Wednesday, November 20, 2002


Ron Couch e-mailed the following in response to the post below on law school debt:

As a lawyer let me tell you it took forever to pay off my student loans after law school.  I worked for Legal Aid for quite a while.
One interesting thing I think, is that as a Viet. era vet. I was eligible for VA benefits which I used completely up before finishing law school.  However, my VA benefits were significantly less (in real value) than my father's who was a WWII vet.  Of more interest to me is that the people who are now serving have less benefits than I did.  All this while we increase funding for the "military," while cutting benefits for those who actually serve.

Shortly after receiving that, I read about this U.S. Court of Appeals decision (via Blah3):

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal appeals court Tuesday ruled that the U.S. government does not owe free lifetime medical care to World War II and Korean War veterans who agreed to serve 20 years in exchange, despite promises made to them when they were in the armed forces.

The ruling represents a victory for the federal government, which had argued the veterans were not entitled to the benefits. The ruling will potentially save the government billions of dollars in health care costs.

This is what it means to have President George W. Bush, folks. It means we now have an administration that celebrates "a victory" when it breaks a promise made to veterans who fought for America. The "billions" thereby saved will go to fund future cuts in the estate tax -- a transfer of wealth that denies medical care to those who served their country in order to place more cash in the hands of the heirs of multi-millionaires. This is dishonorable, unpatriotic, anti-American. George W. Bush might as well shred Old Glory and use it for toilet paper.

Here's part of the dissent, written by the four justices who lived up to that title and believed the United States ought to be as good as its word:

If Congress can appropriate billions for this aspect of national defense and not know how it is accounted for, then God save the Republic. Of course Congress knew; of course the service secretaries authorized promises in return for service; of course these military officers served until retirement in reliance, and of course there is a moral obligation to these men.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =


Please. On behalf of yourself and every American veteran, and on behalf of those of us who never served, but who want to see our veterans honored and not abandoned, I ask you to serve your country one more time.

As a war hero and veteran, a prominent Republican, and (unlike John McCain) a man retired from political ambition, you are perhaps uniquely qualified for an urgent task. Please arrange a private, face-to-face meeting with President Bush. Talk to him about cutting benefits for veterans. Talk to him about this memo instructing staff in the Department of Veterans Affairs not to help vets get the benefits entitled to them. Talk to him about his recent "victory' authorizing the breaking of promises made to veterans who enlisted in good faith.

And then, Mr. Dole, on behalf of yourself and every American veteran, kick his ass.
posted by Fred Clark 4:03 PM

Tuesday, November 19, 2002


(A tangential post in which the slacktivist reveals his penchant for role-playing games, and his extreme frustration with the incompetence of MacPlay's misnamed "support" team.)

The following propaganda is complete balderdash (or Baldur'sdash). MacPlay seems utterly at sea and confused by OS X.

And if you’re running Mac OS X on your computer right now, you’ll be glad to hear that Baldur’s Gate II will run on Apple’s operating system of the future without a hitch. That’s important to [MacPlay president Diane] Zammit, who says that “Mac OS X is the catalyst that will transform gaming on the Macintosh. The most computer-taxing games require an advanced operating system to really shine.”

Perhaps Ms. Zammit can help me get this game to work on my OS X computer, but no one else from MacPlay seems to have a clue. I've been at this for more than a month, and no one from MacPlay support has offered a single helpful suggestion.

If they would just send an e-mail reading: "Ha Ha Ha! We have your $50 and now you're screwed, sucker!" I would at least know to stop wasting my time trying to get this game to work.

In the meantime, if anyone is contemplating buying anything from Bioware or MacPlay, I have just one thing to say to you:

An assertion failed in ChDimm.cpp at line number 645
Programmer says: Unable to open BIF:data:MISSound.bif.

Just read that over and over and over for a few weeks. This is MacPlay's idea of "gaming."

(And if anybody has any idea how to fix this, pleeeeease contact me. Thanks.)

posted by Fred Clark 2:43 AM

Monday, November 18, 2002


Samuel Hahanel's AP story, discussed below, also includes this disturbing note:

The need to pay off student loans discourages doctors from going to rural communities or inner-city hospitals. A chronic teacher shortage has led some states to consider ways to help teaching-education students pay off college debts.

The student loan agency Nellie Mae says the average college graduate's student-loan debt has reached at least $19,400. In addition, figures for 2000 showed that graduates had average credit card debt of around $2,750.

That $2,750 in credit card debt may prove harder to pay off than the $19,400 in student loan debt. The interest on credit card debt -- thanks to Delawhore -- is nearly unlimited. Send even one payment late and you could be looking at interest in excess of 20 percent.

Credit card companies work hard to snare college students with as much debt as possible. Campuses are wall-papered with advertisements -- many bordering on fraudulent with bait-and-switch, virtually nonexistent, lower-than-really-available rates -- designed to convince students that credit cards are fast, easy and convenient.

The omnipresence of these offers -- and the disheartening number of students taken in by them -- is a severe threat to any institution truly dedicated to education. Thousands of dollars of credit card debt limits the horizons and career prospects of future graduates. It can even force some students to withdraw from school before graduation. The insistent, unthinking consumerism promoted by these advertisements corrodes and undermines whatever message a school may otherwise promote about any purpose of education more noble than "this degree will help you buy more stuff."

IF YOU ARE A PROFESSOR at a college or university, you have a duty -- to your students, to your institution and to yourself -- to tear down these credit card offers and advertisements. Rip them up. Throw them out.

If you profess anything beyond "mo' money," you'll help to protect your students and learning itself from the corrosive presence of these offers.

IF YOU ARE A COLLEGE STUDENT then for God's sake fight back. This is self-defense. Tear them down. Burn them. Use megaphones if you must, this is your future we're talking about here.

posted by Fred Clark 2:34 PM


Samuel Hahanel of the AP reports:

Most new lawyers won't consider working for government or public advocacy groups because their need for money to pay off massive student loans leads them to the more lucrative private sector, a study being released Monday found.

Legal education debt, which tops $84,000 for the average new lawyer, prevents 66 percent of law students from taking public interest jobs, according to the joint study by Equal Justice Works, the National Association for Law Placement and the Partnership for Public Service. The Washington-based groups promote public interest work.

Tuition for law schools -- like tuition for most private undergraduate colleges and universities -- is out of control, spiraling upwards at two or three times the rate of inflation. The median cost of law school is about $23,000 a year. And since most people don't have $23,000 sitting around, more than 94 percent of future lawyers end up going into debt to finance their education.

And, Hahanel reports, lawyers aren't alone:

The need to pay off student loans discourages doctors from going to rural communities or inner-city hospitals. A chronic teacher shortage has led some states to consider ways to help teaching-education students pay off college debts.

Education debt curtails the options available to graduates -- and therefore limits the benefits of that education, both for those graduates and for the society into which they are graduating. This system -- high tuition, loans, high debt -- virtually guarantees that no one with an education will put that education to use for any larger good than paying back those loans. This means that a great deal that is desirable and necessary in our society will go undone, for no one can afford to do it.

Graduates become indentured servants. The idea of "higher education" is sold to young people as a means of enabling them "to get a good job" (already a stunted, warped notion of education) -- but ultimately, this system of leveraged education means that graduates must "get a good job" -- or else.

According to Hahanel:

The median starting salary last year at private law firms, was $90,000. By contrast, public interest groups pay new graduates about $35,000, while government pays $40,000 to $45,000.

That means the 94 percent of new lawyers with education debt literally cannot afford to serve the public interest. Of course you might argue that a new graduate could take one of those startlingly lucrative private jobs and, by living frugally, pay down their debt in a few years after graduating, after which they could afford public service. Perhaps -- but education continues long after graduation, and everything those young lawyers are taught during their time at the $90,000/year law firm weighs against them ever serving the public interest (and, for that matter, against them ever living frugally). The pedagogy of such a law firm -- where entry-level attorneys earn close to six-figures -- is a powerful thing, and it is not a force for good in America.

The study Hahanel cites "encourages law schools and employers to create programs to help students who choose public service pay back loans in their lower-paying jobs."

That's a lovely sentiment, but "law schools" have no incentive, and public service "employers" lack the means, to create such programs. Many law schools do offer LRAPS -- "loan repayment assistance programs" (see here for a list) -- but since those schools rely on donations from wealthy alumni, it's not really in their financial interest to spend money to encourage future alumni to be less wealthy. (It is a part of the reason why such schools exist in the first place, but most have forgotten that.)

The public interest is exactly that -- the public interest -- and should therefore be supported by the public.

For much more on this topic, visit Equal Justice Works, the Web site of the National Association for Public Interest Law.

posted by Fred Clark 2:08 PM

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