Tag Archives: Eugene Volokh

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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Indoctrination And Intimidation At The University Of Arizona: Who Will Say, “So What’s The Matter With That?”

I feel the same way, Lucy…

There is a dumb joke in an old “I Love Lucy” episode that this story brings to mind.

Lucy is outraged when she reads that there is am all- filly race at the local race track and misunderstands. Horrified, she erupts, “How long  has this been going on? They’re racing little girls at Churchill Downs!” Ricky promptly explains why she was being an alarmist.

I hope that somehow the news item’s reporter got the facts wrong or I am missing something, because this story is far worse than racing little girls, and nowhere near as funny.

The University of Arizona is accepting student applications for what administrators call “social justice advocates.” The job requires the students to “report any bias incidents or claims to appropriate Residence Life staff,” and pays the student workers $10 an hour. They’re expected to work 15 hours a week, earning $600 a month in taxpayer funds—this is a public university—to police their fellow students speech and conduct.

Part of the job description reads:

“The position also aims to increase understanding of one’s own self through critical reflection of power and privilege, identity and intersectionality, systems of socialization, cultural competency and allyship as they pertain to the acknowledgement, understanding and acceptance of differences. Finally, this position intends to increase a student staff member’s ability to openly lead conversations, discuss differences and confront diversely insensitive behavior.”

Their #1 job, however, is to report “bias claims” so the student miscreant involved can face a Star Chamber, or the university equivalent. Such a claim can be what someone regards as  an outright act of “racism,’ which presumably could include anything from using a racial epithet to saying Maxine Waters is an idiot,  to  “microaggressions” like “cultural misappropriation,” or calling a transgender student by the wrong pronoun. The social justice advocate’s job will also include “fostering dialogue” related to “diversity, multiculturalism and social justice”—in other words, to be a full time left-wing scold— and  to “increase  awareness of diverse identities” while “promoting inclusive communities.”

I wonder if being stuffed in a closet or hung on a hook will be considered a “biased incident” by these paid political correctness snitches? That is, after all, what would happen to them on a healthy campus. Will they have little badges and whistles? I think they should get badges and whistles. Or get a uniform like Rolf at the climax of “The Sound of Music.”

They’re racing little girls at Churchill Downs! Continue reading

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“Cockholster” Update: Still Unethical, Not Illegal

Or to put it another way, Stephen Colbert’s ugly, vulgar and uncivil slur against President Trump may have been unfunny, biased, demeaning to the audience and the network (CBS), and corrosive to political discourse and the culture—it was all of these—but he didn’t violate any regulations or laws.

Yes, it’s always legal to be smug, pandering, hypocritical jerk.

The FCC spokesman confirmed the commission was not launching an investigation regarding the episode in which Colbert broke new ground in gutter language on network TV.For one thing, the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert”  is exempt from the FCC’s policies on profanity and indecency because its indecent rules only apply to TV and radio shows airing between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.,  when children are supposedly not in the audience.

That would not save Colbert if his words were judged legally obscene (and thus not protected speech), but Colbert’s comments would not be found obscene under established court standards. Concludes Constitutional law expert (and Supreme Court appointee-in-waiting) Eugene Volokh:
Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

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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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