NYC Judge Orders Release of Suspected Synagogue Vandal Under No-Bail Policy

It’s been a while since we’ve thought about New York City’s stunning inability to keep dangerous individuals behind bars.

We’ve all had other things to deal with, for better or worse (actually, much worse), so Gotham’s tendency to treat its jails as if they had revolving doors on the cells hasn’t been a high-priority to-do item.

And yet, the problem still exists. Thanks to New York state’s laws against requiring cash bail unless a crime is a violent felony, combined with New York City’s notoriously liberal criminal justice standards, you can be set free without posting a cent of bail even if you’re charged with hate crimes.

That’s why 29-year-old Jordan Burnette is back out on the street despite the fact he’s been hit with 42 charges — including several hate-crime violations — after allegedly committing nine attacks in 11 days on four separate Jewish communal buildings in the Riverside section of the Bronx, according to the New York Post.

On Saturday, the Post reported, police took Burnette into custody after he was caught riding against traffic on a bike stolen from Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel.


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Prayer books from the congregation had been found doused in hand sanitizer and dumped “in a nearby wooded area,” the complaint against Burnette stated, according to the Post.

Video evidence showed Burnette covering the books in the liquid and then throwing a rock into the windshield of a minivan, according to the Post — and other video from vandalized synagogues indicated Burnette was involved in those attacks, too, the newspaper reported.

Burnette, the Post reported later, told police he’d only been stopped “because it’s a Jewish neighborhood,” because apparently exercsing the right to remain silent isn’t his strong suit.

However, thanks to New York’s Bail Reform Act of 2019, it was likely he’d just end up back out on the street, with district attorneys not even asking for bail.

Is New Yorks “bail reform” a recipe for disaster?

“Given the number of attacks, we probably would have asked for substantial bail before January of 2020,” Assistant District Attorney Theresa Gottlieb told the judge during a Sunday arraignment hearing.

“The legislature did not include hate crimes in its revision of bail reform and, under the law as it exists today, this is not eligible,” she continued. “We will not violate the law.”

Instead, Judge Louis Nock ordered Burnette held on $20,000 bail, saying the “shattering of glass” made the vandalism a violent felony. Nock reportedly also demanded, earlier in the day, to know why the district attorney’s office wasn’t seeking bail on Burnette.

“I’ve taken a very close look at the law,” Nock said in court. “Given the gravity and the number of charges he’s facing, this court is inclined to set bail.”

Burnette’s lawyer, Morgan Everhart, told the judge that “according to the bail law, none of the charges in this case apply” and that “[t]hese are all nonviolent charges.”


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“I appreciate your effort. I hope I am correct,” the judge told Everhart.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t.

On Sunday night, the Post reported, Judge Tara Collins granted Burnette supervised release. It wasn’t clear why Burnette had another hearing Sunday, the Post reported, or what Collins’ grounds for releasing him were.

However, Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in next year’s election, had no problem seeing the cause.

Regrettably, as much as I appreciate Judge Nock’s novel interpretation of the statute, Judge Collins’ decision apparently hews far closer to both the letter and the spirit of the law. No matter how good you believe the intentions of bail reform in New York are, the implementation has been nothing short of disastrous, with no provisions for holding suspects with extensive criminal histories or those charged with serious non-violent felonies or hate crimes.

Some of the legislation’s failures in Gotham are merely absurd. For instance, an alleged thief named Charles Barry served up a bit of criminal justice comic relief after a series of statements to reporters after his bail-free release following his 139th lifetime arrest last February. (It was his sixth arrest since the no-bail statute had been adopted the previous month.)

“Bail reform, it’s lit!” Barry said. “It’s the Democrats! The Democrats know me and the Republicans fear me. You can’t touch me! I can’t be stopped!”

Before he was fully processed, he was even more loquacious: “I’m famous! I take $200, $300 a day of your money, cracker! You can’t stop me!” Barry told a reporter (apparently forgetting the prior 138-ish times he’d been advised of his right to remain silent).

Many of the high-profile failures of bail reform are no less risible. In December of 2019, the city faced a rash of alleged anti-Semitic attacks, according to the New York Post. While the law had yet to take effect, New York City’s courts were already behaving as if it had — and only one suspect was held in the eight attacks, due to the fact most of them didn’t cause injury and didn’t rise to the level of the violent felonies covered under the bail law.

In one case, the alleged attacker swung a handbag at an Orthodox Jewish mother while screaming, “You f***ing Jew, the end is coming for you!” In another incident, a woman was charged with assaulting two Hasidic Jewish women while yelling, “F-U you, Jews!”

“Yes, I was there,” she reportedly told police. “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said ‘F-U, Jews.”

And just last month, with reports of anti-Asian bigotry and attacks on the rise, Judge Nock was forced to release a man charged in a hate-crime case that involved an alleged attack on an undercover Asian cop.

“My hands are tied because under the new bail rules,” Nock said, according to an April 18 report in the Post. “I have absolutely no authority or power to set bail on this defendant for this alleged offense.”

No matter what bail reform’s value might be as a concept, New York’s bail reform laws are uniquely bad in execution, particularly in regards to hate crime cases. That fact may have disappeared from the headlines since Charles Barry announced how “lit” bail reform was in February, but the problem — and the threats it engenders — remains.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he’s written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal for four years.

C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he’s written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal for four years. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).


Morristown, New Jersey


Catholic University of America

Languages Spoken

English, Spanish

Topics of Expertise

American Politics, World Politics, Culture

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Cato is hiring a Project Manager and Research Associate for Health Policy –

I am happy to pass along these announcements from Michael Cannon, the Director of health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Cato is hiring for two positions that may be of interest to readers: a project manager for health policy and a research associate for health policy.

I’ve worked closely with Michael over the years on ACA litigation. These positions will put you at the cutting edge for health policy research, and in some cases, strategic litigation.


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Bishop dismantles Notre Dame’s ‘immoral’ policy mandating COVID vaccination | News

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, May 4, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Thomas Paprocki and Notre Dame Law School professor Gerard Bradley have criticized last month’s announcement by the University of Notre Dame that the school would require “all students” to subject themselves to injections of experimental COVID-19 gene-therapy vaccines “as a condition of enrollment for the 2021–22 academic year.”

Paprocki, who serves as both the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, and as an adjunct professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, affirmed with Bradley the university’s moral “obligation to respect each person’s right to make their own healthcare decisions, to freely act upon their conscientious convictions and what is genuinely fair to everyone concerned.”

Their editorial, titled “COVID vaccines at Notre Dame,” appeared in The Observer, a student-run daily newspaper, and framed the argument largely according to a Vatican doctrinal “Note” released by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) last December. The Note addressed moral objections to using these “vaccines,” which are tainted in their production or testing with the cells derived from children directly killed by abortion several decades ago.

In contrast to ND’s policy, the “CDF concluded that persons may — not must — get vaccinated,” Bishop Paprocki and Bradley emphasized. Their choice in this regard “must be truly consensual.” This principle of self-determination “is the moral norm governing all medical treatment” and is “especially salient in the present circumstance” for several reasons.

The CDF’s Note had concluded, “In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic … when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

In addition, the Note stated that “practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

Paprocki and Bradley argue “that all of the vaccines on offer have been approved only for ‘emergency use’” by the FDA. This means “they are still experimental,” and participants in a medical trial “should be volunteers” (more here). This is especially the case, according to the authors, due to the fact that we are apparently “in a public health crisis” when “the pressures of the moment, shifting and almost always invariably incomplete data, and a certain panic could conspire to make even basic moral constraints seem dispensable.”

In addition, the op-ed reads, “several thousand Notre Dame students have already tested positive for the coronavirus. They are naturally immune to the disease and have no need for the vaccine.”

In the words of eminent physician Dr. Peter McCullough, MD, “People who develop COVID have complete and durable immunity. And [that’s] a very important principle: complete and durable. You can’t beat natural immunity. You can’t vaccinate on top of it and make it better. There’s no scientific, clinical or safety rationale for ever vaccinating a COVID-recovered patient. There’s no rationale for ever testing a COVID-recovered patient.” McCullough also estimated a very high level of herd immunity already — at least in Texas, where the level is at 80% — negating any logical basis for broad vaccination.

The experience of Notre Dame, Paprocki and Bradley observe, confirms the broader data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to which the COVID-19 survival rates for those under 20 years of age are 99.997%, and for those between 20 and 50 years old, 99.98%.

In other words, COVID-19 is essentially an “irrelevant” threat to virtually all of the students at Notre Dame who are subject to this mandate. Indeed, as the statistics show, for those under 70 years of age, influenza is a more dangerous infection.

Thus, Paprocki and Bradly affirm, “college-age students who test positive rarely experience severe symptoms. Many are entirely asymptomatic,” and “the Notre Dashboard, for example, reports no hospitalizations so far for COVID-19 pneumonia.”

As a result, many ND students, according to Paprocki and Bradley, will “reasonably judge that they risk more from the vaccine than they do from the coronavirus, especially since the vaccines would protect them only from the severe symptoms (or death) that are scarcely real risks for them. In fact, for a low-risk person like the typical Notre Dame student, the chance of a severe reaction to the vaccine is several times higher than the chance of having one after contracting COVID. Notre Dame should respect these students’ voluntary choices.” (additional sources here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)

As McCullough affirmed, “[For] people under 50 who fundamentally have no health risks, there’s no scientific rationale for them to ever become vaccinated.”

Furthermore, the bishop and the law professor continue by clarifying that declining reception of an experimental COVID-19 gene-therapy vaccine injection “would not be unfair to others in the campus community. The vaccines work principally by preventing anyone vaccinated from incurring serious illness, and death. The unvaccinated thus pose no appreciable risk to those students who do choose to get vaccinated, for they (the vaccinated) would be protected by dint of their own choices.”

The university’s policy also states it will “accommodate documented medical and religious exemptions” from receiving these injections. Bishop Paprocki and Bradley encourage the university to interpret these exemptions in accord with reason, that is, broadly. For example, the medical exemption should simply include “persons who conscientiously judge that it would better serve their health to refuse the vaccine.”

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Moral and religious exemptions could involve students who “judge that, although they would not be formally complicit in abortion if they were vaccinated, they nevertheless are called to give perspicuous witness to the truth about the horrors of abortion by avoiding even this sort of remote cooperation with it. These students’ choices to give such profound moral witness should be respected, and encouraged, at our Catholic university,” the authors wrote.

“Notre Dame should expand its understanding of ‘religious’ objectors to include those whose refusal to be vaccinated are rooted in moral considerations or other objections of conscience,” they said.

“Most important,” Bishop Paprocki and Bradley conclude, “any undertaking to exclude from campus every student who declines to be vaccinated — especially but not only those who already possess a natural immunity — would be immoral.”

Expressing their trust in the Notre Dame leadership, the authors encourage them to “act for the genuine common good of our community, in light of the relevant scientific truths and in light of all the relevant moral norms.”


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Dr. Peter McCullough: given an 80% level of herd immunity, broad vaccination has ‘no scientific, clinical or safety rationale.’

EXCLUSIVE – Former Pfizer VP: ‘Your government is lying to you in a way that could lead to your death’

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Biden acknowledges likely failure as he reverses refugee cap policy – HotAir

Joe Biden issued a statement Monday that he is reversing his decision to retain the Trump administration’s cap on refugees. Just last month, Biden announced he would keep Trump’s cap in place. The cap on the number of refugees will be raised from 15,000 to 62,500.

Why now? Biden is in a tight spot with both progressives and conservatives over the crisis on the southern border. The humanitarian and public health crisis is of his own making because he has moved quickly to reverse most of the Trump administration’s border policies that were working. Biden just wants to show that he is not Donald Trump and it doesn’t matter to him that he is sacrificing border security and the sovereignty of the United States to do so.

When Biden announced that he would keep Trump’s cap on refugees at 15,000, it was the right thing to do. The progressive left disagreed and immediately objected to Biden’s decision. They questioned how he could be so hard-hearted and cruel as to retain a Trump policy. As the hissy fits raged on, Biden caved to the special interest groups advocating for open borders. Just one day later, Press Secretary Jen Psaki circled back with reporters and walked back Biden’s statement. She admitted that Biden knew he would not be able to meet his original goal. The cap at 15,000 was not a final cap on refugees, you know. Psaki quickly blamed the Trump administration for the incompetency of the Biden administration.

“For the past few weeks, he has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and Oct. 1. Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” Psaki said at the time.

So on Monday Biden caved to the progressive left, as is his tendency, and announced that the cap is now at 62,500. And, no, he will not be able to meet that number between now and the end of the year. Talk about setting himself up for failure. Biden can’t get out of his own way when it comes to border policy.

“Today, I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” Biden said in a statement. “This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”

“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,” Biden added.

The administration announced in a separate memorandum that of the 62,500 slots being made available, 22,000 would be allocated to refugees coming from Africa, 13,000 to those from the Middle East and South Asia, 6,000 to those from East Asia, 4,000 to those from Europe and Central Asia, 5,000 to those from Latin America and the Caribbean and the remaining 12,500 would remain unallocated.

Sure, what’s a commitment to grant refugee status to an additional 47,500 when thousands of illegal migrants are flooding the border asking for asylum on a daily basis? What could possibly go wrong? Biden acknowledged that his new goal will not be met this year. He’s going through the motions and getting the win for open-border progressives anyway. It’s the optics, baby. It is important to show that Biden isn’t Trump.

“The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” he wrote in the announcement.

“We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”

Biden’s original goal, as he stated in February, was to raise the refugee cap to 125,000 by the end of his first year in office.

Biden’s left flank is pleased. They are even using the Democrat talking point that Biden “inherited” a broken immigration system from Trump. That is some pretty strong gaslighting right there.

“I am grateful that President Biden listened to our call to action and is building on the swift work he did during his first 100 days to begin reversing Trump’s all-out draconian assault on immigrants,” Jayapal said in a statement. “While this new administration inherited a broken immigration system that was gutted and sabotaged by the previous president, it is on all of us to fix it — quickly. Today’s announcement is a critical step.”

“We are relieved that the Biden administration has, after a long and unnecessary delay, kept its promise to raise the refugee admissions cap for this year to 62,500,” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy lead, said in a statement.

“This announcement means the United States can finally begin to rebuild the life-saving refugee resettlement program and welcome the tens of thousands of people who have been left stranded by four years of the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies and three months of the Biden administration’s inaction.”

In Biden’s notification letter to the State Department, the department responsible for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, he said he has been assured that the department’s personnel can handle the additional number of refugees along with their other demands. While Biden’s goal is to squash the bad publicity he and his administration receives over the border crisis, the truth is that this is one more bad decision from Joe Biden that will result in more of the same negative criticism. He’ll deserve it. It is not compassionate or humane to increase confusion on the border.

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Rutgers Law Students Calling for a “Policy” on Students and Faculty Quoting Slurs from Court Cases –

As Prof. Randall Kennedy and I have noted, slurs (“nigger,” “nigga,” “fag,” “cunt,” “kike,” “spic,” etc.) appear in over 10,000 court cases available on Westlaw, as well as a vast number of briefs and other court filings (most of which aren’t even visible on Westlaw).

Unsurprisingly, after class last Fall, a student at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey asked a professor about one of those 10,000+ cases—State v. Bridges (1993), decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The passage, from which the student quoted part of the last sentence, reads:

On September 2, 1988, defendant, Bennie Eugene Bridges, attended a birthday party with some fifty to sixty young people for sixteen-year-old Cheryl Smith in the basement of her home in Roebling, New Jersey. At about 12 a.m., Bridges had an argument with another guest, Andy Strickland. Shortly after the heated exchange, Bridges left the party, yelling angrily into the basement that he would soon return with his “boys.” As he drove past the house on his way to Trenton, Bridges again shouted, “I’m going back to Trenton to get my niggers.”

The student quoted the word, I take it on the sensible theory that, when you’re studying court cases, you’re entitled to talk accurately about what those court cases say. And the material appears to have been quite closely linked to the topic of the discussion (“the circumstances under which a criminal defendant could be held liable for crimes committed by his co-conspirators”). According to the student’s lawyer:

The textbook contained only a summary of the case, which left it unclear why the defendant would have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder when he was not involved in the shooting in question. The student wanted to know more so she looked up and read the full case on Lexis [including the passage quoted above], which shed significantly more light on the situation …. This went a long way towards explaining why the defendant had been charged with conspiracy.

So she was doing what any curious student should do—delving further into the facts of a case and reporting back what she had learned.

The N.Y. Times (Tracey Tully) reports what happened then:

In early April, in response to the incident, a group of Black first-year students at Rutgers Law began circulating a petition calling for the creation of a policy on racial slurs and formal, public apologies from the student and the professor, Vera Bergelson.

“At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should know not to use a racial slur regardless of its use in a 1993 opinion,” states the petition, which has been signed by law school students and campus organizations across the country.

“We vehemently condemn the use of the N-word by the student and the acquiescence of its usage,” the petition says.

Professor Bergelson, 59, has said that she did not hear the word spoken during the videoconference session, which three students attended after a criminal law class, and would have corrected the student if she had.

Soon after the professor’s office hours in late October, a white classmate contacted the student who quoted the epithet to say that she should have avoided using it.

The student, a middle-age woman studying law as a second career, offered her phone number to continue the discussion and also arranged for a lengthy conversation with the third student, her lawyer said.

One of the students later told a Black classmate; a recording of the meeting, which is no longer accessible, was discovered online and shared.

Black students from the class who were offended by the slur expressed their concerns to another professor, who alerted a dean, David Lopez, soon after the incident, several officials said.

There’s a lot more in the article; those who have read my previous posts on similar controversies, or Randy’s and my just-published article (“The New Taboo: Quoting Epithets in the Classroom and Beyond”), know what I generally think of all this. But here I just wanted to mention a few items:

[1.] Though one of the Rutgers co-Deans, David Lopez, asked that people not quote such slurs, even when discussing a precedent that mentions them (“I share the views of several of our faculty members who understand and express to their students that this language is hateful and can be triggering, even in the context of a case, and ask that it not be used”), I’m glad to say that several Rutgers professors have publicly disagreed:

Among the professors who have signed a statement in support of Professor Bergelson and the student are some of the school’s most prominent faculty members, including [former Rutgers deans] John Farmer Jr., a former New Jersey attorney general, and Ronald K. Chen, the state’s onetime public advocate….

“Although we all deplore the use of racist epithets,” said Gary L. Francione, a law professor who also signed the statement, “the idea that a faculty member or law student cannot quote a published court decision that itself quotes a racial or other otherwise objectionable word as part of the record of the case is problematic and implicates matters of academic freedom and free speech.” …

Prof. Adam Scales is also expressly quoted as someone who opposes any such expurgation policy. So is Prof. Dennis M. Patterson, who is quoted specifically as to the unconstitutionality of outright prohibitions on such quotes. Others have similarly spoken out this way to their colleagues.

[2.] I’m also pleased to say that Prof. Bergelson and the student have refused to provide the public written apologies that other students have demanded. Prof. Bergelson, who was born in the Soviet Union, mentioned to me (in response to an e-mail I sent her) “the similarity between this attack on me and the Soviet collective condemnations and public self-accusations”; that was part of the reason for her refusing to apologize, I think.

And she should know: Her grandmother was executed by Stalin’s regime in 1950, and another relative, the Yiddish writer David Bergelson, was executed in 1952 in the Night of the Murdered Poets. I can’t speak for her, but I have often thought to myself: When others have paid so dearly for speaking the way they thought was right, how can we give in when the danger to us is so comparatively small?

The student is also represented by Samantha Harris, a leading campus free speech litigator (formerly at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). That too is very good, I think: Having an experienced free speech lawyer who can point out to the university the perils of violating students’ rights is very helpful. (Of course, such lawyers can be quite expensive, even before any serious litigation begins; I wish there were funds available to help protect students in such situations.)

[3.] Finally, this incident reminds me just how quickly some supposedly narrow restrictions can slip into much broader ones.

When I was involved in a similar controversy a year ago, people told me: Of course this word is mentioned elsewhere in the legal system, for instance when clients or witnesses testify about it or talk about it when being interviewed. But it’s different when a professor, who is in a position of power in the classroom, says it. Yet of course once one rejects the use-mention distinction, and treats quoting a slur as forbidden, that applies equally to all speakers. And sure enough, here a student with no classroom power is being hounded as well.

Others told me: Sure, the word is written and can be written, but it shouldn’t be said out loud. But of course once one rejects the use-mention distinction, that logic applies to speaking as well as writing. (Surely we’d agree, for instance, that sending someone an e-mail calling them a “kike” or “nigger” or what have you is reprehensible, because writing really isn’t that different from speech in this respect.) And indeed, as Randy’s and my article chronicles, in just the last year we’ve seen a flurry of cases where professors were condemned for writing the word.

Others told me: Look, it’s just one word that you shouldn’t say; you’d be free to quote all other words, but this word is different. But of course that logic can’t hold, either; as Randy’s and my article chronicles, in just the last year we’ve seen similar demands to expurgate the word “fag” (which has a starring role in the most important recent Supreme Court case on offensive speech, Snyder v. Phelps (2011); the Westboro Baptist Church there displayed various signs near dead soldiers’ funerals, including “God Hates Fags”).

Plus, if the theory is that slurs are traumatizing because they bring up mental images of bigoted violence, then surely discussions of actually bigoted violence (slavery, lynching, hate crimes, and the like) could do the same, and face similar calls for expurgation. And, sure enough, since I started to blog about this matter, we’ve seen exactly such calls; for instance, as we note in our article,

Others have faulted professors who “expose Black students to images and videos of brutalized Black bodies … and explore texts that detail Black suffering” alongside those who “say the n-word without hesitation” (in quoting materials such as “white LGBTQ activist Carl Wittman’s ‘A Gay Manifesto'”). Likewise, the Oxford University student union adopted a policy called “Protection of Transgender, Non-binary, Disabled, Working-class, and Women* Students from Hatred in University Contexts,” demanding the removal of “ableist, misogynistic, classist or transphobic” “hate speech” from any course reading materials.

But that just focuses on slippage that we predicted; there’s so much we couldn’t even predict, because it would have seemed so far-fetched. How about a dean (who is also the president of the American Association of Law Schools) condemning a professor for being “deeply offensive,” “caus[ing] hurt and distress,” producing “mental trauma,” and “demonstrat[ing] a lack of respect, decency, and civility,” because the professor had written “n_____” and “b____” in a fact pattern on a law school exam? As you might gather from knowing my work on this, I’m not expurgating the words here; the exam really did just say “n_____” and “b____,” in a problem related to a racial and sexual discrimination lawsuit. So apparently even expurgating doesn’t get you off the hook.

Or how about the Great USC Homonym Panic of 2020, where an accomplished business school lecturer was replaced in his course in the middle of the semester because he quoted—in the middle of a lecture on filler words (such as “um” or “er”) in a business communication class—the Chinese filler word nei-ge? His sin was that this Chinese word, which he mentioned as an example because he’s an expert on U.S.-China business and a fluent Mandarin speaker, sounds like “nigger” in English.

If Randy and I had come up with this as a hypothetical consequence of placing a taboo on certain words, I expect we would have been roundly condemned as creating a ridiculously unrealistic straw-man scenario. And yet there it is. We prefer to “avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.”

Of course, perhaps Randy and I are mistaken. Perhaps some version of the New Taboo ought indeed be adopted in law school classrooms. Perhaps faculty and students teaching and studying a subject should be forbidden, whether by rule or by social norm, from accurately talking about the source materials (precedents, court records, and the like) of that very subject.

But I’d like those who disagree with us to say a bit more about how the taboo is to remain contained (or even whether they want it to be contained). And I hope that those who are considering whether to accede to the taboo will consider how far it is likely to spread.

UPDATE: I updated the post slightly 25 minutes after putting up, because I got some more information about the matter from the student’s lawyer.

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Raising the Refugee Cap Should Be Just the Start of Fixing America’s Inhumane Immigration Policy –

President Joe Biden on Monday announced he would move to increase the annual refugee cap set by former President Donald Trump, who had limited admissions to a historically low 15,000 refugees during his time in office.

Biden’s announcement came after he received heavy criticism last month when he revealed he would keep Trump’s cap in place after promising to expand it by more than 300 percent. Today he said he would reverse course again and attempt to meet that earlier promise, although he said it likely wouldn’t happen by September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“Today, I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” he said in a statement. “The sad truth is that we will not achieve [that goal] this year. We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway. We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States.”

The president’s April announcement confused many, not least of which because his purported explanation didn’t square with reality. The New York Times reported that his administration cited the influx of unaccompanied migrant children at the border as putting too much of a strain on the refugee system.

“The refugee program and the unaccompanied child program are separate items in the HHS budget,” David Bier, a research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, told me last month. “This is purely about politics.”

Biden has received quite a bit of heat for his policies at the border. As I wrote last month, he’s already broken a campaign promise to halt the confiscation of private property for border wall construction. The Biden administration has also made certain parts of the asylum system even more restrictive than his predecessor and is defending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in court after the agency erected a fake university, defrauded immigrants out of the tuition money, and deported them without refunds.

Today, however, it appears Biden is attempting to honor a campaign promise, even if it was the result of public pressure. “President Trump’s decision to close America’s doors to refugees fleeing persecution is cruel and shortsighted,” Biden said in November 2019. “As president, I will restore America’s historic commitment to welcoming those whose lives are threatened by conflict and crisis.”

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White House signals openness to diplomacy with N. Korea after policy review

 TOPSHOT – North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with US President Donald Trump. (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 12:20 PM PT – Saturday, May 1, 2021

The White House’s relationship with North Korea could change following the completion of its foreign policy review. Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday and said the goal is “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.

“We consulted closely with outside experts and our predecessors from several previous administrations and our way forward draws from their lessons learned and shared,” Psaki said. “Our goal remains the complete nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with a clear understanding that the efforts of the past four administrations have not achieved this objective.”

The White House press secretary added, the Biden administration has consulted with experts, predecessors and U.S. allies to determine the best way to move forward.

“Their input and also the approaches we’ve taken in the past have all played a role in this effort,” Psaki continued. “I’m not going to have any details on when [Joe Biden] was briefed, but it’s been an ongoing discussion.”

However, within Psaki’s comments were two jabs: One to the Obama administration’s strategy of patience and the other to President Trump’s direct negotiations with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

 PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 30 (SOUTH KOREA OUT): A handout photo provided by Dong-A Ilbo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the South and North Korea on June 30, 2019 in Panmunjom, South Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un briefly met at the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Sunday, with an intention to revitalize stalled nuclear talks and demonstrate the friendship between both countries. The encounter was the third time Trump and Kim have gotten together in person as both leaders have said they are committed to the

A handout photo provided by Dong-A Ilbo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the South and North Korea on June 30, 2019 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Handout photo by Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images/Getty Images)


“Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience,” Psaki said. “Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with the DPRK and to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and deployed forces.”

In the meantime, Biden’s so-called “diplomacy” has resulted in no meetings with the leader of North Korea and little progress on his ultimate goal of denuclearization.

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Biden’s DOJ Just Ended an Important Trump-Era Policy

Call it a chilling sign of the times.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported President Joe Biden’s Justice Department would end a Trump-era requirement that cities receiving grants from a $250 million program cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — a move that cut sanctuary cities off from funds.

An internal memo seen by the wire service, written by acting head of Office of Justice Programs Maureen Henneberg, announced the change. In the memo, she added that cities that had submitted grant applications that complied with the terms of the agreement should pull them down and reapply, assumedly without those pesky parts about cooperating with ICE.

In the memo, Henneberg said she’d instructed her staff to “pull down and revise all solicitations that describe requirements or priority consideration elements or criteria pertaining to immigration.”

According to CNN, the limits were originally put in place back in 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. If a jurisdiction wanted to participate in the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants program, which doled out $253 million to cities and states in 2020, they would have to allow federal authorities to ask about inmates’ immigration status and give federal law enforcement 48 hours before they released any inmates of interest.

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For sanctuary jurisdictions, this marked the beginning of a legal struggle over the funds. In February of 2020, in a suit brought by New York state, New York City and six other states, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled the Trump administration had a right to withhold the funds, according to Reuters.

An appeal to the Supreme Court was dropped after Joe Biden won the election for reasons you can probably guess. In March, Reuters reported, the Biden administration announced it was seeking dismissal of three other lawsuits related to the grant funding, so one can’t say the writing wasn’t on the wall.

The decision was hailed by the predictable folk.

“New York City is proud to be a welcoming and inclusive city for immigrants. We are thrilled by the news that the Department of Justice has recognized that anti-immigrant policies do not make our communities safer,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

Should sanctuary cities be legal?

“Donald Trump’s vindictive attempt to withhold grants from cities that stand up for our immigrant neighbors was inhumane and unacceptable, which is why we joined localities across the country to challenge these policies in court. I look forward to working with the Biden administration to empower all our communities — including immigrants — to thrive.”

First, let’s be clear about the “communities” de Blasio and other politicians are trying to protect.

These arguments rely on an important omission: Sanctuary cities aren’t protecting illegal immigrants, they’re protecting non-citizens in police custody that Immigration and Customs Enforcement are interested in.

Despite the way politicians who favor sanctuary jurisdictions frame the matter — that they’re protecting beleaguered illegal immigrants from a capricious, authoritarian federal immigration Gestapo that’s going to swoop down upon their streets and detain people at random — what ICE is interested in is acting to remove people who present a criminal danger from the country.

Then there’s the argument made by advocates of sanctuary cities, as Reuters noted, “that close cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities can deter immigrants from coming forward to report crimes.”

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This argument, oft-made, doesn’t usually come with evidence to support it. Meanwhile, the refusal of local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities has predictable results when it comes to people who commit crimes.

Take the example of Juan Ramon Vasquez. In 2019, the Honduran illegal immigrant was sentenced to serve between eight and 20 years for repeatedly raping his girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter and another 21 months for immigration violations, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. As the Justice Department noted at the time of his sentence, ICE ordered a detainer placed on him when he was arrested in 2014; he’d previously been deported in 2009.

Philadelphia police refused and let him go — thus, free to molest a child. Ramon Vasquez has promised to leave the country after his sentence, although that’s likely cold comfort for his victim.

In December of 2019, also in Philadelphia, ICE arrested Hector Moran-Espinoza, a Guatemalan illegal immigrant who had been released twice by police there even though he was charged with violent sexual crimes against children.

In Chicago, a Mexican illegal immigrant named Christopher Puente was arrested in February of 2020 and charged with sexually assaulting a girl in a McDonald’s bathroom. In June of 2019, ICE issued a detainer on Puente when he was arrested on theft charges. Despite Puente’s extensive felony history that included forced entry burglary and an arrest at the Mexico-U.S. border, Chicago ignored the ICE request.

Is this the “community” that these cities are protecting? If so, that’s not keeping anyone safe, including illegal aliens that obey most everything but immigration law. Thus, withholding grant money until they do the sensible thing and cooperate with ICE is sound carrot-and-stick policy.

What’s especially troubling is that this takes place amid the backdrop of the border crisis. Rest assured there’ll be no federal penalties for being a sanctuary city under the Biden administration — and, to the extent they can be, they’ll be an impediment to any state that wishes to legally forbid sanctuary jurisdictions. Meanwhile, the southern border is seeing record numbers of migrants — including, I would assume, some either intent on criminal activity or who already have a record.

What this says to bad actors is simple: ICE isn’t going to actively pursue you, and cities and states won’t have any incentive to work with the federal government on doing so, either. And this is supposed to make communities safer. Nice work.

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Biden Menthol Ban: Bad Policy

President Joe Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

The proposed ban won’t improve health outcomes, but will bring more people under government coercion.

After more than a decade of reports, conferences, petitions, proposals and protests, President Joe Biden’s Food & Drug Administration (FDA) just announced its intention to pursue something that many tobacco-control advocates have urged for years: a ban on menthol cigarettes. Since roughly a third of all cigarettes purchased by America’s more than 35 million smokers have menthol as their characterizing flavor and most of the rest contain some of the minty substance, a total ban would rank among America’s most sweeping product bans since national alcohol prohibition began in 1920. As politics, the approach — supported by some civil-rights and nearly all prominent tobacco-control groups — might pay some dividends. Judged as health policy, however, it’s a weak gruel — at best.

At the end of the day, banning menthol cigarettes won’t reduce smoking in any meaningful way. But it will disproportionately affect some of America’s most vulnerable communities: namely, those who already suffer from over-policing. As the American Civil Liberties Union aptly points out, with this proposed ban, the Biden administration runs the risk of “prioritizing criminalization over public health and harm reduction.”

This is a warning we should heed. Scientific studies over the decades have made it perfectly clear that combustible cigarette smoking is highly addictive and has serious negative health consequences. And while some studies have shown that menthol cigarettes might be easier to start and harder to quit than their cousins with other flavoring mixes (nearly all cigarettes are flavored in some way), nobody claims that they create more intrinsic harm than other combustible cigarettes — or that menthol itself is as addictive as nicotine. Moreover, while menthol smokers exist in every demographic, they’re the choice for over 80 percent of African-American smokers and, when cigarettes were widely advertised, much of their marketing also targeted black people and communities.

Since menthol is popular, smoking probably would decline a little after a ban; the largest peer-reviewed meta-analysis done to date indicates this is likely. So, like anything that reduces smoking, this would improve health. But as one might expect from such a tweak, the effects are modest and can be overwhelmed by other factors. Removing menthol doesn’t break nicotine addiction, after all. Canada, which banned menthol in 2017 actually saw a small uptick (from 15.1 percent to 15.8 percent) in its 2018 smoking rate before a long-term decline resumed in 2019.

Still, if menthol bans achieved even small reductions in the smoking rate without adverse consequences, they might be a decent policy. But during a period of racial reckoning and growing distrust between black communities that have high densities of menthol smokers and law enforcement, there’s a risk that a ban could have severe negative consequences. While no currently proposed standard would criminalize mere possession of menthol cigarettes, drug laws — including those already governing the sale of illicit “loosey” cigarettes — have long blurred lines between dealer and user. In New York City, the fine for selling illicit cigarettes stands at $600 per carton and criminal charges are possible. For people in neighborhoods where fraught interactions with the police are already commonplace, these laws have certainly caused serious problems before. Exhibit A: Eric Garner, who was killed by a New York City police officer’s chokehold in 2014, was arrested on suspicion of selling “loosies” without proper tax stamps. Groups ranging from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the ACLU have historically opposed menthol bans for just these reasons. What will happen remains to be seen: The illicit cigarette trade hasn’t boomed in places like Canada that have banned menthol, but the sheer size of the U.S. menthol market ($17 billion) and the country’s far higher rate of menthol usage may mean that such comparisons have limited usefulness. Many bans, furthermore, are just too new to evaluate: The EU’s is less than a year old.

Indeed, the risks a menthol ban poses may say something about most measures being pushed now to limit smoking: They may have reached the limit of effectiveness. The easiest and most effective methods of reducing smoking — education programs, a higher smoking age, marketing restrictions, public-place smoking bans, and workplace limitations on tobacco use — are national policies already. While the percentage of Americans who smoke has declined steeply over the past half century, the absolute number of smokers has barely budged. Given that every cigarette sold contains a stern warning about its dangers and the tobacco industry’s largest player says their product causes “death and disease,” any smoker who might have thought smoking was safe has long been disabused of that notion. Many adult smokers simply enjoy it and others simply cannot quit.

That’s why, if the Biden administration — which wants to decriminalize marijuana, and has promised to ease the War on Drugs — is to follow its own logic, rather than pushing unproven measures with significant risks like a menthol ban, it should instead ask people who can’t or won’t quit smoking to switch to a safer way to get the nicotine they crave.

And proven, safer alternatives exist. After exhaustive review, the FDA has authorized a number of smokeless tobacco products and “heat not burn” devices to make “modified risk” advertising claims that they are safer than cigarettes. Cochrane, the international network that produces sophisticated literature reviews on health topics, has likewise found that e-cigarettes are an effective stop-smoking aid. Even a handful of high-profile public-health figures (among them the former head of the American Cancer Society’s tobacco-control program) have asked their colleagues to begin reconsidering abstinence-only views on nicotine use and search for a “ceasefire.”

This is a good idea. A menthol ban might have some modest public-health benefits but not without the risk of imposing immense costs, too. And many other proposed tobacco-control measures run similar risks with equally small potential benefits. If the Biden administration wants to move in the right direction, then, it should take a careful look at its menthol-ban proposal and consider other measures that, instead, meet current smokers where they are.

Eli Lehrer is president and co-founder of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank. He lives in Herndon, Va., with his wife, Kari, and son, Andrew.

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