Tag Archives: New York Times

Tea Party bait in the NYT: “You are white, Republican, and racist. Oh, and theocratic, too.”

I’ll admit it: just the fact that the story is coming  from the New York Times gives me pause.

But there it is: “Crashing the Tea Party,” by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, a couple of professors who think they have profiled Tea Party members based on some wide ranging research.

The results are provocative and, if they are in any way correct, indicate that Tea Party members are less naïve about politics than previously thought, tend to hold a low regard for immigrants, and very religious, even wanting leaders who mix religion and politics ….which explains why Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry are getting good reviews from the Tea Party.

Oh, also they are more likely to be Republican.

Whatever the characteristics, Campbell and Putnam suggest that it has contributed to giving the Tea Party a lower  approval among the public than atheists and Muslims. Ouch.

...because blondes have more fun.

But wait! There’s more: the Tea Party is not necessarily a creature of the recession. Tea Party members tend to have already been (as well as being white) very conservative and active Republicans.

Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

[…]

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

Hmm…so how about that ‘separation between church and state’ thing? The Tea Party does know that it was one of their darlings, Mr. Thomas Jefferson himself,  that was one of the first to actually phrase it that way, right?

I don’t know about you, Reader, but the last thing I think we need is a litmus test for an elected official the measures religiosity. I would rather an atheist that upholds the law and defends the practice of religion over a deeply religious nut job  person who discriminates in favor of his or her faith. Of course, if we could find a deeply religious person who upholds the law (and doesn’t err on the side of larger government), then I probably wouldn’t mind. But then, it has nothing to do with religiosity, and we’re back at my main point: religion is the wrong litmus test for a leader.

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) led 30,000 Christians in prayer Saturday -- at an event that may boost his fortunes with the GOP's critical bloc of evangelical voters. Photo: Brandon Thibodeaux/Getty Images

And yet, Campbell and Putnam suggest that this very litmus test is the likely reason for Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry’s success in recent weeks with the Tea Party.

And what about the libertarians that are finding common cause with the Tea Party? I don’t see them reflected in the research discussion or results. In my experience, libertarians are just about growing on Republican trees these days, but they would be the last people to support increased religion in politics.

Which leads me to Campbell and Putnam’s method. The two professors (Campbell is an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame and Putnam is a professor of public policy at Harvard) interviewed 3,000 people in 2006 as part of continuing research into national political attitudes. They returned to the same people this year. They explain that

[a]s a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.

Perhaps. I’d like to take a closer look at the results to find out what kind of questions were asked, how the people were selected, and what the margins of error were.

In any case…

Even as a Republican, and a long time Republican at that, it would be disingenuous for me to dismiss these findings out of hand. While I don’t find them to be definitive, I do find the results descriptive.  Utah’s Tea Party may be distinct  in some respects due to some characteristics that are uniquely local, but in many respects the results seem to apply here.

On the other hand, could this just be Tea Party bait by New York Times liberals?

Religious litmus test or not, elections are not about rationality, but winning, and if it takes that to win, could we expect anyone but a deeply religious person to win the race for the Republican nomination?

Read the full article at “Crashing the Tea Party” in the New York Times.

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Is your University short of cash? Just increase law school tuition.

Let’s say you’re the dean of a law school on the East Coast with just four years as dean under your belt. As your accomplishments, you can list the following:

  • Increasing the school’s US News Ranking from 170 to 117
  • Higher bar passage than when hired
  • A new building almost completed
  • Securing a donor willing to plunk down enough cash to put his name on the school.

What’s the result? How about a call from the president of the university to ask for your resignation?

That’s what has happened to University of Baltimore Dean Phil Closius.

Yep. Because he complained that the law students shouldn’t be subsidizing the rest of the university.

Heck, not even that. He just complained that the School of Law should not subsidize the rest of the University as much as it was. Over the last year, University of Baltimore School of Law revenues have increased $1,455,650, but the law school’s budget itself has only increased $80,774. For those of you, like myself, who attended law school because math was not their strong suit, that’s a difference of $1,374,876.

Where is all that extra law school tuition going? Not the law school. Not for more professors and smaller classes. Not for more law school scholarships, building improvements, clinics, workshops, internships, or career training (which is sadly lacking in most law schools). Nope. It’s going to elsewhere in the University of Baltimore.

Rather than increasing tuition so that the School of Law can better prepare its students to compete in a ho-hum legal market, the University is fleecing them. In other words, law students are going to graduate with an average of $90,000 in debt because the University was greedy.

And Phil Closius had the gall to speak out against it. From his resignation letter:

Every seven years, the ABA inspects law schools for renewal of their accreditation. The law faculty drafted a self study in the spring of 2010 as part of our ABA reinspection process. The percentage of law revenue retained by the University was emphasized as a significant concern of the faculty in that document. I believe a law school dean has a continuing responsibility to share accurate data regarding the law school and its operations. In the past year, I distributed the financial data I had to the faculty and the Dean’s Advisory Board in order to inform them about the increasing scope of the problem. Both bodies were concerned about the continued ability of the law school to reach its potential without sufficient funding and the inequity of charging law students increasingly high tuition and fees if a significant percentage of those funds were not directly benefitting the law school. Both the faculty and the alumni insisted that I continue in my efforts to obtain more financial data and a University agreement to decrease its retention percentage over time. I was criticized by the central administration for sharing the financial data with the faculty and my advisory board. University officials also stated that providing funding for the continued improvement of the School of Law was not a high priority for the University.

Awkward…especially when the ABA came back and said that it ought to be a high priority for the University.

We were inspected this last academic year and the University and I received the final report of the ABA Accreditation Committee on July 27. The report generally praised the condition of the law school but indicated a concern, among others, about the substantial amount of money the law school contributes to the University and the lack of a University explanation of a rationale by which the money retained by the University is determined. The ABA Committee requested that the University President and Dean submit a report by March 12, 2012 which provides in part a rationale for the School of Law’s share of costs for non-law school activities and central administration services and information about any agreement between the Law School and the University regarding a fair process by which the Law School’s contribution to the University for direct and indirect costs will be determined. The day after receipt of the ABA report, I was asked to resign.

I hope US News is reading this, and that it slaps the University of Baltimore back down to 170 and the subsequent drop in law school applications. Perhaps when U of B is hit where it obviously needs help–in its wallet–its Harvard educated President will start investing in law school, and thereby the students, rather than ripping them off and limiting their career opportunities with a mountain load of debt.

(See also “Law School Economics: Ka-ching” in the New York Times on how law school tuition has increased four times the rate of undergraduate tuition, but without any corresponding increase in post-JD compensation…all while we’ve got the biggest recession in legal employment in our history going on).

(h/t Above the Law)

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When truth is stranger than fiction: a revenge plot foiled

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Or at least would make good fiction.

Straight from the pages of the New York Times comes this story about rape, revenge, conspiracy, mistaken identity, and an innocent wrongly accused. It’s definitely good enough for an episode of Castle, if not for one of Dick Wolfe’s many iterations of  Law and Order.

It started when Seemona Sumasar, a young restaurant owner in New York, met Jerry Ramrattan in her restaurant. He said he was a police detective, and they hit it off, began dating, and soon he moved into her place. However, from there the relationship went south. Seemona asked him to move out. Not only would he not, but she claims that he one day cornered her, duck taped her mouth shut, and raped her.

Then it gets weird. After she accused him of rape, and he released on bond, Ramrattan began to get his revenge, sending friends to intimidate her. Not only that, they threatened that he would see her put in jail in his place.

It worked.

One night, Ms. Sumasar was pulled over by the police. Before she could speak, detectives slapped handcuffs on her. “You know you did it,” she said one later shouted at her. “Just admit it.”

Just like that, and suddenly Seemona was a criminal.

Booked on charges of armed robbery, police arrested her “based on what the police said was a wealth of evidence, including credible witness statements and proof that her car was the getaway vehicle.” With bail set at $1 million, the plot would not unravel until just before Sumasar was supposed to go to trial in December of 2010 when a fake witness  finally confessed to the police.

The key to his scheme, prosecutors [of Ramrattan] said, was to spread fake clues over time, fooling police into believing that all the evidence pointed to Ms. Sumasar.

They said he coached the supposed victims, driving them past Ms. Sumasar’s house so that they could describe her Jeep Grand Cherokee and showing them her photo so they could pick her out of a police lineup.

The setup began in September 2009, prosecutors said. An illegal immigrant from Trinidad told the police that he had been handcuffed and robbed of $700 by an Indian woman who was disguised as a police officer and had a gun, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said Mr. Ramrattan had persuaded the immigrant to lie, telling him that he could receive a special visa for victims of violent crimes.

Six months later, another man said he had been robbed in Nassau County by two police impersonators and described the main aggressor as an Indian woman about Ms. Sumasar’s height. The man said he had managed to take down the first three letters of the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s New York license plate — AJD.

The final fake crime was conjured in May 2010, officials said, when an acquaintance of Mr. Ramrattan said she had been held up by a couple posing as police officers. She said they were driving a Grand Cherokee, but she gave a full Florida license plate number.

She said she heard the pair call each other by name — “Seem” and “Elvis.” Elvis was the nickname of another former boyfriend of Ms. Sumasar, who owned the Jeep.

When the police looked into the Florida plate number, they found that the day after the purported March robbery, the title and the plate for the Cherokee had been transferred from Elvis to Ms. Sumasar’s sister in Florida.

Ms. Sumasar, who holds a Florida driver’s license, had driven the car to Florida to register it. To the police, she seemed to be covering her tracks.

 If “[h]ell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” then I don’ t know what you would say about Ramrattan. As a result of his insidious revenge, Seemona has changed her number, uses credit cards instead of cash to provide a papertrail to back her up, and checks with New York State’s Rikers Prison web site each day to assure that Ramrattan has not been released. If Ramrattan’s plot has failed and backfired, he’s still managed to extract a revenge that will continue to haunt Seemona down the road.

Worse, I don’t know what you could say about law enforcement in this case, either. Not only did they get the wrong guy, but they let a ‘Law and Order’ junkie manipulate them into arresting the victim at the perp’s behest. That’s worse than justice blind justice–that’s incompetent justice.

Find the story at “A Revenge Plot So Intricate, the Prosecutors were Pawns” in the New York Times.

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In which I am distracted, and libertarians infiltrate polite society

I’m a bit preoccupied. My Better Half reached her due date yesterday, and we are anxiously awaiting whatever comes next.

So, in the meantime, while I’m trying to get my “head in the game,” here’s some stuff to expand your knowledge and entertain your senses. Or maybe vice-versa. Also, libertarian views on the rise:

  • Said Judge Posner, of an alleged serial spammer’s courtroom presentation. “It’s not only incompetent, it’s grotesque. You’ve got damages jumping around from $11 million to $130 million to $122 million to $33 million. In fact, the damages are probably zero.” Timothy B. Lee at Ars Technica.
  • “Montgomery County officials have allowed the children to reopen their lemonade stand, by relocating it about 100-feet away from the intersection where it was set up Thursday.” This after they fine the tots $500 for their enterprising ways. WUSA9.com
  • Wanna go to Harvard? Apparently the White House is a good stepping stone. “About a half-dozen staffers will begin at the premier law school this fall, bringing a rare skill set, a golden Rolodex and tales of the corridors of power to Harvard Yard. The exodus of the younger White House staffers marks the first major departure of junior aides in the Obama administration.” Politico.
  • This is for you Alex (as you consider forcibly moving your fellow Americans to Somalia): Ilya Somin wonders if the public is becoming more libertarian. “Obviously, the vast majority of the public is not nearly as libertarian as most libertarian activists and intellectuals are. But it does seem to be more libertarian than the median voter of the recent past.” The Volokh Conspiracy.
  • If Ilya ain’t enough for you, the NYT column FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver) is getting in on the action, too, citing a CNN poll that seems to show a shift.

Whether people are as libertarian-minded in practice as they might believe themselves to be when they answer survey questions is another matter. Still, there have been visible shifts in public opinion on a number of issues, ranging from increasing tolerance for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalizationon the one hand, to the skepticism over stimulus packages and the health-care overhaul on the other hand, that can be interpreted as a move toward more libertarian views.

And, just for kicks, here’s a graph:

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A graphical look at the 2012 GOP nomination

FiveThirtyEight, a New York Times blog run by Nate Silver, has an interesting graphic up describing the 2o12 race for the Republican nomination for President. (Don’t forget to vote in the poll at the left )

His data is based on how well the candidates are trading on Intrade. It’s an interesting graphic, and the analysis is interesting, as well:

With that said, it is exceptionally important to consider how the candidates are positioned relative to one another. Too often, I see analyses of candidates that operate through what I’d call a checkbox paradigm, tallying up individual candidates’ strengths and weaknesses but not thinking deeply about how they will compete with one another for votes. If you like, you can think of the circles on my chart as stars or planets that exert gravitational forces on one another, seeking to clear their own safe space in the galaxy while at the same time stealing matter (voters) from their opponents.

There are two more kinds of information embedded in the chart. First, the area of each candidate’s circle is proportional to their perceived likelihood of winning the nomination, according to the Intrade betting market. Mitt Romney’s circle is drawn many times the size of the one for the relatively obscure talk-radio host Herman Cain because Intrade rates Mr. Romney many times as likely to be nominated.

Finally, the color of each circle reflects the region the candidate is from: blue for the Northeast, red for the South, green for the Midwest, and yellow for the West.

What do you think? Is it an accurate look at the field as it currently stands, or are there other considerations that have not been included?

Be sure to check out Nate’s analysis at his blog before you weigh in. Among other things, he thinks that:

  • Senator John Thune‘s chances are “overrated.”
  • If Sarah Palin gets in, she’ll compete with conservative outsiders like Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Jim DeMint for votes.
  • Mitt’s got Jon Huntsman competing with him for votes, not to mention T-Paw and Mitch Daniels
  • and speaking of Tim Pawlenty, his positions are conservative, but his reputation is as a moderate…which makes him hard to peg. Oh, and his personality is “not terribly dynamic.”

Thoughts? Who’s your candidate in 2012?

APROPOS: If you’re pulling for President Obama, one of FiveThirtyEight’s readers left a comment for you on his blog:

I was thinking the same thing. We might, for example, normalize the graph by including President Obama. His circle could be, oh, down the street a few blocks?

(h/t FiveThirtyEight)

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