Duke Lax Redux

April 17, 2014

Two great reviews are out today concerning William Cohan’s re-revisionist account of the Duke lacrosse rape fabrications of eight years ago. See the great Peter Berkowitz here and the great Stuart Taylor here.

Both pieces are entirely convincing and we can stipulate that the bum-rush of Duke professors and administration to vilify the Duke players was, as Jackie Childs might put it, pernicious, outrageous, contagious. The conduct of district attorney Mike Nifong was every worse–not merely criminal, but the type of abusive use of state power that ought to scare the bejeezus out of every American and, when uncovered, be punished in the severest possible manner. (Anyone sympathetic in the least to Nifong ought to consider how exactly analogous his conduct was to the behavior of police who plant evidence, trump up charges, or unlawfully detain citizens–the type of thing the left normally abhors.)

That said, I’ve never quite been able to shake the sense that the Duke lacrosse players themselves were/are deeply unappealing as a cause. Here’s Berkowitz:

Even in Cohan’s unfriendly account — and in sharp contrast to their accusers and condemners — the lacrosse players and their dismissed coach comported themselves throughout the ordeal with honor and dignity.

Well, maybe. They may have comported themselves with honor and dignity in every moment after they were falsely accused of rape and pursued by the state. Which is to say, after they were placed under constant adult supervision and had an army of lawyers and supporters rally to their sides expending large amounts of money to protect them. That’s not nothing–but you can’t really imagine a situation in which they wouldn’t have been on their very best behavior. The prospect of hanging concentrating the mind and all that.

But before they were falsely accused of rape? They were at a bacchanal where they got stupid drunk. They hired strippers to come and degrade themselves perform for their amusement. When the strippers got surly, they responded with the sort of uncouth behavior which suggests that they were supremely aware of the social gulf between them and the women they had hired.

Look, at Gene says in a somewhat similar context in the movie Layercake, boys will boys. I get that. I went to college, too. But a university setting in which students can indulge in this sort of behavior without either (a) thinking it’s outside the norm or (b) worrying that they have to get to class, do some problem sets, you know, not fail out seems to be pretty messed up. If you can party like the Duke guys at college, then your college has clearly given you way too much free time. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, there’s an easy way to put all of this stuff to a stop: it’s called the C-curve.

But that criticism of the university project is separate from the observation that, when confronted with this scandalous amount of free time, the Duke players did not behave with an ounce of charity, respect, grace, or gratitude–either toward their fellow man or for the luxuries which had been gifted them. Nobody deserves to be falsely accused of rape. But not every man falsely accused of rape is a good guy.

It would be nice if, in the course of prosecuting a dangerous figure such as Mike Nifong, we could refrain from romanticizing his victims.

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John Hinderaker has a nuanced and perceptive analysis of the Bundy Ranch stand-off which should be persuasive to pretty much everyone in America, left, right, and center.

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I was never an Ultimate Warrior guy. Actually, I was just about the opposite: The cresting of the Ultimate Warrior’s run in the WWF coincided with me turning away from wrestling. I don’t know why, exactly. For me, he felt like Poochie–a product being foisted on the audience in a transparent attempt to freshen up the franchise with an eye towards a post-Hogan future. And he just didn’t do anything for me either in the ring or on the mic. The whole gimmick felt forced.

But that’s just me. Friends of mine today who were just a shade younger loved the Warrior. He hit them at exactly the time wrestling loomed largest in their lives. For them, he wasn’t an arriviste. He was a legend.

In any case, it’s bizarre and sad for Jim Hellwig to have died a day or so after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and appearing in the ring to give his speech. Bizarre enough that my first reaction was to suspect it might be a work. (And my third reaction, was to briefly consider if the entire HoF induction might have been a trap Vince set to lure the Warrior out of the shadows and finish him!)

Update: For example, Galley Relative X, who’s about five years younger than me, sends in the following:

Circa 5th grade, I wrote a “story” for writing class that was about . . . wait for it . . . WWF wrestling stars taking part in the writing of the Declaration of Independence. The relevant point: at one point in the story the hero–The Ultimate Warrior–was running from door to door in ol’ Boston warning people that “The Henan Family is Coming!  The Henan Family is Coming!” Needless to say, he saved the day.

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JVL Elsewhere

April 4, 2014

There’s a long piece in the Standard about HOT lanes. So if you’ve been jonesing for 4,000 words on economics and transportation engineering, do I have a story for you . . .

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(1) The logic behind pushing Brendan Eich out of his job as CEO of Mozilla seems to be that his views were so polarizing that they made it impossible for him to lead the company. Fair enough, I guess. But if that’s the case for the Mozilla CEO, should it be the case of other Mozilla employees, too? It probably depends. For low-level staffers, I could see the company allowing them to have their own views on Proposition 8, because they don’t have any direct reports. But what about managers in the Mozilla org chart? If any of them supported Prop. 8, then their ability to lead their teams is surely untenable, too. If the removal of Eich was justified, then Mozilla really has no choice by to conduct an internal review of its employees’ political contributions, no? And if they don’t conduct such a review, and make HR decisions accordingly, then the Eich blow-up really can’t be seen as anything other than capitulation to the mob.

(2) It is kind of extraordinary that Eich chose to stand pat and face the consequences of his belief rather than reverse course and save his job. It’s not immediately obvious that Eich is any kind of culture crusader for whom this stuff is a primary source of intellectual or spiritual animation. (Though it’s certainly possible that we’ll learn that he has deeply committed beliefs.)

Yet Eich chose his conscience over his livelihood. As the same-sex marriage movement continues rushing headlong into its collision with religious and other freedoms, it will be interesting to see how big the group of heretics gets, and what its composition looks like.

(3) At the risk of sounding the obvious, anyone who values the Western, big-L, Liberal project probably ought to delete all Mozilla products from their devices today.

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Thoughtcrime at Mozilla

April 3, 2014

The key moment of the Brendan Eich-out-at-Mozilla story comes in this interview with his long-time business partner Mitchell Baker. Upon learning that Eich gave $1,000 of his own money to the campaign for Proposition 8, Baker says:

“That was shocking to me, because I never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness,” she said, noting that there was a long and public community process about what to do about it in which Eich, then CTO, participated. “But I overestimated that experience.”

Here’s why this is important: Baker is saying that she never saw Eich acting badly, or exhibiting uncharitable or uncivil behavior. So the problem isn’t with how he comported himself. It’s with what he thought.

Three things:

(1) This is a perfect illustration of the degree to which the same-sex marriage movement has succeeded in conflating the belief that the down-stream effects of same-sex marriage might be, net-net, problematic for society with hatred, bigotry, etc. toward gays.

Of course this is a selective conflation. If you’re Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama circa a few years back, you’re just misguided. But whatever.

(2) Now that we’re in the realm of thought-crime where Eich loses his job not because of how he behaved, but because he gave money to a cause which is deemed untouchable, let me ask you this: What if Eich hadn’t given $1,000 to support Proposition 8. What if, instead, the tech community simply found out he had voted for it?

By any reasonable chain of logic, voting for Prop. 8 is at least as bad–probably even worse–than merely giving money to support it. A vote for Prop. 8 is an affirmative action taken to directly advance the cause, rather than the indirect advancement of financial support. If Eich was a known Prop. 8 voter, would there have been a similar campaign against him? I can’t think of a reason why not.

(3) And once you get to the point where merely voting for candidate x or issue y makes you unemployable, Katie bar the door. I mean, if you’re a good progressive, what issue is more important to humanity—gay marriage or climate change? Because if you can mount campaigns against people skeptical of the harmlessness of gay marriage, then surely people who deny climate change–which threatens all 7 billion of us with actual death–are infinitely more dangerous. Who knows what you should do with them.

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Movie Fight Club

March 28, 2014

Proposed: John McTiernan is the most under-rated director of his generation, having helmed three instant classics (Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, The Thomas Crowne Affair), one of which is in the running for Most Influential Movie of the Decade. Even his middling work (Predator and Last Action Hero) is really, really good. So why is his […]

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Try Francis–the un-Pope!

March 27, 2014

What with his ministering to the poor, committing economic illiteracy, and chiding his flock for being “obsessed” with the freedom of the Church he oversees, Francis the First has become the pontifical version of the cool priest the kids all loved in the 1970s. You know, the one who rode a bike and played guitar […]

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The New Golden Age of Surf Porn

March 17, 2014

More than any other sport, surfing lends itself to insanely beautiful documentary-style filming and photography. Principally, the videos (and stills) are taken by guys with fins and water-proof cameras hanging out in the water. At big competitions, you might get a helicopter for arial shots. Well drones are in the process of revolutionizing video production. […]

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Meanwhile, over at juicevoxmedia . . .

March 14, 2014

Galley Friend J.S. points us to this intensely funny piece asking Ezra Klein about whatever happened to the Loose Nuke hunters who were going to be fired because of the Sequester, or debt ceiling, or whatever. (Here’s the Klein explainer where he worries that “The people responsible for tracking down loose nukes will lose their […]

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Your Veronica Mars Ready-Pac

March 14, 2014

Tonight’s the night for Veronica Mars. But before you fire it up (and remember, if you order it through the site–look at that attractive new Amazon box over on the right!) you might want to read this fictional Entertainment Weekly cover story about Bonnie Deville.

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Comic Art

March 13, 2014

You see, the problem is I’m running out of wall space at the office. But on the other hand: Khoa Ho. If only I had another room to start hanging these in . . .

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