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The Left Goes Bonkers, Part II

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In my original "The Left Goes Bonkers," I described a theory that the Just Compensation Clause entitles criminals to whitewash their record and fabricate their resumes' by just making stuff up (or composing "from whole cloth," as the theorist candidly acknowledged).

I had no idea that, instead of merely whitewashing one's prior stint in prison, the Left would come up with the idea of whitewashing  --  or more correctly, eliminating altogether  --  prison itself.

And no, I am not making this up.  The idea is advanced by Prof. Allegra McLeod of Georgetown University Law Center.  If Prof. McLeod has missed a single liberal shibboleth, I haven't been able to think of it.  Below is one paragraph from the abstract of her piece (courtesy of SL&P):

[T]his Article explores a form of grounded preventive justice neglected in existing scholarly, legal, and policy accounts. Grounded preventive justice offers a positive substitutive account of abolition that aims to displace criminal law enforcement through meaningful justice reinvestment to strengthen the social arm of the state and improve human welfare.  This positive substitutive abolitionist framework would operate by expanding social projects to prevent the need for carceral responses, decriminalizing less serious infractions, improving the design of spaces and products to reduce opportunities for offending, redeveloping and "greening" urban spaces, proliferating restorative forms of redress, and creating both safe harbors for individuals at risk of or fleeing violence and alternative livelihoods for persons subject to criminal law enforcement.  By exploring prison abolition and grounded preventive justice in tandem, this Article offers a positive ethical, legal, and institutional framework for conceptualizing abolition, crime prevention, and grounded justice together.

I am seldom left speechless, but this time...................




Academia, Still Stark Raving Mad

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Law eventually will go where elite academia goes, which is why I do occasional entries on the latter. The following story about academia is a classic, so to speak. It's titled, "Columbia Students Claim Greek Mythology Needs a Trigger Warning":


The Greek myth [the Rape of Persephone] has been recounted for thousands of years in hundreds of languages, scores of countries and countless works of art. It's considered a cultural touchstone for Western civilization: a parable about power, lust and grief.

Now, however, it could be getting a treatment it's never had before: a trigger warning.

In an op-ed in the student newspaper, four Columbia University undergrads have called on the school to implement trigger warnings -- alerts about potentially distressing material -- even for classics like Greek mythology or Roman poetry.

"Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom," wrote the four students, who are members of Columbia's Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board. "These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background."


And no, I am not making this up.  I couldn't make it up.



Satire vs. Reality

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Kent posted earlier today about how difficult it has become to tell satire from reality. His subject was what remains of freedom of speech on campus.

In a matter of hours, I stumbled across the following.  It's from a New Age piece about how we can fix inequality.  The basic suggestion is that we should abolish the family, since childhood experience tells much of the tale about where a kid will wind up, and where he winds up is likely to be unequal to where some other kid winds up. And no, this is not something I imagined.  Unfortunately, it's not satire, either:

One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.'

'What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn't need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people's children'. . .

'The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don't--the difference in their life chances--is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don't,' he says.

This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion--that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted.

This kind of stuff is enough to make Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby look sober.

Education Today

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Here is a news item pointed out by Eugene Volokh:

BOSTON--Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college's academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. "As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it's inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion," said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus. "Whether it's a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here." Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.
This is, of course, satire.  The report is from the Onion.  But it is only one step more absurd than reality.

Academia, Still Stark Raving Mad

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About four months ago, I discussed demands by law students at Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown law schools (full disclosure:  I teach part time at Georgetown) for a postponement of exams because of the "trauma" they were experiencing from a couple of news stories, most prominently the failure to indict Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson for murder.  (The fact that he had not committed murder or any other crime was not considered particularly relevant).

In the class I teach, I will generally say something or other about gathering evidence before charging people with crimes.  I even occasionally mention the tiresome requirements of due process.  But I tend to be behind the times.

My anachronistic view of teaching law was highlighted again today by this story:  "If you help Freddie Gray protesters in Baltimore, you can defer an exam."

Jihad Wins on Campus

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Most readers will remember the liberal reaction to 9-11:  If the country goes overboard with restrictions on liberty, the Jihadists will have won.  Yes, we need to act, we need to protect ourselves, but we also need to remember that what they hate most about us is our freedom.  They cannot defeat us with weapons.  But if we start to whittle away our own liberties, if we close our minds, that is their victory.

Remember that?

Freedom of thought and speech was once thought to be most treasured, and most fiercely protected, on campus.  If there were any place where the chill of the post 9-11 world could be fought off, it would be there.

Well, not exactly.  The American campus has become the stronghold of intolerance  --  intolerance, but with a twist.

The State of Legal Scholarship

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Prof. Dorothy Brown of Emory has this op-ed in the WaPo, headlined "Law schools are in a death spiral. Maybe now they'll finally change."  The article includes this passage:

While law firms can fire lawyers, law schools cannot cut their largest expense: faculty. Most faculty have tenure, which equals lifetime job protection -- as long as the school remains open. While faculty could be part of the solution to legal education's woes, we are actually the problem.

Legal scholarship is in a terrible state, with counter-intuitive incentives for faculty. Status comes with publishing, but more publishing means less teaching and interacting with fewer students. In the legal academy, second- and third-year law students select which law professors' articles to publish; while my second and third years are brilliant, they cannot select for quality the same way experts would. But even if you think the student-run system is fine, the value of legal scholarship, which is rarely read, has its skeptics, among them Chief Justice John Roberts. Scholars at the University of Florida argue in a recent study that very few articles are cited for their ideas. This broken system is also subsidized disproportionately by the tuition dollars of poorer law students.
As additional, huge problem that is neither mentioned by Brown nor considered in the notorious USN&WR rankings is a lack of diversity of viewpoint.  When students hear nothing but one side of controversial issues for their entire time in school, what you have is not true education but Maoist indoctrination in the guise of education.  When the academic consensus on any issue with political overtones can be predicted with 100% certainty merely by identifying the Politically Correct position, the consensus no longer means anything.

A Safer Country, Credibly Reported by the NYT

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I have not been shy about criticizing editorial stands in the New York Times, most recently its decision to label as "self-pitying" the NYPD's attitude of disgust with the dalliance between Mayor de Blasio and vitriolic enemies of the police, including but hardly limited to Al Sharpton.  The Times used the adjective "self-pitying" to describe the NYPD before the second murdered officer, Wenjian Liu, was even buried.  At that time and under those circumstances, I considered, and still consider, applying the label "self-pitying" to Liu's brothers on the force somewhere between callous and vile.

But credit must be given where due.  Yesterday, Erik Eckholm published a piece in that self-same NY Times noting that, with crime down so much over the last generation, some prominent people in both parties have started to think about reducing prison costs. Not surprisingly, the piece gives most of its attention to those who favor incarceration and sentencing reforms.  Still, when Mr. Eckholm spoke with me in preparing the story, I found him fair and patient, and he correctly quotes me in the article as saying, "When people are incarcerated, they're not out on the street to ransack your home or sell drugs to your high school kid."  I thought that was an apt quotation, summarizing the intuitive reason most people understand that more incarceration means less crime  -- something that has been reliably true for at least the last 50 years.

One quite useful item in the article is a sidebar graph showing the staggering crime decreases since the peak year, 1991.  It was, of course, the early Nineties when the determinate (and tougher) federal sentencing system of the Reagan era  --  copied in many states  --  started to kick in.  More criminals stayed in jail longer.

For those who want to believe that there's only an ineffably mysterious relationship between the amount of crime we get on the street and the number of criminals we take off the street  --  hey, go for it.  There is nothing I'll be able to do to change your mind.

Being Believed and the Virginia Rape Hoax

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University of Virginia Professor and Hoover Institution Fellow James Ceaser has an insightful piece in the Weekly Standard on the disgraceful "journalism" and  -- let's face it  --  copious lying that went on in the Rolling Stone's reporting of a gang rape. It's a rape that, I have come to believe from the available evidence, is a 100% hoax. It is, in that respect, like the Duke lacrosse rape hoax of a few years back: It's not just that the rape did not occur as reported; it's that it never occurred, period.  

Kent noted in this post that rape is a serious, ugly crime, and that its victims deserve justice.  I could scarcely agree more.  

What has happened in this episode shows at least two things are needed to start down the path to justice:  Go to the police instead of Rolling Stone, and tell the truth.

And one more thing.  Going on a date is not rape, getting offended is not rape, and being groped is not rape (although it is a battery).  Intercourse without consent is rape.  Words have meanings, and credibility depends upon respecting this fact.

Academia, Stark Raving Mad

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I am seldom left speechless by the incantation of brain-dead platitudes by our friends on the Left  --  having grown accustomed to them  --  but this letter from a Harvard Law student has done me in. 

The gist of the letter is that law student demands for a postponement of exams to give them time to "recover" from the "trauma" of the events in Ferguson and Staten Island, and the grand juries' decisions not to indict the police officers involved, is not a sign of weakness but of strength.

If I attempted to paraphrase this mishmash of psychobabble and Marxism, I would be accused of trying to make its author look bad.  And it's not that I wouldn't be tempted, let me tell you; it's that I lack the ability.  On the other hand, I doubt anyone has the ability.
...because the alternatives, Yale and Harvard, have come out with this nonsense op-ed. Stanford has not....at least not yet.

The Yale and Harvard piece, penned by the deans of each school, is so fatuous it's hard to know where to start.  

It begins with this:

In the wake of the recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island, outrage and despair are reverberating across the nation, including at the law schools where we teach. Many of our students are struggling to reconcile their ideals of justice with what they perceive as manifest injustices in the criminal law system.

What is the documentation for the claim that "outrage and despair are reverberating across the nation?"  That Mother Jones is beside itself?  And are Yale and Harvard students so out of it that they discovered just this week that there are "manifest injustices in the criminal law system?"  Did they miss the OJ acquittal?  Were they underground when a jury let Casey Anthony get away with offing her daughter? Were they studying abroad when one state or another abandoned the death penalty for even the most grotesque crimes, and against the wishes of the voters?
Steve Hayward has a short response to Columbia Law School's decision to allow students to postpone their exams if they feel too "traumatized" by the grand jury no-bills is Ferguson and Staten Island:

Paul [Mirengoff's] two posts on the tender mercies our colleges are showing to traumatized students being excused from exams sent me back to the wisdom of my mentor M. Stanton Evans, who liked to remind young people:

"My generation had it much rougher than yours. Our malls weren't covered. We didn't have remotes so we had to get up and change the channel and we had to go through the whole Goldwater defeat without grief counselors."

Oh, the Sensitivity of It All...

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I wish this were parody.  It isn't.

Columbia Law School has allowed students to postpone their exams because of the "trauma" of the non-indictments in the Ferguson and Staten Island cases, in which policemen killed two unarmed black men in the process of trying to arrest them. The Wall Street Journal has the story.

If memory serves, this Law School is part of the same Columbia University that has hired police killer Kathy Boudin as a professor.  I wonder if the students in her class are "traumatized" and free from exam taking.

Academia Unhinged, Once Again

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One of the reasons I enjoy teaching is that allows me to look at the strange and wily land that exists inside the academic bubble.  To say it's disconnected from the real world doesn't even begin to catch it.

Today I noticed, on SL&P, an entry titled, "We should stop putting women in jail. For anything."

The essay, by a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, makes exactly the case stated in its title.  But the extent to which it goes to paint criminals as victims is remarkable even by the bizarre standards of academic life.  Sample:

What purpose is served by subjecting the most disempowered, abused and nonviolent women to the perpetually negative environment of prisons?

Ummm.....well......to punish them for crimes they committed?  To deter them? How about this juicy case?  Ripe for a stiff term of community service?

Plus, you gotta love phrases like, "the negative environment of prisons."

I took after Prof. Margareth Etienne for her Twilight Zone argument that the SCOTUS denied cert in the acquitted conduct case because it wanted a murkier case to announce a broader rule  --  notwithstanding the there's nothing like a majority for the narrower rule.  But this one might have Prof. Etienne beat.

P.S.  Someone should remind this professor that there might be an Equal Protection problem if men can get imprisoned but, categorically, women can't.

Hypocrisy Unbound: Welcome to Harvard

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The CBS radio station in Boston has the following report about Harvard University, well-known source of bellowing about invasions of privacy and spying out of control:

A research project at Harvard University is causing a lot of controversy this morning. The school has acknowledged that it secretly photographed more than 2,000 students in 10 lecture halls as part of a study on classroom attendance. During a meeting Tuesday night, Peter K. Bol, Harvard's vice provost for advances in learning, said that researchers in the Initiative for Learning and Teaching, which Bol oversees, installed the cameras last spring as a way to track attendance. The cameras would snap pictures of students and a computer would scan the images. The names of students whose images were taken have not been released but the revelation has a lot of people talking.

Yes, well, I'll just bet it "has a lot of people talking."

This is a good one to remember next time we hear some Ivy League symposium about how the NSA, which unlike Harvard has at least a modicum of interest in the nation's security, is stripping us of our "civil liberties." 

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