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Category: General

The predatory, broken municipal governments of St. Louis County

[ 82 ] September 5, 2014 |

Balko is doing some extraordinary and important work here:

“She was crying as I explained the situation to her,” Voss says. “So then started to cry as I explained it her. One of the really frustrating things about what’s happening here is that this system is breaking good people. These are people just trying to get by, just trying to take care of their families.” Voss’s eyes well up as he talks about Bolden. This isn’t just an attorney defending his client. It’s a guy who is concerned about what’s happening to another human being. Bolden is a single black woman with four kids. She has several tattoos. It’s easy to see how cops might target her, or court officials might dismiss her. But Voss points out that she had already earned an associate’s degree in medical assistance. And while dealing with all of the arrests and the harassment, she earned another in paralegal studies.

The Foristell warrant stemmed from a speeding ticket in 2011. As mentioned before, Bolden didn’t show up in court because she didn’t have the money to pay it and feared they’d put her jail. It’s a common and unfortunate misconception among St. Louis County residents, especially those who don’t have an attorney to tell them otherwise. A town can’t put you in jail for lacking the money to pay a fine. But you can be jailed not appearing in court to tell the judge you can’t pay — and fined again for not showing up. After twice failing to appear for the Foristell ticket, Bolden showed up, was able to get the warrant removed and set up a payment plan with the court. But she says that a few months later, she was a couple days late with her payment. She says she called to notify the clerk, who told her not to worry. Instead, the town hit her with another warrant — the same warrant for which she was jailed in March.

Bolden’s bond was set at $1,700. No one she knew had that kind of money. Bolden broke down; she cried, she screamed, and she swore. She was given a psychological evaluation, and then put on suicide watch. She finds that memory particularly humiliating. Bolden would remain in jail for two weeks, until Foristell’s next municipal court session. She wouldn’t let her children come visit her. “I didn’t want them to see me like that,” she says. “I didn’t want them to think it was normal, that it was okay for one of us to be in jail. I missed them so much. But I wasn’t going to let them see me like that.”

While in jail, she missed a job interview. She fell behind in her paralegal studies. When she finally got her day in court, she was told to change out of her jail jumpsuit into the same clothes she had worn for three days straight, and that had been sitting in a bag for the previous two weeks. She was brought into the courtroom to face the judge, handcuffed, in dirty clothes that had been marinated in her own filth. “I was funky, I was sad, and I was mad,” she says. “I smelled bad. I was handcuffed. I missed my kids. I didn’t feel like a person anymore.”

It’s long, but read the whole thing. I confess I was actually surprised when the “three outstanding warrants per household” in Ferguson fact first came to light; it’s now clear in St. Louis County, this is par for the course, and there are far worse examples–the extremely misleadingly named “Country Club Hills” has 26 outstanding warrants per resident. In a long piece filled with rage-inducing anecdotes, one stood out for me:

But perhaps the most gaping divide between having and not having an attorney is that many people think that if they can’t pay their fines, they’ll be arrested and jailed the moment they show up in court. So they don’t show up. In truth, you can’t be jailed if you don’t have the money to pay a fine. But you can be jailed for not showing up in court to answer a charge. So under the mistaken belief that showing up in court broke will land them in jail, people chose not to show up . . . which then lands them in jail.

“That’s probably the single biggest misunderstanding out there,” says Vatterott, the former municipal judge. “We have to do a better job of informing people. I think it should say on the notice that even if you have no money, you need to show up, and it should be made clear that you won’t be sent to jail. But when I bring that up, the prosecutors don’t like it. The arrest warrants bring more fines and make the towns more money.”

In the short run, a democratic revival is clearly and badly needed, and one simply has to hope that perhaps this moment of sunshine on these governments will produce something of that sort. One possible goal to organize around:

Just last week, the ArchCity Defenders petitioned Ferguson Mayor James Knowles to grant a mass clemency for the town’s 40,000+ outstanding warrants for traffic and other nonviolent offenses. That isn’t a structural change so much as a plea for a sign of goodwill. And it’s far from certain it will happen. Vatterott says he’s also organizing talks to push for reforms on other points of agreement, like a uniform set of rules for the courts, making notices easier to understand, and making sure defendants know that they can’t be jailed for lacking the funds to pay a fine.

I’d love to see outsiders run for office in these communities with such a mass clemency as  a central campaign promise. Of course, the municipal budgets would take a huge hit, and given how tiny and hollowed out the tax bases of these towns are, there aren’t many clear options to replace the lost funds. Which leads to another obvious conclusion:

“There are too many towns,” says Vatterott. There are too many towns, and not enough taxpayers to sustain them. How to fix that problem is another matter. There has long been a movement in St. Louis to merge the county with the city. That movement has picked up steam recent years as advocacy groups like Better Together have pushed proposals to merge a number of public services. But real change would require a good portion of these towns to merge with other towns, or to dissolve themselves entirely. That would require the town councils or boards of aldermen to vote themselves out of a job.

 

“You have these fiefdoms across the county where a small percentage of people hold power over a small bit of territory,” Kirkland says. “They aren’t going to let go of that easily.” Some towns have begun to share police services, or to contract police services out to St. Louis County. That at least means there are fewer cops per resident to hand out fines. But the cops and courts are still geared more toward generating revenue than promoting public safety.

Here in Dayton, it’s hard to imagine city-county consolidation, given the present political dynamics (racial and otherwise). But it does manage to happen, and happen in places I would imagine it would be impossible, such as Louisville. It’s obviously not sufficient to fix this nightmare, but I wonder if it might not be necessary.

 

Posner On the Obvious Unconstitutionality of Same-Sex Marriage Bans

[ 96 ] September 5, 2014 |

Charles has the juiciest excerpt from Richard Posner’s tour de force opinion holding the same-sex marriage bans in jurisdictions covered by 7CA unconstitutional. But it’s worth reading in its entirety. Here’s the bottom line:

Our pair of cases is rich in detail but ultimately straight-forward to decide. The challenged laws discriminate against a minority defined by an immutable characteristic, and the only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction—that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage  because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended—is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously. To the extent that children are better off in families in which the parents are married, they are better off whether they are raised by their biological parents or by adoptive parents. The discrimination against same-sex couples is irrational, and therefore unconstitutional even if the discrimination is not subjected to heightened scrutiny, which is why we can largely elide the more complex analysis found in more closely balanced equal-protection cases.

And given that sexual orientation isn’t really a rational basis category anymore but is subject to whatever it is you want to call what Anthony Kennedy is doing, the case is even easier.

I also really liked his point about how Indiana explicitly permits first cousins over the age of 65 to marry, giving away the show:

Indiana has thus invented an insidious form of discrimination: favoring first cousins, provided they are not of the same sex, over homosexuals. Elderly first cousins are permit-ted to marry because they can’t produce children; homosexuals are forbidden to marry because they can’t produce children. The state’s argument that a marriage of first cousins who are past child-bearing age provides a “model [of] family life for younger, potentially procreative men and women” is impossible to take seriously.

But, really, the whole thing is devastating. Reading it, I was reminded of poor Maggie Gallagher trying to defend same-sex marriage bans at Volokh nearly a decade ago. It’s not that she was leaving good arguments unsaid; it’s that there just aren’t any good arguments on behalf of her position. It’s just an empty tautology, and attempts to come up with a more rational-sounding defense instantly collapse on themselves.

Joan Rivers

[ 36 ] September 4, 2014 |

When I started out, a pretty girl did not go into comedy. If you saw a pretty girl walk into a nightclub, she was automatically a singer. Comedy was all white, older men. It was Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope, Shelley Berman, Red Skelton … even Amos and Andy were white men, which is hilarious if you think about it.

Phyllis Diller was happening right before me. But even Phyllis was a caricature, and I didn’t want to be a caricature. I was a college graduate; I wanted to get married.

I didn’t even want to be a comedian. Nobody wanted to be a comedian. Nowadays, everyone wants to be a comedian. You look at a Whitney Cummings, who is so beautiful — she wanted to be a comedian! I wanted to be an actress. I was an office temp when one secretary said to me: “You’re very funny. You should go do stand-up, be a comedian. They make $6 a night some places.” And I said, “That’s more than I’m making as an office temp” — I made eight, but I had to also pay for my Correcto-Type because I was a lousy speller — so I thought, “Oh, I could do that and have days free to make the rounds.” And that’s why I became a comedian.

I had no idea what I was doing. The white men were doing “mother-in-law” and “my wife’s so fat …” jokes. It was all interchangeable. Bob Hope would walk into a town and say, “The traffic lights in this town are so slow that …” and it could be any town. When I went onstage, that just didn’t feel right. So I just said, “Let me talk about my life.” It was at the moment when Woody Allen was saying, “Let me talk about my life,” and George Carlin was saying, “Maybe I’ll talk about my life.” So I came in at the right moment.

My group was Woody and George and Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby. Rodney Dangerfield. Dick Cavett. All the ones who were coming up at the same time. But I never was one of the guys. I was never asked to go hang out; I never thought about it until later. They would all go to the Stage Delicatessen afterward and talk. I never got to go uptown and have a sandwich with them. So, even though I was with them, I wasn’t with them.

Everybody broke through ahead of me. I was the last one in the group to break through, or to be allowed to break through. Looking back, I think it was because I was a woman. Because in those days, they would come down to the Village and look at you for Johnny Carson. I was the very last one of the group they put on the Carson show.

I was brought up seven times to the Carson show — interviewed and auditioned seven times by seven different people, and they rejected me, each time, over a period of three years. Then Bill Cosby was filling in, and the comedian that night bombed. Bill said to the booking producer, Shelly Schultz: “Joan Rivers couldn’t be any worse than this guy. Why don’t you use her?” And that’s when they put me on the show. But they didn’t bring me on as a stand-up comic. They brought me on as a funny girl writer. I’m the only stand-up that never did a stand-up routine on the Carson show.

Carson, give him credit, said on air in 1965, “You’re gonna be a star.” Right smack on the air.

I adored Johnny. In the ’70s, I did opening monologues, I was hosting. The turning point was when I left the show. Everybody left the show to go to do their own shows. Bill Cosby. David Brenner. George Carlin. Everybody. I stuck around for 18 years. And they finally offered me my own late-night show.

The first person I called was Johnny, and he hung up on me — and never, ever spoke to me again. And then denied that I called him. I couldn’t figure it out. I would see him in a restaurant and go over and say hello. He wouldn’t talk to me.

I kept saying, “I don’t understand, why is he mad?” He was not angry at anybody else. I think he really felt because I was a woman that I just was his. That I wouldn’t leave him. I know this sounds very warped. But I don’t understand otherwise what was going on. For years, I thought that maybe he liked me better than the others. But I think it was a question of, “I found you, and you’re my property.” He didn’t like that as a woman, I went up against him.

And I was put up against him. In the press, he said, “She didn’t call me, and she was so terrible.” When you’ve told the truth and you read a lie, there’s nothing you can do about it. To this day, I’m very angry about that. Don’t f—in’ lie. You’re making, what, $300 million a year? What are you talking about? And I was going on Fox. Fox didn’t even have call letters at that point. Fox wasn’t Fox. Fox was six stupid little stations.

Looking back, and I never like to say it, the Carson breakup hurt me a lot, without realizing it. Even now, with our reality show Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? or Fashion Police, when I say, “No, this is wrong,” people say: “See? She is a bitch. She is a c—.” If I were a man, they’d say: “So brilliant. He’s tough, but he’s right.” Nobody ever says to me, “You’re right.”

I have a friend. She was a producer at NBC and so brilliant. And they fired her because she was very abrasive. Lorne Michaels has a reputation of being a tough nut. But they all say, “That Lorne, he’s mean, but he’s brilliant.”

This woman, they said, “Oh, she’s too nasty.” But she pulled in the numbers.

It’s very tough in the business. My act consists of my gown that I carry and two spotlights and a microphone. I’ll do my sound check, and sometimes they’re not happy when I say, “The sound isn’t right,” or “Can we try other lights?” Because they’re men at the board.

And lighting is very key for a woman, especially. I’ve been in the business almost 50 years — I know my f—ing lighting. And there is always pushback from the lighting people. They just don’t want to hear it from a woman. They just don’t want to give you that cookie.

I don’t want to hear that male comics want someone to match wits with. No, they don’t. They want someone to sit there and gaze at them adoringly. That’s still what they want. The upside is, they don’t get to wear the pretty clothes. They don’t get to have the pretty dressing room. Women comedians get the private bathroom first.

During women’s lib, which was at its height in the ’70s, you had to say: “F— the men. I could do better.” I think women did themselves a disservice because they wouldn’t talk about reality. Nobody wanted to say, “I had a lousy date” or “He left me.” But if that’s your life, that’s what they wanna hear. If you look around, very few women comics came out of the ’70s. It really started again in the ’90s, when they realized, it’s all right to say you wanna get married. It’s all right to say I wanna be pretty. That’s also part of your life. Thank God. Because now you know, we’ve got Whitney. I love Whitney. I think what she does is so smart. Sarah Silverman, oh my God. You just look at them and go: Good girls.

I love stand-up — the connection with an audience is awesome. I just played Royal Albert Hall, which is 4,500 people, probably not a lot for some. But for me, it was amazing. The energy! From the beginning, and to this day, I would never tell a lie onstage. So now I walk out, I go, “I’m so happy to see you,” and I really truly am so happy to see them. The one thing I brought to this business is speaking the absolute truth. Say only what you really feel about the subject. And that’s too bad if they don’t like it. That’s what comedy is. It’s you telling the truth as you see it.

I think it was Cosby who also said to me, “If only 2 percent of the world thinks you’re funny, you’ll still fill stadiums for the rest of your life.”

My advice to women comedians is: First of all, don’t worry about the money. Love the process. You don’t know when it’s gonna happen. Louis C.K. started hitting in his 40s; he’d been doing it for 20 years. And don’t settle. I don’t want to ever hear, “It’s good enough.” Then it’s not good enough. Don’t ever underestimate your audience. They can tell when it isn’t true. Also: Ignore your competition. A Mafia guy in Vegas gave me this advice: “Run your own race, put on your blinders.” Don’t worry about how others are doing. Something better will come.

Ignore aging: Comedy is the one place it doesn’t matter. It matters in singing because the voice goes. It matters certainly in acting because you’re no longer the sexpot. But in comedy, if you can tell a joke, they will gather around your deathbed. If you’re funny, you’re funny. Isn’t that wonderful?

If there is a secret to being a comedian, it’s just loving what you do. It is my drug of choice. I don’t need real drugs. I don’t need liquor. It’s the joy that I get performing. That is my rush. I get it nowhere else.

What pleasure you feel when you’ve kept people happy for an hour and a half. They’ve forgotten their troubles. It’s great. There’s nothing like it in the world. When everybody’s laughing, it’s a party. And then you get a check at the end. That’s very nice.

I’ve been told this is a good documentary.

Were Black People Disproportionately Harmed By Slavery? Views Differ!

[ 208 ] September 4, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim some Economist hack, on The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism: “Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.”

Similarly, there were recent news accounts in which journalists are all victims, and ISIS terrorists all villains. Why can’t we get some fair-and-balanced reporting on this morally complex issue?

Super Bowl odds

[ 141 ] September 4, 2014 |

I’m a lifelong Seahawks fan, but a fairly casual and not particularly analytical NFL fan. So perhaps someone who knows the league better than I would care to explain why the Seahawks are longer shots for the title than the Broncos?

Three possibilities:

1) Path to Super Bowl in AFC easier than NFC

2) Events of February 2, 2014 were an outlier, not indicative of likely future outcomes in matchups between the two teams.

3) Off season personnel changes improved the Broncos’ roster relative to the Seahawks.

I assume (1) is doing the most work here. It’s not clear the NFC’s greater strength was all that significant in 2013, but of course perceptions matter as much as reality in setting the line. Am I missing something?

D.C. Circuit Vacates Embarrassing Opinion

[ 37 ] September 4, 2014 |

Picture0003

The D.C. Circuit will hear Halbig en banc, and in the order vacated this decade’s answer to Bush v. Gore.  Since the arguments for not hearing Halbig en banc were almost as terrible as the arguments made by the Halbig plurality itself, this is not exactly shocking.

Of course, there will be no particular urgency among ACA troofers to get the case before the Supreme Court, since I’m sure they’re confident that their arguments could persuade anyone who isn’t a fanatical ideological opponent of the Affordable Ca…sorry, I can’t even finish this sentence without laughing.

Will life be worth living after Derek Jeter’s retirement?

[ 106 ] September 4, 2014 |

field of dreams

Not the Onion:

The New York Yankees announced Tuesday that the team will wear a patch of Derek Jeter’s final-season logo on all player hats and uniforms from Sunday, the day that the shortstop will be honored at Yankee Stadium, through the end of the season.

There’s an actual Derek Jeter “final season logo?” For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!

Meanwhile let us not begrudge a bit of beak-wetting among the solemn ceremonials:

The baseballs with Jeter logos that will be put in play on Sunday, and the uniforms used in the game and throughout the rest of the season will be sold by Steiner Sports, company president Brandon Steiner said.

New Era is selling a limited-edition three-cap box of Derek Jeter commemorative hats for $150.
Steiner also has an exclusive autograph deal with Jeter and has been selling more than 200 Jeter-signed products, including game-used jerseys that retail for $25,000.

Leading up to Jeter’s final games, an even greater flow of merchandise has hit the shelves. New Era is selling a three-cap box of Jeter hats for $150. The hats, which are available only at Yankee Stadium and official Yankees stores, are limited to 2,014 sets.

A man’s got to feed his family. (Per Baseball Reference Jeter has collected $265,000,000 in salary over the years.)

LGM is celebrating The Final Month of Derek Jeter’s Final Season with an official commemorative Derek Jeter Two Minute Hate:

(1) Derek Jeter has become in his logoized Final Season a truly awful player. Indeed he might be the worst regular in the entire league. The Yankees keep putting his .310 OBP and .312 SA at the top of the lineup because he’s Derek Jeter, and continue to play him at a key defensive position even though at this point he has the range of a sleeper sofa, and doing so is actively harming their already-tenuous postseason hopes.

(2) Derek Jeter and Alan Trammell had, per the most advanced metrics, essentially indistinguishable careers, in terms of regular-season value to their teams (Jeter played in a year’s worth of post-season games because he was on a bunch of great teams: games in which he played no better or worse than he did during the rest of his career, despite the endless hosannas to his reputed clutchiosity.) Trammell remains largely ignored by HOF voters, while Jeter is going to have a national monument put up on the DC mall eventually.

(3) Derek Jeter may or may not be an admirable person generally. His baseball career tells us exactly nothing about that. This insight is brought to you courtesy of People Who Are More than 12 Years Old (and don’t cover sports for a living).

Nothing More Needs to Be Said

[ 38 ] September 4, 2014 |

Jessica Williams has the final word on catcalling and sexual harassment.

Like Toyota, Only with Submarines

[ 11 ] September 4, 2014 |

Some thoughts at the Diplomat on Japan’s entry into the diesel sub market:

Germany, France, and Russia have long dominated the existing market for diesel-electric submarines. The German Type 209 submarine serves in over a dozen navies, with more than 60 boats currently in service. While the design stems from the 1960s, the newest boats entered service in the last decade. Germany’s successor, the Type 214, is scheduled for export to Greece and South Korea, but has suffered some setbacks. France has exported the Scorpene-class to Malaysia, Brazil, and India, and Russia continues to export its Kilo-class subs and Improved Kilos to a handful of countries, at least until Russian industry can work through the problems with the Lada-class.

The Japanese Soryus are extremely competitive with these boats. At 4,200 tons submerged, the Soryu-class is considerably larger than either the Type 214, Scorpene, or Improved Kilo, and can carry a much heavier weapons load. This size also makes them quieter and longer-ranged than the other boats on the market. At current price expectations of around $500 million, the Soryus are not wildly more expensive than the other boats.

Willie

[ 52 ] September 3, 2014 |

This Rolling Stone profile of Willie Nelson is pretty great, even if magazines should not refer to their own work as “definitive,” which is the equivalent of talking about your own integrity since evidently we can just judge ourselves objectively these days.

Willie is a deserving legend and I say very little negative about his music. I do think that his love of marijuana has come to dominate discussions of the man who wrote “Crazy” and “Hello Walls” and “Night Life” and so many other definitive songs, not to mention full albums like Phases and Stages and Red Headed Stranger. Of course all of that was a very long time ago and Willie started resting on his laurels a bit by the late 1970s, not writing too many songs after that and certainly not writing songs on the quality level of the first half of his career. But then he didn’t have to. When the world is at your fingertips, as it was for Willie in the last 40 years (IRS notwithstanding), why try? But when you are in your mid-30s, kind of a mess as a person, and still holding onto the dream of making it in Nashville, yeah, you are going to write “Funny How Time Slips Away.” But I do wish that he wasn’t something of a joke for his weed smoking. The article certainly engages that side of him and maybe for good reason, since its not like he has hidden it.

Overall, there are some great stories and crazy stuff in the article. Willie worked as a plumber’s assistant in Eugene? Why did he end up there for awhile? And the number of country singers who spent time in the Pacific Northwest for random reasons is really quite high, most notably Loretta Lynn, whose worthless husband dragged her out there just as she was getting started as a singer. Buck Owens was working up there for awhile too. Willie’s drummer Paul English was a pimp? Whoa. On the other hand, English knew how to handle the rednecks which Bee Spears and Mickey Raphael struggled with during those transitional years in the 70s. Willie probably needed a roughneck in the band somewhere given the craziness.

Anyway, lots of laughs here and well worth a read. Also, check out some footage of this Willie show on the first ever episode of Austin City Limits in 1974. This is great stuff.

Strategic (Mis)Uses of Academic Freedom

[ 80 ] September 3, 2014 |

Liel Leibovitz has an extended defense of UIUC’s firing of Steven Salaita. Let’s start with this:

Another tweet applied just as much nuance in declaring, “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” Subject that last utterance to a close reading—an exercise that passes for rigid and original thinking in most American universities these days—and you learn that the author approaches anti-Semitism with the one-two punch of unreality: It doesn’t exist—hence the quotation marks—and if it does exist then it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Given the unoriginality of Leibovitz’s misreading, I would have let it slide had he not patted himself on the back for his “close reading” (while, paging SEK, criticizing people who think this is a real skill.) Even looked at in isolation, the “close reading” is somewhere between “uncharitable” and “inept.” The designation of anti-Semitism as “horrible” makes it pretty clear that Leibovitz is wrong to say that the quotation marks around “anti-Semitism” are an argument that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist. Rather, the most natural reading of the tweet is that conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is cheapening the latter term, which describes a very real and very serious problem. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that this is the only possible reading of the words in isolation — we’re talking about a medium that limits communications to 140 characters, after all. But I would say that Leibovitz is not very well-positioned to be accusing others of lacking “nuance.” (As I’ve said before, I do agree that Salaita’s tweet wishing that the settlers would vanish is entirely indefensible, although to imply that it’s a literal incitement to violence is silly.)

And, of course, it’s worse than that. Since we’re not fanatical opponents of the ACA trying out any legal argument that might convince the right majority of hacks, we should not read the tweet in isolation but in the context of his other writings. Doing so makes it abundantly clear that while Salaita is a strong (and at times uncivil and even crackpottish) critic of Israel on his Twitter feed, he believes that anti-Semitism is both very real and very deplorable. And since Leibovitz has no actual evidence that Salaita is an anti-Semite, his “replacing references to Jews and Israelis with blacks, gays, or women” analogy is specious.

Let’s move on to the other bad argument at the core of the op-ed:

And it’s tempting, in analyzing this situation, to focus on its minor irritants and point out, for example, how deliciously ironic it is that the champions of academic freedom riding to Salaita’s defense did it by boycotting his university, a blunt tactic that, in this case, causes much more harm to the principle of academic freedom than the incident it wishes to protest.

I’m mystified by how scholars declining to make appearances at UIUC as a protest — the very minimalist boycott most of the disciplines are engaged in — damages academic freedom at all. Leibovitz doesn’t explain, and I’ve never heard of the idea that academic freedom requires accepting all speaking opportunities. (It seems obvious to me that cancelling appearances is itself a form of speech, not a suppression of speech.) There are certainly forms of boycott that could be inconsistent with academic freedom — blackballing UIUC scholars from conferences or publication, for example — but as far as I can tell nobody is advocating this.

Even if we were to assume that there’s an academic freedom problem with refusing to take UIUC’s speaking space and/or money, I’m really baffled how this could be more damaging to academic freedom than firing a tenured faculty member for expressing political views. (McCarthyism: no real threat to academic freedom, so long as the faculty willing to take loyalty oaths never turn down a speaking gig!) I think I can understand why there’s nothing but bare assertion on offer for this proposition.

Actually, there’s another reason why Leibovitz hasn’t thought very clearly about what the principles of academic freedom mean. Namely, he’s against them:

Some, of course, may argue that the answer is still yes, and that subject-matter expertise ought to be the single and sacred standard by which we hire, reward, and promote our professors. But many more believe, like Chancellor Wise, that while we ought to fiercely insist on protecting our scholars’ freedom to say whatever they please, we should also insist that speech, like action, have consequences. In some cases, we may listen to scholars speak out on unpopular subjects and reward them for their insight and their courage; in others, we may hear things so vile that we decide the speaker, no matter how well-versed in his or her discipline, has no place in an institution that depends on the unfettered exchange of ideas, and that scholars who cannot translate their passions into well-reasoned arguments are better off opining on Twitter rather than in the classroom.

Until academics live up to this obvious condition, until they realize that, like the rest of us, they operate in a community and enjoy no special license to speak and act with utter impunity, until they understand that public engagement is not a privilege but a responsibility, they will continue to find themselves marginalized. It’s a price that neither they nor we can afford to pay.

This argument is at least more honest than those of Wise, since she claims to support academic freedom in principle. The argument that firing faculty members solely for expressing disagreeable political views is perfectly OK is at least a real argument. (And remember that it’s wealthy and/or politically connected donors and trustees ultimately policing the bounds of acceptable discourse once the principles of academic freedom are abandoned.) If you think that Coke Stevenson’s Texas is as good a way of organizing a university as any other, that’s your privilege. I strongly disagree, but it’s good to have the stakes made clear.

The best nightclub in New Jersey

[ 130 ] September 3, 2014 |

Las Vegas casinos invariably give me the creeps. (My entry in a Saddest Place on Earth contest was “Nine PM Christmas Eve, all you can eat buffet, Caesar’s Palace”). I can only imagine the unspeakable dread evoked by a few nights in Atlantic City.

Revel Casino Hotel opened with a bang a little more than two years ago amid high hopes of turning around Atlantic City’s struggling casino market.

But the $2.4 billion resort went out with a whimper in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday, as its casino closed one day after the hotel checked out its last guest. . .

“It’s a … shame,” said Ruthie Fenimore of Warren, New Jersey, one of the last gamblers to play at Revel on Tuesday. “I really love this place. This place would be perfect if it was in Las Vegas. It would be right up there with Wynn. All the restaurants were awesome and HQ is the best nightclub I’ve ever been to in New Jersey. I remember the first time I came here, I was lying on the bed opening and closing the curtains with a remote control. It blew my mind. The bathroom was bigger than my home.” . . .

Revel had been slated to close at 6 a.m., but staff shut it down 35 minutes early, pulling yellow chains across its entrances, and herding the small handful of gamblers that remained inside toward the doors. A pre-recorded announcement programmed in advance blared through loudspeakers precisely at 6 a.m., saying “Attention: Revel Casino is now closed.” Immediately, lights began snapping off inside the glass-covered building, built to appear as it if had been sculpted by waves.

But Revel had gone mostly dark hours earlier. Its hotel, shaped like the 1950s cartoon character Gumby, was closed on Monday, and it was virtually invisible in the early morning darkness. The iconic ball atop the building, designed by the son of actor Frank Gorshin, who played “The Riddler” on the “Batman” TV series, was also turned off, and the only illumination was two emergency red lights at the very top of the structure to warn away approaching aircraft.

Apparently four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos are closing this year. Of course this is all a product of the gusts of creative destruction unleashed by gradually legalizing gambling from coast to coast. (A few months ago I drove from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo, MI, and noticed that half the billboards were advertising either “gaming” establishments, or bankruptcy services.)

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