Friday, October 28, 2016

After Ammon Bundy, Can We PLEASE Stop Obsessing Over O.J. Simpson?

Ammon Bundy and his cohort have been acquitted of all charges following their seizure of a federal Oregon Wildlife Refuge despite, you know, clearly having done it. A lot of people are upset about this, but I'm not. You want to know why?

Honestly, the O.J. Simpson trial had been getting a bit dated as a reference for "criminal trial where obviously guilty persons don't get convicted."* And with the Bundy acquittal, we can finally let the Simpson case go and focus our contempt for the criminal justice system and effective jury nullification on a more recent and topical case.

That's precisely how this will work, right? We are all equally outraged when high-profile White people escape punishment for the crimes they clearly committed?

* In many ways, this is worse than the Simpson case -- for while Simpson was almost assuredly guilty, at least he actually denied committing the crime. The Bundys more or less admitted to doing everything the government charged them with, with a defense justified by "but it's the government, so come on" -- a much more classic case of nullification.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Berkeley Republican Challenge

Speaking of Republicans here at Berkeley, UC-Berkeley's own news site has an interesting piece on the particular challenges facing Berkeley Republican students this year. Of course, it's always a bit awkward being a conservative on the Berkeley campus. But Trump complicates things greatly, and the article interviews a range of perspectives -- from the Latino President of the Berkeley College Republicans (who had done border patrol work with the Coast Guard and was disturbed by Trump's rhetoric regarding immigrants), to a woman who is running a quixotic GOP bid for our local state assembly seat and agrees with the "locker room talk" explanation for Trump's rhetoric on women, to the child of Iranian refugees who was more of a "pox on both houses" sort. It's a good read.

One other thing I'll note on this is that my undergraduates this year are hardly the stereotypical collection of raging leftists one might expect. Certainly, they clearly lean left-of-center as a whole, and on issues like gay marriage they can barely even comprehend the argument that it should not be a national civil right. But on other issues, they're quite open to "conservative" arguments: many are deeply dubious of a strong federal government at the expense of states rights, and many at least had questions regarding the constitutionality of Obamacare. And -- in perhaps the starkest contrast to the contemporary zeitgeist of Kids These Days -- I've found them perfectly willing to contemplate and consider ideas which challenge their pre-existing belief systems (the African-American student who started by turning her nose up at the mention of Clarence Thomas, but eagerly gobbled up some of the resources I offered her about his judicial and political philosophy and its intersections with African-American political thought, was a striking and heartening example). By and large, I've found my undergraduate students to be a thoughtful, considerate, intellectually curious lot.

In entirely unrelated news, tomorrow some Berkeley students (and a few faculty members) will protest to demand that the University stop talking to Jews. You might think that's a little hyperbolic, but given that their final demand is that the University stop "coordinating" with, among other organizations, the ADL, the AJC, and the Jewish Community Relations Council, I feel okay with the descriptor.