Tag Archives: Eugene Volokh

A Concise, Clear, Elegant, And Willfully False Unethical Tweet Of The Month From Howard Dean

Howard Dean wants to make sure the Left’s war on free speech and expression continues, so he decided to misinform trusting Democrats and progressives—who trust the damnedest people lately!—with a Big Lie level tweet. His immediate target was Ann Coulter, whose speaking gig at Berkeley was first cancelled because of the campus’s rampant embrace of “the heckler’s veto” (as well as the “the thug’s veto,” “the bully’s veto,” and”the rioter’s veto,” all increasingly au currant on the Left) by the school’s students, then cleverly re-scheduled by the University to a day when there would be no classes. [Full disclosure: I wouldn’t move from my living room into my dining room to hear Ann Coulter speak.] Dean is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, arguably the worst of a terrible lot, and is an expert on “hate speech”, or at least hateful speech, having engaged in it himself often. Notably, for example, he insinuated that President Trump was a cocaine user during the 2016 campaign because a badly set microphone picked up his sniffling during a debate.

The nice thing about the progressive definition of “hate speech” (it has no legal definition, which is also convenient) is that it only includes statements that progressives disagree with or find disruptive to their world view and fondly held beliefs. Hateful speech from Democrats is just the hard truth, so it isn’t “hate speech.” Hate speech from everyone else is unprotected, and should carry criminal penalties.

There is no question that Dean knows “hate speech,” whatever it is, is protected by the First Amendment, but it suits his purpose and his party’s to imbed the lie that it isn’t in the mushy brains of the easily confused. This will greatly assist the Left’s ongoing efforts to stifle debate and make any dissent with progressive cant as difficult as possible. That’s the plan.

And again: progressives and Democrats should be as offended by this kind of dishonesty by their leaders as I am. Why aren’t they? Do they think Dean is correct? Do they think he should be correct? Or is it just that they believe that the ends justify the means? Democrats? Progressives? Hello? Integrity? Honesty? The Constitution? Bueller?

What the hell is the matter with them?

Constitutional law expert and law professor Eugene Volokh mostly controls his exasperation as he tries to set Dean and his uneducated acolytes straight. He begins a thorough dismembering of Dean’s tweeted lie in the Washington Post thusly: Continue reading

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From The “Is The News Media Trying To Destroy Any Credibility It Has Left, Or Is It Just Too Biased And Stupid To Help Itself?” Files: The New York Times’ “Fact Check”

who-can-you-trustIn July 2016, Donald Trump said, in one of his more accurate public statements:

Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent.

In July 2016, “Last year” meant 2015, as absolutely everyone understood. Homicides in D.C. did increase by 54 percent in 2015, from 105 in 2014 to 162. The statement was accurate.

Now, however, it’s 2017. This means that “last year” doesn’t mean 2015 any more, but 2016!  Figures on the year just completed show that homicides in D.C. fell in 2016 to 135. Thus the New York Times–you know, that flagship of trustworthy American journalism—through its reporter Emily Badger, decided to “fact-check” that statement by Trump from July, and found that he deceived us. Again. Badger wrote:

“Another end-of-year fact-check, while we’re at it: Mr. Trump claimed during the campaign that the homicide rate in his new home in Washington rose by 50 percent. In fact, it fell by 17 percent in 2016.”

There he goes again! Lying his head off! Citing fake statistics! But trust us, folks, we’ll be right there at the ready for the next four years, so he can’t get away with this constant deception!

Notice how the Times uses “claimed” to imply that Trump was making stuff up.  But he wasn’t making stuff up. The Times was making stuff up by “claiming” in this fact-check that Trump  misstated the facts, when he did not.  He wouldn’t have even been wrong, as Eugene Volokh points out, if he had been comparing 2016 to 2014, the year he was comparing 2015 to in July. The homicide rate in D.C. rose by  28 percent from 2014 to 2016.

‘Trump falsely stated that crime rose in Washington D.C.’ is a lie. It is fake news.

Writes the law professor, using far more restraint than I would (or will):

There’s a lot to be said for not focusing too much on year-to-year changes in homicide statistics, which can be volatile. Even a rise over two years doesn’t tell us that much, though it’s troubling. And we should indeed remember that homicides and other crimes have generally declined sharply from their 1991 peak (though of course we want to be watchful for any reversal of the trend). If the argument is simply in favor of caution about reading too much into yearly statistics, I’m all for that.

But the New York Times “fact-check…” suggests that Trump got his facts wrong (he “claimed” one thing but “in fact” it was something else), and I think it misleads readers into missing the fact that, even counting the 2016 decline, the homicide still rose sharply from the reference year Trump was using — 2014 — to the present.

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The Professor’s Blackface Salute: An Ethics Mess

oregon-blackface-mashup

Halloween costumes, political correctness, law, privacy, and the Niggardly Principles—this one has it all.

Last Halloween, University of Oregon law professor Nancy Shurtz dressed as Dr. Damon Tweedy, the author of Black Men In A White Coat , as an homage to the African American physician and author. She did this at a Halloween party in her own home. Nobody at the party appeared to misunderstand the gesture or the intent of the costume, in part because she could explain it on the spot, and because they knew that Shurtz was no racist. Shurtz had also told the students who were invited that she would be “going as a popular book title,” hence the blackface, Afro wig, white coat, and  stethoscope.The university report on the episode states that Shurtz “was inspired by this book and by the author, that she greatly admires [the author] and wanted to honor him, and that she dressed as the book because she finds it reprehensible that there is a shortage of racial diversity, and particularly of black men, in higher education.”

But as always happens now because there is no such thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy even in one’s own home, reports of Shurtz in costume and make-up got out into the campus at large, and inflamed the predictable outrage. The university launched an investigation that culminated in a critical report prepared by an attorney and the university’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.  Shurtz issued an apology—for her private conduct within her own home that was pounced upon by Political Correctness Furies, since she appears to be one herself-–on November 1. Some of her colleagues on the faculty and many students demanded that she resign, and she may have to yet. Shurtz has been censored and suspended, and is now on paid leave. It being claimed that her wearing the costume–within her own home as a gesture that all agreed was intended as benign and that nobody at the party either objected to or failed to understand— created “a hostile environment” at the school. This is apparently because

“as part of the uproar, students said things of which the administration disapproved: The report specifically notes that students used “other offensive racially-based terminology during class times in the context of discussing this event and broader racial issues.” It related that “some of the witnesses reported that the students’ reactions to the event were racially insensitive or divisive.” And it apparently viewed such statements as relevant to whether Shurtz’s own speech was properly punished.”

The report, meanwhile, concludes that the costume constituted “harassment,” and that her intentions are irrelevant.

Writes First Amendment expert Prof. Eugene Volokh: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce, Unethical Quote Of The Week, And A Kaboom! For Good Measure: Clark University

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“Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do – like being sexual or performing certain sexual acts. Examples of some coercive statements include: “If you love me you would have sex with me .”, “If you don’t have sex with me I will find someone who will.”, and “I’m not sure I can be with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me.” Coercive statements are often part of many campus acquaintance rapes. Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to having sex and is considered rape/sexual assault.”

—The Clark University Dean of Students office, in its definition of “Rape and Sexual Assault and Related Terms”

That’s right; Clark University’s position was that when a manipulative boy friend or, presumably, girl friend, used the age-old ploy of emotional blackmail to wheedle for sex, it constituted sexual assault. KABOOM! Brains…on…walls, can’t… typxvtu…pfg

OK, I’m better now. The Worchester, Mass. university quietly removed the outrageous definition as soon as it turned up, with appropriate mockery, on the web, and then denied it had ever been there. (This is the place where Instapundit would note the tuition paid by Clark students.)

Writes a stunned Prof. Volokh:

So saying “If you don’t have sex with me I will find someone who will” is “coercion,” and thus means that any resulting sex is not consensual. This means that getting sex that way is “rape and/or sexual assault” (because it’s “coerced sexual contact”), and in particular may well be “acquaintance rape.”

Words fail me — though they apparently failed the Clark University Dean of Students office as well.

It sounds like his head might have exploded too!

Gee, do you think this kind of increasingly common gender bullying and distortion of reason, fairness and logic for ideological ends might have caused some non-racist, non-sexist individuals to wonder what further horrors feminist-pandering President Hillary Clinton would have encouraged, and to vote for someone else? Do you think some non-white supremacists might reasonably conclude that if  eight years of a hard-left, divisive, victim-mongering Democratic administration could lead a school to employ this kind of Orwellian definition to throw young men out of their college, then eight years had done damage enough? Continue reading

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In The Latest Episode Of “As The News Media Disgraces Itself,” Chris Cuomo Reveals Himself As An Incompetent Fool

The public cannot trust what the star lawyer-anchor of a morning news program on a major news network says about the law with utter certainty.

The public cannot trust the major news network to correct the false information so conveyed in a timely fashion.

The public cannot trust that major news network.

Unproven hypothesis: The public cannot trust any news network.

Never mind the hypothesis, however. Let us just deal for now with the lawyer/host/news anchor, Chris Cuomo, his inattentive network, and this ridiculous statement he uttered as authoritative fact last week:

”Also interesting is, remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media, so everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us.”

What?

“So everything you’re learning about this, you’re learning from us” would appear to state that it’s illegal for the public to even read the hacked e-mails, which anyone can do here. That can’t be right, and of course is nonsense: anyone can read anything that is available on the web. It is also a sinister theory, claiming that we have to rely on the interpretation, selective reporting, spin and biased analysis of media hacks like Chris Cuomo, because the law says we can’t download or read such material ourselves. Where did  Cuomo, a licensed lawyer, get a crack-brained idea like that? More important, why couldn’t he figure out it was ridiculous using common sense? A law degree is hardly necessary, if one thinks for a few seconds.

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Observations On The Gadsden Flag Controversy

Gadsden Flag

On the Volokh Conspiracy, now featured on the Washington Post website, Prof. Volokh applies his First Amendment expertise to a recent EEOC decision which ruled that a complaint from an African-American that a fellow worker who repeatedly wore a cap with the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia from the Gadsden flag may have created a hostile work environment at the federal agency both worked for. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission called for further investigation, including an interview of the cap-owner’s intention in wearing the symbol, concluding,

“In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 displayed the symbol in the workplace. In so finding, we are not prejudging the merits of Complainant’s complaint. Instead, we are precluding a procedural dismissal that would deprive us of evidence that would illuminate the meaning conveyed by C1’s display of the symbol.”

Observations:

1. Now this is the slippery slope. Because murderous racist Dylan Roof posed with the Confederate flag, a tipping point was reached that resulted in the symbol and the flag being effectively and in some respects officially banned. The EEOC had already ruled the wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt constituted racial harassment,. Now the banning of historically significant symbols is threatening to spread to a flag that had no relationship to race whatsoever, in large part because of who has chosen to display it.

2. There is a whole website devoted to the Gadsden flag, from which we learn that…

  • It first appeared in October of 1775, as the British were occupying Boston and the desperate Continental Army was dug in in nearby Cambridge, lacking sufficient arms and ammunition.  In October, a merchant ship returning to Philadelphia from a voyage to England brought private letters to the Second Continental Congress informing it that  England was sending two cargo ships to America loaded with arms and gunpowder for the British troops.
  • Congress decided Washington’s troops’ plight required that those ships and their cargo be captured. It authorized the creation of a Continental Navy, then only four vessels, to take the ships. Congress also authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines. Some of the Marines enlisting that month in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow, emblazoned with a  rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, coiled and ready to strike, accompanied by the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”
  • That same December, a citizen calling himself  “An American Guesser,” anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal, saying in part:

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America…the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America….She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her..

I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, ’till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. …Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

It is generally agreed that the writer was really Benjamin Franklin. Ben had a hand in the design of the flag, since the first use of a rattlesnake to represent the colonies was his own “Join or die” cartoon,

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die

…published years earlier. Continue reading

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More Fact-Check Ethics, And What It Tells Us About PolitiFact And How Fairly The News Media Will Treat Donald Trump

Just imagine how frustrating it must be to be a stopped clock and have people stiff claim you are wrong one of the few times you are right!

Just imagine how frustrating it must be to be a stopped clock and have people stillclaim you are wrong one of the few times you are right!

Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh was intrigued when the infamously left-biased “non-partisan fact checking source” Politifact “fact-checked” Donald Trump’s recent assertion that “crime is rising.” The professor did his own fact-checking on the Tampa Bay Times’ verdict that…

“If you look at overall violent and property crimes — the only categories that would seem inclusive enough to qualify as “crime,” as Trump put it — he is flat wrong. In fact, crime rates have been falling almost without fail for roughly a quarter-century. We rate his claim Pants on Fire.”

Volokh’s conclusion? Trump’s statement can not be fairly called “Pants on Fire,” because in regard to violent crime, it’s true. Aggregate crime is not rising, but PolitFact’s statement—“If you look at overall violent and property crime”—is deceptive, and suggests that both violent crime and property crime are falling. (Uh-uh-uh! Bad Fact-Checker! Fact-Checker must not be misleading and deceptive!) Notes the professor: Continue reading

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