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Jihad Wins on Campus

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

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

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

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 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? 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.

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