The Talmud and the Constitution

This post is about similarities between the development of Jewish law and American law.

A story is recounted in the Babylonian Talmud, which I am going to paraphrase slightly for clarity:

Rabbi Yehudah said, “Rav (Abba Aricha) said, “When Moses ascended Mount Sinai, up to the heavens, to receive the Biblical law, he found God sitting and adding calligraphic flourishes (crowns) to the letters.

Moses said,”Master of the Universe! Why are you going so slowly? Why aren’t you finished?”

God said to him, “Many generations from now, Akiva the son of Yosef will expound on every calligraphic detail to teach piles and piles of laws.”

Moses said, “Master of the Universe! Show him to me,” so God told him to turn around, and a vision of Rabbi Akiva teaching his students appeared. Moses went and sat in the back row, but the teaching style was so intellectual that he did not understand what they were talking about and got upset.

Then one of the students asked Rabbi Akiva, “Our teacher, where did you learn this law?”

Akiva replied, “It is from a law that was taught to Moses at Sinai.”

So Moses calmed down. He returned and came before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and said before Him, “Master of the Universe! If you have a man like this, why are you are giving the Torah through me?”

But God only replied, “Be silent. This is what I have decided.”””

2,000 years ago, when Yeshua of the house of David still walked the Earth, rabbinic Judaism–the Judaism you’ll find if you walk into any synagogue–did not fully exist.* The Judaism of Roman Judea was a temple cult, centered on the great Temple in Jerusalem (though there were others, in Turkey, Greece, Egypt, and of course, Samaria.) Ordinary Jews went about their business–raising crops, tending goats, building tables, etc–and every so often they visited the Temple, bought or brought an offering, and had the priest sacrifice it.

*Note: See the comments for a discussion of continuity between Pharisaic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism. I am not arguing that Rabbinic Judaism was invented whole cloth.

69 AD, also known as the Year of the Four Emperors, was particularly bad for the Roman Empire. Galba seized power after Nero‘s suicide, only to be murdered on January 15 in coup led by Otho. Emperor Otho committed suicide on April 16 after losing Battle of Bedriacum to Vitellius. Vitellius was murdered on December 20 by Vespasian‘s troops.

Meanwhile, Judea was in revolt. In 70 AD, Vespasian’s son (and successor) Titus besieged Jerusalem, crushed the rebellion, and razed the Temple.

Without the Temple–and worse, scattered to the winds–what was an ordinary Jew supposed to do? Where could he take his sacrifices? How was he supposed to live in this new land? Could he visit a bath house that had a statue of Aphrodite? Could he eat food that had been sold beside non-kosher meat?

The Bible has 613 laws for Jews to follow, but do you know how many laws you live under?

I once did a research project on the subject. I found that no one knows how many laws there are in the US. We have federal, state, county, and city laws. We have the code of federal regulations, containing thousands of rules created by unelected bureaucrats within dozens of agencies like the EPA, which is enforced exactly like laws. We have thousands of pages of case law handed down by the Supreme Court.

It’s one thing to live in an organic community, following the traditions handed down by your ancestors. Then perhaps 613 laws are enough. But with the destruction of the Temple, Judaism had to adapt. Somehow they had to get a full body of laws out of those measly 613.

Enter the Rabbi Akiva (also spelled Akiba or Aqiba) and his calligraphic flourishes. By examining and re-examining the text, comparing a verse from one section to a similar verse to another, groups of rabbis (teachers) and their students gradually built up a body of laws, first passed down orally (the Oral Torah,) and then written: the Talmud.

For example, the 5th Commandment says to Remember the Sabbath Day, but how, exactly, are you supposed to do it? The Bible says not to “work” (or so we translate it,) but isn’t a rabbi preaching his sermon on Saturday working? To clarify, they look to the next verse, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11) and declare that “work” here refers to creative work: building, writing, sewing, sowing, reaping, carrying (materials for creative work), building fires, or inversely, putting out fires, knocking down buildings, etc. Merely giving a speech–even if you get paid for it–is not work. (Though you can’t accept the payment on Saturday.)

The word for “work” in the Bible, transliterated as “melachah,” is further interpreted as related to “melekh,” king, relating it back to God (the King)’s work. Melachah is not found very often in the Bible, but shows up again in Exodus 31, during a discussion of the work done to build the Ark of the Covenant [which is not actually a boat] and various related tents–a discussion which is suddenly interrupted for a reminder about the Sabbath. From this, it was reasoned that work specifically mentioned in the first part of the passage was what was prohibited in the second part, and therefore these were among the specific varieties of work forbidden on Shabbat.

If a suitably similar verse could not be found elsewhere in the text to explicate an inadequate passage, rabbis found other ways of decoding God’s “original intent,” including gematria and the aforementioned calligraphic flourishes. Hey, if God wrote it, then God can encode messages in it.

Which gets us back to the story at the beginning of the post. Note how it begins: The Talmud says that Rabbi Yehudah said, “Rav said… ‘Moses said…'” This is a written account of an oral account passed from teacher to student, about a conversation between Moses (recipient of the Torah or first five books of the Bible from God and recipient of the Oral Torah, which was just how everyone lived,) about the transformation from Mosaic Judaism, centered on the Temple and lived tradition, to Rabbinic Judaism, centered on repeated reading and interpretation of the holy text, which contains in it all of the things that used to just be part of everyone’s traditions.

The result, of course, was the Talmud–or rather multiple Talmuds, though the Babylonian is the most commonly cited. The Vilna Edition of the Babylonian Tamud runs 37 volumes, and looks like this:

The inner section is a passage from the original Talmud. The inner margin is Rashi (a famous rabbi)’s commentary, the outer margin is additional commentary from other famous rabbis, and around the edges you can see marginalia from even more rabbis.

Like an onion, it is layer upon layer upon layer.

But what authority do the rabbis have to make pronouncements about the law?

The Talmud recounts an amusing argument about whether an oven could be purified:

The Sages taught: On that day, when they discussed this matter, Rabbi Eliezer answered all possible answers in the world to support his opinion, but the Rabbis did not accept his explanations from him.

After failing to convince the Rabbis logically, Rabbi Eliezer said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, this carob tree will prove it. The carob tree was uprooted from its place one hundred cubits, and some say four hundred cubits.

The Rabbis said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from the carob tree.

Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the stream will prove it. The water in the stream turned backward and began flowing in the opposite direction.

They said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from a stream.

Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the walls of the study hall will prove it. The walls of the study hall leaned inward and began to fall.

Rabbi Yehoshua scolded the walls and said to them: If Torah scholars are contending with each other in matters of halakha, what is the nature of your involvement in this dispute?

The Gemara relates: The walls did not fall because of the deference due Rabbi Yehoshua, but they did not straighten because of the deference due Rabbi Eliezer, and they still remain leaning.

Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, Heaven will prove it.

A Divine Voice emerged from Heaven and said: Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer, as the halakha is in accordance with his opinion in every place that he expresses an opinion?

Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said: It is written: “It is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12).

The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of the phrase “It is not in heaven” in this context?

Rabbi Yirmeya says: Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice, as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: “After a majority to incline” (Exodus 23:2). Since the majority of Rabbis disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion, the halakha is not ruled in accordance with his opinion.

The Gemara relates: Years after, Rabbi Natan encountered Elijah the prophet and said to him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do at that time, when Rabbi Yehoshua issued his declaration?

Elijah said to him: The Holy One, Blessed be He, smiled and said: My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me.

So say the rabbis!

(you might be thinking, “Didn’t Elijah live a long time before the rabbis?” But since Elijah was taken up in whirlwind he never died, and thus may still be encountered.)

The importance of this little bit of Talmudism–in my opinion–is it lets the rabbis modify practice to avoid parts of the Bible that people don’t like anymore, like stoning adulterers. Sure, they do so by legalistically telling God to buzz off, they’re interpreting the law now, but hey, “Israel” means “wrestled with God“:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. … Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” …

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32: 24-28)

Arguing with God. It’s a Jew thing.

The downside to all of this is that the Talmud is SUPER LONG and gets bogged down in boring legal debates about EVERYTHING.

Every so often, a group of Jews decides that all of this Talmud stuff is really too much and tries to sweep it away, starting fresh with just the Laws of Moses. Karaite Jews, for example, reject the Talmud, claiming instead to derive all of their laws directly from the Bible. They have therefore written several hundred books of their own interpreting Biblical law.

Hasidic Judaism was founded by the Baal Shem Tov, a rabbi who (according to his followers) emphasized the importance of having a “spiritual connection” to God (which even poor Jews could do) over legalistic arguing about texts, (which a rich atheist could do but not a poor man.) Today, Hasidic Jews are prominent among the Orthodox Jews who actually care about extensive, strict interpretation and implementation of Jewish law.

It’s not that reform is worthless–it’s just that the Bible doesn’t contain enough details to use as a complete legal code to govern the lives of people who no longer live in the organic, traditional community that originally produced it. When people lived in that community, they didn’t need explicit instructions about how to build a sukkah or honor the Sabbath day, because their parents taught them how. Illiterate shepherds didn’t need a long book of legal opinions to tell them how to treat their guests or what to do with a lost wallet–they already learned those lessons from their community.

It’s only with the destruction of the Temple and the expulsion of the Jews from Judea that there comes a need for a written legal code explaining how, exactly, everything in the culture is supposed to be done.

Okay, but what does all of this have to do with the Constitution?

As legal documents go, the Constitution is pretty short. Since page size can vary, we’ll look at words: including all of the amendments and signatures, the Constitution is 7,591 words long.

The Affordable Care Act, (aka Obamacare,) clocks in at a whopping 363,086 words, of which 234,812 actually have to do with the law; the rest are headers, tables of contents, and the like. (For comparison, The Fellowship of the Ring only has 177,227 words.)

Interestingly, the US Constitution is both the oldest and shortest constitution of any major government in the world. This is not a coincidence. By contrast, the Indian Constitution, passed in 1949, is 145,000 words long–the longest in the world, but still shorter than the ACA.

People often blame the increasing complexity of US law on Talmudic scholars, but I think we’re actually looking at a case of convergent evolution–the process by which two different, not closely related species develop similar traits in response to similar environments or selective pressures. Aardvarks and echidnas, for example, are not closely related–aardvarks are placental mammals while echidnas lay eggs–but both creatures eat ants, and so have evolved similar looking noses. (Echidnas also look a lot like hedgehogs.)

US law has become more complex for the same reasons Jewish law did: because we no longer live in organic communities where tradition serves as a major guide to proper behavior, for both social and technical reasons. Groups of people whose ancestors were separated by thousands of miles of ocean or desert now interact on a daily basis; new technologies our ancestors could have never imagined are now commonplace. Even homeless people can go to the library, enjoy the air conditioning, log onto a computer, and post something on Facebook that can be read, in turn, by a smartphone-toting Afghan shepherd on the other side of the world.

The result is a confused morass. Groups of people who don’t know how to talk to each other have degenerated into toxic “call-out culture” and draconian speech codes. (Need I remind you that some poor sod just lost his job at Google for expressing views backed by mountains of scientific evidence, just because it offended a bunch of SJWs?) Campus speech codes (which infringe on First Amendment rights) are now so draconian that people are discussing ways to use a different set of laws–the Americans with Disabilities Act–to challenge them.

Even the entry of large numbers of women into colleges and the paid workforce (as opposed to unpaid labor women formerly carried out in homes and farms) has simultaneously removed them from the protective company of male relatives while bringing them into constant contact with male strangers. This has forced a massive shift both in social norms and an increase in legal protections afforded to women, whom the state now protects from harassment, “hostile work environments,” rape, assault, discrimination, etc.

Without tradition to guide us, we try to extrapolate from some common, agreed upon principles–such as those codified in the Constitution. But the Constitution is short; it doesn’t even remotely cover all of the cases we are now trying to use it to justify. What would the founding fathers say about machine guns, nuclear missiles, or international copyright law? The responsibilities of universities toward people with medical disabilities? Medications that induce abortions or unionized factory workers?

The Constitution allows Congress to grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal–that is, to officially commission pirates as privateers, a la Sir Francis Drake, private citizens allowed to attack the boats of (certain) foreign nations. But Letters of Marque and Reprisal haven’t actually been granted since 1815, and the practice has been out of favor among European governments since 1856. Like stoning, privateering just isn’t done anymore, even though it is technically still right there in the Constitution.

By contrast, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Constitution says that the states have to issue gay marriage licenses. Whether you agree with gay marriage or not, this is some Rabbi Yehoshua, “It is not in heaven,” level reasoning. I’m pretty sure if you raised the Founding Fathers or the authors of the 14th Amendment from the dead and ask their ghosts whether the Constitution mandates gay marriage, they’d look at you like you’d just grown a second head and then call you crazy. Gay sex wasn’t just illegal in every state, it was punishable by execution in several and Thomas Jefferson himself wrote a bill for the state of Virginia which penalized it via castration.

But “living constitution” and all that. A majority of modern Americans think gay marriage should be legal and don’t want to execute or dismember homosexuals, so society finds a way.

It’d be more honest to say, “Hey, we don’t really care what people thought about gay marriage 200+ years ago; we’re going to make a new law that suits our modern interests,” but since the legitimacy of the whole legal edifice is built on authority derived from the Constitution, people feel they must find some way to discover legal novelties in the text.

Like a man trying to fix a broken fence by piling up more wood on it, so American law has become an enormous, burdensome pile of regulation after regulation. Where traditions can be flexible–changing depending on human judgment or in response to new conditions–laws, by nature, are inflexible. Changing them requires passing more laws.

The Talmud may be long, but at least I can eat a bacon cheeseburger on leavened bread on a Saturday during Passover with no fear of going to jail. Even Israelis aren’t significantly restricted by Talmudic law unless they want to be.

By contrast, I can be put in prison for violating the endlessly complex US law. I could spend the next ten pages recounting stories of people fined or imprisoned for absurd and trivial things–bakers fined out of business for declining to bake a gay wedding cake, children’s lemonade stands shut down for lack of proper permits, teenagers imprisoned and branded “sex offenders” for life for having consensual sex with each other. Then there’s the corporate side: 42% of multi-million dollar patent litigation suits that actually go to court (instead of the parties just settling) result in the court declaring that the patent involved should have never been granted in the first place! Corporate law is so complex and lawsuits so easy to bring that it now functions primarily as a way for corporations to try to drive their competitors out of business. Lawsuits are no longer a sign that a company has acted badly or unethically, but merely a “cost of doing business.”

How many businesses never get started because the costs of regulation compliance are too high? How many people never get jobs as a result? How many hours of our lives are sucked away while we fill out tax forms or muddle through insurance paperwork?

Eventually we have to stop piling up wood and start tearing out rotten posts.

 

PS: For more information on the development of Rabbinic Judaism, I recommend Visotzky’s Aphrodite and the Rabbis: How the Jews adapted Roman Culture to Create Judaism as we Know it.

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Cathedral Round-Up #25: Yale Law and the Expansion of “Persecution”

Way back in Round-Up #7, I noticed the Cathedral was trying to expand the notion of “refugee” to include “economic migrants.” In today’s Round-Up, courtesy of the Yale Law Journal, Paul Strauch would like to expand “persecution” to include “might get killed by common criminals.”

Strauch’s first paragraph (from When Stopping the Smuggler Means Repelling the Refugee: International Human Rights Law and the European Union’s Operation To Combat Smuggling in Libya’s Territorial Sea) is a doozy:

Over the past three years, the number of human tragedies on the Mediterranean Sea has reached an unprecedented level.1 The now-iconic image of a German rescue worker cradling a drowned migrant baby in his arms in the sea between Libya and Italy remains a disturbing reminder of the over 5,000 migrants and refugees who died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2016 alone.2 Of the European Union’s (EU) responses to this humanitarian crisis, perhaps the most controversial has been Operation Sophia: a naval mission to combat human smugglers and traffickers operating in the Mediterranean, in particular off the coast of Libya.3 As part of Operation Sophia, the EU is now supporting and training the Libyan Navy and Coastguard to combat smuggling and stop migrant departures within Libya’s territorial sea—waters within twelve nautical miles of Libya’s nautical baseline. The EU simultaneously continues to seek permission for European Union Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED) vessels and personnel themselves to enter Libya’s territorial sea to seize and dispose of smuggling vessels. (These two components will hereinafter together be referred to as the Operation Sophia “territorial sea component.”)

Source: Human Costs of Border Control

Okay. Let’s unpack this. First, a little background on Yale Law: for those of you who don’t know, it is regarded as the most prestigious law school in the US. Paul Strauch might be an unknown American law student who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page (yet,) but he still has the power to influence the development and implementation of European Human Rights law. According to his profile on Linked In, Strauch has only had one real job–he worked as an “Investment Banking Compliance Analyst” for Goldman Sachs for a year. The rest of his “work experience” is three-month internships.

Getting an accurate estimate of the full scale of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean is tricky because dead bodies often end up at the bottom of the sea where they are hard to find, thousands of miles away from any loved ones. A well-publicized sinking can prompt European governments to dredge the sea floor in search of bodies, while a boat that just disappears in the middle of the night and is never heard from again may never get noticed.

Nevertheless, migrant deaths do look like they’ve gone up overall. HCOBC cites over 450 deaths in 2013, and the UNHCR reports over 3,750 in 2014 and estimates more than that for 2016. The numbers for 2017 aren’t out yet, but look similar.

This is a bad idea

Why are so many people suddenly drowning in the Mediterranean?

The Libyan civil war which began in 2011 turned a relatively stable country with functioning borders into an anarchic free-for-all infested with sociopathic smugglers happy to let you risk death in a rubber raft in the Mediterranean in exchange for all your money.

A quick glance at a map of the Mediterranean reveals that Libya-Italy route is about the worst one you could possibly pick. Morocco to Spain/Gibralter? Only 9 miles! There are totally legal ferry companies that will take you from Tunisia to Sicily in about 10 hours. You can cross from Turkey to continental Europe via the Bosporus, (yes I know the other side of the Bosporus is also Turkey,) or if you want to take the long route, you can island-hop through the Aegean. The minimum distance from Libya to Italy (to the island of Lampedusa) is a much further–290 miles.

But the smugglers aren’t actually trying to get to Italy. As the Irish Times reports,

“It is well-known that the Italian boats save everybody,” [a smuggler] said. Smugglers and migrants said that a rescue by a European vessel in international waters – not reaching the Italian coast – was the goal of every departure. …

But the Libyan coast guard is practically useless. Coast guard officials responsible for most of the coastline where the smuggling occurs say equipment failures have prevented them from carrying out an operation for more than three months, and at least one captain said he was afraid of retribution by the smugglers. …

An Egyptian or Tunisian captain for the boat might get $5,000-$7,000, and blend in with the migrants to avoid responsibility if the boat is stopped, according to the smugglers. About $800 buys a satellite telephone the captain can use to call the Red Cross when the boat reaches international waters, to expedite pick-up by the Italian coast guard.

source

The vast majority of migrants coming via Libya are not Syrians refugees fleeing ISIS (who of course take the eastern Mediterranean/Bosporus routes,) but regular Sub-Saharan Africans who have traveled through Libya’s non-existent borders in search of a quick route to European prosperity.

Well, deaths are sad, but people die every day, especially if they do things that are likely to kill themselves, like try to cross the Mediterranean in a rubber raft. What makes a death in Libyan waters (or the open sea) Italy’s problem–or more generally, Europe’s?

Operation Sophia’s ostensible goal of helping the Libyan coast guard reassert control over Libyan waters is the fastest and most sensible way of stemming the tide and saving the lives of everyone involved. But Strauch takes issue with this:

The EU’s goal of decreasing the number of migrants4 who reach the Mediterranean high seas is understandable, but the territorial sea component presents serious human rights concerns. Instead of traversing the high seas to possibly reach Europe and asylum, migrants will be turned back by the Libyan Coastguard—trained and supported by EUNAVFOR MED—to a country where they likely face prolonged detention, brutality, and persecution. There is also the possibility that migrants and refugees will be caught in the crossfire between the human smugglers and the Libyan Coastguard in collaboration with EUNAVFOR MED. This Comment considers whether the EU’s activities in the territorial sea of Libya will occur within the framework of international human rights law, or whether there are gaps in protection for migrants impacted by the Operation.

These migrants are not in danger in Libya because some faction in the Libyan civil war has it out for them. They’re not even Libyans fleeing violence in Libya. They are opportunistically taking advantage of Libya’s lawlessness in order to cross it, and Strauch is arguing that because of that same lawlessness, it would be a violation of Human Rights Law to send them back.

<–Here’s a map of homicide rates by state (the UNODC report doesn’t include recent violence in Libya.) By this logic, pretty much any of the billions of people from Russia to Brazil should have the right to waltz into the blue-zone country of their choice.

Of course, the actual result of Operation Sophia has not been the return of smuggling vessels to Libya (that phase of the operation is not yet and may never be live.) According to the New York Times, Efforts to Rescue Migrants Caused Deadly, Unexpected Consequences:

Strategies to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and disrupt smuggling networks have had deadly, unexpected consequences, according to aid groups monitoring the crisis.

It is part of a wrenching Catch-22: Any effort to lessen the migrant crisis can backfire as smuggling networks devise even more dangerous strategies in response. …

Each year, aid groups patrol the area and rescue thousands of migrants at risk of drowning.

Before 2014, rescues took place closer to Italy, with migrant boats traveling as far as Italian waters. By 2014, many rescues were occurring farther south in the Mediterranean. By 2015, rescues reached even closer to the Libyan side of the Mediterranean Sea.

More recently, rescues were taking place closer to Libyan territorial waters…

Smugglers use flimsy boats and provide just enough fuel to reach the edge of Libyan waters. Drivers can remove the engine and head back to Libya on another boat, leaving the migrants adrift until help arrives.

The NY Times fatalistically concludes:

“It’s really time to start looking at some of the long-term policies,” [Federico Soda, the director of the Coordination Office for the Mediterranean with the International Organization for Migration,] added. “Africa and Europe are always going to be neighbors. Movement of people between the two is just a reality of the coming decade.”

Libya’s porous borders are just a reality, like average rainfall in the Sahara or the height of Mount Everest, not something humans actually have control over, so you’d better just get used to it.

Peter “Sweden” Imanuelson has an interesting account of his recent trip to Sicily:

So I went down to Sicily, the front line where many immigrants first set foot in Europe to find out the truth about the so-called refugee crisis. …

What I found in Sicily was an organized and large-scale operation. These are so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Oxfam, Save the Children, MSF, and others who work with governments from different EU countries to bring in a new population in Europe.

In Catania I met an immigrant named Mohari who arrived just a few days earlier. His journey began in Eritrea, from where he traveled all the way up to the coast of Libya. After six failed attempts, this Eritrean was finally picked up by a boat from Save the Children, only a few kilometers from Libya’s coast. …

Mohari told me he wanted to either Sweden or England. I asked him why he just selected these countries.

– Money, solved his short answer.

There are a number of different ships operating in the Mediterranean to help immigrants. Partly, we have ships from NGOs, but we also have coastguards from different EU countries, including Sweden.

In Catania I met the crew of Triton, a Swedish coastguard vessel operating in the Mediterranean at the request of the EU. The ship is formally there as a Coast Guard, but I found out that they also collaborate with NGO vessels to pick up immigrants on Libya’s coast and transport them to Europe.

It is thought that the Swedish Coast Guard should guard the coasts of Sweden – not pick up Africans in the Mediterranean. After all, it is Swedish tax money that accounts for the cost. However, the Swedes are commissioned by the EU Coast Guard Frontex along with the Coast Guard from other EU countries.

So what happens when NGOs ship arrives in Europe filled with immigrants? I arrived at Pozzallo, a nice city in southern Sicily. There, the Aquarius, operated by a Physician without Frontiers, would arrive early in the morning after picking up about 420 immigrants on the Libyan coast.

I was there in good time when the ship arrived. Everything was in full swing to prepare for Europe’s new citizens. The Red Cross, the police, the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs and several were in place. The ship arrived with what seemed to be almost exclusively young African men. No women or children were able to see on board.

Suddenly, the Italian police arrived at me, asked to see my ID actions and rejected me from the port.

Let me pause here for the irony as the person who is actually legally allowed to be in a Sicilian port is kicked out by the police and people who have entered the country illegally are not.

My trip continued and I wanted to find out where the immigrants are heading after they come to Europe. At the harbor there were buses lined up, ready to take the immigrants on. Many end up in refugee camps. One of these is Cara Mineo. What amazed me was how incredibly good the refugee camp is compared with how the native population lives. Newly built houses, playgrounds, football pitches, basketball courts and more.

A local resident told immigrants to get everything they needed. Mobile phones, cigarettes. They also get free healthcare, free legal assistance and so on… Cara Mineo is a former military base and the military is still there and watches. I was not rejected this time, but was strongly limited in what pictures I could take on the camp.

However, there is even more help to get if you are an immigrant from the third world. Near the train station in Catania, the organization Oxfam had its pop-up tent and helped immigrants. There they are interpretered and tell the immigrants what they need to do to seek asylum and get up to northern Europe. They even go so far as to share leaflets titled #OPENEUROPE Guide To Rights. There you will find a lot of useful information, like which trains you can take north and what the prices are. You also get to know which rights you have (such as access to the phone and the internet). Of course, there are links to web pages that show you how to stay in Europe.

Oxfam’s assistant described how they simply help the immigrants with all the information they need. They also share backpacks with necessities, such as toothbrushes, shoes, towels, paper and pens. She told them that they then ask immigrants to rate the service they received from Oxfam on the organization’s app.

You know, back during the big drought, several of my relatives ended up with no running water because their well dried up. After hearing that a deeper well could reach the water, I started contacting well-digging charities in search of help, but kept getting the same answer: they only drill in Africa. These folks would rather fly to Ethiopia to drill wells than drive a hundred miles up the road to help their neighbors.

Most people who want to “help” others don’t really want to help; they just want the feel-good-fuzzies they get from helping. You don’t have to hand out backpacks and toothbrushes to economic tourists illegally entering your country. You can hand out backpacks and toothbrushes to homeless people and foster children in your own city.

Strauch goes on (this paragraph is so egregious that I’m going to treat it like a Wikipedian):

In recent years, observers and scholars [who?] have rightly [judgmental language] called attention to European states’ heightened implementation of border security protocols and restrictions on asylum access in response to the global migration crisis. [Proof?] The term “Fortress Europe” is now commonplace [where?].6 [The linked source does not prove that the phrase is common.] Over the past twenty years, European states have developed this practice [what practice?] by striking deals with African nations to support maritime interdictions in their territorial seas.7 As a military operation designed to limit the number of migrants in reach of Europe’s borders, Operation Sophia expressly follows in this trend. [What trend? No trend has been demonstrated.]

Just look at that horrible trend of migrants being kept out of Europe

Notice how Strauch just asserts a bunch of stuff without offering any proof for any of it. Over in reality land, a Record 1.3 Million Migrants reached Europe in 2015; this number dropped negligibly to 1.2 million in 2016. Trends here probably have more to do with German Chancellor Angela Merkel having announced an extremely open policy toward migrants and refugees crossing into Germany in 2015 than Italian-Libyan coast guard cooperation.

Strauch never does provide data to back up his claims. Rather he argues:

The Operation Sophia territorial sea component risks violating fundamental international human rights protected by various international conventions.32 These include, in particular, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the 1951 Refugee Convention.33 The states of the European Union are parties to all of these instruments and thus bound under international law by the obligations provided therein.34

The Operation Sophia territorial sea component is at odds with the principle of nonrefoulement, which holds that an individual may not be returned to a place where he or she faces risk of persecution.35 The nonrefoulement principle is affirmed most clearly in Article 33 of the Refugee Convention and is also binding upon European states under the ECHR.36 … Additionally, the duty of nonrefoulement now arguably is customary international law,38 and the overwhelming weight of international authority holds that states are prohibited from engaging in nonrefoulement practices when acting extraterritorially.39

Libya remains a place of possible persecution for the irregular migrants who seek to leave it. In Libya, migrants face possible torture, arbitrary detention, and other abuses.40 Because Operation Sophia engagements seek to ensure that migrant vessels cannot leave Libya’s coast, interception and diversion of vessels containing migrants and refugees imply that they may be forced to return to Libya.41 In addition, the program of disposing of vessels used for smuggling may present nonrefoulement concerns, as these actions effectively ensure migrants seeking transportation cannot leave Libya. For similar reasons, territorial sea engagements may run up against the prohibition against collective expulsion. Affirmed in Article 4 of the Protocol 4 of the ECHR, collective expulsion is “any measure . . . compelling aliens as a group to leave the country, except where such a measure is taken after and on the basis of a reasonable and objective examination of the particular cases of each individual alien of the group.”42

Strauch makes me think Duerte is on to something.

The article keeps going in this manner. Basically it’s Europe’s fault that anyone, anywhere in the world might be subject to violence and so Europe must take in anyone and everyone who shows up on its shores or even just a few miles off Libya’s coast. I recommend that you read the whole thing, just to get the full and thorough picture, but I will leave you with this final line:

Part III then contends that the territorial sea component makes significant and concerning contributions to an emerging norm of militarized, cooperation-based border control.

Strauch is concerned about cooperation? One wonders what kind of non-militarized border control Strauch imagines exists anywhere in the world.

 

Amazingly, I didn’t have to go digging to find this article–it was just the first article I encountered in this month’s issue of Yale Law Journal. I haven’t even touched the Journal’s other two articles, The Nature of Parenthood:

This Article explores what it means to fully vindicate gender and sexual-orientation equality in the law of parental recognition. … In initially defining parentage through marriage, the common law embedded parenthood within a gender-hierarchical, heterosexual order. Eventually, courts and legislatures repudiated the common-law regime and protected biological parent-child relationships formed outside marriage. While this effort to derive parental recognition from biological connection was animated by egalitarian impulses, it too operated within a gender-differentiated, heterosexual paradigm.

and Disparate Statistics, about the use of statistical evidence in evaluating claims of disparate impact.

Letters of Marque and Reprisal: A Quick History

Sir Francis Drake

Article 1, Section 8, line 11 of the US Constitution states that Congress shall have the power:

“To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

“Letters of Marque and Reprisal” are the official way a pirate becomes a privateer, authorized to capture foreign vessels. The most famous privateer, of course, was, Sir Francis Drake:

Sir Francis Drake, vice admiral (c. 1540 – 28 January 1596[3]) was an English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Drake carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, from 1577 to 1580, and was the first to complete the voyage as captain while leading the expedition throughout the entire circumnavigation. With his incursion into the Pacific Ocean, he inaugurated an era of privateering and piracy in the western coast of the Americas—an area that had previously been free of piracy.[4]

Specifically, he inaugurated the Age of Piracy in the Pacific by introducing non-Spanish ships into the ecosystem.

In 1243, King Henry III authorized the first privateers in English law, and the crown began issuing official Letters of Marque in 1295. These early letters authorized a kind of “private war,” allowing their recipients to avenge themselves against some foreign ship or ships of a foreign nation more generally for some previous harm. (Until 1620, an application for Letters of Marque had to include the shipowner’s estimate of losses they had previously suffered at the target’s hands.)

By the 16th century, the Letters had shifted from serving purely personal interests to allowing private shipowners to become a kind of auxillary navy, capturing the ships of enemy nations and profiting from the sale of their goods.

Business could be quite profitable for these “legal pirates”–for example, the tiny, Channel Island of Guernsey netted 900,000 Pounds worth of American and French ships during the American Revolution.

Letter of marque given to Captain Antoine Bollo, 27 February 1809

Like modern day mercenaries, enterprising pirates like Jean Lafitte who wished to practice their profession with less risk of being hanged by land-based authorities, shopped around from country to country for Letters of Marque. When one war ended and hostilities ended between two countries, privateers moved on to the next conflict, and offered their services to the new countries involved. After his employ by the Americans during the War of 1812, Lafitte offered his services to the Spanish against Mexican revolutionaries, giving himself cover to establish a smuggling station in Galveston, Texas (then part of Spain.) When he was driven from Galveston, he offered his services to the Cubans, and when they tired of him, he obtained Letters from Colombia.

At times, the Letters of Marque seem to have been used less against legitimate enemies of the state and more for pure gain:

The East India Company arranged for letters of marque for its East Indiamen such as the Lord Nelson, not so that they could carry cannons to fend off warships, privateers, and pirates on their voyages to India and China—that they could do without permission—but so that, should they have the opportunity to take a prize, they could do so without being guilty of piracy.

That said, Letters of Marque did obligate their holders to observe the rules of war toward the sailors (and vessels) they captured, rather than massacre them in the piratical way. Captured sailors and other passengers were supposed to be treated as prisoners of war and returned unharmed to land. Admiralty Courts could revoke the letters–and even fine privateers–if they did not. Similarly, privateers could not just abscond with captured goods, but had to turn them over to the Admiralty Courts, which would auction them off and then give the privateers part of the profits.

Likewise, if the navy of a foreign country captured a ship bearing Letters of Marque, they were supposed to not just execute the sailors but treat them like POWs. However, in many cases countries did not recognize the validity of other countries’ Letters, partly because they didn’t recognize those countries and partly because they were at war with them. During the Civil War, the Union charged a crew of Confederate privateers with piracy and threatened to hang them. The case was only resolved in the privateers’ favor when Confederate president Jefferson Davis threatened to retaliate by hanging Union POWs.

The infamous Captain Kidd in New York Harbor

The infamous Captain William Kidd, though he had an official Letter of Marque signed by King William III of England, was hanged as a pirate in 1701. Whether Kidd was actually a pirate or just a privateer who was unjustly accused is still a matter of debate.

Letters of Marque fell out of fashion after the end of the Crimean War in 1856, (though land-locked and navy-free Bolivia was still issuing them in 1879 to anyone willing to attack Chilean ships.) The US government hasn’t issued any Letters since 1815, but there was some confusion during WWII about whether the Goodyear Blimps were official privateers.

This was not as absurd as it sounds–the confusion arose because the blimps, with armed civilian crews, were flying anti-submarine patrols off the coast of California. But they had not been issued official Letters of Marque, and so were not privateers.

Ron Paul, a Constitutionally-interested guy, has tried to revive Letters of Marque to fight against “air pirates” like the 9-11 attackers. Similar to hiring Blackwater in Iraq, his proposal would have let the president issue Letters of Marque against specific terrorists and Somali pirates. But so far, his bills have not become laws and Letters of Marque have not returned.

The Activation Energy of Economic Activity

Both Bourgois’s In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Bario and Joel Salatin’s Everything I Want to do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front discuss legal difficulties faced by small-scale entrepreneurs (albeit in very different situations.)

One of the crack dealers in Bourgois’s ethnography has amassed a small fortune (for the ghetto, at least,) and wants to “go honest.” So he uses his money to open a convenience store, but gets shut down by the authorities (state or local, I don’t recall which,) because his bathroom isn’t disabled-accessible. So he went back to selling crack.

Salatin also complains about ADA compliance, particularly in the matter of parking lots (if he pours a few concrete spaces in his yard so customers can park at his farm and buy a few chickens, does he need to make a handicapped spot?) and bathrooms.

Now that I think of it, back at one of my former jobs, we had a changing room that was officially a “supply closet” because it wasn’t large enough to meet ADA standards. (Obviously I was not in charge of this business and had no control over the closet.)

Salatin’s principle complains, though, focused on food-regulation laws–What counts as organic? What is an approved butchering facility? What if you are only butchering five chickens and want to sell them to your neighbors? What, exactly, is “organic”?

The amount of paperwork and legal compliance required to add a few organic potatoes or locally slaughtered chickens to such an operation are enormous.

According to Wikipedia:

In chemistry, activation energy is a term introduced in 1889 by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius to describe the minimum energy which must be available to a chemical system with potential reactants to result in a chemical reaction.[1] Activation energy may also be defined as the minimum energy required to start a chemical reaction.

360px-activation_energy-svgSome chemical reactions basically happen instantly, like if you throw sodium into water (NOTE: Don’t throw sodium into water. It will explode.) Others, like starting a fire in your fireplace, require the input of some amount of energy to get the reaction going. (Typically we supply this energy by hand, by striking matches, rubbing sticks together, or striking flint on steel.)

We can also think of activation energy in economic terms as the inputs necessary to start a business. Beyond the obvious physical requirements–if you want to produce shoes, you will need material for making shoes–we also have legal requirements. You cannot simply bake a bunch of cookies at home, walk outside, and start selling them. There are some serious food safety laws on the subject.

Now to be clear, I value clean water, food, and medicines. I appreciate that my doctors are skilled. I don’t want to end up with brain-damage just because a local entrepreneur decided it was a good idea to dump old batteries into the drinking water, and I understand that disabled people need to pee just as much as everyone else.

But at the same time, we need to make sure we are not putting in so much regulation that small-scale entrepreneurs are effectively shut out of the market, because the costs of compliance either make the economic activity completely unprofitable, or are just too high for someone trying to start a business to bear.

(Large, already-established corporations, by contrast, tend to be less impacted by such regulations both because they hire armies of lobbyists to ensure that regulatory legislation favors them and also because their profits are high enough that they have money to spare for compliance. Still, they, too, are probably impacted in significant ways.)

Cathedral Round-Up #12: The Rise of Mommy-Law

After reading several books and numerous articles by lawyers of various stripes, you can’t help but notice their philosophy of law. (In this case, Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, and The Real Watergate Scandal, by Geoff Shepard.) Now, I am sure that actual legal scholars and philosophers have developed a whole vocabulary and system of concepts for discussing these sorts of things, but as I am not a legal philosophy scholar, I am limited to my own bumbling language.

The American legal tradition, from the Constitution on down, is based on the notion that man is his own sovereign; judges do not advocate on behalf of one person or group, but dispassionately arbitrate between them.

Thus the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Government does not chose a side.

For the first two hundred years or so of our country, the proper functioning of law was seen as protecting the interests of the individual, both against predation by others and from over-reach by the state. Just as the scientific method protects truth by demanding a theory be falsifiable and tested against this counter-scenario, so the legal system protects freedom by putting the burden of proof on the Prosecution and demanding that the accused be treated as “innocent until proven guilty.”

Properly functioning, the law protects the individual. This idea of law-functioning-as-intended-protects-people is found in both Just Mercy and The Real Watergate Scandal, in which both authors describe cases of judges and prosecutors interfering with the proper functioning of law to deprive defendants of a fair trial. A fair trial, they argue, would have exonerated their defendants.

Obviously this view is still current among lawyers, who like to see themselves as moral people who deserve their paychecks. But among non-lawyers, the view seems to have shifted radically over the past few decades. SJWs in particular seem to have decided that the legal system is not as the protector of rights, but the protector of oppressors.

To some extent, this is due to the absolutely true fact that rich people can afford better lawyers than poor people can, corporations use the legal system to drive down competition, and there are so many laws now on the books that if they want to arrest you, they can almost always find something to charge you with.

And while the BLM crowd appears to be statistically incorrect on the matter of cop-on-black shootings, they are absolutely correct that there are a lot of black people in prison: “One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001.”

But these are, we might argue, a practical matter, easily resolved by repealing drug laws or forcing everyone to use public defenders or some other measure I leave for you to imagine. Increasingly, though, it seems like the very ground rules of a “free society protected by laws” are coming under attack.

Take Freedom of Speech.

Free Speech has historically been regarded as necessary for the existence of a free, democratic society, both because it is impossible to discuss important political matters if certain opinions are not allowed to be expressed, and because it is an insult to free men to dictate what they may and may not discuss. That Freedom of Speech covers matters deemed noxious to common sentiments like pornography, flag burning, or KKK rallies was seen mainly as an unpleasant but generally ignorable side-effect of a properly functioning legal necessity. Thus even the hyper-liberal ACLU would defend the rights of the KKK to march and pornographers to publish.

Today, by contrast, Freedom of Speech is regarded by many on the left not as defending their own rights, but as a legal fig leaf to protect bigots, Nazis, Klan members, and Charlie Hebdo while they spread their vile, hate-filled messages.

According to Gallup, 27% of college students favored campus restrictions on  “expressing political views that are upsetting or offensive to certain groups;” 69% favored restrictions on “slurs” and “intentionally offensive” speech; and 63% want their administrations to ban offensive Halloween costumes. Further, 40% of Millennials want the government to restrict speech “offensive to minorites.”

See: Yale’s costume crisis:


(Since Youtube crashes my computer, please let me know if I don’t have the best video.)

When you start demanding that the authorities dictate which costumes you can wear while screaming in outrage at anyone who suggests that you might be old enough to dress yourselves, you don’t want freedom, you want mommy.

That’s why I call this the rise of Mommy Law, a legal philosophy in which the government’s proper role is no longer to mediate between equals, but to defend the helpless–blacks, women, LGBTQIAs, Muslims, etc.–from their oppressors. It is implicit, under Mommy Law, that these groups have no agency of their own and could not take care of themselves without the government’s help.

Thus, for example, it is now seen as the proper role of law to award millions in damages to gay couples just because someone objected, on religious grounds, to baking them a wedding cake. Likewise, the government has decided it is inappropriate to investigate the Orlando shooter’s Islamic ties, because that would disproportionately impact Muslims.

Interestingly, criminal law–especially as it relates to rape–has been the locus of much of this change for decades. Just Mercy goes into this in some depth, because changes in criminal law over the past few decades have ironically had a major effect on black people, so I regret deeply that I do not have the text at hand to quote for you. In short, IIRC, the emphasis in criminal court cases shifted from the “state” prosecuting a criminal who had disturbed the common order (hence the phrasing, “The State of X vs. Joe Bob,” to the state acting on behalf of the victims. Certain rights of the defendant related to cross-examination of witnesses, especially child victims of rape and other violent crimes, have been curtailed to avoid distressing the witnesses.

(Children, of course, actually are helpless and should be treated as such, but the feminist demand that we “Believe the Children” has still led to many people being incarcerated on obviously false charges, like flying through the air on a magic broom.)

This is all quite understandable in light of the feminists’ War on Rape, which you should be familiar with if you’ve ever spent 5 minutes around feminists. Unfortunately for the feminists, most rapes are difficult to prosecute under normal legal standards. Unlike robbery, in which the transfer of one man’s wallet to another man’s pocket is clearly a crime, people–even strangers–engage in consensual sex all the time. In a great majority of cases, we have nothing more to go on than the testimonies of the two people involved, one of whom claims consensuality and one of whom claims not. Victory in such cases requires lower standards of evidence and a weakening of the presumption of “Innocent until proven guilty.”

And with that very long introduction, here are some recent articles from the Yale Daily News:

State Passes Affirmative Consent Legislation:

Last Wednesday, the Connecticut Senate voted 35 to one in favor of a bill requiring both private and public colleges and universities in the state to adopt affirmative consent as the standard in handling cases of sexual misconduct on campus.

Commonly defined as “yes means yes,” the affirmative consent standard puts the burden of proof on the accused party, who is now responsible for demonstrating that affirmative consent was given before any sexual activity took place. Lawmakers in support of the bill stressed that affirmative consent means “active, informed, unambiguous and voluntary agreement” and will help university administrators handle sexual misconduct on campus with greater efficacy and clarity. Several Connecticut universities, including Yale, already use an affirmative consent standard. …

Students from different colleges and universities across the state gathered in front of the Connecticut State Capitol in April to demonstrate their support for the bill when it was being considered in the House.

Philosophy Community Signs Open Letter in Striking Rebuke of Pogge:

Nearly a month after sexual misconduct allegations arose against renowned Yale philosophy professor Thomas Pogge, simmering anger within the philosophy community has turned into open outrage as more than 200 philosophy professors around the world — including 16 full Yale professors — have signed an open letter condemning Pogge’s alleged misconduct. …

… philosophy professor Shelly Kagan, who was department chair when Pogge was hired, said what Pogge has admitted to doing is inappropriate and unprofessional. During a 2011 UWC investigation, Pogge acknowledged that he had shared a hotel room with Lopez Aguilar and slept on her lap during a flight, although he added that both actions were suggested by her.

“The things about going to the conference with a former student and sharing a hotel room and he admitted to sleeping with his head on her lap. That is not appropriate behavior,” Kagan said in an interview with the News…

Even Affirmative Consent won’t save Pogge.

Teammate launches fundraiser for Montague:

“Just months from graduation and weeks before our basketball team clinched an Ivy League title, Jack Montague was forced to leave school and abandon his team in light of a university sexual assault investigation that presented no evidence that proved his guilt. Not only was Jack stripped of a Yale degree which he had worked over three and half years to earn, he was also denied the once in a lifetime opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament alongside his teammates,” …

The basketball team drew criticism earlier this year for demonstrating support for Montague after rumors of his expulsion began to circulate. In a Feb. 26 home contest against Harvard, 16 days after Montague was expelled, the team took to the court wearing T-shirts with the former captain’s nickname and number on the back. The following week, posters appeared around campus condemning the team for “supporting a rapist.”

Montague suit one of more than 100 alleging universities violated students’ rights:

Filed in a federal court last week, Montague v. Yale University et. al joins more than 100 recent civil suits alleging that college students accused of sexual misconduct were not granted fair hearings in campus proceedings. …

In one of the most powerful critiques of university sexual misconduct procedures, presiding judge F. Dennis Saylor denied Brandeis’s motion to dismiss charges in March, ruling that four of the eight charges, including the breach of contract charge, could stand. …

Explicitly supporting the lower evidence standard mandated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX compliance guidelines, Saylor questioned whether Brandeis’s sexual misconduct procedures have gone too far. …

In recent years, dozens of universities have been taken to court for their handling of sexual misconduct allegations. Lawsuits claiming that accused students’ due process rights were denied have proliferated since the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a public letter to Title IX coordinators in April of 2011. The 19-page document, known as the “Dear Colleague” letter, laid out a series of guidelines for educational institutions that receive federal funding and are thereby obliged to comply with Title IX, the clause of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Perhaps most significantly, educational institutions were instructed to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard  — meaning, the letter explains, “it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred” — when investigating allegations of sexual harassment or violence.

This lower standard, used in campus proceedings involving sexual misconduct but not in criminal cases, reduces the level of certainty required to find students guilty of sexual misconduct, opening the door for students to claim that their due process rights — to hear and respond to evidence, or to cross-examine opposing witnesses, among others — were violated.

Due process is a constitutional right, but Rendell-Baker v. Kohn (1982) ruled that private universities are not required to adhere to the same standards of due process as courts. A student undergoing a Title IX investigation at a college is not guaranteed the same rights — a jury of one’s peers or the right to know opposing evidence, for example — as a criminal who committed a comparable crime in a non-university setting.

So what else has been going on at Yale?

Yalies Mourn and Offer Support in Wake of Orlando Shooting

Galvez said she was away from campus when the tragedy took place and found it difficult to grasp that people of her community are dying for being their authentic selves.

She added that the shooting was a violation of a safe space for queer people of color, who have been deemed unworthy of love, civil liberties and now the right to live.

“Our Latinx, LGBTQ and Yale communities at large are hurting — we are mourning for our hermanxs,” she said. “There are some that will use this incident to target those in our Muslim communities, however, it is love and not hate that will help us in our path towards alleviating our hearts. Indeed, our Muslim hermanxs are also hurting and mourning with us.” …

As a non-native Spanish speaker, I suppose I don’t have a right to get anal about the butchering of grammatical gender endings in English-renderings of Spanish words, but how do you even pronounce “hermanxs”?

I remember those long ago days of Spanish class, when we first learned about this whole concept of “grammatical gender” and how it operates in Spanish, and some of us started bristling up and saying, “But isn’t that sexist?” Our Mexican teacher immediately shot us down. No, grammatical gender is just part of how the language operates, not an expression of how people feel about men and women.

According to Wikipedia, Proto-Indo-European had to genders, “Animate and Inanimate.” Oh those bigots! Latin had three genders, indicating that the Romans were really into trans rights. Swahili has 18 genders, evidence of severe mutation after a nuclear accident (also, ninja turtles.) English has only a few evil words left, like “duchess,” because it is the current year and we are now enlightened.

(Duchessship is one of the few words in English with three identical letters in a row.)

Etymologically, the term “gender” in “grammatical gender” actually doesn’t mean “the word is a girl or a boy.” It just means “type” or “kind,” as in the word “genus,” a taxonomic rank above species but below family for classifying groups of animals, eg, house cats and wildcats are both in the genus Felis.

I am an absolute blast at parties.

Continuing on…

He added that the majority of the Orlando victims were Blacks or Latinx enjoying Latin Night at Pulse nightclub, a place where people should be able to dance free from stigma and discrimination. That many have overlooked this important fact or used the tragedy to scapegoat Muslims is frustrating, Paredes said. …

LGBTQ Co-Op Coordinator Kyle Ranieri ’18 said the Orlando shooting has deeply affected him and many of his queer friends. To attack gay clubs and bars is to devastate “the epicenter of queer communities,” Ranieri said.

Ranieri said he is pleased with Salovey’s email, which recognized the tragedy as a targeted attack against the LGBTQ Latinx community, but he expects the administration to take steps to ensure a safe campus for queer people of color in the coming semester.

It’s Yale’s job to keep gay blacks and Hispanics safe from the likes of the Orlando shooter, but not from Muslims.

The Divide: A portrait of Muslim Student Life at Yale:

Ishrat Mannan ’17 stood by a lonely table, pamphlets in hand. Her disinterested classmates streamed past her, lining up to attend the event of the day: a talk by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, titled “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West.” Even though the physical distance that separated them could not have been more than a few feet, Mannan found that she and her fellow Yalies might as well have been in different ideological worlds. In one, Islam was a symbol of peace and a way of life. In the other, it was a foreign relic of a bygone era, interesting to study but not to take seriously. “That huge divide,” recalls Mannan, “just felt really, really disheartening.” …

Acceptance can be hard in a place as secular as Yale.

Whether it is in Global Affairs or Modern Middle East Studies, Islam is usually taught from the specific viewpoint of radical violence and national security. It’s not that good classes about Islam don’t exist at Yale. Rather, it’s that students choose not to take them.

“[Classes about Islamic civilization] are not the popular, sexy classes that get high attendance,” says Bajwa. “Muslim civilization, Muslim history, intellectual history, social history, Muslim culture’s contributions to society, those are the classes that have anemic attendance.” …

I can’t imagine why.

Yale’s general academic attitude toward Islam is just the tip of the iceberg. If anything, it is reflective of subtle Islamophobia on parts of campus. This tension between the Muslim and non-Muslim Yale communities has manifested itself more than once in Yale’s recent history.

Seven years ago, the master of Branford College invited Kurt Westergaard, one of the 12 Danish cartoonists who drew offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, to a Master’s Tea. …

Then in 2012, the New York Police Department’s massive spying operation on at least 15 Muslim student organizations across the country came to light, and with it the revelation that Yale students had been the unwitting targets of extensive surveillance, suspected solely on the basis of their religion. The incident hit hard, but fortunately the Yale administration issued a statement of support for the Muslim community on campus, with former University Vice President Linda Lorimer telling the News that Yale “supports [the MSA’s] goals and aims and is grateful for its leadership on our campus,” adding that she had been “both inspired and educated by the MSA.”

I think that is the opposite of Islamaphobia on campus, but who can keep track of such detaisl?

Perhaps the toughest blow, though came last year, with the William F. Buckley Jr. Program’s invitation of Hirsi Ali, a well-known anti-Islamic speaker. …

Who is this Hirsi Ali? According to Wikipedia:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali … is a Dutch-American activist, author, and former politician of Somali origin. She is a leading opponent of female genital mutilation, and calls for a reformation of Islam.[1]

Ayaan was born in 1969[14] in Mogadishu, Somalia.[15] Her father, Hirsi Magan Isse, was a prominent member of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front and a leading figure in the Somalian Revolution. Shortly after she was born, her father was imprisoned owing to his opposition to the Siad Barre government.[16][17]

Hirsi Ali’s father had studied abroad and was opposed to female genital mutilation. But, while he was imprisoned, Hirsi Ali’s grandmother had the traditional procedure performed on five-year-old Hirsi Ali.[16]

After her father escaped from prison, he and the family left Somalia, going to Saudi Arabia and then to Ethiopia, before settling in Nairobi, Kenya, by 1980. There he established a comfortable upper-class life for them. Hirsi Ali attended the English-language Muslim Girls’ Secondary School. By the time she reached her teens, Saudi Arabia was funding religious education in numerous countries and its religious views were becoming influential among many Muslims. A charismatic religious teacher, trained under this aegis, joined Hirsi Ali’s school. She inspired the teenaged Ayaan, as well as some fellow students, to adopt the more rigorous Saudi Arabian interpretations of Islam, as opposed to the more relaxed versions then current in Somalia and Kenya. Hirsi Ali said later that she had long been impressed by the Qur’an and had lived “by the Book, for the Book” throughout her childhood.[18]

Yup, Hirsi Ali is clearly an ignorant, anti-Muslim bigot. Back to Yale:

What started off as a small event exploded into a raging firestorm that drew in the national media and numerous student organizations across campus. Arguments were made, op-eds were written, letters were sent, and before anyone knew it, Hirsi Ali’s event had somehow evolved into an epic showdown between protecting free speech and preserving a safe space. … “A lot of people have become very open about how disillusioned they are with Yale,” says Mannan…

Just as it is really hard to be black at Harvard, it’s really hard to be Muslim at Yale.

Money Talks: Yale recently decided to name one college after Anna Murray (“an intellectual, an activist and member of the clergy” and “a queer woman of color and civil rights activist) and one after Benjamin Franklin (due to one donor’s request,) and some students are unhappy:

But we shouldn’t honor one donor’s request that stands so wildly in contrast to the prevailing opinion and wishes of students on campus. … But it’s also true that Yale students today are unimpressed — and angry, saddened and deeply frustrated — with this naming decision. But one day, some of us will have wallets that rival Johnson’s, and will be in a position to make these types of decisions to steward and direct this institution. Yale is raising us to be its future alumni, and as future alumni, we can perhaps — as a whole — value the voices of students on campus over our own egos. We must hope for more decisions that look like Pauli Murray College, and much fewer that look like Franklin.

They should have named it after Hamilton.

Our Missed Opportunity:

Amidst the tears and painful conversations last semester, a note of optimism hung in the air. The March of Resilience in November affirmed a widespread commitment to, in University President Peter Salovey’s own words, “a better Yale.” Student activists delivered concrete policy demands to administrators, with some tangible results. Despite the University’s past failures to address the concerns of students and faculty of color, there was a glimmer of hope.

At around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, that hope was unceremoniously dashed.

Murray College, a symbol of progress and equality, will stand next to Franklin College, whose name seems to have carried a $250 million price tag.

The new college will be permanently engraved with the name of Benjamin Franklin, a slaveowner whose only affiliation with Yale is one honorary degree.

Ben Franklin dashed their hopes.

Yale will eliminate a title to which few were attached, and name one residential college after a queer woman of color. But in deciding to do so, they have paradoxically insulted the very students who have fought so hard for change. When paired with its calculated verdicts on Calhoun and Franklin College, the symbols of progress start to look rather unprogressive.

That’s because protesting over the names of colleges is actually really dumb.

Salovey: We cannot seek truth by hiding it:

Some students have expressed the view that their engagement and advocacy in the fall were wasted. Nothing could be further from the truth. We value your voices, and the initiatives we announced then and now reflect our respect for the student, alumni, faculty and staff who participated.

Initiatives for a more inclusive Yale, some already underway and others newly announced in November, are being implemented. We want to be held accountable as we fulfill important commitments to strengthen the academic enterprise, expand programs for students, improve institutional structures and increase representation of diversity on campus. …

Scholars and students across the University engage in these activities each day. The research and education mission of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale is a major participant in conversations on campus and across the nation. The new Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration will add new voices, on our campus and around the world. We must use our voices and our influence as students and as educators to share that knowledge with broader society and seek solutions, not just solace. …

Help us shape the historical study of names and memorials to be undertaken throughout the campus. The Committee on Art in Public Places requests student and faculty insights into what iconography we must create and change to better reflect the nature of our community and our history. Submit a proposal to the juried competition that will select a piece of art to defy the beliefs of John C. Calhoun by shining a light on equality and justice.

Let us end with Yale News’s Commencement 2016 Opinion:

But college is no easier at Yale than anywhere else. In these four years you have lost friends, flunked tests and cried in courtyards when you realized life was more confusing than an admissions brochure made it out to be. You have turned tears into change as you held your Yale accountable. You have called for racial justice, environmental change, mental health reform, sexual consent, international human rights and so much more. From New Haven to St. Louis, college voices like yours are shaping the course of this country. And in expressing your experience of isolation and oppression, you found a community and a home here. Perhaps this is the most important lesson you have taught us: None of us are alone.

Satanic Daycares, Pt. 3

So many people began reporting allegations that they or their children had been raped by a massive, underground Satanic conspiracy that the FBI got involved, investigated, and found a big fat nothing:

Kenneth Lanning, an FBI expert in the investigation of child sexual abuse,[151] has stated that pseudo-satanism may exist but there is “little or no evidence for … large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies”.[46]

Lanning produced a monograph in 1994 on SRA aimed at child protection authorities, which contained his opinion that despite hundreds of investigations no corroboration of SRA had been found. Following this report, several convictions based on SRA allegations were overturned and the defendants released.[54]

Satanists, rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and even people who claim that Satan told them to murder people all do, indeed, exist. But an organized conspiracy lurking under the local daycare does not.

Scale

In all, Wikipedia lists 19 major Satanic Daycare Scandals and mentions “over 100” cases total in the US; and 18 Ritual Satanic Abuse allegations, plus the “West Memphis Three” case.* In 1987, Geraldo Rivera claimed on national TV that, “Estimates are that there are over one million Satanists in [the United States and they are] linked in a highly organized, secretive network.”[37]

A 1996 survey investigating 12,000 cases of alleged SRA found that most of the victims were diagnosed with MPD (or the new acronym, DID) and/or PTSD. Also:

In a 1994 survey of more than 11,000 psychiatric and police workers throughout the US, conducted for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers investigated approximately 12,000 accusations of group cult sexual abuse [note: I bet these two surveys used the same database] based on satanic ritual. The survey found no substantiated reports of well-organized satanic rings of people who sexually abuse children, but did find incidents in which the ritualistic aspects were secondary to the abuse and were used to intimidate victims.[92] (bold mine) (Wikipedia)

Another study found that:

“Of a sample of 29 patients who presented with SRA, 22 were diagnosed with dissociative disorders including DID. The authors noted that 58% of the SRA claims appeared in the years following the Geraldo Rivera special on SRA and a further 34% following a workshop on SRA presented in the area; in only two patients were the memories elicited without the use of “questionable therapeutic practices for memory retrieval.”[114]

Many of these cases started with genuine accusations of abuse or molestation–the “West Memphis Three” case began with the discovery of the bodies of three murdered children, and I do not know whether the three teens convicted of the murder were innocent or not. What all of these cases have in common is that after the initial, perhaps true accusation was brought by or on behalf of the children, the adults–relatives, police, social workers, etc.–inflicted their own agendas on the cases, creating a massive, non-existent Satanic conspiracy. It was this misconduct by the police and social workers that resulted in so many convictions (including the West Memphis Three) to be overturned.

It is better to convict genuine criminals of the crimes they actually committed than to concoct a web of lies and then have the conviction overturned.

Prominent people involved:

Janet Reno, Country Walk Babysitting Service case: Janet Reno was promoted to Attorney General of the United States.

Fells Acre Day Care Center Preschool Trial: “Current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the chief prosecutor of both of the Amirault cases, responded to the articles with statements that “the children testified to being photographed and molested by acts that included penetration by objects” and “the implication … that the children’s allegations of abuse were tainted by improper interviewing is groundless and not true.”[19]”

From the Wall Street Journal, 2010: “Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was “formidable” and that she was entirely convinced “those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants.”  ”

One of the accusations brought in this case was that a 4 year old had been anally raped with a butcher knife which left no traces and did no damage.

Susan J. Kelly, Fells Acre. “As a pediatric nurse in the 1980s, Kelley interviewed many of the children involved in the Fells Acres Day Care Center sexual abuse case in Malden, Massachusetts.[6] Kelley’s interview techniques in that case later came under criticism from members of the media [6] and were called “improper” and “biased” by a Massachusetts appellate judge[7] after video tapes of her questioning of the children were played in court during the appeal of one of the defendants.[8][9]

“Kelley has specialized in the field of child abuse, since 1979 and has appeared as a featured expert on child abuse on national programs including the Today Show, NBC Evening News and CBS Morning News.[1]

The entire MA Supreme Judicial Court in 1993 and 1995.

Prosecutor Daniel Ford, Bernard Baran case: “Just a few years after Baran’s conviction, Ford was appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court, where he presides over criminal cases. He has also served on a committee that determines state rules for criminal procedure. As Silverglate points out, not only has Ford never been disciplined, he has never been publicly investigated, nor has the state considered the reforms that could cut down on future wrongful convictions.”

DA Gerard Downing: “former Berkshire County district attorney Gerard Downing, had a heart attack and died while shoveling snow. For years, Baran’s appellate attorneys had been asking Downing to turn over the interview tapes. He said he couldn’t find them. (He isn’t the only prosecutor who has had problems locating tapes of interviews with children that produced abuse charges, but later proved exculpatory.) After Downing died, Capeless found and turned over the tapes in a matter of months. Had Downing not had a heart attack, Baran could well have died in prison.” (source)

I did not find the names of the folks involved in the Wee Care Nursery School trial, but you can read the transcripts of the police’s awful, unethical interviews with the children here.

Prosecutor H.P. Williams, Little Rascals day care sexual abuse trial, 1989: Lost a primary election in 1994, then joined Twiford Law Firm, where he appears to be still employed.

Faith Chapel Church ritual abuse case: “Dale Akiki was born with Noonan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which left him with a concave chest, club feet, drooping eyelids and ears.[1] … The campaign against him was initiated by Jack and Mary Goodall, the former being the CEO of Jack in the Box, who stated that they found his physical appearance, coupled with his working contact with the children of the church in his capacity as a volunteer, “disturbing”. … The cases against him included no physical evidence, but allegations of satanic ritual abuse including testimony that he killed a giraffe and an elephant in front of the children, drank human blood in satanic rituals, and had abducted the children away from the church despite being unable to drive.[6]” …

“Prosecutor Mary Avery was the founder of the San Diego Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, to which Goodall was the largest financial contributor. She was brought in to prosecute at the Goodall’s insistence after experienced child abuse prosecutors Harry Elias and Sally Penso found no grounds to charge Akiki with any crimes due to the coercive investigation and suggestivity used by parents and therapists in the case.”

In other words, Goodall bought himself a prosecutor to put a deformed man in prison because he thought the guy looked icky. In this case, though, the jury didn’t buy it, perhaps because this was late in the game and the public was beginning to wise up.

Avery resigned from law in 1999. “A few months after the verdict, … Avery was re-assigned to less responsible duties. She subsequently resigned from the California State Bar.” (source)

Jack Goodall continued working for Jack in the Box until 2001, and is (was?) owner of the San Diego Padres.

Wenatchee child abuse prosecutions: “In 1995, forty-three adults were arrested on 29,726 charges of child sex abuse, involving 60 children … Eighteen went to prison. Child witnesses in the investigation, mostly from 9 to 13 years old, were often taken from their families and placed in foster care. Many later claimed that they were subjected to hours of frightening grilling and told that if they didn’t believe they had been sexually abused, then they were either “in denial”, lying, or had suppressed the memory of the abuse. … While several children recanted their testimony prior to trial, these recantations were ignored: “It’s well known that children are telling the truth when they say they’ve been abused. But [they] are usually lying when they deny it.” Wenatchee Child Protective Services (CPS) supervisor Tim Abbey stated.[8]

As of 2013, a Timothy Abbey was still listed as working for the Spokane, WA, DCFS. [PDF]

But the main player in the Wenatchee case was Lieutenant Robert Perez, who, frankly, sounds unhinged. Perez retired from police work in 1998 and is now deceased.

I’m going to stop here; you can read more over at Wikipedia.

As the Washington Post notes about the Satanic Daycare Scandal, “Most of those convictions have since been overturned, but for the most part, the law enforcement officials responsible for them were not only never disciplined, many were reelected or moved on to higher office, sometimes because of the notoriety they gained from those cases, which tended to be high-profile affairs.”

A prosecutor who wins cases gets promoted or at least keeps their job. A prosecutor who loses cases loses their job. An honest prosecutor, therefore, is more likely to get fired than one who suppresses evidence of the defendant’s guilt or is otherwise willing to act unethically. (The Wikipedia notes that the prosecutors in these cases learned pretty quickly to destroy the evidence–notes, recordings–of how they’d coerced the children into making accusations.)

Even if most prosecutors are truly well-intentioned, such a system rewards the unethical and punishes the honest.

There are many cases where a well-meaning person might make an honest mistake. The police failure to properly gather forensic evidence in the “West Memphis Three” murders, for example, may have been a mistake.

The Ritual Satanic Daycare scandals, however, involves cases of such mind-bogglingly absurd proportions that no such benefit of the doubt can be extended. If these people genuinely did not realize they were coercing children into lying in order to put innocent people in prison, then they are not mentally fit to manage their own affairs and should have been put into an institution for the intellectually disabled. If they are not mentally unfit, then they are monsters.

Some of them have been sued; none, as far as I know, has been imprisoned. The majority, however, faced no consequences at all for all of the lives they destroyed.

Back on the mental health front

In 1984, Connie, the psychotherapist behind Sybil, founded the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation.

By the time of the ISSMP&D’s annual conference in 1987, speakers were lecturing about the, “Treatment of victims of ritual abuse,” and “The Satanic Cult in Rural Mid-America.” The ISSMP&D’s big new idea, that cults were breaking children’s minds into pieces, was invoked by people who had joined Connie in founding the organization and the multiple personality movement. More than six hundred therapists were attending ISSMP&D’s conferences to learn how to ferret ritual abuse memories from their patients. (source)

(Hypnotize them and inject them with massive quantities of drugs. Then when they start hallucinating and screaming, claim you’ve recovered their “memories.”)

The 1980 DSM described Multiple Personality (the “disorder” would be appended later) as “extremely rare”:

Before Sybil, fewer then 200 people over the past two centuries had been identified in Western medical literature with conditions resembling MPD. By 1984, only 4 years after the condition had been listed in the DSM, an ISSMP&D leader was suggesting that 25,000 Americans suffered from it. Another leader estimated that 3 percent of the population had MPD–over seven million people.

The massive increase in cases due in part to relaxed standards for diagnosis–alters were no longer required to be “complex”–and in part due to obvious idiocy:

It became common for MPD sufferers to possess scores, even hundreds, of alters (one was reputed to have 4,500.) Not all were human; some weren’t even alive. Patients reported gorillas and lobsters, as well as unicorns, angels, and–if the alters were immobile and voiceless–trees. Supernatural-sounding claim sprang up. A person with MPD, it was said, could have one alter with blue eyes and another with brown eyes. Such a person could be diabetic but have a personality whose insulin levels were normal. Even blood type could change. …

Gloria Steinem publishd an inspirational book for women, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, which lauded multiple personalities as a gift. MPD women, Steinem wrote, could learn many foreign languages. Not only that, they could “have two or even three menstrual cycles in the same body.”

OW. That feeling you are having is like an ice cream headache, only due to stupidity instead of cold.

(How the fuck does anyone respect this woman? Or take any of this shit seriously?)

MPD is no longer in the DSM (though a new diagnosis, Dissociative Identity Disorder, is) due to the profession deciding to strategically distance itself from the diagnosis after a bunch of shrinks got sued for malpractice:

In 1996, a church in Missouri agreed to pay $1 million to a woman who said that under the guidance of a church counselor, she came to believe that her father had raped her, got her pregnant and performed a coat-hanger abortion — when in fact, she was still a virgin and her father had had a vasectomy. And in August, a jury awarded $5.8 million to a woman in Houston who said her psychotherapist had implanted memories of murder, satanism and cannibalism.

The Schwiderskis sued two dozen people for $35 million after Kathryn Schwiderski, seeking help for depression, was accused by her therapist of being a member of a Satanic cult who had participated in cannibalism, human sacrifice, kidnapping, murder, torture, etc. Child Protective Services investigated charges Kathryn had harmed her children (and found nothing,) and she was institutionalized in a ward full of other people her shrink had also diagnosed with MPD due to Satanism. The state later closed that institution for abusing the patients, censoring their communication with the outside world, and refusing to discharge patients. (source)

Also about this time, insurance companies got wise and stopped paying for multi-year (or multi-decade) hospitalizations for depressed people, which really yanked the plug on the whole thing.

A few people (and fictional characters) still claim to have DID. Obviously this is bullshit; aside from a very few truly psychotic people, MPD (and DID) have never existed. The ISSMP&D is still in business (though it changed its name to ISSTD,) diagnosing patients and willfully ignoring the fact that all available evidence points to MPD and recovered memories being an enormous crock of shit inflicted upon patients by unethical shrinks.

In a sane world, the Satanic Daycare Scandal would have never happened.

Satanic Daycare Scandal, part 2

Effects

Now, you might think that people would be cautious about accepting absurd claims coming from actually diagnosed, mentally-ill people receiving psychiatric treatment, but personal experience suggests that they don’t. Combine this with the feminist claim that you must always believe and support the victim and never question their claims, and you have the ingredients for thousands of destroyed lives.

Sybil launched a good two decades of psychiatrists using hypnosis to convince anxious or depressed women that they actually have a dozen or two personalities as a result of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse or other trauma. With the publication of “Michelle Remembers,” these patients became instant sources of repressed evidence of a world-wide Satanic child-torturing conspiracy. For example, as the NY Times reports:

While undergoing psychiatric therapy at a Chicago hospital from 1986 to 1992, Patricia Burgus says, she was convinced by doctors that she had memories of being part of a satanic cult, being sexually abused by numerous men and abusing her own two sons.

She says that hypnosis and other treatments caused her to believe she remembered cannibalizing people, so much so that her husband brought in a hamburger from a family picnic and therapists agreed to test the meat to see if it was human. …

Mrs. Burgus, 41, said in an interview that she was referred to the hospitals by therapists in her hometown of Des Moines who had been treating her for what she describes as a severe post-partum depression. She said she received a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and was treated with various medications, hypnosis and was occasionally kept in leather restraints during six years of treatment, two and a half years as an inpatient. She said her children were hospitalized because doctors believed her disorder might be genetic.

As it turns out, if you make enough claims about an on-going, massive child-torture and rape conspiracy, sooner or later the police get involved.

In 1980, Becky McCuan, a little girl living in Kern County, California, was actually molested by her grandfather. Her mother’s step-mother, Mary Ann Barbour, became so distressed by her conviction that Becky’s parents weren’t doing enough to protect her that she had a psychotic breakdown and ended up in the mental hospital. [Note: the quotes in this section come from the Religious Tolerance link, but see also “A Modern Witch Hunt,” “Kern Case that Brought 1,000 year Sentences Thrown Out,” and the relevant Wikipdia article. I recommend reading more about the case just to get the full flavor of how horribly it was handled.]

The step-grandmother made numerous bizarre accusations against the parents, leading social workers to put the two step-grandchildren into her custody and begin investigating the parents for being part of a “sex-ring.”

After being repeatedly questioned by the police over many months, the children claimed that they had been:

1. Hung from ceiling hooks and beaten with belts

2. Rented to strangers in motels and forced to act in “kiddy-porn” movies,

3. Abused by a sex ring involving their grandparents, their parents, their father’s brothers, friends of their parents, (Scott and Brenda Kniffen,) the social worker who did the inspection, a co-worker of their father, and two unnamed child welfare workers,

4. And they had witnessed infants murdered and buried in a Satanic ritual.

They led the FBI to the place where the bodies were supposed to be buried, but not only were not corpses found, there wasn’t even evidence that the dirt had been disturbed (ie, dug up and filled back in.) (Archaeologists are amazingly good at figuring out if dirt has been disturbed, which is why we can tell where thousand-year old ditches and post-holes were buried. The police, we may assume, are similarly skilled at finding hastily dug graves.)

In fact, no evidence was ever found to support the childrens’ allegations, and the children themselves told their parents’ lawyers that they only accused their uncle because their grandmother told them to.

The police then brought in Scott and Brenda Kniffen’s kids; in order to get the accusations they wanted, the children:

were repeatedly and suggestively interrogated. The interviewers would describe a sex act and then ask the child to confirm or deny that it happened. When questioned separately, each was told (falsely) that their brother had disclosed abuse by both the parents and the rest of the sex-ring. Brian and Brandon claim that they were yelled at and terrorized by the interrogators. They were told that they could go home again if they testified about the abuse. …

Brian Kniffen later recanted, and said that he had been told what to say at the trial and had been promised that he could be with his parents again if he cooperated. His brother Brandon has also recanted. They have stated that the abuse never occurred and that they were led and coerced to testify as they did.

Accounts of the case claim that the police were just too ignorant to realize that you can get a small child to confess to just about anything this way. I don’t believe this for an instant, both because these kinds of interrogations were illegal at the time for adults, and because, the memories small children, no matter how honest, are not all that reliable even under good circumstances.

The McCuan’s and Kniffens were convicted and given combined sentences of over 1,000 years in prison.

From here, the number of cases ballooned–eventually 60 children were interrogated, resulting in convictions against 39 people (out of 80 accused) for ritual Satanic abuse and murder, including the sacrifices of 29 infants. All of the cases involved the same social workers, child abuse coordinators, deputy sheriffs and district attorney, Ed Jagels.

Eventually the children also began accusing the social workers, deputy sheriffs, and deputy district attorneys of ritual Satanic abuse, at which point the criminal cases all suddenly, mysteriously stopped.

Actually, the cases probably stopped because Attorney General of California started investigating the DA after the FBI couldn’t find the dead babies Becky and her sister claimed they had seen sacrificed and buried, and the DA was forced to admit that the whole infant sacrifice story was fake.

Eventually–20 years later–pretty much the entire case was overturned due to gross police misconduct. All but one of the people who hadn’t already died in prison or completed their sentences have been released.

(Showing that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day, one of the guys they imprisoned was a previously-convicted child molester, and after being released, he was re-arrested for molesting three children. Had the prosecution not attempted to charge 79 other, probably totally innocent people of ritual Satanic abuse at the same time, he probably would not have been released.)

 

The District Attorney who prosecuted all of these cases, Ed Jagels, once sent a man to prison for 25 years for stealing <$1 worth of donuts. Despite the courts overturning 25 of his convictions due to gross mishandling of the case and admissions that much of the “evidence” was made up, he remained adamant that the convictions were correct.

For his “hard on crime” and anti-child abuse stances, the people of Kern County re-elected him 6 times, until he retired in 2006.

The assistant DA, Andrew Gindes, died in 2010 after a “long illness.” Brian Kniffen, now grown up, said of Gindes, “He would slam books down, yell when we wouldn’t cooperated. He was demanding and scared us and wouldn’t take no for an answer…I wish I could talk to him now and ask him… why, why did he do that to me?”

Gindes worked in law for 30 years, though I have yet to figure out how much of that was after the trials.

After four of the now-grown children recanted their testimony and told the court that they’d been forced to lie 20 years before, a third prosecutor, Lisa Green, told the judge, “These kids were telling the truth back then and they are not for whatever reason today.”

Lisa Green is still employed as a Kern County District Attorney:

Lisa Green, a native of Buffalo, New York, graduated from Fresno State University in 1980 and attended the University of San Diego Law School, graduating in 1983. … She joined the Kern County District Attorney’s Office as a law clerk in 1983 and became a Deputy District Attorney upon passing the Bar exam in 1983. She has prosecuted over 110 felony trials, the majority of those cases involving homicides and sexual assaults. Mrs. Green was promoted to Supervising Deputy District Attorney in 2001 and in 2009 she was promoted to Chief Deputy District Attorney. In 2010 she was elected District Attorney, the first woman in Kern County to hold that position.

 

The McMartin Preschool Trial, 1984-1990, was one of the longest and most expensive–$15 million–criminal trials in US history. Prosecuted by Ira Reiner, who also prosecuted actual serial murderer and avowed Satanist Ricardo (Richard) Ramirez.

While we are here, I’m just going to shoe-horn in the case of Adolfo Constanzo, the Florida-born son of a Cuban immigrant who became a Voodoo cult leader after apprenticing under a Miami-based Palo Sorcerer. Palo, from the Congo basin, involves ritual human sacrifice, and Constanzo was no exception. He moved to Mexico and murdered at least 20 people for his magic rituals (the local drug cartels used his “potions” to aid their operations.) Eventually the police caught up with him and he committed suicide.

Note that it is actually really hard to keep ritual murders a secret for very long–sooner or later, the cops find the bodies and you end up on Wikipedia. The idea of a massive, secret, multi-generational conspiracy torturing and murdering children that no one noticed until 1980 is simply absurd.

Highlights of the McMartin case: After a preschooler had trouble pooping, his mom accused daycare workers of sodomy, bestiality, drilling “a child under the arms” and flying through the air. The mom was soon hospitalized for acute, paranoid schizophrenia, and died of chronic alcoholism before the criminal trial actually began.

Pazder and Michelle were flown in to meet with parents Several hundred children were coercively interviewed, resulting in bizarre accusations that they’d been abused by Chuck Norris and “flushed down toilets” to secret rooms under the preschool where the ritual abuse happened.

No one was ever convicted, and all charges were eventually dropped.

One of the prosecutors, Glenn Stevens, nobly left the case when he realized it was all dreamed up by a mentally ill woman. Stevens was forced to resign from the DA’s office when the state attorney general and the Los Angeles city attorney began considering criminal charges against him for pointing out their massive mis-handling of the case.

Thus the wages of honesty.

The guilty parties in this case were “Jane Hoag, the detective who investigated the complaints; Kee MacFarlane, the social worker who interviewed the children; Robert Philibosian, the district attorney; and Wayne Satz, the television reporter who first reported the case, and Lael Rubin, the prosecutor.[1]”

Some more information on them, hopefully correct. Scroll down.

Philibosian is still “at council” at the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.[3]

MacFarlane specialized in getting children to pretend they’d been sexually abused in order to convince them that they’d been been raped. According to Wikipedia, she testified before Congress that, “she believed there was an organized, nationwide conspiracy of individuals and “orthodox satanic groups” sexually abusing children, although she never presented evidence of who any of the individuals are nor proof of any orthodox satanic groups.[12]”

As of 2000, Lael Rubin was still working for the LA county DA’s office.

It’s getting late, so To Be Continued…

 

How to decrease defection and encourage cooperation?

As I was saying yesterday, functional societies are places where people cooperate rather than defect (prisoner’s dilemma style), but now people are trying to advance their own personal interests by accusing others of defecting–that is, in effect, defecting against them. Our particular class and racial dynamics have exacerbated–or perhaps caused–this dynamic.

So how to change things? A few thoughts:

1. Government has the most obvious power to curb defection and increase cooperation, and indeed, this should probably be thought of as one of the prime functions of government. All societies require cooperation merely to exist, and more cooperation => more society.

Libertarianism has many fine points in its theory, but it deals poorly with multipolar traps. In cases where someone can profit themselves by being a free rider (defecting,) chances are they will–and they will pass on this advantage to their children, until you have a nation of cheaters. I remember an example from my own school days: A group of farmers gets together one year to higher a crop-dusting plane, and they all enjoy a larger harvest as a result. But the next year, the guy with the field in the middle of the area being dusted decides not to pay in. His field gets dusted anyway, just because it’s impossible not to dust it in the process, and so he gets all of the rewards of crop dusting without paying the price.

The government effectively solves this problem by eliminating the possibility of being a free rider. Everyone now has to pay a tax that goes to hire the annual crop-dusting plane, and you must pay your taxes or go to jail.

2. The vague–or not so vague!–sense that others are defecting while you are cooperating may just be instinctual. Therefore, it is probably in the interests of any government to put in place some kind of measures to make sure people aren’t defecting and to reassure people about this.

However, it is critical that such systems not get turned into further vehicles for defection.

For example, many (if not most) of the lawsuits corporations lodge against each other are totally bogus and exist for the sole purposes of A. inconveniencing the opposition and B. benefiting the lawyers. Millions upon million of dollars and hours of human labor are poured each year into activities that only serve to mutually weaken corporations.

In lawsuits over patents that actually get all the way to court, to give a sub-example, it is extremely common for the patent itself to simply get thrown out on the grounds that it is a bad patent that should have never been granted. (I’ve seen estimates between 25% and 77%.) In many of these lawsuits, a company will just scatter-shot sue a dozen or two different companies all at once over a clearly bogus patent, in the hopes that the sued companies will cut their losses and settle out of court. There are even businesses whose entire model is just to buy crappy old patents companies don’t want anymore before they expire and then sue everyone in sight. It’s called “patent trolling.”

Assuming we want patents to keep existing, then people have to be able to sue others for infringement, but patent trolls need to be shut down. The obvious solution here is to identify patterns of patent troll behavior and then punish the trolls for it. First, once a lawsuit has been filed, don’t allow the parties to settle out of court. They must go before the judge/jury. Second, companies that lose due to patent invalidation must pay the sued-party’s legal costs.

I could go on, but people who are actually trained in legal matters can do a far better job of recommending fixes to the patent system than I.

To make another example: there’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about whether or not the police are killing and imprisoning black people at higher rates than whites. The police should be (and be perceived as) trustworthy. This is a matter that the government should solve–figure out who is actually doing the defecting, publicize the results, and then do some trust-building between the police and their communities.

3. If white Yale professors think Yale needs fewer white professors and more black ones, the easiest way for them to demonstrate that they are not defecting against other white professors (who might otherwise receive those spots) is to give up their own professorships in order to make room for black candidates. Alternatively, they could just give up their paychecks to provide funding for the new positions.

4. People seem most willing to cooperate when they are all ethnically similar. Not only are they surrounded by people who are obviously behaving the same as they are, thus reducing concern about misbehavior, they have a genetic interest in cooperating. Defecting against your children or your siblings is a bad strategy in the genetic sense, because fewer copies of your genes end up existing, so people who defect against their own families tend to weed themselves out of the gene pool, leaving behind people who are good at cooperating with their kin.

Japan is an example of a society that is extremely ethnically homogenous. Just look at their little section in the graph at the top of the blog! (They’re on the far right.) Compare the smooth transition from yellow to cream with the jagged lines of the Uzbeks or the Bedouins. And the spirit of public-minded cooperation in Japan is extremely strong. The Japanese are clean, helpful, polite, and commit vanishingly little crime.

By contrast, high levels of ethnic diversity are correlated with high levels of violence, civil war, etc. in countries. There are a few exceptions to this rule, in countries that are so shitty that no one wants to move there, like Haiti. But in general, where people see themselves as ethnically different from their neighbors, they tend to defect on their neighbors.

Hartshorn ran a computer simulation of ethnic cooperation and defection strategies, with colored tiles on a board randomly assigned to cooperate or defect with tiles of their own color and to cooperate or defect with tiles of different colors. (4 different strategies in all.) In every simulation, the tiles that cooperated with their own colors and defected on other colors eventually took over the entire board.

So if two ethnic groups are living in close proximity, there’s a good chance that A. one or both of them will in fact be defecting, B. The group that defects more will actually benefit itself at the expense of the other, thus “winning”; and C. that both groups will become hyper paranoid about watching the other group for possibilities of defection, even if it isn’t happening. This is how wars get started.

The obvious answer to ethnic conflict is don’t have ethnic conflict. Only let people into your country who you would be willing to marry (in the hypothetical sense, not the literal,) and in such numbers that you can absorb them. You might also be able to let in people who are similar enough in behavior that you don’t really notice that they are ethnically different–for example, the Mormons are polytheists who tend to marry other Mormons, but they are generally polite, clean, hardworking, and easy enough to get along with. You could live next door to a Mormon and never even notice.

If the groups in a country do not effectively merge, you end up with two separate groups in one nation, which more often than not results in a bunch of people living in ghettos, and then you are very likely to fall into the mutual-defection trap. If having two (or more) separate groups in your country is inevitable (say, because they’re already there,) then I see two possibilities: A. try very hard to get everyone to think of each other as brothers and sisters in a metaphorical sense, perhaps through national holidays or forced conscription; or B. Give each group a bit of space so that they have fewer opportunities to defect on each other, and don’t set up systems that make people think defection is happening. Letting the Mormons live in Utah, for example, solved the problem of everyone thinking Mormons were weirdos back in the 1800s; letting the Amish be basically self-contained keeps them from getting into too much conflict with their neighbors today. (I think. I don’t have much experience with the Amish.)

Federalism was thought up as a way to let different people in different places effectively manage their own affairs. This system requires, however, that people actually abide by it. If we all agree that each community can educate its own children as it sees fit, and then one community decides it doesn’t have enough money for its schools, then the other communities have to be able to withstand the pressure to bail it out. Once you start bailing out other communities, they aren’t independent communities anymore but your wards, and they have to start abiding by your rules just as children obey their parents, or else we’re back to defection.

(Obviously helping each other out in times of environmental emergency may be perfectly reasonable.)

 

cathedral round up #2

In the WTF file: Ex-Harvard Student Brittany Smith Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

“On May 18, 2009, just two weeks before Smith’s graduation from Harvard, her boyfriend Copney and two accomplices shot and killed Cosby in the basement of Kirkland’s J entryway.

“An aspiring songwriter from New York City who frequently visited Smith and stayed in her room, Copney was convicted of felony murder of the first degree at the conclusion of his trial in April. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. …

“A senior in Lowell House at the time, Smith watched Jiggetts load the gun in her room before the men brought Cosby to Kirkland House to arrange the drug rip. Smith gave Copney and his accomplices her Harvard ID to gain access to the Kirkland basement, where Cosby was shot. Cosby later died from a bullet wound to his abdomen.

“Upon Copney’s return from Cosby’s shooting, Smith hid the gun in her blockmate’s room in a bag under her bed. She then called a taxi to help with the men’s getaway to South Station, where the four boarded a bus to New York. Smith returned to Harvard the next day.”

According to HuffPo,

“Prosecutors said Cosby, 21, was shot during an attempted robbery by Smith’s former boyfriend, Jabrai Jordan Copney, and two other New York City men.”

Harvard, is this the kind of student you’ve sunk to admitting?

In a related matter, Education Department Dismisses Admissions Complaint:

“The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint filed against Harvard this spring by 64 Asian-American groups accusing the University of discriminating based on race in its admissions practices.

“The complaint, filed in May, accused the University of unfairly denying admission to highly qualified Asian-American students while admitting similar applicants of other races.”

Everyone knows they do it, but they still get away with denying it. (A similar lawsuit is ongoing, though.)

Also, via iSteve: MIT shits on one of its minority groups, white men:

“The MIT Physics Department is committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty and student populations to improve our excellence and to better serve the society that supports our work.”

“Like in many physics departments, white males are over-represented in our student and faculty populations.  There are several reasons to pursue change, seeking to increase the number of women and under-represented minorities in our community:”

Make that two minority groups: “Under-represented minorities” is code for “Piano-playing Asians need not apply. We have enough of you already.”

The whole thing is a painful ball of nonsense and lies. Putting more of group X, Y, or Z into the MIT physics department has zero effect on whether or not the department serves the society that supports its work. For that matter, who the hell do you think supports the MIT physics department? Asian men, white men, and Jewish men. THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT SUPPORT YOU. Don’t shit on them.

When I need some physics, maybe a quark proven to exist or a new state of matter created, do I care the race or gender of the physicist? No! I just want them to prove that quarks exist and create new states of matter.

MIT, stop hurting my soul.

Meanwhile, Yale Law’s professors have been focusing on police:

Law professor Tracey Meares is interviewed about Sandra Bland in Sandra Bland Video Shows An Argument With Police Officer:

“TRACEY MEARES: It’s a pretty good example of a police officer. He’s angry because she said no.

“KASTE: Tracey Meares is a professor at Yale Law. She was also on President Obama’s police reform task force. She’s actually surprised by how well this traffic stop went at first. But the cigarette was the turning point. Meares says it looked like a case of contempt of cop. That’s when a police officer tries to reassert authority in the face of disrespect. And she says it’s not justified.

“MEARES: Given that he is a police officer with the power to take her life that it’s incumbent on him to make the first move and maybe tolerate a little bit more disrespect.”

and in State Child Advocate; Policing in the 21st Century:

“Also, we’ll sit down with a Yale Law professor who is on President Obama’s task force examining policing, as America grapples with a series of deaths of African Americans after confrontations with police.”

(The rest of the interview is audio, so you’ll have to listen to it yourself.)

Professor Wishnie is quoted in, “Lynch visits Connecticut in stop on community policing tour“:

“Despite the improvements, East Haven police still have work to do, including fulfilling the remaining requirements in the consent decree, said Michael Wishnie, a Yale Law School professor who represented the plaintiffs in the civil rights lawsuit.

“The kinds of structural racism and practices that have long existed in East Haven take a long time to change,” Wishnie said. “I think it’s far too soon to claim victory.”

San Francisco slaying case likely would have played out differently in Connecticut:

“In Connecticut, California slaying suspect Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez would have been held for pickup by Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials only if he had a violent felony in his background or there was a court order in the case. …

In February 2013, as part of a settlement with a legal clinic at the Yale Law School, the Connecticut Department of Correction said it would review each request on a case-by-case basis.

It agreed to hand over the person if they already were the subject of a removal order; they were gang members or part of an anti-terrorism database; of if they had been convicted of a felony. This was codified into statute as part of the Connecticut Trust Act. …

“Under the revised policy, the Connecticut Department of Correction will no longer enforce ICE detainer requests and Administrative warrants solely on the basis of a final order of deportation or removal, unless accompanied by a judicial warrant, or past criminal conviction unless it’s for a violent felony,” Commissioner Scott Semple wrote in a memo to ICE.

Maybe I’m just too tired, but I can’t figure out what this article is trying to say about the difference between Conn and CA law.

Could One Soldier Derail ISIS War?

“President Barack Obama’s war against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq currently is illegal, many scholars say, and as the one-year mark for U.S. intervention approaches one constitutional law expert has an idea for how to prove it in court.

“Yale University law professor Bruce Ackerman, like other critics of the war’s current legal grounding, says Obama is violating the War Powers Resolution by committing the U.S. military to hostilities without specific authorization from Congress.

“It’s historically been tough to establish standing to make such claims in court. But Ackerman has a plan.  …”

What was that about chicken butts?

Robotics and the Law: When software can harm you sounds like an interesting article, but I can’t read it because UW Today’s website is shitty. However, I did make it through to How Makerspaces Can Be Accessible to People with Disabilities:

“The effort is part of a broader National Science Foundation-funded AccessEngineering initiative, which supports students with disabilities in pursuing engineering careers and promotes accessible and universal design in engineering departments and courses.

“A lot of universities are creating these more casual prototyping spaces where students can have more of a DIY experience, as an alternative to a traditional machine shop,” said AccessEngineering co-principal investigator Kat Steele, a UW assistant professor of mechanical engineering whose Human Ability & Engineering Lab focuses on developing tools for people with cerebral palsy, stroke and other movement disorders.

“Because this is a big growth area for engineering schools, we wanted to help with some best practices and guidelines so that as these new spaces are being created they can be accessible to the widest group possible.”

Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain damage, and somewhere around 30-50% of sufferers are also intellectually disabled. While I know personally a very capable engineer who must use a wheelchair, severely disabled people, on the whole, tend to have things wrong with them that also impact their brains. Making cerebral palsy accessible labs will catch only a very small number of geniuses who happen to have cerebral palsy; by contrast, just spending the same money to hire people who have already graduated with STEM degrees and can’t find jobs would do far more to create more science in the world. Instead of actually hiring scientists to do research, universities want to throw buckets of money at specific identity groups just to look good.

Just in case you thought Harvard’s business was educating students: Harvard’s Controversial Romanian Forest Sold to Ikea Group:

“The move distances Harvard from a corruption case involving one of the contractors who helped oversee the land, and comes shortly after a change in leadership at Harvard Management Company, which invests the University’s $35.9 billion endowment. …

“HMC began purchasing timberland in 1997. It invested heavily in timber under the guidance of then-President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo, who resigned in 2014 after a tumultuous six-year stint as the head manager of Harvard’s endowment. Her replacement, Stephen Blyth, comes from a background in public markets and faces high expectations to bring Harvard back to its pre-recession dominance in investment returns.”

After Federal Feedback, Law School Implements New Title IX Standards:

“Unlike the procedures for students at other parts of the University, Law School students involved in cases of alleged sexual harassment will now be guaranteed access to an attorney, paid for by the Law School, during the different stages of a case. After professional investigators examine a case, a separate adjudicatory panel, whose members are not affiliated with Harvard, will determine guilt, potentially after a hearing. A school-specific Title IX committee, staffed by tenured professors, will oversee the process for investigating and adjudicating cases of alleged sexual misconduct between Law School students. …

“The apparent implementation of the school’s procedures marks the close of a lobbying process that Law School professors, unhappy with Harvard’s new approach to Title IX, began last year. Harvard’s new policy and procedures, unveiled last July, altered its new definition of sexual harassment and centralized its process for handling cases, a fact administrators lauded as a positive step forward. It also adopted the preponderance of the evidence standard for determining guilt.

“But quickly afterward, both in closed-door meetings with top University officials and in an open letter published in The Boston Globe, several Law School professors pushed back. They charged that the University’s framework was biased against the accused and did not offer adequate due process. …

“The discord between the Law School and central administrators has also made some Law professors increasingly wary of centralized administrative rule at Harvard.”

This is perhaps an excessive level of formality given A. the number of people who get raped at HLS every year, and B. the fact that rape is already illegal under completely normal criminal laws, so I don’t see any reason why universities should set themselves up as parallel court systems in the first place instead, but at least HLS appears to be holding back from the full madness.

And over at the Harvard Crimson, we get some student opinions:

A Police Officer’s Bullet, The People’s Ballot

“Today, Ferguson, Missouri will be holding its first city council elections since Michael Brown was shot and killed last August. The city of Ferguson has been around for 121 years; during those first 120 years, only three black candidates ran for city council. This year, there are four black candidates for the Ferguson city council. This is no coincidence. Many of those in Ferguson realize that to prevent the next police officer’s bullet from killing another unarmed, black teenager, they need the ballot.

Yet, fresh off the heels of the 2014 midterm elections, which saw the lowest voter turnout since World War II, I am still worried. I am worried that our generation is losing sight of what it means to even have the right to vote. I am worried that not enough young people, people of color, and people who care about social justice are participating in the political process.”

Written before Trump came on the scene: A Threat to Moderation: Cruz’s candidacy will only drive Republican candidates further right

“It is difficult to believe that the Republican Party will win a presidential election in the near future when Tea Party candidates like Ted Cruz—whose announcement speech included numerous religious references and alluded to repealing the Affordable Care Act and eliminating the Internal Revenue Service—run in the primaries and pull the eventual nominee into supporting more ideologically extreme platforms.”

Yup, Ted Cruz sure did turn out to be the right-wing ideologue for liberals to fear.