Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tuesday Talk*: Recusal For Appearance of Impropriety

To no one’s surprise, Trump’s lawyer in the Jack Smith January 6 case, John Lauro, has moved for Judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself based upon gratuitous statements made during her sentencing of other January 6 defendants.

Fairness and impartiality are the central tenets of our criminal justice system. Both a
defendant and the public are entitled to a full hearing, on all relevant issues, by a Court that has not prejudged the guilt of the defendant, and whose neutrality cannot be reasonably questioned.

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It’s Not Forgotten Yet

At least not here. Today is the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. I had no clue how I would deal with it this year, particularly after last year. Then I turned on 60 Minutes last night to see video and images that brought it all back. Some I had never seen before. Some I had. All reminded me that it just happened yesterday, at least in my mind.

Comment or not. Care or not. I care. And even if this has grown tiresome to you, I will not forget.

Title IX Kamikaze Appeals

No one has followed lawsuits by male students seeking relief from the denial of due process in campus Title IX sex tribunals more closely than KC Johnson. As a result, KC has watched as certain trends developed. They’re imperfect as a predictor, but pretty darn good. Most significantly, they are not the predictors that law would expect or, in a better system, allow. But they emerge nonetheless, in all their harsh ugliness and cold reality.

For example, Obama and Biden appointed judges are so supportive of female students’ claims of rape that they are extremely disinclined to reverse because the male student was railroaded into conviction. They’re inclined to believe that colleges aren’t anti-male, but just anti-rapist and pro-“survivor.”  They will bend over backwards to come up with some ridiculous excuse to rule against the male student, no matter how badly his due process rights were denied or how flagrant the violation. Continue reading

The Government’s Truth

When the government tells you, a private enterprise, that it would really like you to do something, the “or else” is always implied. “Nice internet you got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it,” is the threat with plausible deniability of mob bosses. And government as well, even when you agree with what the government wants or believe that the government’s actions are in the public interest when it comes to speech the government does not want out there.

This was the point of Judge Terry Doughty when he enjoined the Biden administration from asking nicely that social media platforms remove medical information it felt was false or dangerous. And the Fifth Circuit has now affirmed Judge Doughty’s injunction. Continue reading

Seaton: Unsolicited Opinions On Football Season

Welcome to September, and more importantly, welcome to football season! Though the temperatures are still in the 80s in Tennessee, we’ve finally got college football in our lives again as of last weekend. By the time you read this, the NFL will have completed its season opener when the Detroit Lions play the Kansas City Chiefs.

Living in East Tennessee for the majority of my life, and Knoxville by extension, usually means “football day” for me is Saturdays when my University of Tennessee Volunteers take the field. I understand not all of you are blessed to have an incredible SEC football team to cheer on, so I thought today would be a great time to give my Unsolicited Opinions on College Football and the NFL for this season. Continue reading

Short Take: Courtroom Staff’s Influence

Rarely would anyone ever learn of such a claim if it even happened, as lawyers are wont to harass jurors after a trial even if the verdict included an unpleasant number of words, but it happened in Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial.

The police in South Carolina said on Thursday that they were investigating whether a court clerk improperly communicated with jurors who later convicted Alex Murdaugh for the murder of his wife and son in one of the most famous criminal trials in the state’s history. Continue reading

Was Hunter Biden’s Plea Deal A Contract?

Special Counsel nee United States Attorney David Weiss has advised Judge Maryellen Noreika of the intent to indict Biden for falsely representing on his gun permit application that he was not, at the time, using drugs. He was, of course, as he has readily admitted, but the government had previously deemed his violation sufficiently trivial, and his conduct otherwise unconcerning, as to warrant a two-year diversion program rather than prosecution. And in the meantime, the charge appears unconstitutional under Bruen.

Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has taken to the media to argue his client’s cause, both that there was a deal struck which, although not having reached fruition, was signed and sealed as between Biden and the government, and that the impetus for this shift in the government’s action is political, the hue and cry from those calling it a sweetheart deal for a president’s son rather than some damn fine defense lawyering. Continue reading

Will 22 Years Of Deterrence Work?

Having long been vociferous in my condemnation of excessive sentences for crimes ranging from drugs to murder, I come at this issue with far cleaner hands than most. Unsurprisingly, people who were chanting “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” have suddenly gotten religion when it comes to the J6 defendants.

Ethan Nordean, 32, of Auburn, Washington, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Joseph Biggs, 39, of  Charlotte, North Carolina, was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Zachary Rehl, 38, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Dominic Pezzola, 45, of Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Now, Enrique Tarrio, 39, of Miami, Florida, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Continue reading

The Privilege Of A Liberal Arts Education

From the title, it seemed as if the point of the op-ed was to distinguish the nature of education from the nature of employment, the latter being one of the two misguided characterizations of higher education. The other is a consumer purchase in order to rationalize the role of students by invoking the old saw, “the consumer is always right.” But no, that was not the point of “College Students: School Is Not Your Job” by a writing teacher at Southern Methodist University, Jonathan Malesic. Not at all.

College freshmen who just arrived on campus have heard, from parents and politicians alike, that college exists mainly for the sake of work. Colleges themselves tout their graduates’ employment rates, starting salaries and career networks as major selling points.

Students have gotten the message. An overwhelming majority of first-year students tell pollsters that getting a better job is a major reason for going to college. Across 25 years of teaching at five universities in three states, I have heard students consistently call school their “job.” Given the cost of attending a four-year college, it’s reasonable that they want assurance their degrees will lead to higher earnings.

If only parents and politicians offered such practical advice. More likely, they’ve learned from their peers that the burden of school debt can be soul crushing, and that the glory of studying majors that will ultimately offer no way to repay it, no job with which to occupy the hours between undergrad and graduate school with yet more debt, and no job at the end of the rainbow since there aren’t enough universities to hire yet another Ph,D, in grievance studies, and the sheepskin is otherwise good for nothing.

But regardless of whether students come upon this reality organically or because cynical mommy and daddy pushed junior to take a course of study that might contribute financially to their well being, the point remains that more students want well-paying jobs after college than a volunteer position as a doyenne at the Met.

College is a unique time in your life to discover just how much your mind can do. Capacities like an ear for poetry, a grasp of geometry or a keen moral imagination may not pay off financially (though you never know), but they are part of who you are. That makes them worth cultivating. Doing so requires a community of teachers and fellow learners. Above all, it requires time — time to allow your mind to branch out, grow and blossom.

College is indeed a unique time in a student’s life, and students should be exposed to the broad array of an enlightened liberal arts education. Unfortunately, that was far more doable when the students filling the amphitheater seats came from families of means, the sort where a well-educated student could afford to indulge an unremunerative course of study for the sake of enjoying great poetry and literature, and afterward join daddy’s firm as an investment banker.

The 20th-century German philosopher Josef Pieper might have said that when students see college solely in terms of work, they deny their own humanity. He pointed out in his 1948 book, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture,” that the word “school” comes from the Greek “schole,” which means “leisure.”

Who was attending college in 1948, praytell?

Pieper borrowed his idea of leisure from Aristotle, who saw contemplation as the highest human activity and thus essential to happiness. “For we do business in order that we may have leisure,” Aristotle wrote, implying that leisure must therefore be a greater thing than work.

Who doesn’t love contemplation? I know I do. If it were up to me, I would contemplate all day long. Anybody want to pay me to do so? I didn’t think so.

Pieper’s question is just as urgent today for people pursuing higher education. For all but the most fortunate, earning power is an inescapable concern throughout a person’s life. But if it’s the only value that defines a life, then students don’t need a true education at all. They don’t need to construct a vision of the whole world and their place in it. They don’t need to address the larger questions that arise through open-ended discussion with professors and peers. They need just narrowly focused training.

Malesic isn’t wrong that one can take a course of study directed toward future gainful employment and still have room for students to “construct a vision of the whole world and their place in it.” But that’s no longer what colleges do. What happened to the required course in Western Civ or Classic Lit, the foundations of a liberal education that bound educated people together so that they understood the concepts and references shared among the degreed folks?

It’s not easy to make space for leisure within universities that look increasingly like corporations. It’s not easy to fit open-ended contemplation into a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. Still, at their best, colleges and universities offer an alternative to the culture that values people solely for their labor.

I went to college and never had trouble finding “space for leisure,” often at the foolish expense of doing the required reading. But then, I was a poor kid from a poor family, and my daddy didn’t have an investment banking firm to set me up in as I pondered Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. If I didn’t come out of college with the ability to make something of myself, I would fall back on a life of very hungry contemplation since I would have nothing to eat.

For academics to bemoan the death of a leisurely education, perhaps they should consider their willingness to work for free, such that their students wouldn’t have to assume massive debt to enjoy their future of leisure. But even then, they might do well to consider whether they should study renaissance painters in Art History or ponder a banana duct-taped to a wall if they hope to produce well-rounded, well-educated and adequately-leisured students.

Labor Day, With An Auto Workers Strike Looming

At Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a required first year course is labor history. You learn about the guilds, about the rioters and the Pinkertons hire to beat them, about the horrific treatment of industrial workers in the age of Robber Barons and the birth of unionism. As my girlfriend at the time proclaimed one day after Roger Keeran’s class, “I want to be a Wobbly!”

The problem is that was history, a different time and different circumstances, long before the Wagner Act was born and the AFL-CIO flexed its might. A great many arguments about what we should do today are grounded in things that happened many years ago, ignoring everything that’s happened since. It’s true for civil rights. It’s more true for unionism. Continue reading