Patterico's Pontifications


Widener Law Tries to Erase Its Embarrassment

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:37 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing]

I am not going to document it as meticulously as with the WaPo/AP story because this is just not a significant issue–if the links go bad, you will just have to either believe me, or not.  But with the help of Dustin and JK, we were able to recover a cached version of Widener Law School’s coverage of the O’Donnell debate, before they scrubbed it of pretty much all analysis, with gems like this:

“Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” asked Christine O’Donnell, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware, during a debate held at Widener Law’s Delaware campus on Tuesday, October 19th against Democratic candidate and current New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.

O’Donnell asked the question of Coons during an exchange on the Constitution and O’Donnell’s contention that Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools alongside Evolution. The law school audience reacted strongly to O’Donnell’s lack of familiarity with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Coons too seemed bemused at O’Donnell’s question, calling the separation of church and state “an indispensable principle” of the Constitution and noting, “Religious doctrine doesn’t belong in our public schools.”

The unnamed writer of the piece apparently thought it was self-evident that O’Donnell was showing us how stupid she was.  Except now we know she wasn’t.  She was making a wholly valid point—that the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t actually appear in the constitution, and its validity as a doctrine is highly debatable.  I mentioned the arrogance of the audience in a previous post, but I think honestly Althouse captured it better than I did, when she wrote:

A word needs to be said about the mocking laughter that instantly erupted from the law students in the audience. Presumably, that sound meant we are smart and you are dumb. Where did they learn to treat a guest at their law school — Widener Law School — with such disrespect? They hooted O’Donnell down, and she never got a chance to explain her point. What does that say about the climate for debate in law schools? Not only did they feel energized to squelch the guest they politically opposed, but they felt sure of their own understanding of the law….

What is the atmosphere at Widener? Is there no intellectual curiosity? No love of debate? No grasp of how complex constitutional law problems can be?

The irony of it all is that here is a line that is also rescued from the memory hole at Widener’s Law School site.

Following a welcome from Widener Law Public Relations Officer Mary Allen in which she affirmed the law school’s commitment to the “Open exchange of ideas,” WDEL Anchor Peter MacArthur… turned to a panel of four journalists for the first question.

(emphasis added.)  I doubt that the exchange is very open, if the minds are so closed.  This whole incident has rightfully become an embarrassment to the law school.  And that makes it less shocking that they tried to disappear this entire piece.

You can read the current version of this webpage, here.

Update: Minor corrections made.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Virginia Thomas Calls Anita Hill, Anita Hill Freaks Out

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:32 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing]

I don’t have much to say about this story.  Basically Virginia Thomas, Clarence Thomas’ wife, called Anita Hill and said:

Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas….  I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband….  So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.

Now that seemed really futile on Mrs. Thomas’ part but ultimately it is no big deal.  But look at this passage explaining Hill’s reaction to it:

Ms. Hill, in an interview, said she had kept the message for nearly a week trying to decide whether the caller really was Ms. Thomas or a prankster. Unsure, she said, she decided to turn it over to the Brandeis campus police with a request to convey it the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“I thought it was certainly inappropriate,” Ms. Hill said. “It came in at 7:30 a.m. on my office phone from somebody I didn’t know, and she is asking for an apology. It was not invited. There was no background for it.”

Um, so she referred it to campus police and even wanted FBI intervention?  For what?  What possible potential criminal offense—indeed so important as to justify involving the FBI—could Ginny Thomas have committed?  I mean, at worst this was just a prank.  Do you call the police if someone toilet papers your tree, too, Anita?  Lighten up.

It doesn’t bear on the controversy that made her famous, but still…  lighten up.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]


Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:51 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing]

We have already had one tragic example of spitting all over one’s keyboard and we don’t need another.

Frank J. Flemming of IMAO says it all in a piece explaining why the Republicans are going to win.  It’s something you understood instinctually but never quite articulated: Republicans Kind of Suck…  Which is Why They Will Win Huge in November.

Also, on related news, Frank runs a group blog called IMAO (In My Arrogant Opinion) and he has recently had a baby.  Er, his wife has.  I am pretty sure his contribution in the whole thing could be scarcely distinguished from a cheerleader’s contribution to winning the homecoming game.  Anyway, cute pictures are here, here and here.  And if you are inclined, you can find out how to send toys and nice stuff to him here.  Or just hit the tipjar.

I mean I doubt blogging pays very much for the guy.  You know the phrase, “don’t quit your day job?”  Well, I haven’t.  Neither has Patterico, Althouse, Instapundit, Legal Insurrection…

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Prejudice Toward Palin and O’Donnell

Filed under: 2010 Election,General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:56 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing]

To pre-judge a person is to literally “judge before.”  Before what?  Before it is appropriate, before you have all the facts.  Of course normally we think of prejudice as being based on specific traits.  Racial prejudice is to judge a man by his skin color, rather than getting enough facts to judge him as an individual.  But it can be based on anything.

Take for instance, Sarah Palin.  Liberals have convinced themselves that Palin is a moron.  So when Sarah Palin told a crowd of Tea Partiers that it was too soon to “party like its 1773” liberals freaked out.  OMG, she is so stupid.  Doesn’t she know the American Revolution was in 1776? As well documented by Cuffy Meigs, Markos Moulitsas, Gwen Ifil (who moderated Palin’s debate with Joe Biden) and others mocked her in that fashion.

One guy, Steve Paulo showed enough introspection to wonder “WTF happened in 1773?!”  Well, hey, I was a history major, but I couldn’t rattle off every event of any year, 1773 or otherwise.  But I can google.  As of this moment the first link I get is this.  You only have to page down once to discover that in December of that year was the original Boston Tea Party.  You know, the event that the Tea Party is self-consciously invoking with its very name?  Yeah, that one.

And then there is Christine O’Donnell’s whole exchange with Chris Coons about the first amendment. I was going to write a long break down, but Ann Althouse beat me to the punch.  I suggest you read the whole thing but I think this paragraph sums it all up:

The [two] were talking past each other, trying to look good and make the other look bad. It is a disagreement about law between [two] individuals who are not running for judge. It’s not detailed legal analysis. It’s a political debate and this is a political disagreement. An important one, no doubt. But it can’t be resolved by laughing at one person and calling her an idiot, something I find quite repellent.

And a commenter adds an important nuance to that analysis:

I don’t think they were talking past each other so much as O’Donnell was trying to get Coons to speak precisely whereas Coons wanted to speak in more general colloquial terms.

The real problem is the ignorance of the reporters and the people in the audience who couldn’t understand the point O’Donnell was trying to make and so just assumed she was being stupid. The irony being that she was right (and, on this point at least, smarter than them).

I think that is exactly right.  And Althouse captures well what I am trying to say, here:

It’s a bit annoying to me, because I cannot stand when people jump to the conclusion that someone they want to believe is stupid is being stupid when they say something that seems wrong. Think first. Is it wrong?

I think in truth she isn’t stupid.  What she is, is a chirpy wear-your-faith-on-your sleeve Christian.  You know the kind of person who will knock on your door unsolicited and tell you they are there to save you.  I find her faintly irritating for that reason, but she isn’t dumb.

Here’s the truth of the matter when it comes to the law.  Thomas Jefferson was the originator of the phrase “separation of church and state” in a letter written to Danbury Baptists.  It’s not actually in the constitution, and he didn’t write a single word of the first amendment—or indeed, any part of the constitution.  And while some cases have said that this is how the Court will interpret the First Amendment, that is less than clear in practice.  A wall of separation suggests a distinct segregation that does not exist in our modern case law.  For instance, the state is allowed to supply religious schools with textbooks and free busing for its children, and deaf people have been allowed to receive free sign interpreters as they go to divinity school.  What the courts have said in fact is that there isn’t separation of church and state so much as neutrality between the secular and the religious and among all religions.

Oh, and if you are a liberal longing for an anti-blasphemy law, please don’t talk to me about separation of church and state; you don’t even believe in separation of mosque and state.

Now I don’t expect Chris Coons or his campaign to be charitable toward his opponent; but I do expect everyone else there to be.  So watch this video, and listen not just to the candidates, but to the smug morons in the law school who cannot even conceive of a different point of view.  I mean, these people are preparing to be lawyers.  Let me tell you, as a lawyer, if you can’t see where the other side is coming from, and anticipate their arguments, you are not going to be very good at your job.  In argument, you will be constantly blindsided.  And writing contracts is a process of constantly trying to think of how someone else might come along and deliberately twist your words.  Being only able to see your own point of view is positively a handicap in this profession.

And the irony of all of this is that O’Donnell got something much, much bigger wrong in the discussion and I am not hearing much discussion of that.  She said that if a local school district wanted to teach creationism, it was up to the school district.  As a point of fact, that is not true.  I don’t think a school district has to teach evolution necessarily, but creationism is religion and teaching that in class is teaching religion.  I mean that is not just my opinon: there is supreme court case law directly on point.  And yeah, I am sure that is true even if you call it Intelligent Design.

Meanwhile, Gwen Ifil tries to walk back her comment about Palin.  And Iowahawk and Duane Lester have fun with the whole thing.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Above Personal Responsibility?

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:15 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing.]

So Above the Law has been on a tear for the last few months to convince people not to go to law school.  Now I generally am sympathetic to at least a message of caution.  I think it is fair to say that the legal market is oversaturated and I certainly worry about their debt at the end of school.  But this Above the Law story is a bit much.  You see, an anonymous 3L (third year law student) at Boston College is asking for his money back.  He wrote a letter to the Dean explaining as follows in relevant part:

As a 3L, my peers and I find ourselves in the midst of one of the worst job markets in the history of our profession. A few of us have been able to find employment, but the overwhelming majority of us are desperately looking, and unable to find anything….

To compound our difficulties, many of us are in an enormous amount of debt from our legal studies. Soon after our graduation, we will be asked to make very large monthly payments towards this debt, regardless of whether we’ve been able to find employment or not. [Aaron: Proving he knows nothing of the law of garnishments.]  It is a debt which, despite being the size of a mortgage, gives us no tangible asset which we could try to sell or turn in to the bank. We are not even able to seek the protection of bankruptcy from this debt.

I write to you from a more desperate place than most: my wife is pregnant with our first child. She is due in April. With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D, and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career….

I’d like to propose a solution to this problem: I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I’ve paid over the last two and a half years.

This will benefit both of us: on the one hand, I will be free to return to the teaching career I left to come here. I’ll be able to provide for my family without the crushing weight of my law school loans. On the other hand, this will help BC Law go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News.

Let’s see here.  First, what school is he going to?  Oh, right, Boston College, the private law school that costs about $39K and is ranked at 27 according to U.S. News and World Report.  That’s his first mistake right there.  Assuming that this is the best law school he could be admitted to, why is he going there when there are so many more reasonable options among the state schools?  For instance, the University of Kansas costs $25K for even out-of-staters.  I mean, yes, it ranks at 67, but bluntly those ranks don’t mean as much as you might think.  In my practice, I certainly never think to myself anything like this: “Oh, I went to Yale and my opponent went to the University of Kansas, so this will be easy.”  That’s a recipe for getting whupped in court.  And that is assuming that he can’t get in-state tuition in a place like Georgia, which has a fine school (tied with several others at 28) around $15K a year.


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