Let Me WhiteCisManSplain This For You

On the Chanda Prescod-Weinstein watch, I encountered a recent tweet:

In a brief tweet, CPW manages to say one (mostly) true thing, and one (almost certainly) false thing. Conveniently separated by a comma.

True: public universities are prohibited from violating the First Amendment rights of their students.

But here's the thing:

The UMich effort to "address disruptions to university events and operations" is, I assume, in reaction to this: Pro-Palestinian protesters at UMich disrupt, cut short honors convocation.

A crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters invaded and disrupted an honors convocation for 1,800 students held at the University of Michigan on Sunday, forcing the event to end early and abruptly.

Most of the ceremony had proceeded normally, but when President Santa Ono began to speak, the roughly 100 protesters began to parade around and make noise, drowning him out.

They were protesting in favor of divestment from companies that do business with Israel to halt what they call “genocide,” referring to Israel’s military actions in Gaza in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre of 1,200 civilians.

A video of some of the protest posted on Reddit shows the demonstrating students stand up in the audience and begin yelling while holding aloft signs. They chanted “Ono, Ono, you can’t hide, you are funding genocide.”

The Michigan Daily student newspaper reported the protest forced the event to be “cut short,” although all the awards had been handed out by the time the interruption began.

The University Near Here, where CPW works (and I used to), is justly proud of its high free speech ranking (#3 out of 248 ranked colleges) from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

(The University of Michigan doesn't do quite as well: #47 out of 248.)

So does UNH have a laissez-faire attitude toward disruptive student behavior? Well, no. Control-F'ing UNH's current edition of its student handbook (Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities) finds 26 instances of "disrupt". I won't fully quote any of them here, check for yourself, or take my word for it: UNH doesn't like its students to disrupt, and they can get into serious trouble for doing so.

In fact, FIRE makes the point that (as a matter of constitutional law) there are limits to free speech, and among those limits are…

[…] speech that involves unlawful or unprotected conduct such as vandalism, destruction of property, and disruption. While you may not agree with every event held on campus, every flyer you see, or every viewpoint you hear, vandalizing property or disrupting events is not protected expressive activity. This includes shout-downs, grabbing microphones, illegally recording others, blocking entrances, and related activity.

While (I suppose) UMich could come up with an unconstitutional policy against "disruption", there's no reason to assume, as CPW apparently does, that it will be unconstitutional.

In fact, UMich could simply clone UNH's policy, and their FIRE rating could improve.

CPW's just pissed that it's an anti-Israel disruption that caused UMich to decide it needed better rules.

Also of note:

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Christian Schneider has an answer: it's Time to Ditch ‘Stand by Your Ad’.

    In 2002, Congress was intensely focused on regulating the “tenor” of campaign speech. Senators and representatives supporting the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known as “McCain-Feingold”) believed they could legally impose decorum, turning campaign rhetoric up or down like the volume on a car radio.

    As if it were a Boeing plane in mid flight, much of the BCRA has fallen apart. In case after case, the U.S. Supreme Court has mercifully dismantled the law’s attempted micromanagement of the timing and content of political speech, recognizing that campaign messaging is the type of speech that should be protected the most.

    But the Supremes have let stand the most useless and obnoxious provision of the law, the section that requires candidates to say their name, provide a photo of themselves, and declare “I approve this message” in every campaign ad. It is pointless, annoying, and above all, unconstitutional.

    You can "thank" Maine Senator Susan Collins who, with Oregon's Ron Wyden, stuck this provision into the BCRA with no thought as to how "pointless, annoying, and above all, unconstitutional" it was.

    If only CPW could get incensed about this.

  • Jeanne Shaheen didn't go far enough. My friends at Granite Grok are taking some surprising stances these days. Most recently: Jeanne Shaheen The Debt Machine Slips Last-Minute Funding Cut into Budget Bill ... That Protects Corporate Monopolies. Her legislative effort cut the budget of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division by $50 million, about 18%.

    But as the headline implies, the Grok poster viewed this as a bad thing.

    I made a snarky comment that everyone ignored: "Granite Grok turned into Jacobin so quickly it made my head spin."

    What I wish I'd seen before posting that was Robert A. Levy's The Case Against Antitrust at Cato. Made me wish Jeanne had gone after the remaining 82% of the division's budget while she was at it.

    Levy makes seven arguments against antitrust. Here's number two:

    Second, antitrust laws are fluid, nonobjective, and often retroactive. Because of murky statutes and conflicting case law, companies never can be quite sure what constitutes permissible behavior. Conduct that is otherwise legal somehow morphs into an antitrust violation. Normal business practices—price discounts, product improvements, exclusive contracting—become violations of law. When they’re not accused of monopoly price gouging for charging too much, companies are accused of predatory pricing for charging too little, or collusion for charging the same.

    Now, this is entirely separate from the issue of whether Jeanne was doing this as part of a corrupt bargain with big campaign donors. That could be true too. In fact, I'd wager a small sum that it is true.

    Still, here's a small cheer for her doing a small part of the right thing, no matter her reason.

  • Good question. And Arnold Kling asks it: What is Probability?

    Probability can be purely mathematical. You can insist that the probability of a coin flip turning up heads is exactly 0.5, because that is the mathematical definition of a fair coin. You do not need to flip any coins to prove it.

    Probability can be purely empirical. You do need to flip a lot of coins and show that the number of heads approaches 50 percent as you do more coin flips. Probabilities apply to events in the world, not mathematical definitions.

    Probability can be neither mathematical nor empirical. Instead, probability is subjective. It’s not in the math. It’s not in the data. It is one person’s opinion. If your opinion is that the probability of heads is 0.6, so be it.

    It is not possible to have an objective probability for “Biden wins the forthcoming election.” But it is possible to have a subjective probability for it.

    I'd add that probability can also be physical: a given carbon-14 nucleus has a 50% probability of undergoing beta decay at some point in the next 5700 years.

    And those betting-odds tables we post on Sundays? I think those would be the subjective odds, averaged over many bettors.

  • A bad idea never dies, even when it kills people. Ronald Bailey brings the depressing news: the FDA Aims To Stifle Medical Innovation Again.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that massively screwed up COVID-19 testing now wants to apply its vast bureaucratic acumen to all other laboratory developed tests (LDTs). By insisting on its recondite approval procedures, the FDA at the beginning of the pandemic stymied the rollout of COVID-19 tests developed by numerous academic and private laboratories. In contrast, public health authorities in South Korea greenlighted an effective COVID-19 test just one week (and many more in the weeks following) after asking representatives from 20 private medical companies to produce such tests.

    And (just to repeat): that delay killed people.

    It's not as if there's some looming danger from which the FDA thinks we need to be protected:

    Out of billions of tests given, how often do laboratory developed tests appear to cause harm? In its submissions, the FDA justifies this burdensome oversight by citing problematic medical device reports and unconfirmed "allegations" for a grand total of nine and four different tests respectively between 2009 and 2023. The remaining examples cited by the FDA are tests that had actually been submitted to the agency for analysis and were subsequently rejected or revised as recommended.

    The regulation's ultimate fate is iffy; it's generated a lot of opposition, and it will face legal battles. Which will be, no matter the outcome, a huge waste of time and money.

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Last Modified 2024-03-30 5:52 AM EDT