Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

LLM: Lawyers Losing Money

AP Images/Chitose Suzuki
American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL) is in crisis. Situated in the toughest job market for lawyers in the United States, the Washington, D.C. school has fallen 11 spots in the U.S. News rankings since the class of 2013 applied. This is in part due to the release of detailed employment statistics that show the schools’ full-time, long-term legal employment rate of 39 percent ranks 5th out of 7 area law schools. A group of students have started a petition to fire Dean Claudio Grossman and a WCL theatrical troupe staged a play, “Grossman’s Eleven,” alluding to the 2001 heist movie starring George Clooney. The school is undergoing a $130 million expansion and has moderately grown its LLM program—a once rare post-graduate degree whose recent proliferation is becoming to critics a symbol of unscrupulous law school practices. American is not alone in growing its LLM program. From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, the LLM was a marginal degree aimed primarily at foreign...

Underfunded and Under Five

AP Photo/The Hawk Eye, John Lovretta
AP Photo/The Winchester Star, Jeff Taylor A s we contemplate the possibly bright future of pre-K laid out in Obama’s state of the union address this year, in which the feds work together “with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America,” along comes a sobering glimpse of what public preschool looks like now. It’s not quite as rosy. Rather than charting progress toward getting all four-year-olds ready for kindergarten, the National Institute for Early Education Research’s annual survey of programs, just issued last week, shows a system in disrepair—or perhaps even retreat. Even as recognition of the benefits of preschool for four-year-olds has grown, the actual implementation of it has stalled—and, in places, lost ground. Meanwhile state funding for pre-K has gone down by more than half a billion dollars in the last year, according to NIEER. In 2012, state spending per child fell to well below what it was ten years ago. The backsliding, which can...

The House Takes Mass Incarceration to Task

Wikimedia Commons
AP Photo I n today's Washington, the formation of a bipartisan committee and/or commission is generally reason to cringe . Today, however, Congress created a bipartisan committee that could deserve optimism. The House Committee on the Judiciary Over-Criminalization Task Force will address an extremely severe problem: mass incarceration in the United States. There is very good reason for the formation of the committee. The rates of incarceration in this country are staggering . The United States imprisons more people per capita than any country in the world—not only far more than any comparable liberal democracy, but more than the world's authoritarian regimes as well. Even worse, this mass incarceration reflects and exacerbates racial and economic inequalities. As scholars such as Michelle Alexander and Becky Pettit have shown in chilling detail, mass incarceration has taken a massive toll on racial minorities. One in every 36 Hispanic men over the age of 18—and one in 15 African-...

Ringside Seat: Sanford v. Colbert Busch

Down in South Carolina, one of the more ridiculous special elections in recent history is wrapping up today. That the race in the extremely conservative 1 st district is close at all can be attributed partly to the reflected fame of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who happens to be Stephen Colbert's sister, partly to the fact that she massively outraised him thanks to generous donation drops from D.C., but mostly to the fact that when approximately 275 Republicans ran in the primary (OK, it was only 16, but still), Mark Sanford—whose first name was officially changed to "Disgraced former governor" due to that one time he abandoned his official duties and his family to go "hike the Appalachian Trail," a.k.a. "run off to Argentina to see his mistress"—came out on top. There's nothing conservatives love more than a redemption story, and Sanford's chutzpah in making a political comeback may pay off, as late polls had him pulling even with Busch. To be realistic, there are...

The Future of White People

honeyfitz/Flickr
honeyfitz/Flickr Writing for Reuters , Reihan Salam has an excellent take on the evolution of Hispanic identity. He doesn’t try to relate this with the current push for immigration reform, but it’s useful to consider in the broader context of American politics. Here’s the key passage: The Census Bureau relies on individuals to self-identify with a given ethnic category. We now know, however, that many individuals who could identify as Hispanic, by virtue of a parent or grandparent born in a Spanish-speaking country, choose not to do so. In recent years, Brian Duncan, an economist at the University of Colorado Denver, and Stephen Trejo, an economist at the University of Texas at Austin, have been studying this “ethnic attrition rate” among U.S. immigrants and their descendants. And their findings suggest that while a given generation of Americans might identify as Hispanic, there is a decent chance that their children will not. This squares with what I found last year, in my piece for...

Did the Obama Campaign Matter?

KCIvey/Flickr
President Obama’s 2012 reelection victory was immediately followed by reporting and analysis on his turnout operation, which surpassed 2008’s in scope and scale. The Obama campaign devoted millions to sophisticated polling, modeling, and data collection. It was able to pinpoint particular demographic groups, and target them with mail, advertisements, volunteers and everything else in their arsenal. The general assumption from everyone—including myself—was that this operation was integral to Obama’s success. Or was it? At The Monkey Cage , political scientists Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler find that Obama’s voter mobilization effort—while more sophisticated than any other operation in election history—was only slightly more effective than Mitt Romney’s. Here are the details: While registered Democrats and Republicans in these media markets (7.5 million and 7.0 million individuals, respectively) were heavily targeted by the Obama and Romney campaigns, others may not have been. Among...

What We Talk about When We Talk about Immigration

From the Heritage Foundation web site.
If you've read or heard anything about immigration today, it probably had to do with a just-released Heritage Foundation report claiming that immigration reform will cost America eleventy bazillion dollars, or as the enormous headline on their web site screams, "The COST of Amnesty TO YOU." If you're interested in a point-by-point analysis of why the assumptions and omissions in the report skew things so absurdly, you can read Dylan Matthews or Alex Nowrasteh , but you have to hand it to Heritage: despite the questionable quality of the work and its obvious intent to scuttle immigration reform, they've gotten a tremendous amount of attention for it. That's partly a result of good timing (nobody else had attempted to put a dollar figure on reform, so they were the first), and partly due to what I'm sure is a large and skilled communication staff. The way these things work is that your policy people write the report, then your communication people work the phones and email to get...

Why We Still Need GLAAD

Flickr/Steven Damron, Greg Hernandez
Flickr/Steven Damron Sharon Stone at the 2008 GLAAD Media Awards I f journalists threw parties the way they write stories, you'd arrive right on time and the hosts would be scooping used solo cups into the garbage. "Party's over," they'd announce, coaxing you back out the door. Any regular consumer of media will know what I mean: Like a zealous mortician, journalists love to pronounce things dead, especially before they've run their course. Last fall, New York magazine declared Brooklyn "over"; 2010 heralded the "end of men," according to The Atlantic ; and Facebook's been killed off and resurrected by journalists more times than one can count. Last week, it was GLAAD (formerly the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) 1 1. In March, GLAAD announced it was dropping the full name to more accurately reflect its work on behalf of bisexual and transgender rights. The organization now simply goes by "GLAAD." that got the journo...

Cruz Control

AP Images/ David J. Phillip
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite L ast week’s news cycle began and ended with Ted Cruz. On Monday, a video of Cruz came out, in which he called his fellow Republicans “a bunch of squishes” on gun control. The talk, given at the Tea Party group FreedomWorks’ summit in Texas, prompted The Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin to write a piece called “ Don’t be a jerk Sen. Cruz ,” calling on Texas’ junior senator to apologize. If that was supposed to chasten him, it didn’t seem to work: By the end of the week, National Review was reporting Ted Cruz might be running for president. He was one of main points of discussion on Sunday talk shows, and James Carville raved that he was “ the most talented and fearless Republican politician ” in the last 30 years. That, in a nutshell, is Ted Cruz’s political career: through some combination of luck, bravado, and talent, the man always seems to wind up getting what he wants. Let’s not forget, that just a year ago, the Tea Party darling...

Sex, Economics, and Austerity

AP Photo
AP Photo J ohn Maynard Keynes was the sexiest economist who ever lived. This might seem like half-hearted praise since in our mind’s eye the typical economist appears as a dowdy and almost always balding man, full of prudential advice about thrift and the miracle of compound interest. Keynes, with his caterpillar moustache and mesmerizing bedroom eyes, cut a more dashing figure. He had many lovers of both genders, and was married to one of the great beauties of the age, the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. His genius at playing the stock market allowed him to enjoy the life of bon vivant, socializing with the writers and artists of the Bloomsbury group such as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster rather than dull number crunchers he knew at Cambridge and in the British Treasury. While other economists focused on maximizing economic growth, Keynes wanted to go further and maximize the pleasures of life. Given all this, it’s perhaps not surprising that a much-publicized recent attack on the...

Schneiderman Strikes Back

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who headed a group of state attorneys general that won homeowners and former homeowners a $26 billion settlement from five mega-banks over their foreclosure abuses, announced yesterday that he’d sue two of the banks—Wells Fargo and Bank of America—for allegedly violating the terms of the settlement. The February 2012 settlement with those two banks, as well as JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), had required the banks to adhere to a set of standards that would end the kind of abuses that had led to wholesale foreclosures of homes when they could have worked out alternative arrangements with the homeowners. Some of those standards—such as requiring the banks to notify struggling homeowners within five days that they had received the documents required to modify mortgages—sound so obvious they shouldn’t have needed to be codified, yet it was precisely such practices that the banks had repeatedly shunned. Homeowner...

Ken Cuccinelli Is Winning. Here's Why.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Gage Skidmore/Flickr The race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli isn’t as bleak as the fight between Godzilla and Moth-Ra (thanks, Jonathan Chait, for the comparison ), but it’s close. Fairly or not, McAuliffe is seen as a soulless Democratic Party hack, with few supporters and nothing to connect him to the state or its history. But he’s better than Ken Cuccinelli, whose entire reputation is for right-wing revanchism. He hates taxes, he hates abortion, and has used his position as attorney general to launch ideological crusades against health care reform and climate science. The only difference between him and a candidate like Todd Akin is that Cuccinelli actually stands a chance of winning. To wit, according to the latest Washington Post poll, Cuccinelli holds a ten-point lead over McAuliffe among likely voters, and a five point lead among all Virginians. How is this possible in a state Barack Obama won twice? Demographics. The drop-off between presidential and gubernatorial...

Ringside Seat: A Scandal Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

There are few things that irritate Republicans more than the fact that Barack Obama went through an entire term with nothing but minor scandals to tie him down. No Watergate, no Iran-Contra, no Lewinsky, not even a little Valerie Plame. It wasn't that the GOP didn't try to create one, though. There was "Fast and Furious," in which the administration supposedly let Mexican drug gangs get all kinds of weapons from the U.S. on purpose, so that when it was revealed it could be used as an excuse to take away everybody's guns. Despite the Republicans' best efforts, the conspiracy theory didn't pan out. There was Solyndra, in which the administration supposedly knowingly squandered taxpayer money on a bunch of their cronies using a technology destined to fail. Alas, no sinister criminal activity was found there, either. As scandals go, they were small beans. But then, in the heat of the 2012 campaign, came Benghazi. Four Americans dead, a slightly misinformed Susan Rice repeating slightly...

You Think We Have Lots of Guns Now...

The first working gun made (almost) entirely on a 3-D printer.
There's even more exciting gun news today, coming from a small nonprofit organization called Defense Distributed . They announced that they have successfully test-fired a gun made almost entirely in a 3-D printer. The only part that wasn't 3-D printed was the firing pin. And the bullet, of course. Now previously, people had made gun components in 3-D printers, but prior tests of entire weapons had been unsuccessful. This raises some rather troubling questions, which we'll get to in a moment. But first, here's their short video, which shows the firing and construction of the gun, inexplicably interspersed with shots of World War II-era bombers: They may call this thing "The Liberator," but it's a little too impractical to be able to liberate anyone at the moment. It's probably highly inaccurate, and it holds only one bullet. But this is more a proof-of-concept than anything else, and if you want to, you can go to their website and download the plans, then print one out on your own 3-D...

Discovering the American Majority with the NRA and Conservative Politicians

I have a piece going up later today over at CNN.com on the NRA convention, but there's something I raise there that I want to elaborate on. If you look at the list of Republican politicians who spoke to the assembled firearm enthusiasts, it wasn't exactly the A-team. Last year Mitt Romney showed up, but this year they had failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum, failed presidential candidate Rick Perry, universally disliked freshman senator Ted Cruz, currently unpopular Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and former half-term governor and current punch line Sarah Palin. Every one of them would like to be president one day, but the only one with even the ghost of a chance is Jindal. And what do they have in common? Some are has-beens, some have reached the pinnacle of their careers even if they don't know it yet, but what distinguishes them isn't just that they're very, very conservative. It's that—like the NRA itself—they're obviously convinced that they represent the majority of the...

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