THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE TAPE IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Last Fall, faculty and students arriving in the Wasserstein Hall in Harvard Law School found black tape on the portraits of several black faculty members. The discovery caused an immediate uproar.  Stories appeared in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, CNN, and the Guardian, among many others.

By noon on the day of the discovery, hundreds of students and faculty members had gathered in a community meeting. Law School Dean Martha Minow announced: “Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School.” She called racism a “serious problem” at Harvard. The president of the student body called the incident “a pretty clear act of intolerance, racism.”  The President of the Harvard Black Law Student Association described it as “one of the most clear-cut, overt instances of very, very vile and disrespectful behavior.” A second year law student said: “I’m disgusted and outraged that it happened, but I’m also not surprised. Microaggressions and macroagressions happen every day, and that’s the reality of being a student of color at Harvard ….”black professor

Reaction among the black faculty members themselves was more restrained. Professor Charles J. Ogletree said that he was “still waiting to learn more about the incident before making too strong a judgment.” And in an op-ed column the following week, Professor Randall Kennedy cautioned:

The identity and motives of the person or people behind the taping have not been determined….  Perhaps the defacer is white. But maybe not. Perhaps the taping is meant to convey anti-black contempt or hatred for the African-American professors. But maybe it was … a hoax meant to look like a racial insult in order to provoke a crisis.

In the days following the discovery of the tape, Dean Minow stepped back, albeit subtly. In a statement to the Law School faculty and students immediately following the discovery, she had pronounced herself “outraged.” A week later, in a statement to alumni, her “outrage” had vanished, and she pronounced herself merely “shocked and saddened.” In the earlier statement to faculty and students, she had called the incident “a hate crime.” A week later, writing to alumni, she referred to it as “a possible hate crime.”  If these verbal modifications seem minor, remember that this is Harvard Law School, where students are taught to dissect the language of statutes and contracts, and to hunt for shades of difference.

Then last week, the Harvard Crimson reported that the University Police Department was shutting down its investigation.

There were no protests. There were no demonstrations.

What happened to the outrage? Continue reading

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NO LAUGHING MATTER

As Jerry Seinfeld might say: “Hey, what’s the deal with college campuses?”

Except he wouldn’t say it.  At least not on college campuses, because Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t perform there anymore.  Nor does Chris Rock.  Nor does Larry the Cable Guy. Other comedians still do colleges but much less frequently; Carlos Mencia, for example, has cut back from about 20 gigs per year to five.stand up comedy

So what’s the deal? Are comedians “going Galt”?  Are we witnessing the genesis of a new Randian opus, Satirists Shrugged?

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THE DEAN’S LIST OF DUMB AND DUMBER

Following the forced resignation of Yale Professor Erika Christakis, former Vermont Governor and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean tweeted:

Yale faculty member at center of protests will leave teaching role http://fw.to/4CDnirR  Free speech is good. Respecting others is better.

Many remember Howard Dean as the author of the 2004 “Scream,” the incoherent squawk that doomed his presidential campaign. While both were inane, the Tweet may outclass the Scream in fundamental dumbness.
dumb and dumberdumb
First, some background.  The Yale faculty member mentioned in the Tweet is Erika Christakis, a respected expert in early childhood education.  Last Fall, 13 members of the Intercultural Affairs Committee at Yale — administrators with too much time on their hands, apparently — circulated an email advising students on which Halloween costumes were and were not appropriate. The Committee warned students not to make “culturally unaware or insensitive choices,” and advised them to visit https://www.pinterest.com/yalecces/, to see “a great resource for costume ideas organized by [Yale’s] own Community & Consent Educators.”

That website truly is worth a visit – especially by parents concerned with the rising cost of college tuition. In addition to warning against “culturally insensitive costumes,” it warns students to “avoid costumes that prevent you from breathing” and “costumes that prevent you from going to the bathroom.” Thus do college administrators justify their salaries.
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FIGHTING BACK

In the wake of the Paris massacre, the French government issued a poster designed to prepare and protect its citizens against new terrorist attacks. The poster gives advice revolving around the triptych “escape, hide, alert.”Attaque Terroriste.jpg

The City of Houston has issued a video dealing with the same subject. Like the French poster, it advises office workers to escape or hide. But it includes a third imperative, absent from the French poster. The title of the Houston video is: “Run. Hide. Fight.”

In the video, actors portraying office workers huddle in a break room. The killer is outside and there is no way to escape. One worker picks up a fire extinguisher, another grabs a chair, two others hold a belt and a coffee mug. When the shooter begins to enter, the workers attack him. As the video frame freezes, the narrator intones: “As a last resort, if your life is at risk, whether you’re alone or working together as a group, fight! Act with aggression. Improvise weapons. Disarm him. And commit to taking the shooter down, no matter what.”

While the recent spate of mass killings has sparked debates on gun control and immigration, surprisingly little has been written about fighting back.Houston.jpg
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THE LOVE SONG OF LANNY J. DAVIS

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.

          T.S.Eliot, The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock 

Lanny Davis

Whatever one might think of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, she has earned the nation’s gratitude on at least one score. She has provided documentary evidence that government access and law practice don’t mix well together. The sycophantic supplication of Lanny J. Davis to his former law school classmate Mrs. Clinton, begging her to put in a good word for him for a profile in process by the American Lawyer, illustrates that horrible union. Continue reading

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JOE BIDEN: THE ZELIG CANDIDATE

With Hillary Clinton facing mounting trouble over her use of a private email server for government business, and with her favorability ratings plummeting, many Democrats have been casting longing gazes at Vice President Joe Biden. Some see Biden – with his penchant for embarrassing, shoot-from-the-lip comments – as the embodiment of authenticity, and the perfect contrast to the over-scripted, under-trusted Clinton.

Before switching to Biden, Democrats would do well to watch Zelig, the 1983 Woody Allen mockumentary about Leonard Zelig, a human chameleon with the strange ability to look and act like those around him. For all her faults, Hillary Clinton is her own person. She knows who she is and what she wants.  Joe Biden, on the other hand, is a man seemingly uncomfortable with his own skin. Like Zelig, he adopts the traits of those around him.Zelig and Republicans                       Biden and Democrats Continue reading

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LOOK BACK IN ANGER: THE BUCKLEY – VIDAL DEBATES OF 1968

A surprise movie hit this summer does not feature superheroes or spies or cops. It stars two dead intellectuals, known for their prodigious literary output and their skill at oratorical combat. The Best of Enemies is a documentary about the ten debates in 1968 on ABC News between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal.

ABC News, the perennial third place ratings finisher back  when there were three broadcasters, decided to gamble on a new format for covering the political conventions. Rather than providing comprehensive gavel-to-gavel coverage, the network offered just a few hours of coverage each night, followed by a debate between the two eloquent spokesmen for the Left and Right.Best of Enemies2

According to the movie poster, the Buckley-Vidal confrontation was an epochal event: “2 Men. 10 Debates. Television would never be the same.” A.O. Scott, in the New York Times, agrees:

There’s no doubt that the debates were a harbinger of cable-news shouting matches to come, as television journalism transformed itself from democracy’s buttoned-up superego into its snarling id.

Another commentator considers the debates “a turning point, the moment when the networks, the press, the pundits, and even average Americans first realized their taste for political bloodsport. A terrible beauty had been born ….”

The rhetoric evokes Alamogordo, as if the critics had just witnessed the first terribly beautiful mushroom cloud. Just what happened to justify such hyperbole? Continue reading

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