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Coulter Speaking at Berkeley

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Kent has noted that Ann Coulter will be speaking at Berkeley after all, the University's Chancellor now saying that he has found a "protectable venue."

I write separately about this because of the enormous importance I see in this issue.  My perception was only heightened when I attended the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program's "Disinvitation Dinner" this week in New York City, keynoted by the infamously disinvited Peter Thiel. http://www.businessinsider.com/peter-thiel-chased-off-stage-by-angry-protestors-at-uc-berkeley-2014-12

The blindness and cowardice in so many of our universities is a big part of the problem, but not the main part.  That would be the fascist bullying the universities are called upon to confront  --  but find the task so vexing because of the very ideologically-rooted, hard-edged intolerance they have bred.

The resulting thugs have a name:  Brownshirts.  We have seen them before, and we know where this leads.  It's not just that university needs to find "protectable venues." It's (1) that the university must understand that its whole campus and indeed its whole raison d'etre is to be a "protected venue," and (2) that the protection at some point is going to have to involve the use of substantial physical force against the thugs.  Brownshirts know one language, and it's time we spoke it to them.

Allowing the United States to become 1930's Germany is a price civilization cannot afford. 
Douglas Belkin and Alejandro Lazo report for the WSJ:

Officials at the University of California, Berkeley reversed course Thursday and announced they will allow conservative commentator Ann Coulter to speak at the school next month.

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said the April 27 event was canceled because the school had received "very specific intelligence regarding threats that could pose a grave danger to the speaker, attendees and those who may wish to lawfully protest the event."

But after a search beyond "the usual venues" Dr. Dirks said in a statement that the school "identified an appropriate, protectable venue that is available the afternoon May 2."
I'm not a fan and won't be going to Berkeley for the event.  I called Ms. Coulter "cringe-inducing" on this blog some time back, and nothing since then has changed my view.  Even so, it is central to freedom of speech that we protect the cringe-inducing right along with the erudite and the eloquent.  I hope that U.C. Berkeley has sufficiently robust protection on hand to deal with the anti-free-speech "activists."  It is unfortunate that resources must be diverted for this purpose, but protection of freedom of speech is a priority, and the blame belongs squarely on those who would deny that freedom to people they simply disagree with.
A:  Because it comes up with stuff like this, which, to give you the spoiler, recommends that the prison population be reduced, not by 25% or 50% or 75%, but by 100%.  Yes, we should abolish prison, and come up with......uh, something.

This "analysis" stems from  --  have you heard this before?  --  a "data driven" approach, specifically that taken by the law and economics side of the house, much in vogue at the University of Chicago.  Law and economics is insightful in many ways, and I teach components of it in my course at Georgetown Law.  At some point, however, a sense of modesty must be allowed to intrude.

One of the author's concluding paragraphs leads off with this sentence:

Rather than being locked away to rot, bad actors could be employed productively in the workforce. The gains of that employment could be transferred to victims and governments, while simultaneously serving as a deterrent cost.  And to the extent that monetary transfers cannot achieve optimal deterrence, humankind is capable of inventing alternative nonmonetary sanctions to fill the gap.

Just so.  The usual name for these "alternative nonmonetary sanctions" is "jail."

Law Professors Breaking Bad

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I know from personal experience that adjunct law professors at Georgetown don't make that much, but there have to be better ways to supplement one's income.

Justice Kagan on Justice Scalia

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Yesterday I had the honor of attending the re-naming ceremony for the law school at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia (about 20 minutes from my home)  --  now known as Antonin Scalia Law School.  Among the speakers was Justice Elena Kagan.  I thought she did a brilliant and heartfelt job of summarizing the enormous impact Justice Scalia had on law and judging in the United States.

I told my students at Georgetown Law at the beginning of our class this semester that, fifty years ago, the question I thought most judges would have asked themselves was, "What is the just outcome in this case?"  The question far more frequently has become one that respects democratic self-government:  "What outcome in this case is most faithful to law?"

The change is due principally to the work of Justice Scalia, probably the most intelligent man I have ever known, His acumen is widely recognized; his courage in taking on the existing order isn't so much, but should be.

Justice Kagan's remarks are here.

Confirmation Bias

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It's only human.  If we hear a piece of information that fits with the way we think things are, we are more likely to accept it without scrutiny.  If we hear something that is contrary to our world-view, we are more likely to subject it to scrutiny.

James Taranto at the WSJ and Jonah Bennett at the Daily Caller report on how easy it was to "troll" journalists with a fake story merely by providing a supposed connection between Donald Trump and white supremacists.  Bennett quotes one of the hoaxers:

"Basically, I interspersed various nuggets of truth and exaggerated a lot of things, and sometimes outright lied -- in the interest of making a journalist believe that online Trump supporters are largely a group of meme-jihadis who use a cartoon frog to push Nazi propaganda. Because this was funny to me," Swift told TheDCNF.

"The idea that every major Trump supporter online is secretly a neo-Nazi, for one. I mean, it's just not true. But it's the kind of thing that a journalist will readily believe."

This is why it is so important to have a diversity of viewpoints in both journalism and academia and why it is so dangerous and harmful that both of these professions have a badly skewed distribution.   Claims need to scrutinized whichever side of the aisle they serve, and we would have more thorough and complete scrutiny if we had a better balance of viewpoints.

You Can't Make This Up, Part Eight Zillion

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A prominent legal blog has this entry:  "Why Capital Punishment Is No Punishment at All."  I'll quote the entry verbatim:

Capital punishment has generated an incredible amount of public debate.  Is the practice constitutional?  Does it deter crime?  Is it humane?  Supporters and opponents of capital punishment disagree on all of these issues and many more. There is perhaps only one thing that unites these two camps: the belief that the death penalty is society's most severe punishment.

In this Article, I argue that this belief is mistaken. Capital punishment is not at the top of the punishment hierarchy.  In fact, it is no punishment at all.  My argument builds from a basic conception of punishment endorsed by the Supreme Court: for something to qualify as a punishment, it must be bad, in some way, for the person who is punished.  By drawing upon the philosophical literature regarding death, I show that this is not the case.  Contrary to our intuitions, the death penalty is not bad, in any way, for a condemned criminal.

This conclusion should not be understood to suggest that death is never bad. In most circumstances, death is bad.  There are, however, situations in which it is not, and capital punishment, as employed in the United States penal system, is one such situation.  By showing that capital punishment is not bad for the condemned criminal, I provide a strong constitutional objection to the practice.

Gads, why hasn't the ACLU thought of this?  Capital punishment is unconstitutional because being put to death is "no punishment at all"!!!

Many astute writers about criminal justice pride themselves on analysis of data.  This is fine (as long as the data aren't intentionally skewed to omit inconvenient facts). Numbers can tell us a lot  --  for example, that shootings of police officers are markedly up this year, that murder is spiking in dozens of cities, and that heroin trafficking and related overdose deaths have reached epidemic levels.

The other side of the coin is that "data," even when considered honestly, can be used to create a miles-deep fog of what academics tell us is a "nuanced" and "careful" analysis.  Such analysis, we are lectured, is in contrast to the screeching of wahoos, cowboys and assorted brickheads who, in their Trailer Park way, have become alarmed about crime and think that punishment and incapacitation are warranted.

Every now and again, it's useful to clear away the academic fog to recall what it's being used to obscure.  This is one such story, taken not from the annals of death penalty arguments, buy merely from the inner section of yesterday's Washington Post.  The whole mind-bending article about a random savage murder is a revelation, but this is the paragraph that caught my eye (emphasis added):

[P]olice called to the scene discovered William Bennett's body, but [defendants] Roberts and Bowman had moved Cynthia Bennett, then 55, behind a fence and she lay unconscious for 45 minutes before she was spotted. Howard David Reines, a trauma surgeon at Inova Fairfax Hospital, testified in 2011 that Cynthia Bennett suffered cuts and broken bones in her face and around her eyes, one ear was partially torn off, she had a severe injury to her pelvic area and she lost more than five quarts of blood through the wound in her lower body before doctors could halt the bleeding. "In 30 years, I don't think I've ever quite seen anything like it," he said.

This is the kind of stuff crime victims live with.  Good luck finding a word about it on SSRN.


The Mother of All Corrections

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Not directly on topic, but too good to pass up.

Several years ago, the American Journal of Political Science published what became an oft-cited study showing a correlation between conservative political ideology and authoritarian/psychotic tendencies.  It now turns out that the authors had their codings for liberals and conservatives "exactly reversed," to quote their language.  In other words, it's the liberals who are (per the study) more likely to be authoritarian nuts.

For those of us accused of being conservative, authoritarian headcases, this was the laugh of the day.

The full story is here.

The New Fascism Smears Antonin Scalia

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I wrote earlier today about BLM's fascist takedown of a Dartmouth student bulletin board honoring the sacrifices of police officers.  Diversity of opinion, once seen as a staple of liberal higher education, seems no longer to be in vogue, as least if the dissenters look kindly on police heroism (as even Barack Obama does, to his considerable credit).  

Thus, as Kent noted, there is a controversy, to put it mildly, about re-naming George Mason Law School for Justice Scalia.  The Koch Foundation, with which I disagree about sentencing reform, made the astoundingly generous offer of $10,000,000 to endow scholarships at the re-named School.  One of them would go to students who have "overcome barriers to academic success, demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, or have helped others overcome discrimination in any facet of life."

That the Koch Foundation made this offer to honor a brilliant but conservative Justice is too much for some faculty to bear.  John Hinderaker describes the leader of the resistance as a "cultural studies professor" who

...engages in "community organizing around housing access, social movements for trans justice and prison abolition, and queer anarchist anti-war activism." Naturally, he is also the faculty adviser to GMU Students Against Israeli Apartheid."

As my father told me, thank God for your enemies.

Read John's enlightening essay here.
Jonathan Adler has this post at the Volokh Conspiracy, "On the ridiculous controversy over changing the name of the George Mason University School of Law," i.e., to rename it in honor of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Adler lays out well why the controversy is ridiculous, and I recommend his discussion.  I was particularly struck by this statement:

Faculty from unaffiliated departments, such as art history, "cultural studies," and others (notably excluding economics, mathematics, and the physical sciences), began a campaign in the Faculty Senate to pass a resolution urging the university administration and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to delay acceptance of the gifts.
Why this striking difference by department?  It tends to confirm what I have long suspected.  There is a negative correlation between the extent to which a field of study is tied to objective reality and subject to experimental verification or falsification (i.e., real science, whether physical or social) and the degree of loony leftism in the faculty.  Lefty loons are attracted to subjects where they can't be objectively proved wrong.  It's easier to spread B.S. in such subjects.  (And no, I don't mean Bachelor of Science).

Black Lives Matter, the New Fascism

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The cleansing of conservative ideas from academia reached new lows this last week at Dartmouth, where campus Republicans, having sought and secured permission, used a college bulletin board to put up their display, "Blue Lives Matter."  It was designed to honor, during National Police Week (May 15-21) the sacrifices of police officers.

This was too much for Black Lives Matter hooligans, who tore it down.  In its place, about three dozen sheets of paper were pasted up, all carrying the message: "YOU CANNOT CO-OPT THE MOVEMENT AGAINST STATE VIOLENCE TO MEMORIALIZE THE PERPETRATORS." At the bottom, each sheet also had the hashtag "#blacklivesmatter."

The Dartmouth Review has the story, complete with timeline.

To my knowledge, Dartmouth administrators have taken no action against the BLM bullies, and have instead warned the College Republicans not to attempt to reconstruct their display on the bulletin board  --  the one they spent weeks reserving.

I won't go into the fact that the police have done vastly more to save black lives than all the Dartmouth strongarms put together.  I will simply note that, if we want a glimpse at how fascism gets started, BLM is doing us a favor.

A Tale of Two Philadelphia Universities

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As recounted here, CIA Director John Brennan was shouted down last Friday as he attempted to speak at a University of Pennsylvania forum about national security. This is becoming a typical tactic of liberal fascism, taken straight from the Sixties mold.  You will not be surprised to learn that the SDS and BLM were at the heart of it.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a different school in the Philadelphia area, Villanova Law School, hosted a Federalist Society debate between Prof. Steve Chanenson and yours truly.  The topic was sentencing reform.

Even though that's a hot topic, often said to have racial overtones, there were no interruptions. Instead, there was a large, attentive and polite audience full of questions.  Prof. Chanenson gave a wonderfully thoughtful and informative presentation.  Undoubtedly Pennsylvania's leading expert on sentencing, he explained the contours of the difference between those favoring more discretion and those (like me) favoring the present, more rule-oriented system.

Penn, my father's alma mater, is a top-notch school.  I can only hope its Law School Dean, Theodore Ruger, will mete out serious discipline to those who want to end free speech on campus and impose lockstep obedience to the Left's one-size-fits-all anti-American agenda.  In the meantime, I'm grateful to Prof. Chanenson and the Villanova Federalist Society for moving forward in the best traditions of academic freedom and the marketplace of ideas.
In some corners of the Bizarro World of left-wing academia, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are limited to expression of Politically Correct ideas.  What do you call it when a Politically Incorrect student journalist tries to cover a protest, and a professor of communications, no less, calls for "some muscle" to forcibly remove him?  The City of Columbia prosecutor calls it assault in the third degree.

Erik Wemple, media blogger for the WaPo, reports:

Melissa Click, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri, has been charged with third-degree assault by the city of Columbia prosecutor's office, an assistant at that office confirmed today to the Erik Wemple Blog. The arrest comes months after Click was captured on video asking for "some muscle" to counter a student journalist at a November protest at the university. She also pushed the student journalist's camera.

Spinning the Murder Surge

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Heather MacDonald has this op-ed in the WSJ exposing the Brennan Center's attempts to paper over the rise in murders and the "Ferguson effect."  An 11% rise in homicides in a single year is a horrifying spike, but MacDonald notes how the Brennan Center soft-pedals it, and several media outlets join in a subjective classification of the rise as "slight" etc. without giving their readers the benefit of the actual number.

The puzzle is why these progressives are so intent on denying that such depolicing is occurring and that it is affecting public safety.

   The answer lies in the enduring commitment of antipolice progressives to the "root causes" theory of crime. The Brennan Center study closes by hypothesizing that lower incomes, higher poverty rates, falling populations and high unemployment are driving the rising murder rates in Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis. But those aspects of urban life haven't dramatically worsened over the past year and a half. What has changed is the climate for law enforcement.
The fact that spin from an ideologically driven organization like the Brennan Center has gotten as much credence as it has in the press is a symptom of a major problem in American society.  There is a gross imbalance in the number and funding of nonprofit organizations interested in crime issues.  The Manhattan Institute (where MacDonald works) and CJLF are outnumbered and outspent by the Brennan Center, the Marshall Project, the Urban Institute, the Pew organizations, the Death Penalty Information Center, and on and on.  [Hint:  If an organization is named for one of the two most pro-criminal Supreme Court Justices in American history, it is not a neutral source of information.]  The capacity of these organizations to pump out reports that seem to support the leftist agenda but do not hold up to examination exceeds the capacity of organizations of contrary viewpoints to make and publicize the examinations.

In addition, both the press and academia are populated by people whose spectrum of viewpoints is shifted at least one sigma left of the American median, if not two.  Assertions that fit with the general set of assumptions of the left simply do not get as much scrutiny as those that run contrary to those assumptions.

This combination of factors produces a dangerous situation where spin goes insufficiently challenged.  If such spin leads to wrong policies in matters of life and death, the potential consequences are grave indeed.

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