MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2016

Conclusion—The provost can't be disturbed:
Was the sentence given to Brock Turner too lenient? Was it much too lenient?

We can't answer your questions. For starters, we aren't fans of punishment culture. We're not sure we've ever been happy to hear that someone is going to jail.

More specifically, we don't know much about sentencing decisions in cases of this general type. Check that! In fact, we don't know anything about sentencing decisions in cases of this general type. Of course, neither do the million fiery pseudo-progressives who signed Professor Dauber's petition to get the local judge fired.

We don't really know what we're talking about. This rarely stops us modern pseudos when we stage one of our hunts.

Alas! We modern pseudo-progressives are highly skilled with our various species of dogma. In this case, our dogma tells us that we mustn't discuss the culture of campus drinking in connection with a case like this, in which a jury found that Turner was guilty of sexual assault.

The intersection between campus drinking and these endless cases is painfully clear. But our dogma tells us we mustn't go there, and we modern pseudo-progressives are happy childish slaves to our various dogmas.

In the current case, our love of dogma and moral dudgeon led us to stage two of our hunts. First, we chased down the college freshman who was convicted of assault.

People can judge that as they wish. After that, more remarkably, we chased down the local judge.

Our perspective on these matters is somewhat different. If we wanted to get a lynch mob running, we'd chase the provost and president first, then inquire about the availability of Stanford's highly august professors.

In modern pseudo-liberal culture, Homey don't play it that way. We tend to go after the little guy while letting august figures slide.

Our love of dogma intersects with our other known skill, our skill at inventing scripted stories replete with heroes and demons. If we have to disappear or invent facts to make our stories less ambiguous, we're typically willing to do it.

If we have to stress irrelevant facts, we're willing to do that too. See this morning's postscript.

Our mainstream press corps has worked in these ways for several decades now. We pseudo-progressives have come to feel that we like this culture too.

As we've read about the current case, we've been struck by the elements which add a bit of ambiguity to the wonderfully admirable outrage we've derived from the application of our various dogmas. Mainstream journalists have tended to skip past these elements as they push for maximum outrage about the outrageous behavior of the local judge.

For ourselves, we'll speak today on behalf of ambiguity. Understanding that others won't follow us there, we'll at least mention these points:

The case of the prior arrest: According to the Los Angeles Times, Turner "was arrested before the sexual assault in an unrelated incident." The on-line version of the report fails to explain that statement. But Rocha and Mejia do at least say this:
ROCHA AND MEJIA (6/10/16): According to prosecutors, Turner and members of his swim team were stopped by a deputy after they were spotting drinking beer on campus and then tried to run away. He was wearing a bright orange tuxedo and smelled of alcohol. Turner wasn’t 21 years old and had a fake driver’s license, according to prosecutors.
This incident occurred in November 2014, two months before the events in which Turner committed the assault. In this prior incident, Turner and others were chased through the Stanford campus because they were drinking beer.

We'll only note that Turner still "wasn't 21 years old" in January 2015, when the fraternity party in question occurred. (In fact, he was still 19.) But so what? At that party, he was served alcohol until his blood alcohol content reached 0.17, more than twice the legal limit for driving a car.

Turner was 19; presumably, serving him that alcohol was illegal. But where a campus policeman once chased him around, now the fraternity proceeded to get him shit-faced drunk, in apparent violation of state law. This is why we'd start by chasing the provost, president and professors around, long before we'd try to launch our death threats at the local judge.

Turner's victim was over 21, but she was served so much alcohol at that party that she was black-out drunk by the time she left (0.25, three times the legal limit). A bar and bar-tender would face legal sanctions for serving her that much booze, then letting her walk out the door. This is why we'd be inclined to chase the provost around in this latest case, along with Stanford's august professors, before we'd to get the tribe sending threats to the judge, who had to sort out the tragic results of this deliberate, enabled mess.

The recommendation of the heroic professor: When we get our lynch mobs running, we quickly create our heroes and demons. This keeps our story on second-grade level, where we prefer to live.

In this case, we invented the heroic professor, Professor Dauber, who was also a long-time family friend of the victim. We'll only note this:

In a letter to the local judge,
Professor Dauber seemed to recommend a sentence of 2-3 years. Beyond that, she seemed to anticipate that Turner, who was 20 years old at sentencing, would serve only a portion of that time.

"If the court adheres to the statutory minimums, Turner will be out of prison by the time he is 22," the heroic professor wrote. "He will have plenty of opportunity to finish his education, put this behind him, and have a second chance at his life."

This heroic professor specializes in the very important matter of sexual assault. She may have done lots of good work in this general area.

We only note that her recommendation was rarely cited by journalists when they helped us gather our rope to chase the local judge. At the Los Angeles Times, Rocha and Mejia framed his unfeeling behavior in this more typical way:
ROCHA AND MEJIA: Turner was convicted in March of three felony counts: assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person, sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.

He was facing a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, while prosecutors asked Persky to sentence him to six years in prison.

Instead, Persky sentenced Turner to six months in county jail
and three years of probation. Turner is likely to serve only half of that sentence due to California’s felony sentencing realignment.
Good work! Readers weren't told that the probation officer had recommended a sentence of 4-6 months. Nor were they told that the heroic professor only seemed to recommend 2-3 years, with less time actually served.

Readers were given a more exciting framework, helping them stoke their glorious anger. The judge could have given him 14 years! Prosecutors asked for six!

This selective presentation helped stoke our fury at the local judge. The death threats began rolling in.

Concerning those letters: The local judge had to assess a selection of letters and statements about the case. Readers were told about the foolishness and the apparent dissembling in two or three of the pro-Turner letters. We weren't told about the possible shortcomings in statements supporting the victim.

If we might borrow from Mr. T, we pity the judge when we see the statements he had to consider. In our view, parts of the letter from the heroic professor were completely foolish, given the circumstance which surrounded the case. In her own statement to the court, the victim discussed her history of drinking in a way which may have been as disingenuous as Turner's discussion of his own prior drinking.

The victim wasn't charged with a crime, of course. Still, we felt sorry for the judge when we saw some of the nonsense he was forced to sift. Because of the dogmas which keep us from discussing the intersection between alcohol abuse and sexual assault, the public never had to hear about any of this.

The protest by the heroic juror: After the local judge announced the disgraceful sentence, a juror stepped forward to protest. He was quickly cast in the role of the heroic juror.

There was no sign that this heroic juror knew his aspic from his elbow when it came to sentencing practices in such cases, but when we get our lynch mobs running, nobody cares about that. Beyond that, might we ask a question?

How did the jury find Turner guilty of "assault with intent to rape?" Even the heroic professor only said this in her letter to the unfeeling judge:

"Had Good Samaritans not intervened, [the victim] likely would have been raped in public."

We're not sure how the professor can feel she knows even that. But "likely" isn't "proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Somehow, though, the jury felt it knew enough to convict Turner on that charge. Is it possible that the jury may gotten a bit out over its skis? You will never see such a question discussed in the wake of such a case.

A few ancillary questions: What did you think about the 19-year sentence the teenager got in this recent case? What did you think about last week's long-delayed resolution of this police homicide case?

Oh, that's right! Those cases don't fit the standard templates through which we're fed our childish tribal gruel. You'll never see those cases discussed. Simple put, we pseudos don't care about the people involved in those cases.

"Hell is other Britons," a brave fellow has now declared. Needless to say, the New York Times thought his statement was great.

Tomorrow, we'll build a new line of inquiry out of that stirring declaration. For ourselves, we'll only say his: increasingly, hell is the childish conduct of other pseudo-liberals.

Ambiguity isn't our friend. We prefer our heroes and demons straight.

We like the chase the local judges around. Within the realm of our childish minds, the provost can't be disturbed.

A bar tender faces legal trouble if he behaves as that Stanford fraternity did. That said, the frats just keep on pouring, with the same results again and again and again.

Young people are hurt again and again as this crackpot culture proceeds. In the realm of our simple and childish minds, the provost, president and professors know nothing about this problem.

Cast in the role of the Skittles: We enjoy inventing fake facts. We enjoy disappearing facts which introduce complexity into our games.

We also like to stress irrelevant facts which set the tone for our morality tales. In this case, the dumpster was the irrelevant player. It was widely cited for its bathetic effect. It was cast in the role of the Skittles.

This is the way our childish minds actually work. As the great existentialist declared in Huis Clos, "Hell is other people!"


  1. Off topic, but will Maddow mention it on her show?

    1. Only if it makes her advertisers happy.

    2. Maddow is such a hack and a fake.

    3. Clearly we have to allow an elected official to accept over $175,000 in gifts from someone seeking actions by institutions he oversees in his official capacity because to call that criminal might mean it might- possibly-could become criminal for a politician to go to a ballgame with a neighborhood association after the official inquired why it was taking so long to get electric service restored to the neighborhood.


    4. Of course that's the only reason we would allow it. Not because it isn't illegal.

      Scandal politics are for those that have no philosophy.

    5. "Last month's sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia at a Texas hunting lodge, where he was staying for free as a guest of a Texas businessman, put a spotlight on a long-simmering ethical issue.

      Should Supreme Court justices be taking trips paid for by business people, political activists, ideological organizations, or anyone with vested interests in the broad legal issues that come before the court?

      The short answer is no, they shouldn't.

      But they are. From 2004 to 2014, the nine justices took more than 1,000 reported trips paid for by outside sources. Scalia was by far the most traveled, with more than 23 trips on average a year, followed by Justice Stephen Breyer, with 17. Chief Justice John Roberts took the least, fewer than five per year.

      We’re not suggesting that the justices are for sale. Or that they improperly discuss pending court cases. We are saying it looks bad for any judge, let alone the nine men and women who decide the most far-reaching issues of the day, to accept free trips, some of which are never publicly disclosed and many of which are paid for by private groups with clear agendas."

    6. So you think that someone should go to jail based upon what you think the quid pro quo laws should be changed to?

      You make fun of Somerby's use of the royal We, but you actually think your views should override the actual law.

      Come on, you don't even care about bribery laws. You're just squirming to rationalize your many, many victory laps you've taken over this (hardly big money) scandal.

      You know the Blackwater bs is still going on, but Maddow doesn't want to pee on the present administration. I think you'll find the money slushing around there dwarfs $175K.

    7. "you make actually don't even're just squirming to rationalize...laps you've know"

      You certainly know somebody's state of mind better than the Justice Department thought they new Governor McDonnell's. At least they had some evidence.

    8. You lay it out for all to see.

  2. "The intersection between"
    "dogma intersects"
    "keep us from discussing the intersection"

    I see what you are doing there.

    I only hope you will find the time and way to get beyond these mere hints at the futility and danger of a certain brand of discourse...

    1. "I only hope you will find the time and way to get beyond these mere hints at the futility and danger of a certain brand of discourse."

      Dream on.

  3. "A bar tender faces legal trouble if he behaves as that Stanford fraternity did. That said, the frats just keep on pouring, with the same results again and again and again."

    Perhaps Bob will crusade for another prohibition of manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. That prohibition certainly put a dent in the incidence of rape during the brief time this noble experiment was in effect last century.

    1. Somerby's a Dry!!!!

    2. At least when the female victim is drunk!!!!

    3. Underage drinking is against the law, as is public drunkeness.

    4. It is truly a shame Jane Doe was not charged for forcing that Judge to have to deal with things that make Bob Somerby sorry for him.
      Not to mention making that poor group of jurors have to get so far out over their skis.

    5. Anonymous @ 4:43 has it right. If the police had simply arrested the younbg lady when she woke up in the hospital and charged her with PI, she might have gotten help for her drinking problem and would probably never know the pain caused by finding out about something that happened while she was unconcious.

      Meanwhile the police could probably have scared young Brock Turner straight by locking him up a couple of nights with the likes of Speaker Hastert and Jerry Sandusky.

    6. No, simply enforce laws that exist to prevent this stupidity before it produces tragic consequences. Where the hell are the grown-ups? Institutions of higher learning are not the place for a culture of binge drinking.

  4. "We can't answer your questions....More specifically, we don't know much about sentencing decisions in cases of this general type. Check that! In fact, we don't know anything about sentencing decisions in cases of this general type."

    However, Bob Somerby, through extensive academic and personal study as well as decades of personal and professional experience knows how such matters should be covered by the press. In fact, he knows how all matters should both be covered and, when he determines it has not been so covered, why it was not.

  5. "A few ancillary questions: What did you think about the 19-year sentence the teenager got in this recent case? What did you think about last week's long-delayed resolution of this police homicide case?"

    I think I am as outraged as I was at Al Gore, during his run for President, for taking the initiative the issue of creating prison fuloughs as an issue in the 1988 Democratic race for President.

    1. Why would you be outraged at someone for raising the prison furlough issue?

      Al Gore did not make prison furlough an issue, he only barely mentioned it in one of the 45 debates that primary campaign. He correctly pointed out that it was a bad policy.

      It was Bush's campaign that made it a dog whistle for racists with their Willie Horton ads. It was the press that incorrectly conflated Gore with Willie Horton, thus suckering the masses.

  6. The Provost/Professor series is another in the excellent work Bob Somerby has done to expose the frauds that teach our children.

    We pseudos should have learned from the cheating on standardized tests, but no. We waited until children get hurt.

    1. This is clearly all a big joke to you. Sad.

    2. Let's be clear. We know of no reason to think that test scores always reflect cheating, whether in whole or in part.

      That said, we also can't say that cheating isn't a factor....We only note that reporters completely skip this possibility. Within the past few years, the problem of outright cheating on standardized tests finally achieved recognition as a potential and actual major problem— That said, most researchers work with data from statewide testing programs, and outright cheating on these tests has been a problem for decades.

      You seem to think it is a joke to mention this.

  7. "Good work! Readers weren't told that the probation officer had recommended a sentence of 4-6 months. Nor were they told that the heroic professor only seemed to recommend 2-3 years, with less time actually served."

    Bob Somerby

    Actually Mr. Somerby, they were told about the "heroic" professor.

    From the LA Times Article:

    "8) A Stanford law professor urged the judge to sentence Turner to at least two to three years.
    In a letter to Persky, Stanford law professor Michele Dauber detailed her personal relationship with the victim, who has been a close friend of the professor’s daughter since middle school. Dauber, who has since launched a campaign to remove Persky from the bench, described the victim as a “lovely, warm, talented, funny girl” who came from a “close, loving, involved family.”

    Dauber had urged Persky to sentence Turner in accordance with the statutory guidelines, “with minimum sentences of two to three years of incarceration for the crimes for which Turner was convicted.”

    And readers were also told about the probation office's recommendation, in an article by Rocha and another reporter written three days earlier.

    What is it called when a blogger lies like Trump in one part of a post, then disappears something while falsely accusing journalists of that very act?

  8. The bartender is Bob's dumpster. Except the dumpster was real, not hypothetical. Like the Skittles.