Costs and Benefits of Modern “Sex Crime” Witch Hunts

Friday, August 17th, 2012

People of our present era like to believe that they are sophisticated, intelligent, and incapable of engaging in the kind of witch hunts that made Salem, Massachusetts, famous, yet in the past 30 years American law enforcement and prosecutors have pursued what only could be described as witch hunts, as they have railroaded innocent people into prison for crimes that clearly have not occurred. There are the more famous witch hunts, such as the McMartin and Kern County cases in California, the Little Rascals Case in North Carolina, the Grant Snowden case in Florida, the witch hunt of Wenatchee, Washington, and many more.

In each of these cases, people have been accused of the most sordid and horrible kinds of child molestation, from outright rape to shoving swords into the rectums of children (and, amazingly, leaving absolutely no trace of injury), cooking babies in microwave ovens, engaging in Satanic rituals in the middle of the day at day care centers, throwing children into shark-infested waters, and more. We would like to think that there at least would be some physical or corroborating evidence for such actions, but these “crimes” were pursued even though nothing seemed changed about the children.

Often, the charges seem to be absolutely contrived. In Dade County, Georgia, for example, Brad Wade was accused of sexually molesting a minor on a very short stretch of I-59 while simultaneously driving more than 60 mph. (While he had been driving in from Alabama, the alleged molestation took place only in Georgia.) That might seem a bit strange, but when one realizes that Alabama authorities had recognized that the accusations and their backgrounds (yet another child custody fight) simply did not make sense, so Northwest Georgia authorities, which push nearly every sexual abuse accusation (as long as the accused is not politically-connected), eagerly jumped on the charges and Wade is serving a lengthy sentence in a Georgia prison.

When one steps back and takes a hard look at these cases, it is apparent that the authorities have depended upon mass hysteria and a news media that soaks up every story, no matter how contrived it might be. Because I have no expertise in psychology (except in dealing with four internationally-adopted teenagers in my home), I am reluctant to deal with psychological aspects of witch hunts except to say that people really do come to believe things that physically seem to violate laws of time and space.

I turn, instead, t0 those things where I do have more formal experience, the cost and benefit patterns that accompany these witch hunts, patterns that would interest an economist like me. Accompanying that curiosity are some questions that never seem to be asked when the hysteria breaks out:

  • Why is corroborating evidence ignored, even when it absolutely points to the falsity of the charges?
  • Are there any overt patterns that are seen time and again when authorities go after people accused of these horrific things?
  • Does anyone benefit, financially, professionally, or otherwise, from the pursuing of these charges?

If we can answer these questions, then we also are able to get a clearer picture of why these charges are levied and why the authorities are hellbent on bird-dogging them, even in the face of corroborating evidence that absolutely debunks the accusations. Furthermore, we might get a better sense of why jurors in such cases are likely to convict innocent people.

In the situation of bogus child molestation charges, there really is a Ground Zero: the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act of 1974, commonly known as the Mondale Act. If ever there were an outright federal assault on the Rights of the Accused which came out of Anglo-American Law, it was this law. Congress passed it, of course, because Sen. Walter Mondale (who was up for re-election) claimed that child abuse was epidemic and the federal government had to step in to put an end to this horror.

Now, Mondale was right in saying that there always are horrific cases of child abuse and molestation, and I can say, as one who has been involved in four international adoptions, that such outrages occur inside and outside the USA. No one will dispute that fact. However, the federal “solution” to this problem has been to create huge incentives and moral hazards for false accusations. This is a law that not only eviscerated the Rights of the Accused, but also created incentives for local and state governments to make money and for individuals employed in that system to enhance their own personal prospects.

Economists are fond of saying that incentives matter, and CAPTA and similar laws passed in its wake (including the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and beyond) created numerous financial and personal incentives for police and prosecutors to emphasize these kinds of cases. At the same time, CAPTA lowered the legal threshold for prosecution and denied defendants the right to bring corroborating evidence that might prove exculpatory.

For example, authorities claimed that molested and abused children would be traumatized by having to be in the same courtroom with their alleged abuser, so children often would testify from the judge’s chamber via a closed-circuit television. Such an arrangement only served to make the defendant look to be such a monster that he or she had to be guilty. (The U.S. Supreme Court struck down this practice, saying that it deprived the defendants of the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser.)

The Mondale Act also told states receiving federal money to eliminate the requirement for corroborating evidence, which mean that the accusation itself would constitute all of the proof needed for a conviction, which lowered the legal standard in criminal cases to something akin to preponderance of the evidence, the civil standard, instead of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Rape Shield laws, which also have applied to sexual abuse cases, encouraged judges to disallow evidence such as the accuser having a history of making false charges, and the courts also permitted the admission of hearsay evidence, especially when it would benefit the prosecution’s case.

We should not be surprised at the results, as numerous people have been wrongfully convicted for something that never happened. Because American courts tend to overturn convictions on issues of procedure and not guilt or innocence, one can say with certainty that in the United States of America today, actual innocence no longer is a legitimate defense, at least in some kinds of cases. Furthermore, the appeals courts constantly are looking for reasons to impose “finality,” which means that they wash their hands of the evidence and the hard fact that those appealing their convictions might well be innocent.

While it almost is impossible statistically to trace the patterns of accusations and convictions, nonetheless we have seen the development of cost and benefit patterns that have followed in the wake of the changes in how such cases proceed. We should remember that witch hunts don’t occur because people mysteriously become hysterical en mass. They happen, instead, because individuals benefit from making and pursuing these charges, and in the case of so-called sex crimes, the benefits can be huge.

Before looking at the benefits, however, let us examine who bears the costs. People who are accused either must depend upon a public defender or must pay for legal representation from their own resources, and it does not take long for the money spigot to run dry. Tonya Craft literally had close to a million dollars to spend on her defense, and she still ran out of funds before the case even came to trial. In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, each of the three defendants had to spend more than $1 million apiece just to try to debunk what were transparently-false charges.

In cases involving child molestation or rape, an ordinary criminal defense attorney usually is not enough, as these are very difficult cases to defend because the accused already has been demonized in the media and by prosecutors, and the laws governing such cases are different than most laws regarding alleged criminal conduct. For example, if one is charged with robbery or murder, an actual robbery or murder must take place, and then the question for the jury is whether or not the defendant is the guilty party.

The sex crime cases, however, have such a low threshold of proof that real-live evidence of such an assault actually having occurred is not needed; all that is necessary is an accusation, and the law provides plenty of incentives for people to make false accusations for purposes of revenge or, in child custody cases, to get the other person out of the way.

The costs can be substantial. I know one attorney who specializes in such cases who requires a down payment up front of $100,000. Since few people keep $100K in spare change, getting the funds is very, very difficult. Then there a experts in forensics, interviewing, and the like who also do not testify for free. One of the reasons that so many people plead to something in such cases is that they do not have the personal resources to fight the charges.

On the benefit side, one only has to think of Janet Reno, Ed Jaegels, Scott Harshbarger (who prosecuted the notorious Fells Acres Case in Massachusetts), and Gary A. Riesen, the Chelan County, Washington, district attorney who was re-elected until his retirement last year by voters despite his “witch hunt” prosecutions. Reno rode her wrongful convictions to the position of U.S. Attorney General, Jaegels has been a conservative icon in California, and Harshbarger rose to prominence in national Democratic Party circles.

Nancy Lamb, who pursued the Little Rascals Case — the most expensive criminal case in the history of North Carolina — was lionized in the media and even now, according to North Carolina’s Judicial District 1 website, remains as a prosecutor who “specializes in child abuse.” In all of these cases, the individual prosecutors benefited from prosecuting innocent people. None had to face lawsuits, and none were brought up before their various state bars for discipline.

Their actions wasted millions of dollars, destroyed individual lives and families, and unnecessarily created real victims. None paid anything resembling a personal price. Likewise, those employed by the various Child Protective Services agencies and the Children’s Advocacy Centers — all of which were created by federal legislation — are immune from lawsuits and face almost no legal scrutiny for their aggressive questioning that literally demands that children “disclose” abuse, even when the children being questioned vociferously deny that any abuse even happened.

When patterns of costs and benefits are so skewed, and when taxpayers are forced to fund witch hunts while individuals are forced to pay for their own defense, we should not be surprised that witch hunts continue to occur on a regular basis. Witch hunts are just one more example of how the political classes of Washington, D.C., in the name of “doing something” actually create situations in which the so-called cure is worse than the disease.

William Anderson

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73 Responses to “Costs and Benefits of Modern “Sex Crime” Witch Hunts”

  1. #1 |  Alex Wolcott | 

    [Ominous music]
    “Judge Bleeding Heart ruled in favor of a CONVICTED PEDOPHILE and threw out his conviction on a TECHNICALITY. On November 3rd, vote for Judge Law and Order for the State Supreme Court so that OUR CHILDREN will be SAFE.”

    And there you have the essence of why the criminal justice system goes so spectacularly wrong on all levels.

    As a criminal defense attorney I personally witnessed unbelievably egregious rulings by courts at every level – all staffed entirely with craven politicians not wanting to appear as the subject of such campaign ads. And ALL (which is to say 100%) going against people unfortunate enough to have these accusations levied against them. I say “unfortunate enough” because literally every case I handled of this nature involved someone I actually believe to have been innocent.

  2. #2 |  The Late Andy Rooney | 

    Thank you for covering this vital matter.

    I was never able to figure out how the criminals responsible for these prosecutions kept managing to get reelected.

    And what was it about the Duke lacrosse case that caised Nifong to actually suffer (very minimal) consequences? The press coverage seemed to favor the prosecution, and everyone from Jesse Jackson to Nancy Graceless had decided the boys were guilty. Yet eventually, Nifong went down. What happened, and how can this be repeated so that other corrupt prosecutors suffer a similar fate?

  3. #3 |  William Anderson | 

    In one of his early public statements, Nifong criticized the lacrosse players for hiring legal representation, claiming that if they were innocent, they would not need lawyers. That statement was front-and-center in the original set of charges. For a government-employed lawyer to claim openly that people publicly accused of crimes should not hire legal representation unless they were guilty is tantamount to uttering heresy in the law profession.

    You have to understand that in the annals of legal history, this was an amazing ruling by the North Carolina State Bar. In my memory, no state bar has intervened in an ONGOING criminal case. The original vote to charge Nifong had a majority of one, and that was because the action was unprecedented and some were nervous about stepping off into space.

    The second set of charges came soon after the December 15, 2006, hearing in which a number of Nifong’s lies and tricks became exposed during testimony. As the father of one of the defendants told me, it was the “tipping point” in the case. The margin of “yeas” to charge Nifong this time was much larger.

    Nifong’s conduct left him a pariah in the legal profession, as a number of people who had supported him became rats leaving a sinking ship. Yes, Wendy Murphy supported him, but Murphy would have supported Judge Roland Friesler and pretty much is incapable of telling the truth. With his cover gone, Nifong was an easy target for disbarment.

    Unfortunately, few prosecutors are disbarred even when their misconduct is deliberate and egregious.

  4. #4 |  En Passant | 

    Yet eventually, Nifong went down. What happened, and how can this be repeated so that other corrupt prosecutors suffer a similar fate?

    I’ll speculate.

    The case drew national attention, in no small part due to creeps like Nancy G.

    A persistent and well informed blogger (KC Johnson, durhamwonderland.blogspot.com) covered the case in depth every day, sometimes more frequently.

    The publicity drew considerable attention from somewhat grassroots political organizations and commenters. That resulted in a national food fight.

    The defendants had top flight, very expensive and well connected defense attorneys.

    That confluence of events doesn’t happen often.

    Notice that in many other cases, such as McMartin, Fells Acre, etc., the national attention and skepticism didn’t begin until the cases were very far along and defendants had already been convicted. Much of the attention happened due to the efforts of two people, conservative WSJ columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz, and Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis Lapham.

    It is hard to shine the lights of national attention into every case, so the cockroaches play in relative obscurity.

  5. #5 |  Mairead | 

    I am reluctant to deal with psychological aspects of witch hunts except to say that people really do come to believe things that physically seem to violate laws of time and space.

    Yes, and it’s very natural to do it for several reasons.

    One is that we humans are limited-capacity, serial processors. We cannot attend to everything, much less to everything at once. As we mature we develop triage strategies so that we can usually attend to what’s important. Unfortunately, when the pace picks up past a certain point, those strategies fail, too, and we attend to what’s most pressing which might not be important at all or even real.

    If we want fewer miscarriages of justice, we must demand that those who stir the pot for no valid reason are silenced. Tricky, slippery slope, but the alternative is continuing to discover, usually too late for the victims, that we participated in or permitted gross injustice.

  6. #6 |  Mairead | 

    Oh, and it might help to get more people involved in such cases who have a touch of Asperger’s. People with sub-clinical Asperger’s are the classic “scientist type” –less aware of social cues, and thus less likely to be stampeded by pot-stirrers.

  7. #7 |  Lenore Skenazy | 

    What a deep and dispiriting piece. All I can say is hooray for the blogosphere that gives all of us a place to bring topics like this to light. The idea that really helped ME understand this witch hunt mentality came from Debbie Nathan’s book, “Satan’s Silence,” when she explained that while we are too “sophisticated” to believe in Satan anymore, we have simply shifted our fears to Satan-ISTS. That’s why these trials seem so much like witch hunts. That’s what they literally are, with just a few semantic tweaks. — Lenore

  8. #8 |  Cheryl | 

    But unfortunately the blogosphere works both ways. How many bloggers are quoted verbatim by others, without any fact checking or source vetting? The people falsely accusing others can be just as active on the internet as those trying to discover the truth.

  9. #9 |  Fred Bush | 

    So, this piece throws out a lot of accusations but doesn’t deliver details. What exactly are the financial incentives for states to prosecute frivolously? What are the wrongful convictions that Janet Reno is known for? Who is Ed Jaegels?

    You can’t just throw out charges without evidence and expect to be believed. We the readers shouldn’t have to do research to determine whether your claims are accurate; you should provide us with the tools to do so in the form of links.

  10. #10 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Another unintended consequence of America’s sex hysteria. The UK is refusing to expedite a guy accused of molestation and rape to Minnesota because of their civil commitment program that can keep convicted sex offenders in prison indefinitely even after they have already served their sentences.

    Being accused of a sex crime makes you fair game for anything. The “justice” system and legislatures can get away with practically anything because these people are so thoroughly vilified that even insisting that their Constitutional rights be respected will get you branded as being almost as bad as they are. Juries are willing to convict on a mere accusation. Even libertarians are not above jumping on the lynch mob bandwagon when child molestation is charged.

    Just one more reason why they should strike the words, “land of the free” from the national anthem.

  11. #11 |  Jake | 

    To an important degree, this sort of corrupted justice is attributable to the power ceded to “mental health experts” in the justice system. As Thomas Szasz has long warned, bad things will happen in the Therapeutic State.

  12. #12 |  The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Quote of the Day: Modern Day Which Hunts Edition | 

    […] the last several weeks, you are missing some grade A quality posts. This post from William Anderson “Costs and Benefits of Modern ‘Sex Crime’ Witch Hunts” is the crem de la […]

  13. #13 |  Deoxy | 

    So, this piece throws out a lot of accusations but doesn’t deliver details. What exactly are the financial incentives for states to prosecute frivolously? What are the wrongful convictions that Janet Reno is known for? Who is Ed Jaegels?

    Google and Wikipedia are your friend. Most of the cases he mentioned are well-known, well-documented cases where some of the most ridiculous and egregious parts are written write into the actual charges themselves (such as the claims of sodomizing with edged weapons), and thus, public domain.

    In several of those cases, simply reading the prosecution’s case, with no defense given at all, is sufficient, as the claims are quite simply impossible.

    At some point, when collecting mentioning well-known cases like this, one must be able to assume the readers know or will go educate themselves. At least most of the cases he mentions are in this category.

    .

    I am honestly surprised that some of those prosecutors aren’t dead by now, killed by the people they so thoroughly wronged.

  14. #14 |  MikeV | 

    How about someone accused of all the modern witch hunt elements of being a child molester, drug-dealer, and terrorist?

    They could seize all their property, completely dispense with the trail in favor of a military star-chamber, and ship them off to solitary confinement in Gitmo for the rest of their lives.

  15. #15 |  Bill Wells | 

    #11:

    Never mind the incompetent experts.

    I used to have recurrent major depression. Before I was coerced into a guilty plea, during a period where my lawyer had simply abandoned me in prison, I had a major depressive episode in which I simply stopped eating and drinking. I went for 13 days without any kind of intake, locked in a cell in the psych ward, before the prison psychs took action.

    I had to be hospitalized, of course; by the time they stopped messing around, they could no longer find my pulse.

  16. #16 |  Bill Wells | 

    As I’ve said before, I’m one of the convicted innocents. You want an idea of just how f*cked up my case was, consider this:

    The girl was given a sexual assault examination. Neither the prosecutor nor the federal defender bothered to get its results.

    Makes absolutely no sense–unless, of course, the question of my guilt and the question of proof were of no concern to either of the two.

    BTW, does anyone have any suggestions on where I might go to get someone to look at my case? I doubt that there’s much to be done about it but I *really* wish I had independent confirmation of my conclusions about what happened to me.

  17. #17 |  Mairead | 

    14 Bill Wells: I went for 13 days without any kind of intake, locked in a cell in the psych ward, before the prison psychs took action.

    If there’s any way you can document that, you can get some people disciplined at least, maybe struck off. Psychologists, even working in prisons, are obliged by the canons of the profession not to do, or allow, what was done to you.

  18. #18 |  Bill Wells | 

    #16:

    I can document it. But it would do me no good, as the statute of limitations ran out long ago. In fact, it ran out before I was aware that there was any law broken. But even if I had known, it wouldn’t have done me the slightest bit of good; the courts almost invariably refuse to punish prison staff for wrongdoing and, when they do, the punishment is usually trivial.

    Professional organizations? *Laugh* I’ve never heard of one doing anything about bad prison psychs.

  19. #19 |  marie | 

    Juries are willing to convict on a mere accusation.

    Dave Krueger, sex offender cases rarely go before a jury. The conviction rate for child porn cases is something like 97%…but juries have almost nothing to do with it. Mandatory minimum sentences at the federal level give the prosecutor the power to send you to prison without ever having to prove ANYTHING.

    And for the small number of cases that do go before a jury, the jury’s hands are tied. The prosecution will not tell them that they can decide whether the law is applied justly in this case, the judge will not tell them, and the defense is forbidden to tell them. Jury nullification is a good thing, but jurors are unaware that it is a tool they can use.

    However, even if the jury knew they could nullify, they would almost certainly find guilt in sex offender cases. Call someone a sex offender in court and–hey!–you’d be surprised how sleazy that someone will look. There is so much hysteria about sex offenses that it is a crime that has no defense.

    I propose that the phrase “sex offender” be stricken from our vocabulary. That phrase refers to everything from indecent exposure to child porn users to CP producers to consensual sex to violent rapists…and yet all are rolled into two dirty little words: sex offender. If we want the world to begin to differentiate among the various crimes, we need to stop using that phrase ourselves.

  20. #20 |  Fred Bush | 

    #12: It’s not the reader’s job to go to google and wikipedia to figure out what the author is talking about, it’s the author’s job to either include explanatory details, or links.

  21. #21 |  Bill Wells | 

    #19:

    These are blog posts, not dissertations. They are written for an intelligent and mentally active audience, who can be expected to fill in gaps in their own knowledge.

    If that’s not you, you don’t belong here.

  22. #22 |  marie | 

    While I don’t mind googling things myself, I appreciate a blogger who steers me toward useful information. So, more links would be a good thing, to me.

  23. #23 |  Deoxy | 

    #12: It’s not the reader’s job to go to google and wikipedia to figure out what the author is talking about, it’s the author’s job to either include explanatory details, or links.

    OK, when I mention “gravity”, I’ll be sure to include a link to wikipedia on it.

    And when I use the English language, I’ll be sure to link to a dictionary site.

    And if I mention the name “Barack Obama”, I’ll be sure to mention that he’s the President of the United States right now.

    OK, I think you get my point.

    You happen to not be familiar with some well-known, well-documented, public domain bits of knowledge. That’s fine – we all have things like that. It doesn’t make you a bad person, or anything. Take 3 minutes to google it and educate yourself.

    But complaining about it again, after the vast majority of the other posters here have made clear that it is common knowledge (at least among the audience reading the post), is petty and annoying.

  24. #24 |  William Anderson | 

    Hey, Fred, you might want to read other posts I have written, read my blog, and look at my material on Lew Rockwell’s page. You are insinuating that I have made up this stuff out of whole cloth, which is not the case.

    The reason I did not throw down a series of links is that I have dealt with some of these things in my previous posts this month on The Agitator and did not want to look too redundant. Those posts have a lot of links.

    I don’t just “throw down accusations.” I have been writing on these subjects for years, have been interviewed on numerous radio shows, and was one of the early bloggers in the Duke Lacrosse Case. I let prosecutors and their supporters throw down the accusations. I like facts, myself.

  25. #25 |  Deoxy | 

    Example: I typed “Little Rascals Case wikipedia” in Yahoo, and the first link was
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Rascals_Day_Care_Center

    Seriously, that’s all it takes.

  26. #26 |  Fred Bush | 

    Mr. Anderson, if you’ve written other articles or given interviews about these issues, you have an ideal opportunity to link to those. The value add of a blog post over a print editorial is precisely that you can provide links to support your arguments.

    I am very very distrustful of any unsourced material that I find on the Internet.

  27. #27 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    As I believe I have mentioned elsewhere, my Lady Wife is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Further, she recovered memories of it in her late twenties. Why do I believe that hers is not another case of “recovered memories” that simply match the prejudices of her therapist? Because the person she named as her primary abuser was known to be an abusive personality (if not a child abuser) by everybody in the family, because her times and places check out as possible, and a host of other tell-tales that make it probable that her recovered memories are accurate.

    Yet I believe that the vast majority of “Recovered Memory” cases are false; because the vast majority of such cases involve accused persons not previously believed to be bad people, and/or circumstances that simply do not pan out. I think that what we see in “recovered Memory” is people suffering from some trauma who, desperate to have a socially accepted excuse for their problems (which are real) have unconsciously adopted one that gets them the understanding they desperately want … but, and this is the real tragedy, NOT the treatment they need. And so long as they continue to believe that a fantasy is the root of their troubles, they will never get better.

    Note, please, that I said the vast majority. Not all. There are some victims who do repress memories and recover them later. But there are more who latch onto a socially acceptable (and from some points of view, even glamorous) explanation for being broken.

    Mental illness is HARD. “It’s all in your head” should be grounds for bastinado. If what is wrong with you is in your head you have far less chance of getting at it and fixing it than you would is the problem was physical.

    I bring this up because this is the broad base on which the towering idiocy of the ‘child abuse’ witch hunts is built. Recovered memory tends to fall into three categories; family abuse, satanic ritual abuse, and alien abduction. And there is an almost 100% incidence of the victim’s flavor of recovered memory agreeing with the hobbyhorse of the therapist who helped them ‘recover’ the memories. I think that without the recovered memory cases as a subtext, the obvious total bullsh*t of the Satanic Ritual accusations would not have gotten anywhere near the respect they received.

    Like the children caught up in the witch hunts, the women caught up in the ‘recovered memory’ hysteria are victims. The therapists are the victimizers in almost all cases; people with a point of view and an ax to grind. There is no hell to deep for them.

    For more on this I highly recommend HYSTORIES: HYSTERICAL EPIDEMICS AND MODERN CULTURE by Elaine Showalter

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0231104596/theagitator-20/

  28. #28 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I seem to have neglected to make my point; which is that the witch hunts are the most obvious symptoms of a wider sickness. And that any solution that doesn’t deal with the wider issues will just cause the hysteria to break out in another context.

    As for ideas, I would LOVE to hear anything anybody has.

  29. #29 |  William Anderson | 

    Sorry, Fred. Links to my article and these subjects are all over the web, and if you cannot get yourself to go to Google, or to look at previous posts I have had on The Agitator this month, there isn’t much I can do. No, Fred, I didn’t make up this stuff no matter what you might be insinuating.

    I think it would be best if you did not post any more, given that your theme is because I did not link stuff directly in this particular post, it must not be true. All you have to do is two minutes of your own research, and if you are incapable of doing that, there isn’t much I can do for you. Some of these folks have been reading my stuff for many years. Obviously, you have not, and that is fine. But don’t ever post again that since I have not had enough links in this piece to satisfy your curiosity, then the stuff must not be true, or it is suspect.

  30. #30 |  Bill | 

    This reminds me of a conversation I had back in the mid-nineties. Working as a private investigator, I’d been referred a domestic case by a therapist, who often acted as an intermediary. We’d done some surveillance to no particular effect, when suddenly a friend of the client disclosed to the therapist that the client’s husband was, in fact, a Satanist baby-killer. The conversation went something like this:

    Me: “Well, we have to proceed carefully. After all, just an accusation of something like this can ruin a person’s life.”

    Therapist: “Well, I know that there are Satanists active in our area. Not long ago, my son and his friends found an animal they sacrificed!”

    Me: “Doesn’t it make you wonder how they can make a baby disappear without a trace, but they can’t seem to dispose of what’s left of a cat or dog?”

    Therapist: “Satan worshipers are extremely intelligent.”

    Me: “I wonder why that is. Do they just recruit really smart people, or is there a test? Have you ever met a smart person who was asked to become a Satanist, but declined, or someone who wanted to become a Satanist, but failed the test?”

    Therapist: “Do you think you could refer me to a more open-minded investigator?”

  31. #31 |  William Anderson | 

    For those of you interested, here is one link to the cases:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_care_sexual_abuse_hysteria

    Sean Penn did a documentary called “Witch Hunt” about Kerns County and Ed Jaegels:

    http://www.witchhuntmovie.com/film.html

    Ofra Bikel did a series on Frontline about the Little Rascals case:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/innocence/

    Here is an article about Bikel:

    http://www.current.org/wp-content/themes/current/archive-site/prog/prog711b.html

    In the Little Rascals case, the verdicts against Dawn Wilson and Robert Kelly were overturned, as it was clear that the social workers and other interviewers had used the typical coercive techniques coupled with high praise every time a child changed his or her story from “nothing happened” to all sorts of fantastic accusations.

    Maybe Fred wants to believe that there was a “magic room” at the various day care centers, and maybe he actually believes Bob Kelly used to microwave babies and throw children into a shark-infested waters, where they were eaten. However, no one ever turned up a baby that had been cooked, nor were any children missing. After Kelly’s trial, one of the jurors said that he believed everything, including the microwaving and the throwing children to the sharks. Says a lot for the capacity of an American juror.

  32. #32 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Bill,

    There are excellent therapists out there – my Lady and I have been blessed with the luck to have several over the years. But there are also nitwits who want to shoehorn people into neat categories, and who don’t want to bothered with the facts.

    My Lady did run into one bunch who were absolutely sure than since she had been abused once by a man, all her relationships with men were certain to be abusive. They may have believed that all heterosexual relationship were abusive; my Lady didn’t hang about long enough to find out.

    People are entirely too likely to treat Doctors, and by extension Head Doctors of all types, as High Priests, when they are better treated as if they were mechanics. Shop around until you find one you think you can trust and work with, for God’s sake.

    I trust that you distanced yourself from the loon?

  33. #33 |  GRichards | 

    I figured some people might be interested in knowing what he’s talking about and the cases.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-care_sex-abuse_hysteria

  34. #34 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Fred,

    While I acknowledge that much that is passed around on the internet is so much bushwa, I assure you that the gist of this post is sound. I have – for reasons I think you will understand, if you have read my other comments – been following this issue with a great deal of interest for some decades. The stories are out there, in many locations. This is, to put it bluntly, a National disgrace at least as bad as the Drug War, if of shorter duration.

    The book I pointed to in another comment is a good place to start.

  35. #35 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @10 – That’s a fairly bizarre decision given the UK’s fairly poor record on indefinite detention. (“Indeterminate Public Protection”)

  36. #36 |  Cyto | 

    If you don’t believe that juries will convict in a child abuse case on mere accusation, just watch the Frontline series on the Little Rascals case. They interviewed the jurors and asked point-by-point if they believed that each of the elements the defendants were accused of actually happened. They answered no in every case. So why did they vote to convict if they didn’t believe any of the individual accusations were true? “There were just so many accusations, we felt we had to err on the side of protecting the children.”

    Don’t watch those Frontline episodes if you have a heart condition though….

    As for the prosecutors, I’ve never been able to understand how they could pursue such a case when it is laugh-out-loud impossible for the accusations to be true. Like physically impossible in some instances and “in the real world” impossible (like the accusation that two of the defendants from Little Rascals had sex in front of a room full of children in a glass storefront window on the corner of main street and nobody saw anything until the social worker pulled it out of one of the kids much, much later).

    I always assumed they were just cynical to the point of evil and knew they were bringing false charges. However, under the heading of “folks will believe what they want to believe” – my brother happened to run into a couple of the prosecutors from that case at a conference and asked about it. They firmly, truly believed in every one of the charges and said that you can’t believe what you see in the media. They were dead certain that these folks got away with it and Frontline built a propaganda piece to cover up their heinous crimes and smear the prosecution. (unfortunately my brother is to polite to ask if they really believe that they sacrificed babies and raped 3 year olds with butcher knives – that woulda been a kicker!)

  37. #37 |  Cyto | 

    Hi , #9 | Fred Bush |

    As a long-timer here I can say he’s writing to his audience. I’d venture a guess that most of “the Agitator” audience is reasonably well familiar with these cases, having been covered extensively here and in related locations like Reason Magazine.

    It isn’t entirely an unfair point that you make – extensive links to good review articles on each example would make a better article, but let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. He did give us a bunch of examples and if we care enough we can look up the history ourselves. (For example, if I mentioned Corey Maye or Steven Hayne in a comment here, I’d not feel any need to provide context. If I mentioned them on HuffPo I’d definitely provide links. I might not bother mentioning anything at Police One….)

  38. #38 |  Cyto | 

    Oh, and for Doubting Fred, here’s the Frontline page on Little Rascals and here’s the page about Dawn Wilson. That’s not enough about her: everyone who doesn’t know who Dawn Wilson is should go read up. She’s a certified national hero, even if nobody cares to remember. At 23 years old she stood down prosecutor’s intimidation and attempts to get her to testify against the owner of Little Rascals – rejecting numerous plea offers that would have let her go home to her husband and infant instead of facing life without parole. She refused to lie even having seen that they could get a conviction on no evidence. She went to trial in 1993 and got life. That’s a straight-up hero right there. It took the state until 1996 to overturn that conviction.

  39. #39 |  William Anderson | 

    Thanks, Cyto. As for the Little Rascals case and others, all of it can be explained in three words: The Big Lie. The jurors in the LR case admitted that some of the accusations could not be true, but their response was that because the statements were so outlandish, that had to be proof that “something happened.”

    The “something happened” is a phrase I have heard time and again. When I spoke to a representative of the organization Security on Campus, she told me that she believed that “something happened” to Crystal Mangum. Maybe she wasn’t raped, she said, but “something happened.” Why? Because she made an accusation of rape.

    This is exactly what Goebbels did when he was Hitler’s propaganda chief. He would say outlandish things about Jews, knowing that the typical German might say to himself, “Well, I know THAT isn’t true, but there MUST be SOMETHING to all of this, or the government would not be making these claims.”

    Believe me, this tactic works better than you would think. And most folks simply cannot get themselves to believe that perhaps police and prosecutors would lie to jurors and to the public. As one who has been writing extensively on this subject for a decade, I must admit that it is hard now for me to think that a prosecutor ever would tell the truth. I agree that this hardly is a defensible position, given that in most criminal cases, the defendant actually is guilty.

    However, even in slam dunk cases, I have seen prosecutors lie, not because a lie was necessary, but just because they could do it. For me, I have been so deeply involved that sometimes it is hard to get some perspective on things, so I have to remind myself not to take too deep a plunge. I also have to remember that when I interact with other people, they simply don’t have my point of view in large part because they have not been where I have been and seen what I have seen.

    It all comes down to accountability. When I spoke to members of the Georgia State Bar after the Tonya Craft trial ended, they told me that the prosecutors were just “doing their jobs.” When I asked one person if suborning perjury and lying were part of the job, she got angry and hung up on me.

    There is no accountability in the system, period. As long as wrongdoers are government employees, they can expect the system to defend them no matter how outrageous their conduct. Every once in a while, a prosecutor like Mike Nifong does something so stupid and so indefensible that even his protectors no longer can cover for him, but even Nifong was able to get away with committing a number of federal crimes, knowing that the authorities would not bother to hold him accountable. And he was right.

  40. #40 |  Weird Willy | 

    #34, Cyto

    “extensive links…would make a better article, but let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

    What Fred Bush proposes is not perfection. In fact, he urges Mr. Anderson to impair the literary flow and quality of his piece dramatically. If Mr. Anderson would have cluttered his eloquent prose with links and/or other disruptive devices, I would have thought, “Why is he distracting me with these overtures to the obvious? Anyone this side of a moron knows what he is referring to, and no further demonstration is required. He should have left this burdensome garbage out of his essay and let his thoughts flow more smoothly and consecutively.”

    I generally find it beneficial for an author to insert a link in an article only when he or she is attempting to develop a highly arcane or not readily understood point, or when for some other reason an unusual amount of explanatory force is required. Even then, while the provision of links may assist the uninformed reader in getting started on researching the point in question, it does little to lessen a discerning reader’s burden. Even when links are provided in an article, the reader is still obligated to do a fair amount of independent research in vetting the sources at the links provided, and generally evaluating the content and merit at those links. That is where Google and the basic techniques of source analysis come into play. Personally, I would rather begin that process anew, on my own initiative, ferreting out my own links and sources, than to muddle through the author’s selection of sources first.

    I congratulate you on a thoroughly well written piece, Mr. Anderson. Please, don’t change a thing!

  41. #41 |  Weird Willy | 

    #2

    “…what was it about the Duke lacrosse case that caised Nifong to actually suffer (very minimal) consequences?”

    The Duke defendants came from very wealthy and well connected families, and were able to spend nearly $4 million on pre-trial investigation and counsel alone. They had the opportunity to channel the proceeds of their efforts into the blogosphere, where their advocacy was able to gain independent traction and momentum beyond the ambit of the legal system. In short, Nifong simply chose the wrong defendants to victimize, and this, combined with a unique confluence of factual developments and other factors, created a perfect storm that left him somewhat waterlogged.

  42. #42 |  Other Sean | 

    William,

    Deep down, a lot of people believe that misfortune is BOTH improbable and disgraceful. The improbable part is where you get “something happened”, because people can’t accept that an incident might simply have been drummed up from nothing. The disgraceful part is where you get “all I know is, normal folks don’t get their computers confiscated in the first place”, because people can’t accept that even the victim of a drummed up incident might be picked entirely at random.

    So here’s where the social psychology comes in: To overcome either prejudice, you’d basically have to become a political radical of some sort – not necessarily a libertarian, but something on the extreme margin. Why? Because everyone who is not a political radical has a certain basic faith in existing arrangements, and that faith cannot survive a long look at something like the McMartin case, which reveals massive corruption and incompetence in the law, the media, the medical establishment, and everywhere else.

    If you’re not already reading Karl Marx or Murray Rothbard or whatever, that’s some unsettling shit to think about. And if your a person who prospers under the current system, maybe enjoys a little money and status, it’s something even worse than unsettling – it’s positively guilt-inducing.

    That’s why the only people who give a damn about this stuff can be found here, and at a handful of similar places. As Lenore said, thank god for blog world, because the truth is our community is so insignificant and small that if we had to stage live meetings, it simply wouldn’t exist.

  43. #43 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Mr. Anderson,

    You write “When I asked one person if suborning perjury and lying were part of the job, she got angry and hung up on me.”

    Of course she did. You threatened her seriously. She wants to believe that she is a good person, and actually examining how cases like that are handled and thinking about what she knows and what she HASN’T done about it would make that impossible. So she lashed out at you.

    This is why the Academic Left has always lashed out at anybody that tries to make them look at their behavior vis a vis the USSR or Communist China. Their self-image doesn’t include playing apologist for mass murderers just so they can be cooler than the Proles who believe in the superiority of Western Culture … but that is exactly what they have done, time and time again.

    The Legal profession os going to fight reform of the factors that make the Witch Hunts tooth and nail. They have too. Not only does the Witch Hunt set-up play into their pockets, but admitting what has been happening means admitting that they are parties to a vicious, evil system that destroys people.

  44. #44 |  Other Sean | 

    William,

    To say that more simply, I understand the “big lie” concept a bit differently from you:

    If you give people a choice between accepting some totally outrageous lie, or coming to grips with the possibility that their whole society might be corrupt, most of them will eagerly accept the lie.

    Only those who have no strong attachment to the society, only its malcontents, misfits, losers, and outcasts, are likely to object. And since they are powerless, well, who gives a fuck?

  45. #45 |  Mairead | 

    Because ignorant people are more gullible and thus more easily led around by the nose, the ruling classes in every country take care to see that schools do not teach logic and critical thinking except, sometimes, to those who will be members of the overseer (professional and managerial, not owner) classes.

    Recall that, only a little more than 300 years ago, a person could be convicted and imprisoned, even executed, for what someone else dreamed about them.

    If we want a world of justice, we must work for a world of equality. Only when we have equality will people no longer be ignorant enough to be gulled by false logic and appeals to emotion.

  46. #46 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Mairead,

    “If we want a world of justice, we must work for a world of equality. Only when we have equality will people no longer be ignorant enough to be gulled by false logic and appeals to emotion.”

    I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m pretty sure that the best we are going to get is a world where fewer people are gulled by false arguments and emotional bum-fodder. Still, I think the most important political fight taking place in America is the fight for School Vouchers. If the parents of school children can get out from under the public school system, a lot of the more transparent political ploys will cease to bring in the rubes.

  47. #47 |  Bill Wells | 

    41: “If we want a world of justice, we must work for a world of equality. Only when we have equality will people no longer be ignorant enough to be gulled by false logic and appeals to emotion.”

    Human beings are inherently unequal. If equality is a necessity for justice, justice is an unattainable fantasy.

    Or did you have some other notion of equality in mind?

    (PS. About half the time I submit a comment, it just disappears into a black hole. It’s not content, since I can submit the same comment later and it gets posted. Is this just me?)

  48. #48 |  Luis Pedro Coelho | 

    The children who were often pressured into “confessing” charges were important victims as well.

  49. #49 |  Other Sean | 

    Mairead,

    You think “the ruling classes in every country take care to see that schools do not teach logic and critical thinking”?

    That’s a partial truth at best. You know who wants to stop kids from learning logic and critical thinking?

    Politicians, entertainers, cops, doctors, lawyers, fund managers, advertisers, salesman, bureaucrats, scientists, teachers, preachers, janitors, retail workers, non-workers, criminals, parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, enemies, and most of all, the kids themselves.

    Don’t believe me? Try an experiment. Invite everyone you know over to your house for a 30 minute lecture on something elementary like, say, “necessary and sufficient conditions”. Throw in free food and booze for anyone who can pay attention well enough to pass a brief five question test on the subject.

    I promise you won’t need to rent any extra chairs for the occasion.

  50. #50 |  Weird Willy | 

    #43, Bill Wells

    “About half the time I submit a comment, it just disappears into a black hole. It’s not content, since I can submit the same comment later and it gets posted. Is this just me?”

    Bill, I have a tenant who sometimes asks to use my household computer to visit this site. She has complained that she has attempted to post on a number of occasions, but that the system gives absolutely no recognition to her contributions, displaying neither hide nor hair of them. This brings her to suspect that there is a problem with our computer. I, on the other hand, have never had any problem with my posts being accepted. So it appears that while it is not just yours or hers, it is a rather selective problem.

  51. #51 |  Weird Willy | 

    #43, Bill Wells

    “About half the time I submit a comment, it just disappears into a black hole. It’s not content, since I can submit the same comment later and it gets posted. Is this just me?”

    Bill, I have a tenant who sometimes asks to use my household computer to visit this site. She has complained that she has attempted to post on a number of occasions, but that the system gives absolutely no recognition to her contributions, displaying neither hide nor hair of them. This brings her to suspect that there is a problem with our computer. I, on the other hand, have never had any problem with my posts being accepted. So it appears that while it is not just yours or hers, it is a rather selective problem.

  52. #52 |  Mairead | 

    44 Other Sean: You know who wants to stop kids from learning logic and critical thinking? Politicians, entertainers, cops, doctors, lawyers, fund managers, advertisers, salesman, bureaucrats, scientists, teachers, preachers, janitors, retail workers, non-workers, criminals, enemies

    Very true.

    parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, and most of all, the kids themselves.

    Not so.

    Don’t believe me? Try an experiment.

    Sure, in adulthood and couched in those terms. Hell, even I wouldn’t go.

    In my third year of secondary school, our English teacher told us that we already knew all the English we’d ever need unless we wanted to teach the subject ourselves, and so there was no point in boring us rigid with crap (his term) like deconstructing syntax or “Litrachoor”. So he would teach us logic and critical thinking instead. And he did.

    This was an inner-city school, with lots of poverty and more than a few displaced-person (“D.P.s” we called them) incomers from Europe. I think the “wealthiest” family was a friend’s — her Dad was a postie and her Mum a nurse, and they lived in what looked to me to be a very lovely house in a posh neighborhood on the edge of town. (Later I realised it was a tract house in a working-class neighborhood, but it impressed hell out of me at the time).

    Everyone learned how to do syllogisms, spot propaganda and broken logic (undistributed middle arguments soon got hooted at), decode motives, etc. I thought it was wonderful and still do, 56 years on. I don’t believe a day has gone by since that I haven’t used what he taught us.

    The trick is to get them young, and package it right. Don’t try to teach them “necessary and sufficient conditions”, teach them “how to spot other people’s lies”.

  53. #53 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @47 – That’s exactly the kind of thing which gets taught in evidence-based systems, yes, rather than memorization for tests…but politicians want TESTS, dammit. (Both the left and right).

    If they can’t find the “failures”, how can them have people to demonize, after all.

  54. #54 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Oops hit submit too early… the far right of course blame teachers, who have fought for this for years, because you’re ignoring what’s actually said in favor of demonizing people who DARE try and help others.

    I agree with you – this is a top-down problem, which only a few countries like Finland have overcome.

  55. #55 |  Mairead | 

    42 CSPS: I think the most important political fight taking place in America is the fight for School Vouchers. If the parents of school children can get out from under the public school system, a lot of the more transparent political ploys will cease to bring in the rubes.

    I agree in part and disagree in part. Vouchers are inherently elitist, and violate Rawls’s conditions for a fair, libertarian society.

    But we for sure need to reform public schools in a number of ways! They need to be re-directed toward teaching kids cooperation and responsibility, resistance to the illegitimate demands of Authority, and preparation for autonomous, authentic life as multi-skilled adults living in peer communities in a single-system (Lovelock & Margulis) world.

  56. #56 |  Mairead | 

    43 Bill Wells: Human beings are inherently unequal. If equality is a necessity for justice, justice is an unattainable fantasy.

    Or did you have some other notion of equality in mind?

    I’m thinking of the late John Rawls’s notion of equality and justice. He was of course aware that people differ in their abilities. But there’s no reason to posterise those differences by “making the rich richer and the poor poorer”.

    Rawls proposed a wonderful little thought experiement, namely that we imagine there is a magical lottery by means of which those who choose to participate can irrevocably change their personal and socioeconomic situation.

    So if you decide to enter, you have (let’s say) a 1-in-100 chance of becoming a member of the world’s wealthy elite, and a 1-in-7 chance of becoming a Chinese peasant, a 1-in-50 chance of being disabled in some way, etc.

    Most people wouldn’t enter. No matter what their situation, they’re more likely to be worse off after than better off.

    We’re where we are because of where we started, and where we started was the effect of randomness, not anything we deserved (as Buffett has noted, had his parents been farmers in Afghanistan, he’d be a farmer in Afghanistan – or dead)

    So Rawls’s idea of justice is that changes should benefit those who got stuck with the dirty end of the stick, with a goal of bringing everyone’s situation up to equality insofar as that’s possible by human choice. That’s a truly libertarian goal: it liberates everyone.

    I mean by “equality” and “justice” the same things Rawls meant.

  57. #57 |  Bill Wells | 

    #50: “But we for sure need to reform public schools in a number of ways! They need to be re-directed toward teaching kids cooperation and responsibility, resistance to the illegitimate demands of Authority, and preparation for autonomous, authentic life as multi-skilled adults living in peer communities in a single-system (Lovelock & Margulis) world.”

    Well, I won’t agree with that 100% but, no matter, it will never happen. You cannot teach independence in a system that coerces children into attendance.

    Leave a Reply

  58. #58 |  Luke | 

    The argument here with Fred raises an issue. I have followed this blog for many years and am concerned that the information here has not gone beyond a small number of dedicated followers. When one wants information to become generally known, saying “Google it” doesn’t cut it.

    Perhaps a comprehensive resource center? If I want details of all known prosecutorial abuses in my state, it must take me 5 minutes to be provided with the information in a convenient manner. Not because I am lazy, but because it needs to be easy to make a convincing case to people who do not believe such a problem exists.

  59. #59 |  miker | 

    Mailread is right – timing and presentation have everything to do with successfully teaching logic. There’s no doubt that ours would be a more just and more prosperous society if we taught logic to kids from a young age.

    The problem is even though our overall economy would be richer, all the folks who currently benefit from an uneducated populace would have to work harder to earn their living. Trying to force those in power to give up the opportunity to shoot fish in a barrel is a daunting task, but it’s absolutely a battle worth having.

  60. #60 |  Bill Wells | 

    #51:

    So, how does Rawls propose to actualize his concepts of equality and justice? By private action or by government action or by some other means?

  61. #61 |  Mairead | 

    52 Bill Wells: no matter, it will never happen. You cannot teach independence in a system that coerces children into attendance.

    I agree in part. Adults are goal-oriented and want a payoff for the time they spend. Kids aren’t. As long as it’s interesting, kids will go for it, and the younger the more readily.

    Obviously this gradually changes as they grow toward adulthood, and by the time they reach adolescence they too want a payoff. But early on, all teachers have to do is make it interesting.

    And that’s the trick: make gaining the basics interesting enough so that they’re eager each morning.

    But as Leon (48) suggests, many -even most- teachers want nothing more than the freedom to do exactly that: make school interesting and meaningful for the kids under their tutelage.

    What we’ve to do is free the good ones and sack the duds, and where I disagree with you is in your belief that it will never happen. It must happen, and PDQ, or there’ll be nothing more to worry about, nor anyone to do the worrying.

  62. #62 |  William Anderson | 

    Willy, tell you friend that I don’t know much about how this website goes. I have temporary privileges to post, but that is all. It is a WordPress platform, but I don’t know how it works.

    Heck, I have had two blogs on Blogspot for some years and still don’t know how that operates. I’m serious. So, I am not the right person to ask as to why your friend has not had her posts uploaded here. I wish I could help, but I am clueless.

  63. #63 |  Bill Wells | 

    #52: “I agree in part. Adults are goal-oriented and want a payoff for the time they spend. Kids aren’t. As long as it’s interesting, kids will go for it, and the younger the more readily.”

    This simply misses the point. Compulsory education is, at root, by nature, and in implementation, coercive. “I order you to be independent” does not work and, once one digs past all the nonsense, that is what teaching independence in (compulsory) schools amounts to.

    “What we’ve to do is free the good ones and sack the duds, and where I disagree with you is in your belief that it will never happen. It must happen, and PDQ, or there’ll be nothing more to worry about, nor anyone to do the worrying.”

    The fact that something must happen or disaster will strike does not imply that it will happen or even that it can happen. So, why do you think this will happen, given the overwhelming evidence that almost none of the people who are in position to make a change want it to happen?

  64. #64 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Mairead,

    I may be totally off base, but I think the root of what’s wrong with the public schools is that the old unspoken contract between teachers and parents has been not simply broken but shattered.

    Mass education has always been at least somewhat about indoctrination, and any half-smart parents have known this. The unspoken contract was “You get to try to teach our kids to be ‘better citizens’ (whatever that means to you) and in exchange you will teach them to read, write, and do basic math. That will make them able to self-educate if they need to. It will make them independent of the smart asses who patronize the illiterate. It’s worth a little brainwashing.”

    For whatever reason, the public school teachers stopped managing to teach the basics. I have my opinions about why, but they don’t matter here. The contract is broken, and this matters because unless the parents are willing to back the schools, education will only happen for the self-motivated kids.

    Reinstating the contract with the present public school structure might not be impossible, but it won’t be easy. So long as the public schools are the only place that the money earmarked for public education can go, they schools have scant motive for reform. The Teachers’ Unions like the schools being all about full employment for their membership, and have successfully resisted reform of all kinds for decades.

    Vouchers break that deadlock. I think that they will be a short term solution, and that within a generation the voucher system will have become so spectacularly corrupt that a return to public schools will be necessary. But the blob, the education establishment, needs to be reminded that its members are hirelings, not the natural masters of all creation.

  65. #65 |  Bill Wells | 

    #57: “Vouchers break that deadlock. I think that they will be a short term solution, and that within a generation the voucher system will have become so spectacularly corrupt that a return to public schools will be necessary.”

    Actually, there is a far more likely, and far worse, possible outcome. Once vouchers become so common as to make up a significant fraction of private school income, the government will start imposing conditions on who may accept vouchers. These conditions might be “must hire union teachers” or “must teach X”…. and most schools will have little choice but to comply. For precedent, see the declining health care “system”.

  66. #66 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Bill Wells,

    I agree that that is a strong possibility, although some of that has been fought out over College scholarships, and it hasn’t gone all the government’s way.

    This is one reason why I would love to see widespread private charities dedicated to providing a way out for poor children. As the descendent of three men who dies wearing Union Blue during the Civil War, I despise the “Reparations for Slavery” movement, but we do owe the African Americans something for allowing the Progressives, the Social Engineers, and the Bureau-rats turn their public schools into a disaster area.

    Anybody know of any good charities of this sort?

  67. #67 |  Other Sean | 

    Mairead,

    I think you may have skipped a day at that critical thinking school, the one where they teach you that personal experience makes for strong feelings and weak evidence.

    Your highly unusual and not in the least bit repeatable case aside, almost no one has any incentive to teach kids critical thinking, and few kids have any incentive to learn.

    Want to be popular in high school? Logic won’t help you. Want to have sex before you’re 25? Rationality is a nothing but a hindrance. Want to excel in college and grad school? Better learn the art of doublethink, because you’ll need to agree with whichever professor is standing in front of you at the moment. Want to get a job? Better pretend not to notice that phrases like “leveraging vertical synergies moving forward” are empty-headed bullshit. Wanna get promoted? Better learn to pretend that correlation is causation, whenever it suits you.

    Be honest: If Radley installed a logic-bot on this site, such that any fallacy in the comments was immediately answered with a corrective reply, how many people would still post here after a week?

    People hate logic, they hate critical thinking, and in fact they hate anything that gets in the way of the complex mental cheating which defines so much of their lives. The last thing they’re going to do is start arming small children with the tools to expose them as a bunch of lying fools and hypocrites.

  68. #68 |  johnl | 

    It’s not often you see someone complain a William Anderson column isn’t long enough.

  69. #69 |  Deoxy | 

    That’s exactly the kind of thing which gets taught in evidence-based systems, yes, rather than memorization for tests…but politicians want TESTS, dammit. (Both the left and right).

    the far right of course blame teachers, who have fought for this for years, because you’re ignoring what’s actually said in favor of demonizing people who DARE try and help others.

    We tried doing without tests for a long time, and what we got was a system where people could literally graduate from high school unable to read.

    Tests are an attempt at accountability – they get in the way of a good teacher, yes, but they are at least some kind of mechanism for getting rid of the bad ones.

    And bad ones there are. “the right” blames teachers because a significant chunk of the people holding teaching positions are bad teachers – some of them really aren’t even teachers at all, but that’s the title and job that they hold. If every single person who held a teaching position was a self-motivated good teacher, our public education system would immediately lose over 75% of the serious problems it currently has.

    And while we’re casting blame, most of the blame for our current system falls on “the left” – that is the system that enables the unions and the other such bureaucratic institutions that strange the good teachers and enable the clock-punching, useless, space-filling types.

    #57: “Vouchers break that deadlock. I think that they will be a short term solution, and that within a generation the voucher system will have become so spectacularly corrupt that a return to public schools will be necessary.”

    Actually, there is a far more likely, and far worse, possible outcome. Once vouchers become so common as to make up a significant fraction of private school income, the government will start imposing conditions on who may accept vouchers.

    Actually, that’s pretty much the same outcome – the voucher system then exists in name only, as opposed to being abolished, but the practical result is the same.

    And wow, Other Sean, I’m generally more jaded and cynical than the people I interact with, but you’ve got me beat hands down.

    Seriously, I can see your points about getting a job, etc, but a lot of that goes back to “pick your battles” – I see that a lot of that stuff is “empty-headed bullshit”, and indeed, I usually pretend not to notice, because that’s a battle not worth fighting.

    But I’m still really glad I can SEE that it’s BS, even if I don’t fight it.

  70. #70 |  Peth | 

    There seems to be no answer for this type of thing. Innocent or guilty a ‘until proven guilty’ ‘criminal’ is guilty no matter what. Years ago a kid would never accuse someone of such an awful crime just because that person say, the kid a failing grade or looked at them sideways. Today kids sue their parents and get revenge for all real or imagined slight(s) by crying ‘rape’. How sad!

  71. #71 |  Militant Libertarian » Costs and Benefits of Modern “Sex Crime” Witch Hunts | 

    […] from The Agitator […]

  72. #72 |  Witch hunts and child sexual abuse « Phil Ebersole's Blog | 

    […] via The Agitator […]

  73. #73 |  My Husband is (Not Really) a Sex Offender | The Agitator | 

    […] believe we have to revisit and reform the sex offender laws. It is the perfect companion piece to the post  by William Anderson, about how sex crimes get treated in the media and the courts. Any ideas about […]

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