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Adjunctification

[ 58 ] April 14, 2015 |

It sucks to be a department chair and have to hire adjuncts in a situation you know and they know is exploitative.

As a department chair at Columbia University, I am compelled to hire many people on a part-time basis, although they want and deserve full-time jobs. These adjuncts are among the finest, longest-serving instructors in many universities, and it’s well known that their lasting contributions can transform the lives of their students.

It’s also no secret that they are getting a raw deal. Overworked and underpaid, they often struggle to get by and, when taken to an extreme, the consequences can be tragic.

With each passing year, it becomes clearer that cheap labor has become the hidden foundation of American higher education. According to the American Association of University Professors, more than 50 percent of all faculty hold part-time appointments. A vast workforce of mostly non-unionized adjunct instructors—the so-called “contingent faculty”—now comprises the core of the teaching faculty. They often teach as many courses as full-time instructors, but because they are considered part-time, they have no voting power in departments or universities, no benefits, no job security and no office in which to meet with their students.

The short-term benefits to a university’s bottom line are obvious. It is fiscally advantageous for institutions to hire adjuncts instead of creating more full-time positions with benefits, and the seemingly unlimited availability of part-time instructors makes it relatively easy to offer a large number of courses. And, as noted in the 2010 report of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, while adjunct instructors are long-time (albeit part-time) faculty and shoulder a substantial portion of the curriculum, institutional policies often treat them as if they are short-term workers with minimum involvement in academic life. More than once, adjuncts have been called “the fast-food workers of the academic world.”

One could argue that the chair should just say no, I’m not hiring those people. I’m not sure what would happen. Quite possibly the chair would simply be replaced and the dean’s office would hire the adjuncts. Maybe it would do some good.

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Holding Corporations Accountable

[ 5 ] April 14, 2015 |

sweatshop

I have a piece up at In These Times that discusses some of the ideas I develop in Out of Sight in how to hold corporations accountable for the ecological and labor exploitation of the world no matter where they move.

The only way workers like the 11-year-old boy in Ghatkopar will see their lives improve is if we demand global standards on production with real legal consequences for companies who violate them. The contracting system that creates layers of separation between multinational corporations and workers serves to increase exploitation and profits. It also makes it much harder for consumers in the U.S. and other countries to demand products are produced ethically, for two principle reasons.

First, unlike the Triangle Fire, where reforms of working conditions happened because Americans saw workers die making their clothes, we cannot see the lives of Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans who die making ours. Second, because these corporations lack legal liability for their production, they can claim they know nothing about the working conditions of their suppliers. If Walmart, Target or Gap buy these zippers, do they even know it? When these companies have been busted for using sweatshop labor, they frequently claim that they had no production contracts there. Given the byzantine mazes of contracting these companies do, they may be telling the truth. But a lack of public accounting means we cannot know.

Whether at Bhopal or a zipper sweatshop, multinational corporations need to be held accountable for what happens where they site factories or contract their production. Keeping clear records that show where their clothes are actually produced should be their responsibility.

Specifically, we need to create legal accountability for corporations. Voluntary agreements are basically meaningless—enforcement with consequences is necessary. We need international labor standards that companies must comply with if they want to sell their products in the United States. Workers should have the right to sue in American courts when American companies violate basic standards of labor rights.

If Walmart or Gap wants to contract production to Bangladesh or India, that’s fine. But if their factory collapses or if workers are subjected to slave labor, the American companies using those zippers need to be held legally accountable. Subcontracting cannot be a tool to exploit the world’s poor. We must articulate new ways of holding corporations accountable if we are ever to stop this exploitation.

We are very far from such a system being implemented today. Vicious corporate attacks on organized labor in the United States mean that we are desperately trying to hold on to what labor rights we have left in this country. But those rights have collapsed in part because of the export of union jobs offshore, undermining the best tool American workers have for maintaining a dignified life.

If you want more news like this, follow the Out of Sight Facebook page. Get a book sticker.

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Why is NYU Law School giving Robert Kennedy Jr. a high-profile platform for his anti-vaxx nonsense?

[ 29 ] April 13, 2015 |

anti vaxx

I don’t know, but it’s NYU so I have a guess . . .

Yes, Robert Kennedy Jr. has made headlines again for, as the New Jersey Star Ledger put it in a hard-hitting editorial, “his crazy-talk about a vast government conspiracy to hide the truth that a vaccine ingredient called thimerosal causes childhood autism.” The Star-ledger goes on to correctly note:

He is wrong. Every major scientific and medical organization in the country agrees that he is wrong. Here’s all you need to know about thimerosal: There is no link between it and any brain disorders, including autism. To assuage fears, the government removed it from pediatric vaccines nearly 15 years ago, with the exception of a specific flu vaccine, and childhood autism rates have actually gone up since

.

But Kennedy is as disingenuous as he hyperbolic. Several weeks ago, I attended an event held at NYU’s law school, where Kennedy was appearing on a panel about thimerosal and vaccines. The event was combined with a screening of a documentary called, Trace Amounts, which Kennedy has been promoting. (The movie does not have a distributor, so it is being privately screened at various venues.)

Before the film was shown, Kennedy was introduced by an independent scholar affiliated with NYU’s law school. I took notes. Here’s how he started off: “I am fiercely pro-vaccine. I had all my children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines have saved millions of lives. But it is essential we have a safe vaccine supply.”

Notice the double talk and the inference–that our vaccine supply is unsafe.

Keith Kloor points out that when an elite academic institution gives someone like Kennedy a platform, it puts responsible journalists in a difficult bind:

Let me stop here for a second to point out the danger of media amplification of this tiny fringe element. It is for this reason that I held off on writing about Kennedy’s latest campaign–until now. It is a real quandary for journalists who are obligated to report newsworthy events, but who also don’t want to give undue attention to a tiny minority.

But the more headlines I saw Kennedy generating on his anti-vaccine tour, the more I felt obligated to weigh in on his latest shenanigans.

Slate:

[A]nti-vaxxers turn out in droves. They are few in number—representing less than single-digit percentage points of most states’ populations—but extremely passionate. Their tendency to cluster means they remain a significant risk for supporting outbreaks of disease. They are organized by well-funded groups financed by family foundations. They still gather at rallies and fundraisers featuring disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield, whose claim that vaccines cause autism was later found to be a complete fraud. Their voices are amplified by notorious anti-vax celebrity cranks such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

As a result of this disparity in activism, anti-vaxxers have been successful in defeating pro­–public health legislation that would eliminate some exemptions in a number of states, including Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and most recently, North Carolina. Bills in Texas, New Jersey, and California are still being hotly contested. Well-organized vaccination opponents flood legislators with a near-constant stream of materials of dubious scientific or legal validity. And, of course, Kennedy participates, traveling around to states in contention, promoting a conspiracy-theory documentary called Trace Amounts. This documentary focuses on the manufactured controversy surrounding thimerosal, an ethylmercury-based preservative that was removed from the vast majority of childhood vaccines in 2001. (Autism rates did not decline.)

Shame on NYU Law School for aiding these people.

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Out of Sight: The Facebook Page

[ 31 ] April 13, 2015 |

out_of_sight_final

I’m ramping up promotion for Out of Sight. I created a Facebook page for the book. If any of you use it and want more information about both my media appearances and a daily update or two on news stories around outsourcing, unfair trade, and the environmental and labor exploitation of the world by corporations in their global race to the bottom, you should follow the page.

You should also preorder the book.

….Because this book is all cool and the like, The New Press made stickers rather than postcards to promote it. It is willing to send a sticker to the first 50 people who like the Facebook page and are willing to send a private message to the page (administered only by me) with an address. An irresistible offer!

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Game of Thrones podcast: Season 5, Episode 1 — “The Wars to Come”

[ 73 ] April 13, 2015 |

got

Game of Thrones is back, and so are we! In this episode, we discuss the show’s first-ever flashback, CGI harpys, and so much more.

To read Steven Attewell’s piece on Daenerys and the question of Iraq vs. Reconstruction as historical metaphor, see here.

PS: SEK edited out all the episode 2 spoilers he accidentally let loose because he’s an asshole, but just in case he missed one, he’s sorry — and an asshole.

 

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Monday Links

[ 20 ] April 13, 2015 |


For your reading pleasure…

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Hopefully the Supreme Court Will Solve This Problem

[ 15 ] April 13, 2015 |

Despite the best efforts of Republican statehouses and judges, more people have health insurance:

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 — down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008.

Does this have anything to do with the Affordable Care Act? Who can say, really.

…see also.

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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.

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NFL Cheerleader Bill of Rights

[ 45 ] April 13, 2015 |

Pro_Bowl_2006_cheerleaders

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.

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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:

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The first rule of law school employment statistics

[ 39 ] April 13, 2015 |

vitter

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.

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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.

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