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This Day in Labor History: February 26, 1972

[ 23 ] February 26, 2014 |

On February 26, 1972, a Pittston Coal Company slurry dam collapsed in Logan County, West Virginia. The ensuing flood of coal slurry would kill 125 people and demonstrate once again the horrific contempt the coal industry has for the people of West Virginia.

Coal slurry is basically the toxic leftovers of modern industrial coal production. This was less of an issue in the days of underground mining, but with strip mining and later mountaintop removal, large scale residue became a real problem. The coal is sifted and processed, washed of impurities, and transported to market by rail or boat. The leftover is the slurry. It includes heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, beryllium, manganese, selenium, cadmium, as well as a whole slough of toxic chemicals. This is nasty stuff. The process for cleaning this up was haphazard then and it is now. Basically, coal companies built a dam and dumped it in there mixed with the water that naturally filled up behind the dam.

Pittston was the largest coal company in the United States in the 1970s and its dams had a history of problems. The company began dumping coal waste in the Middle Fork of Buffalo Creek in 1957 and built its first dam to impound the material in 1960. It built two more dams, each about 600 feet upstream, turning the creek into a series of black pools of polluted water. These were basic impoundments made of earth and not sophisticated dams guaranteed to stand up to harsh weather. In 1967, the Department of Interior had warned Pittston the dams (along with 29 others in the state) were unstable and dangerous. Pittston executives did not care. The third dam broke in July 1971, but the second dam held the water and disaster was briefly averted. Pittston also had a long reputation for poor safety practices. It was cited for over 5000 violations at mines in 1971 alone, but only paid $275 of the $1.3 million in fines it was levied. These impoundments were actually banned by the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, but had so far been unenforced.

Late February was very rainy in West Virginia. Residents were nervous about the state of the dams. A mere 4 days before the dam collapsed, a federal mine inspector declared the dam safe. But on the morning of February 26, the third dam caved and this time the second dam did not hold. Neither did the first. A huge wall of polluted water rushed down Buffalo Creek.

When the dam caved, 132 million gallons of slurry entered Buffalo Creek. Downstream lay 16 small towns with a total of 5000 people. 125 would die that day. 1121 were injured 4000 people lost their homes. These little towns were all old coal company towns. The companies had divested any responsibility for the towns before this, but most the people who lived either worked in coal or had family members in the industry. Already these towns were dying as mechanization replaced thousands of jobs in the 1950s and people left, largely for the northern industrial factories.

Pittston Coal called the mine collapse “an act of God” in its legal filings, saying the dam couldn’t hold all the water “God poured into it.” As if it was God who constructed unsafe dams and then filled them with coal sludge. Typically, the state government of West Virginia, wholly owned by the coal industry, “investigated” the dam collapse with a commission made up of wholly pro-coal men. Governor Arch Moore initially banned reporters from entering the area to prevent “irresponsible reporting,” a tactic that reminded many of the old days when basic constitutional rights and freedoms did not apply in coal country. A circuit court grand jury refused to indict Pittston or its executives for any of the many laws it broke with the dam collapse. The special prosecuting attorney, Willard Lorenson of the West Virginia University School of Law, said, “It has been a noble exercise in American justice.”

When the United Mine Workers, now in a period of reform after the corrupt Tony Boyle, a man indifferent to the lives of his own men, was ousted and imprisoned, protested over this sham, the governor ignored them. So the UMWA created the Citizens Commission, which issued a report calling the coal company guilty of the murder of all 125 dead. The state followed by suing Pittston for $100 million, but just before leaving office, Moore settled for a mere $1 million, thus ensuring his place as one of the most pro-industry hacks in the history of American politics.

The survivors sued Pittston but received only a pittance of $13,000 a piece after legal costs, or about $61,000 in 2014 dollars. Moore sought to capitalize on the disaster by promising to do something to help the citizens who lost their homes. He proposed 10 new housing developments for Buffalo Creek, with 750 homes. The total built was 17 homes and 90 apartments, all constructed on top of a coal tailings pile. Moore also attempted to use federal disaster money to ram a superhighway through the valley. Residents were bought out but only a two-lane road was built. Moore promised to build a community center with the funds given back to the community by the lawyers for the plaintiffs from their fees. The community center was never built.

In 1975, the great Appalachian film project Appalshop made a film titled “The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man.” You can watch an 8 minute excerpt here.

Pittston Coal would later be the site of one of the most important strikes of the late 20th century.

In 1990, Arch Moore was sentenced to 5 years in prison for graft after stealing money from the state’s black lung fund. He is the father of Shelley Moore Capito, the likely next senator from West Virginia.

Here is a list of the dead.

This is the 94th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

USAF Links

[ 10 ] February 25, 2014 |

From the latest re-rebuttal:

With Robert Farley responding to my critique of his Foreign Affairs article, “Ground the Air Force,” our ongoing debate on the pages of the National Interest serves a useful purpose in the larger discussion concerning the roles, missions, and structure of not only the Air Force, but the US military as a whole. Just as with his initial article, it seems Dr. Farley has offered an incomplete picture of airpower and is uneven in his criticism of Air Force leadership.

From Duffel Blog:

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthog ground attack plane was seen sulking and sobbing on the sidelines of the Pentagon’s sporting complex, after it was completely cut from the national defense team on Monday.

“I work my ass off out there. I practice more than half these guys,” said the A-10 in between sobs. “How the hell could they choose the F-35 over me? For a so-called ‘stealth fighter’, he sure is getting intercepted a whole heck of a lot.”

While picking teams for its annual scrimmage against North Korea, the U.S. National Security team picked the Global Hawk drone, the F-35, and budget levels from before World War II. Forced to sit and watch from the bench were the A-10, the U-2 spy plane, and thousands of soon-to-be unemployed soldiers and Marines.

And an interview with WUKY.


The New Wave of Anti-Civil Rights Legislation

[ 126 ] February 25, 2014 |

Now coming to Georgia.

Epitaphs of war

[ 138 ] February 25, 2014 |

Former vice president Dick Cheney went on Fox’s “Hannity” show last night to discuss the recent plans to reduce the Army to levels not seen since 1940 — through a reduction in personnel and removing a class of warplanes from the field — in an effort to cut budgets after a decade of war, calling the decision “over the top.” He told host Sean Hannity that President Obama would “much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.” . . .

Earlier in the interview, Cheney said, “The fact of the matter is he’s having a huge impact on the ability of future presidents to deal with future crises that are bound to arise. … I can guarantee you, there’s never going to be a call from the future secretary of defense to Barack Obama, to thank him for what he’s done to the military. This is just devastating.”

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Kipling, “A Dead Statesman”

The National Review’s Handy Compendium of Terrible Arguments Against Civil Rights Laws

[ 87 ] February 25, 2014 |

Erik has already gotten in a few whacks at Kevin Williamson’s iteration of the “supporting civil rights is the real intolerance!” argument that has been recycled by umpteen generations of conservative hacks. Still, Williamson puts so many bad arguments against civil rights in one place I thought it was worth addressing some of them individually:

  • “It is a mark of the moral illiteracy of our times that it even has to be argued that suffering the indignity of having a baker refuse to service your wedding because he holds ideas about marriage that were shared by…Barack Obama…until the day before yesterday, may be painful, even humiliating, but it is an experience that is not very much like being a member of a captive race that was held in slavery for centuries and then systematically subjugated for another century.”  I’ll come back to the feeble Obama gotcha, but I will note that using past horrible discrimination (that conservatives at the National Review contemporaneously defended) as a reason not to do anything about current discrimination is a perennial of reactionary misdirection. (Cf. also “no worker can organize unless they can prove that no other worker somewhere is worse off.”)  Let’s concede that gays and lesbians occupy a less oppressed position than African-Americans in 1950s Alabama.  The latter isn’t the standard required for discrimination to be worthy of state action, and we need not ignore similarities between cases than are not similar in every respect.
  • “having a baker…”  Also note the strategic use of hypothetical anecdote — the whether the subject is race or sexual orientation, the entity being theoretically oppressed by civil rights legislation is always a mom-and-pop business (“won’t someone think of poor Pappy!“), although tiny entities where business and personal are fused are exempt from federal civil rights law and virtually always exempt from state civil rights law.  (Yes, some local ordinances do apply to all businesses, but of all the busybody regulations passed by local governments these aren’t the ones I’d be most inclined to complain about.)   The fact that arguments like Williamson’s never focus on the more typical cases is tells you what you need to know.
  • “Imagine you are the gay owner of a restaurant in Chelsea, a member in good standing of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, rainbow flag flying out front — and the cretins from the Westboro Baptist Church decide that they want to rent your party room for their annual “God Hates Fags” Sunday brunch. Shouldn’t you have the right to refuse? There is in this sad world such a thing as a Ku Klux Klan wedding — should the management of Harlem’s famous Sylvia’s Restaurant be prosecuted under civil-rights law if the establishment should decline to cater such a wedding?”  I concede the point — “hateful crackpot” and “white supremacist” shouldn’t be protected categories under civil rights law.
  • “Barry Goldwater, who set the great precedent for Arizonans’ shocking liberal sensibilities, had been an instrumental figure in the Phoenix desegregation effort but opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964…”  First of all, you have to love the “shocking liberal sensibilities” bit; it’s like Williamson is trying to cram every winger trope into one short piece.  It’s also not surprising that Barry Goldwater makes an appearance, since he’s the one prominent conservative who opposed the CRA 1) without being either a public or private racist and 2) while actually supporting desegregation at the state and local level.   People with this combination of preferences were, however, rarer than pieces of the True Cross for good reason: white supremacists understood the effects of federal non-intevention much better than Goldwater did.
  • “The concept of “public accommodation” has been so inflated that as a practical matter no private sphere exists outside the home when the question of discrimination arises.” Strange, though, that Williamson can’t come up with even a random anecdote of a private club being forced to comply with federal or state civil rights laws.  Maybe he’s too busy looking for a family farm lost because of the estate tax.
  • “But religious traditionalists who do not wish to be involved in gay nuptials are not Bull Connor, and nobody said that hewing to a heterosexual model of marriage was the equivalent of Jim Crow when Barack Obama was the one making that case.”  Well, first of all, you already used both of these arguments.  To address the “Barack Obama nominally opposed same-sex marriage in 2008 nyuk-nyuk” one, aside from the general lameness of the argument it’s wrong even on its own terms.  Personal opposition to same-sex marriage is morally wrong but it’s not comparable to Jim Crow.  What is comparable to Jim Crow are laws explicitly permitting public accommodations and in some cases state officials to discriminate against same-sex couples.  If you had evidence of Barack Obama supporting those kind of laws…well, you still wouldn’t actually have anything, because the correct responses would be “Barack Obama is wrong” and “Barack Obama, in the capacity of a state official or employer or manager of a public accommodation, should not be permitted to discriminate against gays and lesbians.”  But it’s instructive that even when he nominally opposed same-sex marriage he didn’t support them.  Williamson might like this argument so much he uses it twice, but it’s one of the worst poetic justice as fairness arguments ever.
  • “There is, after all, an almost infinite gradation of moral distinction between the views of well-intentioned people who do not wish to cater a gay wedding because of religious considerations and the odious, malicious position of Westboro Baptist et al.”  But this parsing of motivations misses the point of what civil rights laws are for and what they do.  Again, when running a secular public accommodation or acting as an employer, people cannot discriminate for whatever reason.  As private individuals, people are free to have hateful views along any point on the continuum from Fred Phelps to the National Review‘s more genteel version.  In both cases, the distinctions Williamson believes the law can’t make aren’t actually relevant.

I give him credit, though — that’s an impressive number of terrible arguments for one column.

The Arkansas Medicaid Outrage

[ 57 ] February 25, 2014 |

While not the optimal means of Medicaid expansion, the compromise accepted by Arkansas was a major advance for health care access. This means that Republicans in the state are refusing to go ahead with it. Which makes sense, since they’re opposed in principle to providing decent health care to the working poor.

And related to yesterday’s post, once again let’s thank John Roberts for yet another arbitrary, extratextual limitation on federal power. The arguments for the spending power limitations in Sebelius are perhaps not as terrible as Shelby County — what is? — but it’s close. Put it this way — if Congress had created the ACA’s Medicaid program from scratch, it would be plainly constitutional. If it had simply eliminated the old Medicaid entirely, that would be plainly constitutional. So how can making states an all-or-nothing offer including the Medicaid expansion be unconstitutional? It can’t — the argument collapses on itself.

Wild Kingdom

[ 45 ] February 25, 2014 |

If you are like me, you watched a lot of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a child.

Why I thought of this tonight for the first time in years, who knows.

Harold Ramis, RIP

[ 169 ] February 24, 2014 |

Harold Ramis has passed.

My favorite scene from his greatest film.

Incidentally, I visited Punxsutawney in August. It is not a nice place.

John Roberts, Shelby County, and stare circulus jerkus

[ 86 ] February 24, 2014 |

I understand that Amel Ahmed is ultimately on the right side of the voting rights issue, but there is no context in which the phrase “John Roberts was right” should appear in a discussion of Shelby County, unless the question is whether his clerks spelled his name right.

To make one additional point about the risible “equal sovereignty of the states” doctrine Roberts resurrected from the antebellum slave power, it’s a classic example of conservative hacks citing their own bare assertions in dicta as if they settled legal disputes. In Shelby County, Roberts gets very pissy about the dissent’s refusal to take his exhumation of an (uncited) Roger Taney with sufficient seriousness: “the dissent refuses to consider the principle of equal sovereignty, despite Northwest Austin’s emphasis on its significance.” Ah, I get it — there wasn’t really a defense of the “equal sovereignty” doctrine in Shelby County because he already defended in a Northwest Austin dictum. So here’s his defense of the “equal sovereignty of the states” theory from Northwest Austin, in its entirety:

The Act also differentiates between the States, despite our historic tradition that all the States enjoy “equal sovereignty.” United States v. Louisiana, 363 U. S. 1, 16 (1960) (citing Lessee of Pollard v. Hagan, 3 How. 212, 223 (1845)); see also Texas v. White, 7 Wall. 700, 725–726 (1869). Distinctions can be justified in some cases. “The doctrine of the equality of States … does not bar … remedies for local evils which have subsequently appeared.” Katzenbach, supra, at 328–329 (emphasis added). But a departure from the fundamental principle of equal sovereignty requires a showing that a statute’s disparate geographic coverage is sufficiently related to the problem that it targets.

So let’s see. We have a bare assertion that the doctrine Roberts just made up reflects a “historic tradition.” We have two land rights cases that deal with state boundaries prior to their admission to the union (one from prior to the civil war), and an 1969 case dealing with the legality of secession (Roberts’s “see also” is a nice giveaway that the precedent is wholly irrelevant.) And finally, we have South Carolina v. Katzenbach, which has the advantage of being relevant to this case but the disadvantage of pointing out that the “doctrine applies only to the terms upon which States are admitted to the Union, and not to the remedies for local evils which have subsequently appeared.” (Note what Roberts leaves out of the relevant quote to make it less damning; if nothing else, this opinion demonstrates a consummate mastery of bullshit.) None of the other cited precedents contradicts Katzenbach‘s holding. In other words, Roberts has nothing – no constitutional text, no relevant precedent, no constitutional tradition, not even an actual argument. Shelby County relies on citing this nothing as the controlling precedent. As I quote Richard Posner as saying in the linked piece, the decision “rests on air.”

There’s an additional scam being pulled here. Roberts tries to get some authority for his worthless Northwest Austin arguments by noting that the opinion “joined by two of today’s dissenters,” suggesting that it reflects a consensus about basic principles. But this is the legal equivalent of pretending to believe that the position-taking of public officials must represent nothing but sincere, unfettered policy preferences. (Some liberals have the same problem with Sebelius, believing that Stephen Breyer voting for the most liberal spending power position that could command five votes means that the Supreme Court justice with perhaps the most expansive vision of federal power in history is suddenly going to start voting with reactionaries to randomly rule exercises of the spending power unconstitutional. It’s theoretically possible, just as it’s theoretically possible that Roberts is going to start frequently acting as the swing vote with the four liberal justices, but it’s really not how to bet.) But we all know this is silly. Ginsburg and Breyer joined the Northwest Austin majority because the only alternative that could command a majority was…Shelby County. In retrospect, as RBG acknowledges, this was probably a mistake, but it’s remarkably disingenuous to suggest that every member of the Northwest Austin majority subscribed to every dictum in the opinion. In fairness, though, it’s not as if Roberts had a better to argument to make, and if my opinion had been shredded as mercilessly as Ginburg’s dissent did to Shelby County, I wouldn’t be in a great mood either.

To Noam Chomsky and Everyone Else: Richard Nixon Was Not a Liberal

[ 289 ] February 24, 2014 |

Oh Noam:

Three Democrats have held the position of commander-in-chief since the Richard Nixon era, but if you ask philosopher Noam Chomsky, it was the 37th president and infamous Watergate casualty who was truly the last liberal to preside in the Oval Office.

During a discussion on HuffPost Live, Chomsky weighed in on the minimum wage debate, blaming neo-liberals for keeping talk of wage increases off the table until now.

“It’s a shame that it’s taken so long to even be a discussion,” Chomsky said. “As for support, we may recall the last major program for helping families at the level of survival was under Richard Nixon. In many respects Nixon was the last liberal president.”

Sigh. Perhaps some images will help here. This is a liberal.

This is not a liberal.

I see this argument about Nixon all the time and it drives me crazy. It is deployed by progressives to express their frustration at the current political climate. Richard Nixon did this and that, say progressives. He signed all this environmental legislation. He amended the FLSA, says Chomsky. What has Carter, Clinton, or Obama done!

Richard Nixon was a liberal in no way. Richard Nixon was however a very shrewd politician operating in the time of the postwar liberal consensus. Nixon didn’t like signing those bills. He would have LOVED to rule in the 1980s when he could slash the welfare state, kill Central American commies, ignore the AIDS crisis, and undermine environmental regulations. But he couldn’t do that between 1969 and 1974. Nixon really wanted two things–to fight the Vietnam War and look like a world leader. He didn’t care much about domestic policy one way or another. Sure, if he had his druthers, he would have ruled conservatively. As it was, he wanted to build support for the war by signing relatively liberal legislation.

Perhaps some concrete examples will help. Nixon signed a spate of environmental legislation, ranging from the National Environmental Policy Act to the Occupational Safety and Health Act to extending the Clean Air Act to Marine Mammal Protection Act. But as Brooks Flippen has shown in his book analyzing Nixon’s environmental record, Nixon’s was completely indifferent to anything usually considered the natural world. You weren’t going to see Richard Nixon out hiking. He received no joy from nature at all. He weakened this legislation where he could. But Nixon recognized environmentalists for the political power it was. He thought that if he could sell himself as an environmental president, greens would then support his efforts in southeast Asia, or at least vote for his reelection. Beginning in 1972, when he didn’t need their help anymore, he indeed did begin vetoing legislation, such as the Clean Water Act of 1972. Because he hated the whole idea of it. Moreover, he knew that much of this legislation was passed with veto-proof majorities. He wasn’t going to burn political capital he needed in foreign policy on a useless veto for principle’s sake. He was a conservative in a time when he could not rule like a conservative.

What’s happening today is that even smart progressives are using Nixon as a uncontextualized figure to compare to everything they dislike about today. But this gives the presidency way too much power and essentially fetishizes the power of the presidency at the cost of a meaningful analysis of how political change is made in the United States. Unfortunately, if a law gets passed, the entire credit or demerit for it rests in the popular mind on that president and not on Congress or the millions of Americans who wanted it. This is a mistake.

The framing of this sums up the problem.
Richard Nixon didn’t do these good things for the environment, or at least certainly not by himself. Congress and the American people did. Nixon was making a shrewd political calculation by signing this legislation. He was more scared of environmentalists than business. Environmentalists held more legislative power than business in the early 1970s. It wasn’t until after the Powell Memo in 1971 that corporations got in gear and began pushing back. That coincided with the economic troubles and oil crises of the 1970s and the decline of the liberal consensus, opening the door for decades of conservative counterrevolution that continues today.

By thinking of our past and present entirely in terms of presidential politics, we make enormous mistakes in understanding how change occurs. No president is ever going to create the change we want. Only through organizing for policy changes does this happen. It’s not Barack Obama that is making gay rights a reality. It’s millions of gays and lesbians and their supporters demanding equality. Such was the same with civil rights and Johnson or New Deal policies and FDR. Electing the right president is important, but if you have enough power to scare politicians, they are likely to do more of what you want them to do than your enemies want them to do. That’s why Richard Nixon signed that environmental and economic legislation.

So I’d not only argue this Nixon as liberal construction is wrong, I’d argue it is dangerous because it distracts us from creating the change we want.

BP: Class All the Way

[ 69 ] February 24, 2014 |

As you recall, BP was responsible for a tiny little oil spill in 2010 called the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This only crushed tourism to New Orleans for several months, made people afraid to eat Gulf Coast seafood, and reminded Americans for weeks of their reliance upon dirty energy (which they promptly forgot as soon as it wasn’t a story anymore). Not surprisingly, BP had to pay some damages for its actions. It settled a class action lawsuit for $4 billion. Now, as Michael Hiltzik reports, the company is bitter and angry and lashing out at people it doesn’t want to pay:

But in recent months BP has mounted a frontal assault on the settlement. The firm has placed full page ads in major newspapers, ridiculing supposedly fraudulent claims blithely paid by the settlement administrator, Louisiana lawyer Patrick Juneau — including $8 million to “celebrity chef” Emeril Lagasse.

Last week BP turned up the heat by sponsoring the daily Playbook web page and email blast aimed at Washington opinion makers, among many other people, by the Politico news website. Each day’s Playbook message from BP pinpoints a different, ostensibly absurd case with the tag line, “Would you pay these claims?” Sample: a $173,000 award to an “adult escort service.” (What, an escort service can’t be harmed by a fall-off in tourism?)

But that’s just the PR side of things. The company also has mounted an intensive legal attack on Juneau in federal court in Louisiana. It has obtained a restraining order preventing further payments for the moment and is seeking a permanent injunction so that the policies governing the settlement awards can be recrafted.

Nice. But I suppose this shouldn’t surprise us, not in a nation where corporations take greater control by the day, where the sheer whiff of responsibility to the public is something to be fought off like their corporate future depended upon it.

So far the courts are having none of it. And it’s unclear what the heck BP hopes to get out of it, since it is reminding everyone of their misdeeds. It agreed to the settlement. And no politician is going to defend BP here. It seems like a very bad corporate strategy, as Hiltzik points out.

Public service, Brooklyn-style

[ 109 ] February 24, 2014 |

Updated below

A couple of days ago, in the course of surveying the grotesque spectacle of the three for-profit Infilaw law schools gorging themselves on hundreds of millions of dollars per year in federal student loans, I asked if being a traditional non-profit organized for “charitable” (501(c)(3) qualifying) purposes provided any meaningful ideological constraint in regard to ripping off the public fisc while the getting is good.

Let us take a guided tour on the wrong side of the East River, courtesy of Matt Leichter:

Freestanding Brooklyn Law School is selling six of its student dormitories due to declining enrollment. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle it’s unclear if the sale has reached agreement yet, though Brooklyn Law School (BLS) dean Nick Allard says it has. The purchase price is $36.5 million, and amusingly the city just assessed the properties’ combined market value at less than a third of that. . .

None of these numbers really matter since BLS availed itself of a student dormitory property tax exemption. The six properties could have been worth hundreds of millions and nary a dime would’ve been collected by the public—unless it got sick of subsidizing housing for law students whose odds of working in full-time, long-term, bar-passage-required jobs nine months after graduation were about even. In the last two years, one in five BLS grads was “unemployed-seeking.”

Leichter goes on to document how there’s a striking correlation between the federal government making unlimited amounts of GRADPLUS loans available to pay for post-graduate student living expenses and BLS jacking up its estimates of how much it costs to live in the very dorms it pays no property taxes for owning (the school will rent a student a one-bedroom in its dorms for $20,000 per year, electricity and wireless access not included).

Leichter also points out that BLS has horrible employment statistics (more than one in five graduates in the last couple of classes have been completely unemployed nine months after graduation, and only half the class is getting a legal job of any kind).

In addition to its success as a landlord to soon to be un-and-under-employed law graduates, BLS charges more than $50K per year in sticker tuition, which in FY2012 generated $65 million nominal dollars, and $40 million net dollars (after discounts). Into what personal rivulets is this glorious stream of taxpayer-funded rents being diverted?

In FY2012 the school (more precisely the school’s students, largely via taxpayer dollars) paid President and Former Dean Joan G. Wexler Esq. $1.3 million for her service to this tax-free charitable enterprise. BLS’s students and U.S. taxpayers provided Wexler Esq. with “a tax-free furnished apartment complete with designer kitchen and skyline views of Manhattan, a car, and a driver,” per a complaint filed by a non-gruntled faculty member.

But Wexler was far from the only BLS employee who was doing very well by doing good. At least a half dozen faculty members were pulling down in excess of $300,000 per year in compensation, topping out at the $420,000 paid to Aaron Twerski, a 70something former Hofstra Law School dean and current part-time lawyer who has published almost nothing since the Clinton administration, but who is clearly what in a related context would be known as a connected guy.

Update: Eric S. Riley, Communications Director at Brooklyn Law School, has asked me to correct this post to reflect the following:

• Since 2001, Professor Aaron Twerski has published 19 law review articles (either authored or co-authored).

• These articles have appeared in the Yale Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, Columbia Law Review, and the University of Michigan Law Review, among other prestigious journals.

• In addition, since 2001 he has co-authored two casebooks on Torts and Products Liability (Aspen Casebook Series).

For reference, one look at Professor Twerski’s bio reveals his many publications, honors, and other distinctions.

(My mischaracterization of Prof. Twerksi’s publication history was based on the fact that as of three days ago, the publications page on his faculty bio did not list any articles published after 2003. It has since been updated).

All of this suggests the answer to my initial question is, “in the new Gilded Age, not much.”

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