Sunday, February 26, 2017

(N)ICE

Immigration Agents Discover New Freedoms:

ICE has more than 20,000 employees, spread across 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries, and the Trump administration has called for the hiring of 10,000 more. ICE officers see themselves as protecting the country and enforcing its laws, but also, several agents said, defending the legal immigration system, with its yearslong waits to enter the country, from people who skip the line.

Gone are the Obama-era rules that required them to focus only on serious criminals. In Southern California, in one of the first major roundups during the Trump administration, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all.

“Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did,” said a 10-year veteran of the agency who took part in the operation. “Now those people are priorities again. And there are a lot of them here.”

Interviews with 17 agents and officials across the country, including in Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Washington and California, demonstrated how quickly a new atmosphere in the agency had taken hold. Since they are forbidden to talk to the press, they requested anonymity out of concern for losing their jobs.
Snicker. This is why, I suspect, the comments are more politically-motivated than they are based in reality. Like this:
“Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a joint statement after President Trump issued the executive orders on immigration late last month.

Two memos released this past week by the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of ICE and the Border Patrol, provided more details about how it would carry out its plan, which includes Mr. Trump’s signature campaign pledge — a wall along the entire southern border — as well as speedier deportations and greater reliance on local police officers.

But for those with ICE badges, perhaps the biggest change was the erasing of the Obama administration’s hierarchy of priorities, which forced agents to concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent and serious criminals, and mostly leave everyone else alone.
Which is nonsense. From my contacts in ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and DHS, I can tell you almost nothing has changed. During the Obama administration, more than 400,000 undocumented persons were arrested and deported every year...that's every single year x 8 years = 3.2 million people. Basically, they were averaging 7,692 arrests every week, which makes this breathless headline from a few weeks ago regarding 600 arrests almost laughable.

Again, what you're seeing here is certain people within ICE and DHS (agents afraid to go on record, unions and their shills who thrive on more federal welfare, er funding, heading their way) politicizing an issue in favor of the current administration. When you talk to rank and file (read: non-politicized agents and bureaucrats within said agencies) they'll tell you not only has nothing changed, but in many ways they are in a holding pattern regarding how long the current administration will be in power.

Always be suspicious of the political motivations behind these kinds of stories. This has more to do with partisanship and an administration circling the drain than it does law enforcement reality. And in many ways, it denigrates the men and women in ICE who are apolitical or, in fact, stand against the current regime.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Police Chiefs Say No To Trump

Chiefs Say Trump's Law Enforcement Priorities Out Of Step:

“We need not use arrest, conviction and prison as the default response for every broken law,” Ronal W. Serpas, a former police chief in Nashville and New Orleans, and David O. Brown, a former Dallas chief, wrote in a report released last week by a leading law enforcement group. “For many nonviolent and first-time offenders, prison is not only unnecessary from a public safety standpoint, it also endangers our communities.”
The organization, the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, is made up of more than 175 police officials and prosecutors, including Charlie Beck, Los Angeles’s police chief; Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Manhattan’s district attorney; and William J. Bratton, the former police chief in New York and Los Angeles. Other leading law enforcement groups have also called for an increase in mental health and drug treatment, a focus on the small number of violent offenders who commit the most crimes, training officers on the appropriate use of force, and retooling practices to reflect a growing body of evidence that common practices, such as jailing people before trial on minor offenses, can actually lead to an increase in crime.
The group warned that “failing to direct these resources toward our most immediate and dangerous threats risks wasting taxpayer dollars,” singling out using federal money on “dragnet enforcement of lower-level offenses.”
Let me just pause here and encourage you to peruse the Law Enforcement Leader's membership list, especially those of you having a conniption over who these "soft on crime" folks might be. 

There are people on this list who literally led the charge towards the crime-control, hyper-aggressive, zero-tolerance, militarization of policing back in the 80's and 90's, and who have prosecuted some of the biggest criminals in American history...and they are now renouncing said posturing. Names such as Bill Bratton, Bob Barr, Robert Fiske, and Donald Stern, just to name a few. So "weak on crime" they ain't.
Mr. Trump has shifted the focus from civil rights to law and order, from reducing incarceration to increasing sentences, from goading the police to improve to protecting them from harm. Last week, he swore in a new attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who has said that the government has grown “soft on crime,” and helped block a bipartisan bill to reduce sentences. Mr. Sessions said that a recent uptick in crime in some major cities is a “dangerous, permanent trend,” a view that is not supported by federal crime data, which shows crime remains near historical lows.
Right? I literally have no idea what's going on with this picture either.

But as I pointed out in my last post, while none of what the administration is saying about crime is grounded in reality or fact, that's not preventing a few outlier organizations from defending the administration, particularly those who sullied their reputations by making political endorsements during the campaign.
“I can promise that if we have a president who is speaking about protecting the lives of police officers, that the membership is going to be supportive of him,” said Chuck Canterbury, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “No police officer took an oath that said, ‘I agree to support and defend the Constitution and to get my butt whipped.’”
Michael A. Ramos, the president of the National District Attorneys Association and the chief prosecutor in San Bernardino County, Calif., hailed the shift in emphasis, saying the pendulum had swung “way too far” toward being “soft on crime.”
Like the picture above, I have no idea what either of those comments means, but again, beyond the few organizations who actively campaigned in 2016, the word on the street and in the Chiefs HQ's is that "gittin' tuff on crime" is a dead horse.
Some police chiefs said they are reserving judgment until there is more meat on the bones of the administration’s plans. “Hopefully, they are going to seek our practical advice,” said Edward A. Flynn, Milwaukee’s police chief, who also heads the legislative committee of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “That to us is key. We don’t want any more policy bromides grounded in campaign promises. We want ideas grounded in practical wisdom about how to protect our cities.”
Smart of crime, Right on crime lives, for now. Let's hope organizations like Law Enforcement Leaders keep speaking out.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Back to the 80's

Trump Signs Orders to Combat Crime:

At an Oval Office ceremony for the swearing in of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, President Trump announced that he was also going to sign three executive orders “designed to restore safety in America,” to “break the back” of cartels and “stop as of today” violence against the police.
The praise began arriving immediately. “I applaud President Trump for taking action to improve the security of our communities,” Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “President Trump’s executive orders are a good first step toward restoring law and order.”
Still, about 45 minutes later, when the White House released the actual text of the three orders, they turned out to contain few specific policy steps.
For example, the first, on combating international criminal cartels, largely consisted of stating opposition to such groups, and directed the government’s Threat Mitigation Working Group — which already existed because President Barack Obama established it back in 2011 — to review various efforts to battle them and “work to improve” those efforts.
Er...
And the other two, on reducing crime and preventing violence against law enforcement officials, directed Mr. Sessions to develop a strategy to achieve those goals by coordinating with other agencies, including at the state and local levels. The new attorney general is also to review existing laws and law enforcement grants and recommend changes if necessary.
Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political science professor, said that while Mr. Trump had issued a few “consequential” executive orders early in his presidency — most notably his ban on letting refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations enter the United States — many of his others had used the high-profile step of issuing an order for the purpose of amplifying a political message.
“It sounds like he is attempting to make it appear as if he is pushing forward policy positions that he wants to take some credit for,” Mr. Buchanan said of the Thursday orders. “He wants to be in the papers for having endorsed things he is generally in favor of, even though there’s nothing really new.”
See also: my post from the other day re "alternative facts" and the power of the first reality t.v. presidency. 

Even though we know that crime rates, particularly violent crime rates, are at 50 year lows, that doesn't stop this administration and its new attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, from presenting an "alternative" point of view.
“We have a crime problem,” Mr. Sessions said after being sworn in. “I wish the blip — I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend.”
Right, and my best judgment is that you stumbled into the truth when you accidentally described last year as a "blip," since that's what it was. A handful of cities experienced an increase in violence, not enough to change the national numbers, and not enough to warrant a trend. In fact, not only is crime still at a 50 year low, the long-term indicators, according to the FBI, show violent crime is actually STILL declining.
Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches criminal law at Columbia University, was less impressed by Mr. Trump’s cartel order, noting that “the targeting of international criminal organizations has always been a high priority, and I supposed he is suggesting that priority will continue.”
Exactly. It was a big theatrical performance (dare I say "made for reality t.v."?) that basically stated the obvious: we will continue to fight crime and drugs in the U.S. Just like Obama did, just like W did before him, and every other president and AG going back to the 18th century.

Brave new world, folks. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Amused to Death

It's not Orwell, but Huxley We Should Read:

The central argument of Amusing Ourselves is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).
The misplaced focus on Orwell was understandable: after all, for decades the cold war had made communism – as embodied by Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Big Brother – the prime existential threat to America and to the greatest of American virtues, freedom. And, to put a bow on it, the actual year, 1984, was fast approaching when my father was writing his book, so we had Orwell’s powerful vision on the brain.
Whoops. Within a half-decade, the Berlin Wall came down. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.
Unfortunately, there remained a vision we Americans did need to guard against, one that was percolating right then, in the 1980s. The president was a former actor and polished communicator. Our political discourse (if you could call it that) was day by day diminished to soundbites (“Where’s the beef?” and “I’m paying for this microphone” became two “gotcha” moments, apparently testifying to the speaker’s political formidableness).
The nation increasingly got its “serious” information not from newspapers, which demand a level of deliberation and active engagement, but from television: Americans watched an average of 20 hours of TV a week. (My father noted that USA Today, which launched in 1982 and featured colorized images, quick-glance lists and charts, and much shorter stories, was really a newspaper mimicking the look and feel of TV news.) 
But it wasn’t simply the magnitude of TV exposure that was troubling. It was that the audience was being conditioned to get its information faster, in a way that was less nuanced and, of course, image-based. As my father pointed out, a written sentence has a level of verifiability to it: it is true or not true – or, at the very least, we can have a meaningful discussion over its truth. (This was pre-truthiness, pre-“alternative facts”.)
But an image? One never says a picture is true or false. It either captures your attention or it doesn’t. The more TV we watched, the more we expected – and with our finger on the remote, the more we demanded – that not just our sitcoms and cop procedurals and other “junk TV” be entertaining but also our news and other issues of import. Digestible. Visually engaging. Provocative. In short, amusing. All the time. Sorry, C-Span.
This was, in spirit, the vision that Huxley predicted way back in 1931, the dystopia my father believed we should have been watching out for. He wrote:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.
In other words, while sales of "1984" are spiking because people are fearful of an autocratic dunderhead in the White House forcing everyone into a dictatorship, the book that really nailed the cultural conditions necessary to allow someone like Trump to ascend to the presidency, was "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley. And in Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" (and Roger Waters' brilliant "Amused to Death" album from 1992) the conditions were further refined and predicted.

It really is the perfect bookend to what we started 35 years ago: from a B-movie actor offering smooth and simple bromides for the people, to a washed up reality t.v. star who the masses (sheep) find hugely entertaining, and literally a source of clickbait himself. We've turned the highest office in the land into just another reality t.v. show. The difference being, of course, that "reality t.v." is all scripted and not remotely "real," whereas the presidency and leadership of the country is, well, unscripted and totally real.

Really, if you want to read more prescient Orwell in terms of today and where we are potentially headed, read "Animal Farm."

The concern shouldn't be that the government is going to ban or censor or deprive us of information. It's that the people will be too stupid to read, care, or be washed away in a sea of irrelevance, partisan hysteria, and the triviality that is popular culture. And that's what is happening right now with the complete inversion (or perversion) of truth coming out of the administration since they took power three weeks ago.
This gets to the heart of a chilling truth that much of educated America has yet to face about the Trump era. Amid all the howling about Trump's deceptions, the far more upsetting story is the mandate behind them – not so much the death of truth in politics, but the irrelevance of it. Donald Trump is proving that if you connect with America's anger and paranoia, you can get by quite easily without facts.

Clearly, we're in the midst of a mass-hysteria movement that approaches the McCarthy era, with the caveat that our version is utterly ridiculous in addition to being terrifying. Take the fable of the "3 to 5 million illegal voters" investigation, another of Trump's early provocations. (Incidentally, there have already been enough baffling episodes in this administration to fill several history books; like a bad hallucinogenic experience, it feels like years have passed already, when it's only been days.) Trump called for a "major investigation" into an apparent incidence of mass voter fraud by undocumented immigrants.
Or yesterday, laughably asserting that the media downplays incidences of terrorism in order to carry out some unseen "hidden agenda." As one political scientist put it in the article, “the corporate incentives run the other way,” further calling into question the much-vaunted business acumen of said Oval Office occupant.

Terrorism is the ultimate clickbait...they teach that shit in Economics 101. But it's not about making money, at least not for his companies anyway. "By suggesting that the news media is hiding the truth about the menace from 'radical Islamic terrorists,' Mr. Trump may rally his base behind the executive order and other measures still to come."

Matt Taibbi again:
Trump Week One saw a string of such gruesome stories, from an order greenlighting the construction of the Great Wall of Trump, to the open embrace of the word "torture," a low to which even Stalin never sank. Trump even ordered his Department of Homeland Security to begin compiling a list of crimes committed by immigrants, which, as many noted, is a trick culled directly from the Nazi Institute for Research on the Jewish Question, which kept lists of crimes committed by Jews.
If you're rolling your eyes at the increasing number of Godwin's Law offenses in the Trump story, that's fine, but consider this: If Trump isn't stealing ideas from the Nazis, and it's just a coincidence that he shares so many of their policy instincts, that's not much of a comfort either.
But for all of the lunacies of Trump's first week, the war on facts might have been the one that shook liberal America the most.
The anti-truth campaign started with Spicer, a career GOP stooge who 18 months ago was denouncing Donald Trump for insulting John McCain. The ginger-faced Rhode Islander spent the first day of the Trump administration swimming in the world's most ill-fitting suit – the fabric looked hacked from an airport couch with garden shears – as he insisted that Trump's anemic inauguration crowd had been the biggest ever. It was such a whopper that even the Trump administration had to cop to it, sort of.
"Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts," said White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Meet the Press the next morning, and the Trump presidency had its first laugh line.
Commentators wondered aloud if Conway's "Alternative Facts" routine had marked the beginning of a new Orwellian dystopia. Fears in this direction even rocked the publishing industry, where 1984 hit number one on Amazon, triggering a new printing practically overnight.
See also: The Bowling Green Massacre.
While Trump's new staff spent the first few weeks tearing apart presidential tradition like a troop of apes let loose in the Louvre, progressives spent their energy pushing news outlets like The New York Times and CNN to begin using words like "lie" in headlines, as if this were somehow going to be a game-changer.
When the Times finally began doing just that in its coverage of President Trump ("Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers" was the paper's proud January 23rd formulation), a parade of self-congratulation ensued.
The Times covered its own decision like it was news. Other outlets, from CNN to The Nation, began running their own headlines containing what was unironically described as the "l-bomb."
There's nothing wrong with calling Trump and his minions liars. They are liars. But no Trump voter is going to pick up the Times and suddenly be struck now by the deceptiveness of Donald Trump. What the Trump voter will perceive instead is a whining bunch of "snowflakes." And he'll think Trump's neck-bloated chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is right on when he calls the media the "opposition party." 
That, ladies and germs, is where we are, three weeks into Mourning in America. It's like we're witnessing the graduation ceremony of, as Richard Hofstadter put it, 50 years of "Anti-Intellectualism In American Life."

The triumph of the stupid (or also, this). An education secretary, dubbed "the dumbest cabinet nominee ever," who was rammed through via a Senate tie breaking vote by the Veep, and now holds the ignominious title of the "first ever cabinet nominee to be decided by a Senate tie" (apparently, you can't embarrass some people). And tonight, word that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (old "Chain Gang Jeff") is the new attorney general of the United States...a man once rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago "for being racist."

And that's the point: this kind of bullshit inevitably runs into the brick wall that is fact and truth and reality, eventually, and when it does (and it will) you'll see the real "carnage" vaguely alluded to on January 20th...an ugly, brutal mess of impeachment, the invoking of the 25th amendment, or even perhaps worse.

The question then becomes, however, between now and said brick wall, will the institutions of democracy, which we trust to safeguard against this kind of lying and abuse of power, be worn down by the corrosive cynicism, passivity and, frankly, boredom from it all, and ultimately fail? Will we reach the point first when the echo chamber of social media, the constant nonsensical presidential tweets, "alternative facts," "fake news," and straight up lies become simply ignored and laughed at...ultimately at our own peril?

As I wrote back on the 19th, "bend over and grab your cankles, y'all." We are most assuredly getting exactly what we deserve.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Refugees Detained At U.S. Airports

Legal Challenges Filed, Customs & Border Patrol Agents Overwhelmed:
President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.
The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqis held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.
Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.
Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Interestingly, all countries with whom Trump has no business ties. The countries he does do business in, with large Muslim populations and who directly were responsible for 9/11 (e.g. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates,  Egypt and Lebanon) are exempt from the ban. 

Shocking, I know.
Trump said, in the ABC interview, that the people to be barred “are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.” He declared: “They’re ISIS.”
Actually, they're Google; like 200 employees who can no longer come back to work.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai criticized President Donald Trump’s immigration order in an email to staff late Friday, saying the U.S. ban on foreign nationals from seven countries affects at least 187 Google employees.
Meanwhile, stories of Customs and Border Protection agents dissing Trump keep pouring in.
“Who is the person we need to talk to?” asked one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project.
“Mr. President,” said a Customs and Border Protection agent, who declined to identify himself. “Call Mr. Trump.”
The executive order, which Mr. Trump said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.
Asking our Customs and Border Protection agents to administer religious tests (the likes of which can't even really be determined, other than, what, an oath of loyalty to Christianity?) adds another layer of insanity to an already insane and irrational order.

I'm sure this ban will be struck down in the courts relatively quickly, and regardless, it supposedly expires in 120 days. But this is just the beginning of what the so-called "hurting middle-America Trump supporters" voted for.

Elections have consequences. Bigly. Get ready for even more of the same.

UPDATE: This NYT article cites the research of a sociologist at UNC Chapel Hill, who breaks down the "threat" posed by these so-called "radical Islamic terrorists" who might be coming into the U.S.
By Mr. Kurzman’s count, 123 people have been killed in the United States by Muslim terrorists since the 2001 attacks — out of a total of more than 230,000 killings, by gang members, drug dealers, angry spouses, white supremacists, psychopaths, drunks and people of every description. So the order addresses, at most, one-1,870th of the problem of lethal violence in America. If the toll of Sept. 11 is included, jihadists still account for just over 1 percent of killings.

“My advice to the new administration would be to declare victory,” Mr. Kurzman said. For the average American, he added, “your odds of being victimized by a terrorist attack are infinitesimal.”
I know we're living in a supposedly post-fact world these days, but facts are stubborn things.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why Campuses Are Ill-Equipped To Handle Sexual Assault

When Campus Rapists Are Repeat Offenders:

For several years, researchers have been fiercely debating how many campus rapes are committed by serial offenders. A 2002 study based on surveys of 1,882 college men and published in Violence and Victims, an academic journal, found that as many as 63 percent of those who admitted to behaviors that fit the definition of rape or attempted rape said they had engaged in those behaviors more than once.
But in 2015, a study of 1,642 men at two different colleges was published in JAMA Pediatrics and found that while a larger number of men admitted to behaviors that constituted rape, a smaller percentage of them, closer to 25 percent, were repeat offenders.
The difference could affect how universities approach rape investigations and prevention. For example, repeat cases raise questions of whether universities should be faster to remove students from campus after accusations.
Or, whether police, prosecutors and jail officials should be faster to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate students who are clearly guilty of the crime of rape.
“There are repeat offenders who seek out victims and will do this time and time again with impunity because there is no punishment,” said Annie E. Clark, a co-founder of End Rape on Campus, a nonprofit organization that works to assist those who have been raped and to prevent campus sexual violence. She added, “Whatever the number is, it’s way, way too high.”
A few recent cases, and the lawsuits they have spawned — like the one at Kansas State — have again put a spotlight on repeat campus rapes, and the questions they leave about whether something could have been done. Many university administrators say they are hampered in sexual assault investigations by women who are reluctant to identify their assailants or press charges.
Then frankly, that should be the end of the case. If the victim won't press charges in the criminal justice system, with trained law enforcement, investigators, prosecutors and judges handling these serious charges, the universities should be exempt from action at that point.

As I've repeatedly said for years on this blog: there is no one on a university campus (not in the law school, not in the legal department, not in the EOO offices, no one) who is trained sufficiently to deal with seriousness of these kinds of allegations/charges.

And now we have "campus sexual assault investigators" coming forward and admitting that very thing:  they should not be in the position of having to deal with these kinds of crimes because, well, they're CRIMES and thus out of the purvey of a layperson.
Danielle Dempsey-Swopes, a former Kansas State University sexual assault investigator, said she urged the college to be more aggressive in handling sexual assault complaints, ultimately reporting the university to the United States Education Department. “It makes me feel terrible that we might have been able to prevent it,” she said.
She and others at Kansas State say the problem was that the university had taken the position that it was not responsible for investigating accusations of rape in fraternity houses because they are off campus.
In her complaint to the Education Department, Ms. Dempsey-Swopes said she was ordered to “stall” investigating a rape accusation at a fraternity house because the university did not want to be responsible. Also, the departing president of the university’s Interfraternity Council, Zach Lowry, said the university referred sexual assault complaints involving fraternities to his organization without investigation.
“When we get these, they’re pretty disturbing,” said Mr. Lowry, a senior political science major from Stockton, Kan. “When we give them to our judicial board, they’re students. They’re not trained to handle investigations.”
No one who is paid by a university is qualified to handle these investigations because they are compromised, right from the start, by virtue of being agents of the university. The job of the university is to protect the university, not the students or victims of crime.

Then you have students who feel the schools aren't doing enough to protect them, turning around and suing the schools for negligence, which is like suing the locksmith for inadequately installing locks the rapist broke through when he committed a rape. Or like asking the owners of an apartment complex where a sexual assault occurred to investigate and adjudicate the facts of the case. Or a bar manager, or the parking lot owner, or (fill in the blank). It's simply not the role of the universities and colleges to be in these positions.

Pretty simple: a crime is a crime, no matter where it takes place. A victim of sexual assault is a victim of sexual assault, no matter where it takes place. But the appropriate, nay, the ONLY venue these cases should be investigated in is the criminal justice system.

We are trivializing sexual assault by putting the investigations in the hands of college "sexual assault investigators" who possess neither the knowledge, nor temperament, nor skill set to reach a valid conclusion. And then you place the final verdict in the hands of a college judicial board, the same trained experts who also hear cases on such "crimes" like cheating, plagiarism, and smoking ban violations. In other words, also completely unqualified to sit in judgement of such a thing.

College and universities should be put out of the sexual assault investigation business, period. And a clear adjudication of the matter in the criminal justice system would then be the only road map they would need with regard to suspension, expulsion and removal from campus of the offender.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Obama Era Postmortem

Obama's Legacy as a Historian:

Around noon on Friday, the presidency of Barack Obama will officially be history, and for months the news media has been awash in considerations of the first African-American president’s legacy.
But there’s one aspect of his record that has received less attention: his legacy as a historian.
True, Mr. Obama may be unlikely to emulate Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and follow his years in the Oval Office with a stint as president of the American Historical Association. But some scholars see in him a man who used the presidency not just as a bully pulpit but also as something of a historian’s lectern.
And he wielded it, they say, to tell a story more strikingly in sync with the bottom-up view of history that dominates academic scholarship than with the biographies of great leaders that rule the best-seller list.
“Obama had these confabs with the presidential historians, but I don’t think he thinks like a presidential historian,” James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association, said, referring to the regular dinners Mr. Obama held with leading historians in the early years of his presidency. “I think he thinks like a social historian.”
I've said for years, he's about as close as we'll ever get to having a true sociologist in the House.
David M. Kennedy, a historian at Stanford who attended the dinners, said that Mr. Obama had very much focused on the presidency, and on how his predecessors had responded to crises or maneuvered in Congress — “blocking and tackling,” as Mr. Kennedy put it.
But this president, Mr. Kennedy added, also had “a detached sense of himself as an actor in history.”
“He doesn’t think of history as himself writ large,” Mr. Kennedy added, “but as a big stage with a lot of actors on it.”
Paging Erving Goffman: please report to the dramaturgical analysis aisle as soon as possible.

I've certainly been critical of the Obama years and his justice department in particular: criminal justice reform was largely a failure, decarceration never materialized, and Eric Holder's tenure should be remembered as one of the great disasters in the department's history (save for probably the incoming AG). Obama's failure to close GITMO, the drone strikes and disaster in Syria, and being the only Nobel Peace Prize winner ever to maintain a kill list, have also been more than troubling.

But in terms of support for the arts and we writers, musicians, painters, actors and other nuts out there? No one was more passionate about it than Obama, which is important since the incoming administration supposedly wants to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, and a host of other arts-related endeavors.

This makes sense, if you think about it, because killing funding for the arts kills critical thinking, and killing critical thinking ensures more bozos being elected to political office by a lobotomized, walking dead populace.

No postmortem can be written without sufficient hindsight, so I would expect the combination of time and the impending, uh, "shit show" the next few years, will probably help put the Obama presidency in proper perspective. The fact that his approval rating is 60% on leaving office, higher than it's been since he took office, and trending upward, is probably a good indicator of things to come.

Bend over and grab your cankles, y'all. Yes you can, and yes you did.