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UIUC’s War On Academic Freedom

[ 98 ] September 3, 2014 |

What could easily be inferred from the administration’s actions is confirmed by internal documents:

When the Salaita story first broke in the local press, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs Robin Kaler said, “Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.” That was on July 21. The UIUC documents reveal that not only was Chancellor Wise apprised of that statement minutes after it was emailed to the media, but that she also wrote back to Kaler: “I have received several emails. Do you want me to use this response or to forward these to you?” (p. 101) In other words, this was not the rogue statement of a low-level spokesperson; it reflected Wise’s own views, including the view that Salaita was already a university employee. Even though Wise already had been informed of Salaita’s tweets.

In the days following this forthright defense of Salaita, the Chancellor and her associates begin to back-pedal. Around July 23, Wise starts reaching out to select alumni, trying to arrange phone calls (and in one instance, struggling to rearrange her travel schedule just so she can meet one alum in person [pp. 78-94]). To another such alum, she writes, “Let me say that I just recently learned about Steven Salaita’s background, beyond his academic history, and am learning more now.” (p. 293) That “beyond his academic history” is going to get Wise in trouble on academic freedom grounds.


What’s most stunning about these documents is that they show how removed and isolated Chancellor Wise is from any of the academic voices in the university, even the academic voices on her own team. As she heads toward her August 2 decision to dehire Salaita, she is only speaking to and consulting with donors, alums, PR people, and development types. Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, makes exactly one appearance in these 443 pages. That is on Tuesday, July 22. Even though Wise has been inundated with emails about Salaita for days, she only finally emails Adesida about the matter a day after the story has broken in the local press. His response: “Thanks for sending these emails. I was not aware of any controversy on this person until yesterday!” (p. 95) And he’s never heard from again.

You can support academic freedom. You can defend the firing of Salaita. And there’s no overlap between these two categories.

English Rape Culture

[ 87 ] September 2, 2014 |

This is certainly horrifying:

Lucy’s account of her experience is emblematic of what investigators say happened during a 16-year reign of terror and impunity in this poor northern English town of 257,000, where at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way. One girl told investigators that gang rape was part of growing up in her neighborhood.

Between 1997 and 2013, despite numerous reports of sexual abuse, only one case, involving three teenage girls, was prosecuted, and five men were sent to jail, according to an official report into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham published last week.


But the report also outlined how those victims and parents who did ask for help were mostly let down by the police and social services, despite a great deal of detail known to them for more than a decade, including, in some cases, the names of possible offenders and their license plate numbers.

“Nobody can pretend they didn’t know,” Ms. Jay said in an interview.

Awful. And, yes, the idea that “political correctness” is the explanation is absurd.

Senate Prognosis

[ 53 ] September 2, 2014 |

Good roundup from Sam Wang. Essentially, models that combine fundamentals with polling data continue to favor the Republicans. The polling data itself favors Democratic retention of the Senate. Since Wang is in the latter camp, his bottom line:

The PEC polling snapshot has mostly favored Democrats. Starting from June 1st, Democrats have led for 61 days and Republicans for 26 days, a 70-30 split. During that period, the Senate Meta-Margin has been D+0.24±0.57%. Assuming that the June-August pattern applies to the future, I can use this Meta-Margin, and the t-distribution with 3 d.f., to predict the future, including the possibility of black-swan events. The result is that the November Senate win probability for the Democrats (i.e. probability that they will control 50 or more seats) is 65%.

I’m not endorsing Wang over Silver, Sides et al.; just an interesting difference.

Salaita Appointment to Be Forwarded to Board

[ 26 ] September 1, 2014 |


Corey Robin permits himself a little cautious optimism. Alas, I suspect John Wilson’s take will prove accurate:

There is not a chance in hell that [an appointment of Salaita] will happen. I can see only two explanations for this decision: 1) Wise wants to head off criticism (and, as Robin points out, Wise wants to prevent a possible legal challenge) that she violated a procedural rule by failing to forward the appointment to the Board of Trustees. 2) The trustees are upset that she removed the opportunity for them to vote against Salaita, and they want the chance to publicly double fire Salaita.

Considering that all of the trustees signed a letter embracing Salaita’s firing, it would be shocking if even a single trustee voted for Salaita. The Sept. 11 Board of Trustees meeting will obviously be the center of considerable attention, but it ultimately will not change the decision.

I would guess that Corey’s second, more pessimistic interpretation is relevant to the Wise’s formal reversal. Given that UIUC’s attempt to square the academic freedom circle involved reliance on the literal language of his contract (while ignoring the well-established norms Salaita was very reasonably relying on), the fact that Wise’s pocket veto was not really consistent with the literal language of the contract might have presented a problem. By having the trustees explicitly vote the appointment down, their chances of making a Halbig-style argument in a defense to a civil suit and getting away with minimal or no damages might be increased.

I certainly hope I’m wrong. My most detailed explanation for why UIUC’s firing of Salaita is plainly inconsistent with academic freedom can be found here.

And the John McCain and Lindsey Graham Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Wankery Goes To…

[ 28 ] September 1, 2014 |

John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Does the Modern Administrative State Inherently Violate the Rule of Law? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 85 ] September 1, 2014 |

Showing us where the conservertarian movement to restore the law of the Gilded Age is headed, Phillip Hamburger has a forthcoming book called Is Administrative Law Unlawful? “that answers this question in the affirmative.” Unfortunately for him, Adrian Vermeule has read it:

But before criticism, there must first come understanding. There is too much in this book about Charles I and Chief Justice Coke, about the High Commission and the dispensing power. There is not enough about the Administrative Procedure Act, about administrative law judges, about the statutes, cases and arguments that rank beginners in the subject are expected to learn and know. The book makes crippling mistake about the administrative law of the United States; it misunderstands what that body of law actually holds and how it actually works. As a result the legal critique, launched by five-hundred-odd pages of text, falls well wide of the target.

In the first section, I’ll try to reconstruct Hamburger’s critique, whose basic ambiguity arises from the fact that Hamburger is impenetrably obscure about what he means by “lawful” and “unlawful.” Those terms are only loosely related to the ordinary lawyers’ sense. In my view, the best reconstruction is that Hamburger thinks that there are deep unwritten principles of Anglo-American constitutional order, derived from the views of English common-law judges; departures from those principles are “unlawful.” In the second section, I’ll try to show that the book’s arguments are premised on simple, material and fatal misunderstandings of what is being criticized, and never do engage the common and central arguments offered in defense of the administrative state. In the conclusion, I’ll consider a suggestion that the book is only masquerading as legal theory, and should instead be understood as a different genre altogether — something like dystopian constitutional fiction. Although the suggestion is illuminating, and tempting, I don’t think it applies here.

It’s definitely all worth reading if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

Scams, Law School and Otherwise

[ 15 ] August 31, 2014 |

A for-profit grift mill is shutting down:

After years of enrollment losses, Anthem Education, a for-profit chain of colleges and career institutes, filed for bankruptcy Monday. The company has abruptly shut down a number of its campuses, leaving state agencies struggling to funnel displaced students into other institutions. Nine more campuses may close today, Anthem officials said.

This is actually good news for existing students and taxpayers, since the loans will mostly now be dischargable.

In Oregon/Idaho, the ABA isn’t willing to go along with a new scam as of now, although the grift is still in operation:

Nearly half of the third- and second-year students at Concordia Law School in Boise, Idaho, have left the school in the last three weeks after it failed to get provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association.

Without accreditation, Concordia Law grads cannot take the Bar exam in Idaho, and most other states, necessary to get a license. At least 48 of the school’s 102 third-year and second-year law students have withdrawn, transferred or taken temporary leave from Concordia, school officials said Thursday.

The story is unusually candid about why a school was started to issue essentially worthless degrees in a saturated market:

The situation provides a glimpse into the business of higher education.

Amid difficult times in due to high costs and tough competition, Concordia has launched a dramatic diversification effort, opening the law school and a popular on-line master’s in education program.

The new programs have successfully grown Concordia’s annual revenue from $80 million to $100 million, according to school officials in Portland.

Inconsiderate of the ABA to interfere with this program of revenue maximization scheme.

Judge Rules Texas Abortion Near-Ban Unconstitutional

[ 11 ] August 29, 2014 |

Under the radical theory that forcing the closure of most of the state’s abortion clinics through regulations that have no legitimate medical purpose is an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. Evidently, the ruling is unlikely to survive 5CA but at least the opinion is strong.

Lame Duck Governor Decides To Stop Inflicting Needless Suffering on State’s Citizens

[ 72 ] August 29, 2014 |

Pennsylvania will be taking the Medicaid expansion. Not in an ideal form, although better than the Arkansas version (the administration was right to strike a harder bargain, with Corbett polling in the low 30s.) And, as Sargent says, the next government remains free to make the program more progressive, so it makes sense to let the state proceed now.

On Reclining Airline Seats

[ 316 ] August 29, 2014 |

This. Very much this.

One would think that a civilized society would, in time, come to some accepted standards for civilized behavior. We are not talking here about anything so crude as laws; we are talking about simple decency towards your fellow humans. We do not require laws to tell people to give up their seat for a pregnant woman, or help an elderly person across the street, or refrain from cursing at waiters. We expect people to do that out of common decency. Those who would refuse to follow such simple rules simply because they are not laws are known as selfish, antisocial monsters who will likely die friendless and alone.

An airplane is an enclosed environment. For most passengers, there is not very much extra room. Space is tight. No one can go anywhere. We are collectively trapped. It is simple decency not to crudely and selfishly recline your seat into the face of your unfortunate neighbor to the rear. Yes, you could recline your seat, legally; but that would make you a selfish, antisocial monster. I trust that you are not that. I trust that you are a good person.

The idea that if you want people to be polite and considerate you should pay should pay them for the privelege should be a reductio ad absurdum of consevervtarian logic, only they’re willing to make the argument themselves.

Now This Is An Unhinged Rant

[ 166 ] August 28, 2014 |

Shorter Andy McCarthy: “It’s outrageous that banks that committed widespread mortgage fraud should face any sanctions at all. Because ACORN!!!!!!!!!!! Why on earth are we even funding the Department of Justice at all? The DOJ trying to enforce the law is even worse than taverns that provide free food! I am not a crackpot!”

There Are No Shortcuts

[ 95 ] August 28, 2014 |

A distinguished, if long-dead, philosopher has dropped into our comment section to make a very important point:

Because multi-party systems are much more democratically responsive? Coalition building is at least as frustrating as the Democratic Party. In Germany, if you don’t like the too-centrist-and-neoliberal SPD, you get to vote for either a party that everyone else refuses to have anything to do with and has no measurable impact on public policy, or a party that’s not really big enough to form a majority coalition with the SPD! Good stuff!!!

The reason progressive change is hard is because progressive change is hard, not because of structural problems with the electoral system. And the structural problems in American government have much more to do with the Senate’s inherent small state bias and terrible traditions; and with the way the uneven distribution of population gives Republicans an advantage in the House; than it does with having two parties.

Exactly right. This is one issue I have with the focus on electoral reforms (particularly advocates of PR; approval or runoff voting would ensure that third party voting won’t produce irrational results but probably not produce much third party representation.) Again, I don’t see what problem this is supposed to solve. The fundamental issues with achieving liberal reform are that 1)there aren’t enough liberals, and 2)there are many structural features of American government that favor reactionary interests. Third parties do nothing about #1 and would probably make #2 worse. I’m not even sure that PR would provide much value to narcissists who don’t like to sully themselves by being part of a broader coalition. (Not that we should care anyway.) Either the Magic Pony party won’t be part of the governing coalition and will achieve nothing, which will prove the weakness and lack of will of individual members, or they will collaborate with more moderate parties, in which case they’re sellouts.

Jon Walker’s attempt to defend a version of Frank/West runs into similar problems:

While people often overstate the power of the Presidency, continuing to pretend the filibuster was an insurmountable hurdle is just plain silly. As we saw just last year when Democrats changed the rules regarding executive nominees, a simple majority of senators can easily amend or completely eliminate this minor procedural issue.

I’m not upset Obama couldn’t get Snowe to play nice — I’m disappointed he actively refused to go around her. For example Democrats could have used reconciliation to adopt a larger stimulus with only a simple majority, or just eliminated the filibuster. This is exactly what George W. Bush did to get his tax cut when a Senate minority tried to stand in the way.

First of all, we have a classic botch from the files of Drew Westen; the filibuster was irrelevant to the Bush tax cuts because budget bills can’t be filibustered. Republicans did not have to change any congressional procedures to get their tax cuts through. That aside, note the fancy shuffling here between “Obama” and “the Democratic Party.” What Obama can do to abolish the filibuster is “nothing.” Having someone who was very recently a backbencher make a public case that senior senators should give up their prerogatives could not have helped and almost certainly have been very damaging. The idea that the filibuster is a product of presidential will is a parody of green lanternism.

It is trivially true that the “Democratic Party” refused to abolish the filibuster. But this just re-states the problem. If there were 60 senators who were staunch liberals and unconcerned with their institutional self-interest, the filibuster wouldn’t be a significant barrier in the first place. (And remember that this is a multidimensional problem; there were/are senators like Leahy and Feingold who are institutional conservatives even if they aren’t ideological conservatives.) And if Walker has a magic formula for getting staunch liberals elected in Nebraska and Louisiana and Missouri etc. etc. he isn’t revealing it. Assuming can openers isn’t a solution to anything.

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