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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? 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." 

Political Bias in Psychology?

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In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Maria Konnikova has a story that asks, is the field of psychology politically biased?  As the popular saying goes, to ask the question is to answer it.  Anyone who has spent any time within the field of psychology knows, if they're being honest, that the answer to that question is an emphatic "yes" all around.  But what is the nature of the bias? 

Academia, Over the Edge

Goddard College in Vermont has invited Mumia Abu Jamal, convicted cop killer and former death row inmate, to give the commencement address.  The story is here.

Question:  What would happen if Darren Wilson, the not-even-criminally-charged killer of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., were invited to give the commencement address at any college or university in the United States?

Possible answers:

1)  The media would congratulate the students for independence of mind.

2)  We would hear a lot about the First Amendment.

3)  The NYT would remind us that Wilson is innocent until proven guilty.

4)  The head of the student organization that issued the invitation would be brought before the Honor Council for insensitivity to the feelings of African American students and expelled.

We report, you decide.

P.S.  I thought I had heard it all when Columbia hired Kathy Boudin as a professor.  I confess error.

Prof. Sara Sun Beale of Duke Law School is, in my view, a more balanced intellect than one usually encounters in academia.  Her recent article seems to assume that having more information makes it more likely that one will oppose capital punishment  --  an assumption with which I disagree.  But her article has the virtue of laying bare one of the key facts about the abolitionist movement  -- that it lacks popular support even where it succeeds, and essentially is led by those who look down at "trailer park trash" and "women with big hair."  

The abstract of Prof. Beale's piece, found at SSRN, explains:

What explains the difference between the United States and the many other countries that have abolished capital punishment? Because the United States and many other nations that have abolished the death penalty are democracies, there seems to be an obvious answer: abolition or retention reflects the preferences of the electorate. According to this view, the U.S. electorate is simply more punitive, and the question becomes explaining the difference in national attitudes. There is some truth to this explanation. As I have argued elsewhere, the U.S. public generally does favor punitive criminal justice policies. But that cannot be the whole story. Other nations have abolished capital punishment despite widespread public support -- in many cases, support of more than 70 percent of the public at the time of abolition. In the United States, however, after the Supreme Court imposed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in the early 1970s, strong public support led to its reintroduction in two-thirds of the states.

This paper explores the relationship between public opinion and the abolition or retention of the death penalty, comparing the U.S. experience to that of other nations (with a particular focus on Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada). Although the experience of each country includes distinctive elements, several common themes emerge. In each country, political elites led the abolition movement. The structure of the electoral process and the parliamentary party system, moreover, allowed legislators and other public officials a degree of insulation from popular opinion. The elites differed from their electorates in education, experience, and knowledge of the issue. Because of these differences, support for capital punishment was much lower among these elites than among the general public. In abolishing capital punishment, the elites acted in accordance with their own views, rather than those of the median voter or the general public. Some scholars have characterized this type of political behavior as the "elite leadership hypothesis." Additionally, international agreements and norms played a significant role in Europe, making abolition difficult to reverse once enacted and helping to persuade other nations to abolish capital punishment despite the existence of popular support. Finally, abolition (whether de jure or de facto) has had a tendency over time to reduce public support for capital punishment, thus diminishing popular pressure to reverse course

More on Corrupt Peer Review

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Mary Kissel of the WSJ has a video interview with James Taranto on the peer review corruption scandal, similar to Taranto's column noted earlier

The Real Threat to Freedom

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One of the blessings of being a law professor is the opportunity to meet sharp minds and learn from them.

One of those minds belongs to Ilan Wurman, formerly head of the Federalist Society at Stanford Law School and now a clerk to Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit. In the Weekly Standard, Ilan has written a review of Columbia Law Prof. Philip Hamburger's brilliant new book, "Is Administrative Law Unlawful?"

Much of what the Left (and libertarians) say about criminal law focuses on the cops and prosecutors as the signal threat to the freedom of American citizens.  This is so much baloney.  For whatever else might be said of criminal law, (1) imprisonment is easy to avoid by living a normal, honest life (which is why the overwhelming majority of Americans have never been in prison); and (2) if you get accused of a serious crime (the kind that, realistically, can get you a prison sentence), you have the right every single time to demand that your guilt be determined beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of ordinary citizens.

No, it's not criminal law that threatens American freedom.  As Prof. Hamburger shows, and Ilan explains, it's the growing, grasping, blob-like administrative state.

About Those Peer Reviewed Studies...

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Yesterday, Kent noted, with respect to computer modeling of the sort we see so much of in academia and in academia's ponderous claims:

There is little independent funding to do research in the area, and most of it ends up being done by [professors].  Because academia is poisoned by Political Correctness, a lot more studies are going to be done by people with a pro-defendant agenda than a pro-prosecution one.  There is nowhere near enough scrutiny of studies with a pro-defense bottom line, while any academic who publishes a study with a bottom line useful to the prosecution will be savagely attacked regardless of actual merit.

As if on cue, the Washington Post reports:

Now comes word of a [scholarly] journal retracting 60 articles at once...The reason for the mass retraction is mind-blowing: A "peer review and citation ring" was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.

My goodness!!!  Our holier-(and smarter)-than-thou friends  --  the ones who go on and on about how their "peer reviewed" studies expose us hayseeds who support the death penalty and other retrograde ideas  --  have been faking it.

Impenetrable at Stanford Law

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Not to knock my alma mater, but Stanford Law School is home to a lecturer in law, Michael S. Romano, who seems oblivious to the preeminent realities about crime and sentencing staring him in the face.

This article from the National Journal  --  the eight trillionth about supposed overwhelming Republican zeal to join forces with the criminal defense bar  -- contains the following paragraph:

What's changed the political equation on crime [in the last three decades]? The most important factor is the decline in the crime rate. After surging through the 1980s as the crack epidemic crested, the violent crime rate has fallen almost every year since 1993 and now stands at only about half of what it was then, according to FBI figures. (A separate Bureau of Justice Statistics crime survey shows the violent-crime rate ticking back up over the past two years but still down about two-thirds from its 1993 level.) "We have an incredible opportunity for change because crime is down," says Michael S. Romano, a lecturer at Stanford University Law School.

Is this what passes for critical thought at Stanford nowadays?

The National Research Council (NRC) recently put out a report on incarceration in the United States.  It amounts to 450 pages of singing the same, tired liberal tune we have heard for years.  If you want to find out what it says, you'd save some time just listening to the two more succinct liberal witnesses at today's House hearing, Mark Levin of Right on Crime and Prof. Bryan Stevenson of NYU.  

Prof. John Pfaff has plowed through it, however, and finds numerous errors and omissions.  Hat tip to Doug Berman and SL&P for collecting Prof. Pfaff's pieces, which he does here, under the appropriate title, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Mass Incarceration Analysis: John Pfaff tears apart NRC report."

Academic Robbery

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Eugene Volokh has this post at his eponymous conspiracy on a bizarre incident at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Dr. Mireille Miller-Young -- an associate professor with UCSB's Feminist Studies Department -- was offended by an anti-abortion demonstration with graphic images.  (CJLF takes no position on the underlying controversy, BTW.)

According to the police report,

Miller-Young said that she "just grabbed it [the sign] from this girl's hands." Asked if there had been a struggle, Miller-Young stated, "I'm stronger so I was able to take the poster."

Miller-Young said that the poster had been taken back to her office. Once in her office, a "safe space" described by Miller-Young, Miller-Young said that they were still upset by the images on the poster and had destroyed it. Miller-Young said that she was "mainly" responsible for the posters destruction because she was the only one with scissors.

The definition of robbery in California, unchanged since 1872, is "the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear." (Penal Code § 211.)

Miller-Young confessed to taking the property, and the "I'm stronger" statement effectively confesses the "force" element. (See 2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law, Crimes Against Property § 99.) This is not only a felony, but a "violent" one. (Penal Code § 667.5(c)(9).)

"Miller-Young said that she did not feel that what she had done was criminal."

In my view, one of the greatest problems in our society today is the extent to which our young people are being taught by persons utterly devoid of common sense. Miller-Young should be convicted of robbery. Whatever direct consequences the court may impose, the collateral consequence should be that she is fired and never teaches in this state (or hopefully any other) again.

The Follow-Up You Won't Hear About

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A few days ago, Ms. Cyrstal Mangum, a one-time "exotic dancer," was convicted of second degree murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend.

Now that's not much of a story.  There are thousands of murders every year.  But we have visited with Ms. Mangum before.  Her story, recounted here, reminds us again of the astonishing rot, mendacity and, to be honest, hate that runs rampant in academia.

For anyone wondering why the Left was rooting, for once, for prosecutors to win out (in the George Zimmerman trial) even though the state obviously failed to meet its burden, and anyone wondering why the Knockout Game gets pushed to the back of the papers, wonder no more.  It all started years ago.

Maintaining Academic Monovision

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Why do people have two eyes (as do nearly all animals above the insect level)?  There are several reasons, but one of them is depth perception.  One eye sees a two-dimensional image.  Two eyes with different perspectives, even if only slightly different, provide cues for the brain to figure out the third dimension.

Among the many problems with American academia today is a deficiency of perspective.  To a deplorable degree, our young people are being fed an unbalanced academic diet of a single viewpoint.  The result is a lower quality education.

David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy has this post on how blogs can expand the range of discourse.  But a comment he makes in passing confirms what I have long suspected.  The lack of diversity of viewpoint in academia is not only a result of which people choose academic careers versus going into the "real world."  That is part of it, to be sure, but another part is active employment discrimination for the specific purpose of censoring Politically Incorrect viewpoints out of the academic discourse.

The faculties at elite law schools are able to define what was "mainstream" in constitutional law simply by who they hire to join them. And Yale, to take just one example, has not hired a conservative or libertarian professor to teach constitutional law in my lifetime. According to an informed source at the law school, this is not a coincidence, as some of Yale's constitutional law professors make it their business to block any right-of-center candidates.

Transparency for Thee, But Not for Me

The "ACS" stands for the American Constitution Society, a liberal-leaning group which was founded to be a sort of Federalist Society anti-matter.  It has its share of provocative speakers, which is all to the good as far as I'm concerned.

It was thus disappointing to read Ed Whelan's post about how our liberal friends at the ACS, who yelp every day about the need for transparency, seem to have decided that hiding the ball is the better option when transparency is going to open the door on just how radical some of their favorites are, including and especially favorites who have an eye on the bench. 

When Prosecutor Turns Thug

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Professor R. Michael Cassidy of Boston College Law School had a long and, so far as I know, distinguished career as a Massachusetts prosecutor.  He has been teaching law for the last 17 years.  He has recently written a piece, which can be found here on SSRN, in which he takes the view that prosecutors have an ethical duty as, in effect, "ministers of justice," to support (if not campaign for) what he terms "sentencing reform."

By that phrase, Prof. Cassidy means something specific:  He means that prosecutors are ethically obligated to support an end to many or perhaps most mandatory minimum sentencing statutes.  In the SSRN abstract, the argument is made that the prosecutor's ethical responsibilities (emphasis added):

...compel her to join in the effort to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing provisions for most drug and non-violent offenses.  Not only are mandatory sentences in most instances unduly harsh, coercive, and inefficacious, but they allow for an arbitrary and discriminatory application that is essentially unreviewable by courts.  The author distinguishes this argument against mandatory minimum penalties from the so-called "Smart on Crime" movement, by grounding a prosecutor's duty to promote sentencing reform in ethical reasoning as opposed to pragmatic or cost-savings considerations.

When a prosecutor has an ethical duty and breaches it, he should be and is subject to discipline  --  a reprimand, suspension from practice or, in severe cases, disbarment. Unless I am missing something, then, a prosecutor who does not speak out to support Prof. Cassidy's views on mandatory minimum sentencing should, by the Professor's logic, be punished, perhaps severely.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this? 

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