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I Guess I Can’t Rip On Jersey Anymore

[ 20 ] December 11, 2007 |

There’s word today that New Jersey is poised to repeal the death penalty in the state. The senate passed the bill, which will now go to the democrat-controlled house and then to Governor Corzine, a death penalty opponent, for his signature. There are currently 8 men on death row in New Jersey; should the bill pass, their sentences will be automatically commuted to life in prison. This effort has been on the move since January.

Next time I almost get hit by a car with New Jersey license plates while crossing the street, I might have to hold my tongue (and my gesticulations).

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Sentencing Round-Up

[ 5 ] December 10, 2007 |

Scott covered the important points in his post about the Supreme Court’s decision today in Gall and Kimbrough. Boiled down, the Court in these cases says that it meant what it said in Booker: the Sentencing Guidelines are just that — suggestions — and federal judges are not mandated to apply them. The decision today was in a crack sentencing case; it provides hope that more and more judges will be able to show their disdain for the crack/cocaine disparity. But as Hogan and I both noted in comments to Scott’s post, Gall and Kimbrough should not be understood as paving the way to the end of the war on (some classes of people who use some) drugs. The Crack/Cocaine disparity was legislatively created and will stick around until Congress dismantles it. Which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.

That said, it’s definitely a good sign that seven of the nine justices of the Supreme Court — including the Chief Justice and Justice Scalia — are not prepared to hold federal judges to Congress’s misguided guidelines.

More posts about Gall and Kimbrough from around the blogosphere can be found here, here, here and here.

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So Many Anecdotes!

[ 64 ] December 10, 2007 |

In response to Robert Maranto’s editorial, Donald Douglas of Long Beach City College spills his guts and exposes the leftist cesspool of higher education:

Maranto’s discussion rings very true in my own circumstances. I became a 9/11 Republican after my own participation on an Iraq panel on March 19, 2003. Since then, I’ve had open ideological battles with a number of my faculty colleagues. One radical feminist philosopher on my floor turns up her nose and looks askance when passing me in the hallway. This is a woman who I had previously lunched with on faculty professional development days.

Oh noes! The McCarthyism! It burns!

Hard as it may be to believe, there are times when adults — even those who share lunch once in a while — stop hanging out together. And yes, sometimes those personal ruptures occur because one person has exposed himself or herself as an idiot by supporting an ill-conceived war. But unless this “radical feminist” happens to sit on the writer’s tenure/review committee; serve as his dean or department chair; or functions in any other way that actually imperils his professional status or future, there’s no foul.

As for Douglas’ first point, I’ll simply note that he seems to have become a “9/11 Republican” in 2003. Um…. Sorry, I can’t find the words right now to make fun of that.

But it gets worse:

Occasionally I find misplaced sociology syllabi in the classrooms on campus, and works like The Power Elite – or others arguing the institutional racism line – form the core readings. They’re not balanced by more conservative voices.

Help me Rhonda! Clearly, there’s no possible reason that a sociologist might assign a book by C. Wright Mills, who happens merely to have been one of the 20th century’s greatest American sociologists. Have Students for Academic Freedom been informed of this unprecedented thought crime?

The last bit is truly priceless, though:

I participated in a recent campus forum on the Iraq war. I debated two Marxist professors who argued that President Bush was a “pathological liar” and that the Iraq war was a disastrous failure. I provided point-by-point rebuttals to their every claim, especially noting the dramatic successes of U.S. forces under the new war strategy of General David Petraeus.

Some members in the audience were smiling and shaking their heads in agreement as I confidently deflected the leftist hokum (some of the students had jaws agape when they heard my alternative version of events).

Jaws agape? I’ll bet!

. . . UPDATE: I fold! I fold! Donald Douglas has taken great offense with LGM’s “frat-boy, hate-addled readership” and finished me off with one of the greatest comments ever:

Who are you calling an idiot, sir? I don’t find that in the least funny. I do not know you, and you’re certainly not my friend. I can assure you that you’re barkng up the wrong tree if you think I’m just going take your abuse like some girly-man.

Not since Ann Althouse accused me of being a tiny penis has my manhood taken such a devastating hit. If anyone needs me, I’ll be under my bed drinking strawberry Yoohoo.

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Lesser Sentence For Crack Distribution Upheld

[ 8 ] December 10, 2007 |

I’m guessing Bean will have more to say about this, but the Supreme Court today held in a 7-2 decision that lower court judges are permitted not to apply federal sentencing guidelines (including, in this case, guidelines that mandate much harsher sentences for trafficking crack than powder cocaine) so long as the sentence is reasonable. In this case, Ginsburg wrote that considering the gross disparity of sentences for similar offenses was something judges could take into account. One of the dissents was (predictably) from Alito, the other, somewhat surprisingly given his record on sentencing cases, was from Thomas. If I understand Thomas’s dissent correctly, he objects to the Court’s decision in Booker — a decision that saved the federal sentencing guidelines from Sixth Amendment violations by reading them as advisory — but as long as it’s in force (and he recognizes it as valid under statutory stare decisis) the guidelines should be considered mandatory.

The majority makes the much more convincing case. If the guidelines being advisory means anything, it’s that federal judges should have some measure of discretion in applying them, and in this case there were perfectly rational reasons for a reduced sentence.

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The Steyn Complaint

[ 9 ] December 10, 2007 |

I agree with Jim Henley and Roy Edroso that the complaint filed in federal and provincial human rights commissions against Mark Steyn is a dangerous threat to free speech. Not because, as Maclean’s is saying in defense, Steyn’s writing isn’t “Islamophobic,” but because the suppression of political speech is exceptionally dangerous. Some people may object that the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Charter is, in Section 1, subject to “reasonable limits” that “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Well, even when the right to free speech (as in the American Constitution) is stated categorically and without explicit exemptions, free speech rights are never absolute. The direct advocacy of violence against groups and individuals, for example, can be regulated if it’s a serious threat. But limitations to free speech that go so far as to include political writing that some groups or individuals find offensive would swallow the right entirely; I can’t see how such limits can be “demonstrably justified.”

But even if we assume arguendo that the legislation permitting the complaint is legal as a matter of constitutional law, it remains true that the legislation is overbroad and that the filing of complaints against Steyn is a chilling attack on free speech. As Henley points out, “it’s naive to think that the political process, which is all about the deployment of relative power, can sustainably suppress the expression of the strong in favor of the expression of the weak.” As I’ve written before with respect to the Canadian Supreme Court’s well-intentioned but misguided attempt to permit the censorship of pornography on feminist grounds — which predictably led to the harassment of gay and lesbian bookstores — if such censorship is necessary it won’t work and if it can work it’s not necessary. The application of inherently vague standards to censor speech is highly unlikely to work to the benefit of groups with less access to political power in the long run. And a right to free speech that doesn’t include speech that one considers objectionable is not a right to free speech at all.

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Pro-Life? Not So Much.

[ 24 ] December 10, 2007 |

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. The “pro-life” movement could not actually care less about life. The most basic proof of this: the violence that “pro-lifers” exert on abortion providers and other people who ensure that women’s lives and health are protected and free from undue interference. Susan Hill, a North Carolina woman who recently won an award for all of her work opening and running health clinics that provide abortion, knows this first-hand (via):

She has lived through 17 arson attacks and once got 14 bomb threats in a year. One of her doctors in Florida died after being shot three times in the back by a protester, who is now serving a life sentence.

And yet, she has hope — she thinks that if the people who are bombing clinics and shooting doctors knew women’s stories and what drives women to seek abortions, they’d rethink their actions. I doubt that.
Why? Because women have been telling their stories for years and the violence continues. Just last week two people set an Albuquerque, NM, abortion clinic on fire. But the anti-woman movement does not condemn the arson; instead, they note that the doctor whose clinic it was is still performing abortions elsewhere. Read: he has not yet been stopped.

So, I ask (again): isn’t it time we (ALL – including public officials) stopped calling them “pro-life”?

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Query on the Chavez Referendum

[ 0 ] December 10, 2007 |

Jorge Castenada, via Drezner:

[B]y midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chávez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d’état if he insisted on doing so. Finally, after a late-night phone call from Raúl Isaías Baduel, a budding opposition leader and former Chávez comrade in arms, the president conceded—but with one condition: he demanded his margin of defeat be reduced to a bare minimum in official tallies, so he could save face and appear as a magnanimous democrat in the eyes of the world. So after this purportedly narrow loss Chávez did not even request a recount, and nearly every Latin American colleague of Chávez’s congratulated him for his “democratic” behavior.

One of Dan’s commenters suggests that Castenada is not a source who can be trusted on such things. I don’t know enough to say one way or the other; anyone have more insight into this question? Randy? Mr. Trend? MSS?

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How to Write an Editorial about Higher Education

[ 45 ] December 10, 2007 |

This op-ed in today’s Washington Post recycles all the unpersuasive anecdotal and statistical complaints usually raised by conservatives when moaning about the liberal bias in higher education. The piece is miserably composed, but it’s bound to assume its rightful place in the anthology of right-wing arguments on the subject of “intellectual diversity” in the nation’s universities.

After dispensing with the obligatory mention of Lawrence Summers — who is, objectively speaking, the greatest intellectual martyr since Socrates — Robert Maranto applies the usual paint-by-numbers methodology that characterizes this particular genre of lament:

Step 1. Describe the heart-rending case of an anonymous, conservative friend who — unable to withstand the daily teasing and groin-punching from his liberal fascist colleagues — finally decided to take his ball and go home:

A sociologist I know recalls that his decision to become a registered Republican caused “a sensation” at his university. “It was as if I had become a child molester,” he said. He eventually quit academia to join a think tank because “you don’t want to be in a department where everyone hates your guts.”

This is almost too silly for comment. Every university department on the planet includes someone whom the rest of the group loathes; in nearly every instance, this is because the people in question are insufferable monsters who badger their colleagues, drive students from the program, refuse to pull their service weight, and extend already pointless meetings with pedantic detours about things of interest only to them. Not to put too fine a point to it, but Maranto’s friend was probably that guy.

Step 2. Bitch about that department that refused to hire you at some point in your career, and insinuate a political motive to explain the unthinkable slight.:

Everything seemed to be going well until I mentioned, in a casual conversation with department members over dinner, that I planned to vote Republican in the upcoming presidential election. Conversation came to a halt, and someone quickly changed the subject. The next day, I thought my final interview went fairly well. But the department ended up hiring someone who had published far less, but apparently “fit” better than I did. At least that’s what I was told when I called a month later to learn the outcome of the job search, having never received any further communication from the school.

I, too, am stunned that nearly every school with whom I’ve ever interviewed refused to hire me. Indeed, many of them even chose to hire candidates who’d published and taught less than I had at the time. When I figure out the reason for this, you will surely read about it in the Washington Post or FrontPage Magazine.

Step 3. Invoke seemingly non-partisan data to buttress your anecdotes; downplay the fact that that the data have not come from peer-reviewed sources but instead from “scholarship” funded and/or published by the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute, and A-List wingnut foundations.

[A]cademic job markets seem to discriminate against socially conservative PhDs. Stanley Rothman of Smith College and S. Robert Lichter of George Mason University find strong statistical evidence that these academics must publish more books and articles to get the same jobs as their liberal peers. Among professors who have published a book, 73 percent of Democrats are in high-prestige colleges and universities, compared with only 56 percent of Republicans.

A few observations on the source here. For starters, Maranto chooses to identify Lichter and Rothman by their university affiliations rather than by the right-wing research group — the Center for Media and Public Affairs — which they founded in the 1980s and through which their “scholarship” is usually channeled. Lichter and Rothman are probably best known for their laughably skewed studies of “media bias” in (to cite one example) which they completely disregarded over 98 percent of the sample data to reach a prearranged conclusion about the liberal slant at PBS. I haven’t read the study to which Maranto refers, but if the similarly-themed past work of Lichter and Rothman is any guide, it will likely please their financial patrons at the Scaife, Coors and Smith Richardson Foundations, which have offered them hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Maranto’s other sources of data are all connected to one another through the American Enterprise Institute, which recently hosted them at a conference and is, moreover, publishing their work as a collection of essays next year.

Step 4. Conclude with some bland observation about “intellectual diversity” while claiming to have no interest in ideological quotas; publish your work with an institution that exists for no other reason than to shape public policy along conservative lines.

Ultimately, universities will have to clean their own houses. Professors need to re-embrace a culture of reasoned inquiry and debate. And since debate requires disagreement, higher education needs to encourage intellectual diversity in its hiring and promotion decisions with something like the fervor it shows for ethnic and racial diversity. It’s the only way universities will earn back society’s respect and reclaim their role at the center of public life.

I won’t even bother with Maranto’s implication that “ethnic and racial diversity” has nothing to do with “intellectual diversity.” But if anyone believes this op-ed — and the “research” it touts — won’t prove useful to the Academic Bill of Rights community, they’re simply too credulous for this world.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: Al-Qasimi Dynasty

[ 2 ] December 10, 2007 |

The Al-Qasimi family rose to prominence as religious and temporal leaders in the 16th century in what is now northern Yemen. Of the Shi’ite faith, the Al-Qasimi led resistance to the Ottoman Empire and to tribes from the area of modern Saudi Arabia, winning independence in the 17th century, but losing it in the 19th. As Ottoman power receded in the early 20th century, Yemen reasserted itself politically under Imam Abdullah, winning autonomy in 1913 and independence in 1918. In 1926 Imam Abdullah declared the Kingdom of Yemen, and himself King Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din. The Kingdom of Yemen occupied the territory later known as North Yemen.

The first years of the Kingdom were consumed with conflict against both the House of Saud and the British Empire. Yemen and Saudi Arabia competed for territory on the peninsula, and Yemen refused to recognize its southern boundary with the British Aden Protectorate, cobbled together from Ottoman holdings at the end of World War I. The conflict was eventually settled in 1934. King Yahya Muhammad died in a coup in 1948, and was succeeded by his 57 year old son, Ahmad bin Yahya. Under the rule of Ahmad bin Yahya Yemen would briefly become part of the United Arab States (with Egypt and Syria), and continued its efforts to bring about the end of the British protectorate over Aden.

Ahmad bin Yahya died peacefully in 1962. His son, King Muhammad Al-Badr, ruled for only eight days before being deposed in a coup. Muhammad Al-Badr survived the coup and fled into the wilderness, where he helped lead resistance to military rule. This resistance eventually developed into a proxy war between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the Egyptians supporting the government and the Saudis supporting the King. Inevitably the conflict took on a larger significance, with the Egyptians receiving Soviet support and the Royalists receiving assistance from Iran and the United Kingdom. Although initially optimistic about the prospects for victory, the Egyptians quickly became bogged down in Yemen, letting their military posture against Israel suffer and contributing to their defeat in 1967. After the Six Day War the Egyptians began a draw down and disengagement from Yemen, finally leaving in 1971. The Royalists weren’t able to capitalize completely, and Saudi Arabia withdrew its support in 1970. A compromise peace was eventually agreed to, and the King left for exile in the United Kingdom.

King Muhammad Al-Badr died in 1996, and was succeeded as claimant by his son, Ageel bin Muhammad Al-Badr. Discontent continues in Yemen, both in the north and between the north and what briefly became South Yemen following the British evacuation east of Suez. Prospects for a return to the throne are uncertain, but probably not high.

No trivia; Deposed Monarch Blogging will return on January 6, 2008.

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Cooperstown Union-Busting

[ 0 ] December 9, 2007 |

Fay Vincent has more. I didn’t know this, but apparently the new inductee brought the same level of competence and integrity to his post-baseball career:

When Kuhn was pushed out of baseball — as I was years later — he went back to his law firm. In 1988, he and another lawyer started a new firm that was expected to be a grandly successful practice. At the end of 1989, Myerson & Kuhn filed for bankruptcy. At this point, Kuhn moved to Florida — a move that his creditors’ lawyers said was made to claim the protection of that state’s homestead exemption.

Under that law, the home of a debtor may not be used to satisfy debts, and so Kuhn, with a large, valuable and recently purchased Florida residence, was literally home free. In effect, he thumbed his nose at the banks and court in New York, and he left his partners, some of whom he had vigorously recruited, holding a huge empty bag. One such former partner, a tax expert, complained bitterly to me when I was in baseball. He has since died but I wonder how he would have felt about this latest honor by an institution that claims to value character when it considers candidates.

The members of the committee that elected Bowie Kuhn and passed on Marvin Miller should feel ashamed. But they do not. They almost surely believe that Miller and the union won the war, but they refuse him the honor of his victory. This is a set of actions by little men making small-minded decisions.

As King Kaufman points out, even leaving aside the unconscionable exclusion of Miller the election of Kuhn itself is ridiculous. He wasn’t even a competent union-buster; it would be like putting Bill Frist into the Political Hall of Fame.

This silliness also reflects the recurrent pattern James identified in The Politics of Glory. The Hall of Fame creates rules that make it virtually impossible to elect anybody; this won’t hold, because the Hall need new members; and then the rules are changed in a way that makes the arbitrary selection of transparently unqualified members (in many cases cronies of the selection committee) inevitable. Stacking the selection committee primarily to exclude one obviously overqualified individual seems to be a new twist, though.

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The Children Of Ezra

[ 3 ] December 9, 2007 |

With Ezra Klein moving to the American Prospect, his weekend crew — featuring many excellent bloggers and friends of LGM — have started a blog of their own. Very much worth checking out/bookmarking.

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The "Liberal" Republican Candidate!

[ 5 ] December 8, 2007 |

Mike Huckabee favored quarantining people with AIDS…in 1992. But he doesn’t favor tax cuts even if they would involve ignoring court orders, so clearly he’s some sort of free-thinking anarchist!

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