Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rights, Plus

There were six officers involved in Freddie Gray’s death and still no one has a clue how his spine came to be nearly severed, his voice box crushed. Meet the Law Enforcement Offices Bill of Rights.

A few lone voices in the wilderness pointed out that this presented problems.  Mike Riggs was one, Radley Balko another. Walter Olson as well (edit: plus a new post today in Newsweek).  But until there was a name, a face, put to the problem, few cared.  Now it’s Freddie Gray’s turn, and the New York Times made it the subject of a Room for Debate.

Many in Baltimore are enraged not just by the death of Freddie Gray in police custody but by the mystery that surrounds his death after a ride in a police van. This mystery exists because the officers who could say what happened are protected by a Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, which limits and delays questioning police about potential misconduct. The idea behind such laws in 14 states, and similar contractual rights in some jurisdictions, is that no one should be forced to speak to investigators and possibly incriminate themselves.

Do such measures protect the constitutional rights of police, or do they unnecessarily impede investigations of possible wrongdoing?

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When The DEA “Exercises Discretion” With Someone Else’s Truck

Trigger Warning: If you thought the law “a ass” before, you’re going to really hate it now.  Pretty much everyone who learns of what the DEA did to Craig Patty thinks so, other than Southern District of Texas Judge Lee Rosenthal, who held that it was cool with her.

The back story is ugly, and undisputed.

From the Houston Chron

“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said the caller, a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”

“What did you say?” Patty recalled asking. “Could you please repeat that?”

Patty thought his truck was in the shop. It wasn’t. Continue reading

We’re All Cyberbullies To Someone

A seemingly random twit from someone you don’t know, never heard of before, comes at you. Your [insert expletive of choice].  Yes, I spelled “you’re” wrong on purpose, as it usually goes hand in hand with the balance of the twit.  And you scratch your head, wondering why some random person on the internet has decided to call you a mean name.

CYBERBULLY!

In the New York Times Style Section, Nick Bilton says it’s reached “a cultural boiling point.”

Sure, the topic of cyberbullying is not new, but it feels different this time. The debate is happening everywhere: on radio shows, movies, books, talks, TV shows, blogs, book reviews and especially on social media.

It feels different? That’s the precursor to “because this time it happened to me and hurt my feelings.”  And indeed, Bilton goes there. Continue reading

Even Prisoners Can’t Be Silenced

The law was one of the most cynical attempts ever to stem the celebrity of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has become an inspirational celebrity, for better or worse, despite serving a life sentence for the murder of a police officer after his death sentence was reduced.  The wife of the slain officer, Daniel Faulkner, couldn’t bear it. Neither could Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.

So they created a law to silence those convicted of crime, and wrapped it up in sad tears, emotional rhetoric and gave it a name no one could question, the Revictimization Relief Act.  Because they believed Abu-Jamal’s “obscene celebrity” was evil, and that if they spin it just right, no one would notice that the law was ridiculously unconstitutional.

Whether this perpetuates the crime by reminding the widow of her lost husband, or just angers her that this man who she wanted to see dead still breaths, is a matter of debate.  But there really isn’t much question that his celebrity must cause her mental anguish.  Hell, his continued existence causes her mental anguish.

And yet, no matter how carefully they word this law, it amounts to one thing: Silence Mumia.

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Four Fires Burn In Baltimore

There is the death of Freddie Gray, and those protesting it as the culmination of the treatment by police of the black community.  There are looters and rioters, using the death and protest as cover to lay waste to their community for their own purposes, mostly gain and destruction.  And there is the death of Freddie Gray again, the use of force by police, the deterioration of trust and respect between law enforcement and the black community.

These fires are all burning at once, and there will be argument over who lit the fires, who is responsible, who is the worst offender.  It’s going to accomplish nothing, as the desire to deflect blame and responsibility will be stronger than the desire to put out any of these fires.

For a brief, shining moment, the death of yet another young black man at the hand of the police was sinking in to the subconscious of those people who don’t see the problem affecting their lives. But images of rioting and looting will destroy that gain.  They won’t see separate problems, but just one big fire.  And of all the causes they find unpalatable, looting will be the least acceptable. The need to believe that the police aren’t entirely wrong is strong and deeply embedded.  It’s the most difficult to overcome. Continue reading

Can They All Fail?

Irwin Horwitz had enough, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore. Turley wrote that he became an instant legend in academia because he announced that he was failing the entire class in his strategic management course at Texas A & M Galveston.  He explained via email:

Since teaching this course, I have caught and seen cheating, been told to ‘chill out,’ ‘get out of my space,’ ‘go back and teach,’ [been] called a ‘f****** moron’ to my face, [had] one student cheat by signing in for another, one student not showing up but claiming they did, listened to many hurtful and untrue rumors about myself and others, been caught between fights between students…. 

None of you, in my opinion, given the behavior in this class, deserve to pass, or graduate to become an Aggie, as you do not in any way embody the honor that the university holds graduates should have within their personal character. 

It is thus for these reasons why I am officially walking away from this course. I am frankly and completely disgusted. 

You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds, and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level…. I will no longer be teaching the course, and all are being awarded a failing grade.

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The Torque of Social Justice

In a New York Times op-ed, Lina Nilsson bemoans the lack of women in engineering.  This has been a long-standing issue that seems to befuddle so many, given that our society has grown so dependent on scientific endeavors that the lack of adequate representation by gender produces a host of problematic disparities.

As Christina Hoff Sommers notes, one of the underpinnings of the wage gap between men and women is that women chose lower paying occupations, which are then grouped with better paying occupations to create the appearance of a gap.  Engineering pays pretty well. Neither majors in medieval poetry nor critical feminist theory follow a similar pay path in employment.  Go figure.

Nilsson kinda, sorta, offers explanations for the lack of women in engineering:

Why are there so few female engineers? Many reasons have been offered: workplace sexism, a lack of female role models, stereotypes regarding women’s innate technical incompetency, the difficulties of combining tech careers with motherhood. Proposed fixes include mentor programs, student support groups and targeted recruitment efforts.

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Found Facts

At Tempe Criminal Defense, Matt Brown writes of the conviction of Lawrence Owens for the murder of a kid on a bike carrying a bunch of baggies of crack.  Owens was ID’d, first by typical photo array and then by line-up, where Owens was the only person in both.  It was a typical small-town bench trial and conviction back in 1999, before people seriously questioned the validity of such identifications.  Why it was a bench trial is unknown.

At the end, the judge ruled:

I think all of the witnesses skirted the real issue. The issue to me was you have a seventeen year old youth on a bike who is a drug dealer, who Larry Owens knew he was a drug dealer. Larry Owens wanted to knock him off. I think the State’s evidence has proved that fact. Finding of guilty of murder.

Which would have been fine, but for the fact that there was no evidence whatsoever that Larry Owens knew the kid was a drug dealer, was himself involved in drugs or had any motivation to “knock him off” to get his drugs. Continue reading

Heavy On Bitterness

Columbia University’s “Mattress Girl,” Emma Sulkowicz, has simultaneously become the poster girl for rape on campus and been revealed as a sham.  This hasn’t done much to change anyone’s tune about the issue.  True or false, it no longer seems to matter.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Friday she hopes recent rape hoaxes will put “more of a spotlight on the problem [of rape].” She was asked if the recent highly publicized hoaxes are “helping or hurting” her advocacy relating to stopping sexual assault on university campuses. “Well, I hope it’s just putting more of a spotlight on the problem. My hope is that it’s not undermining our advocacy, because this is important,” Gillibrand said. “These lives of these women and men–young lives that are being destroyed and ruined, because there is no justice if you are a survivor of rape whether it’s the criminal justice system or whether it’s the campus adjudication process.”

This isn’t some wild-eyed radical, blindly lashing out at a hated enemy.  Well, maybe it is, but Kirsten Gillibrand is also a United States Senator from the State of New York, junior to Chuck Schumer, so her irrationality matters a bit more than most.  And if there is any question what her concern is, note her words:

because there is no justice if you are a survivor of rape.

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What Really Bothers You About Free Speech?

A brief post, with a few links, was published at Metafilter on the issue of colleges and universities becoming “non-free speech zones.”

Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’ in British Universities. The New York Times chimes in on this side of the Atlantic. Popehat offers a possible explanation.

It was followed up by a comment about how a debate on abortion at Oxford’s Christ Church was scuttled after feminists vehemently objected to “two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’” engaging in such a debate:

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion

I can’t imagine why people would object to this debate, but the author sure looks like an impartial, objective POV if I ever saw one!

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But For Video: Very Professional Edition

During most of the encounter, Round Rock Officer Ben Johnson was calm and under control.  There were no overt signs of anger or frustration, and he was, indeed, the very model of a police officer doing his job. Which is why it’s all the more incomprehensible that he suddenly threw 27-year-old Viviana Keith down on the pavement.

The video is bad enough from the side, but the dash cam video reveals . . . nothing. A bit of mouthing and maybe a little pulling of the arms, which were already behind her back, but nothing remotely suggesting force or threat. So down he takes her. Continue reading

The Dialogue About Dialogue, Or Why It Makes You Feel “Unsafe” (Update)

At Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein asked a good question:

Where and when did this “makes me feel unsafe” thing start?

Sorry for being so loud about it, but like asking for clear definitions of misused words, it’s a question that needs asking.

But it’s such a common complaint that one hears it from across the political spectrum these days, in a loud chorus of whining victimhood, from gay students who object to proponents of traditional marriage, and from Christian students who object to nondiscrimination rules meant to protect gays; from Muslim students objecting to pro-Israel speakers, and from Jewish students objecting to anti-Israel posters. Just today I learned (via Hans Bader) that Oberlin, supposedly one of the great liberal arts colleges in the world, has been in a tizzy because of a speech by the rather mainstream conservative feminist Christina Hoff Summers, which supposedly made students feel “unsafe” well in advance. And so on.

In no examples that I have seen has there been any actual threat or prospect of violence against the students complaining that they feel “unsafe.”

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