Author Archives: SHG

When Liquor Touches Lips

When a putative advocacy group put out a flyer to freshmen that said, “if she has touched alcohol, do not touch her,” it was a terrible message.  In a system replete with vague and meaningless language, this fed the monster, validating the very problem that needs fixing.  And indeed, the College Fix twitted a poster from Southeast Missouri State University to the same effect:

No Alcohol Continue reading

Housekeeping: Thanks, But.

As my pal Ken says, “my people have no tradition of proofreading.” I write posts quickly. They’re not legal briefs, but blawg posts. I don’t proofread them. They have typos, and my editor, David, sends me corrections when he awakes from his drunken stupor. Until then, the typos remain.

I could spend my time proofreading, but I choose not to. I prefer instead to just write so that I can get the ideas out without fussing over the details. It’s not that I don’t care about typos, or that I wouldn’t prefer to correct them, but it’s the allocation of scarce resources: my time.

I appreciate it when people point them out to me so I can correct them, but when people leave comments about typos, it just burdens the comments with extraneous stuff. So, here’s the new deal: if you want to alert me to a typo, do so by any means you want, email, twit or comment.  Please know that I appreciate your doing so.

But if by comment, I will no longer post the comment, which I’ve done in the past as an acknowledgement to the correction. While I appreciate it, the comment will be trashed after the typo is corrected and I will no longer acknowledge or thank you for the heads up. I do this so my comments section will be limited to substantive ideas and not filled with typo comments.

Thanks. Carry on.

Cowardly Silence (Update)

At Wesleyan University, a fellow named Brian Stascavage wrote an op-ed entitled “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think” for the Wesleyan Argus. The content of the op-ed is irrelevant, and won’t be mentioned at all. The reaction to it, on the other hand, is what prompts this post.

The school supported Stascavage’s right to express an opinion, no matter how unpopular it was with those who disagree with him.  The editors of the student newspaper caved in to popular pressure.  They were physically confronted by the reaction, with half their newspapers stolen and destroyed to prevent eyes from seeing Stascavage’s words. The staff of the Ankh, apparently an alternative newspaper for people of color, shows up at the Argus to make demands.  The editors of the Argus acceded to the demands, doing what had never been done before in reparation, a front page editorial disavowing Stascavage’s op-ed.

The destruction of papers was an awful response. The demand for speech contrary to Stascavage’s was entirely fair. It was up to the editors of the Argus to decide whether to agree to their demands, and they did. It was hardly a proud moment of journalistic integrity, but that’s a reflection on the editors, not speech. One guy expressed his views. Other people expressed theirs. Destroyed papers is not acceptable. More speech is. Continue reading

A Highly Scientific Study Proves Women’s Feelings Prevail

Words. Definitions. Feelings. Lies. Agendas. Sound and fury signifying nothing.

A new survey released Monday purports to prove that 1 in 5 women (or more) will be sexually assaulted while in college.

The survey, conducted by the Association for American Universities, included responses from 150,000 students at 27 colleges and universities, including many Ivy League schools.

Whether fault should be levied on the AAU for the study, for its methodology, or whether no study, no matter how sincere in its effort, could achieve a valid conclusion is unclear.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the study was framed in such a way as to steer clear of some criticism, such as its broad definition of rape and sexual assault, intended to be sufficiently inclusive that no advocacy group could claim it left anything, anyone out.  Then again, definitions accepted, no demanded, on college campuses defy any cognizable definition anymore. Continue reading

Washington State’s Misguided Marijuana Message

Cheers rose from the groundswell of support for Washington State’s legalizing marijuana.  But not everyone in Washington went, “like, you know, yay, man.”  And they, too, got a little something out of the deal.

The Lewiston Tribune in Idaho reports the teens ages 14, 15 and 17 have been charged in nearby Asotin County with felonies that could net them up to five years in prison. The offense was previously a misdemeanor with a maximum 90-day jail sentence.
Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols said Senate Bill 5052, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law this year, contains the new language.
“If you are a minor, a person under 21, it’s a felony no matter what,” Nichols said.

Wait, what?  Apparently there was a side-effect to legalization that somehow flew under the radar.  It’s purpose was clear, the sort of rationalization that flows through the minds of legislators who act with the certainty that their purposes will work. Continue reading

Eradicating A Hotbed of Sexual Assault

The institutional villain in the fake Jackie/UVA rape story, that, despite the fact that it was a wholesale fabrication by Jackie, bought hook, line and sinker by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and published without any attempt at verification by Rolling Stone, was a fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. Even as doubt crept in, there was little doubt that such a thing as a vicious gang rape could happen in a fraternity.

Because they’re hotbeds of sexual assault. Put a bunch of horny, drunk guys together and rape comes out the other side. Everybody knows that, right?

At the New York Times Room for Debate, well after the Jackie lie faded from memory, but with the inherent belief that fraternities remain houses of rape and misogyny still intact, the question was posed: Should college fraternities and sororities be coed? Continue reading

Coddling, Or Just Sensitivity To Feelz?

In response to the brilliant Atlantic post by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt decrying the coddling of the American mind, Cornell assistant philosophy prof Kate Manne, a self-described millennial, explains that trigger warnings aren’t coddling at all.

But trigger warnings have been adapted to serve a subtly different purpose within universities. Increasingly, professors like me simply give students notice in their syllabuses, or before certain reading assignments. The point is not to enable — let alone encourage — students to skip these readings or our subsequent class discussion (both of which are mandatory in my courses, absent a formal exemption). Rather, it is to allow those who are sensitive to these subjects to prepare themselves for reading about them, and better manage their reactions. The evidence suggests that at least some of the students in any given class of mine are likely to have suffered some sort of trauma, whether from sexual assault or another type of abuse or violence. So I think the benefits of trigger warnings can be significant.

As she explains, the notion was derived on the internets for returning war veterans suffering from PTSD, and has since devolved to the “trauma” suffered by students who have no diagnosed mental illness (though many seem to confuse their unpleasantness with PTSD) at reading, hearing, seeing, whatever strikes them as distressing. Continue reading

Pay The Cashier On The Way Out

A room at the George V in Paris is going to cost you big time, but then, you knew that going in and chose to run up such a tab.  Prison, not so much.  On the bright side, room, board, medical care and the ancillary joys like telephone and commissary, may not be charged at George V rates.  On the dark side, that they can be charged at all is outrageous.

He was at the end of a three-year sentence in a Florida state prison when he was caught stealing potatoes from the prison kitchen. As punishment, he was sent to confinement with a cellmate who, according to court filings, was “severely mentally ill.” The man attacked Barrett in a violent rage, ultimately gouging out one of his eyes. “I went into shock,” Barrett said.

When he got out of prison one month later, Barrett, 36, sued the Florida Department of Corrections for negligence. The department responded with a counterclaim or a “cost of incarceration lien” of $54,750 — the total cost of Barrett’s 1,095 day stay in the prison at $50 a day.

Nice.  First, Jeremy Barrett gets his eye gouged out by a crazed cellmate, and then he gets a bill for the pleasure.  But, that’s the law. Continue reading

Forfeiting The Right To Counsel

Joshua Nisbet had a lawyer. Then another lawyer. And another. Then a couple more. And then he didn’t.  The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants a laundry list of rights, the assistance of counsel among them.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Yet, Cumberland Count Justice Thomas Warren ordered Nisbet to trial without a lawyer, and the Maine Supreme Court is being asked whether this is constitutional. Continue reading

Then Came The Glitch

For those who think technology provides some level of salvation for the criminal justice system, there’s a pull to speak to the things it can do that make the wheels turn better, faster, more reliably, than they did when it was humans with pencils running the show.  And indeed, these claims are absolutely valid. When tech works.

Until it doesn’t.

A computer error is being blamed for wrongly accusing hundreds of people of skipping court-ordered drug tests, subjecting them to potential penalties including fines and jail time.

Jail Alternatives for Michigan Services, known as JAMS, is metro Detroit’s largest provider of court-ordered drug testing. The company experienced the issue in late August, but apparently didn’t notice it until Dana O’Neal of Oakland County pre-trial services called to ask why no positive test results had been submitted in recent weeks, said Barbara Hankey, manager of Oakland County Community Corrections.

Oops. It seems that instead of providing test results to pre-trial services, JAMS was sending notices that people failed to appear for drug-testing, a violation of the terms of their release.  These notices, in turn, would produce warrants for the arrest of the people who failed to show, which would result in their incarceration and notation on their rap sheet that they can’t be trusted to be released.  This is serious stuff. Continue reading

Sam’s Dilemma: How Can A Puddle Survive?

Advertisements on websites suck. There’s no reason in explaining to anyone why, as they already know and have embraced the joys of ad blocking. And if you don’t, then stop reading as you lack the experience to understand what is written below. Have a nice day.

If I was willing to put ads on SJ, I could probably make some decent money. A few years ago, the going rate was paltry, and the trade-off between the suck of advertising and the anticipated revenue clearly favored foregoing ads. What kind of jerk would subject readers to the nightmare of advertisements in exchange for lunch money?

But times change, and as it now stands, the volume of readers here would produce enough revenue to make it worthwhile. So why not? It’s not as if I’m not a total capitalist.  The short answer, for me at least, has been that if I hate ads so much, how can I put anyone else through them.

I recently added the donate button on the sidebar. The reaction has been, to say the least, rather astounding. I expected nothing, and instead, many readers have been remarkably generous, with money and barbecue.  I rejected a few donations, because I know who some of you are, and refuse to take money from people who can’t afford it or have already contributed greatly by your efforts to SJ.  But I greatly appreciate the thought. Continue reading

Whose “Good Decisions”?

The saga of two teens charged with possession of child porn for their own consensual possession of naked images of themselves and each other has ended in the usual manner, guilty pleas.

The terms of the plea agreements are extremely onerous, considering the acts were consensual and there was no age discrepancy between the participants. What the teens have agreed to sounds not too different than what’s routinely handed to other sex offenders — except that these teens molested no children, possessed no child porn and performed no acts of sexual violence. Comega Copening, the other participant in this heinous two-person sexting ring will be treated as a criminal not worthy of his own phone for the next 365 days.

Of course, probation, 30 hours of community service and a prohibition against having a cellphone for a year beats prison for an offense that met the elements of a poorly-drafted law, and caused no harm to anyone, except themselves if one accepts the premise of Cumberland County Sheriff’s Sgt. Sean Swain.

“We don’t know where these pictures are going to go. We’re more or less saving the kids from themselves because they’re not seeing what’s going to come down the road.”

Continue reading