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Thursday: Assholes R Us

Did you see this list of the top majors for the 1%?

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in?

The writer, sly dog, was probably trying to make a point, because he wrote from a biology department, and it turns out that biology majors make up nearly 7 percent of college graduates who live in households in the top 1 percent.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order.

Undergraduate Degree Total % Who Are 1 Percenters Share of All 1 Percenters
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs 142,345 11.8% 0.9%
Economics 1,237,863 8.2% 5.4%
Biochemical Sciences 193,769 7.2% 0.7%
Zoology 159,935 6.9% 0.6%
Biology 1,864,666 6.7% 6.6%
International Relations 146,781 6.7% 0.5%
Political Science and Government 1,427,224 6.2% 4.7%
Physiology 98,181 6.0% 0.3%
Art History and Criticism 137,357 5.9% 0.4%
Chemistry 780,783 5.7% 2.4%
Molecular Biology 64,951 5.6% 0.2%
Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies 184,906 5.2% 0.5%
Finance 1,071,812 4.8% 2.7%
History 1,351,368 4.7% 3.3%
Business Economics 108,146 4.6% 0.3%
Miscellaneous Psychology 61,257 4.3% 0.1%
Philosophy and Religious Studies 448,095 4.3% 1.0%
Microbiology 147,954 4.2% 0.3%
Chemical Engineering 347,959 4.1% 0.8%
Physics 346,455 4.1% 0.7%
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration 334,016 3.9% 0.7%
Accounting 2,296,601 3.9% 4.7%
Mathematics 840,137 3.9% 1.7%
English Language and Literature 1,938,988 3.8% 3.8%
Miscellaneous Biology 52,895 3.7% 0.1%
Source: 2010 American Communty Survey, via ipums.org
{{hangs head in shame}}

See??  This is yet another reason to invest in research.  If you don’t keep us in the lab and pay us well, we’ll go to work on Wall Street.  Nice economy you’ve got there.  Be a shame if something *happened* to it.

I suspect that the large number of geeks on Wall Street represents the number of quants hired to construct and run the dynamic models.  Take D. E. Shaw, billionaire biologist, for example. While he’s running a hedge fund, he’s got a sideline creating molecular dynamics simulations programs on proteins.  I can definitely see the crossover but what the top dogs probably fail to realize is that to the geeks, the programs are just research, as in “what would happen if we tweaked this parameter?” and there goes the Euro. God, help us.

Ironically, major pharmaceutical companies are run by former ketchup company executives and salesmen.  Go figure.  What we really need is for everyone to stick to their own kind.  No more of this mixing of the majors.  It’s unnatural.

However, this study just confirms my suspicions that it is much easier for a hard sciences major to learn business and finance than a business major to learn the hard sciences. And we in the research industries are going to pay for that lack of intellectual reciprocity.

***********************************

Did you catch the article in Vanity Fair titled National Public Rodeo about the Juan Williams at NPR fiasco?  There’s a sad little tale of karmic justice in it, considering the way the candidates and Fox treated him in South Carolina.  His story sounds vaguely familiar.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Flashy African-American dude with gigs at prestigious institutions gets hired by a bunch of solidly middle class, no-nonsense, Minnesota-type liberals.  They’re thrilled to be adding to the diversity of their lineup; he thinks he’s doing them a favor.  Turns out he’s an “idea rat”, not a workhorse, he’s considerably more conservative than they realize, and he has a history of lack of respectful treatment of women.  They would have known this if they had bothered to check out his background a bit more thoroughly but they’re blinded by their instinct to do good or fear of looking unfairly and tastelessly bigoted.  The staff and management try to accommodate his quirks and his moonlighting for their arch enemy.  But after half a decade, it’s just not working out.  They try talking to him but whenever they try to rein him back in, he starts accusing them of racism.  Everything is racism to him.  Racism, racism, racism.  So, they sit and wait until he royally fucks up in some spectacular way and then they fire him.  And the ones who fire him who end up losing their jobs in a firestorm of conservative vs liberal rhetoric- and accusations of racism.

It’s either a misunderstanding of worldviews or it’s a clever, common strategy to accuse your detractors of the most vile, prejudicial instincts in order to get what you want.  Too bad it bit him in the ass in South Carolina.  I almost feel sorry for the guy.  But he took the bait from Fox News and they own him now.

****************************

I’ve been following Jeff Jarvis’s Tweets from Davos, Switzerland.  He snarked this tweet late yesterday:

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

Now in the more fun part of #WEF: brainstorming sessions. Surprising that execs will play.

Jeff seems astonished that there is still no sense of responsibility among the uber rich.  They either don’t realize or callously don’t care about all of the misery they’re causing.  Or, maybe it’s all part of the plan.  What strikes me as odd about the very rich is that it seems like they live in a California-esque paradise of self-esteem programs.  No one has ever told them what stupid, selfish excuses for human beings they are.  They’ve never had any “character building” experiences.  You know the kind?  Whenever you needed something really badly, like a college education, and your parents didn’t have the cash to at least keep you from starving, they always said it would build your character?  I should have a rock solid foundation of character by now.  Not so the uber rich.  Their voices are “full of money” and they have no sense of guilt for running over people who get in their way.

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

BofA’s Moynihan responds that bankers will bear their scars for many years to come. So will we all. #wef

Somewhere, I hear the world’s tiniest violin…

****************************
The right’s boogieman, George Soros, says that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, there won’t be much of a difference between a Obama administration and a Romney administration.  The best shot Democrats have to retain the White House is for Santorum or Gingrich to get the nomination.  I happen to disagree with this.  Republicans, well, movement conservatives, will pull out all of the stops if Gingrich gets the nomination.  They want to win and all of the misery of the past three years will be dumped on Obama, some of it for good reason.  He squandered his opportunity to drag the country leftwards to the middle when he first took office and had a filibuster proof majority.

And why did he fail to do that?  It’s because he doesn’t believe in it.  He told you on Tuesday night that he was a moderate Republican.  He’s been saying that for four years now.  His heros are Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Doesn’t anyone ever notice that he doesn’t cite any Democrats as his role models?  Well, for one thing, no one believed that crap about him being the second coming of FDR so he had to drop it.  I think that forcing him to actually say he is a Democrat supporting strong Democratic values is physically and psychologically painful for him but I encourage the doubters to try.  Try to make him say something nice about LBJ or Bill Clinton.  Watch him flinch.

Anyway, Soros says he’s worried about the Supreme Court.  I’m not too worried.  I suspect that Ruth Bader-Ginsburg will announce her retirement before the election and will be replaced.  That leaves the composition of the court stable.  It would be different if Alito or Thomas or Kennedy stepped down but for some reason the Supremes have a history of living to a ripe old age whether we like it or not.

Here’s the rest of Soros’ interview from Davos, who, by the way, is also suffering from the failure to imaginate any other contest than the one between the Republicans and the Republican disguised as a Democrat. There are simply no other alternatives, like, replacing the Republican running as a Democrat with a real Democrat. I’m beginning to think that Soros is the one playing 11 dimensional chess here.:

Tuesday: Convergence, Ladies?

Is there a war on women?  Kalli Joy Gray asked that question of White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer at this year’s Netroots Nation.  Melissa McEwan at Shakesville documented the atrocity here.  Here’s the YouTube video.  You decide:

I like the part where she says something like, “PLEASE don’t bring up Lily Ledbetter. We’re tired of that.”  And then, almost the very next thing he talks about is- Lily Ledbetter.  BUT, Pfeiffer says, Obama is supportive of the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Yes, I can almost picture it now.  Obama, standing at the window at the White House, looking down the Mall towards the rotunda and whispering to Pfeiffer:

“Those poor little things.  That act is never going to be passed.  I wish I could do something for them.  Go, Dan, go  and be my man in Minneapolis, tell them how I, Feminist in my Heart, that I support them.  If only I knew how…  If only I were President and knew how to use the bully pulpit or had enough experience in congress to manipulate legislators like Clinton did or just knew how to exercise the levers of the executive branch with signing statements…or something.”

What I think we are witnessing in this exchange between Pfeiffer and Gray is contempt.  She’s justifiably angry but he is contemptuous.  Why else would he have offered such a lame defense of Obama’s policies for women?  He’s not even *trying*.  Maybe the White House figured that after 2008, Netroots Nation attendees were not too bright.  I don’t think that’s the case.  They just happen to have fault lines and weaknesses like every other bunch of humans on the planet.  They had just suffered through 8 years of Bush.  They wanted a hero.

Ok, nevermind.  That was stupid.

Nevertheless, they are pretty smart people in that room.  Minneapolis experienced a general increase in collective IQ when it hosted Netroots Nation and there tends to be more women at this event than the media lets on.  But Pfeiffer came to NN almost completely unprepared and fumbled when he brought out that tired old crap that the Obama administration feeds to what they think are the stupid masses.  “Lily Ledbetter.  They probably don’t even know what that is.  Whatever.  Why do *I* have to go to Minneapolis??  Everyone else is going to be drinking beer and playing pool this weekend.”

Like this:

The Politico post says criticism of the Obama staffers who showed up at a Georgetown bar to drink beer and relax was limited mostly to conservative blogs.  Well, I am not a conservative but this picture speaks volumes to me.  The shirts came off supposedly, because the staffers got caught in a rain storm and their clothes were wet.  But as you will note, there are a couple women in this pic and their tops are on.  Women don’t take their wet sopping clothes off in public no matter how cold, clingy and uncomfortable they are.  The guys just whip them off.  Not a problem.

I suspect some readers are going to get distracted by the rules of propriety for women in a public place but they would be missing the point.  If you are a working woman, and the women in this pic are colleagues of the men, you know that there are certain symbols that separate the men from the “girls”. The power tie is one of them. This kind of crap is another.  How you are allowed to dress, are expected to dress, does make a difference.  I could care less if they all got a little toasted after a hard day at work.  But when you go out with your female colleagues, you should keep your shirt on.  We can tell from this picture who has the power on the Obama staff and their professional opinion of their female colleagues.  This is what leads to the tone deafness from Pfeiffer and the Lily Ledbetter crap.  Little things, like the ability to go shirtless at a bar, make a difference in your attitude towards the women you work with.  It’s like a bunch of naked guys having a meeting in a sauna.  You can’t invite the ladies.

By the way, when did Obama last go golfing with Jan Brewer or Debbie Wasserman- Shultz?  Last week, Obama, Biden, Ohio governor Kasich and John Boener (R-Ohio) Speaker of the House, did a round of golf, presumably to hammer out some kind of deal (that for some strange reason couldn’t get legislated in public…).  Obama doesn’t go golfing with many women, or at least, *I* never hear about it.

NPR’s All Things Considered read mail from listeners defending the president’s golf meetings that are looking increasingly out of touch in these days of high unemployment and falling wages:

Now on to some other mail. Yesterday, I talked with Peter Finch, an editor at Golf Digest. This, as President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker Boehner and Ohio Governor Kasich prepared to tee-off tomorrow. So, Finch offered some tips for conducting business on the golf course.

Mr. PETER FINCH (Editor, Golf Digest): I think it makes it much easier to approach somebody and to talk to them about things that you want to accomplish together after you’ve played that around.

SIEGEL: Well, Al Arismandez(ph), of Redondo Beach, California, writes to say that he has completed deals on the golf course and he offers this advice: Once you’ve cheered or applauded a successful golf shot of a playing partner, or commiserated with them in a poorly executed one, there is a quick if not deep look into that golfer’s humanity. That’s the kind of insight and understanding that can go a long way, much longer than my tee shot on hole number one.

Hmmm, seems to me that Obama is missing out on a whole lot of female humanity in his golf-business-deal making meetings.  Maybe if he invited more women, they would tell him to STFU about Lily Ledbetter.

So, what does this have to do with the “war on women”?  In one of the biggest battles of the war, the neanderthals won yesterday when in a 5-4 decision in a gender discrimination suit, the conservative men of the Supreme Court told the women of the Supreme Court, and by extension, all the rest of the working women of this country, that the women plaintiffs didn’t have enough in common to bring a class action suit against Walmart.

What’s the big deal, Scalia seems to say.

It’s dumbfounding but I guess you just have to live through it to understand what is going on in the working world.  You have to be one of the women in the department who watches her male colleagues, but NEVER her female colleagues, eat lunch with the new male director every day in the cafeteria.  You have watch your female colleague work her ass off and deliver quality work, go out of her way to stay until 9:30pm at night to get it done, and still watch one of the precious and few promotions go to a guy who essentially has done nothing in nine years.  Hmmm, was he a lunch guy?  Why, yes, yes he was!  Presumably, the manager was able to get a quick look into the humanity of his male subordinate lunch partner as they commiserated over a poorly executed stir fry chicken and vegetables. You’d have to be a female member of a department where all the other females are much more junior than any male member of the department. You’d have to put up with, but never complain about, the sabotage of your agency and authority at work. You’d have to see your promotional opportunities continually lag behind your male colleagues year after year.  You’d have to endure more critical reviews of your work, less praise and still be expected to suck it up and find some kind of internal reward system to keep on going.  You’d have to get used to living in a smaller house, driving a cheaper car and watching your money more carefully.  Don’t even think about golf.  There will be informal meetings and strategizing and divvying up of the pie that go on you will never be a party to.  Get used to it or go home.

It’s not at all surprising to me that three of the four dissenters on the Supreme Court were the only women, Kagan, Sotomayor and Bader-Ginsburg.  What’s disturbing is that the five males on the other side had the nerve to tell someone with Bader-Ginsburg’s expertise that the women of the Walmart suit couldn’t link their cases together because they had nothing in common and the company as a whole was not responsible for the decisions of individual regional managers.  It doesn’t matter that women as a whole at Walmart can’t seem to break through that glass ceiling no matter what they do or how hard they try.

Right there on the Supreme Court we see a microcosm of what’s going on in the rest of the working world.  The three women are the most junior justices; Sotomayor and Kagan because of their tenure and Bader-Ginsburg due to the unfortunate failure of her party to take the White House for decades.  The people in charge on the Court are 5 men who have the nerve to tell the three women that there’s nothing going on at Walmart.  Jeez, why don’t they just shut up and get back to work?  We have to go duck hunting with our buddies.

Well, I have a confession to make.  I hate those 5 men.  No, really, I do.  I could never act as an agent of their deaths but I can’t wait until one of them pops off from some stroke or disease or accident or impeachment.  It can’t come too soon.

And I am swearing off Walmart until they lose a couple of billion.  When the shareholders are screaming for the male executives heads, maybe they’ll institute a company wide gender discrimination policy and rigorously hold managers accountable for violating it.  The male jerks of the Supreme Court won’t make them do it so the women shoppers of America will have to do it.  Even my 72 year old mom is livid.

Unemployment is high, the wars wage on, health care continues to be expensive, people are losing their houses and Obama is still trotting out Lily Ledbetter.  And more and more of us are asking ourselves, how come we can’t have Hillary in 2012?  What better way to guarantee that when one of those five assholes bites the dust that a woman who “gets it” is appointed?  With Hillary in the White House, there are potentially eight years to wait out Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy and Alito, the conservative Catholic lockdown on American women. The way the economy is going and in light of his subpar performance evaluation for the past four years, Obama might not make the cut next year.

Do women really want to take that chance?  What say you, male attendees of Netroots Nation?  Do you want to continue to condemn your sisters to a lifetime of second class status?  Or are you all talk and beer and no shirts?  Can you get over your love affair with Obama long enough to help us even the playing field or are you going to persist in your clueless hostility for “that woman”?

Thursday: Turning the Worm

Sorry I haven’t been around much these days.  Thank you, Katiebird for keeping the place up.  :-)

I haven’t got much news this morning but I did hear an interesting interview on The Naked Scientists podcast about the “worms” that television media outlets use during campaign season.  The worm is a graphical overlay on a broadcast debate or interview that records and displays the real time responses of a set of participants to what the politicians are saying.  It turns out that the worm may have a larger effect on the general audience than what the politicians are actually saying. It is also possible to “freep” the worm in order to deliberately introduce bias.  Here’s a snippet:

Chris -   So how did you actually do the study?

Colin -    Well, we ran what was conceptually a very simple experiment, although technically it was somewhat difficult.  We had two quite large groups of subjects come in on the evening of the final election debate last year (on April 29th), and they watched a version of the debate that includes the worm (the squiggly line going up and down).  But we played a little trick on our subjects because although they were watching the genuine live debate, which we were getting from the BBC stream, the “worm” that they were seeing wasn’t the real worm, it was controlled by us.  I was sitting in my office, watching the debate, and pressing some keys to move the worm about and hopefully making it look plausible.  The worm that our subjects saw was based on the one that I was moving about, but biased in a particular direction.  So for one group the worm was systematically biased in favour of Gordon Brown, and for the other group it was biased in favour of Nick Clegg.  Then we used some video mixers so that we could superimpose our worms over the live BBC broadcast.  Based on people’s responses afterwards via questionnaire, we can tell that our deception was successful, so the subjects on the whole believed that this was a real broadcast and the worm was genuine.

Chris -   But more critically, what was the outcome when you ask the students who won the debate?

Colin -   What our results suggest is that the worm is having a huge influence.  In fact, it’s much greater than we had anticipated.  Our two groups had completely different ideas about who had won the debate and their opinions were consistent with what the worm had been telling them.  So the group that saw a worm which favoured Gordon Brown thought that he had won the debate, whereas the group that saw the worm which favoured Nick Clegg overwhelmingly thought that he was the winner.  And more worryingly perhaps, we saw a similar, slightly smaller effect when we asked people about their choice of preferred Prime Minister.  So if people had been voting immediately after this debate, it seems like our manipulation could have had a significant effect on how they voted.

Give this one a listen or read the transcript.  The Confluence has always recommended caution when viewing broadcast and cable news.  Here’s one more reason to avoid it and stick to C-Span.  Pssst, pass it along.

For those of you who like to read studies of this kind, here’s the link to the PLOS paper, Social Influence in Televised Election Debates: A Potential Distortion of Democracy.   Here’s the money quote from the Discussions section:

In principle, televised election debates allow voters to form judgements about the leaders and their policies without the filter of (often unbalanced) media sources. Some writers have argued that this absence of “spin” is also a positive aspect of the worm:

I love the crawler and think that it really helps you understand what’s going on in the debates – in particular, it helps you take one step back from your own prejudices. It’s also just about the only input into debate commentary that comes more or less unmediated; the anonymous “undecided” focus group participants might be dumb or irrational, but they’re at least not pushing an agenda. Raw data is always good to have. [30]

According to this perspective, the worm is simply an additional source of “raw data”. Schill and Kirk [10]agree with this perspective, arguing that broadcasting the worm is “fundamentally empowering”, in that “it provides viewers more information to consider when watching the debates and forming their own opinions”. However, we dispute the claim that this is empowering to the viewer. Rather, our results indicate that the presence of the worm makes it more difficult for viewers to form opinions that are truly their own.

Caveat Emptor.  The rest of the podcast is pretty good too.  This week, the Naked Scientists features an extended section on cell phones.  Yep, all the information you can eat on how to fry your brain with radio waves.  Check it out.

Tomorrow is my last day of work.  I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to finding a new one.  That starts in earnest today.  I should have more time on my hands for blogging and I have a few topics I want to cover, like the Walmart class action gender discrimination lawsuit.  That could be a biggy.  There are a number of similar lawsuits pending, such as the one filed by women working at Lockheed-Martin.  Does this sound familiar, ladies?:

The lead plaintiff in the case, Carol Bell, a more than 20-year veteran of the company, asserts that she and other females employed by Lockheed Martin face a “glass ceiling” that prevents them from being considered for upper management level positions. Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that women who do hold these senior leadership positions are primarily relegated to “traditionally female” departments, such as Human Resources, Ethics, and Communications.

The suit also alleges that women in positions across various levels at Lockheed Martin are disproportionately paid less than men who perform substantially similar work, with similar or lesser skills and experience, and are disproportionately rated lower than men as a result of the company’s “bell curve” forced rating systems. Lower selection rates in “stretch” positions, leadership training, and other advancement track opportunities have resulted in lower compensation for female professionals; in contrast, male employees with lesser qualifications and experience find themselves on a fast track to promotion.

According to the complaint, it is Lockheed Martin’s practice to restrict posting of open positions Director-level and above (contrary to its policy for lower-level positions which are posted). The suit alleges that Lockheed Martin does not have an application or a formal interview process for these management positions, and instead makes promotion decisions in secretive meetings in which women often are not present.

The Walmart suit could have a domino effect on other similar suits, like Lockeheed Martin’s, and Bayer’s.  The Bayer one hits particularly close to home.  Go read the examples from the complaint on that one.  Amazing and very disturbing. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.  We finally have the magical 30% female composition on the court but will they be persuasive enough with old Catholic fogeys like  Scalia and particularly Kennedy?  Or will the six boys schedule their own meeting and come to a decision without Sotomayor, Kagan and Bader-Ginsburg?

Keep your eyes on this one.

In the meantime, it’s time to say goodbye to the best job I ever had.  Many thanks to all of my colleagues who have made my last seven years so rewarding:

Saturday News: Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagen?

Good Morning Conflucians!!

I’m even more spacey today than I was yesterday. Now that I finish turning my final grades, my body and mind want me to drop everything and state into space for a few hours, then go back to sleep. Of could I’m still going to have to deal with the barrage of e-mail complaints from students who think they should have gotten an A even though their semester average was in the B- range. And then there are the ones who want me to give them a C even though they failed all the exams. {{Heavy sigh….}}

So anyway….I did stare into space for a long time and listened to the thunder and lightning outside….finally decided to focus on Elena Kagan’s supposedly immanent nomination for SCOTUS. I don’t know if the WH just leaked her name to get a preview of the reactions or if Obama really plans to submit her name next week. We’ll see, I guess. In the meantime, everyone is talking about it and breaking down her record.

Here’s the latest reaction from Glenn Greenwald. He pulls together most of the criticism of Kagan. And here is his original Case Against Elena Kagan, which we have already discussed at TC.

Much of the criticism has been of Kagan’s hiring record at Harvard, where she mostly hired white men. Some of the most pithy articles I read:

The White House’s Kagan Talking Points are Wrong

The White House’s primary response — like the magician performing a trick–is to point our attention elsewhere. The White House says the hiring numbers are misleading because they do not reflect the number of offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. But this seems a bit hard to believe. Do women and people of color find a tenured or tenure-track professorship at Harvard Law School less attractive than white men? Do they really prefer to teach at less prestigious schools? Or if they only prefer not to teach at Harvard because of perceived hostilities to women and people of color, why is it that Kagan could somehow overcome these perceptions when it came to conservatives, but not women and people of color? After all, part of the praise for Kagan is that she made Harvard Law School welcoming again for conservatives—in this case, conservative white men.

In order to assess whether Dean Kagan effectively reached out to women and scholars of color, we need the number of tenure and tenure-track offers she made to women and scholars of color. But the White House does not provide us the number of tenure and tenure-track offers that Dean Kagan made to women and scholars of color. In fact, they provide everything but those numbers. An honest defense would provide those numbers in the first instance. (The White House memo implicitly cites the privacy of the individuals who received offers as a basis for refusing to release names — but we wonder how many law professors would be embarrassed by the public revelation that they turned down a Harvard Law School offer.)

There is quite a bit of discussion of this article around the ‘net because it was written by three top law professors. Lots of other blogs have commented on this article. Here’s the response from Darren Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice.

From Chris Good at The Atlantic: Kagan Could Be Hard to Hit

I asked Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network (a conservative group focused on judicial nominees) what conservatives are going to say about Kagan, and what Kagan’s “wise Latina” moment, if there is one, will prove to be.

“She has been much more careful than Justice Sotomayor. She never would have said something like that even if she thinks it. She’s been so careful for so long that no one seems to know exactly what she does think,” Severino said.

Severino attended Harvard Law School, where Kagan served as dean. She asked fellow Harvard people about Kagan’s tenure as dean. “Everyone came back with the same perspective, which was she was careful to never say anything on the record, or off the record, to anyone about her own opinions, so I think she’s been carefully shepherding her image for a long time, possibly ever since her DC circuit nomination by President Clinton, so that’s a long time to effectively live on the short list.”

Another problem for Kagan is her ties to Goldman Sachs, according to Matt Kelley of USA Today:

Solicitor General Elena Kagan was a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute, according to the financial disclosures she filed when President Obama appointed her last year to her current post. Kagan served on the Goldman panel from 2005 through 2008, when she was dean of Harvard Law School, and received a $10,000 stipend for her service in 2008, her disclosure forms show.


And from Sam Stein at Huffpo:

On Friday, a slew of inquiries was made to the White House and Justice Department about a minor post Solicitor General Elena Kagan once held at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank under fire over controversial mortgage securities transactions. Kagan served on a Goldman advisory council between 2005 and 2008, with the task of providing expert “analysis and advice to Goldman Sachs and its clients.” For her work she earned a $10,000 stipend.

This was actually old news. Kagan disclosed this information during her first confirmation hearings for the post of Solicitor General.

Unless you’re a committed (or commitable) Obot, I can’t see why the Goldman issue should be on the table. After all, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since Kagan’s previous confirmation hearings.

Charlie Savage discusses the issue of executive power and SCOTUS

As President Obama prepares to nominate somebody to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, his administration appears to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court in legal disputes that will test the limits of executive power.

Those disputes — involving issues like detainee rights and secrecy — throw into sharp relief the differences in the records of several leading contenders for the nomination, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two appeals court judges, Merrick B. Garland and Diane P. Wood.

And the there’s the “is she gay” issue. I don’t know if the Repubs will bring it up or not–maybe in sneaky ways.

There’s this from the Washington Post: Obama navigating high court nomination with more ease this time

After listing the ways the administration is handling things better, supposedly, there this:

….in other respects, the process is the same as a year ago, with senior administration officials hinting about who is on the shortlist — for the past couple of weeks, it has been Kagan, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit and Judge Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit — but remaining relatively opaque with outside interest groups. Activists with liberal interest groups said White House officials have kept open communication lines but have been circumspect about Obama’s thinking. “The contact has typically been one-way, which is, ‘We’ll hear what you want to tell us,’ ” said one activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of offending the administration.

Another said that there have been several meetings but that the White House has not much shared its point of view. Still, one outside source said the president’s preference is less apparent than at the same point a year ago, just before he nominated Sotomayor. “Last time around, you knew Sotomayor was going to be the candidate,” the person said. “She was such a home run on so many different counts. . . . I would say this one is much, much, much more difficult for them.”

As the process draws to a close, officials in several groups handicapped the race as between Kagan and Garland, giving Kagan the edge. Kagan, they said, has weathered criticism from conservatives and liberals. The left has criticized her defense of some of the terrorism policies of the George W. Bush administration, although her defenders point out that she was only representing the policies of the Obama administration.

Via Greenwald, there’s also this horrifying headline: Supreme Court Watchers Wonder: How Conservative Is Kagan?

If Obama nominates her, I’d have to guess she is pretty conservative.

What do you think? And what are you reading today? Have a great Saturday, and I apologize for my lack of energy this morning.

Saturday Morning News and Views: May Day Edition

Beltane Fire Ritual, Edinburgh, Scotland

Happy May Day, Conflucians!! It’s the feast of Beltane. In Edinburgh, 12,000 people gathered for the Beltane Fire Festival spring rituals. Here is a little information on the pagan holiday:

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These “need-fires” had healing properties, and skyclad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bonfires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures.

Other May Day customs include: processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.

In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principly a time of “…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.” Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, “Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…” retain such memories. And the next line “…to see a fine Lady on a white horse” is a reference to the annual ride of “Lady Godiva” though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

May Day is also an important day for the labor movement.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

Back here in the 21st Century, it’s been quite a week for news.

Continue reading

Friday Mid-Morning News and Views

Spring Morning

Good Morning Conflucians!! TGIF! And it’s Spring! What more could we wish for? How about a little bit of socialism? The tea party folks decry it, but what do they know? Not much. Check out this story from The Boston Globe on the recent tea party rally in New England, featuring Sarah Palin (via Reclusive Leftist).

Early yesterday morning, Valerie and Rob Shirk corralled their 10 home-schooled children into their van for the 2 1/2-hour drive from their home in Connecticut to Boston, arriving just in time to hear Sarah Palin denounce government-run health care at the tea party movement rally on Boston Common.

They thought it would be a learning opportunity for their children, who range in age from 9 months to 15 years old and who held up signs criticizing the government for defying the “will of the people.’’

“The problem in this country is that too many people are looking for handouts,’’ said Valerie Shirk, 43, of Prospect, Conn [....]

The couple, who rely on Medicaid for their health care, were also upset about the nation’s new health reforms.

When asked why her family used state-subsidized health care when she criticized people who take handouts, Valerie Shirk said she did not want to stop having children, and that her husband’s income was not enough to cover the family with private insurance.

“I know there’s a dichotomy because of what we get from the state,’’ she said. “But I just look at each of my children as a blessing.’’

Shirk? That can’t be their real name, can it? It’s just too perfect.

Here are a few other stories I’ve been reading this morning. From the New York Times:

C.I.A. Document Details Destruction of Tapes

Porter J. Goss, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in 2005 approved of the decision by one of his top aides to destroy dozens of videotapes documenting the brutal interrogation of two detainees, according to an internal C.I.A. document released Thursday.

Shortly after the tapes were destroyed at the order of Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, Mr. Goss told Mr. Rodriguez that he “agreed” with the decision, according to the document. He even joked after Mr. Rodriguez offered to “take the heat” for destroying the tapes.

“PG laughed and said that actually, it would be he, PG, who would take the heat,” according to one document, an internal C.I.A. e-mail message.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Mr. Goss did not approve the destruction before it happened, and was displeased that Mr. Rodriguez did not consult him or the C.I.A.’s top lawyer before giving the order for the tapes to be destroyed.

It’s so nice to know that the rule of law is still such an important guiding principle in Washington, isn’t it?

Reuters: Foreclosure Actions Spike Despite Aid

The government aid, intensified in late March, has so far failed to overcome the staggering effects of nearly double-digit unemployment and wage cuts on borrowers.

Foreclosure activity jumped 19 percent to a monthly record in March, driving first-quarter actions up 7 percent from the prior quarter and 16 percent from a year ago to a record of more than 932,000 properties.

One in every 138 U.S. households got a foreclosure filing in the quarter such as a notice of default, auction or bank repossession.

Banks took back more than 257,000 properties in the quarter, a record high, putting repossessions on pace to shatter last year’s record of more than 918,000 properties.

“If there’s going to be a modification program that really has a material effect this year, it’s not there yet,” Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, told Reuters.

Ahhhhh…good times! You just knew if we voted for “the Democrat” those happy days were coming back, didn’t you? If only the Democratic Party had nominated a Democrat, it might have happened.

Neil Armstrong is angry with President Obama for ruling out future manned moon landings.

In an open letter obtained by NBC News, the first man to set foot on the moon takes Obama to task for marginalizing NASA and the nation’s space program.

“For the United States, the leading space-faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature,” wrote Armstrong in a letter also signed by Apollo 13 commander James Lovell and Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan.

But hey…what do they know? Anyway, Gregg Easterbrook says, Get over the moon. We need NASA to save the Earth. Easterbrook thinks a better job for NASA would be preventing a giant asteroid from striking Earth.

Just because an asteroid strike was the premise of a ridiculous Bruce Willis movie is no reason to think this can’t happen. As recently as a few decades ago, researchers believed asteroid strikes were extremely unlikely, or had been confided to the mists of the far past. Recent research shows that near-Earth asteroids are far more common than thought, while major strikes have occurred much too recently for comfort: including a probable asteroid strike in the year 536 that might have caused mass extinctions, if the rock had hit land instead of the ocean. Here is detail on asteroid-threat research. And here is the running count of asteroids that might threaten Earth – 280 as of Wednesday, and nearly all of them discovered in the last 10 years.

Yet NASA has no program to counter an asteroid threat – not one piece of equipment in development. This 2008 Air Force “war game” concluded that it would be possible to deflect an asteroid away from Earth, but that five to 10 years of preparation would be needed. So why are we gambling the existence of humanity by doing nothing? True, an asteroid-deflection rocket might never be used. But we built ICBMs in the hopes they would never be used. And an asteroid-deflecting project should cost substantially less than the amount NASA is eager to waste on the Moon.

One can appreciate that neither the space agency, nor the White House, wants to announce a program that sounds like a Bruce Willis movie. But the threat is genuine, and if we wait until a large asteroid is observed approaching, it will be too late. Unlike a Moon base, asteroid protection could return tangible benefits to the taxpayer. Stopping an asteroid from striking the Earth could be, well, the greatest achievement in human history. Didn’t somebody say NASA needs an inspirational mission?

Good idea! OTOH, if an asteroid wiped out humankind, the tea partiers wouldn’t have to worry about socialism anymore, and the rest of us wouldn’t have to worry about torture, illegal spying, lack of Habeas Corpus rights, and our current rapid slide into corporatist tyranny. And speaking of large objects approaching Earth from space….

People are still talking about the meteor that lit up the skies over Wisconsin and the Midwest.

It was an impressive sight to see and if you missed it this is what the meteor looked like from a dashcam inside a Bayside police car.

Alec Preston saw it in real time. “It was white first and a tail kind of grew and then in turned bright green, said Preston. “I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately and I was like what could this possible be.”

It was also captured on a dashcam from a sheriff’s squad car in Portage, Wisconsin.

In Iowa, the meteor looked like a mid air explosion on another police car dashcam.

Video available at the link.

In the category of “everything old is new again,” Democrats are wooing Senator Susan Collins of Maine again. That woman sure does know how to get attention from Democrats. This time she’s playing hard to get on the “Financial reform” bill. And, of course The Hill is calling Collins a “centrist” again… {sigh….}

A GOP aide said Collins is the only Republican senator who has not signed a letter promising to filibuster a motion to proceed to the bill unless Democrats reopen bipartisan negotiations. The letter has not been made public.

In order to torpedo the measure crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs 41 votes.

Feeling the wind at their backs, Senate Democrats say they will vote next week on the legislation. But it’s unclear if they have the 60 votes necessary after an intense whipping effort this week by Senate GOP leaders.

Whatever…I’m relatively confident that it’s not going to be real reform anyway.

And finally, Howard Kurtz reports that CBS is spreading rumors about Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation.

The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would “please” much of his base by picking the “first openly gay justice.” An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.” She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”

Didn’t the corporate media do something similar to Sonia Sotomayor? You mean we could end up with two lesbian Supreme Court Justices? Maybe then all the right wingers on the court would resign? Now that’s a great Friday morning fantasy.

So what are you reading this lovely spring morning? Have a fabulous Friday everyone–and post your links freely in the comments.

Live Blog: Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings, Day Four

From C-Span:

On Day Four of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the Sen. Judiciary Cmte. completes the second round of questions. Following that, the Cmte. calls the first panel of witnesses.

Watch SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings on-line here.

Memorable moments from yesterday’s hearings:

Senator Al Franken questions SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor about abortion rights and privacy.

Senator Al Franken reminisces with Sonia Sotomayor about Perry Mason.


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Wednesday: Feelings, nothing more than feeeeeelings.

Mike Huckabee is laying down the law on Sonia Sotomayor.  He won’t be having any touchy feely stuff from *this* SCOTUS nominee:

“The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the ‘feelings’ of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.”

Well, it’s not like Mike Huckabee has any say in the matter.  He’s not in the Senate.  But what about the Republicans who are in the Senate?  How do they “feel” about Sotomayor’s “feelings”?

Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “I will focus on determining whether Judge Sotomayor is committed to deciding cases based only on the law as made by the people and their elected representatives, not on personal feelings or politics.

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “We will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.

Charles Grassley (R-Iowa): “The Judiciary Committee should take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.

John Cornyn (R-Tx.): “She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings, and preferences.”

Guys, I think this here is what we call a “meme”. Other than the fact that they sound like Beau Bridges from the Fabulous Baker Boys screaming that he’s not going to play Feelings on the piano anymore, we can assume that the Republican’s plan of attack is Sotomayor’s very honest assessment that her feelings and personal experience is likely to play a role in her judicial temperament.

Of course, Republican nominees for the SCOTUS *never* let their feelings get in the way. Clarence Thomas did not go to the Supreme Court with a chip on his shoulder to lead an undistinguished career as a justice:

Antonin “Il Duce” Scalia doesn’t write “foaming at the mouth”, lunatic screeds in dissent:

I’m sure that when Sandra Day O’Connor made that comment at the cocktail party in 2000 that she hoped a Republican would be elected president so that she would be replaced by another Republican (woman), it didn’t reflect her future narrowly tailored decision to throw the election to Bush as opposed to Gore later that year.  I’m sure she feels no regret over that.

Or when Anthony Kennedy wrote on the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003:

“It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast developing skull of the unborn child, a child assuming the human form.”

Anthony Kennedy, pompous (and clueless) windbag

Anthony Kennedy, pompous (and clueless) windbag

the fact that research doesn’t support his supposition of  self-evidency was not an example of his own anarchronistic bias or “feelings”.  He most certainly did not allow his emotions to get in the way when he wrote that, even it if does seem like he pulled it from his ass because he doesn’t understand that some of those “brains” in those unborn children do not exist and that their rapidly developing empty heads pose a threat to their mothers when they can’t be born.  Whew!  Aren’t we lucky he’s our fifth vote against overturning Roe v Wade?

It’s a good thing that Sam Alito doesn’t respond like his wife to accusations of bigotry.  Remember when she dashed from the confirmation hearings in tears, her feelings overcome when Lindsay Graham asked Sam if he was a bigot? Oh, sure, we thought it was staged but maybe she was just ashamed of the fact that Alito was once a founding member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton back in the 70′s that wanted to keep minorities and women out of the hallowed eating halls. Bigotry is a very serious accusation and shows some wont of feelings for the feelings of others, not to mentions some seriously screwed up feelings on the part of the bigot.

Roberts animatronic family provided by Disney

Roberts' animatronic family provided by Disney

Well, thank Gawd for John Roberts.  At least he doesn’t worry about feelings.  Unless you consider this exchange he had with a defender of the voting rights act:

Roberts was relentless in challenging Katyal: “So your answer is that Congress can impose this disparate treatment forever because of the history in the South?”

“Absolutely not,” Katyal said.

“When can they—when do they have to stop?”

“Congress here said that twenty-five years was the appropriate reauthorization period.”

“Well, they said five years originally, and then another twenty years,” Roberts said, referring to previous reauthorizations of the act. “I mean, at some point it begins to look like the idea is that this is going to go on forever.”

If it weren’t for his cold-blooded disregard for the sentiments of minority voters in the south who may still require our protection, one might almost detect a note of disdain and impatience in Chief Justice Roberts tone.

Yes, we will have no feelings from Sonia Sotomayor.

Great!  Since there will be none of that messy, human stuff at her confirmation hearings, maybe we can find out what she thinks about corporate personhood instead.

BTW:  Today is BostonBoomer’s defense of her dissertation.  Wish her luck!


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Button up. Your sexism is showing.

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor

So now it’s Sotomayor. According to Jeffrey Rosen, who spoke to some law clerk, she’s not fit to be a judge on the Supreme Court because she has opinions, she expresses those opinions, she expresses those opinions forcefully and at length.

(Shows you how much I know about the law. I thought that was practically the description of the Supremes.)

Greenwald does one of his usual masterful takedowns, and adds a very interesting update at the end:

Jeffrey Rosen’s brother-in-law is Neal Katyal, the current Deputy Solicitor General in the Obama administration. If Sotomayor’s prospects are torpedoed, that could clear the way for one of the other leading candidates to be named to the Court: current Solicitor General Elena Kagan. The selection of Kagan (rather than Sotomayor) would almost certainly result in Rosen’s brother-in-law (Katyal) becoming Solicitor General. Additionally, Katyal himself was once a clerk for a Second Circuit judge, obviously raising the question of whether he was one of the anonymous sources for his brother-in-law’s hit piece disparaging Sotomayor’s intellect and character.

One can question whether this Rosen/Katyal relationship should have been disclosed by TNR (on balance, it was probably unnecessary), but at the very least, these are illustrative of the types of problems that inevitably arise when anonymous sources are used so casually in a political culture rife with incestuous relationships and conflicts of interest.

However, what’s a boring potential conflict of interest? Let’s talk about Sotomayor. She talks! She’s forceful! How awful!


And apparently that’s been enough to get the “keepers of conventional wisdom” (to use Greenwald’s words) riled up about the potential horrors of affirmative action. “Good God. You can’t waste such a vital job on some politically correct nonsense. The only criterion should be the best, um, person for the job. Why should a woman get it?”

As I said, button up. Your sexism is showing.

There isn’t one shred of evidence that women have inferior mental capacity to men. (Insofar as there is evidence, it’s actually on the other side. On average girls show earlier verbalization in infancy, better school grades, and higher test scores until, for some reason — possibly they talk too much and they’re too loud — they hit the job world and start getting paid less and promoted less.) So, in a reality-based context it’s safe to assume that women are at least the equals of men in ability. And yet the overwhelming preponderance of powerful positions are filled by men.

Yes, there’s affirmative action. And, yes, it does lead to less competent people being given jobs that are beyond them. It’s time to end that. We should find the best person for the job. Why should it be given to a man?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized for Pancreatic Cancer

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Our thoughts and prayers are with this outstanding Supreme Court Justice as she recovers from surgery.

It appears the cancer was caught early, which should increase her chances of survival. Her loss would be staggering in its implications.

Here are some great quotes from Justice Ginsburg that show her brilliance, her steadfast commitment to the Constitution and her always passionate advocacy for social justice.

All respect for the office of the presidency aside, I assumed that the obvious and unadulterated decline of freedom and constitutional sovereignty, not to mention the efforts to curb the power of judicial review, spoke for itself.

It is not women’s liberation, it is women’s and men’s liberation.

So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.

The state controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.

Be well, Justice Ginsburg.

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