Subscribe via RSS Feed

Ivy League problems

[ 45 ] July 31, 2014 |

“First world problems” is a well-known internet meme. I’d like to suggest a subcategory of the genre, Ivy League problems, which, rather than reflecting American upper middle class angst in general, chronicles the struggles of people very close to the tippy top of the SES pyramid.

A nice example is this Atlantic piece on the sorrows of law school graduates, which focuses exclusively on the problems encountered by young lawyers at big law firms:

Through formalized on-campus recruiting (particularly at top schools), the path to the law firm is so well-paved that students can navigate it on auto-pilot. “My law school made it so easy to get a job at a firm that I barely had to do any work at all to generate several associate position offers,” says one of my former University of Pennsylvania Law School classmates. The appeal of the law firm is only enhanced by the reality of student loans. “Big law was really the only path I considered. With the level of debt I incurred by going to law school, taking the highest paying job felt like the only real, responsible choice,” says another Ivy League grad.

The parenthetical about top schools is the only acknowledgement in this piece — which is otherwise interesting on its own terms — that the problems it’s discussing are relevant to a small minority of law school graduates. At the vast majority of law schools, less than 10% (indeed often more like 1% or 2%) of graduates get jobs with big law firms. Thus this article is analogous to a piece on the problems encountered by former graduate students that focuses exclusively on people with tenure track jobs at research universities.

It’s too bad, because the problems the article talks about are real enough, and ought to be taken into account by prospective law students (somebody has described big law as a pie-eating contest in which the first prize is more pie). But failing to acknowledge that those problems represent the experience of a small subset of especially fortunate and privileged law school graduates inadvertently replicates the myth that going to law school means getting to be a lawyer, which in turn means getting a high-paying, high-status job. That’s not even true for a significant percentage of the graduates of the nation’s dozen or so elite law schools, let alone for those of the other 189.

Unemployed Northeastern sums the situation up nicely in the comments to the article:

Of course, much like the headhunters that specialize in finding lawyers new jobs inside the legal profession, this boutique industry of career advisers who assist attorneys in leaving the profession cater to an incredibly miniscule fraction of the profession: graduates of “top” law schools with BigLaw experience on their resumes. Frankly, they are the group that needs the least assistance.

Meanwhile, nearly 50% of all law school graduates are unemployed or underemployed nine months after graduation, and a plurality of those with *actual* lawyer jobs are so woefully underpaid that they also seek to leave the profession. Soon after the nine month mark, another class of law school graduates enters the workforce, and the labor supply becomes that much worse – and we are now in year seven of this phenomenon. These headhunters will not touch this group with a ten-foot pole.

Sadly, the author does not see fit to even mention the plight of these non-BigLaw attorneys and their Sisyphean efforts to leave the profession in her lengthy article. Mind you, Biglaw hiring at its peak in the Oughties never amounted to more than about 12% of all law school graduates, overwhelmingly concentrated at the schools at the top of the US News Rankings (like the author’s UPenn).

- One of America’s tens of thousands of un/underemployed attorneys

(I have a long piece in next month’s Atlantic on for-profit law schools, and how similar predatory behavior is found well beyond the formal for-profit realm, both in regard to law schools and to higher education in America generally).

Share with Sociable

Leftier-Than-Thouism, Defined

[ 221 ] July 31, 2014 |

Krugman draws some conclusions from California, where the ACA was permitted to work as intended:

So it now appears that most of California’s uninsured — 58 percent of the total, or well over 60 percent of those eligible (because undocumented immigrants aren’t covered) have gained insurance in the first year. Considering the complexity of the scheme, that’s really impressive, and it strongly suggests that next year, once those who missed out have had a chance to learn via word of mouth, California will have gotten much of the way toward universal coverage for legal residents.

But there’s something else the Kaiser report drives home: most of those gaining coverage are doing so not via the exchanges (although those are important too) but via Medicaid. And that’s important as an answer to critics of Obamacare from the left.

There have always been critics complaining that what we really should have is single-payer, and angry that subsidies were being funneled through the insurance companies. And in principle they’re right; the trouble was that cutting the insurers out of the loop would have made the plan politically impossible, both because of the industry’s power and because of the unwillingness of people with good coverage to take a leap into a completely new system. So we got this awkward public-private hybrid, which I supported because it was what we could get and despite its impurity it dramatically improves many people’s lives.

But it turns out that many of the newly insured are in fact being covered under a single-payer system — Medicaid.

All of which functions as a good intro to this shorter verbatim Lambert Strether:

I believe there should be equal access to health care for all, and so the fact that ObamaCare helps some people is just proof that it doesn’t help all, equally. Why is the random delivery of government services considered praiseworthy?

If a government policy cannot provide everything, we should not care if it helps anyone. Got it.

At this point, it’s probably superfluous to note that Lambert also refuses to criticize the irrational and immoral Halbig decision, while implicitly defending it with idiotic Republican talking points. Why shouldn’t he? His critique is for all intents and purposes incidental to the Republican one. Both would happily strip millions of people of health coverage to demonstrate their obsessive opposition to Obama. To both, no legal argument that could damage the ACA and strip people of insurance could possibly be too specious. Both would rather have a Republican in the White House (Obama, says Lambert, is the “more effective evil” because some people will purchase private insurance, and of course the whole industry would have spontaneously combusted without the ACA, and better millions of people go uninsured than any rentier make a profit.) That one side tries to cover up their cruelty by theoretically supporting bad alternatives they have no intention of enacting and the other tries to cover up their cruelty by theoretically supporting good alternatives that have no chance of being enacted is a distinction without a difference.

Share with Sociable

Lydia Loveless

[ 6 ] July 30, 2014 |

One album I recommend very highly is Lydia Loveless’ Somewhere Else. This young, talented singer from Ohio is definitely someone to check out if you haven’t yet. If you haven’t heard her, this NPR performance is a good place to start, although quite a bit more subdued than her album. I read somewhere that her dad was in the band for awhile, but too many of her songs were about sex so it was too weird. Another excellent musician from southern Ohio as well, which seems to generate a whole lot of underrated music.

Share with Sociable

Oliver on the Nuclear Community

[ 26 ] July 30, 2014 |

Nice.

Share with Sociable

Are There Too Many Craft Beers on the Market?

[ 190 ] July 30, 2014 |

Living in Rhode Island, with one of the nation’s worst brewing scenes, the answer is absolutely not, but even when I am in paradise Oregon, the answer is still no. Yet some are concerned.

Located off Rhode Island’s coast, the Atlantic Ocean isle is filled with bluffs, beaches, and rolling hills, such as the one atop which the Atlantic Inn is perched. Here, on the lush lawn in front of the 1879 hotel, you can sit in white Adirondack chairs and watch the rippled waters. Or, on a recent summer morning, you could plop beside Dogfish Head president Sam Calagione and discuss craft beer’s coming bottleneck.

“We’re heading into an incredibly competitive era of craft brewing,” he says. “There’s a bloodbath coming.”

This may seem alarmist. After all, the Brewers Association just announced that 3,000-plus craft breweries now operate in America. Last year’s craft sales climbed 17.2 percent, overseas exports have escalated, and breweries such as Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and Oskar Blues recently constructed second breweries to spread their bitter ales farther, wider, and fresher. Heck, Stone is building a brewery in Berlin. Berlin!

I’m onboard with America abandoning middle-of-the-road beer and exploring flavorful new directions. The highway, however, is getting mighty crowded. Hundreds of different beers debut weekly, creating a scrum of session IPAs, spiced witbiers, and barrel-aged stouts scuffling for shelf space. For consumers, the situation is doubly confusing. How can you pick a pint on a 100-brew tap list? Moreover, beer shops are chockablock with pale this and imperial that, each one boasting a different hop pun. When buying beer, I can’t count how many times I’ve assisted overwhelmed shoppers, playing the benevolent Sherpa in the wilds of modern brewing.

I was unaware that picking a beer off a taplist of 100 was a problem. This mostly sounds like a bunch of established brewers worried that newcomers are going to break into their market. Of course, there are some legitimate points. There’s a lot of gimmicks around right now. And if you are a newby to the world of craft beer, there’s no question that it can be totally overwhelming. But that situation can be solved pretty quickly with a relatively small amount of experimentation. Or at the very least you can find something you like and stick with. The stupid label wars, as many breweries begin to rely on cheap marketing tactics over quality, is annoying, but hardly worse than some wineries. And I don’t recall people complaining about too many wines on the market even though when I go to Bottles in Providence there are hundreds of different wines in the store.

I suppose there is a cap on the craft beer market. What I hope happens is that it is a race to the top, with lower quality brewers going out of existence. What probably happens is that conglomerates start buying up some of the brands. But even that doesn’t begin to touch the real small-time brewers opening tap rooms and small bars with relatively limited ambition. That is a great thing and just because Dogfish Head executives don’t like the competition doesn’t mean it is going away.

Share with Sociable

Republicans Fall in Line, Democrats Fall in Love

[ 124 ] July 30, 2014 |

I’m certainly interested in Rick Perlstein’s new book, although who knows when I will have time to read it. While it sounds like he probably gives more transformative agency to Reagan than I am really comfortable with, I have no doubt the insights will be very useful. I did think a bit of his interview with David Dayen worth mentioning here:

And that was true on both sides of the political aisle, right? You talk about Jimmy Carter as just this smile, someone who was an empty vessel for everyone’s beliefs that they projected onto him. You use this phrase, “they yearned to believe,” to describe liberal feelings toward Carter.

Could you believe that Dems could be attracted like iron filings to a magnet to a blank-slate candidate where everyone sees what they want to see? Yes, how about Barack Obama? It’s very similar. Of course, there’s this old adage, Republicans fall in line, Democrats fall in love. But I hope people see the parallel between liberals’ love of Carter, who was not a liberal, and who studiously declined during the campaign to commit himself to any liberal policy, and the present day. Remember in late 2006, Ken Silverstein wrote this article in Harper’s, talking about how Obama was in bed with agribusiness, in bed with local energy interests in Illinois, and not to be trusted? Well, in this time I’m writing about, also in Harper’s, there was an article by Steven Brill called “The Pathetic Lies of Jimmy Carter,” pointing out all of his flaws and misstatements, and it went nowhere. Because they yearned to believe. That’s something I put in throughout the book, they yearned to believe. And it’s a powerful force.

This is a useful lesson. I’ve said this before, but there is no reason to think Democratic presidents are going to create the change you want. They are a necessary tool to sign the bills legislating that change, but just choosing the right president and–poof–everything changes is never, ever going to happen and Democrats are far better off understanding this. Barack Obama was never going to lead a transformative movement and it was silly to think so. Even if Elizabeth Warren was elected president, she wouldn’t either. The constraints are far too great. That change has to come through grassroots organizing that make cowardly politicians afraid to resist or try to buy you off through compromise measures that are victories in themselves. There are of course areas where disappointment in Obama is quite justified–education, public lands, energy development, etc–but these are areas where executive authority dominate policy making. Even in these areas, there was no evidence in 2008 that he’d be any different. It’s not as if Arne Duncan appeared out of thin air.

Share with Sociable

Tyler Cowen’s Solution to Poverty

[ 136 ] July 30, 2014 |

Tyler Cowen’s solutions to poverty would not have been original in 1890:

You and other thinkers on the right have proposed that cultural factors play a large role in the widening income gap. What are you suggesting?

Note that the observed stagnation in earnings has plagued male earners, not women. Women continue to do better in the work force and also in education, or if they choose not to advance this is often a voluntary decision, linked to childbearing.

Men are perhaps better suited for old-style manufacturing jobs, and women are often better suited for service sector jobs. A lot of men seem to have problems with discipline and conscientiousness.

If we are looking for a remedy, a greater interest in strict religions would help many of the poor a lot — how about Mormonism for a start? Just look at the data. Many other religions prohibit or severely limit alcohol, drugs and gambling. That said, this has to happen privately rather than as a matter of state policy.

Cowen would fit in the Gilded Age quite well. Between his gender stereotypes and his telling the poor to live morally upright religious lives to succeed, thus blaming them for their own poverty if they don’t, Cowen sounds like he’s taken a time machine from the late 19th century. Andrew Carnegie could have used this guy. He goes on to talk about how income inequality is actually a “red herring.” I’m sure the people of the south Texas colonias, Detroit, and Youngstown would totally agree. Their poverty totally isn’t real.

These are the solutions to income inequality that I have no doubt the plutocrats funding him at George Mason love to hear. But telling poor people to convert to Mormonism is, to say the bloody least, not even part of a solution to poverty.

….Cowen’s “ideas” remind me of what I’m seeing here in Oaxaca. The cop cars (and the civilian cars the cops drive somewhat oddly since it tells everyone they are cops) all have bumperstickers saying things like “TRABAJO.” Which means work for those of you with even less Spanish than I have (luckily my wife is nearly fluent). I mean, that’s a great idea. Let’s not provide any jobs. But telling people to work through bumperstickers, that’s sure to fight crime!

Share with Sociable

The Halbig Troofers

[ 17 ] July 30, 2014 |

For those interested in the subject, Beutler, Sargent, and Kliff all offer essential reading on Halbig trooferism. The question of whether the subsidies would be available on the federally established state exchanges isn’t some obscure point that was never considered during the legislative process. It was crucial to the operation of the legislation, it was widely considered, and as the structure of the legislation indicates there was universal contemporaneous agreement that the subsidies would be available on the exchanges irrespective of whether they were established by states or the feds. There was no dissent on this point. The argument that Congress intended to deny subsidies on the federal exchanges is quite simply absurd.

I know I’ve been writing a lot about this, but it really is critically important. It’s 21st century American conservatism in a nutshell: using arguments of increasingly staggering bad faith to pursue exceedingly unattractive normative ends. As Chait says, this argument has morphed from an argument that millions of people should be denied health insurance because the card says “Moops” to an argument that the tribe that invaded Spain was actually called the “Moops.” (I think Chait is also right about the reason for making the argument substantially more absurd. It’s hard to deny your responsibility for kicking people off of their health insurance when it’s the result of your opportunistically idiotic theories of statutory interpretation, but invent a congressional intent to do so and it’s easier to play “don’t look at me, I didn’t do it.”)

Related to all this, Drum offers a reward:

But maybe I’m wrong! So here’s my offer: I will send a crisp, new ten-dollar bill to anyone who can point out a conservative who so much as suspected that subsidies were limited to state exchanges prior to March 2010. Surely that’s incentive enough? Let’s start digging up evidence, people.

My 10 bucks says that Drum’s total payout will be “nothing.” Indeed, I’m quite confident he could offer the winner a shiny new Thermomix without any substantial risk. I wish I thought this would stop the troofers, but they really don’t care.

Share with Sociable

Only One Thing The Poor Did Wrong, Stayed In Mississippi a Day Too Long

[ 57 ] July 30, 2014 |

Apropos my skepticism over giving more policy discretion to our glorious laboratories of democracy, a commenter notes an example of chutzpah that would be funny were it not for the grotesque immorality involved:

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) blamed President Barack Obama for a reported increase in uninsured Mississipians. The problem is, Bryant didn’t acknowledge that he’s been a staunch opponent of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and refused to encourage enrolling in private coverage through Healthcare.gov.

Bryant directed his blame at Obama in response to a question about a WalletHub study that showed an increase in the percentage of uninsured Mississippians. The study found that the uninsured rate increased by 3.34 percentage points to 21.46 percent of Mississippi’s population, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

“If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I’d say that’s yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama,” Bryant said.

An estimated 137,800 people in Mississippi were left uncovered by health insurance because the state did not expand Medicaid.

What can you say at this point? Republican politics circa 2014 seems to consist exclusively of pissing in someone else’s punchbowl and then blaming the host for inviting them.

Share with Sociable

“Hahaha Congress Thought the States Were Competent to Do Anything. What a Bunch of Clowns. In Conclusion, Let’s Give More Power to the States.”

[ 49 ] July 30, 2014 |

Paul Ryan, as you may have heard, has yet another “let them eat states’ rights” anti-poverty plan out.  I note that this very old and very terrible idea is a source of grim amusement, given the latest conservative legal theory being used against the ACA:

The notion that “let them eat states’ rights” is a new and exciting idea is particularly perverse given some other recent developments. To the widespread applause of Republicans, a panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals read the Affordable Care Act as not providing subsidies to people purchasing health insurance on federally established exchanges. According to defenders of the decision, this was not a drafting mistake; they say Congress intended to only make the subsidies available on state-established exchanges, but were surprised by how few states went along.

As a reading of the ACA, this argument is absurd — clearly Congress anticipated that some states would not establish exchanges, which is why the federal backstop was created. Virtually nobody involved in creating the ACA believes that the law was designed to create federal exchanges that wouldn’t work. It is fair to say, however, that some Democrats were surprised by how many states proved unwilling or unable to establish their own exchanges.

But consider the implications of this. The latest conservative legal argument against the ACA boils down to: “you screwed up — you thought the states actually wanted to provide people with health care!” And the Supreme Court re-writing the ACA in 2012 to make it easier for states to reject the Medicaid expansion has also been a catastrophe, with Republican statehouses inflicting easily avoidable pain and suffering on millions of people to prove their anti-Obama bona fides.

So — why is devolving anti-poverty policy to the states supposed to be a great idea again?

The ACA has given us a very powerful lesson: “coercive federalism” is far more effective than “cooperative federalism.” The vastly improved Medicaid would have been much more vastly improved had it just been a federal program like Medicare. Hopefully we’ve learned something.

I give the concluding line to Charlie Pierce: “[B]lock grants to the states suck. They always have and they always will, and Paul Ryan knows this, which is why he gave them a pretty new name in the first place.”

Share with Sociable

Go Teach Pro-Capitalist Propaganda History at Arizona State University

[ 150 ] July 30, 2014 |

I don’t often comment on specific academic jobs but this really stuck in my craw. At Arizona State University:

The School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (SHPRS) at Arizona State University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, from the 18th century to the present. Anticipated start date: August 2015. In addition being a member of the School’s history faculty, the successful candidate will be affiliated with the Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU, working closely with colleagues in program development and advancing the Center’s involvement in the wider community in Phoenix and Arizona.

Required qualifications:

Ph.D. in History or an appropriately adjacent field, specializing in the history of capitalism and political economy in Europe and/or the United States, 18th-century to the present, at the time of appointment.

Desired qualifications:

Broad command of the economic, political, and intellectual history of capitalism and political economy, in modern Europe and/or the United States
Demonstrated ability to teach introductory, upper-division, and graduate courses in the above fields, as evidenced in cover letter and CV
Research focus on (a) the relations between free-market institutions and political liberty in modern history; (b) on the contribution of economic theories and ideologies to the formation of public policy related to major sectors of modern economies such as industry, healthcare, housing education and related topics; or (c) on the intellectual history of the leading normative principles of modern political economy–economic freedom, growth and efficiency; distributive justice; political liberty, and constitutionalism.

In other words, tell us how awesome you think capitalism is if you want this job. I was immediately suspicious–”the relations between free-market instituitons and political liberty”???–and asked around. Well, who do you send the CV to? Noted Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly fan Donald Critchlow. See this Reddit thread Critchlow did that begins with him criticizing “revisionist” history that focuses on race as a start to his politics.

Critchlow was hired to head the new Center for Political Thought and Leadership at ASU. That sure sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not:

The center has already received significant external support. It will house the Jack Miller Library on Constitutional Principles, a significant collection of classical books on political liberty and fundamental principles at the heart of American civic, cultural and constitutional life, and the Journal of Policy History, a peer-reviewed academic quarterly focused on the application of historical perspectives to public policy studies. The Miller Center is a non-profit, non-partisan and non-sectarian organization dedicated to the support of scholarship, teaching and study of the central ideas and themes of American history and the broader traditions of Western Civilization.

Additionally, a five-year grant providing up to $1.129 million dollars from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization that supports research and educational programs focused on exploring the sources of well-being, will provide seed funding for the center. A post-doctoral program, faculty-student community workshops, a lecture program, student reading groups and library will offer many of the center’s activities.

Heck, why not name this the Charles Koch Chair in Corporate Hackery! And here I thought conservatives couldn’t get jobs in academia. I wonder if ASU has decided to keep this fair and balanced by allowing the CPUSA to host a center and use Venezuelan oil money to fund a position?

So the Center for Political Thought and Leadership should at least try to be relatively objective in its presentation of material, right? The center is just opening. So who is giving its opening keynote address in January? Rich Lowry! Well, you know that is going to be great. Was Dinesh D’Souza not available? Bill Kristol too busy urging policy makers to bomb brown nations?

Very nice Arizona State University. Congratulations on giving up on even the pretense of integrity by accepting Koch money to start an extremist center dedicated to serving the needs of billionaires. And I don’t know what role the History department had in this choice, but I for one would be far beyond disgusted were I a member of the department and I’d speak out about it.

Share with Sociable

Beaches

[ 159 ] July 29, 2014 |

Beaches are indeed pretty unpleasant.

Hot, boring, and gross is not a great combo for me. Give me a rocky coastline and tide pools any day. Or some mountains.

This is your late night thread on me asserting my aesthetic preferences are objectively correct.

Request in comments for picture of hiking at Mt. St. Helens, a far cooler experience than the beach, granted.

10524616_10152251844610959_7508939030525985114_n

Share with Sociable
Page 50 of 1,888« First...1020304849505152607080...Last »