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Trigger Warning: Brutal Stupidity

[ 111 ] June 18, 2014 |

Rebecca Cusey wishes you feminists would quit raping rapists with your hashtags.

Angelina Jolie wants us to talk about rape, but not in the Western-centric, man-blaming, feminist-professor way of the chattering classes.

She would like us to move beyond insular #YesAllWomen Twitter outrage to a global perspective with a broader, wiser understanding of the evils of human nature and the ability to overcome that evil with good.

Getting from Angelina Jolie made a movie about metaphorically surviving rape to “this hashtag offends me more than rape does” is a weird, convoluted little journey only a wingnut could make.

Also, I’m not sure Angelina Jolie wants fuck-all to do with Ms. Cusey’s bizarre little tantrum. I imagine what Angelina Jolie wants is for us to acknowledge that there are women who face egregious sexism and rape and who have even less agency than Western women. I doubt she wants to pit Western women against all other women. Then again, who knows? I can’t see into Jolie’s head or heart. For all know, she is an incredibly awful person who likes raisins and named her child “Shiloh.” Oh wait, she did that second thing.

Jolie says:

“We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence—that the shame is on the aggressor…We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes,” Jolie said. “I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged and institutions that protect us.”

This sounds like an extremely well-meaning but naive quote from Jolie. If Western women often have positive experiences reporting rape and abuse, it’s certainly not something that’s been well-documented. However, women having terrible experiences reporting rape/abuse/harassment has been rather well-documented. That being said, certainly most of us have far more agency than your average Somalian. But comparing ourselves favorably to Somalian women seems to me like setting an ankle-bruising bar. Surely we can do better.

Cusey mouthfarts:

In other words, Western women have what many women around the world do not: Tools to fight back. That’s hardly the word from the #YesAllWomen crowd.

Having tools and having good tools that actually work are two different things. I would argue that many Western women have been shortchanged in this area. It’s gonna be hard for me to fix a leaky pipe with this:

I could not find a tool kit for Barbie. But sexism is over, folks.

I leave you with an excellent comment I found Roy’s place, which nutshells this idiocy beautifully:

Pff, these jerky feminists, with their civilization that’s too advanced, smugly demanding there be no rape! Why don’t they ever tweet about how great it is to have universally noble cops and problem-solving rape kits?? Ungrateful bitches!

Look, Western civilization is perfect as is. But it’s also fragile. And if these bitches try to make it perfecter by reducing rape — angrily! — then we will topple, as we will have committed civilization’s gravest sin: Refusal to accept a certain amount of rape while tweeting heartfelt appreciation for how it could be worse.




UPDATE…another great comment from Matt:

By Ms. Cusey’s standard, does that mean the American Christianists should STFU about how “persecuted” they are, since there are other members of their religion being *killed* overseas? Or is the argument that being called a bigot after they go on a rant about how terrible “TEH GHEYZ” are somehow supposed to be worse than being killed?

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Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda

[ 36 ] June 18, 2014 |



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A Comparison

[ 43 ] June 18, 2014 |

Will Clark was a tremendous player — not quite Hall of Fame caliber, and hence not Tony Gywnn caliber, but damned good. As human beings, though, Clark and Gwynn couldn’t have been more different.

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Dear LGM Forum

[ 24 ] June 17, 2014 |

R. Porrofatto could see this week’s Scalia dissent coming from a mile away, thanks to a chance encounter:


I’m afraid this is all my fault. I was waiting on line at the DMV, and, as usual, I had Petrouchka playing on my boombox (I save Rite of Spring for bus rides). This short pudgy guy who looked like a Hans Holbein painting of Leo Gorcey started busting my chops. He made some hand gesture on his chin and screamed “vaffanculo” at me. I had no idea he was a Supreme Court Justice.

My apologies to those who still believe in the separation of church and state.

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[ 10 ] June 17, 2014 |

I think Roger Sterling may have come up with this:

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Post-Nuclear Wealth

[ 49 ] June 17, 2014 |

Don’t have a date on this, but if I was a Cold War American, I would feel pretty good about a nuclear attack eliminating all those takers.

….In comments, Herman notes the source is this 1965 report on a post-nuclear Houston. I’d make a Houston joke here, but it’s too easy.

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Finally a Soup for Me

[ 63 ] June 17, 2014 |

By the folks who brought you Porridge for Prudes!

I’m just kidding. I don’t eat soup.

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Prison Labor and Artisanal Food

[ 69 ] June 17, 2014 |

The prison-industrial complex finds new ways to generate profit. So it’s hardly surprising that probably the industry most exploitative of labor in American history–agriculture–is more than happy to take advantage. What may surprise some people is that it’s the high end artisanal food companies that cater to Whole Foods and other such stores who are involved. This story focuses on Haystack Mountain, a Colorado goat cheese company that is buying its milk from a prison company farm.

Says John Scaggs, Haystack’s marketing and sales director, referring to CCI: “They have land. They have human capital, the equipment. If you can think it up, they can do it, and do it fast.”

That diverse and nimble operation has attracted visits by officials from 22 prisons as well as steady interest from companies that want to tap CCI’s workforce. “I get one to two calls a week from companies,” says CCI director Steve Smith, adding that he declines those that simply want cheap labor.

The practice has long been controversial. Prisoners earn meager wages and have no recourse if they’re mistreated, LeBaron argues. Plus, they can take jobs from law-abiding citizens. “It’s hugely concerning in the face of economic instability and unemployment,” she says.

Counters Smith: “These are coveted jobs.” Base pay starts at 60¢ a day, but most prisoners earn $300 to $400 a month with incentives, he says. To be hired, inmates must get a GED and maintain good behavior for six months.

60 cents a day. In 2014. Now that’s the kind of labor exploitation I know from the history of American agriculture.

There was also this Twitter exchange between labor and justice writers Sarah Jaffe and Alexis Goldstein with some PR flack from Haystack Mountain who is not very good at his job because he reveals way too much. According to the PR person, Haystack Mountain isn’t even saving money on the milk compared to what they would pay on the open market, meaning all that money is going to the prison capitalists. Everyone wins but workers. And the idea that all these prisoners are earning skills they will take into the workforce of goat farming is so ridiculous as to be laughable.

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The tuition puzzle

[ 74 ] June 17, 2014 |

This is the first of what will probably be several posts about the extraordinary increases in law school tuition over the past half century (In this as in so many other respects, law school is merely a particularly extreme version of something that has happened all across higher education in America).

First, some numbers:

Law School Transparency has done a nice job graphing what has happened to law school tuition since 1985, in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars. Private law school tuition has gone from just over $16K to just under $42K in 2013 dollars. Public resident tuition has gone up even more sharply, from $4,300 to $23,000, again in constant inflation-adjusted dollars.

These numbers are startling enough, but they obscure the extent to which by the mid-1980s tuition had already skyrocketed over the course of the previous 25 years. LST is using data the ABA posts on its web site, which only go back to 1985. Looking back to 1960, private law school tuition averaged around $7000 in 2013 dollars, while public law school tuition was perhaps a third of that, i.e., essentially nominal (These estimates are based on Harvard’s and Michigan’s law school tuition at the time. They assume that tuition at HLS was around 20% higher than at the average private law school, which has been the norm over the past three decades, and that Michigan’s resident tuition was typical of state law school resident tuition. If anything this latter estimate probably overstates public law school resident tuition in the 1960s).

This is, in the context of normal economic activity, a remarkable situation. People often speak these days of a “tuition bubble,” but a classic price bubble involves a sharp short-term run-up in prices, followed by an even more sudden collapse when the bubble bursts. For example, the US housing market was relatively stable between 1970 and 2000, with median home prices staying between $150,000 and $180,000 in real terms. The housing bubble featured a five-year run up, during which the median price rose by nearly 70%, before falling back to pre-bubble levels just three years after the peak.

By contrast, the law school (and to a somewhat lesser extent, the higher ed) tuition “bubble” has now featured more than 50 years of basically continual real price increases, with essentially no retrenchment. This has led to prices rising in real terms not by 70% in the short term, but rather by 500% for private law schools and 900% for public law schools — and in the long and continuous term.

Is there anything else in the contemporary economy that has featured similar sustained price increases? The only examples I can think of are the ownership interests in certain professional sports teams, some extreme high end luxury goods –paintings by famous artists and the like — and of course health care, in regard to which spending per American increased by 7.6 times in real terms between 1960 and 2009.

The markets in NBA teams and Klimt paintings involve a few dozen extremely rich buyers, whose behavior can be explained readily enough by concepts such as the declining marginal utility of income and the perverse attractions of Veblen goods. The market for law degrees involves more than 100,000 people at any one time, while that for higher education in general involves more than ten million simultaneous purchasers. Why are Americans willing to pay literally five or ten times as much, in real terms, as people paid two and three and five decades ago for essentially the same thing?

In the case of health care, the answers are by now well known, involving the profound distortions created by third party payment systems, in the context of the purchase of a good that often doesn’t allow for any meaningful price competition. Indeed it’s now universally acknowledged by disinterested observers that the American medical system is a textbook example of massive market dysfunction, leading to severe overpayment for a good that is provided by the medical systems of every other developed economy for a small fraction of the price, with little or no loss of quality.

In the case of higher education in general, and law school in particular, the answers are not as well understood, in part because until very recently the American higher education establishment had done a masterful job of selling the idea that higher ed was a “great investment” at almost literally any price. Only in the last few years has that idea begun to be questioned in any serious and sustained way.

In subsequent posts I’m going to look at some of the factors that have produced this increasingly destructive social situation.

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Stupid Wars Cannot Fail, They Can Only Be Failed

[ 74 ] June 17, 2014 |

Yglesias is making sense:

The logic on display here shows the toxic self-justifying nature of American military adventures. If a war accomplishes its stated objectives, that goes to show that war is great. If a war fails to accomplish its stated objectives — as the Bush-era surge miserably failed to produce a durable political settlement in Iraq — then that simply proves that more war was called for.

But there is simply no reason to believe that the presence of American soldiers in Iraq makes a durable political settlement more likely, and there never has been. If eight years weren’t enough, why would one more — or two more or twenty more — be the key to success?

The truth is the opposite. The speed with which the apparent gains of the surge melted away in the face of Iraq’s entrenched domestic political problems underscores how futile the US-led campaign there was.

The US military is the finest military in the world, the sharp spear of the mightiest empire in human history. But the considerable virtues of America’s fighting forces do not give it any particular expertise in micro-managing Iraqi politics. And the fundamentals in Iraq have simply never been very good for a peaceful and democratic settlement. The country is not only divided between sectarian groups, but sandwiched between two rival regional powers, with Iran tending to favor Shiite interests, Saudi Arabia tending to favor Sunni ones, and neither power having any particular interest in democracy and pluralism. Throw in the well-known phenomenon of the oil curse and the country’s lack of stable institutions, and you’ve got a recipe for problems, problems that a bunch of heavily armed young people — no matter how well-intentioned or well-led — are not capable of solving.

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Standing For Me…

[ 13 ] June 17, 2014 |

I think the Supreme Court was correct to allow the First Amendment challenge against Ohio’s ban on lying in political campaigns to proceed although the complaint had been dropped.  It would be nice, however, if the have Republican appointees in the majority didn’t use a Catch-22 to deny standing to litigants mounting an even more important First Amendment challenge.  A comparison of the two decisions is an excellent illustration of how conservative judges tend to adjust their First Amendment-related jurisprudence based largely on whether they like the speakers. 

I also think Epps is right on the merits:

And that—who decides—is the First Amendment issue behind this case. There is no clear “right to lie,” but a lot of precedent—and simple common sense—suggest it’s a bad idea to allow government officials to determine truth and threaten designated “liars” with jail. In fact, the existence of the law affects politics, even if no one is ever prosecuted; candidates can complain, get a “probable cause” ruling, and then proclaim that an opponent or critic has “lied.”

If you think that criminalizing lies in political campaigns is a good idea, I would urge you to consider PolitiFact’s 2011 Lie of the Year.

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The Missing Clause in Scalia’s First Amendment

[ 148 ] June 17, 2014 |

In a dissent from a denial of cert yesterday, Antonin Scalia has another one of his trademark “let’s hope the showy phrase helps to distract you from how terrible the underlying argument is” moments:

Some there are—many, perhaps—who are offended by public displays of religion. Religion, they believe, is a personal matter; if it must be given external manifestation, that should not occur in public places where others may be offended. I can understand that attitude: It parallels my own toward the playing in public of rock music or Stravinsky. And I too am especially annoyed when the intrusion upon my inner peace occurs while I am part of a captive audience, as on a municipal bus or in the waiting room of a public agency.

My own aversion cannot be imposed by law because of the First Amendment. Certain of this Court’s cases, however, have allowed the aversion to religious displays to be enforced directly through the First Amendment, at least in public facilities and with respect to public ceremonies—this despite the fact that the First Amendment explicitly favors religion and is, so to speak, agnostic about music. [Cites omitted; place where his argument becomes transparently wrong highlighted.]

I suppose there are people who are offended by individuals engaged in public displays of religious faith the way that Scalia is offended by rock music and Stravinsky — kudos to Scalia’s hapless clerks for not including or omitting any reference to the kids today with their baggy pants and hippity-hop music — although I’m confident that their number is much smaller than Scalia thinks. (As Dahlia Lithwick observes, Scalia’s constant sense of religious persecution is a major theme in new Scalia bio.) But irrespective of how common it is to be offended by other people expressing religious beliefs in public, it’s completely irrelevant to this case, since nobody thinks that the public displays of religious belief by individuals can be limited by anything but the same neutral space, time, and manner restrictions that might apply to the public playing of music.

Scalia ultimately acknowledges this in the highlighted passage, which seems to assume that the distinction between religion being endorsed in an official public ceremony and religion being endorsed by private individuals in public is just a arbitrary one with no meaningful difference. (At least!) But this distinction is extremely important, rendering the previous paragraph completely irrelevant. Which brings us to the related fallacy in Scalia’s argument — the assertion that the First Amendment simply “favors” religion while it is “agnostic” about music. The problem, needless to say, is that while the First Amendment protects the religious beliefs of individuals, in the previous clause it disfavors religious endorsements by the state. The distinction between expressions of religious belief by individuals in public and the endorsement of religion by the state and its officials mirrors the distinction in the First Amendment. Reasonable people can disagree about whether the Establishment Clause forbids holding public school graduation ceremonies in a church (although the arguments on behalf of the state strike me as very weak), but the idea that the case presents an issue no different than a private individual saying a prayer on a municipal bus is remarkably silly.

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