Legal Aid Society demonizes progressive public defender who criticized racial tribalism

July 13, 2021 • 11:00 am

I’m not going to go into detail about this issue, which was described on Bari Weiss’s site (I think her article is free). Suffice it to say that it tells the tale of how a progressive Democrat, who worked in the trenches for the Legal Aid Society, providing legal help to the indigent (largely black people), can still get harassed and bullied because she doesn’t adhere to the au courant version of critical race theory.

Click on the screenshot to read about Maud Maron, a liberal lawyer trained by Kathleen Cleaver (look her up), and an employee of the Legal Aid Society of New York since 1998.  By all accounts of her close colleagues, she’s a terrific lawyer. But none of those who praised her dared give their names. Why? Because she’s in the process of being canceled for writing a letter to the New York Post denouncing the racial tribalism promoted by Critical Race Theory and its everyday interpretations and tenets.

Here’s Weiss’s article:

Here’s the letter that Maron, who has the best social-justice bona fides of any white person I know, wrote to the New York Post (click on the screenshot):

Quotes from the letter:

I am a mom, a public defender, an elected public-school council member and a City Council candidate. But at a city Department of Education anti-bias training, I was instructed to refer to myself as a “white woman” — as if my whole life reduces to my race.

Those who oppose this ideology are shunned and humiliated, even as it does nothing to actually improve our broken schools.

Though facing severe budget cuts, the DOE has spent more than $6 million for the training, which defines qualities such as “worship of the written word,” “individualism” and “objectivity” as “white-supremacy culture.”

The administration, and many local politicians, buy into a benign-sounding but chilling doctrine called anti-racism, which ­insists on defining everyone by race, invites discrimination and divides all thought and behavior along a racial axis.

Many of the theories trace to “White Fragility,” a small-minded book which relentlessly insists all white people are racist and need to think about race all the time. Conveniently for its author, who charges $6,000 an hour to discuss this conundrum, there is no way to fix the situation … except with more of her expensive workshops.

. . .We all want a well-integrated, high-quality public-school system. Parents have the right to demand an education that prepares their children to meet or exceed grade-level expectations, which in America often lag other countries.

Those who yell the loudest about integration should stop the accusations against those who think or speak differently than they do about the shared goal of integrated, quality schools — and find ways to work together.

Well, you can imagine the result. Maron was attacked by the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid Caucus, who said she wasn’t qualified to be a public defender, and called “a classic example of what 21st century racism looks like.” Her commitment to representing people of color in court (which she had done very well) was questioned, and the social-media mob went after her on Twitter. One example:

The result? She filed a Title VII lawsuit for workplace harassment, and is having trouble finding not only lawyers to defend her, but also people to defend her using their names. Bunch of cowards! Nor did the Legal Aid Society come to her defense before the lawsuit was filed.

Here’s Maron’s 168-page lawsuit against Legal Aid for creating a hostile work environment (click on screenshot):

This is a prime example of what Sam Harris referred to yesterday in his interview with Helen Pluckrose when he said these things:

“Grownups should be able to talk about more or less everything with a cool head and not endlessly castigate one another for merely thinking out loud.”

“One of the things that’s so pernicious about this silencing effect is that it creates an illusion of consensus where you have the most voluble and hysterical activists taking up most of the oxygen and successfully cowing other people into silence for fear of the reputational damage that awaits them if they open their big mouths on any number of topics, race being only one.”

. . . “Racism exists in some places, but doesn’t exist everywhere, and it is being claimed to exist everywhere and is being found everywhere in what is clearly a mass hallucination. And this hallucination is being defended by people who are highly incentivized to defend it; and the level of dishonesty and callousness that surrounds this whole enterprise is just appalling. Genuinely good people, who everybody knows are not racist or sexist or transphobic, are being sacrificed to this new religion.”

Maud Maron is one of the genuinely good people who is becoming a human sacrifice. Ceiling Cat help us all!

Supreme Court rules for cheerleader accused of obscene and disruptive speech

June 23, 2021 • 12:30 pm

I’m told by reader Ken that a number of important Supreme Court rulings are coming out today, and this appears to be the first. By an 8-1 vote, with Clarence Thomas dissenting (see full opinion below), the court showed near unanimity in ruling that Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school student, had not violated the First Amendment by sending out a Snapchat message when she was off school grounds. Click to read the NYT story:

Ninth grader Levy, upset that she didn’t make the varsity cheerleading squad, put out a short Snapchat message with her middle finger upraised, saying, “Fuck school;” “Fuck softball;” Fuck cheer”; and “Fuck everything.”  Although, like all Snapchat messages, it disappeared on its own, someone took a screenshot and called it to the school’s attention. The school suspended Levy from cheerleading for a year, arguing that her speech caused “chaos” and disrupted the “teamlike environment.”

Levy sued and won in a federal appeals court on the grounds that her speech was made off school grounds and was therefore protected by the First Amendment. (The Court previously ruled that students could be punished if their speech was on school grounds and caused “material and substantial disruption” of school functions.) According to the NYT article, though, there was divergence among the judges about why her speech remained protected:

Though the Third Circuit was united in ruling for Ms. Levy, the judges disagreed about the rationale. The majority announced a categorical rule barring discipline for off-campus speech that seemed to limit the ability of public schools to address many kinds of disturbing communications by students on social media, including racist threats and cyberbullying.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote that he would have ruled for Ms. Levy on narrower grounds. It would have been enough, he said, to say that her speech was protected by the First Amendment because it did not disrupt school activities. The majority was wrong, he said, to protect all off-campus speech.

The Supreme Court has limited students’ First Amendment rights since the Tinker decision in 1969. In the court’s last major decision on students’ free speech, in 2007, for instance, the court sided with a principal who had suspended a student for displaying a banner that said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.”

In general, though, I count this as a victory for the First Amendment. There was clearly no violation of free speech by Ms. Levy saying “Fuck softball/school/cheer/everything”.  I’m not sure about whether the Court’s new ruling really would protect off-campus speech that could include “racist threats” and “cyberbullying”, for some examples of those behaviors could constitute harassment in the work(school)place.

Her speech, though, was clearly off campus, and disruptive though some may have seen it, is not subject to the school’s authority.

I wonder if she’ll go back to cheerleading, or will make the varsity squad.

Here’s the 8-1 opinion, with only Clarence Thomas dissenting on the grounds that whether this speech was really “off campus” is unclear. You can download the pdf by clicking on the arrow to the right.

Click to access 20-255_g3bi.pdf

Japan’s death penalty

June 15, 2021 • 9:15 am

Below are two videos (the first, at 12.5 minutes, is a bit long) showing the difference between the only two First World countries that still have the death penalty: Japan and the U.S.  Here, from Amnesty International via the BBC, is a map of countries that still execute criminals:

Wikipedia is a decent source of information about how capital punishment works in Japan but an even better site is here. First, unlike the U.S., Japan imposes the death penalty almost always for multiple murders, while in the U.S. it’s often imposed for murders of individuals—usually either children or those killed in a gruesome manner. (I have some confidence that Biden will stay all pending federal executions, but he has no power to stay executions of people convicted in state court.)

Japan and the U.S. have about equal per capita rates of execution. In Japan 18 people were executed in 2018-2019 alone, while in the US. 47 people were executed during the same two years. The population of the U.S. is 2.6 times that of Japan, so the rates are almost exactly the same.

There’s only one method of execution in Japan: “long drop” hanging, which breaks the neck. In the U.S., you can still die by firing squad, the electric chair, or lethal injection, though the federal government uses only the last method. All executions in Japan are carried out in Tokyo or Osaka, while in the U.S. federal executions are carried out only in the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana (state executions are carried out in the relevant states).

One difference, shown in the video below, is a big one: in the U.S. you are given an execution date, though it may be put off through legal appeals. But if those appeals fail, you know exactly the day on which you’ll die. In contrast, in Japan you never know when you’ll be executed until the morning of the execution.  You’re simply informed, given a last meal, and summarily hanged (see below). Unlike the U.S., there are no witnesses save government and prison officials, and the prisoner’s lawyers and family are not informed about the execution until it’s over.

To me, the Japanese method seems more cruel than that of the US. Imagine living day to day (and some prisoners have waited about 40 years, while the average is about six years) not knowing whether each day will be your last! To me, that would seem to impose a constant, torturous anxiety on a prisoner.  (As I’ve said, I oppose the death penalty altogether.) If you feel otherwise, and this is an important question to me, weigh in below.

Below is a video with a series of photos of what the condemned Japanese prisoner sees on his way to the noose. First we see the prison, and then the room where the condemned man is allowed to sit and speak with the prison chaplain. On the way to the hanging chamber, he passes a Buddhist icon. Then on to the noose. As an informative page on Japan’s death penalty (worth reading if you can stomach it) describes the process:

After a death row inmate is notified of his fate he is first taken to a prayer room with a Buddhist altar where the condemned is read his last rites, a senior prison official listens to his last words and the inmate is allowed to speak with a prison chaplain, usually a a Buddhist priest or Christian pastor. After leaving the prayer room the inmate walks down the corridor to an anterior chamber where the prison warden officially declare that the execution will be carried out. At the Tokyo facility a gold Buddhist statues stand opposite the room’s door. The anterior chamber is separated from the execution chamber by a bright blue curtains. On the side of the execution chamber is a viewing area, where the prison warden, prosecutors and other officials watch the execution.

There are, as the video below shows, three buttons, one of which controls the trapdoor. At a signal, three men press the buttons, so nobody knows who exactly caused the drop. This is similar to U.S. firing squads, in which one rifleman is given a gun with a blank in it, so each man can think that he didn’t shoot the prisoner.

It’s all a horrible business, and it’s more expensive, at least in the U.S., than a sentence of life without parole. Nor is capital punishment a deterrent.  As far as I’m concerned, the death penalty is simply the state itself committing the killing, and it accomplishes nothing that life without parole could accomplish. Killing someone is retributive punishment, pure and simple. And there’s one huge advantage of the no-execution policy: if a prisoner is later found to be innocent, they can be set free. (This happens surprisingly often.) That can’t occur if you’re dead.

Let’s take a poll, but I do want to hear people’s views in the comments.

If we must have capital punishment, which system do you favor?

View Results

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Why the big increase in U.S. murders? Andrew Sullivan has a theory which is his.

June 12, 2021 • 12:45 pm

We know two things: that the murder and shooting rate in America has gone sky high, especially in big cities, and we know that, at the same time, many on the Left are trying to defund the police. Now police reform is one thing (I do approve of social workers going along on calls that require that kind of treatment), but deeply cutting police budgets right now is a recipe for disaster—disaster for both human lives and for the Democratic Party.

In Chicago, for instance, 289 people have already been killed this year, and the year is barely half over. But that’s already 16 more people killed than in all of 2020! If you extrapolate the present rate to the entire year, it would represent an increase of about 96% over 2020! In the article below, which reports similar increases elsewhere and tries to find a cause, Andrew Sullivan summarizes the data, drawing from the New York Times:

Here’s the NYT summary of the data, to start with:

Homicide rates in large cities were up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year, according to criminologists … Homicides in Portland, Ore., rose to 53 from 29, up more than 82 percent; in Minneapolis, they grew to 79 from 46, up almost 72 percent; and in Los Angeles the number increased to 351 from 258, a 36 percent climb … Homicides in Philadelphia are up almost 28 percent, with 170 through May 9, compared with 133 in the same period last year; in Tucson, Ariz., the number jumped to 30 from 17 through May 13, an increase of 76 percent.

By any measure, that’s a huge increase. Yes, we’re still in a relatively low crime environment. But the suddenness of the rise and its scale are striking.

Clearly, now is not the time to reduce policing, and clearly not the time to eliminate policing, which some “progressives” do indeed want. For another thing is certain: reducing policing will just raise the rate of crime, especially violent crime, and will cost more lives. The increase in homicides isn’t explained by a big increase in murders by white police, but, according to stats compiled in recent years, largely by black-on-black crime.  Increasing the murder rate by reducing policing (a “solution” that both Sullivan and I deplore) will simply lead to a disproportionate loss of black lives.

Click on the screenshot to read the article:

Here are the possible reasons for the increase in murders and shootings considered by Sullivan, and why he rejects some.

a.) The pandemic.  Doesn’t seem feasible to Sullivan because lockdowns tend to reduce rather than increase crime, a reduction that in fact was observed in much of the world.

b.) Poverty caused by the pandemic. Again, doesn’t seem feasible because crimes that enrich the perp, like burglary, larceny, and drug offenses, dropped from previous years. So did “food insecurity.”

c.) “The fentanyl crisis”.  Doesn’t seem plausible because opioid peddling isn’t connected with much crime.

d. Defunding the police.  Not likely, for not much defunding has yet taken place.

But what does seem likely to Sullivan is the next hypothesis:

e.) A wariness by police to do “proactive” or heavy law enforcement following the murder of George Floyd and its sequelae, which included increased demonization of police. 

There’s no doubt that there’s a temporal correlation between homicides, shootings and the murder of Floyd, but of course correlation isn’t causation. Here, though, is a plot Sullivan presents of shots fired over time during the Floyd “era” (Minneapolis, of course, is where Floyd was murdered):

The spike in shootings followed Floyd’s death almost immediately, and has risen to double its pre-murder rate since then. Sullivan thinks that, in this case, the correlation does represent causality:

Of course, that is not causation. But it’s one hell of a correlation — and no other event seems relevant. It’s as if the Floyd murder, and the subsequent urban chaos, sent a signal: the cops are on the defensive. Which means murderers can go on the offensive. And once lawlessness establishes itself, it tends to compound. A few gang murders can soon morph into tit-for-tat urban warfare.

Sullivan supports this thesis with other data as well, including the widespread opprobrium directed toward the police, which partly explains, I think, the attrition of police forces in many places. Why be a cop when everybody hates you (“all cops are bastards”) and your job may be insecure?

After this relentless assault, regular police officers noticed. Many quit:

In Chicago, 560 officers retired in 2020 in a police department that had about 13,100 sworn officers as of March, records show. That’s about 15% more cops retiring than during the previous year, when the number of retirements rose by nearly 30%. In New York City, 2,500 cops retired last year, nearly double the number in 2019, according to the New York Police Department, which has about 34,500 uniformed officers. In Minneapolis, about 40 officers retired last year, and another 120 took leaves of absence. That’s nearly 20% of a police department.

But manpower was not the most significant factor. What truly mattered, Cassell argues, is that the police pulled back from the kind of aggressive, pro-active policing that has been shown to be most helpful in reducing fatal civilian shootings — but also most likely to lead to fatal encounters with the police. In Minneapolis, for example, “police stops and officer-initiated calls dropped more than half, use-of-force incidents fell by two-thirds while traffic-related incidents and patrols became far less common.” Residents complained that the cops were slow to come, or were in the neighborhoods with their windows up.

Plainclothes police details have been cut sharply in some places. All this, says Sullivan has taken its toll on the cops, who now “refrain from the kind of pro-active policing that can lead to exactly the kind of incidents that can become viral–aggressive intervention against armed criminals before they kill.

Now Sullivan admits that this is just a guess, but it’s at least supported by independent data, unlike my own earlier hypothesis, which was that the pandemic just made people edgy and desperate, leading to more killings.

Sullivan’s “guess” may well be right, though he hastens to add that he’s not arguing against police reform or shifting some police activities to mental health professionals.

Being a cop is a job I wouldn’t want to have, though I can see its appeal to authoritarian personalities. But it also appeals to those who want to make the community safer, for I do not believe that all cops are evil. I even believe that many cops are on an even keel, not racist, and try to do an honorable job (remember, if nothing else, that many cops are black).  But Sullivan sees a big irony here, for “defunding the police” is an official part of the Black Lives Matter agenda. So Sullivan ends this way:

This is not an argument against police reform or even against shifting some core responsibilities — mental health incidents, for example — to other kinds of professionals. It is an argument that pro-active policing has been more important in restraining crime than many have acknowledged; that removing it, before reforming the entire system, is extremely dangerous; and that elite complacency in the face of lawlessness and destruction in the summer of 2020 helped ignite a cycle of murder that is very hard to unwind. When crimes are committed with impunity, more crimes will be committed. And the victims will not be at Yale.

So this scenario prompts a question of supreme irony: what if the final legacy of Black Lives Matter is that it actually succeeds in its core goal, and that in the future, far fewer African-Americans are shot by the cops. And what if the price of this symbolic victory is, in fact, a huge increase in the numbers of innocent black lives lost to civilian murder? That’s a trade-off worth discussing, before it becomes a new norm that’s very hard to undo.

The ACLU loses its way

June 7, 2021 • 9:15 am

I was always a big fan of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), admiring their single-minded dedication to preserving our civil liberties, most notably those specified by the First Amendment. But they also saved my bacon when I took the government to court for drafting me illegally as a conscientious objector. When I went to they ACLU, they started a class-action suit (I paid nothing) that we won, resulting in the release from service of myself and several thousand other guys.

But about five years ago the ACLU went off the rails, at least in my view. Instead of defending civil liberties and free speech, they began to ponder whether free speech and social justice might be incompatible in some ways, with words actually constituting “violence” that could hurt minorities. The real derailing, resulting in today’s split ACLU, began in August, 2017, when the ACLU won the right for far-right groups to demonstrate in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia instead of outside the center city. That demonstration, of course, led to violence, right-wing marches complete with bigoted slogans, and, eventually, to a white-supremacist protestor driving his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer. But I don’t hold the ACLU responsible for the death, though some do.

Although the ACLU was already morphing from a civil rights organization into a social justice organization, the Charlottesville debacle made many members and administrators rethink their mission. And since then the transformation has been more rapid, as described in a New York Times article (click on the screenshot below). It’s not the social-justice mission I object to so much—though some of the ACLU’s stands, like wholeheartedly supporting the right of transgender women, even those medically untreated, to participate in women’s sports, are wrongheaded—but to the fact that there are dozens of organizations already fighting for all forms of social justice, while the ACLU was unique in the singlemindedness of its mission. Now, at least on campus, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is taking over its job, but without the same dosh or resources backing the ACLU.

Although I’ve written about this before, the article has a lot more “inside” quotes both for and against the new mission of the ACLU.

An intro (we’ve met Ira Glasser before):

The A.C.L.U., America’s high temple of free speech and civil liberties, has emerged as a muscular and richly funded progressive powerhouse in recent years, taking on the Trump administration in more than 400 lawsuits. But the organization finds itself riven with internal tensions over whether it has stepped away from a founding principle — unwavering devotion to the First Amendment.

Its national and state staff members debate, often hotly, whether defense of speech conflicts with advocacy for a growing number of progressive causes, including voting rights, reparations, transgender rights and defunding the police.

Those debates mirror those of the larger culture, where a belief in the centrality of free speech to American democracy contends with ever more forceful progressive arguments that hate speech is a form of psychological and even physical violence. These conflicts are unsettling to many of the crusading lawyers who helped build the A.C.L.U.

The organization, said its former director Ira Glasser, risks surrendering its original and unique mission in pursuit of progressive glory.

“There are a lot of organizations fighting eloquently for racial justice and immigrant rights,” Mr. Glasser said. “But there’s only one A.C.L.U. that is a content-neutral defender of free speech. I fear we’re in danger of losing that.”

And here’s the scary bits, which I put in bold:

One hears markedly less from the A.C.L.U. about free speech nowadays. Its annual reports from 2016 to 2019 highlight its role as a leader in the resistance against President Donald J. Trump. But the words “First Amendment” or “free speech” cannot be found. Nor do those reports mention colleges and universities, where the most volatile speech battles often play out.

Since Mr. Trump’s election, the A.C.L.U. budget has nearly tripled to more than $300 million as its corps of lawyers doubled. The same number of lawyers — four — specialize in free speech as a decade ago.

Some A.C.L.U. lawyers and staff members argue that the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and the press — as well as freedom of religion, assembly and petitioning the government — is more often a tool of the powerful than the oppressed.

“First Amendment protections are disproportionately enjoyed by people of power and privilege,” said Dennis Parker, who directed the organization’s Racial Justice Program until he left in late 2018.

To which David Cole, the national legal director of the A.C.L.U., rejoined in an interview: “Everything that Black Lives Matter does is possible because of the First Amendment.”

After Charlottesville, the ACLU began its shift, which I’m sure will go further. I wrote at the time about how the organization issued a memo beginning to back off defense of free speech. A quote from today’s NYT piece:

But longtime free speech advocates like Floyd Abrams, perhaps the nation’s leading private First Amendment lawyer, disagreed. The new guidelines left him aghast.

“The last thing they should be thinking about in a case is which ideological side profits,” he said. “The A.C.L.U. that used to exist would have said exactly the opposite.”

And the old ACLU was right. If you don’t keep freedom of expression as an inviolate principle, then speech is subject to the vagaries of not only who controls the government but also, like now, of which ideological views are considered acceptable. Right now we’re seeing this clash play out largely on college campuses, often through official ideological announcements as well as deplatformings, disinvitations, and cancellations of speakers. And this is where FIRE has picked up the torch, for the ACLU doesn’t get much involved. Even here the clash between free speech and offense has led to the University of Chicago’s violating its own principles of academic freedom and free expression.

While the ACLU continues to take traditional civil liberties cases, it’s now sometimes taken stands opposite to what it would done in the past. For example, Chase Strangio, the transgender ACLU staff attorney in charge of that part of the new mission, has called for censorship of Abigail Shrier’s book on gender dysphoria. Censorship—from the ACLU!

To wit:

And the ACLU opposed the Title IX changes made by the Trump administration (one of the few laudable things it did) assuring a fairer process in sexual-misconduct hearings in college.

Further, below you’ll see a tweet from the ACLU of Ohio not only jettisoning the presumption of innocence, but ignoring that the officer criticized here was trying to prevent a murder. It’s madness for the ACLU to issue a statement like this (yes, official tweets are statements) violating not only the known facts, but the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” In fact, from what I know so far, the police officer acted correctly.

I mourn the new direction of the ACLU, but of course that’s the direction that everything is going. While the organization will still do good stuff involving social justice, it will also do questionable stuff, as we’ve just seen. And I can’t think of a single case in which their past defenses of the First Amendment have been deplorable.

If the First Amendment and free speech is to be preserved, it must be preserved for everybody, with a few exceptions already carved out by the courts. We don’t need more exceptions, especially to placate those who equate speech with violence.

Here’s a humorous prescription by Katie Herzog. I agree, though we don’t need an ACLU Jr., as there are already plenty of those organizations.

And here’s a list of my posts, with links, describing and mourning the ACLU’s new direction:

The ACLU backs off defending free speech in favor of promoting social justice

New improved standards proposed for adjudicating sexual misconduct in college; ACLU opposes them for “inappropriately favoring the accused”

The ACLU defends the right of biological men to compete in women’s sports

ACLU continues defending the right of medically untreated men who claim they’re women to compete in women’s sports

ACLU joins lawsuit allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports

h/t for Herzog tweet: Eli

Branch of Rutgers Law School rescinds unconstitutional requirement mandating “viewpoint discrimination” with respect to CRT

May 28, 2021 • 9:15 am

The craziness that is engulfing American universities with respect to Critical Race Theory is exemplified by a recent ruing of the Student Bar Association of Rutgers Law School-Camden.  Fortunately, some timely intervention from the estimable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), recounted in its article below (click on screenshot), forced the students to rescind their rule.

Click on the screenshot to read:

As FIRE reports in an earlier post:

The SBA of Rutgers’ Camden campus added a section to its constitution entitled “Student Organizations Fostering Diversity and Inclusion” on Nov. 20 [2020], mandating that any group that wishes to receive more than $250 in university funding must “plan at least one (1) event that addresses their chosen topics through the lens of Critical Race Theory, diversity and inclusion, or cultural competency.” Last fall, 19 of 22 student groups requested more than $250.

This puts student clubs in a bind: Should they request the funding they need, even though it would require planning an event — such as hosting a speaker, outing, or mixer — that may be at odds with or unrelated to the group’s own views?

As FIRE noted, Rutgers is a state university, and is therefore forbidden by Supreme Court rulings from “viewpoint discrimination,” which includes differential distribution of funds to student groups based on their politics or views. The requirement that student groups—many of which surely aren’t involved with CRT—hold specific events promoting CRT is therefore unconstitutional. This was pointed out to the President of Rutgers in a 5-page letter from FIRE on May 17.

After the letter arrived, the Student Bar Association (SBA) met with the Rutgers administration and rescinded their stipulation. The SBA Presidents, however, responded petulantly, saying in a May 23 email to the student body that they did this because of the issues involved and the time deadline, but that they were not giving up. This section of the letter implies that they’ll continue their unconstitutional—and ultimately futile—fight. Click to enlarge:

Of course “the other guys who say so” include the Supreme Court! It’s almost humorous that they think they can pass the amendment again or something like it. That would also be unconstitutional.

It’s manifestly obvious that no public school can force its constituent groups to present seminars pushing a particular ideology. It’s as if a conservative SBA voted that every funded student group would have to present a seminar favoring unrestricted access to guns by Americans, or blanket opposition to immigration. Be the issue on the liberal or conservative side, groups cannot be forced to adhere to or present a favored ideology.

The fact that the Rutgers SBA could even try something like this tells us about the warped thinking that has infected America in the last year. There’s nothing wrong with fighting racism, but there’s everything wrong with fighting it by using unconstitutional means forcing others who may disagree with your methods to nevertheless mouth your approved ideology. It also tells us that a Student Bar Association that blatantly violates a Supreme Court decision needs to bone up on its law.

Supreme Court agrees to decide major abortion case: not good news for Roe v. Wade

May 17, 2021 • 10:15 am

This article from the NYT, and several others, is not good news for pro-choice people or supporters of Roe v. Wade, of which I’m one.  Click on the screenshot:

The decision to take up the Mississippi abortion restrictions was made by the Supreme Court this morning.

Determined to overturn Roe v. Wade, and, indeed, in some cases to prohibit abortion nearly completely, a number of states passed palpably unconstitutional laws designed to get wend their way to the Supreme Court, hoping that the new conservative court would roll back the federal abortion law. One of those states was Mississippi. As the NYT reports:

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19- 1392, concerns a law enacted by the Republican-dominated Mississippi legislature that banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. The statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.”

Lower courts said the law was plainly unconstitutional under Roe, which forbids states from banning abortions before fetal viability — the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or around 23 or 24 weeks.

Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic sued, saying the law ran afoul of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe’s core holding.

Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Federal District Court in Jackson, Miss., blocked the law in 2018, saying the legal issue was straightforward and questioning the state lawmakers’ motives.

Note that Mississippi has just ONE abortion clinic, but was successful in getting the Mississippi law blocked. As NBC News reports, the judge who blocked the law said that the state: “”chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to enforce a decades-long campaign, fueled by interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade.”  I suppose there’s no law against passing an unconstitutional law, for that’s how cases get re-adjudicated.  But there was nothing mandating readjudication save the composition of the Supreme Court.

That the Supremes decided to take up the appeal by Mississippi is not a good sign, for had they turned it back, the law would have remained blocked. Can you imagine that the new court would uphold Roe v. Wade? I can’t.

In 1973 Roe v. Wade was decided by a 7-2 vote, with White and Rehnquist dissenting. Now, however, conservatives have a 6-3 majority, and I’m feeling a bit queasy. The NYT says that the Supremes will hear arguments in the next term, which begins in October, and render a decision by mid 2022.

Does this mean that when science improves to the point when a fetus can remain viable outside the womb from day 1, with gestation provided in vitro, then abortion will become completely illegal except, perhaps, in cases of incest, rape, or severe deformities incompatible with life? For one thing is for sure: someday science will get to that point.


h/t: Ken

France’s highest court sets anti-Semitic murderer free because he was high on weed when he killed a Jewish woman

April 17, 2021 • 10:30 am

Imagine if a white American guy tortured and murdered a black woman, first beating her up and kicking her while shouting “white power!” and then throwing her out the window to her death. This would, of course be all over the Western media as an example of a racist crime. And imagine further that the murderer gets off completely because the courts find that before the murder he’d smoked marijuana, so he wasn’t responsible for his deed.  Now that would, rightly, be a national scandal, all over the media of all stripes.

Now imagine instead that the murderer was an anti-Semitic Muslim who did the same thing to an Orthodox Jewish French woman who was his neighbor, crying “Allahu akbar,” uttering Muslim prayers, and then torturing her before throwing her out the window to her death. And then the courts let him off because he was high on weed.

This latter scenario actually happened, but you’re not going to read about it in the New York Times, HuffPost, the BBC, the Guardian, or The Washington Post, and you probably haven’t heard about anyway. This is because the media simply don’t consider attacks on individual Jews very newsworthy, although it’s the minority group most subject to U.S. hate crimes on a per capita basis. (Attacks on individual members of other minority groups, like blacks, Hispanics, or Asians, of course get wide press.)

The only explanation for this disparity that makes sense—at least to me—is anti-Semitism.  Now you can say that American and British journalists are ignoring this is because it happened in France, and that the French media did cover it, which the first article below, from Honest Reporting, claims (click on screenshot). So did the Jewish media. But the story is not just local: it reflects a rising tide of anti-Semitism spilling over much of Europe. Letting the murderer go in a supposedly enlightened country is especially horrific.

Further, we do know the names of Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death for blasphemy, and of Raif Badawi, the Saudi dissident who’s still in prison after nine years, sentenced to a thousand lashes for “insulting Islam”. These kind of injustices are international outrages. Why not the death of the Orthodox Jew Sarah Halimi, which gets no mention?  Because she’s an Orthodox Jew.

Bari Weiss (whom I suppose you can count as Jewish media) also deals with the story at the second screenshot (click there, too).

Honest Reporting:

The piece above is short, and recounts events that happened in 2017. The final exculpation of the killer, though, just happened this week.

On [last] Wednesday, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the French judiciary, upheld a 2019 Paris court decision that Kobili Traoré, who in 2017 broke into the home of his 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi, before proceeding to beat and then kill her, was not fit to stand trial.

The police reports of the incident documents claims that Traoré shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) before throwing her out of the balcony of her home in a clearly antisemitic crime. However, because Traoré had consumed a significant quantity of marijuana, the court ruled that he could not be held responsible for his actions.

From Bari Weiss:

Weiss’s summary:

Sarah Halimi was a retired French physician and schoolteacher. She was also an Orthodox Jew. On April 4, 2017, Halimi was in her Paris apartment where she lived alone. In the middle of the night, a 27-year-old Muslim man of Malian origin named Kobili Traoré, who lived in the building, broke into her apartment. Traoré tortured Ms. Halimi, who was in her 60s, beating her and kicking her. According to neighbors, who called the police after hearing Halimi’s cries, Traoré called her a “shaitan” (satan) and a dirty Jew. Ultimately, he threw Ms. Halimi’s battered body out of her third-story apartment window shouting “Allahu akbar.”

There are other gruesome details, but that is the basic story. It’s hard to imagine a set of facts more damning and more clear.

More of the story from The JC, linked to above:

Kobili’s behaviour was clearly problematic, since Diara Traore [an older relative of the murderer Kobili Traoré who lived in the next building] locked himself, his wife and children in one of the apartment’s rooms and called the police at 4.25am.

Three minutes later, a unit of the Anti-Crime Brigade (BAC) — who happened to be patrolling the area — took up position in front of Diara’s door.

They heard Kobili Traore chanting Muslim prayers and Koranic verses. Unsure about the situation and the potential threats to the family, they asked for reinforcements. Additional policemen arrived quickly. However, for some unclear reason, the BAC unit still refrained from breaking in.

In the meantime, Kobili Traore put on new clothes and climbed out of the window to reach Sarah Halimi’s apartment, which was at the same level as Diara Traore’s.

He allegedly assaulted the Jewish woman and hit her mercilessly. From time to time he resumed Koranic recitation. Many neighbours, woken by the old woman’s screams or the assaulter’s religious chanting, called the police.

Some gave details about the exact location of the assault, the attacker’s identity, the fact he vilified his victim as a Jewish person and as “a Satan” while hitting her, or even — as far as the Muslim neighbours were concerned — the Koranic portions he chanted.

Yet the police still failed to storm Sarah Halimi’s apartment and rescue her. Eventually, Kobili Traore is claimed to have shouted that the woman was “mad and about to commit suicide”, and threw her out of the window.

He had time enough to climb back to Diara Traore’s apartment where he finally was arrested. His hands were covered in blood. There was blood everywhere in his victim’s apartment.

Why did the cops delay?

According to Weiss, Traoré has several dozen prior convictions, but the French prosecutors dropped charges. The case went up to higher courts, and Bari wrote this on Thursday:

And so it is the case with the four-year saga of Sarah Halimi. The final injustice came yesterday, when the country’s top appeals court upheld the earlier, lower court decision that Traoré could not be held criminally responsible because he was high. Apparently smoking a joint had compromised his “discernment” and he attacked and killed Halimi not because he hated Jews, but because he was in a “delirious fit.”

As Francis Szpiner, one of the Halimi family’s lawyers, asked of the court’s strange logic: “Will this also apply to drunk drivers who kill children on the road?” The question answers itself.

The madness here does not belong to Traoré. It belongs to France.

Weiss discusses how the anti-Semitism of Alice Walker has also been ignored, and then adds this rule of thumb about how the media cover anti-Semitic attacks:

The rule of thumb, as the British writer and comedian David Baddiel has noted in his new book, is that Jews Don’t Count. But there is a more sophisticated version of this bloody arithmetic.

When a Jew is harassed by a neo-Nazi, they count. When a Jew is harassed by a person from another minority group, not so much. When a secular Jew is attacked, they count. But when a Jew with a black hat is attacked, that’s ignored. If the story suits the narrative, it counts. If it undermines it, it doesn’t.

I found this tweet yesterday, and I haven’t checked the media this morning, but, at least as of 24 hours after France’s highest court let off the murderer, there were crickets in British and American media. You’re welcome to check again.

Now the killer may be mentally ill (it’s hard to tell the difference with extremist religion), but I see no sign that he’s been institutionalized. [UPDATE: A commenter below notes that he’s been sent to a psychiatric hospital.] And people may ask me, as a determinist, that if his deeds happened after smoking a joint, how can he be held responsible? The answer is evident: he’s been a career criminal, and though killing while high may be determined by the laws of physics, the guy needs to be put away because he’s a danger to others, as a deterrent, and in hopes he can be reformed.

Finally, Weiss has some suggestions for further reading—in the New York Times, of all places:

If you are new to the subject of French anti-Semitism — a survey put by the AJC last year found that 70 percent of French Jews say they have been victims of at least one antisemitic incident in their lifetime — this piece is a good primer.

The NYT piece, from 2018, is called ‘They spit when I walked in the street’: The ‘New Anti-Semitism’ in France.

h/t: Malgorzata

Update on Shaw v. Smith College

March 1, 2021 • 10:15 am

Jodi Shaw hasn’t yet brought her legal case against Smith College, but one seems to be impending, as she’s filed a complaint with the state of Massachusetts (see below). Her GoFundMe page has also reached the total below (click on screenshot), heading towards twice her original goal.

And she really does seem to be sequestering everything above $150,000 for helping others in similar situations. Here’s a new addendum to her page (her emphasis):

***Therefore, any monies over $150K will be placed in an escrow account to be disbursed as needed to individuals I know or who have reached out to me who are trapped in hostile workplaces, including in the workplace of my own former employer. ***

As February 22, together with monies contribute to my private PayPal account, we have raised $85K for this escrow account alone.

This is important as there are many others in the wings who are thinking about or preparing to take action and could really use the help.

That escrow money has now grown to over $127,000! Clearly, a lot of people are on her side—or the side opposing strict application of Critical Race Theory in universities—and I don’t think that all of them are white supremacists. Surely many of them are the sympathetic folks who are afraid of “outing” themselves.

Shaw also added this yesterday:

Hi everyone,

I have some news to share. I sent my complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) last week. This is the first step in the process of bringing a suit against Smith College. Although the MCAD has yet to certify it, I wanted to share a preview with all of you who have so generously supported this cause.

Thanks again for all your support. Words cannot express my gratitude. This is truly a community effort.

The document in question, a complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, was prepared with the help of a lawyer. At 18 pages long, it has a lot more information than what we’ve learned already, and it all reflects pretty badly on Smith (remember, though, Shaw is an opponent of the College’s policies, and the document is a legal one). You can read it by clicking below, or going to the link above. You can read successive pages by clicking the arrows at the bottom of the screen.

Here’s the beginning:


Biden administration withdraws from lawsuit banning transsexual males from competing in women’s sports

February 26, 2021 • 11:00 am

Here is the obligatory disclaimer: I approve of the Biden administration’s attempt to undo many of the changes or executive orders handed down by the Trump administration: immigration, Covid relief, the damn border wall, equality for people of all genders, and so on. But, relative to the last issue, there’s one thing that the Biden administration just did that deserves criticism.

As reported by NBC News, Biden’s Justice Department, as well as its Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, have withdrawn their support of a federal lawsuit in the state of Connecticut seeking to overturn a state law requiring any high school student who identifies as a women to be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Click on the screenshot to read.

Now we’ve discussed at length the problems with allowing transgender women to compete against biological women, for their strength, muscle, and bone advantage is already largely set right after puberty, and persists even with hormone treatment and surgery. How we deal with medically or surgically treated transgender women is a contentious issue bearing on biology and ethics, and will have to be resolved subjectively.

But that’s not the most debatable part of Connecticut’s law.. The law “requires that all high school students be treated according to their gender identity.” That means that if you identify as a woman, you are a woman and can compete against women, even if you have never undergone medical treatment for “transitioning.” And, as the article reports,

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. Former president Donald Trump had rolled back protections for transgender people while in office.

Now Trump was clearly catering to his base, and I’m in favor of Biden’s strengthening protections for people of all gender identities. But to me, that “protection” stops when pure biological men who take the identity of women are allowed to compete against biological women. You know what the results will be: the death of women’s sports. Here’s one example from Connecticut; as far as I know, neither Miller nor Yearwood had undergone any form of medical transition, at least when this competition took place:

(From NBC): Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven on Feb. 7, 2019.Pat Eaton-Robb / AP file

Previously, William Barr had submitted a “statement of interest” in the Connecticut suit, a statement that supported the girls who brought the suit. and said that allowing such competition might violate Title IX’s provision that women should be given equal opportunity in all high-school endeavors. The matter is described this way by The Hill:

The Justice Department’s withdrawal came ahead of a Friday hearing in the case over the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The families of three high school girls sued Connecticut officials in 2020, arguing that allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports forced athletes “to compete against boys.”

“Forcing them to compete against boys isn’t fair, shatters their dreams, and destroys their athletic opportunities,” an attorney for the plaintiffs, Christiana Holcomb, said last year. “Having separate boys’ and girls’ sports has always been based on biological differences, not what people believe about their gender, because those differences matter for fair competition.”

Former Attorney General William Barr agreed, arguing in court documents at the time that the state’s current policy runs afoul of Title IX, which guarantees girls equal access to sports and other school activities.

Now the government has withdrawn its support, saying simply that “The government has reconsidered the matter.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), of course, is supporting the state, representing Miller and Yearwood, the two athletes shown above, and agreeing with Connecticut’s misguided law.

From NBC:

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday he was pleased with the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw Barr’s statement.

“Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period,” he said in a statement.

Transgender girls are not girls for purposes of competing against biological girls, especially if they’ve had no medical treatment. Period.

Lest the Pecksniffs descend, I affirm again that the right of anybody to have their gender identity respected and supported by morality and law should hold in almost every area of human endeavor. But there are a few exceptions, and sports is one. Once again, there’s a reason why men’s and women’s sports are kept separate.