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The Dean of Law School Radicalism By: Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Throughout his nomination, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was charged with being everything from a racist to a right-wing extremist. But it is safe to say that only Professor Lawrence R. Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Massachusetts, accused him of being too intellectual to serve on the nation’s highest court.

“His [Alito's] problem is not bigotry,” wrote Velvel in one of his attacks on the soon-to-be judge. “It is that he sees the law as a technical intellectual game, not as a matter in which the humanity of a situation must always be borne in mind.” Velvel went on to harrumph that Alito not only sees the law as “an intellectual game,” but also places an “overwhelming stress…on procedures.” Velvel also scoffed that Alito is devoted to the "intellectual hard hat ideas typical during the 1960s and 1970s.” In sum, Alito’s major shortcoming, according to Velvel, is his fealty to the law and the Constitution rather than what Velvel called the “dictates of simple humanity.”

Coming as it did from the dean of a law school, Velvel’s was a curious indictment. Hostility to intellectual achievement, however, is a hallmark of Dean Velvel’s writings. He has often denounced Ivy League Law Schools and has a personal vendetta against Harvard. In this respect, he has repeatedly come out against the appointment of Ivy Leaguers to the US Supreme Court.

This may have something to do with Velvel’s employer. The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover does not show up at all on most quality rankings of American law schools; in the ranking list by the US News and World Report it does not even make it into the fourth tier. No wonder Velvel complains that there are so few grads from mediocre law schools on the Supreme Court bench. For his part, Velvel is no Ivy Leaguer: He has law degree from the University of Michigan (1963), and taught at the University of Kansas and Catholic University before landing in Andover. Today, he appears downright proud of the low ranking of his current law school.

Besides snarling resentfully at Ivy League professors, with their scholarly research published in refereed academic journals, and intellectuals generally, Velvel devotes most of his time to leftist Internet agitprop, especially for the Counterpunch web magazine run by Alexander Cockburn, which served as one source of his recent smear campaign against Judge Alito. Another was the paleolibertarian website LewRockwell.com, where Velvel is a regular columnist. In those forums, Velvel claimed that both Judges Roberts and Alito are "liars," a designation he uses for just about everyone whose political opinions he dislikes. When all his efforts came to naught, Velvel vulgarly denounced the New York Times for being insufficiently extremist in opposing Alito, writing:

"Excuse my French, but what bullshit. What absolute bullshit…. If Alito proves, as threatened, to support the actions of these dangerous and incompetent clowns in the Administration from Bush on down, then all the hoped for Democratic gains of 2006 -- even if they were to occur despite the fact that many persons will refuse to give otherwise available support to the Democrats because of extreme distaste for the Democrats, obvious cowardice -- all the hoped for Democrat gains of 2006 will not make one goddamned bit of difference."

Not exactly professional writing from a university dean.

Aside from the bee in his bonnet over Alito, Velvel has been at the forefront of the campaign by leftist academics to block and oppose the Allied war against Islamofascist terrorism. Writing in Counterpunch, Velvel raged that the Bush administration posed a far greater threat than terrorism to American national security:

At stake in the so-called war on terror is (no) longer just treatment of detainees, but the freedom of Americans. Bush and company have very wrongly used the commander-in-chief power as a lever to make the President far, far too powerful, powerful far beyond anything intended by the framers, who created a government in which the legislature was to be the more powerful branch… We are faced with an Executive, whose charge is led by the dumb Bush and the truly evil Cheney, that (sic) says it can do whatever it wants in the name of allegedly safeguarding America."

Velvel then went on to attack Professor John Yoo from the law school at Berkeley for daring to back the war against terror. Worth mentioning is that Yoo, in stark contrast to Velvel, is a serious scholar with publications in refereed academic journals. Velvel’s writings, however, are little more than screeds focused mainly on alleged evils of the American government.

For instance, The Long Term View, a pseudo-academic leftist political magazine published by the Massachusetts School of Law, devoted its Spring 2004 issue to the question, "Why We Seek War?” The editor, none other than Lawrence R. Velvel, asserted: "The United States is a nation which seeks war. We better change or we may end up destroying ourselves and perhaps even the world." Velvel then provided twenty-one reasons why Americans seek war. Reason number six: "Government is incompetent and its leaders stupid." Among other topics, Long Term View has devoted its space to denouncing the "thugs who run the government," (with a special interview with Howard Zinn), plus an issue devoted to ending all commercial and governmental secrecy about anything, denunciation of American war mongering (with Howard Zinn publishing his opinion that the US is an illegal occupier and not a liberator), and one issue devoted to the idea that all "Bigness is Badness." Velvel further claims that President Bush is guilty of at least two impeachable crimes, his "torturing" terrorists and "unlawful electronic surveillance."

In Velvel’s world, even the New York Times is complicit in the crimes of the hated Bush administration. Thus Velvel blames the Times, and evidently also Jews, for the re-election of George Bush:

George Bush was not elected by the American people in 2000. He was elected by denying the vote to blacks in Florida, by the ballot skullduggery that caused votes to be cast for Buchanan rather than Gore by members of that famous political organization called "Elderly Florida Jews for Pat Buchanan," and by the Supreme Court, whose latest nominee is the subject of hearings that begin in a few days. Is it possible that, after being elected by denying votes to blacks, by misleading members of "Elderly Florida Jews for Buchanan," and by the Supreme Court, Bush got himself reelected by persuading The Times not to publish the news of his lawbreaking prior to the 2004 reelection and by The Times acceding to this? The Times plainly should let us know the answer to this horrid possibility.'

When not condemning the pro-Bush conspiracy orchestrated by the New York Times, Velvel is busy venting his resentment at Ivy League law professors. He denounced Harvard Law School for its supposed endorsement of "torture." Together with the staff of his own Law School, recruited for this purpose, Velvel was a leading player in the campaign to represent Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe as a "plagiarist," because Tribe may have improperly cited some academic research in old work of his published many years earlier. Wrote Velvel:

"(Harvard's President) Larry Summers appointed Larry Tribe a University Professor. Then the bad stuff hit the fan, as it was learned that in the mid 1980s. Tribe wrote a book in which he both plagiarized from and extensively copycatted (sic) a book by a University of Virginia professor. But Larry Summers now has imposed no punishment on Larry Tribe. (There seems to be a conspiracy of Larry from which I am excluded.)"

Velvel also demanded that Summers himself be dismissed by Harvard. As usual, his pleas were in vain. Instead, Harvard's reaction was to explain that it regarded Tribe’s error as "the product of inadvertence rather than intentionality." Again, in contrast to Tribe, who has a long track record of serious scholarship, Velvel expresses his legal opinions mainly in longwinded Counterpunch screeds.

To be sure, when he is not busy trying to stop the US war against terrorism, he also writes novels about law schools. But as a law professor, the highlight of his career seems to have been his attempt to sue the American Bar Association under an antitrust law. Evidently this was little more than a nuisance suit. He lost.

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Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.

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