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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.

Is Prison Criminogenic?

I've been debating for years the question whether prison is criminogenic, i.e., whether imprisonment increases crime.  Doug Berman, among others, has consistently said that prison is indeed criminogenic; I take the opposite view.  I think the evidence is overwhelming that imprisonment decreases crime.

One of the things I like about Doug is that he'll do something most other defense-inclined bloggers won't  -- post evidence contrary to his view.  He has done so again today in this entry (emphasis added):

Whether punishment promotes or deters future criminal activity by the convicted offender is a key public policy concern. Longer prison sentences further isolate offenders from the legitimate labor force and may promote the formation of criminal networks in prison.  On the other hand, greater initial punishment may have a deterrence effect on the individual being punished, sometimes called "specific deterrence," through learning or the rehabilitative effect of prison.

We test the effect of prison sentence length on recidivism by exploiting a unique quasi-experimental design from adult sentences within a courthouse in Seattle, Washington.  Offenders who plead guilty are randomly assigned to a sentencing judge, which leads to random differences in prison sentence length depending on the sentencing judge's proclivities. We find that one-month extra prison sentence reduces the rate of recidivism by about one percentage point, with possibly larger effects for those with limited criminal histories. However, the reduction in recidivism comes almost entirely in the first year of release, which we interpret as consistent with prison's rehabilitative role.

That's one item, but the argument that prison reduces crime is far more robust than that.

Race Huckstering Goes Over the Edge

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You might think this story is from the Onion, but, regrettably, it's not:

The Black Student Union at Lebanon Valley College has made a number of demands of the college, and one is prompting considerable backlash. The students want the college to rename Lynch Memorial Hall, PennLive reported. The building is named for Clyde A. Lynch (right), an alumnus who was president of the college from 1932 to 1950, and who died in office. He is credited with helping to keep the college functioning and growing during the Depression, no easy task for a small college without a large endowment. Students who are pushing for the name change say that the name "Lynch" has racist associations because of lynching. 

Memo to the Attorney General:  Please change your name to Loretta Smith.

Studies, Experts, and Other Baloney

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Kent posted an admonition to take with a grain of salt (or maybe ten grains) any solemn pronouncement you hear or read in which "experts" release a "study" that shows X.

As usual, Kent nails it.  Academia, including legal academia, is chock full of largely self-annointed (and media-annointed) "experts" with one thing in common: a Leftist and pro-criminal bias.  This is not uniformly true (for example, see Prof. John Pfaff's work noted by Steve Erickson here, or Campbell Law Prof. Zach Bolitho), but a pro-criminal bias is endemic in both law schools and think tanks.

What this brought to mind was a bunch of "experts" often cited in the liberal press, such as the Washington Post (just today) and the New York Times.  That would be the Brennan Center operating out of New York City.

The Brennan Center is to incarceration what the DPIC is to the death penalty:  An organization that fronts itself as a source of information while making less prominent its actual purpose  --  to crusade for the interests of criminals.  This is very much why it is sought out for its "expert" views (while CJLF occupies Linda Greenhouse's doghouse and, according to her, should be shunned).

It was the Brennan Center that discovered, contrary to the findings of every credible researcher who has looked at the question (not to mention common sense), that the country's markedly increased willingness over the last generation to incarcerate people who commit crime has had next to nothing to do with the marked decrease in crime.  I covered the Brennan Center's preposterous "study" here.  

WaPo fact checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee had this article Thursday on President Obama's various statements after mass shootings, which are not fully consistent with each other or with the facts.  The article also has a cautionary nugget about what "experts say" and what "studies show."

Mr. Obama gets the maximum Four Pinocchios (reserved for "whoppers") for his December 1 statement in Paris, "I say this every time we've got one of these mass shootings: This just doesn't happen in other countries."  Wow.

The President's other, more nuanced statements about the relative frequency of such incidents get the milder Two Pinocchio rating ("significant omissions and/or exaggerations").  To check the facts, Ms. Lee consults experts Adam Lankford and John Lott and gets very different answers.

Astute readers might notice how Lankford and Lott both compared the United States to grouped European countries, but their conclusions are vastly different. Lott says the rate is about the same, while Lankford says the rate is five times higher in the United States. How is this possible? The researchers are looking at different sets of years and different sets of countries. (Lott looked at Europe as a whole; Lankford at the European Union.) Lott uses a broader measure of mass shootings than Lankford does. Lankford looks at the number of shooters; Lott uses fatalities and shooting incidents. This is an example of how the data and definition can be adjusted to show different findings about mass shootings, even using a per capita rate.
Lots and lots of choices have to be made in setting up a study, many seemingly benign in themselves.  If a person wants to reach a particular result, it is easy as pie to run the numbers 16 different ways, pick the way that best supports your agenda, and throw the others in the trash.

This is why the viewpoint one-sidedness of American academia and the well-funded nonprofits is so very dangerous.  The truth comes out much more clearly when there are people on both sides doing these kinds of studies, but academic conservatives are an endangered species, and those who do "come out" are targeted by neo-McCarthyists determined to achieve ideological purity.

Be very, very skeptical about what "studies show" and "experts say."  

In Praise of Boring Words

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James Hagerty at the WSJ has this story on what is apparently the latest stupid fad in education:

English teachers were once satisfied if they could prevent their pupils from splitting infinitives. Now some also want to stop them from using words like "good," "bad," "fun" and "said."

"We call them dead words," said (or declared) Leilen Shelton, a middle school teacher in Costa Mesa, Calif. She and many others strive to purge pupils' compositions of words deemed vague or dull.

"There are so many more sophisticated, rich words to use," said (or affirmed) Ms. Shelton, whose manual "Banish Boring Words" has sold nearly 80,000 copies since 2009.

Her pupils know better than to use a boring word like "said." As Ms. Shelton put it, " 'Said' doesn't have any emotion. You might use barked. Maybe howled. Demanded. Cackled. I have a list."
I thought about posting a refutation of this nonsense but haven't have time.  Fortunately, Alexandra Petri at the WaPo comes to the rescue.
 Melissa Korn and Douglas Belkin report in the WSJ:

Student protests over racial grievances on college campuses gained momentum this past week, but they also generated a backlash among classmates who believe protesters' tactics are creating an atmosphere of intimidation designed to stifle debate.

The criticism is bubbling up around the country as protesters have claimed wins in the form of resignations of senior administrators and promises for more resources and better representation for minority groups.

At the University of Missouri, where the protests climaxed two weeks ago with the resignation of the school president, Ian Paris said he was prompted to speak out when classmates told him they disagreed with some of the demands protesters had made but were afraid to speak out.

"If you disagree with anything they're saying, you will instantly be denounced as a bigot and attacked on social media," said Mr. Paris, a 21-year-old senior. "The most jarring part of all this is to see the administration going along with it."
Yup.  I wore a uniform on a college campus for four years in the wake of the Vietnam War.  The people running the universities today are the kindred spirits of the people who gave me static then.  They never did believe in diversity of opinion, despite calling themselves Free Speech Movement and such.  A campus purged of all Politically Incorrect elements was always their ideal.

So if you want to be a rebellious youth, the way to do it is to rebel against Political Correctness, not for it.
Andrew Dugan has this report for the Gallup Poll with the above title.

Still, there is no denying that the opponents have made inroads.  The number of people answering "not in favor" to Gallup's poorly worded basic question is the highest it has been since before Furman v. Georgia in 1972, when the Supreme Court's audacious act of judicial activism precipitated a sharp drop in opposition and a sharp jump in support.

On the better-worded, but still less than ideal, question of whether the death penalty is presently imposed too often, about right, or not often enough, the sum of about right and not enough is still 2/3 of the population.  That remains a powerful supermajority in favor.  Dugan writes:

By many metrics -- the number of states that have banned the death penalty, the number of executions carried out or the actual population of inmates currently on death row -- the death penalty appears to be losing popularity in statehouses and courthouses across the country. But the public at large continues to support the use of the death penalty. A majority continue to assess the punishment as applied fairly, and a plurality wish it were applied more often.
The biggest problem is that the other side has all the megaphones.  Academia enforces adherence to anti-death-penalty dogma.  We saw that when the economists who dared to publish studies showing deterrence were hounded out of the field.  In journalism, balanced reporting is the exception, and propaganda pieces on the anti side dominate.

Yet despite all that, the side of justice still has two-thirds.  It's both discouraging and heartening at the side time.

The Pro-Criminal Slant, Unabated

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I wrote recently about the extremist views of the legal academy  --  views that, as a whole, are more liberal than any other segment of the legal profession, including public defenders and civil rights lawyers.

One might think that, if liberalism in the original sense still survived, there would be some attempt to correct this imbalance.  But one would need to think again.  My Georgetown colleague, Prof. Nick Rosenkranz (one of a handful of conservatives on the faculty), notes on the Volokh Conspiracy:

John McGinnis has an excellent post over at Library of Law and Liberty (and cross-posted at our new Heterodox Academy), highlighting the rigid liberal orthodoxy of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). AALS has just sent around the notice of its 2016 annual meeting, highlighting its "Speakers of Note." As Prof. McGinnis points out: "Of the thirteen announced, none is associated predominantly with Republican party, but eleven are associated with the Democratic Party. Many are prominent liberals. None is a conservative or libertarian." McGinnis argues that the conference would profit from including some other perspectives.

As Nick shows, liberals talk a good game about diversity of views.  They just never actually seem to do anything about it.
If you follow SSRN or any site featuring legal academics, you cannot help but notice that "scholarly" articles essentially always favor the defense.  Of course, some of them are thoughtful, and some essentially unhinged, see, e.g., here and here.

But one way or the other, they inevitably favor the defense.


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