Friday, May 23, 2003

The Times Magazine for this Sunday has a story about campus conservatives at Bucknell that states the following:

Just how influential is clear when you talk to Bucknell faculty members. Geoff Schneider, an economics professor at Bucknell, says that the conservative group's constant charge in The Counterweight, that the university is infected by political correctness and that professors seek to indoctrinate students with a liberal agenda, has had an effect in the classroom. ''As the conservatives have become more prominent, other students are more prone to believe that they are being indoctrinated,'' Schneider says. ''So the openness of a number of students to new ideas and new ways of looking at things has actually moved in a disturbing direction. Students are much more willing to write off something as 'liberal talk' -- oh, I don't need to think about that, that's just ideology -- as opposed to thinking, in a complex way, about all of the different ideas and evaluating them.'' Kim Daubman, a social psychology professor, concurs. Recently she taught a class in which she talked about the theory that news coverage of warfare in Iraq could lead to a rise in homicides in the United States. ''I could see the students rolling their eyes,'' she says. ''I could just hear them thinking, 'Oh, there she goes again!'''

You could read this charitably, and conclude that some students are being too dismissive of views they don't find congenial. Or you can read this uncharitably, and think that the two professors doth protest too much, that they are annoyed that students today regard what they say skeptically, instead of simply jotting it down and regurgitating it the way they may have done ten years ago.

It's always discomfiting when ideas that remained unchallenged for a long time suddenly no longer command deference. The Yale Law Class of 1991, which I was a member of, was the first in decades to have a substantial (about 10%, vocal and nonvocal, compared to about 3% in previous classes) contingent of conservatives and libertarians. I remember sitting in the dining hall with some other 1Ls and upperclassmen in Fall 1988 when one of the 3Ls made an off the cuff anti-Scalia remark. One of my classmates piped up to defend Scalia, at which point the 3L banged the table with his fist and exclaimed: "What's the matter with the first-years? You can't even make a Scalia joke around here anymore without someone objecting!" I don't mind the Scalia jokes, as such, but this student and his classmates would likely have had a better, more interesting, and more useful education if they had had to defend and debate their views with conservatives and libertarians for three years instead of one. Of course, one has to have some openness to debate and discussion. Some of my "liberal" Yale classmates dealt with their conservative and libertarian peers by refusing to talk to them, period.

Anti-Semitism in Israel! Non-Jewish Russian immigrants (and, though the article doesn't mention it, perhaps some Jews, too; there have been KKK leaders later revealed to be of Jewish origin) who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return (which means they have some Jewish ancestry, are closely related to Jews, or fraudulently claimed to be Jews) have brought their anti-Semitism with them, as described in Haaretz.

More evidence that Governor Ehrlich has his head on straight, from the Washington Post:

Ehrlich crossed swords with politicians from liberals to Bush administration officials. On other issues, he won praise from the same groups, reinforcing his record as a lawmaker who is careful not to stray too far from the center.

"These are not easy issues, not easy bills," Ehrlich said of the measures he has signed and vetoed over the past two days. Taken together, he said, his decisions reflect an administration committed to bipartisan governance and "balanced with a unique dash of independence."

He was particularly firm in his support for the marijuana measure. It does not legalize the drug but provides that seriously ill people caught using marijuana for medical purposes cannot be jailed or be fined more than $100. The White House and some conservative supporters urged the governor to reject the bill, but Ehrlich cited his longtime support for the measure.

"If you look at my views over the years, there are clearly two wings of the party on social issues," he said. "One is more conservative, and one is more libertarian. I belong to the latter, and I always have."

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Governor Ehrlich of Maryland has vetoed a bill pushed by schoolchildren to designate walking the state exercise, on the grounds the bill was "silly." Good for him! I've never been a fan of schemes to get schoolkids interested in the legislative process by having them lobby for some insipid piece of legislation. The adults who sponsor these campaigns essentially blackmail politicians into wasting time and money passing stupid laws and proclamations because, after all, who wants to be the big bad meanie who gets negative publicitly by telling the kids to buzz off. But I find that humoring the kiddies, besides wasting time and money, is actually patronizing, and teaches children nothing about how the legislative process really works. I learned about that pretty quickly as a child, when some of the older kids in my neighborhood got good (New York) City jobs for the Summer--but only after their parents gathered hundreds of signatures and did other menial work for the local politicians who controlled this particular bit of patronage. In retrospect, I also suspect that these jobs were supposed to be for underprivileged youth, none of which existed in my solidly middle to upper middle class neighborhood.

It was inappropriate of the graduating students of Rockford College to boo their graduation speaker, and for the university to cut off his mike. But the speaker, a correspondent for the New York Times, was giving a hectoring left-wing lecture, which is inappropriate for a graduation. At my college graduation, I had to suffer through similar lectures by a well-known leftist graduation speaker and by the class speaker appointed by the university (my grandfather, by contrast, a self-made man, and a lifelong Democrat with a 5th grade education, apparently stood up and heckled the outside speaker, to the applause of those in his immediate surroundings; his voice, however, didn't carry to where I was sitting). Why do speakers at such gatherings feel that it is appropriate to give a blatantly political speech to a celebration for graduates of varying political views? And why do universities think it's appropriate to hire speaker they know are going to give such a speech (which was not, apparently, the case at Rockford)? If it was ever true that there was a consensus of left-wing opinion in American universities, it's certainly not true now, and universities should respect this, ahem, diversity.
Of course, students stuck with obnoxious speakers should be polite during the talk; bad judgment by the school and the speaker is no excuse for rude behavior.

I should also mention that my Law School graduation speaker, Professor Alan Schwartz, gave a wonderful, interesting, and nonpolitical speech. Thanks, Alan!

Eugene over at the Volokh Conspiracy notes that the 2000 presidential Voter News Service exit poll included 4% Jewish voters. Eugene surmised that this must be an error, because Jews are only about 2% of the American population. I don't have any citations handy, but I believe that the 4% figure is approximately correct. First off, as Eugene suggests is a possibility, Jews do vote in far higher percentages than others. The figures I recall seeing are that 80% of Jews vote, compared to about 50% of Americans as a whole. The other factor, which Eugene did not mention, is that the Jewish population is much older than the general American population; thus more (voting age) adults, fewer (non-voting age) children. If you combine a 60% increased Jewish voter turnout with a much higher median age, the 4% figure sounds about right. Indeed, the 4% figure is one of several reasons that Jews have far more influence on American politics than their numbers would imply (the others are that Jews on the average are much more politically-active than non-Jews, and therefore comprise a disproportionately large percentage of political activists and campaign donors; that Jews are concentrated in large states with many electoral votes; and that Jews are the most urbanized population in the United States, with 98% of all Jews living in the fifty largest metropolitan areas).
Update: Eugene wrote that Jews are 2% of the adult population, but the most recent estimate, from the 2002 American Jewish Yearbook, is that there are 5.5 to 6.1 million Jews in the United States, which makes Jews approximately slightly more than 2% of the total, not adult population.
Another update: According to a very reliable source, The median age of American Jews increased from 37 in 1990 to 41 in 2000. The median for men is slightly lower than that of women (40 versus 42). The median age of the total U.S. population is 35. I am not sufficiently up on population statistics to figure out how this translates into changing the percentage of American adults that are Jewish compared to the percentage of Americans as a whole. Anyone care to help?
This source also finds a total Jewish population of 5.2 million, but this number is controversial. One critic comes up with a total of 6.7 million Jews, and argues that the source in question (the "National Jewish Population Study") "under-counts the number of Russian and Israeli Jews in the United States, undermines the value of children adopted by Jewish couples, and skews the American Jewish population at the expense of those in the West."
Yet another update: It's hard to find data on the Web regarding what percentage of eligible Jews vote, though it's relatively easy to find general assertions that "Jews are more likely to vote than other Americans" but that the difference has been declining. However, according to one source, Jews were 1.8 times more likely to vote than non-Jews in the 1994 Congressional elections. Again, a 60 (or perhaps 80) percent higher rate of Jewish voting, combined with a relatively older Jewish population, could easily explain a 4% Jewish voting rate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Israel has few good options remaining in its war against suicide murderers. The Israeli intelligence and defense establishment seems convinced that Arafat is actively participating in the current wave of terrorism. But Sharon has promised Bush he will not harm Arafat, or expel him, without Bush's permission. Perhaps the Israelis should consider arresting Arafat, and putting him on trial. If they have the goods on him, they could show the whole world. Not that the world seems to care; how quickly the Europeans and the American Left have forgotten, in their calls to "end the occupation," that Barak offered Arafat 97% of the occupied territories, plus land in Israel to make up for the other 3%, only to find out that Arafat was never interested in reaching a final settlement. But there will always be those who do seek the truth, and besides, if Arafat's in an Israeli jail craven European diplomats won't be able to come and pay homage to him, nor will he be able to order terrorist attacks.

Monday, May 19, 2003

I saw the Matrix sequel on Sunday. It had the best highway chase scene that I've ever seen in a movie. On the other hand, one of the characters in the movie tries to explain to Neo what his true purpose is. The character prefaces his explanation by stating that because Neo is only human he will only understand part of what he is told. And sure enough, I, who am also only human, only understood part of what Neo was told. A cynic would suggest that the screenwriters couldn't really figure out how to make the series internally consistent, and the "you're too human too understand" line was a cheap way of trying to get away with a lot of nonsensicle mumbo-jumbo.
Bring on the Hulk.

Students sometimes make very interesting spelling errors on their law school exams. When I've taught evidence, a few students out of the 200 or so I typically have in Evidence (day and evening) always refer on their finals to the "hearsay" rule as the "heresay" rule, which demonstrates that they probably don't understand the basic concept of hearsay (i.e., Party A hears something that he has no firsthand knowledge of, and then repeats it in court; hear-say, get it?)
This semester, I taught Constitutional Law, and one of the students cited the "Dread Scott" case. And I suppose if the Justices knew that the case would help trigger a war that killed hundreds of thousands of men, they certainly would have Dreaded it.