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Law school fires (or otherwise terminates with extreme prejudice) nearly 60% of its faculty

[ 18 ] December 13, 2014 |

terminate

Long-time LGM readers may remember the Western Michigan Thomas M. Cooley Law School from such posts as “Change the Name if the Product’s Weak,” “If Your Lies Are Really Egregious They Don’t Count as Fraud,” and “SLAPP Suits As Experiential Learning.”

Because certain irresponsible critics have been spreading what WMUTMCLS’s Dean and President for Life Don LeDuc has characterized as the “myth” that it has become difficult for graduates of low-ranked law schools to get jobs as lawyers, the school’s federal student loan conduits enrollment has declined from just under 4,000 JD students four years ago to 1,754 this fall. This led WMUTMCLS to announce in August that it was laying off some faculty, although as is the way of such things, the school was very vague regarding how extensive these layoffs would be.

“The process is not complete. I don’t have numbers for you,” Robb told the Lansing City Pulse last Thursday. “And I don’t know that we will release numbers, frankly.”

One source told the Lansing City Pulse that layoffs could be higher than 50 percent. Asked about the number, Robb told the publication, “I think you’re hearing wrong.”

This week’s publication of ABA 509 disclosure forms answers the question that Cooley wouldn’t.

Full Time Faculty:

Spring 2011: 101

Fall 2011: 106

Spring 2012: 110

Fall 2012: 103

Spring 2013: 117

Fall 2013: 115

Spring 2014: 119

Fall 2014: 49

Holy new gilded age Batman. (Among other things these numbers illustrate how LeDuc and Co. seemed to have made the mistake of believing their own propaganda about how prosperity was just around the corner, as the school increased the size of its faculty even after its applicant pool collapsed.)

I guess firing 70 of your 119 full-time faculty in one fell swoop in the kind of gust of creative destruction that’s necessary to protect those precious non-profit margins, that allowed the school to pay President for Life LeDuc $675,626 last year, and kicking $373,550 to the school’s founder Thomas Brennan, for what the school estimated to be five hours of “work” per week, while still maintaining a net surplus of $2.5 million in revenues over expenses. (Additionally I’ve been told — although I will hasten to add before I get served again that I don’t know whether this is actually the case — that WMUTMCLS is a veritable hive of nepotism for the relatives of the school’s powers that be, comparable in this and in no other regard, to a classic Francis Ford Coppola film).

I can’t remember at the moment if I’ve already written about the possibility that law schools will use the genuine need for significant financial restructuring as an excuse to “down-size,” in the all-too-common sense of getting rid of people in reverse proportion to both the magnitude of their salaries and the extent to which they do any useful work.

And sure enough, when we look at the category “Deans, librarians and others who teach” (this doesn’t include adjuncts, who are by definition part-time) we find:

Spring 2011: 25

Fall 2011: 26

Spring 2012: 31

Fall 2012: 28

Spring 2013: 26

Fall 2013: 27

Spring 2014: 24

Fall 2014: 26

This principle explains why staff are always fired before faculty, junior faculty are always fired before their senior colleagues, and why the most useless and highly paid administrators will, along with other remarkably adaptive species, inherit the post-apocalyptic earth.

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Those Douche Country Bros Are Whiny Boys

[ 137 ] December 13, 2014 |

The purveyors of bro-country (I prefer douche country myself) are real sensitive to women criticizing their idiotic and terrible songs. I hope those guys are giving each other manly bro-hugs to console themselves before writing another song about a half-naked women riding in the back of their pickup to their favorite rural swimming hole.

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The Conservation Biology Divide

[ 37 ] December 13, 2014 |

Conservation biologists are currently in another civil war over the meaning of the field. In short, should conservation be concerned more with humans or should it be concerned more with biodiversity? I find these conversations frustrating because they are so either/or. In other words, they reflect the larger debate among environmentalists over the past several decades around wilderness and the role of humans. Are humans strictly destructive and thus nature should be protected from humans or should we just accept the reality that there is no pristine and realize that the rest of the world is probably going to start looking like Europe, with a heavily managed and overpopulated landscape, albeit not one without any green spaces?

As much as I love wilderness, it’s more likely that the long-term answer is accepting human activity in most spaces in some way, even if that does cost some biodiversity. The major reason for this is political. Keeping people out is a short-term possibility but if people don’t develop a respect for environmental values, if those government structures begin to tumble, or are not strong to being with, it becomes really hard to enforce those legal restrictions. Plus, restricting people from land can cause resentment and incentivize poaching and other activities that can have a political angle against the wealthy white people from around the world coming to take their safaris instead of letting me farm this land so I am going to kill the animals they like plus feed my family. The best case scenario here is probably a Costa Rica, where you do have a lot of preserved land and a lot of biodiversity protected and mass deforestation everywhere else.

The Nature Conservancy ends up playing an outsized role in these debates. I like The Nature Conservancy because I think it is vitally important that small spaces are protected for the masses to visit. Yes, TNC works with corporations. No, they are not pure. But there are many rivers of environmentalism and ensuring that a piece of land outside Providence is not developed because some unique plants live there actually has value, both in preserving that biodiversity and in providing green spaces to people. But a lot of conservation biologists loathe this organization for, essentially, being sell-outs.

In any case, even within a single discipline there needs to be room for different methods and goals. It’s not like if all the conservation biologists stand together, the world is going to listen. All the climate scientists are standing together and the powerful just call their science a hoax. Rather, while these debates should exist in a field, I don’t think it’s particularly productive to go to war over them. After all, here I am writing about this and not noting some recent victory in the field of conservation.

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Put Your Face On and Forget It

[ 15 ] December 12, 2014 |

Discuss

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Questions That Aren’t So Hard to Answer

[ 61 ] December 12, 2014 |

Here we have yet another article on the decline of the middle class, by which of course the author actually means the words you can’t say in America–the working class. In other words, we had good paying jobs that allowed people to be upwardly mobile. Now we don’t. And now I’m going to write 2000 words on the mystery of why this is instead of just saying the obvious, which is that corporate greed led to massive outsourcing which undercut unions which undercut the ability of the working class to influence policy. This led to policies allowing the elite to concentrate wealth in their own bank accounts they could use to create policies even more favorable to themselves. Thus the jobless recoveries, purchasing of elections (and even more influence in policy!), shrinking economic safety net, long-term unemployment, and generational declines in economic mobility when compared to people’s parents.

I know the Washington Post doesn’t want to run a column ripping corporations and policy makers for greed, but that is actually the answer to why we have a downwardly mobile working class and shocking levels of income inequality.

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War Criminal’s Terrible Arguments Look Even More Terrible

[ 100 ] December 12, 2014 |

Look who’s back to defend the indefensible — Mr. John Yoo:

As a member of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel at the time of the 9/11 attacks, I thought that the CIA’s proposed interrogation methods were within the bounds of the law—just barely. They did not inflict serious, long-term pain or suffering, as prohibited by the federal statute banning torture. We realized then that waterboarding came closest to the line. But the fact that the U.S. military has used it to train thousands of U.S. airmen, officers, and soldiers without harm indicated that it didn’t constitute torture. Limiting tough interrogation methods only to al Qaeda leaders thought to have actionable information, during a time when the nation was under attack, further underscored the measured, narrow nature of President Bush’s decision.

This defense of waterboarding has always been specious on multiple levels. First of all, there’s the obvious problem of consent, a concept that seems to consistently elude conservatives. The fact that it’s used in training to allow military personell to resist torture is…not a good argument that it’s not torture. It is, in fact, torture.

All this aside, the Senate’s Report renders this focus on waterboarding largely beside the point:

The Bush administration’s supporters, operating under the assumption that its most brutal “enhanced interrogation technique” was waterboarding, spent much of the past decade defending this singular practice. Waterboarding did not amount to torture, they insisted, because Navy SEALS allegedly undergo the same treatment as part of their training. Anyway, it happened just a handful of times. Marc Thiessen, the Bush administration’s torture point man, later insisted, “We waterboarded in the CIA—the CIA waterboarded three terrorists. Just three.”

The torture regimen turns out to have been carried out on a vastly broader and more depraved scale than the administration’s defenders, or even its critics, ever imagined. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, released this week, describes practices few conservative politicians or intellectuals had prepared themselves to justify. Men were shackled to walls or ceilings for days, in diapers, locked in coffins, rectally violated, subject to days of sleep deprivation, beaten, and (in one instance) murdered. Several intelligence staffers reported being traumatized by the experience.

[...]

At no point did Cheney even approach a cursory answer to questions like: How did he know that those subjected to these techniques were, in fact, terrorists? Did some elaborate judicial process exist that contained even stronger safeguards against false conviction than the imperfect American legal system? How could American intelligence staffers, dropped into foreign lands, reliably pluck out the guilty while sparing the innocent?

As we now know, they could not. ­Twenty-six of the 119 detainees turned out to be innocent. One of them was a Pakistani or Afghan man named Janat Gul. In July 2004, the CIA seized Gul, acting on a tip from local informants who claimed he knew of a terror plot. His interrogators subjected him to sleep deprivation, slammed him into walls, and forced him to stand for as long as 47 hours in a row until he suffered hallucinations that he could see and hear his wife and children. He begged to be killed. Eventually, the informant who fingered Gul admitted to fabricating his story.

The entirely predictable consequence of ends-justifies-the-means reasoning that is not only hideously immoral but fails even on its own terms.

In conclusion, I turn things over to Dean Chemerinsky:

Torture is a crime, a violation of the Federal Torture Act. Those who engaged in the torture documented in such exhaustive detail in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report should be prosecuted, and those who conspired in that torture should also be prosecuted. They include UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, says Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the Law School at the University of California Irvine.

Yoo was co-author of the infamous “torture memo” of 2002, when he was Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Bush Justice Department. In the memo he declared that—in the words of Jane Mayer in her book The Dark Side, “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees could be authorized, with few restrictions.”

Yoo’s memo “directly led to the torture policy that resulted,” Chemerinsky said in an interview, citing Mayer’s evidence. “That’s being part of a conspiracy to violate a federal statute. Someone isn’t excused from criminal liability just because they work for the federal government.”

The Federal Torture Act defines torture broadly, as “an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control.” The penalty for violating the Torture Act is imprisonment “for not more than 20 years.”

Most important for the case of John Yoo, the Federal Torture Act specifically includes conspiracy, stating that “A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties . . . as the penalties prescribed for the offense.” That means Yoo could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

“I think he should be,” Chemerinsky said. “All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future—except by criminal prosecutions?”

It won’t happen – but it should.

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Law school first year enrollment lowest since 1973 (and other assorted data points)

[ 29 ] December 12, 2014 |

The ABA has put up 509 disclosure forms for 2014. A few preliminary tidbits for possible discussion:

(1) ABA schools enrolled 36,954 37,924 1Ls this year. This is the lowest total since 19721973 when there were 26% fewer ABA law schools, and student-faculty ratios were approximately 35 to 1 (they were 13.6 to 1 last year).

(2) LSAT scores for low-ranked schools continue to plummet to heretofore unprecedented depths. Not surprisingly, the Infilaw schools are once again leading the way, with Charlotte recording an astounding 142 median LSAT score for its entering class (17.8th percentile) and an even more eyebrow-raising 138 for the class’s 25th percentile. This means that a quarter of the entering class scored somewhere in the bottom ten percent of all LSAT test takers (To score in the 10th percentile of the test, you have to get 34 of 100 questions correct, on a test where answering randomly will produce on average 20 correct answers. Another way of putting this is that people with 138 LSAT scores are answering about one of every six questions correctly, excluding random effects. This is on a test where a few people record perfect scores every year, and thousands of test takers answer at least five of every six questions correctly.)

(3) This year’s 509s include much more information regarding transfers. In this regard, Washington DC law schools reveal legal academic nature red in tooth and claw: American lost 100 1Ls (more than a fifth of the class) to other law schools, with George Washington alone taking 54 American transfers (Georgetown took another 13). A startling aspect of this crosstown traffic is that the median 1L grades of the transfers George Washington accepted were barely above the median 1L grade curve at American, which appears to mean that GW took any American 1L in the top half of the class who applied for transfer. The median LSAT for 2013 GW matrics was in the 92nd percentile, while American matrics were in the 71st, which illustrates how the transfer system is the equivalent of money laundering as applied to academic credentials (only the LSATs of 1L students count for rankings purposes.)

(4) An even more flamboyant example of this game is provided by the hostile symbiosis between Arizona State and yet another Infilaw outfit, Arizona Summit. ASU took 66 transfers, meaning that more than a third of this year’s 2L ASU class spent their first year of law school somewhere else (last year’s ASU 1L class was only 128 students). Exactly two thirds of these transfers — 44 — were escapees from Arizona Summit. Median LSAT for 2013 ASU matrics: 86th percentile. Median LSAT for 2013 Arizona Summit matrics: 23rd percentile.

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Cancer Clusters

[ 29 ] December 12, 2014 |

Paul Voosen has an interesting article at National Geographic that wonders why there has not been more known cancer clusters develop given the nation’s long history of toxicity. There’s no shortage of the skeptic in Voosen and so the article in places reads like someone who really doesn’t believe toxicity may be that great of worry. That concerns me because we do know that toxicity and pollution can cause powerful and horrible things to happen to human bodies. The large historiographies of workplace health, toxicity, women’s bodies, and the history of science plainly demonstrates this in broad terms. But the fact remains that there are not a lot of officially designated cancer clusters as was predicted in the 1970s. Is this because we don’t study this issue enough? Is it because of corporate influence over science? Is it because Americans move around so much? Is it because people respond to outside influences on their bodies in different ways, making it hard to verify? Is it because cancer is just so common anyway that we aren’t really seeing when toxicity causes it? Or is the impact of toxic materials on human health overstated? I am pretty skeptical of the last possibility, but I think the answer to why the cancer clusters haven’t been recognized may be a combination of several of the above factors.

In any case, protecting humans from toxic waste is not something that should be up for debate. It’s important and the resources to clean up the environment and make humans safe are a necessary expenditure. There is far too much clear historical evidence before the environmental laws of the 1970s to make us question that.

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Organics from the Air

[ 122 ] December 12, 2014 |

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What can we tell about organic farms from the air? These aerial photos are intended to show the problems with large organic animal farms. They convey an image of industrial farming that the organic movement was intended to reject. A couple of key points missing here:

1. I’m far from the first person to note the problems with the term “organic,” as defined by the government. Those who care about this issue far more than I have long noted how it was co-opted by industrial farms. However, one can also legitimately question if it is possible to have organic farming on an industrial scale that will feed the people who want to eat this way without some industrial farming methods. If everyone wants organic milk, can farmers provide that without the mega-farms the movement does not want? With eggs at least one can see how raising your own chickens is possible for many, but for other products, it really isn’t.

2. It’s quite clear that there’s a strong correlation between the organic and local food movements and a romanticization of a certain type of work and certain type of relationship to the land. It’s not just that when people think organic, they think of a little local farm with chickens running around happy. It’s that they can’t imagine anything other than that because that, I think, more than the quality of the food or the happiness of the animals, is really what a lot of consumers want here. So any reality of large-scale farming is going to upset them.

3. The fact that such a survey had to be done in the air does get at major problems in our production system, not only in food but in apparel and everything else. It is out of sight. Everyday citizens can’t really go into these places. The regulatory system is captured by industry and vastly underfunded. The reality is that people want to know what is happening on farms. They want to know what is being put in their bodies. And they largely can’t. That’s why food is such a powerful way to indict the entire production system. Maybe people can’t see how their clothes are made in Bangladesh. That’s just too hard to imagine. But they do know food is being produced all around them and food is such a personal thing because it affects the inside of your body and not just your fashion. Thus, if demands around a meaningful inspection and regulatory system are going to succeed, food is probably where it happens. And it indeed needs to happen in food, as I write in my book.

4. I would also like to note that there is real room for alliance here between the labor and food movements if the food movement cares about workers. That’s one thing this article lacks. If we can’t tell what is happening to the animals, we can’t tell what is happening to the workers. When animals are abused, often so are workers. So if we can’t tell whether a farm is really organic, we also can’t tell whether it is treating its workers with dignity. Unfortunately, there’s not much evidence that organic farms treat workers better than conventional farms. Food justice cannot exist without justice for workers as well.

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Deep Thoughts, By Charles Murray

[ 75 ] December 12, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim Charles Murray: ” If you are drunk or high, to what degree can you say you are a victim when something bad happens to you? A question to take seriously.”

I especially like the tell of the last sentence — evidently, if it were actually a question worthy of serious consideration, it would be unnecessary to point this out. I’m pretty confident that had Murray been mugged and assaulted on his way out of this lunch he’d figure out the answer pretty quickly.

And, yes, it’s worth considering the amount of money and effort that has gone into presenting Murray as a serious intellectual.

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Deep Thoughts

[ 41 ] December 12, 2014 |

What happens to the Corleone family if Sonny lives?

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More Dangerous than Dynamite

[ 40 ] December 11, 2014 |

Everything in your home will kill you. But especially if you use gasoline to clean your clothes. That might not be a good idea.

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