Commentary Magazine


Topic: George Mason University

The Problem with Law Schools

Ed Whelan dismantles bit by bit the argument by former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark in support of current Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan’s barring of military recruiters and signing on to an amicus brief contesting the Solomon Amendment. This raises a larger issue — yes, even larger than a single Supreme Court nomination — what’s the matter with law schools? After all, lots and lots of their deans and professors hadn’t a clue what the law was in the case challenging the Solomon Amendment. George Mason University Law School was the proud exception and at the time reminded us:

The amicus brief filed by the dean and two professors at George Mason’s law school was the only one submitted by a law school that took the side of the armed services. Many amicus briefs were filed on the losing side (including briefs in behalf of Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), arguing that the Solomon Amendment’s requirement of equal access for military recruiters was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In addition, professors at Columbia and Harvard law schools submitted briefs arguing that as a matter of statutory construction the law schools had in fact complied with the Solomon Amendment. The constitutional and statutory arguments were all rejected by the Court.

There is a reason why the Chief Justice, among other justices over the years, has said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to law-review articles. Why? Law professors don’t really have a great grasp of what the law is or a decent track record in predicting where it will evolve. They operate in a largely isolated academic setting in which, in their minds, there are nine Justice Stevenses on the bench. And in this case, they didn’t even get Stevens’s position right.

As Ronald Reagan said of liberals, it’s not that they are ignorant. It’s that they know so much that isn’t true. So I can see the argument for looking outside the appellate bench for justices. But I think law professors are the last place you’d want to look for unbiased, accomplished legal analysts. Let’s hope Kagan picked up some actual law, not law-school law, in her last year at the solicitor general’s office.

Ed Whelan dismantles bit by bit the argument by former Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark in support of current Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan’s barring of military recruiters and signing on to an amicus brief contesting the Solomon Amendment. This raises a larger issue — yes, even larger than a single Supreme Court nomination — what’s the matter with law schools? After all, lots and lots of their deans and professors hadn’t a clue what the law was in the case challenging the Solomon Amendment. George Mason University Law School was the proud exception and at the time reminded us:

The amicus brief filed by the dean and two professors at George Mason’s law school was the only one submitted by a law school that took the side of the armed services. Many amicus briefs were filed on the losing side (including briefs in behalf of Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania), arguing that the Solomon Amendment’s requirement of equal access for military recruiters was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. In addition, professors at Columbia and Harvard law schools submitted briefs arguing that as a matter of statutory construction the law schools had in fact complied with the Solomon Amendment. The constitutional and statutory arguments were all rejected by the Court.

There is a reason why the Chief Justice, among other justices over the years, has said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to law-review articles. Why? Law professors don’t really have a great grasp of what the law is or a decent track record in predicting where it will evolve. They operate in a largely isolated academic setting in which, in their minds, there are nine Justice Stevenses on the bench. And in this case, they didn’t even get Stevens’s position right.

As Ronald Reagan said of liberals, it’s not that they are ignorant. It’s that they know so much that isn’t true. So I can see the argument for looking outside the appellate bench for justices. But I think law professors are the last place you’d want to look for unbiased, accomplished legal analysts. Let’s hope Kagan picked up some actual law, not law-school law, in her last year at the solicitor general’s office.

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You Don’t Need to Be a Weatherman but It May Help

The supposedly rock-solid consensus among all thinking human beings about the impending catastrophe of global warming has taken another hit from an unlikely villain: your friendly local TV weather forecaster. According to a front-page feature in Monday’s New York Times, some of the biggest global-warming skeptics are precisely those people whom many Americans look to for insight about the weather. The Times reports that a study released this week by George Mason University and the University of Texas reveals that “only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was caused mostly by human activities.” This is very bad news for environmental extremists, since the public seems to trust the weather guys more than Al Gore.

Apparently there is a real split developing in the world of weather between climatologists and meteorologists, with the latter showing a remarkable disinclination to accept the claims of the former that the planet is melting. But the frame of reference of this piece, like so much of the mainstream media’s coverage of those who raise questions about the alarmist theories of global warming, is not to examine the views and the reasons of the skeptics. Instead, the point of the article is to view it as yet another unfortunate problem to be overcome on the road to eradicating heretical dissent from the global-warming orthodoxy of our time. And since the average American is more likely to hear about the weather from a TV weather forecaster than to be lectured by a climatologist, this is especially dangerous for a field that has been rocked by a series of scandals that have undermined confidence in the honesty and accuracy of global-warming advocates.

For the Times, the problem is primarily one of academic achievement. The climatologists who are promoting fear of global warming—and profiting handsomely from it—are generally affiliated with universities and tend to have advanced degrees whereas many meteorologists do not. For Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who works to promote global-warming hysteria at something called Climate Central, the problem is that the weathermen are just not smart enough to understand her field. Indeed, she says the claim that it will be hotter 50 years from now is as open and shut a case as asserting that August will be warmer than January. But if you think about it, it makes sense that those who work on a day-to-day basis with weather forecasts would have their doubts about computer models about the weather we will get 50 years from now. They know all too well how variable the climate can be and that efforts to project forecasts with certainty, especially those promising apocalyptic disasters, should be taken with a shovel-full of salt.

The response from climatologists is, of course, not to listen to the skeptics or take them seriously, even if the skeptics in question know a thing or two about the weather. Instead, as the Times pompously relates, what the global-warming crowd wants is more “education” and “outreach” designed to squelch doubts about their theories before the debate about the issue—and the dangerous “cap and trade” schemes to handicap our economy to supposedly avert a global-warming disaster—gets out of hand.

As Bob Dylan famously wrote, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” But when it comes to bringing some common sense to the “climate change” debate, it apparently helps to be one.

The supposedly rock-solid consensus among all thinking human beings about the impending catastrophe of global warming has taken another hit from an unlikely villain: your friendly local TV weather forecaster. According to a front-page feature in Monday’s New York Times, some of the biggest global-warming skeptics are precisely those people whom many Americans look to for insight about the weather. The Times reports that a study released this week by George Mason University and the University of Texas reveals that “only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that global warming was occurring and fewer than a third believed that climate change was caused mostly by human activities.” This is very bad news for environmental extremists, since the public seems to trust the weather guys more than Al Gore.

Apparently there is a real split developing in the world of weather between climatologists and meteorologists, with the latter showing a remarkable disinclination to accept the claims of the former that the planet is melting. But the frame of reference of this piece, like so much of the mainstream media’s coverage of those who raise questions about the alarmist theories of global warming, is not to examine the views and the reasons of the skeptics. Instead, the point of the article is to view it as yet another unfortunate problem to be overcome on the road to eradicating heretical dissent from the global-warming orthodoxy of our time. And since the average American is more likely to hear about the weather from a TV weather forecaster than to be lectured by a climatologist, this is especially dangerous for a field that has been rocked by a series of scandals that have undermined confidence in the honesty and accuracy of global-warming advocates.

For the Times, the problem is primarily one of academic achievement. The climatologists who are promoting fear of global warming—and profiting handsomely from it—are generally affiliated with universities and tend to have advanced degrees whereas many meteorologists do not. For Heidi Cullen, a climatologist who works to promote global-warming hysteria at something called Climate Central, the problem is that the weathermen are just not smart enough to understand her field. Indeed, she says the claim that it will be hotter 50 years from now is as open and shut a case as asserting that August will be warmer than January. But if you think about it, it makes sense that those who work on a day-to-day basis with weather forecasts would have their doubts about computer models about the weather we will get 50 years from now. They know all too well how variable the climate can be and that efforts to project forecasts with certainty, especially those promising apocalyptic disasters, should be taken with a shovel-full of salt.

The response from climatologists is, of course, not to listen to the skeptics or take them seriously, even if the skeptics in question know a thing or two about the weather. Instead, as the Times pompously relates, what the global-warming crowd wants is more “education” and “outreach” designed to squelch doubts about their theories before the debate about the issue—and the dangerous “cap and trade” schemes to handicap our economy to supposedly avert a global-warming disaster—gets out of hand.

As Bob Dylan famously wrote, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” But when it comes to bringing some common sense to the “climate change” debate, it apparently helps to be one.

Read Less




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