March 6, 2015

Badgers clinch Big 10 title.

Last night in Minneapolis:

"If you want to start taking classes at an Ivy League university unenrolled and undetected, says Guillaume Dumas, a 28-year-old Canadian, start with big lecture courses."

"If you must sit in on a smaller seminar class, it’s important to show up consistently starting with the first session, instead of halfway through the semester. Also, one of the best alibis is that you’re enrolled as a liberal-arts student. 'That's the kind of program that's filled with everything and that you expect people to be a bit weird, a bit confused about what they do,' he says. From 2008 to 2012, Dumas claims he did stints on a number of elite North American universities—Yale, Brown, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and McGill, to name a few—sitting in on classes, attending parties, and living near campus as if he were an enrolled student. This deception may sound like a lead-up to a true-crime story, but Dumas’s exploits appear to be harmless, done in a spirit of curiosity."

From an Atlantic article by Joe Pinsker titled "The Man Who Snuck Into the Ivy League Without Paying a Thing/Guillaume Dumas attended classes, made friends, and networked on some of America's most prestigious campuses—for free. What does this say about the value of a diploma?" I went to that article because Instapundit linked to it in a way that made me want to say exactly 1 thing, but now, I want to say 10 things, and the first one is the one that Instapundit, by quoting only the title, made me want to say.

1. What it says is the class sizes are too large.

2. Sitting in on large classes was, in fact, the (obvious) trick Dumas used.

3. For smaller classes, if my name were Dumas, I'd pick French Literature.

4. The author of the article stresses the lack of need for a degree, which is good news for Scott Walker. (I'm just dragging Scott Walker into whatever I can, because that's the thing now.)

5. The author of the article never addresses the ethics of stealing what others are paying for. He's presenting it as if the payment is for the "diploma" and not for all the services provided.

6. The author has interestingly misused the word "alibi." An alibi is a defense based on your being somewhere else, which is what "alibi" literally means in Latin. Dumas needed an explanation for why he was there, not for why he wasn't there.

7. Perhaps the author first learned the word "alibi" — as I did — from The Four Seasons: "Big girls don't cry/That's just an alibi." That's not right but it rhymes:

8. Speaking of the 1960s, there was a network sitcom about what Guillaume Dumas didn't actually invent. The sitcom was called "Hank":

9. Back in the days of "Hank," we used to call somebody who was doing that a "drop-in" — slang based on "drop-out."

10. You'd think the schools would do more to prevent theft of services from drop-ins, but when they are big and when they don't rely on high-level classroom discussion from prepared and qualified students, they are asking for it.

The UCLA student council debates whether a Jewish student is capable of serving without bias on its judicial board.

That just happened.
The discussion, recorded in written minutes and captured on video, seemed to echo the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes — particularly about divided loyalties — that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries, students and Jewish leaders said.
ADDED: I do feel sorry for the students whose names are now connected forever with this controversy, which they worked through at the meeting and have apologized for. The link above goes to the NYT, which has put the students' names into the context of the terrible, historical wrongs of anti-Semitism, even though none of the students — from what I see in the transcript — were talking about anti-Jewish stereotypes. They were concerned about the candidate's activism on particular issues and whether there could be a conflict of interest in cases that come before the judicial board.

The Wisconsin state assembly debated all night on the right-to-work bill... and the vote just took place.

Here's my assemblyperson, Terese Berceau, speaking just moments ago, as the debate that began yesterday afternoon, was coming to a close...

I took that screen shot from the live feed, which is over now, the bill having quickly passed upon coming up for its vote.

"'It is ambition,' he had written , 'that makes of a creature a real man.'"

"Pride, embarrassment, gloating: such emotions could only hinder his progress along the road he saw so clearly before him — the 'vision' he had indeed held for so long. They were luxuries in which he would not indulge himself."

"The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson," Robert A. Caro.

The blue-and-black dress that looked white and gold...

... worn last night by one of the "American Idol" contestants.

"John Roberts is charming and matinee-idol handsome, but does he stand a chance against Ruth Bader Ginsburg with her lace gloves and her questions about society offering skim-milk equality?"

Asks Linda Hirshman in a New Republic article titled "John Roberts' Legacy Problem/Like it or not, liberal decisions are the ones that history celebrates. Just ask Notorious R.B.G."

Hirshman has this quote from Randy Barnett: "We have a media that is so uniformly Democratic, that if you’re a conservative, you’re sort of like a battered spouse... The left controls academia and the law schools and pop culture through Hollywood."

To that, Hirshman adds:
The legal profession—which holds the meetings, conferences, seminars, where so many Supreme Court justices make appearances—also skews liberal... [L]awyers as a group give more donations to the Democrats than the Republicans and to liberal causes rather than conservative causes. This pattern applies at all levels of the profession; as Barnett correctly perceived, elite law professors tend to fall way left on the political spectrum, but even big firm partners give more to D than R. And the pattern does not diminish as you move away from the experience of the Sixties. Younger lawyers actually skew more left than their elders. 
Of course, judges know this. It's in their self interest, if they want to look good in history, to skew left, like the legal academics. You know, I've been here in legal academia since 1984, 9 years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg took her seat on the Supreme Court. She was a federal Court of Appeals judge then and had been since Jimmy Carter appointed her in 1980. And I can remember law professors expressing dismay that she was such a disappointment, that after her first-class women's rights advocacy as a law professor, she'd turned into such a conservative.

NYT: "Scott Walker’s Electoral Record Is Less Impressive Than It Looks."

The headline for this Nate Cohn column at the NYT intriguingly assumes we're already seeing something about Scott Walker, but I think the basis for the debunking is that Walker himself keeps pointing out that a blue state, Wisconsin, has elected him governor 3 times in 4 years.

Cohn has a chart comparing Walker to other candidates for governor in 2010 and 2014, the years of Walker's regular elections. (Walker also had to win in June 2012, midway through his first term, because there was a recall election.)
In neighboring and politically similar Iowa, the Republican Terry Branstad won election and re-election by a far wider margin than Mr. Walker.

To the east, in neighboring Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder won by a similar margin in a more Democratic state, even though he also picked a fight with labor.

To the south, a Republican candidate for governor won the dark-blue state of Illinois.

Farther away, Republicans won Ohio by a huge margin and carried states more Democratic than Wisconsin, like New Mexico, Maryland, Maine and Massachusetts.
That is, it might not be anything so special about Walker. People in blue states might just have been hankering for Republican governance in 2010 and 2014.

Cohn branches out to senatorial preferences:
There’s even a case that Mr. Walker didn’t have the best Republican performance in Wisconsin. Ron Johnson, a self-funded political novice, managed to defeat an incumbent, Russ Feingold, by a five-point margin in 2010. Despite that showing, some analysts believe Mr. Johnson is the single most vulnerable senator of the 2016 cycle.
That is, people were really leaning Republican in 2010, and you can't predict that 2016 will be another election year like that. What was going on with that 2010 senatorial election in Wisconsin? Why did Ron Johnson have "the best Republican performance in Wisconsin"? I think that was "a vote against what the Democrats have done with Congress," which is what I said on Election Day 2010. I guess in 2016, Feingold will have a "miss me yet?" argument against what the Republicans have done with Congress. But 2016, unlike 2010, is a presidential election, and our fixation on the presidency will keep us from thinking too much about Congress.

Which brings us back to Cohn. He observes that all 3 of Walker's victories came in non-presidential years, where Republicans get the advantage of lower turnout from the younger people who tend more toward Democrats. That is, Wisconsin is and remains a blue state, where Walker should lose, but elections are skewed in the off years.

March 5, 2015

"In one sentence I would say we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us equally."

"Oh, if the country could be like this... This bill is a model — not just of legislation, but more importantly of how to bridge the cultural rift tearing America apart."

"We have to find a way to live together. We just can't endlessly be litigating against each other. We can't endlessly be in culture wars. If you want to know why Utah got it right, it's because they actually called a truce in the culture war."

"Nor did the researchers find any convincing correlation between a man’s foot size..."

"... and the length of his manhood."

(What about nose size? If they found a convincing correlation, people wouldn't get so many nose jobs... or maybe there would be nose enlargements, like breast enlargements.)

New Quinnipiac poll puts Scott Walker at 18 percent and Jeb Bush at 16 percent.

New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are at 8 percent each... Physician Ben Carson has 7 percent, with 6 percent each for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and 5 percent for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida...

If Walker does not run, Bush gets 18 percent, with 10 percent for Carson, 9 percent each for Christie and Huckabee, 8 percent each for Cruz and Paul and 7 percent for Rubio.

If Bush is out of the race, Walker gets 20 percent, with 10 percent for Christie, 9 percent for Huckabee and 8 percent each for Carson and Rubio.
Isn't it strange that taking Bush/Walker out of the mix doesn't do anything for the other guys?

"2020 seems doable, and Jackson seems like the low-hanging fruit as Presidents on the currency goes, so I think they probably have a shot."

They = a group called Women on 20s who think there should be a woman on at least one denomination of U.S. paper money.

Jackson may be low-hanging fruit...
Jackson had strongly opposed the notion of central banking. Plus, he sought—and signed—the Indian Removal Act, which led to the expulsion of Native Americans from their homes.
But you can't beat something with nothing, so who is the woman supposed to be?

"A week before becoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton set up a private e-mail system that gave her a high level of control over communications, including the ability to erase messages completely..."

"... according to security experts who have examined Internet records," Bloomberg reports.

"Antonin Scalia’s unintentional humor."

I don't think that was unintentional.

What Scalia said was:
What about Congress? You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue? I mean, how often have we come out with a decision such as the ­­ you know, the bankruptcy court decision? Congress adjusts, enacts a statute that takes care of the problem. It happens all the time. Why is that not going to happen here?
What got the laugh was the response — "Well, this Congress?" — from the Solicitor General.

Steve Benen, whose headline I've used as the post title, fails to appreciate the comic skill of the straight man. As Jerry Seinfeld once explained:
Where did the idea of, in Seinfeld, your character being a comedian for a profession, but be the straight man for your friends, come from? I always thought that juxtapositioning for the show was genius.

Very good observation and analysis on your part, Baxter. You are truly exhibiting a good comedic eye. The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn't care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that.
The straight man doesn't get the laughs, but he's setting up the humor. It's Scalia, not the Solicitor General, who deserves credit for that comedy. To say that his contribution was unintentional is to ascribe a ridiculous naivete to him. An honest person — that is, a person not in a lawyer role — answering the question "Why is that not going to happen here?" would describe the story of how one party rammed the Affordable Care Act through Congress, without any buy-in from the other party, and without building any consensus among the people, who were told to quiet down and wait and see that it would ultimately turn out to be good. The people subsequently shifted control of Congress to the party that had zero buy-in. Scalia knew all that when he asked his question. The humor already inhered. It's very dark humor, of course. The Solicitor General — tasked with upholding the work of a party that wielded power ruthlessly and consequently lost it — succeeded in lightening the humor, but that doesn't deserve comedy credit. It deserves lawyer credit.

"While the propaganda monuments that remained in prime locations continued to stir regular controversy, this controversy was never massive enough to actually lead to their demolition."

"That's how the supporters of the 'bridges symbols' even managed to list them as heritage, making the demolition harder. Opponents, unable to remove the sculptures, then attempted to 'put them into context' through 'additional features.' Some of them were temporary (e.g. a NATO flag overshadowing the Soviet army sculpture), others permanent (e.g. a plaque with information on the Soviet occupation), yet others never completed (e.g. a suggestion to put the statues in cages)."

From an article about the relocation of the Žaliasis Bridge statues to Grutas Park — a place of exile for Soviet-era sculpture in Lithuania —which we were talking about last week, after the NYT did a story about living in Airbnb places in Europe that included photos of Americans enjoying themselves in the company of gigantic statues of Lenin and Stalin. That second link has a video about Grutas Park that shows the Žaliasis Bridge statues and discusses the now-overruled decision to leave them in their prominent place on the 4 corners of the bridge.

I could understand the decision to leave them there, but I'm a stranger to the context. Sculpture that was designed for a particular site is partly destroyed when it is moved, even though it is otherwise preserved. If something is artistically good, but a remnant of an earlier time that the people who control the place now wish to reject completely, what should they do? The middle position is to move the sculpture out of its place of honor but otherwise to preserve it. Keep in mind the subject of Islamist extremists who have been sledgehammering ancient statues, which is what got me started talking about this subject.

What would you do with artistically good statues that you deeply disapprove of? free polls

ADDED: There's also the question whether the site was designed for the sculpture. Are the 4 corners of Žaliasis Bridge plinths or did the sculpture-supporting function arise in the mind of the invader?

"I am genuinely intrigued at what appears to be a firing squad being put together aimed at Hillary Diane Rodham, otherwise known as Hillary Rodham Clinton."

"That's her e-mail address at, HDR, Hillary Diane Rodham.  No mention, no relationship, no mention whatsoever of her husband, Bill.... At any rate, it's stunning, the New York Times, the Associated Press, the New Republic, Politico, it is unprecedented," said Rush Limbaugh, at the beginning of yesterday's show.
Now, one of the things that it could possibly mean... is they don't want her to begin with.  They resent her being forced on them. They resent the idea that the presidency is hers again, just like it was in 2008, just because.... What we're looking at here, ladies and gentlemen, is an actual War on a Woman...

Let's try to keep in perspective what has happened here, and going back some years.  First, they used a young, inexperienced, community organizing, chain-smoking man of color to kick Hillary to the curb in 2008.  In 2008 it was a coronation, remember?  In 2008 it was going to be hers to lose.  In 2008 it was the Democrat Party paying her back for all she had done, subordinating herself to her husband, subordinating herself to the party in order to maintain her husband and his political viability and keep him in office....

We're talking 2016, the next Democrat president... In the normal ebb and flow of events... [t]he media would be trying to sweep all of this stuff under the rug....  Just because her husband spent countless hours with a playboy pedophile flying all over the world, what difference does that make now?  Just because Hillary ruined innocent women's lives to protect her husband who sexually assaulted those women, what difference does that make now?...

March 4, 2015

Reading the King v. Burwell transcript.

Here's the PDF of today's oral argument. I'm going to read it right now and give my immediate impressions.

1. Justice Alito topped Justice Kagan at page 11, lines 7-13. Kagan had just sprung her elaborate clerks-writing-memos hypothetical, and Alito said "Well... if I had those clerks, I had the same clerks ­­and Amanda wrote the memo, and I received it and I said, This is a great memo, who wrote it? Would the answer be it was written by Will, because Amanda stepped into Will's shoes?" Kagan had to respond to the laughter in the courtroom: "He's good."

2. Justice Sotomayor stumbles at page 16, line 2, after raising a principle of statutory interpretation from last year's Bond case (the chemicals-on-the-doorknob case, where the Court read a federal statute not to criminalize a matter that lay within the traditional powers of the state). She'd just spoken for a page and a half, and the petitioners' lawyer Michael A. Carvin was beginning to explain that this principle had never been applied in the context of a condition on federal spending. Sotomayor interrupted to "Oh, we did it -- ­­ we said it last year." But she just meant to repeat her point about Bond, which wasn't about conditional spending.

"In the shock scenario where Hillary bows out, the Democratic establishment would be initially stunned and directionless."

Says Bill Scher (at Politico), seeming to argue that some sort of order would emerge from the chaos, but — and I've read the whole thing — I'm really not sure what. Key passage:
As of now, says [Democratic consultant Chris] Lapetina. “there really isn’t any enthusiasm” for the non-Hillary Democrats already flirting with a run—Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb—meaning no one would instantly lay claim to the Clintons’ vast network of donors.

Still, the Democratic bench is hardly shallow. Among other possible candidates who might suddenly find a fire in their belly: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Gov. Deval Patrick, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sens. Sanders, Mark Warner and Kirsten Gillibrand. Lapetina believes pressure would build for a few really big names to enter, such as Al Gore.

And then there’s Elizabeth....

SCOTUSblog reports from the oral argument in King v. Burwell.

By Eric Citron. Excerpt:
[Justice Kagan... offered (something like) the following example:  Imagine I tell law clerk A to write a memo, and law clerk B to edit law clerk A’s memo, and then I tell law clerk C to write such memo if law clerk A is too busy.  And imagine that happens – law clerk A is too busy, so law clerk C writes it.  Should law clerk B edit it?... In response, petitioner’s counsel said that the context mattered, and it would depend on whether the Justice was indifferent between law clerk A and law clerk C writing the memo in the first instance.  But that seemed to play into Justice Kagan’s hand, who made clear that this was her point – that in understanding this text, the context obviously mattered....

[Justice Kennedy]... pointed out that, under petitioners’ reading, the federal government would be all but forcing states to create their own exchanges.... not just [because otherwise] their citizens would be denied benefits... [but also because] state insurance systems will fail if the subsidy/mandate system created by the statute does not operate....  For Kennedy, that seemed to make this case an echo of the last healthcare decision, where the Court concluded that it was unconstitutional coercion for the federal government to condition all Medicaid benefits in the state on expanding Medicaid therein....  Justice Scalia attempted to respond on petitioners’ behalf that such concerns do not enter if the statute is unambiguous, but Justice Kennedy reiterated his concern with adopting a reading that would create such a “serious unconstitutional problem.”
ADDED: I need to see the whole transcript — context matters! — but if this accurately portrays Kennedy's overall analysis, I think the government will win. This idea is that the challengers' interpretation asks the Court to read the statute to do something that would have to be stricken down as unconstitutional, because it would coerce the states to set up the exchanges. Congress lacks the power to commandeer the states and may only offer the states a choice. If the incentive to make the choice Congress wants is too heavy-handed — as it was with the Medicaid expansion in the 2012 Obamacare case — the would-be incentive is viewed as coercion. So if the provision is unconstitutional under the challengers' interpretation, in Kennedy's view, he will have reason to agree with the government's interpretation (that is, he would follow the doctrine of constitutional avoidance).

AND: SCOTUSblog has a second person, Tejinder Singh, also doing mid-argument reporting. Excerpt:
Justice Breyer [noted] that if the phrase “established by the state” is read to exclude exchanges created by HHS, then other provisions of the statute that also use that phrase would be rendered inoperative or nonsensical... The statute provides that insurance shall be made available on exchanges to “qualified individuals,” and further defines a “qualified individual” to mean, “with respect to an Exchange, an individual who” both wants to enroll in a qualified plan, and also “resides in the State that established the Exchange.” The government, as well as Justices Breyer and Kagan, argue that if the only way for a state to “establish” an exchange is to create it on its own, then there would be no “qualified individuals” in states that failed to do so, and therefore there would be nobody on the [HHS] exchanges (and, as Justice Kagan surmised, no product to sell on the exchanges).

"Is it ironic or apt that a man who had dedicated much of his life to the future of wireless communication would fall for the ancient, living technology of a carrier pigeon?"

"And is it ironic or apt that a man whose final years as an inventor were dedicated to a fearful direct-energy 'teleforce' weapon (dubbed the 'death ray' by the press) fell in love with the key symbol for peace?"