Michelle Jones and the Shame of Harvard

by Rich Yeselson on September 14, 2017

There is an extraordinary, enraging story in the New York Times today about a brilliant and remarkable woman who did a horrific thing and spent 20 years redeeming herself in prison. When she sought admission to graduate school at Harvard, our most prestigious university itself did a terrible thing of a different kind. John Stauffer and Dan Carpenter, senior scholars, precipitated the rescinding of Jones’s admission to Harvard’s history program, but, even worse, President Drew Faust failed to blunt their cravenness, and instead ratified it.

The very good news? Sounds like NYU got a terrific student for their Phd program in history.

There is also–and here I ride my own sad little hobbyhorse–something to be said here for the value of procedural neutrality, both normatively and, often, to protect individuals who fall outside of “typical” circumstances protected by elite institutions. Admissions decisions to graduate programs at Harvard and elsewhere are the responsibility of departmental faculty. The university technically had the right (I infer) to overrule this decision, but it did so only out of fear of rightwing media! (Read the remarks by Stauffer, which are extraordinary in their explicit moral cowardliness.) Leaving decisions about the intellectual and scholarly potential to those most qualified to make that determination–the indigenous “interpretive community” as Stanley Fish might put it–would have prevented the university’s top administrators, including its president, from exercising a perverse oversight in this case.


New DJ Earworm

by Belle Waring on September 14, 2017

DJ Earworm’s Summermash was an unusually weak outing, partly because it’s slow, and rebooted innocent Miley is boring, and other problems. But this Radio City Liverpool mashup is great; it’s the thing I always want him to do, namely mash up things from different years. Now if he would only mash up actually good songs that never crack the top 50 my life would be more complete, because he is like an painter given a child’s crappy watercolor kit with one of those plastic brushes with horrible stiff bristles that go in all directions, and told to paint something awesome. And he paints pretty great stuff! But what if we gave him some Mountain Goats and Janelle Monáe and stuff?!

Post Script: Ed Sheeran is the actual worst what is the deal.

Richard Posner has finally become a pragmatist

by Henry Farrell on September 14, 2017

This exit interview with Richard Posner, who is retiring as a judge, is interesting.

“About six months ago,” Judge Posner said, “I awoke from a slumber of 35 years.” He had suddenly realized, he said, that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it. … He had become concerned with the plight of litigants who represented themselves in civil cases, often filing handwritten appeals. Their grievances were real, he said, but the legal system was treating them impatiently, dismissing their cases over technical matters. “These were almost always people of poor education and often of quite low level of intelligence,” he said. “I gradually began to realize that this wasn’t right, what we were doing.” …

Judge Posner said he hoped to work with groups concerned with prisoners’ rights, with a law school clinic and with law firms, to bring attention and aid to people too poor to afford lawyers.
In one of his final opinions, Judge Posner, writing for a three-judge panel, reinstated a lawsuit from a prisoner, Michael Davis, that had been dismissed on technical grounds. “Davis needs help — needs it bad — needs a lawyer desperately,” he wrote.

On the phone, Judge Posner said that opinion was a rare victory. “The basic thing is that most judges regard these people as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge,” he said

I don’t want to be snarky – it is unqualifiedly great that someone of Posner’s stature on the right is taking up this cause. I do want to point out though, that it can be interpreted as a partial completion of something that was incomplete before – Posner’s commitment to pragmatism as an approach to understanding the law. [click to continue…]