Monopoly Of The Woke

No, Facebook, Twitter and Google are not monopolies. They are hugely popular, at least for the moment, which gives rise to the appearance, if not the reality, that they own the new digital public square. The problem is that the square isn’t public, and it’s only the new public square because that’s where people hang out. Nobody forces people to go there. Nobody prevents people from going to the real public square. This is just what people choose to do.

And nobody elected Zuck, Jack or any other tech scion to be the defender of either free speech or protector from hate speech. To the extent they are, that’s their choice, whether because of their personal views or market conditions. You’re entitled to your views. They are too. Continue reading

The Racist At Smith

In a remarkable article, New York Times reporter Michael Powell tells the story of woke gone awry at Smith College. Between the exceptionally strong writing, incredible quotes and a story reflecting so much of what can go dangerously wrong when claims of performative emotional trauma trump facts, reality and the actual harm to actual human beings, this is one of those rare breed of “must read” articles that inexplicably made it past the editors to see daylight. Read it now, as it may well disappear when the NYT staff inform Sulzberger that it threatens their safety to have facts published in the newspaper.

This is a tale of how race, class and power collided at the elite 145-year-old liberal arts college, where tuition, room and board top $78,000 a year and where the employees who keep the school running often come from working-class enclaves beyond the school’s elegant wrought iron gates. The story highlights the tensions between a student’s deeply felt sense of personal truth and facts that are at odds with it.

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When Poll Numbers Skew

Who cares? If you’re a guy who is sexually attracted to other guys, that’s how it is and it has nothing to do with me. Live and let live. If the stats of the latest Gallup Poll are accurate, then so be it. And it’s possible that they are, but not very likely. What they appear to be is another reflection of the youthful ideological self-indulgence, a certain cohort of Gen Z putting on a performance for the benefit of rebelling, being hip, proving their wokeness. 

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AG James And A Blown Indictment

Former New York Chief Judge, and inmate, Sol Wachtler famously wrote in 1985 that “if a district attorney wanted, a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.” Most people focus on the end of the quote rather than the beginning: If a district attorney wanted. Perhaps the problem for Attorney General Letitia James is that she’s not a district attorney.

Unlike most other states, the attorney general in New York isn’t a law enforcement position. The AG is basically the civil attorney for the state, while county district attorneys prosecute criminal offenses. After the Eric Garner fiasco, where the Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan sabotaged the indictment, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order authorizing the attorney general to prosecute police killings. It made a lot of sense from a conflict of interest perspective, but the problem was that the AG’s office lacked trench experience in prosecuting cases. Sure, they did some cases, but not a lot and, well, they weren’t very good at it. Continue reading

A Malcolm X Letter Too Late

Raymond Wood had cancer in 2011, so he wrote a letter. At least that’s what we’re told. And that’s why it’s a problem now.

The 2011 letter by the now-dead officer, Raymond A. Wood, stated that Wood had been compelled by his supervisors at the New York Police Department to coax two members of Malcolm X’s security team into committing crimes, leading to their arrests just a few days before the assassination. They were then unable to secure the entry to New York’s Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X had been speaking when he was killed.

If true, this is huge. And it may very well be true. The NYPD wasn’t a big fan of Malcolm X and the idea that they and the FBI would be integral in his assassination isn’t exactly surprising. Continue reading

Tuesday Talk*: Tanden’s Immunity

I vaguely remember Neera Tanden on twitter. She wasn’t someone whose twits mattered much to me, largely because they ranged from nasty to bizarrely idiotic. That may be because the only time I saw them was when they were retwitted into my timeline. I didn’t follow her. She didn’t interest me beyond being a parody. I recall retwitting them on a few occasions because I thought they were that awful.

But I do recall being unhappily surprised to learn that Joe Biden nominated her for head of the Office of Management and Budget. Had he run out of names of people who weren’t flaming nutjobs and was left with Tanden? Then again, he also named Catherine Lhamon to be a White House aide and Vanita Gupta to the number 3 post at DoJ, so maybe this wasn’t just a terrible mistake resulting from having no one else to pick. But Neera Tandem doesn’t belong in any position in government, and the Senate is set to ding her nomination. Continue reading

BLM Mural Held Government Speech

A group called “Women for America First” didn’t so much object to the painting of Black Lives Matter on a New York City street. They just wanted their turn. After all, if one political point of view gets to use Fifth Avenue to express its message, how can the government deny others the same opportunity? Southern District of New York Judge Lorna Schofield said no.

The surfaces of public streets are not traditional public fora for the dissemination of private speech. Plaintiff argues that public streets are public fora that “have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.” Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum (2009). Plaintiff accordingly concludes that the government must narrowly tailor any content-based restrictions of speech to serve a compelling government interest. Continue reading

No Place For Prosecutors At Parole

There’s a lot of confusion about what parole is, which is simply an interim period after service of a sentence of imprisonment during which a person remains under the supervision of the state as he transitions from incarceration to completion of a sentence. There is no such thing as federal parole anymore, although federal sentences include a post-incarceration period of supervised release.

But parole, the state beast, is generally granted at the end of an indeterminate sentence, such as 25 years to life, such that after serving the minimum period of imprisonment (25 years in this example), a defendant becomes eligible for parole. It is then up to the Parole Board, usually a highly political appointment with essentially no oversight whatsoever. It’s a system fraught with problems, many of which have been raised here in the past. Continue reading

Can Science Survive Praise?

There is something an old guy can do that young people can’t: call bullshit. There is a reason for this, that you can’t cancel someone for thinking wrong after he’s out of the picture. You can disappear his books, articles and lectures, but it doesn’t change that they happened, that people read them and that they were influential.

You can call him mean names, bad words, but young people lack the capacity to understand that their elders aren’t vying for their “likes” and approval. We weren’t reared in the fragile climate of addictive validation, where getting ratio’d cracks our feigned self-esteem into tears of misery. Continue reading