Tag Archives: Eugene Volokh

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural conflagration.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians. Continue reading

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Super Bowl Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/3/219…To Remind You That You Can’t Be Serious About Ethics And Support The NFL. Sorry.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME

...ethics?

Started this post in the morning; now, after another wipeout sick day, I’m trying to get it up before midnight. I’m sorry.

1. As a refresher...here’s last year’s Super Bowl guilt trip. I’d write a fresh one, but believe it or not, I’m still sick and in bed. Key quote:

It’s your choice. If you do choose to cheer on the Pats and the Eagles [this year, the Rams], though, don’t pretend that you don’t know that what you’re really cheering, enabling, and ensuring will keep ruining lives.

Incidentally, NFL TV ratings are way up this year. DEE-FENCE!

2. Today’s blackface news...This is not a parody; academics really are this ridiculous: in New York Times op-ed too dumb to link to, headlined ‘Mary Poppins, and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface,’ Professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner argues that the scene in the original 1964 film in which Mary cavorts with the chimney sweeps and ends up with her face blackened by soot is racially offensive, because it emulates blackface. Points:

  • This utterly deranged PC nonsense was actually seemed worthy of publication.
  • This tells us the risks parents of today take by entrusting the minds of their children to irresponsible institutions and educators who have devolved into advocates for racial paranoia.
  • Linfield College, in Oregon, employs this lunatic, meaning that its administrators think that someone who watches a fantasy dance number performed by chimney sweeps and sees a racist message can be trusted to teach its students.
  • Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who collaborated on the 2004 stage adaptation of Mary Poppins that returns to the West End later this year, explained for the benefit of the Times, the crazy professor, and anyone so gullibve as to take either of them seriously, that Mary’s acceptance of the soot on her face is meant to be a gesture of support for the sweeps. “All she wants to do is join the sweeps and show them she isn’t standing apart – that she wants to belong to that group. It’s a touching scene and it displays a warm friendliness towards the sweeps,” he said. Funny, I was able to figure that out when I saw the film the first time, and I was 14-years old.

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour. Continue reading

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California’s Ethics Rot

This is the prevailing culture in the state Hillary Clinton won so overwhelmingly that she was able to claim that she really “won” the election. You don’t want to live in that culture. It opposes the Freedom of Speech.

Opposing free speech is unethical. It also is undemocratic. But Californians are increasingly incapable of seeing this. It is a case study in how a culture rots. Some recent examples of how the rot is proceeding.

I. Mean Facebook posts are crimes.

In 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page. Among them:

  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim shit has no place in western civilization.”

As a result, California is prosecuting him for allegedly violating Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

A First Year law student of reasonable mental acuity could tell you in a trice that this was unconstitutional—that is, she could if she hadn’t been marinated in the anti-democratic culture that is 21st Century California. It is also an unethical and intellectually dishonest effort to use an ill-fitting law to punish “hate speach.” Here, in part, is the analysis of Prof. Volokh, a constitutional law specialist:

This can’t possibly be consistent with the First Amendment; indeed, in U.S. v. Popa (D.C. Cir. 1999), the D.C. Circuit set aside a telephone harassment conviction of someone who left seven racist messages on the voicemail of then-U.S.-Attorney Eric Holder; and the court focused on the “political message” of the speech, and not on Holder’s status as a government official. Given that insults targeted to a particular person, related to a political message, are thus constitutionally protected, so are more general insults aimed at an ideology and all its adherents, whether that ideology is Islam, Scientology, conservatism, gun rights, or anything else. Laws aimed at preventing unwanted repeated messages to particular private citizens shouldn’t be applied to messages sent to ideological organizations (or to public officials). And this is especially so when it comes to annoying Facebook posts, which the organization can simply block.

…I hope the court indeed promptly throws them out as unjustified under the statute, forbidden by the First Amendment, or both. But if the courts accept such charges, expect to see many more people, left, right, and otherwise, prosecuted for posting insulting messages on many groups’ web pages.

II. No free speech on campus without permission!
Continue reading

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Professor Volokh’s Ethics Dissent On The Vicious, Pazuzu-Blaming Professor’s Firing

‘Yes, I know he’s an idiot, but we should support idiots as highly paid teachers of our children, for the protection of the non-idiots…

Eugene Volokh is one of the best and most objective legal minds in the country. If he finds himself on the Supreme Court when Kennedy retires or Ginsberg shuffles off this mortal coil, we will not have suffered through the ugliness of the Trump years in vain. When he opines, I listen, as we all should, and he has now opined regarding the now fired idiot that I wrote about this morning, ex-University of Tampa visiting sociology professor Ken Storey.

Storey used Twitter, in the middle of the still-unfolding human disaster in Houston and soon New Orleans, to announce that flooding victims who were Trump supporters or Republicans deserved to die. He did this twice, so his later claim that his words did not intentionally convey what his words were obviously intended to convey was a desperate and obvious lie.

I wrote:

The university or college that fires an employee like Storey is protecting its reputation as a responsible institution, by stating in clear terms that people with terrible judgment and cruel and unethical instincts who are motivated by hate and intolerance are not qualified to teach….because they aren’t. That professors increasingly have no ethics alarms beeping when the prepare to publish sentiments like Storey’s (or worse) shows how thoroughly the leftist echo chambers of most campus faculties turn academics into Pat Robertson, which is to say, rigid, mean, and dumb. Once upon a time, liberals giggled themselves silly over the evangelical huckster’s periodic pronouncement about how a disaster was God’s way of punishing the U.S. for not abusing gays sufficiently, or similar bile, Now they do the same thing, and expect their colleagues and students to applaud.

Today, in the Washington Post, Professor Volokh advocates a different position:

Storey’s comments were nasty and mean-spirited; and I should note that the University of Tampa is a private university, in a state that doesn’t limit private employers’ ability to fire employees for their speech. The university’s actions thus seem legal (assuming they didn’t breach any contract). And Storey’s comments also weren’t academic or likely to be part of a serious political debate.

But the university’s action strikes me as further undermining the freedom of expression and debate at American universities, including the freedom to say things that are much more thoughtful. If you were an untenured faculty member at the University of Tampa, would you feel free to express your views on controversial subjects, when you saw how the university reacted to this tweet? Even if your views were very different politically, what do you think the University would do if people started pressuring for your dismissal, pointing to the Storey incident as precedent?

I’ve talked before about “censorship envy,” one mechanism through which these sorts of speech restrictions can grow: “If my neighbor — and especially my political adversary — gets to ban speech he reviles,” the thinking goes, “why shouldn’t I get to do the same?”

If a university has a strong policy of protecting speech, including offensive speech, administrators can point to that policy as a means of resisting calls for firing a controversial faculty member, and they can appeal to people’s desire to see speakers on their own side protected, and use that desire to help protect speakers on all sides. But once the university starts firing some people for speech “that do[es] not reflect [the university’s] community views or values,” that makes it much harder to resist calls for more suppression. Indeed, at that point tolerating speech starts implicitly conveying the message that the speech does reflect the university’s community views or values — and to avoid that implication, the university would have to fire any speaker who offended some sufficiently influential constituency.

I am very confident that in this rare case, Prof. Volokh is dead wrong. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/13/17

Good Morning!

1. I owe Robin Meade an apology. The astoundingly bright-eyed, bushy-tailed HLN morning host has been used here as an an example of the sexism of broadcast news media producers, and it is true that she is uncommonly attractive even by “news babe” standards. However, I have come to realize that she is also a unique talent, and more than just a pretty face and figure. Meade has natural presence and charisma, projects genuine optimism and and an up-beat nature, and most unusual of all, doesn’t spin the news or tilt her delivery to signal her own opinion. She’s really good at what she does. I’m sorry Robin; I was biased against you because you are attractive, which is just as wrong as being biased for you. You’re a pro, through and through.

2. Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh (who is also my favorite candidate for a Supreme Court post if one opens up) published what I consider to be a definitive refutation of the claim that receiving opposition research, as in “damaging information about Hillary Clinton,” is a crime under current law. He also makes a case that it couldn’t be criminalized under future law:

“It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).

Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?”

The professor concludes not. I hadn’t even considered the First Amendment issue in determining that the election law prohibition against receiving “anything of value” benefiting a candidate from a foreign nation or individual was not intended to preclude mere information, but Volokh’s argument seems air tight. Continue reading

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From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade

Brian Talbert, a member of “Gays for Trump,” submitted  an application to Charlotte Pride, Charlotte’s Gay Pride parade, so they could have a float in this year’s event. His application was rejected, with this explanation:

 

Charlotte Pride reserves the right to decline participation at our events to groups or organizations which do not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization, as is acknowledged in our parade rules and regulations by all groups at the time of their parade application. In the past, we have made similar decisions to decline participation from other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances.

Charlotte Pride envisions a world in which LGBTQ people are affirmed, respected and included in the full social and civic life of their local communities, free from fear of any discrimination, rejection, and prejudice.

Charlotte Pride invites all individuals, groups, organizations and causes which share our values to join our community’s celebration of the LGBTQ community, history, arts and culture during the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, Aug. 26-27, 2017.

In other words, because Charlotte Pride does not support Talbert’s political views, he is being denied the opportunity to present a minority point of view. Constitutional Law prof Eugene Volokh explains why this is entirely legal:

“First, Charlotte and North Carolina do not ban discrimination by parade organizers based on political affiliation. Only a few jurisdictions include political affiliation on their lists of prohibited bases for discrimination.

Second, even if a public accommodation law did ban such discrimination, it couldn’t apply to parades organized by nongovernmental organizations. Such parade organizers have a First Amendment right to exclude groups from their parades based on the messages the groups convey about their members’ sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, race and whatever else to make sure that a parade conveys just the speech that parade organizers want to convey.”

The precedent Volokh cites for this principle? Why, it’s Supreme Court’s holding in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (1995), declaring that the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a First Amendment right to exclude the gay/lesbian/bisexual group.

It seems that many groups advocate diversity, tolerance and fairness until they achieve the power to do their own discrimination. That is, good bigotry. Discriminating against gays is bad.  Gays discriminating against gays who support the President of the United States is good.

Sure it is. Golden Rule? What’s that? This is intolerance, bigotry, a failure of integrity, hypocrisy….and also bullying, as it aims to coerce group members to accept mandated political views that are not their own.

But it’s not illegal, so it’s all right! Continue reading

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