Patterico's Pontifications


Ann Althouse Says Sexual Threats and False Claims of a Venereal Disease Are “Exactly What We Always Used to Say People Had to Put Up With in a Free Country”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:19 pm

The Wall Street Journal law blog reports:

In the latest chapter of the scandal, two female Yale Law School students have sued Anthony Ciolli, the Web site’s former “chief educational director,” and more than two dozen others who allegedly used pseudonyms and posted the students’ photos as well as defamatory and threatening remarks about them on the online law-school discussion forum….

. . . .

“It’s bringing the right to protect yourself against offensive words and images into the 21st century,” said David N. Rosen, a New Haven, Conn.-based attorney for the students and a senior research scholar in law at Yale Law to the Law Blog in an interview. “This is the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe,” he said of the postings about the women on AutoAdmit.

Cheered on by Glenn Reynolds, blogger Ann Althouse replies:

Isn’t “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe” exactly what we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country? Man, that was so 20th century!


Look, I can respect an argument that the lawsuit against the website operator lacks merit. The law seems to me fairly well established that web site operators are not responsible for the nonsense asserted by commenters. (Were it otherwise, there’s a lot of stupid crap some of you folks write that I’d be responsible for.)

What I don’t understand is Althouse’s (and Reynolds’s) mocking the concerns of the plaintiffs, as if they were just whining over nothing. To me, these comments suggest an unfamiliarity with the actual allegations of the complaint.

Never mind the several allegedly false claims that one or more of the plaintiffs had a) received low LSAT scores; 2) bribed their way into Yale Law School; 3) had a lesbian affair with the Dean of Admissions at Yale Law School; and 4) committed sexual assault. To me, these seem defamatory (if false) — and guess what? At least one of the students had a hard time getting a summer job. Imagine that!

But as if that weren’t enough, the complaint lists several sexual threats and false claims of a sexual nature. (Warning: If you’re disturbed by strong language, read no further.)

For example, Paragraph 27 of the complaint states:

27. The message thread, entitled “Stupid Bitch to Attend Yale Law,” contains numerous threats, usually of a sexual nature, and false claims about Doe I including:

  • “i’ll force myself on her, most definitely.” (posted under the user name, “neoprag”)
  • “I think I will sodomize her. Repeatedly.” (posted by “neoprag”)
  • “just don’t FUCK her, she has herpes” (posted by “:D”)

In other posts, commenters encouraged one another to follow one of the plaintiffs and take pictures of her. One of the posters did, and then commenters made crude sexual comments about her under the picture, which was obviously posted without her consent. Typical of the comments: “i want to titty fuck her for persian new year.” (Paragraph 48.) [UPDATE: To be clear, the pictures were posted on another site, and merely linked (with crude commentary) on the site.] [FURTHER UPDATE: Upon closer examination of the complaint, there is no specific allegation that the pictures that were linked (and posted on another site) were taken by a stalker, even though such behavior was encouraged.]

In paragraph 38 we see this:

[O]ne pseudonymous poster named “Spanky” said, “[c]learly she deserves to be raped so that her little fantasy world can be shattered by real life.” Another pseudonymous poster using the name “vlsdooder” made a similar sexual threat against Doe I, “i would like to hate-fuck [Doe I] but since people say she has herpes that might be a bad idea,” on a thread entitled “Which female YLS students would you sodomize?”

I could go on and on — but you get the idea.

Now, I’m not saying this is grounds for a lawsuit against the web site owner.

But I find it hard to believe that these threats of a sexual nature — and false claims that someone has a venereal disease — are fairly described as “exactly what we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country.”

Since when?

UPDATE: Althouse updates her post (in response to this one) to note her lack of support for defamation:

I want to see “the scummiest kind of sexually offensive tripe” protected. That doesn’t mean I support defamation or the revelation of private facts or impersonating someone by name on a website. Those are different matters, and I don’t mean to express an opinion as to whether any torts like that are alleged in the complaint. I just want to remind people to keep our free speech bearings. We have lost our way if we’ve forgotten the importance of protecting speech that is “scummy” and “offensive” and “tripe.”

But the “sexually offensive tripe” discussed in the complaint includes sexual threats, which Althouse notably does not exclude from the universe of things that “we always used to say people had to put up with in a free country.”

UPDATE x2: Eugene Volokh has a much better take on this. I discuss his arguments in this post.

Tears Shed As $54 Million Pants Suit Goes to Trial

Filed under: Buffoons,General — Patterico @ 6:11 pm

Remember our old friend Roy Pearson, the judge who filed a $67 million lawsuit over a lost pair of pants? (After intense criticism from all quarters, the judge later reduced his claim to $54 million — just to show he’s reasonable.) The case has gone to trial, and our suspicion that he’s not quite right in the head is being confirmed:

A judge had to leave the courtroom with tears running down his face Tuesday after recalling the lost pair of trousers that led to his $54 million lawsuit against a dry cleaner.

My prediction — and remember I said this, because I’m quite serious about it — is that after the jury finds against him, they will be quoted as wondering whether they can make him pay.

And shouldn’t they be able to?

(Thanks to Howard.)

Are you CERTAIN this was an error?

Filed under: Humor — Justin Levine @ 11:59 am

[posted by Justin Levine] 

Today’s Miami Herald has this curious notice to its readers:

A photograph of Bill Clinton and Officer Alan Davis on Page 3B in Monday’s local section did not intend to imply that the former president had involvement in a sexual solicitation case against the officer. Davis and Clinton were photographed together when the officer did bomb checks during a visit by Clinton. Davis was arrested Sunday and charged with solicitation and transportation with the purpose of prostitution.


Studies Show the Death Penalty Does Indeed Deter Murders

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 12:20 am

The AP reports:

[A] series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument – whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.

I tend to be skeptical of social science studies like this, and indeed, the article indicates that there is considerable disagreement over the merit of the studies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide a way to definitively resolve the question, and I lack the familiarity with the studies or the necessary statistical expertise to make a judgment.

At the very least, this article should prevent death penalty opponents from lazily arguing that there is no scientific support for the proposition that the death penalty deters murders. They are welcome to question the studies, and I would enjoy reading thoughtful criticism along those lines. But they don’t get to claim that there is no evidence to support deterrence, without taking these studies head-on.

For me, the case for the death penalty doesn’t rest on the outcome of studies on general deterrence. It comes primarily from a sense that this penalty is the just result for callous criminals who commit premeditated murder, and secondarily from a concern that murderers can still kill as long as they are alive, whether in prison or not.

But the concept of deterrence is important to many, and with good reason. If these studies are accurate, it spells trouble for death penalty opponents.

Thanks to Christoph.

Another Air Marshal with Suggestions About Improving Air Security

Filed under: General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 12:10 am

I asked another one of the air marshals I quoted the other day for ideas about how to improve air security. Here’s what he said, with my occasional annotations in brackets:

Everything I mention is open-source stuff, nothing SSI [sensitive security information].

1. Screening for vendors and workers that have access to the airplane and tarmac but that aren’t going to actually fly anywhere. A lot of these workers receive little or no screening because they never enter the sterile area of the airport.

2. Better explosives screening at the checkpoint. We have almost none now. The magnetometer can’t screen for explosives, nor can the x-ray machine. We need one-stop shopping. My phone can make and edit movies, play mp3s, check email and make phone calls and probably a thousand other things I don’t know it can do. We can’t devise one machine that’s a combo metal detector and explosives detector?

3. Faster, more efficient processing of lines into airports. This is a tough one. We need to give screeners the time to do their jobs but we also need those lines moving. If I were a suicide bomber that would make a tempting target, all those people packed together and unable to flee.

4. Stop wasting time with nonsense like cigarette lighters. Focus.

5. Shoes. End this time waster. If you have the ability to detect explosives then you don’t need people taking off their shoes and slowing down the process.

6. No LEOs [law enforcement officers] should be forced to pre-board. It defeats the purpose of having them on board. This is an airline rule and can be changed immediately. Unfortunately the FAMS doesn’t want to press this issue too much because the airlines are resisting it and they have a lot of political clout. If a LEO’s identity has been established by the ticket agent and/or the gate agent as well as the TSA and/or local airport LEOs, how much is enough? Redundancy gets to the point of diminishing returns after a point.

7. Find some way around screening for LEOs. If they have to call the local LEOs, who then verify their credentials, and circumvent security through some other egress/entrance, then so be it. Or TSA. Or whatever authorizing agency they wish. But LEOs should not be paraded in front of the very people they will be flying with who now know they have a gun. This is beyond silly.

8. Ease the process to become a FFDO [Federal Flight Deck Officer, or “armed pilot”]. While many of the FFDOs are worrying about such mundane matters — like whether or not they need a badge, or whether they should be allowed to carry their gun to their kid’s soccer match — the basic idea of an armed last line is a good one. They need little training because all their scenarios are lethal force. If you’re breaking down the door, then lethal force is justified. There are a number of hurdles, though, for the FFDO program. Scrap the psych test (if they can fly the plane I’m on, I trust them with a gun — likewise, if they’re too crazy to have a gun, why am I on his/her plane?), have all initial and especially recurrent training at FAM offices (which is more convenient for the pilot and would save money for the government in the long run). The FFDOs are chasing the boondoggle of 24/7 carry and badges and LEO status and carrying their guns on overseas flights. Maybe some of this is important and maybe not, but we need to focus on the mission first, and that is protecting the flight deck. We need more of them and we need to make the adjustments that will accommodate this, be it Mr. McLean’s idea of the shotgun (or pistol) in every flight deck (which would eliminate all the need for badges/creds/etc.) or some streamlining of the current procedures.

9. More intel to the guys and gals out there on the front lines. Most of us get our intel from CNN or Fox News. The grapevine gets some stuff around, but not as much as occurs. The debrief and lessons learned is an integral part of the process. Don’t make the next team to encounter a situation have to reinvent the wheel.

10. If ID is so important, why do contract employees (many English-challenged) check IDs to boarding passes, and keep the TSA out of this loop? If we want TSA to do behavior profiling and the like, why are we taking this step out of their hands? If ID checking is not important, why are we doing it? It makes little sense to me to divide this labor. This is a valuable opportunity to gather intelligence and look for people who just don’t fit, and we’re giving it to different groups who don’t communicate with one another.

11. Better training for the TSA in rapport-building. First, going through security is a pain and a little demeaning. Making it as pleasant as possible can only help. Second, and most importantly, it gives them an opportunity for said behavioral profiling. “Morning sir. You excited about flying today?” “Not really, I’m heading to Newark for a damn day full of ridiculous meetings and then catch a flight back tonight. My company won’t even spring for a room for the night!” “Ouch. I don’t envy you sir! Well, good luck and hope it all works out ok!”

That’s just a B.S. example, but do you think every bad guy has the acting chops to pull something like that off? If the screeners were personable they could learn a lot about who’s flying. Look for the terrorist, not the weapon. Lots of things can be made into weapons. But they all need a bad guy to wield them. Be looking for him.

That’s pretty much it for now. I’m sure someone will mention something else that will make me smack my head but for the moment that’s all I can come up with.

Mostly we need to Keep It Simple Stupid, and try to make everything as streamlined as possible. Don’t do twelve things where three would do. One-stop shopping is more efficient. Stop deliberately outing the people with the guns. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Talk to your people and get them engaged in the process. They have a lot of good ideas because they’re out there actually doing the job. Listen to them on occasion. Focus on the threat, not the sideshow.

Good ideas. What do you think?

“Deport the Criminals First” — Part Ten of an Ongoing Series: The Killing of Officer Rodney Johnson

Filed under: Crime,Deport the Criminals First,Immigration — Patterico @ 12:02 am

[“Deport the Criminals First” is a recurring feature on this blog, highlighting crimes committed by illegal immigrants — with a special focus on repeat offenders. I argue that, instead of arresting illegal immigrants who work hard for a living, we should use our limited immigration enforcement resources to target illegal immigrants who commit crimes in this country — especially violent crimes.]

From the Houston Chronicle, September 23, 2006:

After a capital-murder charge was filed against an illegal immigrant in connection with the death of officer Rodney Johnson, Chief Harold Hurtt firmly defended the Houston Police Department’s policy of not enforcing immigration laws.

“If the government would fulfill their responsibility of protecting the border,” he told reporters Friday afternoon, “we probably would not be standing here today.”

The urgency of the immediate loss highlighted a breakdown prompted by several factors – the loose nets of an immigration system that allowed a deported man to slip back into the country illegally, a hidden gun that Johnson overlooked inside the suspect’s waistband and a means of restraint that somehow allowed the handcuffed man to reach that weapon and pull the trigger.

Early Friday morning, the suspect, Juan Leonardo Quintero, a 32-year-old Mexican national, appeared briefly in the 248th state District Court, where he was informed of the charge against him. Homicide Sgt. Mark Newcomb said officers “got a full confession” from Quintero.

Quintero is another example of the point I made yesterday: deporting criminals doesn’t do any good unless you keep them out. He was deported before (although apparently never prosecuted for illegal re-entry), but just came right back in:

Quintero was deported as an illegal felon in 1999, following a charge of indecency with a child, Brown said. Court records show Quintero was given deferred adjudication in that case. Brown said Quintero’s previous criminal record included an arrest for driving while intoxicated, for driving with a suspended license[] and for failing to stop and give information after an automobile accident.

So how did lawmakers react? Our friend Ted Poe, who was quoted in an earlier post in this series, responded responsibly. Not everyone else did:

U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, said the shooting highlighted the need to tighten the borders and beef up enforcement of immigration laws.

“We know that 25 homicides a day are committed by people who are illegally in the country and this is one more,” he said.

Poe said police officers should have the authority to arrest people in the country illegally. He said Houston is viewed as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

“The city of Houston has created an atmosphere that it’s a sanctuary for illegals,” Poe said. “They knew that, and that’s why they go to Houston.”

Other lawmakers said that while the shooting was unfortunate, it should not be used for political grandstanding on the eve of a general election.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said Johnson’s family deserves justice. But, she added, the incident should not detract from efforts to reform current immigration laws.

“We all are suffering from overwhelming grief for the loss of officer Rodney Johnson (but) this is certainly not the time to make blanket accusations,” Jackson Lee said, “but rather it is a time to unite to fight crime where crime exists. We should seek to solve all other problems or issues dealing with immigration away from this terrible tragedy.”

In other words, let’s not do a damn thing about this problem. And let’s thereby endanger the lives of more people like Rodney Johnson:


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