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Vote the Party, Not the Person

[ 198 ] April 13, 2015 |

I can’t believe they let this man have an op-ed column to correctly observe that most of what well-compensated pundits spend their time discussing is of no value:

So Hillary Clinton is officially running, to nobody’s surprise. And you know what’s coming: endless attempts to psychoanalyze the candidate, endless attempts to read significance into what she says or doesn’t say about President Obama, endless thumb-sucking about her “positioning” on this or that issue.

Please pay no attention. Personality-based political analysis is always a dubious venture — in my experience, pundits are terrible judges of character. Those old enough to remember the 2000 election may also remember how we were assured that George W. Bush was a nice, affable fellow who would pursue moderate, bipartisan policies.

In any case, there has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

To be fair and balanced, here’s what a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist chosen entirely at random was writing about the week of the election that would give us the Iraq War, two rounds of massive upper-class tax cuts, and Sam Alito:

I feel stunning

And entrancing,

Feel like running and dancing for joy . . .

O.K., enough gloating. Behave, Albert. Just look in the mirror now and put on your serious I only-care-about-the-issues face.

If I rub in a tad more of this mahogany-colored industrial mousse, the Spot will disappear under my Reagan pompadour.

Whew! Now that W. has slipped on a mud pie at the finish line, I can admit I was scared, just like all the other Democrats. Things were stickier than a barrel of goo-goo clusters.

It would be awful to blow it just because no one can stand the sight of me. Or to win the Electoral College but not the popular vote. Ouch!

You have to admit seeing the 2000 election as a made-for-TV teen comedy about a rivalry between an inauthentic nerd and an affable jock holds up as well as ever! I’m not sure why Krugman can’t see that.

NFL Cheerleader Bill of Rights

[ 45 ] April 13, 2015 |


It’s about time.

A bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to give employee rights and benefits to professional sports cheerleaders passed its first committee in Sacramento this week.

Gonzalez, a former high school and college cheerleader, said her bill “simply demands that any professional sports team — or their chosen contractor — treat the women on the field with the same dignity and respect that we treat the guy selling beer.”

Assembly Bill 202, approved by the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment Wednesday, was drafted by the San Diego Democrat in the wake of lawsuits brought by cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals for what they claim are illegal workplace actions by the NFL teams.

Some teams classify cheerleaders as volunteers and give them minimal compensation, according to critics.

The Charger Girls, who are contracted by a third party and perform at all San Diego Chargers home games, have been paid $75 per game in recent years.

The lawsuits contend that “in addition to sub-minimum wage pay, cheerleaders of professional teams have been forced to spend thousands of dollars in (un)reimbursed costs on travel and personal appearance as well as work unpaid overtime — practices that would be illegal under the law but were found to be commonplace pressures on teams’ cheerleaders despite the tremendous profits being gained by the teams they cheered for,” according to a Gonzalez news release.

There’s been a lot of coverage of the exploitation of cheerleaders in the last year. The NFL is basically the prototypical organization of the New Gilded Age with an exclusive club of billionaires holding cities hostage for publicly funded stadiums while treating their low-level or even high-level employees as disposable garbage that should be glad to have a job with them.

Foreign Entanglements: Airpower Geekery

[ 1 ] April 13, 2015 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, Brian Laslie (author of The Air Force Way of War) talk airpower stuff:

The first rule of law school employment statistics

[ 40 ] April 13, 2015 |


Louisiana senator David Vitter gave a very interesting talk last week about how the nation’s capital is grappling with an increasingly critical shortage of high-end hookers who are willing to let their clients indulge in diaper fetishes.

Oh wait that didn’t actually happen.

Why? Because while he may be the most contemptible member of the US senate, David Vitter is not a grade A moron:

How in the world did he survive that hooker business? Not only did he admit he was a client of Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s escort service. She then went and hanged herself. Not over him personally. Over the whole mess, and staring at serious jail time. But still. Extramarital relations are one thing, with a staffer or a woman of accomplishment; politicians almost always slog their way through that. But here we had the guy calling on hookers, and the dead body of the madam. And Vitter skated through it and sailed to reelection two years later. How?

“He hid for a year and a half,” says my operative. At first, when his name was revealed by Hustler in connection to the case, Vitter acknowledged it. He said he’d asked for and received his wife’s and (somewhat presumptuously) God’s forgiveness. After that he would say no more—“out of respect for my family.” Nice touch.

Steve Diamond on the other hand . . .

Diamond just can’t stop writing about the “myth” that, under current conditions, choosing to go to the average law school at the average cost of attendance is at best a very risky proposition for the average law student.

But forget about averages. Let’s talk specifics. Specifically, let’s talk about Santa Clara University’s law school, where Diamond teaches.

Under the circumstances, Diamond’s decision to write repeatedly about how critics of contemporary legal education don’t understand what a great deal American legal education really is can be analogized to David Vitter holding weekly press conferences on the DC high end hookers with no standards shortage, or Bernie Madoff calling for less intrusive SEC regulation, or Bill Kristol lobbying for Dick Cheney to get a promotion.

That’s because the employment outcomes for Diamond’s own students are almost indescribably catastrophic. Almost, but I’m going to give it the old college try:

Ten months after graduation, 93 of Santa Clara’s 261 class of 2014 graduates had a legal job, very liberally construed. Nearly a year out, only 35.6% of the class had acquired full-time non-temporary positions requiring bar admission. Note that isn’t the percentage of graduates who got good legal jobs, i.e., jobs that hold some reasonable prospect of launching a legal career that will justify Santa Clara’s cost of attendance (about which more shortly). That’s every kind of lawyer position, including getting paid $35,000 per year with no benefits to handle a giant stack of penny-ante litigation for a three-person firm that will let you go the second business slows down a bit. (36 of the 68 Santa Clara grads who got jobs with law firms were working for tiny outfits, which typically feature low pay, high work loads, and zero job security.)

And that’s assuming all these grads are working for real firms, as opposed to a couple of grads banding together and calling themselves a firm. As the data from this paper suggest, such arrangements are not rare.

What about those members of Santa Clara’s most recent graduating class that, as of last month, hadn’t gotten legal jobs of any sort? Ten months after graduation, more than one third of the entire graduating class was completely unemployed. This stat includes 77 graduates who were seeking employment, and four graduates who were not, along with four graduates whose status couldn’t be discovered by the school. (It doesn’t include five currently unemployed grads who had future commitments from employers to start work. Nor does it include nine grads who were working in jobs funded by the law school itself, that were both part-time and temporary).

Here I’ll note again what an egregious fraud Diamond’s employer was committing back in 2011, when the US News rankings still allowed schools to exclude unemployed graduates who were supposedly not seeking work from a school’s calculation of its graduate employment rate. That year, Santa Clara categorized 55 of its 61 2010 grads who were unemployed nine months after graduation as “not seeking employment.” US News changed its metrics and started counting all unemployed grads as simply unemployed, and suddenly almost all of Santa Clara’s annual multitude of unemployed grads were looking for work after all.

Indeed, barely half (132 of 261) of Santa Clara’s 2014 grads had full-time non-temp employment of any kind, nearly a year after graduation. Such employment would include working 35 hours per week at Starbucks etc.

The 83% of the Santa Clara class that took out federal educational loans during law school took out an average of $136,990 in such loans. This means their actual educational debt at the putative beginning of repayment, six months after graduation, was much higher. That’s because this figure doesn’t include interest accrued during school and origination fees. Those two factors alone push the average debt above $160,000. Nor does it include private loans to cover summer expenses and bar review courses, or undergraduate debt.

Conservatively, the five of every six non-trustifarian grads in Santa Clara’s 2014 class who have educational debt are probably averaging at least $175,000 in such debt, at an average interest rate of around 7%, which means they will have to pay around $1,000 every month simply to cover the accruing interest on those loans, without even touching the principal. This is going to be fairly challenging, given that a third of them don’t have a job, and most of the rest are probably taking home less than $3,000 per month after taxes. (According to this, the average monthly rent for an apartment within ten miles of Santa Clara is $2,738, although you can get a one-bedroom for just $2,356).

In fact Santa Clara’s employment stats are hardly better than those sported by the infamous Thomas J. Cooley School of Law (there should probably be an equivalent to Godwin’s Law for internet threads about law school employment statistics, with Cooley playing the role of youknowwho). While Santa Clara noses out Cooley in regard to the percentage of grads getting legal jobs (35.6% to 30.0% respectively), Cooley’s graduate unemployment rate is actually better, as only 32.6% of the 2014 class was unemployed ten months after graduation, even counting all 62 of the graduates Cooley wasn’t able to track down as unemployed.

In all seriousness, I can’t understand the mentality of someone like Diamond. Is he simply indifferent to the dire situation facing such a large proportion of the students who pay his salary? Is he in some sort of deep denial? Beyond this, how can he fail to understand that, for someone who teaches at a law school like Santa Clara and who wants to protect the status quo, the first rule of law school employment statistics is that you don’t talk about law school employment statistics?

. . . In comments, Unemployed Northeastern points out that Santa Clara’s enrollment has been cratering, despite a significant cut in admissions standards aimed at stemming the tide. Specifically, over the past five years the school’s JD enrollment has gone from 1001 to 643. Diamond, who styles himself a fierce opponent of libertarian economics, nevertheless loves to talk about how “the market” more or less magically “corrects” itself — and here we have an example of how something resembling such a correction can take place, as a consequence of even a tiny bit of transparency regarding employment outcomes. (That transparency, it should be unnecessary to point out, came about as a consequence of concerted political action, not because some abstract “market” made it inevitable that SCU couldn’t keep defrauding potential admits with fake employment stats).

Of course as UNE also notes, a “market” for law school admissions that didn’t feature the federal government loaning nearly $220,000 to literally anyone not currently in default on an educational loan who Santa Clara decides to admit would have far more devastating consequences for SCU’s already-collapsing admissions.

21st Century Policing

[ 40 ] April 13, 2015 |

Maybe it’s only a matter of time before police departments of the New Gilded Age start creating hunting licenses for rich people to shoot humans.

Robert Bates, the reserve Tulsa County deputy who fatally shot a man who was in a physical altercation with another deputy last week, has donated thousands of dollars worth of items to the Sheriff’s Office since becoming a reserve deputy in 2008.

Bates, 73, accidentally shot Eric Harris on Thursday, according to Maj. Shannon Clark, after Harris — the subject of an undercover gun and ammunition buy by the Sheriff’s Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force — fled from arrest and then fought with a deputy who tackled him. Bates, Clark said, thought he was holding a stun gun when he pulled the trigger.

Bates is not an active member of the task force but donates his hours there as a highly regarded member of the Reserve Deputy Program, Clark said.

Harris, 44, an ex-convict with an extensive criminal history, was shot in the right axilla, the area under the joint that connects the arm to the shoulder, according to the state Medical Examiner’s Office. Clark said Harris, who died at a Tulsa hospital after the shooting, told a deputy at the scene that he had taken PCP earlier in the morning.

Bates apparently is not alone as both a donor and reserve deputy. While the Sheriff’s Office has not released its full roster, Clark said other wealthy donors are among the agency’s 130 reserve deputies.

“There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program,” he said. “Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”

Perhaps Soviet propaganda about the United States was more spot on than we thought.

Demographically Symbolic

[ 51 ] April 13, 2015 |


I was far too kind to Wayne LaPierre.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere Open Thread

[ 69 ] April 12, 2015 |


The Season 5 premiere finally here! Scott and I will be here tomorrow to discuss it in further depth on the podcast, but feel free to use this thread to discuss tonight’s premiere of Season 5, Episode 1, “The Wars to Come.” Do not drop spoilers from any future episodes that may have leaked online. 

A Reasonable Response

[ 53 ] April 12, 2015 |


It’s hard to see how this goes bad:

Kenya has given the United Nations three months to remove a camp housing more than half a million Somali refugees, as part of a get-tough response to the killing of 148 people by Somali gunmen at a Kenyan university.

Kenya has in the past accused Islamist militants of hiding out in Dadaab camp which it now wants the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR to move across the border to inside Somalia.

“We have asked the UNHCR to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves,” Deputy President William Ruto said in a statement on Saturday.

“The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa,” he said, referring to the university that was attacked on April 2.

Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesman for the UNHCR in Kenya, said they were yet to receive formal communication from the government on the relocation of Dadaab and could not comment.

The complex of camps hosts more than 600,000 Somali refugees, according to Ruto, in a remote, dry corner in northeast Kenya, about an hour’s drive from Garissa town.

A national security state based around making the terrible lives of over a half-million people significantly worse will surely protect Kenyans. There’s no doubt that the response of the U.S. government after 9/11 that included the invasion of two nations, one of which had nothing to do with the attacks, both endeared the United States to the world, preserved the freedom of Americans inside the nation, and protected its citizens abroad. Clearly, what Kenya needs is to call in Paul Wolfowitz for consultation.

Express Lanes

[ 21 ] April 12, 2015 |


No matter how many lanes of traffic governments build, they will never solve traffic problems because they incentivize more driving and more traffic, effectively subsidizing the problem they are meant to fix. Subsidizing public transportation and both dense and affordable urban living are far more effective ways to combat traffic.

Unionbusting Your Way to National Prominence

[ 38 ] April 12, 2015 |


Above: Illinois governor Bruce Rauner

There’s nothing good happening to the American worker in 2016, but it is even more discouraging than usual that Republican governors are trying to outdo each other in unionbusting as a way to gather national prominence and perhaps a presidential nomination. Scott Walker is of course the most prominent example of this, but it is also basically Illinois governor Bruce Rauner’s entire agenda.

Rauner’s efforts in Illinois are getting the closest scrutiny. That state is an unlikely launch pad for a crusade against union power. It has been a solidly blue state in presidential elections since 1992 and had not elected a Republican governor since 1998 until Rauner, a longtime friend of Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who had also worked in private equity, won office last year. Conservative journalist Stephen Moore called the political newcomer’s campaign “the biggest election of 2014.“ Illinois, he wrote in National Review, “could become a laboratory experiment about whether conservative ideas can work in a state that has been ruled by…unions and a self-serving political machine in Springfield and Chicago.”

Once in office, Rauner issued a “Turnaround Agenda” that begins with this premise: “Government union leaders are funding politicians who negotiate their pay and benefits.” To put an end to that, Rauner issued an executive order challenging collective bargaining agreements with state employees and urged municipalities and counties to create their right-to-work zones.

Rauner frames the issue as one of freedom and local control. The governor says he wants Illinois communities to decide whether “their businesses should be subject to forced unionism or employee choice.” Forced unionism is a familiar phrase among opponents of collective bargaining, but it’s also a misleading one. If a majority of workers vote to form a union, then it’s customary for workers to be compelled to pay dues as a price for being in a union. Those who don’t want to join the union are required to pay something so they aren’t getting a free ride. By giving workers the prerogative not to pay union dues, right-to-work laws undercut the power of unions.

Hoping to spur municipalities to take on public-employee unions, Rauner sent right-to-work resolutions to all of Illinois’s cities and villages. A municipality can just insert its name and vote on it. It’s a smart strategy since the Illinois statehouse is solidly Democratic and won’t pass a right-to-work law. Setting fires in small towns might arouse anti-union sentiment, and it will surely inflame the unions. Last week, unions packed a meeting of the Oswego County board in northern Illinois, where the nonbinding resolution was up for discussion. Scott Roscoe, president of the Fox Valley Building Trades Council in Aurora, told a local journalist, “If we don’t stop anti-worker schemes like right-to-work, more families will fall behind.”

I’d say it’s fairly likely that if Hillary Clinton wins in 2016 than Rauner is setting himself up nicely for the nomination in 2020. Certainly his friends the Koch Brothers are happy with him. “Right to Work a Person a Death” should just become the central agenda on the Republican agenda. And Rauner would probably even have good buddy Rahm Emanuel on his side!

How and why Sally Draper ends up being Mad Men’s most important character

[ 11 ] April 12, 2015 |


For a long time now I’ve teased y’all about my theory that Mad Men is really all about Sally instead of Don “The Dick Whitman” Draper. Here’s my attempt to prove it once and for all. Because it’s something I wrote, I don’t find it nearly as compelling as it should be, but if nothing else it’s a means of starting to reevaluate an ensemble show that’s — understandably — tied to the idea that its lead character is a dapper silhouette of a man.

Confession Time: I’m Not Steve Dallas

[ 61 ] April 12, 2015 |

Most wingnuts prolly can’t tell you why they’re pro-Gator; after all, I’m guessing most of them have no idea what GamerGate is. But they have a vague sense that it makes feminists head-splodey so they know they can’t be aginnit. My favorite wingnut Gator is Robert Stacy McCain. That’s right–the other *shittier* McCain. One of the Gators’ biggest bogeyman is Randi Harper, who genocided free speech by creating a blockbot that, well, blocks Gators on twitter. Gators and poseur-Gators alike–not understanding what “free speech” means–thinks this exactly like Hitler taking a dump in their mouths. Here McCain takes potshots at Randi by being ableist (all liberals are mentally ill), fat-shaming her and just generally being a horrible human being. It really is a delightful Sunday morning read. (Note: please don’t read it.)

But my favorite part of McCain’s word-vomit is the side by side comparison of Harper’s avatar and photo. You see, they don’t look exactly alike. It’s almost as if avatars are supposed to be fun, vague representations of their owners rather than painstakingly-rendered exact likenesses. But since the subject has been broached, I feel I should be honest with you all: I am not Steve Dallas. It’s true, I’m not Steve Dallas. I know some of you are saying “We know, b. We’ve seen pictures of you.” So, for some of you, the secret’s out–I’ve transcended by human form and am now a being of pure energy. It’s good to get that off my chest. Still, if you don’t mind, I’m going to continue being Steve Dallas here because its hard to photograph pure energy, as anyone who has ever tried to take a picture of my son knows.

Not bspencer

bspencer enjoying a beverage

But listen, I know this must be confusing for McCain. And, honestly, I feel sorry for the guy because he’s going to be really disappointed when he finds out all his new twitter pals aren’t actually anime characters.

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