Where I defend Besty DeVos

Okay, first the news via NYT:

Saying that the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault had “failed too many students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.

Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights.

And, you know what– she’s right!  It’s actually not at all complicated to think that colleges should treat sexual assault as a serious problem and provide due process to the accused before invoking a potentially life-ruining punishment based on 50.01% certainty.

And, if you think this is just conservative hatred of women and Trump’s hatred of anything Obama did, read Emily Yoffe’s recent summary of the problem in the Atlantic featuring case after case of overreach.  Here’s her conclusion:

At its worst, Title IX is now a cudgel with which the government and school administrators enforce sex rules too bluntly, and in ways that invite abuse. That’s an uncomfortable statement. It does not cancel or diminish other uncomfortable statements: Women (and men) are assaulted on campus, those assaults can be devastating, and the victims do not always receive justice when they come forward. But we have arrived at the point at which schools investigate, adjudicate, and punish the kind of murky, ambiguous sexual encounters that trained law-enforcement officials are unable to sort out—and also at the point at which the definition of sexual misconduct on many campuses has expanded beyond reason.

Institutions of higher education must protect their students from crimes and physical harm. They should also model for their students how an open society functions, and how necessary it is to protect the civil liberties of everyone.

Yoffe also wrote a great piece in Slate a couple years ago and the title really captures the problem, “The College Rape Overcorrection.”

Jeannie Suk Gersen, Harvard Law professor, with a great take in The New Yorker:

Judging by DeVos’s speech, what has been portrayed as a rollback of Title IX is really an embrace of a framework of compatibility: one in which Title IX seriously addresses sexual violence and also requires fairness to the accuser and the accused. (Disclosure: Last month, I joined three feminist law faculty at Harvard in submitting a comment to the Education Department urging policy revisions along these lines. I was also a signatory to an open letter from twenty-eight members of Harvard’s Law School faculty, published in 2014, that DeVos approvingly cited in Thursday’s speech.) DeVos drew on the stories of victims and accused students to reject the idea that the system could serve only one or the other. “Any school that refuses to take seriously a student who reports sexual misconduct is one that discriminates. And any school that uses a system biased toward finding a student responsible for sexual misconduct also commits discrimination.” Since 2011, dozens of courts have made clear that schools that do not give accused students a fair process may also be committing sex discrimination under Title IX. [emphases mine]

And law professor, Lara Bazelon, weighs in in Politico:

Because DeVos is a member of the Trump administration—and therefore, a surrogate for the man who famously bragged about sexually assaulting women— it’s easy to focus on the messenger and dismiss the message. But calling out the lack of due process to the accused and insisting on reforms resonates with many people regardless of ideology or political affiliation. There is no contradiction in being a Democrat or a feminist and believing that every person accused of a serious charge deserves a fair process before judgment—particularly when that judgment can mean the end of an education. It doesn’t make you a rape apologist to demand a system that gives us more confidence that justice is being done.

So I say, let’s take DeVos at her word. People who care about this issue should participate in the notice and comment process by offering thoughtful suggestions for how to improve the current system.

Here are mine: The standard of proof should be raised from a preponderance of the evidence to clear and convincing evidence to protect against findings that often seem like a coin toss. The accused should be entitled to a hearing at which both sides can present evidence and before that hearing, to see the statements of everyone interviewed in connection with the complaint. At the hearing, the accused should be entitled to an advocate who can pose questions to the witnesses against the accused, subject to reasonable limitations. The school officials assigned to handle these complaints should be required to undergo training so that they treat survivors and accused offenders with sensitivity and fairness. There should be an appellate process that is independent and thorough, rather than the rubber stamp that exists at too many colleges and universities today.

Kind of depressing– but, pretty understandable given that it is coming from Trump and DeVos– to see so many liberals just lash out at this and assume it is about sexism and further oppressing women’s rights. It’s also really bugged me the number of liberals who all of a sudden don’t seem to care about the concept of due process once sexual assault is at stake.  We could capture and punish way more criminals– not just sexual assailants– all the time if we undermined due process.  But, wisely, our society has decided that is not what we want to be.

Anyway, oddly enough, yes, this does look to be a needed correction from the Trump administration.  Let’s hope they get it right.

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Photo of the day

Atlantic gallery of photos from the island of Saint Martin in the wake of Irma.  Wow.

A photo taken on September 6, 2017, shows the Hotel Mercure in Marigot, near the Bay of Nettle, on the French Collectivity of Saint Martin, during the passage of Hurricane Irma. The governments of France, the Netherlands, and Britain, sent water, emergency rations, and rescue teams to their stricken territories in the Caribbean hit by Hurricane Irma, which has killed at least 10 people. 

Lionel Chamoiseau / AFP / Getty

Quick hits (part I)

1) An infant’s cry is a hugely powerful signal not just for humans, but many other mammals.

2) In our zeal to convict based on DNA evidence, we’ve taken a great tool and pushed it to the point where we are railroading innocent people (like with so much else of the criminal justice system.  Ugh.

For three decades, forensic DNA evidence has been a valuable tool in criminal investigations, incriminating or exonerating suspects. Matching a defendant’s genetic material with a sample found on a weapon or at a crime scene has proved extremely persuasive with judges and juries.

But not all DNA evidence is equal. Sometimes it’s clear: blood or semen identifies a single person. If it’s just a few skin cells left on an object, or if it contains more than one person’s genetic material, it can be more ambiguous. In such situations, labs used to report that the results were inconclusive, or the defendant could not be excluded from the mix.

New types of DNA analysis have been introduced in recent years to interpret trace amounts or complex mixtures, spawning an industry of testing tools, chemical kits and software. As analysis has become more complex, the techniques and results are coming under fire nationwide.

In the past three years, flaws in DNA methods have temporarily shut down testing in public crime labs in Austin, Tex., and Washington. Lab analysts “make it seem like it’s a completely objective process,” said Bicka Barlow, a lawyer in California with a master’s degree in genetics and molecular biology. “But I’m 100 percent convinced that there are many people who are incarcerated who were convicted with DNA evidence who are innocent.”

3) Dave Leonhardt on the rich getting richer.  It’s a policy choice.

4) Trump giving us “the best people.”  USDA chief scientist, not actually a scientist.  Just a racist.

5) Just another day in American criminal justice.  Headline and subhead, “ICE Wrongly Imprisoned an American Citizen for 1,273 Days. Judges Say He’s Owed $0.
An ICE agent sent through—and his supervisors approved—mistaken paperwork ‘proving’ Davino Watson wasn’t a citizen. And no one’s been held to account for the catastrophic screw-up.”

A not so fun fact about what Donald Rumsfeld once called “known unknowns”: ICE doesn’t know or won’t say how many American citizens have been arrested and imprisoned by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It’s illegal for ICE to imprison Americans, but so long as its agents don’t believe you are one, the burden is on you to prove it—without being entitled to a lawyer, since most deportation hearings are civil proceedings.

An NPR analysis this year found 693 citizens have been held in local jails on federal detainer requests since 2007 and 818 more have been imprisoned directly by ICE.

Even that’s just a fraction of the 3,600 American citizens a 2011 Berkeley study found were detained by ICE under the “secure communities” program started by President Bush, dramatically expanded and later suspended by President Obama, and now revived by President Trump, who’s threatening to withhold federal funds from localities that don’t sign up. Basically, the program crosschecks local and state fingerprints against federal immigration and criminal records, so that the feds can pick up “illegal immigrants” straight from jails or prisons when their term is up.

6) Really interesting political survey of wealthy Silicon Valley types.  Basically, they are very liberal except for hating regulation.  Farhad Manjoo with a nice summary.

7) North Carolina pastor and Robert E. Lee descendant rejected by his parishioners due to his support for Black Lives Matter.

8) Damn that motivated reasoning is strong stuff.  From some new research:

Ever-growing empirical evidence documents a gender bias against women and their research—and favoring men—in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Our research examined how receptive the scientific and public communities are to experimental evidence demonstrating this gender bias, which may contribute to women’s underrepresentation within STEM. Results from our three experiments, using general-public and university faculty samples, demonstrated that men evaluate the quality of research unveiling this bias as less meritorious than do women. These findings may inform and fuel self-correction efforts within STEM to reduce gender bias, bolster objectivity and diversity in STEM workforces, and enhance discovery, education, and achievement.

9) Really interesting article about the ketogenic diet (super high in fat; zero carb).  We looked into this for Alex’s epilepsy way back when, but fortunately never had to go down that road.

10) Love this– “no, your ancestors didn’t come here legally.”

Prior to 1875’s Page Act and 1882’s Chinese Exclusion Act, there were no national immigration laws. None. There were laws related to naturalization and citizenship, to how vessels reported their passengers, to banning the slave trade. Once New York’s Castle Garden Immigration Station opened in 1855, arrivals there reported names and origins before entering the U.S. But for all pre-1875 immigrants, no laws applied to their arrival. They weren’t legal or illegal; they were just immigrants. [emphasis mine]

11) Totally with Drum on this one– racism is not the explanation for everything Republicans do.  And to make everything we don’t like be about racism is to diminish the actual impact of racism (also, a reminder that I’ve never been a fan of Amanda Marcotte).

12) Coolest animated gif (soft-g, damnit!) ever?  What increasing hurricane winds do.

13) Max Boot has about had it with Trump’s America.

14) Damn– Lindy West on Ivanka is so good:

Ivanka Trump, first daughter, strode into Washington back in January with big promises: She was passionate about helping “working women,” she said, and she was going to close the gender wage gap even if it killed her.

Well, not if it killed her, not literally, but even if it mildly inconvenienced her, she was on it 110 percent, for the women. Well, not if it mildly inconvenienced her, she’s very busy, but definitely if there was a wage transparency policy already in place, she would not openly and glowingly support overturning it.

Well, unless her dad wanted to overturn it because doing so satisfied two of his top 10 vindictive fixations (constraining women’s independence and destroying the legacy of America’s first black president), but Ms. Trump would absolutely offer a better replacement solution, such as saying the words “child care credit” and “female entrepreneurs” repeatedly near a camera while wearing a blush-pink toggle coat. That, ladies, is the Ivanka Guarantee. Enjoy your money!

Ms. Trump’s self-professed commitment to corporate gender parity (about as milquetoast as feminism gets, but in Trump’s America, radicalism is relative) was trotted out incessantly during the campaign, especially as an antidote to her father’s self-professed commitment to nonconsensually sticking his hands on women’s genitals…

You’d think that a passionate anti-wage-gap crusader like Ms. Trump would relish a broad, ever-expanding data set illuminating her pet issue so that she could go after it with laser focus, but no. She is even more devoted than that. She hates the gender wage gap so much, she can’t even stand to know anything about it. Some heroes wear capelets.

15) Florida’s lessons learned from Hurricane Andrew.  And looks like these lessons will be put to the test.

16) This is pretty cool– how Apple is making Siri sound more human.

17) We’ve got a shortage of bus drivers in Wake County.  For some reason, the Kingswood Orange route consistently bears the brunt of it.  So far this year, my daughter’s bus typically does not leave the school until 45 minutes after school is actually over.  Ugh.  At least, the county just hit upon the solution to a labor shortage– raise wages.  Hmmm, maybe somebody should have thought of that sooner.

18) Chait on Trump, the American oligarchy, and regulatory capture.  It’s really horrible and depressing, but just so buried under the avalanche of wrongness that is the Trump presidency.

 

Some of the most astonishing regulatory capture is under way at the Department of Education. The appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provoked frenzied opposition, on the basis of her lack of experience and ideological fascination with vouchers. But the focus on DeVos’s beliefs about primary education was always misplaced, for the simple reason that primary education is financed overwhelmingly at the state and local level, so DeVos could not ruin public schools even if she tried.

Where DeVos has had a massive impact is in higher education. The federal government has much higher leverage over post-secondary education due to its involvement with student loans. These loans have often subsidized for-profit colleges, which lure customers using federally backed student loans, and furnish them with substandard or useless education. The Obama administration began cracking down on the for-profit industry in a variety of ways: imposing standards and conditions for its loans, rather than spraying them out indiscriminately to whichever college could vacuum them up. DeVos has turned her department over to the for-profit college industry, which has used its power to protect its own rackets.

19) Really enjoyed this essay on the growth of plot-driven TV comedy and how it shapes the nature of shows.  A lot of good points about Veep.

 

 

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