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NONSENSE: FELIX LEITER HAS SIMPLY GONE DEEP UNDERCOVER: David Hedison Dies: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Live and Let Die Actor Was 92.

SIMPLE JUSTICE: Prof. Avital Ronell And The Lie of The Feminist Academy.

When law and philosophy prof Brian Leiter revealed academic and feminist superstar Judith Butler’s disgraceful and flagrantly hypocritical letter defending her sister superstar, NYU prof Avital Ronell, I was ready to pull the trigger. I have a post, dated June 13, 2018, fully written, but never published. I knew something Leiter didn’t.

At the time the Butler letter was sent around for signatures, threatening NYU with the wrath of scholars if Ronell wasn’t exonerated, the university had already found Ronell responsible. The only remaining question was what to do about it, one of the university’s brightest academic lights had sexually harassed a gay male student under her care.

This wasn’t one of the faux Title IX cases of post-hoc regret, but the real deal. Ronell was grad student Nimrod Reitman’s doctoral adviser. He came to NYU because of her, to study under her. And from the start of his graduate studies, she turned him into her boy toy upon the implicit threat of destroying his career. And it continued throughout his graduate studies, as proven by Ronell’s emails.

Professor Avital Ronell used her academic power over Reitman to coerce him to be her sexual plaything for years, or else.* And the feminist academy, via Judith Butler and myriad other signatories to a letter, demand that NYU lay off Ronell, or else. And it’s incredible to believe that the finding of responsibility wasn’t the impetus for the threat letter. Yet, these scholars sought to coerce a university into silence and impotence to conceal Ronell’s conduct.

If the patriarchy had been as self-interested and shameless as the feminist Old Girls Network, feminism never would have been a thing.

Plus: “Diane Davis, chair of the department of rhetoric at the University of Texas-Austin, who also signed the letter to the university supporting Professor Ronell, said she and her colleagues were particularly disturbed that, as they saw it, Mr. Reitman was using Title IX, a feminist tool, to take down a feminist.” It’s never actually about equality.

ANALYSIS–TRUE: Antonin Scalia Law School Is Under Attack for Being Successful and Different.

Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University has a very highly cited faculty, showing that it has a relatively large impact on the world of legal ideas. It is ranked as the 21st, just after the University of Texas. This ranking is an extraordinary achievement, given that it was a young school with a small endowment, not at all comparable to long established schools like Texas. As is clear from objective data, Antonin Scalia Law School’s faculty is also unusual in having a faculty that it is right of center in a profession where every school with a higher citation count is left of center, sometimes far to the left of center.  For instance, schools in the top twenty citations regularly have less than ten percent conservatives and frequently less than five percent.

The existence, much less grand success, of my law school is a minor miracle in today’s academic climate, especially since we’ve been grossly underfunded for almost our entire existence. This success, moreover, belies the notion that the dominance of Progressives in academia is primarily the result of lack of interest by non-Progressives, as opposed to viewpoint discrimination (which we often are able to take advantage of by hiring non-Progressives overlooked by other law schools). Unfortunately, there are certain organizations that are not satisfied with Progressives holding 90+% of faculty positions at law schools and elsewhere, they want to stamp out all right-of-center dissent.

UNCOVERING THE VAST CONSPIRACY: On Facebook, a fellow law prof calls this “maybe the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen a law professor write.” Well, maybe — that’s setting the bar pretty high. But read it for yourself.

High points: Eugene Volokh as the Dr. Evil of this nefarious movement, and Josh Blackman as his “tall and muscular” henchman.

But here’s my advice: If you’re worried that a national campaign will portray campuses as dominated by violent and fascistic mobs, stop ginning up violent fascistic campus mobs every time someone from the right speaks on campus.

UPDATE: From the comments: “You have to admire a conspiracy that relies on the victims simply doing what they always do. It’s like suggesting there’s a conspiracy to make sailors drink beer.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: This conspiracy theory seems to be the new storyline.

Blame the “outside agitators.” Where have I heard that before?

I’M EMBARRASSED FOR THE AUTHOR: USC lawprof Michael Simkovic: A well-organized campaign to bait, discredit, and take over universities is exploiting students and manipulating the public.

Here’s a taste:

Recently, the Federalist Society invited South Texas College of Law Houston’s Josh Blackman to lecture at CUNY law school.  Professor Blackman’s sparsely attended lecture drew protestors because of Blackman’s previous criticism of an amnesty program for undocumented immigrants and his use of language the protestors interpreted as racial dog whistling.

A university official asked the students to be respectful, defended Blackman’s right to speak, and admonished the students “please don’t take the bait.”  One student noticed Blackman recording himself and asked Blackman, “You chose CUNY didn’t you? Because you knew what would happen if you came here.”  (CUNY, like Vassar, has a reputation for left-wing student activism).  Blackman deflected the question.  One protestor used an expletive, which Blackman repeated.

According to both Blackman and CUNY, the protestors were non-violent.  Security was present to maintain order.  Blackman—tall and muscular—towered over the students and appeared calm throughout the exchange.

(1) Josh Blackman is an incredibly mild-mannered, polite, nice guy. The protesters didn’t identify any “dog whistle” language; they just called him a racist because that’s their default criticism of anyone they don’t like. Simkovic should be ashamed of himself for suggesting that the students may be correct in asserting Blackman has actually indulged in racism, which is a kiss of death in academia. A public apology should be forthcoming.

(2) Josh hasn’t criticized the amnesty program per se, which he supports, he’s criticized its implementation by executive order, which he believes is unconstitutional. The fact that neither the students nor Simkovic can appreciate the distinction doesn’t speak well of either.

(3) Josh is, I believe, the most prolific speaker for the Federalist Society in the country. He has spoken at dozens of schools. By Federalist Society rules, the students at each chapter have to invite him, he can’t invite himself. In short, the idea that he somehow chose CUNY to provoke a reaction is ridiculous, and the notion that presenting an anodyne talk on free speech, which Josh had presented at several other law schools without incident, should provoke any sensible, mature person is ridiculous.

(4) Josh is certainly reasonably tall, but when a security guard comes to you before a talk and asks if you have an “exit strategy” and gives you suggestions about various emergency routes out of the law school, even a six-footer might feel a bit threatened. I wonder how Prof. Simkovic would feel if a security guard came to him before one of his classes, and suggested he needed an “exit strategy” in case the protesters intent on disrupting his class and chanting expletives outside his classroom turn violent?

The whole piece is like this, full of illogic and innuendo, suggesting that the fault with the threats to free speech on campus lies with those who engage in and defend free speech, rather than those bent on suppressing it. Read it and weep.




My sense, actually, is that Pepperdine is doing very well these days, and if the ranking system worked it would be moving up.

UPDATE: More here:

U.S. News removed Pepperdine University School of Law from the ranking after the school reported a mistake in the median LSAT score it provided to the publication. According to Pepperdine law dean Paul Caron, the school last week realized that it had incorrectly reported its median LSAT score as 162 instead of the correct 160 when it saw the early embargoed version of the rankings that U.S. News provides each school for review. (The initial ranking had Pepperdine moving up from No. 72 to No. 59.)

Rather than recalculate the school’s rank and issue a new list prior to the official release, as the Caron requested, U.S. News removed Pepperdine’s ranking altogether.

“It is, of course, deeply disappointing to be unranked for a year,” Caron wrote in a post on his Tax Prof Blog. “But the reality is that we made great progress in the rankings this year, and should continue our ascent next year.”

Caron said several experts concluded that Pepperdine would have ranked 62nd or 64th using the correct median LSAT.

University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter, a frequent critic of law school rankings, said on his blog that U.S. News’ handling of the situation will dissuade law schools from disclosing any inadvertent mistakes in their data.

I think U.S. News blew this call. And credit to Dean Paul Caron for reporting the error; I feel certain that some schools wouldn’t have been so honest.


MORE ON SAN DIEGO: Brian Leiter: How should a Dean who understands academic freedom respond to public controversy about faculty writing?

So we know from the unhappy example of Dean Ferruolo throwing a faculty member under the bus what not to do: you don’t publish a statement on the homepage of the school singling out a faculty member’s work, declare that not only do you, as Dean, disagree with it, but suggest that these are pariah views in “our law school community”, and imply that the offending views may implicate “racial discrimination” and persecution of the “vulnerable” and “marginalized.” Making an obligatory reference to academic freedom in passing does not undo the damage that this decanal misconduct causes.

Yes, this was an unforced error, and a major one. My thoughts here.

BRIAN LEITER: USD Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo should either resign or issue a public apology.

BRIAN LEITER IS UNHAPPY: Thought crimes watch: comparing trans-racialism to transgenderism verboten! It’s a feminist journal, so I love his reference to “whatever passes for peer review” there. Ouch! Plus:

Apparently the “harm” to Prof. Tuvel of a public apology by the majority of the editorial board of the journal that published her article was outweighed by the “harm” of her thought crime to transgender people. (Addendum: no thought crime is complete without a public letter of protest. What is chilling about this is that instead of this campaign of vilification of a junior faculty member and demand for “retraction” of her article, someone could have written a response piece and sent it to the same journal. But this is obviously not a scholarly community, but a political one. Those familiar with the history of 20th-century Marxist movements will recognize what’s going on here, and it isn’t a happy sight.)

Well, leftist autophagy isn’t an entirely unhappy sight. (Bumped).

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 944. Brian Leiter is, as happens so often, both insulting and wrong. When I linked, the number was 35%.

TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 943. Brian Leiter attributed nefarious motives to Paul Caron’s ongoing coverage, and polled his readers only to find that the greatest number of them agreed that “there is an IRS scandal and Taxprof is doing a service by keeping track of it.”

WHEN PHILOSOPHERS ARE POLITICALLY PROBLEMATIC: “Germaine Greer is right about trans-women.” “In our society, to be a woman is to have arrived there by a certain route: for instance, by having been given a girl’s name, by having been made to wear girl’s clothes, by having been excluded from boys’ activities, by having made certain adaptations to the onset of puberty, and by having been seen and evaluated in specific ways. That is why the social significance of being a penis-free person is different for those who never had a penis than it is for those who use to have one and then cut it off.”

Sounds suspiciously conservative to me.

MEGAN MCARDLE: Campus Justice: Punished Until Proven Innocent.

Northwestern put Kipnis through a lengthy process in which she wasn’t allowed to know the nature of the complaint until she talked to investigators, nor could she have representation.

But the process worked, says Justin Weinberg, because Kipnis was eventually exonerated. Weinberg, who teaches philosophy, also thinks it’s “not obvious” that writing an article about an ongoing complaint, which does not mention either the students or professors by name, is retaliation under Title IX. Like Brian Leiter, I find his summation of the facts underwhelming, and as Leiter says, “If Kipnis’s opinion piece about sexual paranoia on campus, in which the graduate student is not even named and barely referenced, constitutes adverse ‘treatment,’ then there is no right for any faculty member at any institution receiving federal funds to offer any opinions, however indirect, about any question surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct at the institution.”

But I’ll let Leiter argue with Weinberg about the case itself, because I want to take issue with this passage: “As I noted earlier, the Title IX investigation yielded no finding of retaliation against Kipnis. One can only imagine how disappointed she will be with this. It turns out that the process she had been demonizing—which of course may have its flaws—pretty much worked, from her point of view.”

I think this is deeply wrong, and for all that, it is not an uncommon sentiment. You often hear this sort of argument when people complain about the byzantine procedures that colleges use to adjudicate charges of a racial or sexual nature, or when they argue that we should always presumptively believe any rape accusation: “Well, if they didn’t do that, the system will figure it out eventually, so what’s the big deal?”

This ignores the fact that the process itself can become the punishment. Sexual assault, racial harassment and similar crimes are serious charges, that should be treated seriously. This makes being charged with such an offense a very big deal for the accused. The judicial process is time consuming, often confusing, and scary. The accused may need to pay for legal advice, even though they often aren’t allowed to take counsel into the system with them. Then there’s the worry of knowing that however crazy the charge sounds to you, the campus judicial process may have very different ideas.

The campus system is, in its own way, especially punishing: The accused has limited rights, the system is opaque, and it’s hard to even know how other cases get resolved. The system cannot send you to jail, but it can expel you with a mark on your permanent transcript that will make it harder to get admitted elsewhere, or if you work for the school, start the wheels in motion to get you fired. These are not small punishments. Some of the system’s defenders say it does not need the same due process standards as a legal charge would, because it can’t result in prison time. But I doubt these defenders would be so sanguine about this Kafkaesque process if it were directed at them, threatening their futures.

Well, I predict that more lefty professors will experience this personally, and their views will change. Remember, the entire notion of academic freedom was boosted mostly to protect campus communists. Once lefties were fully in charge, their commitment to academic freedom evaporated. If lefties find themselves in the crosshairs again, I predict a newfound movement in favor of free speech and free thought.

I PREFER THE RUSS MEYER VERSION: Dianne Feinstein: Islamic State’s Message is Kill, Kill, Kill.

The U.S. should not underestimate the appeal of the Islamic State on social media, argued the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: “I think [the Islamic State’s message] is ‘kill, kill, kill.'”

“It’s a force that we really haven’t seen before, and we have to begin to cope more seriously with it, and that includes social media.”

Islamic State leaders use social media to foster sympathy and support around the world, encouraging Westerners to carry out attacks.

“It is putting that lone wolf [attacker] in a position that they have never been in before: ‘You do it, we’ll take credit for it,'” she said.

Congress should ask for more funding so that law enforcement can effectively combat them, she said.

“This is a matter of prime defense of the homeland, and it would come first,” said Feinstein.

The challenge of monitoring the Islamic State’s social media activity is “hugely difficult,” said Michael Leiter, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Well, you’d have more of a leg-up on it if you hadn’t wasted years monitoring the Tea Party instead.

BRIAN LEITER CONTINUES TO AMUSE: “That’s the way Brian Leiter rolls. People who disagree with him are ‘hacks.'” Thus has it ever been, thus shall it ever be.

ACADEMIC POLITICS: Celebrity Law Prof Death Match.

THE ACADEMY DISCOVERS a new civility standard, courtesy of Brian Leiter.

Related thoughts from Prof. Jacobson.

MARK STEYN: Laws Are For Little People. And Not David Gregory.

This is, declared NYU professor Jay Rosen, “the dumbest media story of 2012.” Why? Because, as CNN’s Howard Kurtz breezily put it, everybody knows David Gregory wasn’t “planning to commit any crimes.”

So what? Neither are the overwhelming majority of his fellow high-capacity-magazine-owning Americans. Yet they’re expected to know, as they drive around visiting friends and family over Christmas, the various and contradictory gun laws in different jurisdictions. Ignorantia juris non excusat is one of the oldest concepts in civilized society: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Back when there was a modest and proportionate number of laws, that was just about doable. But in today’s America there are laws against everything, and any one of us at any time is unknowingly in breach of dozens of them. And in this case NBC were informed by the D.C. police that it would be illegal to show the thing on TV, and they went ahead and did it anyway: You’ll never take me alive, copper! You’ll have to pry my high-capacity magazine from my cold dead fingers! When the D.C. SWAT team, the FBI, and the ATF take out NBC News and the whole building goes up in one almighty fireball, David Gregory will be the crazed loon up on the roof like Jimmy Cagney in White Heat: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” At last, some actual must-see TV on that lousy network.

But, even if we’re denied that pleasure, the “dumbest media story of 2012” is actually rather instructive. David Gregory intended to demonstrate what he regards as the absurdity of America’s lax gun laws. Instead, he’s demonstrating the ever greater absurdity of America’s non-lax laws. His investigation, prosecution, and a sentence of 20–30 years with eligibility for parole after ten (assuming Mothers Against High-Capacity Magazines don’t object) would teach a far more useful lesson than whatever he thought he was doing by waving that clip under LaPierre’s nose.

To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?

Pretty much.


But you see, in faculty hiring, the question isn’t whether this particular candidate is good enough. The question is why does this person with excellent credentials get selected from the pool of applicants who all have excellent credentials? Why did Warren move up the ranks of the law schools the way she did?

Her identification as a member of a minority group in the Association of American Law Schools directory would help. Why are the schools reticent about saying that they consider minority status a plus factor in hiring? Why aren’t they out-and-proud about diversity? Law schools have fought for the proposition that diversity is a compelling state interest, justifying racial discrimination. . . .

Is this reticence about the decency of affirmative action happening here because they want to help Warren in her Senate race? Is it because if she didn’t really have that factor going for her but the schools used it, then… well… who, really, is hurt? Who was the next person in that pool of applicants? No one knows. Look away.

Hey, but who else might be cheating, claiming minority status that’s not really true? Now, now, you’re not supposed to think about that. It’s quite unseemly, isn’t it? Impolite.

Whenever possible, impoliteness is substituted for argument. Best that some subjects just not be brought up at all. Plus, some related thoughts from John Rosenberg.

UPDATE: More from Orin Kerr and Brian Leiter.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Why Anti-Semitism Is Moving Toward The Mainstream. “To understand why these absurd and reprehensible views, once reserved for the racist fringes of academia and politics, are moving closer to the mainstream, consider the attitudes of two men, one an academic, the other a politician, toward those who express or endorse such bigotry. The academic is Prof. Brian Leiter. The politician is Ron Paul.” Leiter might get over being called an anti-semite, but he’ll never forgive Dershowitz for calling him “obscure.”


UPDATE: Reader Kevin Kneupper writes: “Did this guy seriously name you ‘InstaIgnorance’ because you told people there wouldn’t really be a draft if Bush was reelected?”

Yeah, pretty much. But although the name’s coinage was of false provenance, he’s nonetheless sticking with the name he invented. I could make a snarky crack about how philosophers work, but that would be too easy. Still, as I’ve noted before, my upbringing left me with no awe of that profession. And certainly Leiter has never done anything to change my mind.

BRIAN LEITER VS. BRAD DELONG: “Brad Delong is not only a sanctimonious jackass, he’s an underhanded and dishonest slimeball.” Ouch.

IS BRIAN LEITER PREJUDICED against gay blog commenters? Anonymous blog-readers want to know! Er, I’m sure they do.

One of the reasons I don’t have comments on my blog — besides laziness, which has always been the main reason — is that if you have comments, some dishonest hack will attribute them to you, instead of the commenters.

ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL JURIST, I’m One Of 23 Law Professors To Take Before You Die. Of course, Brian Leiter is another one. But in fairness, though his online personality is execrable he’s reputed to be excellent in the classroom. Ann Althouse is on the list, too.

JAMES TARANTO REALLY KNOWS HOW TO HURT A GUY: “An uncredentialed Brian Leiter.” I mean, Jim Shankman’s scum, but does he deserve that?


The reason we find Leiter’s comments amusing rather than disgusting is that we, unlike Althouse, are not part of academia and thus have no personal investment in the ideal of disinterested and honest scholarship. Rather than offend our ideals, Leiter reinforces our stereotype of academia as being filled with fools and knaves. You can see why this would bother Althouse, a scholar who does not fit the disparaging stereotype.

Althouse’s emotional reaction to Leiter’s comments is similar to ours when the New York Times publishes blatantly slanted stories on its news pages or outright lies on its opinion pages. Those are our professional standards the Times is transgressing. Some of our readers thought our outrage at the Times naive; we would say that, like Althouse’s disgust with Leiter, it was merely idealistic. It is possible to be knowing without being cynical.

It’s sad that Brian Leiter seems to put so much effort into reinforcing — or, perhaps the proper term is “embodying” — right-wing stereotypes regarding the academy. For those of us who still possess some ideals, it’s disappointing. But it’s hard to argue with this point; “Leiter wouldn’t be acting like such a crybaby if he weren’t losing this argument.” Leiter is — to the amusement of many of his fellow legal academics and philosophers — exquisitely concerned with reputation. But reputation is maintained by conduct.

BRIAN LEITER ON BUDGET CUTS: “At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified.” This whole “new civility” business just isn’t working out as promised. On the other hand, it is working out pretty much as expected. . . .

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh comments: “Now I should say that I’m all in favor of ‘philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified’; it is a subject of enduring moral and philosophical significance, and without question sometimes such acts are justified against some governments. My sense from Prof. Leiter’s post, though, is that he is hinting at more than just a philosophical inquiry — though perhaps I’m mistaken.” Perhaps.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Paul Stinchfield sends this quote: “The left claims that the guilty party in a conflict is not the one who covets another’s goods but the one who defends his own.”

MORE: Ann Althouse: “How quickly the lefty mind turns toward violence! . . . Here, I’ll help you get your fancy-schmancy, high-tone philosophy seminar started: Acts of political violence are justified to get what you want.” That’s my prediction of how it will go, too.

MORE STILL: Somehow, I’m reminded of this quote from Robert Heinlein:

Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.


STILL MORE: A reader emails: “If you see the post now, he’s backpedaled and edited his original sentence without any disclosure. Seems like all the attention embarrassed him, but like Icarus, if you fly too high you get burnt.” Well, lots of people look at blog posts and decide they’re not clear. But he appears to have added the stuff about Locke after he added the update saying there had been more attention than he realized, which makes no sense. Anyway, I don’t think Brian is likely to be leading a revolution in any event. Nor do the looters and moochers really need him to provide a philosophical underpinning. For that, they’ve got Trumka.

PLUS: “In retrospect, I guess we might have resorted to cannibalism a bit early.”

AT NYU, an appalling reaction to an outrageous crime. Sounds like Nir Rosen, with his “warmonger” bit, is channeling Brian Leiter. Funny how these people who are so opposed to all that nasty war stuff can be so . . . callous about violence.

UPDATE: As an antidote to the above nastiness, let me offer Ace’s take.

ANOTHER UPDATE: “When last seen on these pages, Nir Rosen was a journalist embedded with the Taliban who used his US documents to pass a band of Taliban through an Afghan government checkpoint.”

From the comments: “And only a couple of months ago he was welcomed to UT Austin by The Center for Women’s & Gender Studies [sic]. And this isn’t even ironic.”

MORE: On further thought, it’s probably unfair to link Brian Leiter to Nir Rosen, despite the common condemnation of warmongers. Leiter’s Soviet-Union nostalgia, while execrable, lacked the personal nastiness of Rosen’s comments.

WAS THE FALL OF THE SOVIET UNION A GOOD THING? Brian Leiter isn’t so sure: “Finally, certain other world-historic crimes, such as the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq, are unlikely to have occurred if the Soviet Union had remained intact.”

You know, Leiter doesn’t particularly like me, and after reading this statement, I care even less than I did before. Which is something of an accomplishment. . . .

BIGGEST TERROR THREAT: HOMEGROWN ISLAMIC RADICALS: “The largest threat to the U.S. is no longer Osama Bin Laden, according to the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCIC), Michael Leiter, but is now Anwar Al-Awlaki, the head of the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group based out of Yemen. The increased threat that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula poses revolves heavily around its ability to attract and reach U.S.-natives who want to be trained in terrorism techniques, and who could fall beneath the radar of intelligence circles more easily.”

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH offers enlightenment to the ignorant.

LAW PROFESSORS argue about tenure. Expect more of this sort of thing, as the higher education bubble talk continues.

UPDATE: Speaking of the higher education bubble, reader Chris Farley offers some advice:

I used to be a college administrator and learned a lot of tricks that you can pass on.

My son is going to graduate High School in three years – not because he is a genius, but because he can arrange his schedule to fit in all the requirements and credits in three years. Anyone at his high school can do it. That’s at least one year of tuition increases avoided. When he finishes High School, we are sending him to the local community college for two years. It is very inexpensive, will give him a chance to mature and will allow him to explore different subject matter prior to choosing a major without wasting a lot of time and money. Two years for about $5K total and then he can transfer pretty much anywhere he wants. It is much easier to get accepted to a school as a transferring Junior than fresh out of high school and he’ll have plenty of money between his college fund and a few small loans. All of my children must take out some small bit of loans to put a little skin in the game so they will be more serious.

The other smart move is ROTC – Running Off To Canada. Tuition, room, board, books and everything else is very inexpensive in Canada and most schools are accredited the same as US schools. My oldest went to the University of Prince Edward Island. When she was done, she worked for the government in Iraq for about 16 months and is now finishing up an internship in Finance and Accounting with the US Army Corps of Engineers. She has about $20K in loans and we paid the difference in cash and one small loan that is already paid off. $20K is a payment she can easily afford now and won’t haunt her forever.

My last bit of advice is to find free money. If a Junior spends an hour a day applying for scholarships over the summer, even one small scholarship of $1,000 would come out to about $11/hr. for the time spent. That’s a pretty good wage for surfing the net and filling in forms!

Sounds useful.

BYRON YORK: On bombing suspect, tough questions for Eric Holder. “It seems like a pretty simple question. Who made the decision to charge Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused terrorist arrested for trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day, as an everyday criminal, as opposed to an enemy combatant? . . . This week that simple question — Who? — became more complicated after several of the administration’s top anti-terrorism officials testified on Capitol Hill. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter, said he wasn’t consulted before the decision was made. The director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, said he wasn’t consulted, either. The secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, said she wasn’t consulted. And the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, said he wasn’t consulted.”

The country’s in the very best of hands.

JUST FOLLOWING THE TONE SET AT THE TOP: Antiterror Chief Michael Leiter remained on ski slopes after Christmas Day airline bombing attempt.


The University of Illinois is hostage to the public purse for a lot of its operations, so every request for ‘special consideration’ on admissions from a politician with influence on the purse strings comes with an implied threat: admit this student, or lose funding. One can be sure Chancellor Herman understands that. Attacking university officials over this scandal is like attacking the victim of a robbery for handing over his money.

This is, in fact, the case with many political bribery scandals, where the bribe-payer is more likely to be a shakedown victim than a corrupter of the innocent.

LEGAL REALISM. A new/old bugaboo for Sotomayor opponents. I would love to have a sophisticated national dialogue about Legal Realism (which is much-discussed here at the University of Wisconsin Law School), but so far it looks as though the discussion will not be too sophisticated. It’s pretty much: she talked about Legal Realism, Legal Realism is judicial activism, and judicial activism is judges imposing their own political preferences, so Sonia Sotomayor is unfit for the Supreme Court. But, as University of Chicago lawprof Brian Leiter said:

“Everybody who knows anything knows that Legal Realism is a description of what judges really do… I give [Sotomayor] a lot of credit, frankly, for talking about it openly. It’s unusual for a sitting judge to say it openly, because judges don’t want to attract the political heat from acknowledging what everyone already knows, which is that appellate judges especially have to make new law – that they can’t just apply the law as written.”

I would love to have more Supreme Court Justices who say what they really think. Imagine if, when reading a “decision,” we were actually reading the decision.

BARACK OBAMA AS A LAW TEACHER: The New York Times reports, and Ann Althouse, Brian Leiter, and David Bernstein comment. Offering Obama tenure upon hiring? That’s quite unusual. “Clueless White Person” voices, not so much.

UPDATE: More from Randy Barnett.

ALL I AM SAYING, IS GIVE CHICAGO A CHANCE: “The disproportionate number of YLS grads entering law teaching is clearly having a deleterious effect on scholarship and the academy.”

HAPPENINGS AT BERKELEY: Muller scoops Leiter! With exclusive pic!

PAUL CAMPOS BECLOWNS HIMSELF YET AGAIN, and Brian Leiter pinches the red rubber nose. And it squeaks! “Paul Campos is obviously upset that every member of the legal academy knows him as the poster boy for contempt for the First Amendment rights of state university professors, and so he does what any reputable academic would do under the circumstances: lies through his teeth.” That’s been my experience with Campos as well. Plus, the last time he savaged me he managed to misspell my name, which seems consistent with his usual floppy-shoed degree of thoroughness. . . .

DALE CARPENTER DEFENDS JOHN YOO from something that looks very much like a witch hunt. (Funny how those are increasingly carried out in the name of “human rights.”) So does Brian Leiter. (“Are we really to believe–fifty years after the McCarthyist witch hunts!–that academics should be punished because their bad ideas are then used by bad people to do bad things?”) Who can stand against the wind that will blow if that becomes the rule . . . .?

At any rate, the likely consequence of such witch hunts is to discourage law professors from taking jobs in the government, thus increasing the legal academy’s already considerable self-marginalization. Some, I suppose, will say that’s not a bug, but a feature. Rest assured, however, that members of any future Democratic administration will not escape, now that this precedent has been established. Who knows who else might someday be persecuted for proposing theories of aggrandized executive power?

SHORTER BRIAN LEITER: And it’s still kind of long.

OKAY, THIS IS JUST WEIRD: Hiring and firing Erwin Chemerinsky in one week? Because it turns out he’s too liberal? First of all, who doesn’t know about Erwin’s politics? Certainly anybody who managed to hire him without knowing his political leanings would have to have been grossly negligent in their evaluation. Second, he’s a nice, fair guy regardless of his politics — which aren’t that liberal by law school standards — and which just shouldn’t matter anyway. Perhaps there’s more to this story than we’re hearing, though I’m not sure what it could be, but it makes absolutely no sense as reported. Anyway, I have to agree with Brian Leiter that this is going to make it very hard for them to recruit anyone of comparable stature for the position now.

THE ANSWER, OF COURSE, IS “BETTER-LOOKING.” With my brother, there’s room for dispute. Here, well, . . . not really. I don’t think that the matter is worthy of so much attention, though.

CONTRARY TO BRIAN LEITER’S CLAIMS, I’m not behind this site. I’m not Juan Non-Volokh, either. I wonder, however, why Leiter is so obsessed with secret lives, and his false statements of fact, delivered with his habitual self-assurance, certainly don’t enhance his credibility on other subjects.

UPDATE: Leiter has apologized for his error, with his customary grace.

KEN SILBER offers a positive review of Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner’s new book, Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.

I haven’t read it, but I like the discussion of the chapter entitled “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?”

The upshot is that the crack trade, even at its market peak, was lucrative only for those at the top of a selling organization. The gang’s foot soldiers made less than minimum wage and faced a 1-in-4 risk of being killed over four years. (In the same time, being a timber cutter, the most dangerous legitimate job in the U.S., carried a 1-in-200 risk.) These drug dealers struggled desperately to reach the gang’s upper echelons, but few would make it.

I don’t know Levitt’s answer here, but one explanation (besides the obvious “they’re idiots”) for why people become drug dealers when the economic returns are poor is that being a drug dealer offers — and, especially during the crack boom, offered — nonmonetary returns, by having much more status than working minimum wage. (Read Richard Price’s excellent book, Clockers for some very good illustrations of that phenomenon).

My historian-brother often says that one of the most interesting phenomena that he’s observed is the cross-cultural willingness of people to trade away economic benefits for status. I suspect that this is one example of that. So, in a surprisingly similar way, is being a politician. That’s an obviously poor economic move for most folks. But one of the drug dealers in Price’s book talks about how he likes the way he becomes the center of attention when he enters a room full of junkies. Politicians, I think, get the same thing, especially in the bubble-environments of Washington, or state capitals. I suspect, in fact, that people are, to varying degrees, hardwired to get an endorphin rush from that sort of attention, just as they’re hardwired in varying degrees to respond to drugs.

As I say, I don’t know if Levitt talks about that or not, but I think it’s one possible explanation for a lot of stuff that looks economically counterproductive.

UPDATE: Stephen Skaggs emails:

Take out “drug dealers” and “crack” and replace with “bloggers and

Heh. And Greg Hlatky emails:

Take out “drug dealers” and “crack” and replace with “professors” and “universities.”

I guess that makes me a double-dipper. No wonder I’m always so cheerful! It’s the endorphins! [So why isn’t Brian Leiter happier? — Ed. No theory is perfect.]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Barnes emails: “Talk to your budding rock-star brother and he can probably tell you about ‘non-monetary’ benefits.”

Heh. Indeed.

IS THE BLOGOSPHERE ELEVATING THE POLITICAL DEBATE? I just had an interesting conversation with a journalist who’s writing on that question, and who pretty clearly seems to feel that the answer is “no.”

If “elevating the debate” means a sort of good-government, League-of-Women-Voters focus on where candidates stand on health care, etc., that’s mostly true, I suppose. But I think it misconceives what blogs are about. There certainly are bloggers posting on healthcare and other issues — see, for example, Jeff Jarvis’s Issues 2004 posts and this post by Ann Althouse on medical malpractice — but the political blogosphere is to a large degree about media criticism. If the Big Media were talking more about issues, and less — to pick RatherGate as the example which I think inspired this conversation — about Bush’s National Guard service, probably bloggers would be talking about issues more, too.

Of course, what’s striking about RatherGate is the absolutely incredible degree of ineptitude, arrogance, and outright political manipulativeness that it has revealed. In light of that, I can understand why members of the media would rather talk about other things.

But, all blogger triumphalism aside, the media criticism matters. And it matters because Big Media are still the main way that our society learns about what’s happening, and talks about it. A serious breakdown there, which seems undeniably present today, is very important. In many ways, as I’ve said before, it’s more important than how the election turns out.

Meanwhile, I don’t recall much tut-tutting about bloggers focusing on Trent Lott’s racial remarks, instead of his position on national health insurance. Were we elevating the tone then, but not now?

UPDATE: Ann Althouse, on the other hand, points to someone who isn’t elevating the tone. As you might expect, she manages to deflate him, without using improper language. Plus, she comes up with a cool new blog name. [LATER: My linking of Althouse has apparently turned her into one of my “minions.” Minions? It sounds so very Ming the Merciless. “Minions! Sieze him! We’ll see if Professor Leiter can maintain his trademark self-regard after a few months of grading exams in the bluebook mines of Kessel!” Okay, we’re in Frank J. territory, now. . . .]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting Gallup data on public attitudes toward the media in the wake of RatherGate. Apparently, it’s not just bloggers who care.

MORE: Reader Tucker Goodrich has these thoughts on “the issues:”

The issues the blogs have been addressing are issues the press and the Democrats would rather not address, because (in my opinion, and I guess, by their omission, on theirs) they’d lose.

We’re in a war. The character and suitability of the commander-in-chief is a valid issue. A partisan media trying to throw the election by releasing forged documents to throw the character and suitability of the CinC in doubt is an issue. Whether or not the new CinC would prefer to win or lose the war is an ISSUE!

But the Democrats and the press are trying to win the debate by framing those as not “issues”, but as partisan carping. Nice try, but sorry. They are issues, and are every bit as important as healthcare or the economy, if not more so.

They’d simply like to frame a debate where they, the press, define the issues in such a way that they’ll win. The real impact of blogs in this election is that the press can no longer frame the debate to their liking. And this is a huge win for people who don’t agree with how the press tries to frame the debate. And competition in framing the debate can only be good for our democracy and our republic, even if it’s bad for the Democrats and the Republicans.

And the press. As reader Bill Gullette emails: “Where did Rathergate originate? And most certainly even in the most favorable terms, the story was hardly an above the belt effort in terms of what CBS or Rather/Mapes intended the story to achieve.”

Reader Merv Benson adds: “Blogs are the letter to the editor that the editor does not want to print.”

STILL MORE: A positive spin:

All the MSM really needs to do is be the professionals they have falsely claimed to be all these years. A real news organization which was devoted body and soul to getting the truth out, chips fall where they may, would embrace the new world that is growing up around it. . . .

The real story is a happy one. The MSM is on the verge of a new golden age. If it would just learn to do its job, take advantage of these new developments, quit trying to be “gatekeepers” and drop the ideological and partisan shilling, good things would start to happen sooner rather than later.


MORE STILL: Hmm. Compared with Lewis Lapham, who’s charging Bush with “treason,” maybe bloggers are elevating the tone!

FINAL UPDATE: This article on the contributions of blogs is worth reading, too.

OKAY, REALLY FINAL UPDATE THIS TIME: Virginia Postrel has more thoughts, and says that the real issue is that reporters aren’t interested when blogs elevate the debate:

Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.

That’s no doubt true. Virginia also thinks I sound “defensive” in this post. Maybe, though I’d say “reactive” — the interview, with a guy who warned me up front that I wasn’t likely to like his story, seemed driven as much by unhappiness over RatherGate as anything else.