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Today In Senseless Violence

[ 74 ] August 10, 2014 |

This is horrible:

The fatal shooting of a teen Saturday afternoon by a Ferguson police officer outside an apartment complex sent angry residents into the street, taunting police and firing shots.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot at approximately 2:15 p.m. in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive.

His mother, Lesley McSpadden, said the shooting took place as her son was walking to his grandmother’s residence.

Piaget Crenshaw, 19, said she was waiting for a ride to work when she saw a police officer attempting to place Brown in the squad car.

She then said she saw the teen, hands in the air, attempt to flee. Several shots hit Brown as he ran, Crenshaw said. She complied with a request that she give photos of the scene to authorities.

This is unsurprising:

“Stand your ground” laws hinder law enforcement, are applied inconsistently and disproportionately affect minorities.

Those were the main findings from the ABA National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws. In a preliminary report (PDF) that was officially unveiled during a Friday session at the ABA Annual Meeting, the task force found that states which have some form of stand-your-ground law have also seen increasing homicide rates.

The task force, which was co-chaired by Leigh-Ann Buchanan of Berger Singerman and Jack Middleton of McLane Graf Raulerson & Middleton, conducted its investigation throughout most of 2013. It also found that stand-your-ground laws carry an implicit bias against racial minorities. In terms of the laws’ effects, the task force found that there was widespread confusion amongst law enforcement personnel as to what actions were justified and what were not.

As LGM reader PK observes, I guess the laws are working as intended…

Yes, Steven Salaita Was Fired, And No, It’s Not Defensible

[ 395 ] August 9, 2014 |

Via Corey Robin, Inside Higher Ed has an essay by current opponent of academic freedom Cary Nelson giving an extended defense of the firing of Steven Salita, along with a counterpoint from current supporter of academic freedom John K. Wilson.  It’s a close call which one ultimately makes the stronger case against the firing, and that’s not because Wilson fails to do the job.  Let’s start with the most important way in which Nelson and other supporters of the firing are trying to obfuscate the issue:

I should add that this is not an issue of academic freedom. If Salaita were a faculty member here and he were being sanctioned for his public statements, it would be. But a campus and its faculty members have the right to consider whether, for example, a job candidate’s publications, statements to the press, social media presence, public lectures, teaching profile, and so forth suggest he or she will make a positive contribution to the department, student life, and the community as a whole. Here at Illinois, even the department head who would have appointed Salaita agreed in Inside Higher Ed that “any public statement that someone makes is fair game for consideration.” Had Salaita already signed a contract, then of course he would have to have received full due process, including a full hearing, before his prospective offer could be withdrawn. But my understanding is that he had not received a contract.

To be clear, what Nelson is doing here is trying to bullsh…wait, I don’t want to put my academic career at risk by using bad words on a widely read public forum, so let’s say “sell a bill of goods” to people who don’t understand how the academic hiring process works, and “insult the intelligence” of those that do. I’ll turn things over to Wilson here:

One thing should be clear: Salaita was fired. I’ve been turned down for jobs before, and it never included receiving a job offer, accepting that offer, moving halfway across the country, and being scheduled to teach classes.

The remaining administrative approval necessary for Salaita to be hired was pro forma. He didn’t resign his position and move because he was a crazy risk-taker but because he had every rational reason to believe the job was his. Whether he had signed all the paperwork might be relevant to his legal remedies, but from that standpoint of norms and ethics the job was his, and if you believe in the principles of academic freedom they clearly apply in this case.

In addition, as Wilson effectively points out even if one assumes for the sake of argument that the strong protections of academic freedom shouldn’t apply here, this is still a terrible argument, an Ivan Tribble argument. People don’t have due process protections when they’re turned down for a job, but this still doesn’t mean that “does the candidate disagree with Cary Nelson about Israeli policy too stridently?” is a criterion that any responsible hiring committee should be taking into account. The “I would choose to have him as a colleague” line gives away the show here — this is supposed to be a professional process, not a consideration of who you’d like to be sharing cognac with at the 19th hole of the country club.

Most of Nelson’s bill of particulars consists of selected tweets. While they sometimes express ideas I don’t agree with in language I would be disinclined to use, can’t possibly be firing offenses. To add to this, he asks whether “Jewish students in his classes [will] feel comfortable” with his Tweets. At least here we’re talking about something (teaching) that is relevant to whether someone should be fired, as opposed to something that isn’t (whether someone disagrees with Cary Nelson’s political views too vehemently.) But leaving aside his obviously erroneous assumption that no Jewish student could agree with the substance of Salaita’s views, this is again a remarkably poor argument. First of all, as many people have pointed out, this proves too much; it’s just an argument that no faculty member should ever express a view on a controversial topic. And, second, it’s not as if this was Salaita’s first job out of a British PhD program; if he had any record of treating students who disagree with him about Israeli policy unfairly this would, presumably, come out in the evaluation of his teaching. If it didn’t, it’s not relevant.

As part of the LGM community we needn’t dwell on the fallacies of arguing that a retweet constituted an “incitement to violence”; let’s leave the War On Metaphor with Michelle Malkin’s lickspittles, please. Grasping at another straw Nelson asserts that Salaita’s “discourse crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” If there was evidence that Salatia was an anti-Semite, this might justify an exception to the principle of academic freedom. But the case for this hinges almost entirely on this one tweet:

Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.

Conveniently, Nelson provides the context of a previous tweet that makes it clear what Salatia was trying to argue here: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say anti-Semitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Now, I don’t actually agree with this argument, and I think we can reaffirm that Twitter is a poor medium for making too-clever-by-half points with potentially inflammatory terminology. But as evidence of anti-Semitism, this is nothing, unless you think Nathan Glazer is an anti-Semite.

And, finally, the punchline:

I also do not believe this was a political decision.

Clearly, when I gave the Bush v. Gore Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Bad Faith to another candidate earlier in the week, I acted prematurely. If you’re trying to sell this argument, it’s probably best that your column not focus mostly on how you disagree with the person’s political views.

I’ll leave the final word to Berube:

Nothing in Professor Salaita’s Twitter feed suggests a violation of professional ethics or disciplinary incompetence. The University of Illinois is therefore clearly in violation of a fundamental principle of academic freedom with regard to extramural speech; moreover, your decision effectively overrides legitimate faculty decisionmaking and peer review in a way that is inconsistent with AAUP guidelines regarding governance. Those faculty members who engaged in the process of peer review for Professor Salaita cannot be said to have been unaware that he has strong opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict– as do many millions of people. To overturn faculty peer review on the basis of a Twitter feed, therefore, is to take a page straight from the Kansas playbook.

UPDATE: Nelson’s argument was not only sloppy and tendentious but in one instance relied on a falsehood. Nelson’s assertion that Salaita “had not received a contract” is demonstrably erroneous.

The World’s Most Boring Con Artist

[ 20 ] August 9, 2014 |

Jeff Jarvis, forgotten but apparently not gone.

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

[ 75 ] August 9, 2014 |

A crook resigned.

Jonathan Bernstein has a good Watergate primer.   Jeff Shesol didn’t get the memo explaining that Nixon was the most progressive major political official between FDR and Rand Paul.

Love It Or Leav…Well, You May Not Live Here, But You Can See What I’m Driving At

[ 27 ] August 8, 2014 |

Shorter Shmuel Rosner: I’m not saying that liberal Zionists should refrain from criticizing the military and foreign policies of the Israeli government.  I’m just saying that liberal Zionists should unconditionally support the military and foreign policies of the Israeli government, or they will lose their non-existent influence over Israeli policy.

A Question To End All “The Country is Going Libertarian!!!!!!” Trend Pieces

[ 79 ] August 8, 2014 |

It’s as inevitable as the tides and the asinine NYT Styles trend piece: the thumbsucker arguing that Everything Is Coming Up Libertarian. Edroso brings the yuks and the historical perspective while noting the lack of actual content, while Chait brings the data.

When I am made the Czar of All of the Media, the enterprising journalist who wants to repackage and resell this particular loaf of stale Wonder Bread will have to come up with an answer to the following question. Before proceeding, please name:

  • A major federal social program not passed during the Obama administration (note: this qualification expires in roughly 2030)
  • That significantly benefits middle-class Americans
  • That even a majority of Republicans opposes

When you can identify a single program that meets these criteria, we can talk about your pitch.  Until then, try to actually write about a social phenomenon that is non-imaginary.

What Are The Highest “Quality of Cast to Quality of Script” Ratios of All Time?

[ 203 ] August 8, 2014 |

For reasons I cannot easily reconstruct, I screened Primal Fear on Netflix streaming this week. I remembered being disappointed by it when I saw it in the theaters, but hey, what did my barely-out-of-undergrad self know? Quite a lot — the movie is terrible, luridly incoherent and implausible in almost every detail, and I grade legal thrillers on a more generous curve than almost any other genre. The reason I decided to check again was that the cast was so strong — Laura Linney, Andre Braugher, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Maura Tierney, Alfre Woodard. Gere, the big star in the cast, is an underrated actor. You have to work to make a movie with that much talent unwatchable, but they did it.

It seems to be a self-evident truth that there are many more talented actors than their are talented directors and (especially) writers. So I’m pretty sure we can come up with some pictures that have squandered even more talent.

Walsh Out

[ 64 ] August 7, 2014 |

In these times of phony plagiarism charges, it’s worth remembering that some are actually real, and might even affect control of the United States Senate.

As Drezner says, the even bigger scandal in this case was that a 14-page-paper that would have been lucky to get a gentleman’s C+ as a paper in an intermediate undergraduate class was good enough for an MA thesis end of MA project.

In the Killing of Renisha McBride

[ 78 ] August 7, 2014 |

Theodore Wafer found guilty of 2nd degree murder.

LGM Announces the First Annual Bush v. Gore Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Bad Faith

[ 90 ] August 7, 2014 |

Jonathan Adler wins in a landslide despite the tough competition.

To put this another way, let’s consider exactly why the Halbig troofers think the court’s handiwork is too trivial to merit review. Essentially, the argument is that en banc rehearings are rare. White, in a passage quoted by Adler:

But if the D.C. Circuit rehears the case en banc, it would be a sharp break from history. The D.C. Circuit rehears virtually none of its cases. Each year the court’s three-judge panels make roughly 500 rulings, but the court averages roughly one en banc rehearing. This year has produced a bumper crop: two. The previous year: zero.

The obvious responses being:

  • So en banc rehearing are rare.  What’s your point? It’s also rare for an appellate panel to find that a widely-discussed law passed less than 5 years unambiguously establishes an absurd outcome nobody on either side of the ideological spectrum identified at the time with the consequence that millions of people will be stripped of their health insurance. Nothing in the text of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure suggests that the “exceptional importance” standard can consider only academic or theoretical importance.
  • Do you know what’s also extremely rare? The Supreme Court granting a writ of certiorari.  So I’m sure that if the D.C. Circuit decides to hear the case en banc and vacates Halbig, White and Adler will agree that this “straightforward statutory interpretation case” is too trivial for the Supremes to bother with, particularly since there wouldn’t be a circuit split to resolve.   Wait, stop laughing.

It’s tempting to say that all this nonsense shows that Adler et al see law as a game, divorced from any human consequences.  But I think it’s even worse that that.  As Paul has argued about Scalia and the death penalty, it’s more that they seem to revel in the horrible consequences; being willing to inflict avoidable suffering and death on people  shows a real commitment to the rule of law.  That the arguments presented by these would-be humble legal technicians sometimes reveal an almost comic degree of bad faith just adds to the effect. I mean, anyone can create bad consequences by applying a real legal principle, but making one up that you’ll abandon next week when it’s ceased to serve its purpose shows real commitment to whichever Solemn Legal Principle you’re advocating at the time.

…and, yes, as Hogan notes, here is the relevant section of Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure in full:

(1) The petition must begin with a statement that either:

(A) the panel decision conflicts with a decision of the United States Supreme Court or of the court to which the petition is addressed (with citation to the conflicting case or cases) and consideration by the full court is therefore necessary to secure and maintain uniformity of the court’s decisions; or

(B) the proceeding involves one or more questions of exceptional importance, each of which must be concisely stated; for example, a petition may assert that a proceeding presents a question of exceptional importance if it involves an issue on which the panel decision conflicts with the authoritative decisions of other United States Courts of Appeals that have addressed the issue.

So the relevant rules explicitly state that a circuit split resulting from a panel decision qualifies as an issue of “exceptional importance,” while also of course not foreclosing the consideration of policy impact when determining whether the standard is met either. Again, it’s bad faith all the way down.

The Vote Fraud Fraud

[ 81 ] August 7, 2014 |

Remains a massive fraud. Trying to steal an election through voter impersonation fraud makes no sense in theory, so it’s not surprising that it for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist in practice.

No, The Left Does Not Need Its Own Roger Kimball

[ 26 ] August 6, 2014 |

Shorter Jed Perl: Ezra Klein and Nate Silver are killing American art.

As Roy says, the essay is not merely pretentiously incoherent but is written it a level of abstraction so high that it renders serious engagement impossible.   At least the right-wing version of this cliched screed uses some extraordinarily dated concrete examples — “Piss Christ!” “2 Live Crew!” “The woman with the chocolate syrup!” —   which is a minor source of amusement as well as a major source of self-refutation.  This is just many, many words saying nothing.  And it leaves Aaron Sorkin on the table!  Come back Joseph Epstein, all is forgiven.

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