey was nearly unprecedented for a female athlete in anticipation for a single event (even if she was walloped by New Mexico state legend Holly Holm). The U.S. women’s soccer team was followed nationally as least much as the men during the World Cup. These are all positives. On the other hand, the WNBA is barely followed at all while professional sports leagues for those female soccer players languish, with them having to play on inferior surfaces to the point of effectively going on strike.

But at the very least, it was a very good year for women. We’ll see if it is a blip or something that gets built upon for greater structural equality in sports.

Trying to Convince Kennedy

[ 11 ] January 6, 2016 |


The plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey observed that “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” This principle has, alas, been more honored in the breach than in the observance by the Supreme Court. A group of lawyers has submitted an amicus brief in Whole Women’s Health v. Cole showing how the Texas anti-abortion statute at issue in the case interferes with this fundamental right:

While Amici come from different regional, religious, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds, and had their abortions for a variety of medical and personal reasons, certain themes repeat throughout their experiences, among them: that they would not have been able to graduate from high school, college, or law school but for their abortions; that abortions provided them with the freedom to escape unhealthy or abusive situations and relationships; and that abortions allowed Amici to delay childbearing until they could be good parents. Most of all, Amici share a common recognition of the critical importance to their careers and their lives of safe access to abortion and the dangers of laws that complicate that path.

Justice Blackmun observed that “[b]ecause motherhood has a dramatic impact on a woman’s educational prospects, employment opportunities, and self-determination, restrictive abortion law deprive her of basic control over her life.” Amici’s experiences bear this out.

These accounts are definitely worth reading. Whether they will persuade Kennedy, who knows, but it’s definitely important to counter the stories of women regretting abortions that Kennedy has relied on in the past.

Galileo’s Middle Finger and the politics of science

[ 262 ] January 6, 2016 |


Jesse Singal has an interesting essay on Alice Dreger’s recent book Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activsts, and the Search for Justice in Science. Singal argues that a conservative = anti-science/liberal=science frame is simplistic, given several incidents from the academic world that Dreger’s book catalogs. I haven’t read the book yet, but Singal describes a couple of what sound like very disturbing cases. Here’s his description of one of them:

At its core, Galileo’s Middle Finger is about what happens when science and dogma collide — specifically, what happens when science makes a claim that doesn’t fit into an activist community’s accepted worldview. And many of Dreger’s most interesting, explosive examples of this phenomenon involve liberals, not conservatives, fighting tooth and nail against open scientific inquiry. . .

The first involves Napoleon Chagnon, an extremely influential anthropologist who dedicated years of his life to understanding and living among the Yanomamö, an indigenous tribe situated in the Amazon rain forest on the Brazil-Venezuela border — there are a million copies of his 1968 book Yanomamö: The Fierce People in print, and it’s viewed by many as an ethnographic classic. Chagnon made ideological enemies along the way; for one thing, he has long believed that human behavior and culture can be partially explained by evolution, which in some circles has been a frowned-upon idea. Perhaps more important, he has never sentimentalized his subjects, and his portrayal of the Yanomamö included, as Dreger writes, “males fighting violently over fertile females, domestic brutality, ritualized drug use, and ecological indifference.” Dreger suggests that Chagnon’s reputation as a careful, dedicated scholar didn’t matter to his critics — what mattered was that his version of the Yanomamö was “Not your standard liberal image of the unjustly oppressed, naturally peaceful, environmentally gentle rain-forest Indian family.”

In 2000, Chagnon’s critics seized upon a once-in-a-career opportunity to go after him. That was the year a journalist named Patrick Tierney published Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon. The book — and a related New Yorker article by Tierney — leveled a series of spectacular allegations against Chagnon and James V. Neel Sr., a geneticist and physician with whom Chagnon had collaborated during his work with the Yanomamö (Neel died of cancer shortly before the book’s publication). Among other things, Tierney charged that Chagnon and Neel had intentionally used a faulty vaccine to infect the Yanomamö with measles so as to test Nazi-esque eugenics theories, and that one or both men had manipulated data, started wars on purpose, paid tribespeople to kill one another, and “purposefully with[held] medical care while experimental subjects died from the allegedly vaccine-induced measles,” as Dreger writes.

These charges stuck in part because Terence Turner and Leslie Sponsel, two anthropologists who disliked Chagnon and his work, sent the American Anthropological Association an alarming letter about Tierney’s allegations prior to the publication of Darkness in El Dorado. Rather than wait to see if the spectacular claims in the book passed the smell test, the AAA responded by quickly launching a full investigation in the form of the so-called El Dorado Task Force — a move that led to a number of its members resigning in protest. A media firestorm engulfed Chagnon — “Scientist ‘killed Amazon indians to test race theory’,” read a Guardian headline — and he was forced to defend himself against accusations that he had brutalized members of a tribe he had devoted his career to living with and studying and, naturally, had developed a strong sense of affection for in the process. A number of fellow anthropologists and professional organizations came to the defense of Chagnon and Neel, pointing out obvious problems with Tierney’s claims and timeline, but these voices were drowned out by the hysteria over the evil, murderous anthropologist and his doctor-accomplice. Dreger writes that Chagnon’s “career had essentially been halted by the whole mess.” (Chagnon’s memoirs, published in 2013, are entitled Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists.)

There was, it turns out, nothing to these claims. Over the course of a year of research and interviews with 40 people involved in the controversy in one way or another, Dreger discovered the disturbing, outrageous degree to which the charges against Chagnon and Neel were fabricated — to the point where some of the numerous footnotes in Tierney’s book plainly didn’t support his own claims. All the explosive accusations about Nazi-like activities and exploitation, and the intentional fomenting of violence, were simply made up or willfully misinterpreted. Worse, some of them could have been easily debunked with just a tiny bit of research — in one case, it took Dreger all of an hour in an archive of Neel’s papers to find strong evidence refuting the claim that he helped intentionally infect the Yanomamö with measles (a claim that was independently debunked by others, anyway).

In the end, Dreger published the results of her investigation in the journal Human Nature, recounting the full details of Chagnon’s ordeal at the hands of Tierney, and the many ways Tierney fabricated and misrepresented data to attack the anthropologist and Neel. Darkness Is El Dorado is still available on Amazon, its original, glowing reviews and mention of its National Book Award nomination intact; and Tierney’s New Yorker article is still online, with no editor’s note explaining the factual inaccuracies contained therein.

I haven’t read Dreger’s book and know nothing about the Chagnon affair, but obviously Singal’s description of the events is very disturbing, as is his recounting of Dreger’s analysis of the J. Michael Bailey controversy at Northwestern.

Singal argues that in the new social media environment created by the internet age, ideologically-motivated witch hunts are easy to start and very difficult to combat, in part because very few people, either in the academic or journalistic worlds, have the time and the resources to get anywhere close to the bottom of complicated stories.

I would add that in many cases they may lack the inclination to do so as well. For example, last summer Singal did some cursory investigations into the Alice Goffman affair, and failed to confirm the veracity of any of the incidents in the book that critics had brought into question, but oddly enough absolved Goffman of any serious misconduct, declaring the book to be “at the very least, mostly true.”

In my view the Goffman affair represents the obverse of what, on Singal’s account, Dreger is cataloging, in that it reflects how fraudulent academic work can short-circuit academic and journalistic gate-keeping mechanisms, if it supports a narrative the gate keepers find congenial.

Leaving that irony aside, Singal’s essay is well worth reading in full, and it sounds as if the same is true of Galileo’s Middle Finger.

2015 Prediction Review

[ 71 ] January 6, 2016 |

“ChickenDivination” by Anonymous folk artist. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.


Time to review last year’s predictions:

World Series Champion: Washington Nationals
NCAA Football FBS Champion: Oregon Ducks
Number of living Castro brothers, 12/31/15: 1
Academy Award, Best Picture: Boyhood
Number of Mistral class amphibious assault ships delivered to Russia: 1

Number of fatal incidents involving collision between Russian and NATO aircraft: 1
Afghanistan Coalition fatalities: 35 (27)
North Korean nuclear tests: 1
Sunsets on Syria under President of Bashar al-Assad: 365
Number of defeats suffered by Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball, 2014-5 season: 0
Heisman Trophy: Dalvin Cook, FSU

Israeli strikes on Iran: 0
Number of formal agreements between Iran and the United States on the future of Iran’s nuclear program: 1

Number of Coalition aircraft shot down by ISIS: 1
Supreme Court vacancies: 1

2014 3rd Quarter GDP growth (as per revisions by 12/31/15, +/-.2): 2.8% (1.9%)
F-35 crashes: 1
Barack Obama approval rate, 12/31/15 (+/- .3%): 45.1% (46.7%)
European benchmark Brent oil, 12/31/15 (+/- $2.00): $61 (37.08)

Well, that was just a disaster. And that’s even giving me credit for the collision between a Russian aircraft and a NATO missile.

Here’s to 2016:

World Series Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers
NCAA Football FBS Champion: Oregon Ducks
Number of living Castro brothers, 12/31/16: 1
Academy Award, Best Picture: The Big Short
American soldiers killed in Iraq/Syria (+/-5): 15
Afghanistan Coalition fatalities (+/-5): 40
North Korean nuclear tests: 1*
Sunsets on Syria under President of Bashar al-Assad (+/-20): 365
Fatal military incidents in South China Sea: 2
Heisman Trophy: Royce Freeman
Israeli strikes on Iran: 0
GOP Presidential Nominee: Senator Ted Cruz
Number of Coalition aircraft shot down by ISIS: 1
Democratic Senators (including Senators elect, caucusing independents): 50
2015 3rd Quarter GDP growth (as per revisions by 12/31/16, +/-.2): 2.6%
Electoral Votes, Hillary Clinton, 2016: 303
Barack Obama approval rate, 12/31/16 (+/- .3%): 50.3%
European benchmark Brent oil, 12/31/16 (+/- $2.00): $45


*I’m going to count this one; was on the list last year, and I can show the timestamp on the draft  revisions…


[ 102 ] January 5, 2016 |

Thanks, I think, to tonycpsu for informing us that Conor Friedersdorf has horked up another Conortrarian Manifesto.

The topic: Naughty smurfs members of the Blue Tribe who have failed to realize that they have much in common with Ammo Bundy and his Merrie Militiamen. (OK, the subthread is full of funny, but it also caused me to read Conor Friedersdorf. Deduct .03 Karma points.)

You can tell it’s a treat from the title and the tagline (make sure you pack some snacks if you intend to read the whole thing).

Oregon and the Injustice of Mandatory Minimums
Members of America’s political left share far more concerns in common with the armed protestors than many apparently realize.

Thank goodness Mr. F. is here to hand us the truth.

The activists who began occupying government buildings in the Oregon wilderness over the weekend say that they’re protesting how federal authorities treated rancher Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, his middle-aged son.


I must admit that my hopes for the article – never high to begin with, but this is my first time attempting to read this stuff – took a dive after I slogged through the title.

But the only way I can believe that C.F. believes his lede is if I believe that he took one quick peek at one paragraph in one article about what’s happening in Oregon and then beetled off to emit many, many words about what’s happening in Oregon. I don’t believe that.

(As an aside, why does he give Hammond Sr.’s age but Jr. is just middle aged? I suspect a fumble-fingered attempt at pathos.)

Assuming the reader’s gag reflex doesn’t kick in, he’ll learn that John Oliver and others on the left have spoken out against mandatory minimums and

liberals and progressives eagerly shared Oliver’s takedown and its predecessors on social media.

This – no you may not question his assertion – this, as you know, is practically the same as saying they want to marry mandatory minimum takedowns, so where are those on the left now that two arsonists have been subjected to mandatory minimums?? (Conor yowls, with all of the outrage that The Blue Tribe would be feeling if it weren’t so hypocritical and dishonest.)

The … piece only improves if you like watching someone wrestle with strawmen while doing different voices for them:

“While federal management of public lands is legitimate and occupying a federal facility is unjustified,” a left-leaning publication might have editorialized, “it’s easy to see why the Hammond case struck some observers as unjust. The notion that judges are there to exercise discretion based on context––that it’s odious to force them to give severe sentences even when they judge them to be ‘grossly disproportionate’––is exactly what criminal-justice reformers have long argued. There have been bipartisan reforms on this issue before. Let’s abolish all mandatory minimums for good through the civic process, not counterproductive armed protests.”

He then climbs to his feet, and perhaps realizing he looks ridiculous covered in straw, leaps back into the safety of the appeal to feels:

Instead, many left-leaning commentators are savaging the protestors in ways that can’t be exaggerated.

Really? It can’t be exaggerated? Not even a little? Are you sure? Have you checked? Hell’s teeth, what a dismal little person. Is this normal for him? And also, has anyone ever seen him and Jonah Goldberg in the same room?

What about their interns?

Just thought I’d check. But I admit that I didn’t get much further. There’s only so many assertions a body can take, and when I hit this:

Lots of Black Lives Matter protestors have engaged in civil disobedience without arrest.

I quit.

Using the Bomb in Korea

[ 37 ] January 5, 2016 |
B-29 307th BG bombing target in Korea c1951.jpg

“B-29 307th BG bombing target in Korea c1951” by USAF – National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo 050831-F-1234P-008. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

The Diplomat is running a brief series on historical counterfactuals in East Asia. I contributed this:

U.S. President Harry Truman refused MacArthur’s request to expand the war into Manchuria, eventually firing the General and turning command over to Matthew Ridgway, who stabilized the situation in Korea. However, the possible use of atomic weapons in 1950 and 1951 remains one of the great unanswered “what if?” questions associated with the early Cold War. Such a decision would have affected not only the course of the Korean War, but also the broader ideological and military struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union.

So, what if the United State had used atomic weapons against China and North Korea in 1950?

Incidentally, I’ll be in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the next four days, enjoying the Southern Political Science Association conference. Happy to have drinks with (what I am sure is) the robust San Juan LGM fan club, or with anyone else attending SPSA.

Paul Bley

[ 8 ] January 5, 2016 |

One of the greatest. R.I.P.

Three ABA law schools now being subjected to “heightened cash monitoring” by Education Department

[ 15 ] January 5, 2016 |


From the government’s federal student aid webpage:

The U.S. Department of Education may place institutions on a Heightened Cash Monitoring (HCM) payment method to provide additional oversight of cash management. . .

Schools may be placed on HCM1 or HCM2 as a result of compliance issues including but not limited to accreditation issues, late or missing annual financial statements and/or audits, outstanding liabilities, denial of re-certifications, concern around the school’s administrative capabilities, concern around a schools’ financial responsibility, and possibly severe findings uncovered during a program review.

Many of the institutions on the current list are beauty schools, culinary academies, and the like.

The three law schools that have been placed on the equivalent of financial probation in regard to their access to federal educational loan funds — any prolonged interruption of such access would certainly shut down these and many other law schools — are Charleston, a for-profit operation whose owners pocketed $25 million in profits (most of which were supplied by federal loans of course) and then refused to part with less than .1% of that total to pay for a reception for graduates, long-time LGM favorite the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, and Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, the brain child of Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, who moved the school there from Ann Arbor in 2009, apparently because the 10 ABA law schools already in Florida weren’t pumping out enough lawyers to serve the needs of the Sunshine State.

(Ave Maria’s Ann Arbor building was taken over by Thomas Cooley, which a couple of years later provided a 12th Florida law school, by opening a Tampa campus. Cooley closed its Ann Arbor campus last year.)

The DOE’s stated reason for subjecting all three law schools to heightened cash monitoring is because of concerns over “financial responsibility.”

Section 498(c) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires for-profit and non-profit institutions to annually submit audited financial statements to the Department to demonstrate they are maintaining the standards of financial responsibility necessary to participate in the Title IV programs. One of many standards, which the Department utilizes to gauge the financial responsibility of an institution, is a composite of three ratios derived from an institution’s audited financial statements. The three ratios are a primary reserve ratio, an equity ratio, and a net income ratio. These ratios gauge the fundamental elements of the financial health of an institution, not the educational quality of an institution.

Gun Control and American Politics in 2016

[ 169 ] January 5, 2016 |


Obama’s gun control speech today was, for whatever it’s worth, excellent. Substantively, the proposed policies probably won’t move the needle much, which isn’t Obama’s fault but that’s the situation we’re in. The preemptive declarations from Republicans that whatever Obama was proposing to do it must be unconstitutional are revealing:

Obama’s proposals are, in terms of gun control policy and executive branch authority, ultimately of minor importance. They’re more important for what they reveal about the Republican party in 2016 than for their substantive content.

First, the ludicrously overwrought Republican reaction to Obama’s statement shows that the party continues to refuse the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency: in that environment, utterly ordinary and plainly legal presidential actions can and will be cited as examples of a tyranny. Maybe next Republicans will start arguing that Obama is violating the US constitution and the will of the people by delivering the State of the Union address rather than letting Paul Ryan do it.

And second, it illustrates that gun control is an issue – like upper-class tax cuts and countless others – where Republican policy can be boiled down to a radical one-note ideological slogan. The effectiveness of a given policy, cost/benefit analysis and so on are all beside the point: if a proposal places any restriction on the sale or possession of guns, Republicans can know in advance that the policies are not merely bad policy but illegal. They can confidently make these assertions without even knowing what the proposed policies are.

But in 1991, former president Ronald Reagan wrote an op-ed endorsing federal gun control legislation; in 2016, Obama proposed to do less on gun control than even Reagan wanted is seen by Reagan-worshipping Republicans as unconscionable tyranny. The Republican race to get far to Reagan’s right makes the prospect of the GOP obtaining unified control of the government a frightening one indeed.

In related news, Mike Huckabee uses the occasion to advocate making abortion first degree murder in all 50 states:

Republicans are Very Serious.

News You Can Use!

[ 50 ] January 5, 2016 |

The Maoists who edit the New York Times Style and Real Estate sections bring you this report from the about-to-move Four Seasons restaurant. (Martha Stewart gets cookies for her driver, and good for her.) By far my favorite:

Leon Wieseltier

Occupation: Writer and editor

Age: 63

Are you a regular?
I come here sometimes. I’m just lunching with my friend Dr. Kissinger.

What did you have for lunch?
We had the white truffle risotto. Both of us. It was very good.

Tell me about your suit.
The jacket is Zegna. The jeans are Levi’s. The boots are M.L. Leddy’s from Fort Worth, Tex.

And, what will you miss about this place?
It’s spacious. People are spaced far apart so you can actually have conversations.

Do you have a favorite memory here?

Too many; too many.

Nothing that sticks out?
Nothing that I’m going to tell you.

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