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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Will Law Professors Rally Around (A Conservative) One Of Their Own?

I wasn't going to post on this, because I figured there had been enough publicity for him already.  But now that I see (via Instapundit and TaxProf) that the controversy has made its way into Forbes and many major websites, I'll weigh in on the case of Todd Henderson, the University of Chicago law professor and blogger.

The details are at TaxProf, but the short version is that Henderson wrote a blog post coming out against a tax raise for the so-called "super rich."  Henderson's point was that a family like his, living in a big city, were not all that rich just because they made $250k as a family

For that sin, Henderson has been subjected to vicious hate mail and personal attacks in the media, but particularly at left-wing blogs.  Henderson has decided to withdraw from further blogging because of the strain the attacks have placed on his family, which recently brought home a pre-term baby.

I feel his pain, so to speak. 

There are vile people out there.  As I've pointed out before, soon after I started this blog the Obama supporters started attacking me via e-mail and at times it has been vicious.  The e-mails are sent not only to me, but to others who know me in an attempt to interfere with my employment.  It doesn't work, but it is not a pleasant experience the first few times it happens, although now it is something of a joke.  So I feel for Mr. Henderson.

But I wondered, how many law professors will come to his defense either privately or publicly? 

There currently is circulating among law faculties around the country a fundraising letter in support of the Corboda mosque.  The letter has been signed by over two hundred law professors.  Here is the text, in pertinent part:
As law professors who spend our working lives trying to ensure that each succeeding generation can meet Benjamin Franklin's challenge–“We have given you a republic, if you can keep it”–we have decided to put our money where our principles are.

You continue to be asked where your funding is coming from. We would be proud to have you say that part of it comes from us, a group of academics from across this nation dedicated to the spirit of freedom embodied in the First Amendment, to a nation in which every religious group is as free to worship, where and how they see fit, as every other.

We hope that our gesture, however small in absolute terms, encourages others who cherish our Constitutional principles to follow our lead.
I think a similar gesture of support for Mr. Henderson is in order.

Update:  Ann Althouse says I'm "babying this man."  Okay, I'll never defend another blogger against unjustified attacks ever again, and neither should anyone else.  Except that the issue is more serious, and has nothing to do with whether one agrees with Henderson's assessment of his reality.  Criticizing someone's views is one thing, reaching out and touching him is something else, as are deliberate attempts to damage his reputation based on false or misleading characterizations, which we all know takes place in the blogosphere.

And by the way, I don't have a big problem with Henderson's original post.  To those who criticize him I say, What Don't You Understand About "It's Not Your Money".

And, having returned from a two-hour class, I see Ann Althouse has updated her argument with a new post taking credit for "tweaking" me.  Althouse really misses the issue.  The issue is not whether Henderson could be criticized, whether he is "rich," or even whether he made a mistake in putting some personal details in a blog post.  Snark aside, it is a serious issue whether blogging on a subject then makes one legitimately a target for the sort of venom many of us receive outside of the blog.  Althouse demands that Henderson produce the e-mails he has received ("Okay, show me!") but she surely knows that publishing hateful e-mails often stokes the fire and encourages others.  It is a blogger's dilemna whether to go pubic with such e-mails or not.  It is a serious issue even if Althouse is not treating it as such, or at least not treating it as seriously as she treated Ezra Klein's tweet about her.

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  1. Guess I'm not going to hold my breath...Same as the Duke faculty I"m betting...

  2. Please. While I haven't been subjected to the level of abuse described above, seemingly every time I post on a r/w site I'm attacked by snarling, brainless teapartier types. That's despite how my comments could at least be repurposed into constructive criticism. And, that's despite the fact that the people I oppose are for the most part people that the 'partiers also oppose (or should oppose), even if they aren't smart and sane enough to know how to do it.

    P.S. I followed the link here - as I almost always do - from Instapundit. About a year ago I left two comments on separate polls that Insty was running, and someone anonymously replied to both telling me to "STFU". The first comment had an IP from the University of Tennessee (who do we know who works for UT?) and the second comment had an IP from the Knoxville area (who do we know who lives in the Knoxville area?)

    P.P.S. Because of teapartiers, there's a label: the above isn't a tu quoque; I'm not sticking up for or excusing those who personally attack the prof. I'm just suggesting taking that sequoia-sized log out of your eye at the same time as complaining about your opponents.

  3. When the mob is useful, they will be tolerated. I grow tired of saying it, but if the shoe was on the other foot (liberal professor, Tea Party commenters) we would be hearing the story on NPR.

  4. Law profs "proud" to give money to a Muslim Brotherhood slumlord to build a mosque at Ground Zero.


  5. Hell, most of the abuse is coming from academic blogs. At least, that's where much of the fiction was invented.

  6. "...snarling, brainless teapartier types".
    Who's attacking who here? What I see in your written comment here is an ad hominem attack while whining about...wait for it...getting ad hominem attacks.
    "I'm not sticking up for or excusing those who personally attack the prof."
    Yes. You are. Whether you understand that or not is another matter.

  7. More evidence of left-wing thuggery? I'm not surprised given that the Nazis were also left-wing socialists. I wonder how far these "progressives" will go to try and protect their emerging "utopia"?

    And is it any wonder the last five domestic terrorists (other than the Fort Hood Allah Akbar Koran-thumping Muslim fundamentalist)- from the Marxist-spewing nut who flew his plane into the Austin IRS building to the Bush-hating registered Democrat who shot up the Pentagon to the recent pro-Obama eco-terrorist who attack the "Discovery" offices - are ALL left-wing?

    Of course we never hear much about Lee Harvey Oswald, who murdered one of the most beloved old school conservative Democrats, being a left-wing Commie lunatic now do we? Proving left-wing whackademia and the lamestream media are very adept at revising history to soften the image of the "highly motivated" left-wingers on their side of the aisle.

  8. What I want to know is what brand of crayons Lonewhackodotcom uses to rough draft his comments here.

    BTW, nice pre-emptive fingerpointing there LWDC. I'll simply return the favor and suggest you remove your own "sequoia-sized log" before removing the mote from our eyes.

    Also, engaging in "special pleading" is not a very effective way to advance your "argument" which, it turns out, is actually only a statement of relativistic personal belief on your part. And your ad hominem red herring isn't much better when you shift from the injustices and thuggery being committed against the good professor (who is merely holding to honestly held opinions) to the behavior of those who are merely responding to you in kind. Get it?

    BTW, do you ever look in a mirror? You might find yourself projecting your foibles on other people who are simply sick of you and your ilk's "progressive" hypocrisy.

  9. This issue sort of reminds me of this article regarding what _some_ academics types will support and NOT.

  10. There is really only one comment to be made: as a Henderson by birth, I hope that all is well in the Henderson family, especially with their preemie baby.

  11. Without a tough skin, the socialist trolls win. The emotionally vulnerable probably should not be an out and proud conservative blogger.

    BTW, when are you going to run for Congress, Professor?

  12. @VotingFemale - as soon as I can track down and destroy the last of my taped appearances on Bill Maher's show in the 1990s.

  13. Heh. I like both you and Ann, although for different reasons: you for your razor-clean reasoning and analysis, and her for style points (because substantively she has an ill-conceived inclination to believe and trust liberals from time to time).

    But that was a pretty good example of the blogging version of "street justice" you just administered, and rightly so. Seldom have I seen such a devastating blow delivered with less force or malice. Ann has no basis for complaint, and I think she knows it.

  14. Don't hold your breath that anyone will come to this man's defense.The problem with Althouse and the left is that they think the money we earn belongs to the government instead of to us, the earners. Their entire perspective is one of jealousy. America used to be about working hard and making something out of yourself. But this generation has decided that everything should be handed to them and that anyone who has any desire to work is an anachronism. Hopefully America will remember in November and get rid of these creeps.

  15. "who do we know who works for UT...lives in Knoxville area?"

    You really should get help for that paranoia.

  16. @Jum, nice to know someone appreciates my work.

  17. There is something not quite right about this story. It turns out that Henderson shut down the blog largely at his wife's request who, it turns out, agreed with his critics.

  18. @Allison W - No, that's not why he stopped blogging, although it is part of the reason he deleted the post in question (but there is no such thing as delete on the internet thanks to Google). Go to the TaxProf link for the explanation of why he has stopped blogging, here's a snippet: "The reason for this note is because I’ve decided to hang up my blogging hat. I was a fool, and I didn’t anticipate how this kind of thing could happen.... But I misunderstood the technology, and the consequences are devastating for me personally. I wish I had just stuck to blogging about corporate law and such, but I couldn’t help myself."

  19. This post is ridiculous. The man was not being attacked because he was against a tax increase. Instead, the responses to his blog were questioning his assertion that he was not rich.

    If he had said, "yeah, I make over $250,000 and am rich, but my taxes should not be raised, and here is why", there would have been little criticism.

  20. People with more time on their hands than with ways to productively spend it tend to skew the feedback.

  21. Dear Professor Jacobson:

    Surely there is a connection between why he took down the original post and his decision to stop blogging.

    I continue to think that there is something not quite right about this story. Don't get me wrong, I support the substance of his original post 100% and am appalled but not surprised by the brown shirt response.

    Still, I was struck by several statements from Henderson:

    "The reason I took the very unusual step of deleting them is because my wife, who did not approve of my original post and disagrees vehemently with my opinion, did not consent to the publication of personal details about our family."

    "You have caused untold damage to me personally."

    "This episode has had a profoundly negative impact on me."

    "I cannot begin to undo the problems this has caused."

    ". . . and the consequences are devastating for me personally."

    "I am sad to leave, but my family has to come first, and my blogging has caused them incalculable damage."

    I guess I'm wondering if there isn't a relationship between the first quotation and the others that follow?

  22. While I don't think I've ever disagreed with you on anything Professor and I've disagreed with Althouse numerous times, I'm shocked to say that after reading her follow-up to this I'm in her corner.

  23. "Instead, the responses to his blog were questioning his assertion that he was not rich."

    And telling him these anonymous people had a more justifiable claim on the products of his labor than his family. Oh, and you left out the threats.

    (And is there a more pathetic figure than lonewhacko? He's constantly claiming to have the "better way" than whoever's actually making progress against the Leviathan, yet never actually has anything to show for it.)

  24. Amazing how the definition of "rich" changes depending where you are and your circumstances relative to those around you...

    250K/yr is a very arbitrary sum. And some of these comments seem to equate "rich" with "evil". Is 250K is the new jump from "hard working" to "silver spoon"?

    There are many places where that salary puts you solidly in the middle-class -- not rich at all...

    I think the problem is not "taxing the rich" enough (although I think most really RICH people have way too many advantages through access to knowledge and help with loopholes) -- I think the problem is a vanishing middle class.

    I my area, at least, even though on average they take home much more money, most "middle-class" families are living a comparative lifestyle to the lower-middle-class of 20-30 years ago.

    One thing I have noticed, though - and this is not an indictment, just an observation: people who do make good money, and have done so long enough to have gotten used to it, do not really relate to lower-middle and working class people who are just scraping by. They may say they can "relate", but in my experience they cannot; any more than I can relate to a person raised in a blighted and famine torn country.

    This may be why we get so little from government for our money: people we elect don't REALLY relate to us...

    I think that the Vanishing Middle-Class is the reason we are seeing "class warfare", especially over income taxes.

    If the US had a solidly growing middle-class paying a growing chunk of taxes, the economy would be healthier (Duh!) and there wouldn't be the pressure to find revenue expressed in this increase in extreme anti-rich verbiage we are seeing ("Eat The Rich", "Bring back the guillotine", etc...) lately...

    Just sayin'.

  25. I recall my naivete back when Robert Bork was nominated. I couldn't imagine law professors would have the nerve to come out and actually attack the ability of one of the country's leading legal scholars. Obviously, I was wrong. So I don't expect to see any sort of defense of Todd Henderson. I note as well that one of the biggest attacks on Henderson came from Brad DeLong, who once compared Thomas Sowell to Orval Faubus. My next lifetime, instead of being a professor, I'm going to be a heroin dealer so I can work with a better class of people.

  26. The middle class is the backbone of a liberal democracy.

    Could explain why our democracy is increasingly illiberal due to a lack of backbone.

  27. Gerbeel,

    No, $250,000 is rich for the US. That is the relative base we are talking about for national tax policy, the nation. Were we talking only about NY, Boston, DC, LA, or SF, you would have a good point.

    I would guess that $250,000 per year puts a family firmly in the top 20% in most large cities. That is, rich.

    Where do you draw the line at rich? Top 1%, top 5%, top 20%?

    The professor is rich, and there is no way to get around it, for only rich people can afford to move into his neighborhood and send kids to private school.

    The next question is whether taxing the professor more will help or hurt the economy. That is debatable. He does make some good points, but there are good points to be made on the other side.

    The only point that is ridiculous is his assertion that he is not rich. That is not true objectively speaking.

  28. It is unfortunate this debate has boiled down to a discussion about what is rich and what is not rich. Shouldn't the focus be on his original premise about whether or not the government should seize more money from ANY of us to continue satisfying an insatiable appetite for spending?

  29. @Allison W - Something about this story feels wrong to me, also. Or better, not being told, such as the connection you mention.

    Also, how does pleaders' support for an abomination in NYC become a model for pleaders' support for a fellow pleader ... who has already caved to peer, troll and other pressure?

    He brings his family and specifically spouse into the picture, but murkily, without specificity other than "harm." Flags go up on that one, for me anyhow.

    Then Professor Jacobson proposes a parallelism, one might almost say moral relativism (though I doubt he sees or wants to see it in those terms), between a pleader who says he done wrong and a guild of pleaders who, knowing they proximately control the country by manipulating its laws and processes, support an enemy's victory dance on said country grave (ignoring that it is their country) -- in the name of freedom of expression. (That so-called mosque there is to free speech as heroine etc. dealing is to free enterprise.)

    Conclusion: something about this situation is not being told, Professor Henderson appears a poltroon as well as an incompetent head of family, and, overall but of course not universally (with luck), the guild of pleaders continues to work law, not justice, argument, not truth.

  30. "KATALL said...
    The only point that is ridiculous is his assertion that he is not rich. That is not true objectively speaking."

    Not really... I live in the san fran bay area and our family income is about $150,000. I'm just middle middle class here.

    If I had this income in Texas or Arkansas; yes, it would be a great income. Here, not so much. Modest house out side the city / in the cheaper suburbs, one car (a Hyundai; and we keep our cars until they die), when we eat out it's at chipotle, I don't own any expensive clothes, et cetera...

  31. PS
    Even my sociologist friends say $250k is just upper middle class; not 'rich'...

  32. After your third update, it's clear I misinterpretted the point of this post.

    I thought that while you understood and sympathized with what Henderson has gone through based on your own experiences, you knew full well the legal academy would ignore your sugggestion to rally around him. As Thomas Sowell pointed out, the Cordoba mosque is a 15 story middle finger to America. Now THAT is something the liberal legal academy can rally around, while cloaking it as a principled argument in support of religious freedom. But when it comes to a fellow legal academic arguing he deserves to keep more of the money he earns, and suffers harsh criticism and harrassment for even suggesting such a radical notion, then forget about the legal academy taking an equally high minded and principled stand to support economic freedom because that is contrary to liberal orthodoxy.

    In other words, when you suggested they come to his defense, you did so somewhat mockingly because you knew it would NEVER happen.

    Anyway, that's how I interpretted it and that's why I thought Althouse (who is normally very sharp, logical and reasoned) missed the boat.

  33. Guys, it's not the income number, but what you can get for the money.

    If Professor Henderson lived and worked in, say, Texas, he and his family would be living like kings right now and had more leftover on their bank accounts, even after taxes. (Psst: No income tax here.)

    If you live in Chicago, you have to pay Chicago's prices. That's why he's left with so little at the end of the month.

    I read a long time ago about one couple in Manhattan: both attorneys, making over $250 grand, two children... who live in a cramped apartment that can be aptly described as a "rabbit hutch". If they had made that income in, say, VA or DC, they could have bought a nice house in the suburbs and done a little more with their money than in Manhattan. But if they lived in a state with zero state income tax (FL, NH, TX)...

    But it always comes down to these things: shouldn't you keep more of the income you're rightly earned? And, where can I get more for my hard-earned money?

  34. Prof. Jacobson's point still stands, regardless if folks like Katall still want to change the subject. "What don't you understand about "it's not your money?" It isn't about who's rich and who isn't - these days in America we worry too much about how to plunder the so-called rich instead of how to earn enough to get rich ourselves. Today it's Henderson, tomorrow...it's you.

    Thanks for having the class to stand up, Professor.

  35. Comment of the day: William @ 11:12am

    "My next lifetime, instead of being a professor, I'm going to be a heroin dealer so I can work with a better class of people. "

  36. I agree with Mr. Jacobson. Todd H. was tarred and feathered, for his opinion, on his own lifestyle.

    Reality dictates, 'You are not allowed an opinion, in the first person, even on your own f!@#ing life'.

    No, NO, No!

    We are not the thought police. The internet is only a soapbox. It's not God, Daddy, or Mommy. Stop giving it the power of more than it's worth--an interface of no faces. I can't ever claim to be in charge to advise someone else's feelings, about anyones life but my own.

    Am I suppose to just expect that at some numerical figure, you are problemless?

    Once the electricity is pulled from this modern marketplace, we all resume to being a few people, who armchair the philosophy of our current events and existence. Political correctiveness need not apply.

    Humble yourselves, the embarrassement of this conversation only shows that the whole point was missed.

    The government has no business taking more from me than the collective whole, to be totally free. I am independent of my social standing, education and savings account.

    But if I share with the whole marketplace my situation, I must have the courage to take the blows. This internet interface isn't for many. I am appreciative for the few that persevere.

    I am sorry for the man and woman who educated themselves and who decently are raising a family to the best of their abilities, are part of the plan to be taxed to death, for the 50% who contribute NOTHING.

    Yup, seems fair. Take all I have too.

  37. Not really... I live in the san fran bay area and our family income is about $150,000. I'm just middle middle class here.

    I live outside of DC, and it's the same way.

    If I had this income in Michigan or Indiana; I'd be sitting in butter. Here, not so much. Modest house out side the city, two cars, one a pick-up I paid off years ago, and modest used cars for my teenage sons. When we eat out it's at Five Guys. I don't own any expensive clothes, apart from a few rugged shirts from Orvis I'll wear for the rest of my life.

  38. Imagine if the leftist utopia in academia was actually polite in rendering disagreement -- for them, the only thing more miserable than an apostate is the graceless life their orthodoxy offers.

  39. "Rich", to me, means that you no longer worry about month-to-month cashflow.

    We're not at the $250k mark yet, but then, we don't live in Chicago, or NYC, or any of the other horribly expensive places. At around $190k, with our kids, we do worry month to month at times. And we don't live in a mansion, or even in a McMansion, we have no yachts, we don't send the kids to private school . . . .

    When I do the math involved in contemplating a move to such places, I can see that I would have to be making that $250k to support the same lifestyle I now have.

    So, no, $250k isn't "rich" unless it's backed by several million in the bank.

    But I went to school for - well, seems like forever - and worked hard throughout, while watching lots of others spend high school getting high in the bathroom, or spend the college time NOT going to college, or to grad school, and I see lots of people working their 40/week and then kicking back, and I see some not even attempting that much . . .

    So, screw them. I worked for this, and I make more money because I work hard to make myself valuable to others. And for this, I ought to provide more support to the slackers and potheads and lazyasses? Yeah, right.