From Bootleg Liberalism to Trumpist McCarthyism

I’m not a big booster of my undergraduate alma mater, Princeton, or a big fan of its current president, Christopher Eisgruber. But when a self-proclaimed “libertarian” academic gleefully defends an absurdly unwarranted federal investigation into the institution, relying on transparently idiotic arguments, one reaches a point of discursive futility: this is not a person worth arguing with, or even all that much worth spitting at.

https://200proofliberals.blogspot.com/2020/09/princeton-plays-with-bull-and-gets-horns.html

No one with Brennan’s credentials can be stupid enough to believe the bullshit arguments he’s trundling out at this point. As a friend of mine pointed out, Brennan’s blog posts are not meant to be taken seriously. They’re just the efforts of a hostile well-poisoner working off his animosities in public in the confident belief that he can say anything about anyone with impunity. All I have left to say is: feel free, dude–and feel free to fuck yourself while you’re at it. Continue reading

Portia, Portia, Portia

Whenever I have to spend a lot of time dealing with lawyers, I find myself thinking about The Merchant of Venice, the best guide to the law (and to lawyers) ever written. Of course, for as long as I’ve been reading it, I’ve encountered interpreters who sing the praises of Portia, the pseudo-lawyer who decides the case at the climax of the play. I guess my attitude toward Portia is a lot like Jan Brady’s attitude toward her older sister Marcia, as depicted in this, the climactic scene in one of the major episodes of the Brady Bunch epic.

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At-Will Employment Redux

Back on July 25th, I took issue with Jason Brennan’s claim that

…in general, in legal contracts, even when there is language to the contrary, parties do not acquire the right to unilaterally revise the conditions.

This claim, I argued, is close to the reverse of the truth. Most employment in the US is employment-at-will. In at-will employment arrangements, employers unquestionably do have the right (both de facto and de jure) “to unilaterally revise the conditions” of employment. They often conceal this by having their employees sign what look like (and are called) “contracts.” But the “contract” in question will typically contain language to the effect that the employment arrangement is at-will, implying that the terms are revisable at will.* Continue reading

Can an Employer Unilaterally Change the Terms of an Employment Contract?

In a whiny blog post at 200 Proof Liberals addressed to his provost, Jason Brennan claims that you can’t enforce a contract which gives one side unilateral and unlimited power to change the terms of the contract. The context is a “compact” that Georgetown’s administration has imposed on students, faculty, and staff regarding the spread of COVID-19. Continue reading

Stop, In the Name of Dog (Before You Break Your Leg)

I just saw some guy walking two beautiful golden retrievers down Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey. He crossed the street without really looking where he was going, then nearly collided with a car turning into the intersection. I repeat for the nth time that if American crosswalks were designed like the crosswalks of Barcelona, none of this would ever have happened. But they aren’t, and no one ever listens to my pro-Barcelona urban planning rants anyway.* Continue reading

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (6): Vengeance Is Theirs

Friday was the second anniversary of the tragic Parkland shooting. The shooting was remembered in an appropriate-enough way in the media, except for one (to me) conspicuous thing: the continued, thoughtless, fact-free demonization of Scot Peterson, the School Resource Officer universally blamed for not entering the building where the shooting took place. Almost without exception, journalism about Parkland continues to take for granted the unexamined dogmas that Peterson “failed” to enter Building 12 and “failed” to confront the shooter, that he knew where the shooter was but deliberately hid from danger, and that his malfeasance goes beyond cowardice to legally actionable neglect, and beyond civil wrong to outright criminality. Continue reading

Caught with Your Pants Down: The Strange Case of Mayor John Roth of Mahwah

I’m about to recount an almost entirely inconsequential political incident, the strange case of John F. Roth, mayor of Mahwah, a small, affluent town in northeastern New Jersey. But while the incident is almost entirely inconsequential, I’d say that precisely one feature has broad significance. Let’s see if you and I agree on what it is.

About a month ago, John F. Roth, the mayor of Mahwah, went to a party at the home of a Mahwah Township employee. You’re not going to believe this, but alcohol was served at this party. Yes, alcohol. And–hold on to your hats here–but Roth actually consumed some of this alcohol. I wouldn’t lie about something like this. Having done so, he managed to get drunk. He must have realized that he was drunk, because instead of driving home–like a normal person–he decided to walk into a bedroom or guestroom of the house, take off his pants, and fall asleep on a bed. He was later discovered pants-less in that very bed. A call was placed to his wife, who arrived to retrieve him. Retrieved, I gather that he went home to sleep it off, very possibly pants-less, in his own bed. Continue reading

A Moral Stop Sign for Andrew Pollack

There comes a point at which one has to draw a line, even with the victim of a tragic and heinous crime, and say (my words, not the judge’s):

Your daughter is dead. That’s horrible and unfair, but the time has come for you to stop trying to ruin other peoples’ lives over it. Leave them alone, and find a way to come to terms with your tragedy without harming innocent bystanders in the process. Tragedy and premature death didn’t begin with you, won’t end with you, and don’t justify your desire to wreak vengeance on people who don’t deserve it. At a certain point, even the most sympathetic victim starts to lose the world’s sympathy. You’re there.

Perhaps not a message calculated to win any popularity contests. But no less necessary for that.

Silence of the Lambs

A statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.4166A/A.1801B) establishing September 11th Remembrance Day. The new law allows for a brief moment of silence in public schools across the state at the beginning of the school day every September 11th to encourage dialogue and education in the classroom, and to ensure future generations have an understanding of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and their place in history. The law is effective immediately.

Because nothing is more conducive to dialogue and education than silence enforced by legal decree.

Incidentally, though the Governor’s Office disingenuously claims that the law “allows for a brief moment of silence,” the law itself is a mandate, the moment of silence is its only enumerated provision, and Assembly Member Amato refers to it on the Governor’s own statement as a “mandate.” What the Governor means (but doesn’t say) is that the law provides for a mandated moment of silence. Here is the text.

Not Born in the USA

I did the last of my immigration-enforcement events yesterday at Felician–this one really a mini-event, intended for my seminar-sized criminal justice class. The guest speaker this time was my former Felician student Maria Lopez-Delgado.

Quick intro: Maria graduated as a philosophy major from Felician in 2013 (thesis topic: “The Marxian Critique of Capitalism”; advisor: Khawaja), went on to law school at UNC School of Law, did a stint at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, and for the past year or so has been back in North Carolina with North Carolina Legal Aid’s Battered Immigrant Project,¬†where she works with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.* Since she was in North Carolina and we were in Jersey, we spoke by Google Video Chat.¬† Continue reading