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Archive for the month “August, 2017”

Joe Arcieri Songs: The Mixer Part IIb

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “The Mixer Part IIb” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

 

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The Real “Anti-Science”

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article that warrants posting here.  I have seen a recent proliferation of articles in respected publications pointing out, bemoaning, and/or highlighting increasing problems with the trustworthiness of the alleged findings of the contemporary scientific community.  I find these articles to be particularly interesting given how our society looks to science as a (the?) source of ultimate truths (often as a mutually exclusive alternative to spirituality).  This sort of scientism may be misplaced, and these articles delve into the pitfalls that come with such an approach.

Here are the links the other articles I posted on this subject:

Be edified.

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When Bill Nye the Science Guy complains of a war being waged on science, he should look in the mirror. Nye, who is actually the mechanical engineering guy—that’s his educational background—is more guilty of undermining science (properly understood) by politicizing it than almost anyone this side of Al Gore.

No one is attacking science. Why would they? Science is a powerful method for understanding the physical universe. Science’s tools are observation, careful measurement, testing, experimentation, falsification, and the like. Given the incalculable benefits that have arisen from applied scientific endeavors over the centuries, who on earth isn’t “pro-science”?

Why, then, did science become the subject of international protective protest marches? Blame political cynicism. Organizers of the March for Science hoped to harness the authority of science to prevail in hot-button public policy and cultural controversies involving scientific inquiry. But politicizing science is the real subversion—if you convince people that they have to choose between “science” and their moral, political, or religious beliefs, support for science could well wane.

There are at least three means by which these supposed defenders of science actually undermine it through their political tactics:

Conflating “science” with ethics and morality: Science is amoral. It is very effective at deriving knowledge and learning facts, but it can’t tell us right from wrong, good from bad, or moral from immoral. Yet self-described science advocates often blur those crucial distinctions by accusing the people with whom they disagree with on an ethical or public policy question of being “anti-science.”

Nye has been a prime example of this across a wide swath of public controversies, from climate change to abortion. With regard to the latter, Nye infamously appeared in a YouTube video promoting abortion rights in which he contended that pro-lifers lack a proper “scientific understanding” of “the facts.” But in fact he is the one who seems to be confused: Nye proclaims that “fertilized eggs are not human”—even though an egg, once fertilized, ceases to exist as the one-celled embryo called the zygote comes into being. He continues that the sperm joining the ovum “is not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb, a woman’s womb.” It could be argued that implantation is the point at which a woman becomes pregnant. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the biological nature of the embryo itself. Besides, embryology textbooks—real science—tell us that a new organism or, to put it another way, a human being comes into existence once fertilization has been completed.

More to the point, science can only tell us the biological nature of the entity destroyed in an abortion; it cannot tell us whether the destruction is right or wrong. Hence, it is a scientific fact that Nye and I are the same organisms today that we were when we came into existence as one-celled embryos. But when Nye tells us, “Nobody likes abortion. But you can’t tell somebody what to do!” in his YouTube mini-lecture, that is political advocacy masquerading as a scientific claim.

Wielding the term “anti-science” as an epithet to stifle legitimate debate: I have been the subject of such attempted stifling. As first discussed in these pages a few years ago, I was branded “anti-science” by Glen Hank Campbell, now the head of the American Council on Science and Health, who accused me of “hating biology” and viewing IVF “as a tool of Lucifer.”  What had I done to deserve such public shaming? I opposed plans to use a novel IVF procedure to create a “three-parent” baby.

How was that “anti-science?” I may have been misguided—though I don’t think I was—but I most certainly wasn’t opposing science, biology, or even reproductive technologies per se. I was making an ethical argument that it would be wrong to use this technique on humans, a position with which Campbell disagreed. But rather than engage in debate, Campbell tried to quash it with the “anti-science” slur—a strategy deployed often in moral and policy arguments around embryo research, climate change, evolution, abortion, human cloning, genetic engineering, GMOs, transhumanism, and other controversial areas.             

Using the authority of “scientific consensus” to stifle heterodox hypotheses and alternative fields of research: Science is never truly settled. Indeed, challenging seemingly incontrovertible facts and continually retesting long-accepted theories are crucial components of the scientific method.

Examples of perceived truths overturned by subsequent discoveries are ubiquitous. Here’s just one: So-called junk DNA that does not encode proteins was, until relatively recently, thought by a large majority of scientists to have no purpose, and was even used as evidence of random and purposeless evolution. But continuing investigations in the field led to the discovery that most “junk DNA” actually serves important biological functions.

Think what might have happened if scientists seeking to continue exploring this area of inquiry had been warned away because of the “scientific consensus.” What if the self-appointed guardians of existing perceived wisdom had gotten researchers to abandon their investigations for fear of losing university tenure, being scorned by colleagues, or having research funding blocked? The biological truth about non-protein-coding DNA might well have never been discerned. Yet these are the very anti-science tactics deployed today to chill scientific challenges to the theory of evolution and the questioning of “consensus” climate change conclusions.

Politicizers of science are not as clever as they think. People are watching, and the real victim of their abuse could be support for science itself. Indeed, the more vehemently establishment thinkers and their media camp followers seek to suppress alternate views and research, the more they attempt to crush ethical debates with the “anti-science” cudgel, the less people who are served by science will trust the sector. And that will be bad for everyone.

By Wesley J. Smith and originally published in First Things on April 28, 2017 and can be seen here.

Redemption Available Immediately After a Sheriff’s Sale

In the recent matter of City of Philadelphia v. F.A. Realty Investors Corp., 95 A.3d 377 (Pa.Cmwlth.2014), the Court had the opportunity to tackle a matter of first impression when interpreting 53 P.S. Section 7293 with regard to when a property owner may redeem his property after a sheriff’s sale.

In F.A., the piece of real estate at issue (“the Property”) was subject to a tax delinquency which led to an order by the trial court to sell the Property at a sheriff’s sale in order to satisfy the aforesaid tax delinquency. Not long after the order was entered, the Property was sold at sheriff’s sale. Immediately after the sale, Defendant filed to redeem the Property, but its petition to do so was dismissed by the trial court.

According to 53 P.S. 7293, a property owner may redeem a property sold at sheriff’s sale “at any time within nine months from the date of the acknowledgment of the sheriff’s deed therefore, upon payment of the amount bid at such sale.” The City of Philadelphia argued that Defendant’s immediate action to redeem the Property was premature as it acted prior to the acknowledgment of the deed. The trial court agreed with the City’s interpretation and application of the statute when it dismissed Defendant’s petition.

When interpreting the statute cited above, the Court first noted that, per 1 Pa.C.S. Sections 1921 and 1922, and the cases decided thereunder, statutory construction ought not lead to an absurd result, and when there is ambiguity in the language of a statute, the court may look to the intent of the legislature to help provide interpretive guidance. The Court also explained that the redemption statute is to be liberally construed in order to effect justice, pointing out that the purpose of sheriffs’ sales is not to strip a property owner of his real estate, but simply to collect on municipal claims.

Defendant argued that making them wait until the sheriff’s deed is acknowledged would likely, and unjustly, lead to unnecessary additional fees, costs, taxes, and/or interest and, therefore, its prompt action could avoid these costs.

The Court observed that the applicable statute has at least two interpretations. The first being that the phrase “at any time” literally means at any time, without regard to when the acknowledgment occurs, as long as it is within the nine month time frame. The second interpretation begins the nine month period for redemption at the time of acknowledgment.

As the language is, in the Court’s view, ambiguous, it looked to legislative intent and, on that basis concluded that the legislature would not try and increase a property owner’s difficulty to redeem property. Indeed, a property owner may retain possession of a house sold at sheriff’s sale until the sale is completed by the acknowledgment and delivery of the deed obtained at the sale. As a result, the Court believed it would be an absurd result to disallow a property owner from redeeming his property while he is in possession of it simply because the deed had technically not been acknowledged.

Finally, Pennsylvania law prohibits the redemption of a vacant property after the date of acknowledgment. In light of the above, namely that absurd results are to be avoided and that the purpose of sheriffs’ sales is not to strip someone of his property but merely to ensure municipal claims are satisfied, it would seem that the City of Philadelphia’s arguments would disallow someone from redeeming a vacant property at all. In other words, if a property is vacant, an owner cannot redeem it after acknowledgment and, if the City’s interpretation of 53 P.S. 7293 is correct, he would not be able to redeem it before either, and this would be an absurd result, not to mention an unjust one, preventing an owner from redeeming his property.

So, in sum, in light of the above, and after review of the applicable statutes, the Court ruled that a property owner can redeem his property sold at sheriff’s sale at any time up to nine months after acknowledgment of the sale.

Originally published in Upon Further Review” June 7, 2017 and can be seen here.

A note on falsification

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.

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Antony Flew’s famous 1950 article “Theology and Falsification” posed what came to be known as the “falsificationist challenge” to theology.  A claim is falsifiable when it is empirically testable — that is to say, when it makes predictions about what will be observed under such-and-such circumstances such that, if the predictions don’t pan out, the claim is thereby shown to be false.  The idea that a genuinely scientific claim must be falsifiable had already been given currency by Karl Popper.  Flew’s aim was to apply it to a critique of such theological claims as the thesis that God loves us.  No matter what sorts of evil and suffering occur in the world, the theologian does not give up the claim that God loves us.  But then, what, in that case, does the claim actually amount to?  And why should we accept the claim?  Flew’s challenge was to get the theologian to specify exactly what would have to happen in order for the theologian to give up the claim that God loves us, or the claim that God exists.

Now, there are several problems with Flew’s challenge.  Some of them have to do with specifically theological matters, such as the analogical use of the term “good” when applied to God, the role that divine permission of evil plays in the realization of a greater good, and so forth.  Some of the problems have to do with the idea of falsification itself.  As Popper himself emphasized, it is simply an error to suppose that all rationally justifiable claims have to be empirically falsifiable.  Popper intended falsificationism merely as a theory about what makes a claim scientific, and not every rationally acceptable claim is or ought to be a scientific claim.  Hence not every rationally acceptable claim is or ought to be empirically falsifiable.
For example, the thesis of falsificationism itself is, as Popper realized, not empirically falsifiable.  This does not make Popper’s falsificationist theory of science self-refuting, because, again, he does not say in the first place that every claim has to be empirically falsifiable.  Falsificationism is a claim about science but it is not itself a scientific claim, but rather a philosophical claim (what Popper called a claim of “meta-science”).  It is subject to potential criticism — by way of philosophical analysis and argument, say — but not by way of empirical testing, specifically.

 

Claims of mathematics and logic are like this too.  We can analyze and argue about them philosophically, but they are not plausibly subject to empirical refutation, specifically.  And metaphysical claims are like that as well.  With at least the most general sorts of metaphysical claims (e.g. about the nature of causality as such, or substance as such, or what have you), it is a sheer category mistake to suppose that they do, or ought to, entail specific empirical predictions.  The reason is that the claims are too general for that.  They are claims about (among other things) what any possible empirically observable phenomena must necessarily presuppose (and any possible non-empirical realities too, if there are any).  Naturally, then, they are not going to be undermined by any specific empirical observation.  By no means does that make them immune from rational evaluation.  They can still be analyzed, and argued for or against, by way of philosophical analysis and argumentation.  But as with claims of meta-science, or claims of mathematics and logic, so too with claims of metaphysics, it is a mistake to suppose that they stand or fall with empirical falsifiability.

 

Now, the fundamental claims and arguments of theology — for example, the most important arguments for the existence and attributes of God (such as Aquinas’s arguments, or Leibniz’s arguments) — are a species of metaphysical claim.  Hence it is simply a category mistake to demand of them, as Flew did, that they be empirically falsifiable.  To dismiss theology on falsificationist grounds, one would, to be consistent, also have to dismiss mathematics, logic, meta-science, and metaphysics in general.  Which would be, not only absurd, but self-defeating, since the claim that only scientific claims are rationally justifiable is itself not a scientific claim but a metaphysical claim, and any argument for this claim would presuppose standards of logic.

 

There is also the problem that, as philosophers of science had already begun to see at the time Flew wrote, it turns out that even scientific claims are not as crisply falsifiable as Popper initially thought.  Indeed, the problem was known even before Popper’s time, and famously raised by Pierre Duhem.  A scientific theory is always tested in conjunction with various assumptions about background conditions obtaining at the time an experiment is performed, assumptions about the experimental set-up itself, and auxiliary scientific hypotheses about the phenomena being studied.  If the outcome of an experiment is not as predicted, one could give up the theory being tested, but one might also consider giving up one or more of the auxiliary hypotheses instead, or check to see if the background conditions or experimental set-up were really as one had supposed.  That does not mean that scientific theories are not empirically falsifiable after all, but it does mean that falsifying a theory is a much messier and more tentative affair than readers of pop science and pop philosophy books might suppose.

 

Then there are claims that are empirical and not metaphysical in the strictest sense, but still so extremely general that any possible natural science would have to take them for granted — in which case they are really presuppositions of natural science rather than propositions of natural science.  For example, the proposition that change occurs is like this.  We know from experience that change occurs, but it is not something falsifiable by experience, because any possible experience by which we might test it itself presupposes that change occurs.  In particular, in order to test a proposition via observation or experiment, you need to see whether or not your current experience is followed by the predicted experience, which involves one experience succeeding another, which entails change.  Natural science itself, then, which involves attempting to falsify theories (even if it involves more than this) presupposes something which cannot be falsified.

 

Necessary presuppositions of natural science like the one just described are the subject matter of that branch of philosophy known as the philosophy of nature (which, though more fundamental than natural science, is less fundamental than metaphysics as Thomists understand “metaphysics,” and is thus something of a middle-ground discipline between them).  For example, the Aristotelian theory of actuality and potentiality (which is the core of the Aristotelian philosophy of nature) is grounded in an analysis of what change must involve, where the existence of change is presupposed by natural science.  Hence the theory of actuality and potentiality is grounded in what is presupposed by natural science.  That is why even natural science cannot overthrow it.  But the characteristically Aristotelian argument for God’s existence — the argument from change to the existence of an unchanging changer of things (or, more precisely, of a purely actual actualizer of things) is grounded in the theory of actuality and potentiality, and thus in what natural science itself must take for granted.  And thus it too cannot be overturned even by natural science.  This “empirical unfalsifiability” is no more a weakness of the Aristotelian argument for God’s existence than the “empirical unfalsifiability” of the existence of change, including the existence of experience itself, is a weakness.  It makes the arguments in question (if they are otherwise unproblematic) more rationally secure than empirical science, not less.

 

Lazy shouts of “unfalisfiability!” against theological claims just ignore all this complexity — the distinctions that have to be drawn between empirical claims on the one hand and claims of mathematics, logic, and metaphysics on the other; between extremely general empirical claims and more specific ones; between philosophy of nature (which studies the philosophical presuppositions of natural science) and natural science itself; and between the testing of a thesis and the testing of the auxiliary assumptions we generally take for granted but conjoin with the thesis when drawing predictions from it.

 

So, falsificationism is a rather feeble instrument to wield against theology.  And in fact, atheist philosophers have known this for decades, even if New Atheist combox commandos are still catching up.

 

All the same, where we are evaluating a specific empirical claim — rather than a claim of mathematics, logic, or metaphysics, or an extremely general empirical claim like “change occurs” — falsifiability is an important consideration, even if not as decisive as Popper supposed.  Take an extremely specific and straightforward empirical claim, e.g. the claim that a large, yellowish triangular shape will suddenly appear in the center of my field of vision within the next few seconds.  If no such shape actually appears in the next few seconds, it would be pretty hard to deny that the claim has been falsified.  For example, I couldn’t say “Maybe the shape was there in the room, but I didn’t see it because it was behind a bookshelf.”  I intentionally phrased the claim so that it was about what I would experience, not about what would be in the room, so appealing to the idea that some physical object stood in the way of my seeing it won’t help avoid falsification.  Nor would it help to say “Maybe it will appear an hour from now, or tomorrow,” since the claim referred specifically to the next few seconds.

 

Of course, that’s not a very interesting empirical claim.  Most interesting empirical claims are far less specific than that, even though they are nowhere near as general as the claim that change occurs.  There is, needless to say, a large range of cases, some of which are more toward the general end of things, some of them more toward the specific, and the latter are easier to falsify than the former.  But even if the more general ones aren’t as crisply falsifiable as a more simplistic application of the Popperian model would imply, they are still far from unfalsifiable.

 

For example, take the claim that heavy smoking over a long period of time has a strong tendency to cause cancer.  Obviously this is not falsified by the fact that some heavy smokers never develop cancer, because the claim has been phrased in a way that takes account of that.  It speaks only of a strong tendency, and even a strong tendency needn’t always be realized.  But neither is the claim made vacuous by that qualification.  If it turned out that only five percent of people who smoke heavily over the course of many years ended up getting cancer, we could reasonably say that the claim had been falsified.  Whereas if it turned out that sixty percent of those who smoke heavily over the course of many years end up getting cancer, we would say that the claim had survived falsification, even though sixty percent is well short of one hundred percent.  Indeed, even if the percentage were much lower than that — suppose it were forty percent, for example — it would not necessarily follow that the claim had been falsified.

 

Nor need there be anything like even that strong a link between two phenomena for us reasonably to posit a causal correlation.  Take an example often discussed in philosophy of science, viz. the relationship between syphilis and paresis.  If syphilis is untreated, it can lead to paresis, though this is rare.  But it would be absurd, not to mention medically irresponsible, to conclude that the claim of a causal correlation between syphilis and paresis is falsified by the fact that actually developing paresis is rare.  All the same, if there were on record only one or two cases, out of millions, of paresis following upon syphilis, it would — especially if no mechanism by which the one might lead to the other were proposed — be hard in that case to resist the conclusion that the claim of a causal correlation had been falsified.

 

So, an empirical claim concerning a causal link between two phenomena can be substantive rather than vacuous, and also empirically very well-supported, even if there are many cases in which the one phenomenon is not in fact followed by the other.  Considerations about falsifiability, properly understood, do not undermine the point.  Indeed, someone who resists such a claim might himself be subject to criticism on the grounds that he has made his position unfalsifiable.

 

For example, suppose a heavy smoker said, in reply to those who implored him to cut back: “Oh come on, lots of people smoke heavily and don’t get cancer!  So how can you maintain your claim that there is a causal link, in the face of all that evidence?  Don’t you know that a serious scientific claim should be falsifiable?”  In fact, of course, it is the heavy smoker in question who is more plausibly accused of being insufficiently respectful of falsifiability.  For there is a very strong link between heavy smoking and cancer, even if the former doesn’t always lead to the latter.  And the empirical evidence for that link is so strong that it is those who deny it who are refusing to let their position be falsified by the evidence.

 

More could be said, but in fact these reflections on falsification are intended merely as a preamble to an application of the idea to a domain very different from the examples considered so far — namely, an example concerning politics and current events.  I’ll get to that in another post.

You can find this post here.

Tactical Retreat: Strawman Argument: Cats vs. Dogs

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Tactical Retreat‘s latest sketch is entitled “Strawman Arguments: Cats vs. Dogs” can be viewed below.

 

Get Writing! Characters…

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

Luna, Dudley, Fred, George, Cho, James, Lilly, Viktor…

You know them instantly. Even though it wasn’t their name on the cover. And we’re willing to bet you can name at least a dozen more of the characters that shaped Harry’s world. (Go on, do it! At least 12. Go!) Another roll of the dice says you know each of those characters’ histories, their arcs, their quirks, and the roles they each played in Harry’s life.

Luna

A good story has a leading character (or more than one) that you can root for, and supporting characters that you can relate to. But how many books or movies have a whole cast that you feel are part of your family? That you’d really want to be part of your family?

Dobby spark Moment of silence

Of those few that come to mind, how many are some of your favorite books of all time?

Characters play…

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Science vs. Science™!

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article that warrants posting here.  I have seen a recent proliferation of articles in respected publications pointing out, bemoaning, and/or highlighting increasing problems with the trustworthiness of the alleged findings of the contemporary scientific community.  I find these articles to be particularly interesting given how our society looks to science as a (the?) source of ultimate truths (often as a mutually exclusive alternative to spirituality).  This sort of scientism may be misplaced, and these articles delve into the pitfalls that come with such an approach.

Here are the links the other articles I posted on this subject:

Be edified.

________________

Who needs experiments and proof when your zeal is religious?

On Saturday, leftists around the nation took to the streets to sound off about their new religion: Science™! No, not testable hypotheses and well-constructed experiments. Science™! You know, like gay rights and abortion and global redistributionism and dying polar bears ’n’ stuff.

Leading the charge was eminent scientific revolutionary Bill Nye the Science Guy, a mechanical-engineering-degree holder who got famous as a children’s television presenter. Nye was a keynoter at the March for Science, where he stated, “We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” What sort of science was Nye standing up to defend? Budget increases for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, of course! He explained how all of this was scientific and not political: “Somewhere along the way, there has developed this idea that if you believe something hard enough, it’s as true as things discovered through the process of science. And I will say that’s objectively wrong.”

Belief isn’t science. This is a good point.

Unfortunately, Nye followed up his widely praised appearance at the March for Science by unleashing a video that destroyed the Internet, from his new show Bill Nye Saves the World. He trotted out Crazy Ex-Girlfriend actress Rachel Bloom to sing a “very special” song (Nye’s words). She warbled:

My vagina has its own voice / Not vocal cords, a metaphorical voice / Sometimes I do a voice for my vagina . . . / ’Cause my sex junk is so oh, oh, oh / Much more than either or, or or / Power bottom or power top / Versatile love may have some butt stuff / It’s evolution, ain’t nothing new / There’s nothing taboo about a sex stew . . . If they’re alive, I’ll date ’em / Channing or Jenna Tatum / I’m down for anything / Don’t box in my box.

Science™!

If this seems rather unscientific to you — if you wonder why a talking vagina with obvious self-control problems is being trotted out by the self-proclaimed Science Guy — you’re not alone. You’re rational. You might even be using some scientific thinking. But this is demonstrative of the Left’s take on science: Science is actually just the name for anything the Left likes. Worried about the humanity of an unborn child? Concerned that fetuses have their own blood types and their own DNA? Stop it! You’re quoting science, not Science™! Wondering how it is that a genetic male is actually a woman? You’re worrying about science, not Science™!

This is the dirty little secret of the Left’s sudden embrace of Science™ — it’s not science they support, but religion. They support that which they believe but cannot prove and do not care about proving. Bill Nye isn’t interested in a scientific debate about global warming — how much is occurring, the measurement techniques at issue, the sensitivity of the climate to carbon emissions, the range of factors that affect the climate. He wants you to accept his version of the truth — not just that global warming is happening, but that massive government intervention is necessary in order to avert imminent global catastrophe.

Such government solutions aren’t verifiably scientific. They are speculative. But that speculation has costs, particularly to the most impoverished people on the planet, who benefit from cheap carbon-based fuels. Even if you accept the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that sea levels will rise by two feet over the course of the rest of the century and the temperature will rise about 7 degrees Fahrenheit, there is reason to question, as Oren Cass points out, whether or not massive government intervention is necessary or even justifiable.

But the Left refuses to acknowledge such questions. It makes you a “denier” to disagree with the Left’s conclusions, just as it makes you a cruel person to wonder whether gun control will actually lower the American murder rate. Science, in other words, is just a baton for the Left.

A decade ago, the Left declared President Bush anti-science for his restrictions on the use of new federally funded fetal-stem-cell lines. They claimed that Bush hated science, that fetal stem cells were the wave of the future, that Bush was a “moral ayatollah,” in the words of Senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa). Democrats ran on the promise that if Bush were thrown out of office in 2004, they’d make Christopher Reeve walk again using fetal stem cells. But it turned out that fetal stem cells were unnecessary to scientific research — scientists came up with an embryo-free process to produce genetically matched stem cells. As Charles Krauthammer, no religious fundamentalist, wrote at the time: “Rarely has a president — so vilified for a moral stance — been so thoroughly vindicated. Why? Precisely because he took a moral stance.”

In other words, Bush didn’t rely on science to give him his values. Nor should he have. Science is incapable of making value-laden decisions. There are plenty of ob-gyns who know better than the most pro-life conservative just how complex life is in the womb, yet they will perform abortions — science hasn’t dictated their behavior. The Nazis were famously pro-science, declaring that science itself mandated the killing of the “unfit” for the strengthening of the race; their racism was supposedly scientific.

That’s why the March for Science is such foolishness. If the march were simply focused on advocacy for increased EPA funding, that would be political, not scientific; if the marchers were demanding more funding for the NIH, that too would be political, but with a stronger scientific component. But the March for Science was actually a march for Science™: The Leftist Religion — and that leftist religion isn’t interested in science in the slightest. It’s simplistic and simple-minded virtue signaling.

By Ben Shapiro in the National Review on April 26, 2017 and can be seen here.

Pushing at the Edges: An oral history of women who began practicing law in the early 1970s

Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire has been featured in an article entitled Pushing at the Edges, by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and originally published in Superlawyers Magazine on May 24, 2017, which can be found here.  The article features opinions, impressions, anecdotes, and stories of female attorneys who have been practicing for over 40 years.  It is posted below.

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By the time they went to law school at Harvard and Penn and BU in the 1970s, women found female colleagues, and when they interviewed with firms, they found one or two women forebears. “I felt I was accepted as a lawyer,” recalls Faye Cohen, a 1972 law school graduate now practicing in Philadelphia.

But Cohen and her peers still had battles to fight. One opposing counsel in a long-ago arbitration hearing told Martha Hartle Munsch, now an equity partner at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh, “Shut up, sweetie”—and the male arbitrator let it slide. Some women endured male colleagues making jokes about their engagement rings and bras; male professors going overboard with rape examples; male judges sneering at briefcases and pantsuits. “I can still hear [the ‘shut up’ comment] ringing,” Munsch recalls.

Here are some of their stories.

Women entering the law faced discrimination in the ’70s, but many of their mothers and aunts couldn’t even go to law school.

Regina O’Brien Thomas, Ballard Spahr, Boston University School of Law 1973: My mom was an “at-home” legal secretary to an uncle who was a small-town lawyer. She closed her bedroom door and typed “stips,” which many years later I understood to be stipulations. Even when you read stories about the pioneers Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, my mother was before their time. In 1941, maybe you could find one [female attorney] somewhere, but an ordinary woman in an ordinary town like my mom certainly could not aspire to be a lawyer. My mom couldn’t; I could.

Susan K. Hoffman, Littler Mendelson, University of Pennsylvania Law School 1974: My father was a truck driver, my mother was a secretary, and I thought I wanted to be a physicist or a mathematician. But I ended up majoring in economics and, probably because I grew up reading my father’s Teamster magazines, I became very interested in working on labor relations. I spent my summers working for an actuarial firm, because I babysat the actuary’s kids when I was in high school. I knew I didn’t want to be an actuary, but I liked the business environment and I figured I’d get a job in labor relations management. But in 1969 and ’70, I couldn’t get a job interview because I was a girl.

In 1970, women still made up only 4 percent of the student body in U.S. law school. It was still a man’s world.

Alice Gosfield, Alice G. Gosfield and Associates, NYU School of Law 1973: The only role model I had at that time as a female lawyer was Bella Abzug, who I did not consider to be a model I wanted to follow. I thought, “Well, it’s only three years, I’ll go.”

Martha Hartle Munsch, Reed Smith, Yale Law School 1973: I was the sports editor of my undergraduate student newspaper and I wanted to be a sports journalist. I have no lawyers in my family. I never really aspired to go to law school. But my best friend convinced me to take the law boards, and I did really well. This was before women really had any visibility in sports journalism. I learned that Howard Cosell was a lawyer. I tell people, if ESPN had existed back in the early 1970s, I would never have become a practicing lawyer.

Marilyn Kutler, Schnader Harrison, University of Pennsylvania Law School 1974: I approached a man [who] was a lawyer by training and he had graduated from Penn Law in 1930. We had a very nice business relationship and I said, “Gee, I’m hoping I can get a reference for Penn Law School,” and he said, “Oh, really, why are you going?” I said, “Because I think I would be a good lawyer.” He said, without missing a beat, “But I think you might displace a man.” And I remember thinking, “Really?”

Sherrie Savett, Berger & Montague, University of Pennsylvania Law School 1973: There were 30 women in our law school class out of 200. It had been 5 percent or less in all the previous classes. Our class was like a quantum leap.

Thomas: My 1970 Boston University class was the first class with a sizable percentage of women. They had no large enough women’s room at the law school and had to turn the Law Review office into a women’s room. But it was always getting better.

Hoffman: There was one much-loved professor who was absolutely wonderful, and he taught evidence, and all of his hypotheticals were rape hypotheticals. At one point, a few of the women got together and approached him and said, “It’s very hard for us to sit there, day after day, listening to stories of rape.” And he said, “Oh my God, that never occurred to me, I started doing that to keep men awake.”

Thomas: One of the biggest things I had to learn was to speak up for myself. In law school, I, and certainly every other woman, didn’t speak out most of the time—and guess who filled the vacuum? Men! They all spoke up. Eventually, I learned to speak up and not be shy about asking what pay my work deserves. I guess that’s the lesson women need to do, because some of us are naturally too polite.

Many were lucky enough to join supportive firms with progressive male mentors; others, not so much.

Deena Jo Schneider, Schnader Harrison, Harvard Law School 1974: [My husband’s] uncle was from New York, and I remember his law firm. One of the senior partners said to me I had no business going to law school because I was taking the place of somebody who needed the job and I would never be a practicing lawyer and I would leave and get a station wagon to drive my kids around. I looked at him and said, “Well, I don’t really like station wagons. But I think I will be a lawyer and I hope I have a family, too.” I didn’t go to work there.

Thomas: I applied for a summer clerkship in 1971. My husband and I wanted to try Philadelphia, just because it was halfway between our parents. There was only one firm at Philadelphia that came to BU, so I interviewed [with] them. That interviewer spent my entire interview asking questions about my husband. That law firm had no women. They actually offered me a job, so I declined and wrote letters to two other law firms that had at least one woman, and I went to Ballard. I’ve been there ever since.

Faye Cohen, Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, University of Denver College of Law 1972: I was able to find a job—they treated me very nicely. It was an all-male firm and it was in Wilkes-Barre. I was the only woman lawyer in Wilkes-Barre at the time. I remember attending a Bar Association outing. There was a golf tournament, and they gave me a prize for being the only woman.

Schneider: The interview started and [the interviewer] asked me to stand up and turn around. I was so taken aback. He repeated the request and I stood up and I didn’t turn around and I said, “Why are you asking me this?” And he backed off. I remember telling a couple of my friends afterward, and they were up in arms. They were like, “You have to report this guy and get the firm banned.” I was reluctant to do that because it was one person from this firm—he was not smart; I certainly didn’t like it, but I did not think the proper thing to do was make the firm pay for it by being banned from campus. I always thought that what you should do is say, “That’s really not an appropriate thing to say, I’m just as capable as anybody else, give me a chance and I’ll show it to you,” and disprove things by your actions, as opposed to getting people in trouble for just saying things that weren’t very thoughtful.

Kutler: I remember interviewing at one firm that said they already had a woman.

The remarks, the remarks, the remarks. How is a professional lawyer supposed to respond to something like, “Shut up, sweetie”?

Cohen: There was one elderly judge. Every time I walked into the courtroom—it was a smaller court, there might be 50 people—if I had to get up to go to the restroom, he’d say, “Why are you carrying this briefcase?”

Thomas: I had a judge who wouldn’t let me wear my pantsuit, which I modeled after Mary Tyler Moore and purchased with my first paycheck. I had an opponent who successfully blocked a lawsuit extension when I was pregnant.

Kutler: When I was probably eight months pregnant, and we were going to a meeting with a big bank, [a colleague] said to me, “I’m going to need to introduce you.” I said, “I know all these people.” He said, “No, just wait.” He says, “So, you all know Marilyn, I’m coming as her obstetrician.” That was a pretty weird situation. Could you get all upset? Definitely. When I thought people were really over the line, and sometimes people were, with really inappropriate statements, I said something and it usually stopped.

Savett: The anti-women stuff, the really insulting stuff, for the most part stopped in the 10 to 15 years after I got out of law school. After that there was less and less of it. But there was always some really uncouth lawyer who would make a comment. As time went along, the comments didn’t even sting you. Sentiments had shifted, and comments like that just reflect poorly on the men who made them.

Munsch: Not only the law firms were male-dominated; the executives for the clients with whom I’d be working were men. It was really a fabulous icebreaker to be sitting with clients at dinner in any part of the country and I could talk sports to them.

Hoffman: Only once did I say something nasty to a client. I was called into a meeting and this guy had a serious situation that I was an expert in, and I tried to give him advice and he was saying something like, “Little lady, why should I listen to you?” And I said, “Well, buddy, it’s your money, so you can either listen to me or lose it.”

Gosfield: I remember a client I represented for 25 years, and he called me and said, “I didn’t like you when I first met you. I don’t like pushy women.” I said, “OK.” He said, “But now we’re fine.” I said, “Fine.”

Munsch: When I had my daughter in 1986, I tried a jury case when I was seven months pregnant. I actually thought it was a great advantage because I’ll tell you, the jury is so sympathetic to you when you’re pregnant. They hated that the case ended so quickly. They said, “We wanted the case to go on because we were so interested in your maternity outfits.”

In the ’70s, family-leave policies were more or less nonexistent, so attorneys who wanted to have children had to invent the concept at their own firms and figure out how to implement it.

Thomas: I was the first woman at Ballard to return after having a child. I didn’t know how to handle it, I didn’t know what to ask for, Ballard didn’t know what to do. They didn’t have any policies. There was also the silly concept that women could be superwomen—there was even a cover in Time or something. So I just soldiered on. But soon enough another woman partner and I proposed written maternity policies, and for decades Ballard has been very generous in offering maternity policies and flex time. We wouldn’t get the many women we have if we didn’t do that.

Schneider: I came back [from having a baby] on an hourly basis. I went on trial on a case and my hours went through the roof. The managing partner came to me and said, “Deena, this is ridiculous, you’re making my life very hard, I have to figure out every two weeks what to pay you and you’re making more money than you would be if you weren’t going part-time, and let’s just put you back on salary.” I said, “Well, I need some flexibility.” And he said, “We’ll have flexibility, just figure it out.” I thought there was resentment from people because I dared to have a kid and cut this “special” deal.

Savett: There were no family-leave policies whatsoever. I gave birth on a weekend and I worked up until the Friday, and I was back in less than two months. In retrospect, I really don’t think I took enough time. I was concerned about leaving my job for too long, and, at the same time, I felt guilty and torn about leaving my new baby. Now, most firms give at least three to four months with pay when women have babies; that’s so much kinder and better. When they come back, they’re ready to come back and be productive again, and their status within the law firm has not been diminished at all.

Hoffman: When I was up for a partnership at Goodwin Procter, there was one male partner who was reported to have said at a partners’ meeting, “We’re hiring too many female associates, because everyone knows women can’t get clients.” So I get a call from a woman I met through the American Bar Association who was in-house at Conoco. She said, “Do you have a firm resume?” I called [the male partner] and I explained what I was looking for, and there was this moment of silence on the phone. And he said, “Wow, that’s terrific, how did you get that?” I was about to respond routinely when a little imp in the back of my mind took over and I said, “Well, you might say it’s the old girls’ network.”

The battles against discrimination and double standards are far from over. But many attorneys feel that continued progress is inevitable.

Hoffman: We learned from the last election there are subconscious barriers. I have no doubt that the hostility toward Hillary Clinton in both male and female voters was based in part on her gender, because she didn’t act the way a nice lady was supposed to act. And that’s going to require a societal change, not a change in the legal profession.

Cohen: Oh, I definitely feel there’s progress being made. The first large firm I practiced with, there were very few women, and they never mentioned that they had children. Now, many of my cases are all women: The judges are women, there are women on the other side.

Gosfield: I’m a colleague and peer of a young woman who is the co-chair of the health law department at a large national firm. About three years ago, she and two other women were sitting in a health lawyers’ presentation, and some older guy who was speaking said, “Of course, it’s better if you hire women, because they make less money.” The three of them said they were going to form a women’s health council. I said, “Look, we did this in the early ’70s. Isn’t it over? Why is this necessary again?”

Thomas: I’m optimistic. I really am. The young women coming along are just amazing. And it’s just a matter of time before it’ll be 50/50.

Schneider: There’s no question that, for women, and it’s true today, there’s a narrower range of acceptable behavior. If a woman dresses well, she’s too fashionable; if a man dresses well, he looks good. If a woman doesn’t dress well, she’s dowdy; if a man doesn’t dress well, he doesn’t care. If a woman laughs too much, she’s frivolous; if a man laughs, he’s got a good sense of humor. I pushed at those edges because I was forceful; I did like nice clothes; I’m not quiet. You can’t be quiet and succeed in the times I lived.

Catholic School Principal’s Title VII Suit Dismissed Under “Ministerial Exception”

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Fratello v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, (SD NY, March 29, 2016), a New York federal district court held that the “ministerial exception” to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act precludes the former lay principal of a Catholic elementary school from suing for employment discrimination.  Plaintiff alleged that her employment was terminated as a result of gender discrimination and retaliation. In relying on the ministerial exception doctrine as set out in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 Hosanna-Tabor decision, the district court said in part:

There is no dispute that Plaintiff is not a member of the clergy and that she would not be considered a minister for purposes of Church governance. But the issue here is one of U.S., not canon, law, and “minister” for purposes of the ministerial exception has a far broader meaning than it does for internal Church purposes.

You can learn more about this issue here.

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: An Adjustment

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

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