Category: Society

Evolving With Big Tech: Facebook’s New Campaign Should Have Free Speech Advocates Nervous

In 1964, Stanley Kubrick released a dark comedy classic titled “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” The title captured the absurdity of getting people to embrace the concept of weapons of mass destruction. The movie came to mind recently with the public campaign of Facebook calling for people to change her attitudes about the Internet and rethink issues like “content modification” – the new Orwellian term for censorship. Continue reading “Evolving With Big Tech: Facebook’s New Campaign Should Have Free Speech Advocates Nervous”

Police Groups Ask The University of Minnesota To Investigate Student’s Call To Make Life “Hell” For Officers

Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and the Law Enforcement Labor Services has taken the unusual (if not unprecedented) step of asking the University of Minnesota to investigate a student for her call to make the lives of campus police a living “hell.” In a video conference captured on video, student Lauren Meyers is caught making the statements in her capacity as Chief Financial Officer of the Minnesota Student Association Executive Board. Continue reading “Police Groups Ask The University of Minnesota To Investigate Student’s Call To Make Life “Hell” For Officers”

Georgetown Professor Under Fire For Reading The “N-Word” In A Class On Free Speech and Racism

We have been discussing professors who have been investigated or sanctioned for the use of the “n-word” in classes or tests at Duquesne, John Marshall, Augsberg, Chicago, DePaul, Princeton, Kansas, and other schools. According to The Hoya, we can now add Georgetown as after Professor Michele Swers read the words of a Ku Klux Klan leader in her “U.S. Political Systems” class, and “did not censor the racial epithet.” What is notable in this case is that the complaint against Professor Swers suggests that she would have the protection of free speech and academic freedom if she were black but that no white person may use or read the word in any context for any purpose.

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Barnard Professor Triggers Free Speech Controversy After Writing About “Detonating” and Gassing White People

A book by a Barnard College English instructor named Ben Philippe has caused a firestorm due to his depiction of a fantasy of gassing white people.  The book passage has led some to demand review from the college for possible discipline or termination. As will come as no surprise to many on this blog, I believe such writing should be protected as a matter of free speech and academic freedom.  The incident does however raise another case highlighting the uncertain or conflicting treatment given such writings by universities. It is doubtful that even a fictional account discussing the gassing of minorities would have resulted in anything other than a rapid suspension and ultimate termination in many universities. That conflicting standard should also be a concern for free speech and academic freedom. Continue reading “Barnard Professor Triggers Free Speech Controversy After Writing About “Detonating” and Gassing White People”

The Difficult Realities Of Lethal Force

Below is my column in the Hill on the spate of recent police shootings and the resulting calls for reforms and criminal charges.  Two new incidents have occurred in the last week and both raise serious questions that must be answered on the use of lethal force.  In North Carolina, Andrew Brown Jr., 42, was shot and killed during execution of an arrest warrant. He was reportedly shot in the back while trying to flee but no gun was found. In Virginia, Isaiah Brown, 32, was shot more than six times by a deputy who appears to have thought that a cellphone was a gun.  The officers had previously given Brown a ride home and they were later called back to the home due to a disagreement. The tape shows Brown saying that he was going to kill his brother with a gun, but Brown told the 911 operator that he did not have a gun. These and the prior cases capture the dangerously uncertain and chaotic context of such cases.  Both Brown cases raise serious questions that need to be answered on the use of lethal force.

Here is the column:

Continue reading “The Difficult Realities Of Lethal Force”

This Carriage does it Justice: My New and Bizarre Typewriter

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

It had been a while since my latest purchase of strange technology pieces, the most recent being a telephone having both a rotary dial and a touch-tone pad. But the need and a very compelling price demanded this latest foray–a 1950’s (?) vintage Royal typewriter with a massive, twenty-inch-wide carriage.

There is no escapement from this 39 pound lexi-beast; cf. at 7 pounds a Remington Personal-Riter manual typewriter. It can in only one and a half lines compose the entirety of the Preamble to the United States Constitution, and still have room for two invocations of The Quick Brown Fox to complete the second line.

Continue reading “This Carriage does it Justice: My New and Bizarre Typewriter”

“State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth”: House Democrats Set To Approve D.C. As The 51st State

The House Democrats, with the support of President Joe Biden, are set to vote to approve the establishment of the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” as our 51st state today. I had testified and written about D.C. statehood for decades and, as noted in a recent column, I believe that the best interests of both the country and the district residents is found in retrocession, not statehood. Continue reading ““State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth”: House Democrats Set To Approve D.C. As The 51st State”

Vaccine Lines and Deplaning Airliners: Similar Strategies

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Last Sunday afternoon I happened to be at my home-office looking over Professor Turley’s website. He was updating his then recently posted Easter Sunday article and read the following change:

“We went to the open vaccination location but it had a three block line that barely moved with hundreds of people. We finally bailed rather than spend hours in line on Easter Sunday but hope to get the family vaccinated soon.”

I had to ponder how I might deal with the upcoming vaccination event, that I might be better served in adopting a more relaxed approach, such as how and why I avoid the rush to exit an airliner having just arrived at the gate.

Continue reading “Vaccine Lines and Deplaning Airliners: Similar Strategies”

JAMA Editor Fired After Questioning Structural Racism

We have been discussing efforts to fire professors who voice dissenting views on various issues including an effort to oust a leading economist from the University of Chicago as well as a leading linguistics professor at Harvard and a literature professor at Penn. The cancel culture has also extended to museums, book publishers, and other forums for intellectual exchanges. Now the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has fired podcast host and deputy editor Dr. Edward Livingston, who raised his own concerns and doubts in a podcast over claims of structural racism. Continue reading “JAMA Editor Fired After Questioning Structural Racism”

Happy Easter!!!!

I wanted to send my best wishes everyone celebrating the holiday today. Last year, I wrote about “having the best Easter in the worst of times” due to the pandemic.  Notably, today the family is getting vaccinated with the first open vaccine site in Fairfax.  Like the holiday itself, it is a sign of hope and renewal. Last year, I had not seen my eldest son Ben (working at a hospital) for weeks at the height of the pandemic and I spent the holiday with caregivers and my mother in hospice in Chicago. I spent weeks with my Mom in my hometown. She then rallied and I am home with my family in McLean for this holiday.

Continue reading “Happy Easter!!!!”

Wisconsin Supreme Court Finds Wisconsin Governor Acted Unlawfully On Mask Mandate

The Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from issuing any new public health emergency orders to mandate face masks. In a 4-3 decision that broke along ideological lines, the conservative majority found that Evers lacked authority for his order. It is similar to a ruling rejecting orders by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  What was most striking was the dissenting opinion from the three liberal justices. The dissenting justice adopted the most convoluted and artificial construct to ignore the plain meaning of the controlling state law. Continue reading “Wisconsin Supreme Court Finds Wisconsin Governor Acted Unlawfully On Mask Mandate”

GoFundMe Shuts Down Fundraiser Of Parents Opposing Critical Race Theory In Loudoun County

There is a new controversy at GoFundMe which has been repeatedly criticized for yielding to campaigns to cancel conservative causes on the fundraising site. This controversy involved the decision to deactivate the fundraising ability of Parents Against Critical Theory, a group opposing the teaching of critical race theory in Loudoun County Public Schools. Loudoun county school employees supported a campaign to cancel the fundraiser and GoFundMe quickly informed the group that it had violated the site’s policies. However, there is no explanation of the specific violations that I could find. There may well be valid grounds for such termination but the failure to be clear and transparent on those grounds is deeply concerning from a free speech perspective.

Continue reading “GoFundMe Shuts Down Fundraiser Of Parents Opposing Critical Race Theory In Loudoun County”

From Sheets To Skulls: Universities Facing Calls For Fundamental Changes In Academic Disciplines

There are new calls for fundamental changes in academic disciplines this month to address systemic racism.  At Oxford, music department staff is calling for the removal of sheet music from the school’s curriculum as a relic of the “colonial past.” In a leading anthropology journal, two professors have criticized forensic anthropology and the traditional study of skulls to determine ancestry as inherently racist.  The calls are indicative of fundamental changes demanded in many of our academic disciplines. Such debates are good for academic institutions, but only if faculty and students feel comfortable in challenging such claims. On many of our campuses, there is a palpable fear about speaking out at the risk of being labelled racist or insensitive on such issues.

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The Chauvin Defense? New Research Shows Alarming Increase In Fentanyl Abuse and Deaths

As the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin starts in Minneapolis, much of the trial will focus on the role of fentanyl in the body of George Floyd as the possible cause for his death. Notably, a new study in the last week reinforces prior research showing an alarming increase in the abuse of this powerful drug and deaths associated from it.  In some counties, there was an almost 75% increase in the first half of 2020 in fatal drug overdoses with fentanyl as the main culprit.

Continue reading “The Chauvin Defense? New Research Shows Alarming Increase In Fentanyl Abuse and Deaths”

“The Defendants May Pick Their Poison”: Christian Group Scores Major Legal Victory Against University of Iowa

A Christian group at the University of Iowa scored a major win this week before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  In an opinion (below) with sweeping potential impact, the court reversed District Court Judge Stephanie Rose and ruled that University of Iowa officials can be held personally liable for targeting a Christian club and denying the rights of free speech and association. The University ultimately did not appeal findings that it violated the rights of this religious group and these students in its discriminatory application of university policies.

Continue reading ““The Defendants May Pick Their Poison”: Christian Group Scores Major Legal Victory Against University of Iowa”