Archive for the ‘Symposium’ Category

Funner Times at Malibu Sands

It’s the longest and most mundane symposium ever! Three years ago John S wrote about his experiences watching the Malibu Sands arc of Saved by the Bell. This summer, I watched the Malibu Sands arc of Saved by the Bell—mainly because I had just finished the first season of Game of Thrones and needed what a personal trainer might call a cool-down period.

Consider this setting the record straight.

—The issue to be raising isn’t over volleyball as a spectator sport. Clearly, Top Gun proved you wrong there. The issue is the sustainability of a beach club dynasty with an ever-changing roster of volleyball players. Just how can North Shore—the Valley of the beach, amirite?—continue dominating Malibu Sands for a decade when the players on its volleyball team (i.e. staff members at the club) presumably change each year? Now I know what you’re thinking: that I’m essentially describing major college sports, which obviously have dominant and doormat programs. But North Shore doesn’t have a coach; that much is obvious. Malibu Sands’ is Kelly. What we’re led to conclude, then, is that North Shore’s owner actively recruits excellent volleyball players to work at his club over the summer—likely costing himself hundreds of dollars in workplace efficiency—simply to beat Leon Carosi in a bet.

What did Leon do to him in the past to deserve such vengeance? Continue reading

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Joie de Vivre: Halloween Candy

On this all-important American holiday, Tim and Josh decided to dive into one of their tastiest debates: candy. So give them a break while they chew it over with Twix, avoid laying a finger on each other’s Butterfinger, and taste the rainbow. You may find that first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.

TIM: Well, it’s Halloween, Josh, and that can only mean one thing. Well, it means one thing at our age, and a different, more innocent thing when we were younger: candy. You have to hand it to whoever decided this was how Halloween would be celebrated, with little kids prancing around the neighborhood in costumes collecting mass quantities of candy. But of course, we’re greedy as kids, and there’s a definitive candy hierarchy, with certain candies frowned upon (Mary Janes, anyone?) and others received enthusiastically. So Josh, what candy were you most excited to get on Halloween as a kid, and has that changed at all since?

JOSH: Well, first, let me say that the main appeal of Halloween for me is still candy. When else can I go to CVS and have an option of purchasing more than ten bags of candy that each combine at least three different individual candies? Second, if there’s one video to link to on Halloween and candy, it’s this one. To answer your question, as a kid, I was most excited for sour candies, namely Sour Patch Kids. If you went to three houses, you’d almost be guaranteed one of those mini-Twix or Snickers bars, so chocolate bars were in high supply. But, you don’t see those mini-packs of Sour Patch Kids frequently, so, when I did stumble upon them, I tended to freak out a little. I still think sour candy is in undersupply on Halloween and Sour Patch Kids are the pinnacle of sour candy, so I’d venture to say I feel the same today as I did as a kid. Except now, I could just buy a jumbo pack of Sour Patch Kids at the store; eating them unsupervised, though, does present an issue. What about your favorite? And, do kids in New Jersey really prance around the streets?

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Joie de Vivre: Halloween Candy

On this all-important American holiday, Tim and Josh decided to dive into one of their tastiest debates: candy. So give them a break while they chew it over with Twix, avoid laying a finger on each other’s Butterfinger, and taste the rainbow. You may find that first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.

TIM: Well, it’s Halloween, Josh, and that can only mean one thing. Well, it means one thing at our age, and a different, more innocent thing when we were younger: candy. You have to hand it to whoever decided this was how Halloween would be celebrated, with little kids prancing around the neighborhood in costumes collecting mass quantities of candy. But of course, we’re greedy as kids, and there’s a definitive candy hierarchy, with certain candies frowned upon (Mary Janes, anyone?) and others received enthusiastically. So Josh, what candy were you most excited to get on Halloween as a kid, and has that changed at all since?

JOSH: Well, first, let me say that the main appeal of Halloween for me is still candy. When else can I go to CVS and have an option of purchasing more than ten bags of candy that each combine at least three different individual candies? Second, if there’s one video to link to on Halloween and candy, it’s this one. To answer your question, as a kid, I was most excited for sour candies, namely Sour Patch Kids. If you went to three houses, you’d almost be guaranteed one of those mini-Twix or Snickers bars, so chocolate bars were in high supply. But, you don’t see those mini-packs of Sour Patch Kids frequently, so, when I did stumble upon them, I tended to freak out a little. I still think sour candy is in undersupply on Halloween and Sour Patch Kids are the pinnacle of sour candy, so I’d venture to say I feel the same today as I did as a kid. Except now, I could just buy a jumbo pack of Sour Patch Kids at the store; eating them unsupervised, though, does present an issue. What about your favorite? And, do kids in New Jersey really prance around the streets?

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First Amendment Symposium, Part V: Why The First Amendment is STILL Overrated

Exhibit A for why there should be abridgements on some speech: To prevent people like Josh from quoting himself in his own epigraph.

As for the substance of Josh’s arguments, there seem to be three core premises that form the basis of his attack: 1) Government suppression of speech is uniquely coercive and widespread; 2) as a result of its unique ability to coerce, government suppression of speech is categorically bad; 3) certain words in the text of the First Amendment, like “speech” and “abridging,” have no consensus definition, granting certain leeway when it comes to dealing with many issues surrounding the First Amendment.

Let’s start with #1: The effects of government suppression of speech are uniquely coercive and widespread. Josh defends this premise by contrasting government suppression with much more benign forms of “suppression”: “Social norms and reputation matter a lot in affecting what people say and don’t say; the government is just one factor that affects speech, but the difference with the government is that its restrictions’ effects are more widespread.” The other factors that Josh names—social norms and reputations—are hardly elements of “suppression” at all; they basically amount to peer pressure. Of course government regulation is going to appear more coercive and significant than these opponents—it usually is more coercive and significant. Continue reading

First Amendment Symposium Part IV: The First Amendment is Properly Rated (But Perhaps for the Wrong Reasons)


“What he [John S.] says may be irrational, incoherent, unfounded, and foolish, but I defend to the death his right to say it.”

-Josh*

*I have as much claim to this phrase as Voltaire.

This response will proceed in three steps. First, I will respond to misguided presumptions that underlie John’s critique of the First Amendment: 1) that the goal of the First Amendment is not to suppress any speech and 2) that free speech absolutism is the only interpretive option for the First Amendment. Second, I will refute John’s two main claims: 1) The First Amendment is only aimed towards preventing government suppression of speech, but the coercive non-governmental forces and differential access to forums are problems just as serious that the First Amendment promotes or, at least, does nothing to prevent. 2) There is nothing inherent about the First Amendment that promotes the Millian benefits that flow from free speech. Third, I will discuss the Citizens United issue separately since it’s sufficiently distinct from the other issues in this response.

Citing Mill, John fallaciously argues that “the general principles that underlie actual liberty of thought and discussion” are primarily grounded in opposition to the “suppression of opinion, whether it be by government or any entity….” [emphasis added].

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First Amendment Symposium, Part III: Why Rights Still Don’t Matter

So, Josh exercised his right to free speech by responding to my critique of rights with his own defense of rights. His defense was valiant, yes, but doomed.

Let’s start right at the beginning, with Josh’s attempt to define the ineffable concept of a “right”: “If X has a right to do something, he is legally protected from interference by Y. In other words Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s right. So, if X has a right to speak freely, then Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s speaking freely.” This doesn’t really help us much, does it? A right means that Y—Y, as defined by Josh himself, “being any other individual or the government”—has a duty not to interfere with that entitlement. So, technically, every single time you interrupt someone you have violated someone’s right to free speech, since you’ve interfered with that person’s speaking freely. Apparently, that person now has legal recourse against you. By this standard, public school teachers who force students to raise their hand before speaking have collectively committed the gravest assault on our free speech rights that the U.S. has ever known.

Of course, this is ridiculous because Josh’s standard is ridiculous. A right protects you from any interference? That’s simply not true empirically. Continue reading

First Amendment Symposium, Part II: In Defense of Rights

This is the first part of a two-part reply to John’s critique of the First Amendment. The second part will run tomorrow.

John has two main arguments to support his proposition that the First Amendment is vastly overrated. First, he argues that the concept of a “right” is meaningless, and insofar as the First Amendment protects rights, it too lacks meaning. Second, John groups a bunch of arguments specific to the First Amendment together under the general proposition that the First Amendment is only about government neutrality towards speech, which can be deleterious. I will respond to these two arguments in two separate posts, addressing the rights argument in this first one.

John claims that the concept of a right is “an outdated modality,” “an autocratic fiat,” and “tremendously unhelpful” among other things.* John doesn’t formally define what a right is up front, and the closest he comes is when he calls rights “protections which you are entitled no matter what the consequences are.” This may be one effect of one having a right, but it is not a definition.  A more precise definition would be helpful to prevent us from speaking past each other. Wesley Hohfeld, somewhat like John, was bothered by meaningless invocations of “rights” and sought to clarify exactly what a right actually was; he argued that rights and duties were correlative. If X has a right to do something, he is legally protected from interference by Y.** In other words Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s right. So, if X has a right to speak freely, then Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s speaking freely.

*If I were a right, I would be very offended. I would likely cry.

**Y being any other individual or the government.

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