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An Unintentionally Funny Article by Former Duke Law Professor Michael Byers

explaining why he gave up his U.S. green card and returned to Canada, in the Globe and Mail (hat tip: Leiter). For example, he claims:

[After 9/11], fear replaced curiosity as the standard response to things unknown. Before 9/11, my wife's English accent often generated a friendly response, including the comment "You sound just like Princess Diana." After the attacks, the warm chatter gave way to a strained silence.

Right. I remember that wave of anti-British fear and loathing that swept over the U.S. after 9/11. Is it possible that Professor Byers is both playing to (and encouraging) the stereotypical view of the Canadian left of Americans as a bunch of ignorant, parochial, anti-foreigner goobers?

Byers also fails to notice the irony that when he went to return his green card, he "saw scores of Mexican men tending lawns and flowerbeds. Later, a woman from Guatemala cleaned my hotel room." He sees this, apparently, as a sign of American exploitation of foreigners (he compares the migration of immigrants to the U.S. to "moths coming to a flame"); no thought about why immigrants are eager to come here to do manual labor.

But the real punchline comes later, when he describes Duke as (drumroll please) "a conservative law school at a conservative university."

(For the unitiated, Duke can certainly be considered conservative--if your worldview is in Indymedia-Counterpunch-Ward Churchill territory.)

UPDATE: Reader Cornellian delivers a thorough Fisking in the comments, concluding with "Good riddance Mr. Byers, and thanks for creating a job opening at Duke."

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Some of My Best Friends Are Law Professors,
  2. An Unintentionally Funny Article by Former Duke Law Professor Michael Byers
JJ Reddick (mail):
that actually is pretty funny.

duke is in the south, but it is most certainly not a conservative institution. My aunt--who is a super cool lady, but who is also an avowed socialist--went to duke. My con law I professor--who is exceptionally smart, but is a raging liberal under any def'n--also went to duke.

doesn't erwin chemerinsky teach at duke? didn't he testify against sam alito at the congressional hearings?

I agree, DB, duke is certainly not a mecca for conservatives.

oh yeah, and JJ Reddick is overrated.
4.26.2006 12:08am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
1)My brother-in-law went to Duke- 'nuff said.

2)Princess Diana ain't had much to say lately. Mike, sensing with his keen political acumen that it was her association with an Arab lover that set our nation's teeth on edge, bailed to Canuckistan earning him the handle, "Bye-Bye Byers".
4.26.2006 12:22am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Being threatened means either you're important, or that you are so sensitive that you can see threats others with less ability to see through stone can't see.
In either case, it makes you superior.
4.26.2006 12:22am
Steve:
I guess Prof. Bernstein is aware of the ethnicity of Prof. Byers' wife, but I am not, which may explains why I don't get his amused reaction to the first point.
4.26.2006 12:29am
CrazyTrain (mail):
Good point Steve -- the woman could very well be Indian or Pakistani (or some other shade of Brown) with an English accent. Wow, David just got pwn3d and shown to be making pretty racist assumptsion there (that all English are white). Nice.
4.26.2006 12:31am
davidbernstein (mail):
I don't have a clue as to the ethnicity of Prof. Byer's wife, but if you read the linked article, neither would any other readers of his piece who aren't personally acquainted. The article suggests only that his wife's foreign, English accent was considered charming before 9/11, but threatening afterwards. This has nothing to with her ethnicity.
4.26.2006 12:40am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
From the article, one might or might not deduce that Byer's wife is arabic.

Whatever. It's an overly-dramatic representation of which maybe 70% is true, but then only to him. Anyone who reads that much into his day-to-day living needs going. Or an editor.
4.26.2006 12:44am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Good point Steve -- the woman could very well be Indian or Pakistani (or some other shade of Brown) with an English accent. Wow, David just got pwn3d and shown to be making pretty racist assumptsion there (that all English are white). Nice.
I don't know if you were being satirical. If so, it was too subtle for me.

If not, you are simply wrong. According to the article, Michael Byers said:
Before 9/11, my wife's English accent often generated a friendly response, including the comment "You sound just like Princess Diana." After the attacks, the warm chatter gave way to a strained silence.
The critical fact was clearly his "wife's English accent," and not whether she was "Indian or Pakistani (or some other shade of Brown)." He was not saying that the pre and post-911 reactions to his wife were based on her skin color. If that was his point, he would have mentioned her skin color. His point was that the pe and post-911 reactions to his wife were based on her English accent.
4.26.2006 12:44am
Steve:
I certainly wasn't trying to imply Prof. Bernstein is racist. I do think the sheer absurdity of the thought that someone would be scorned after 9/11 merely for having a British accent should lead one to seek alternative interpretations of the story, however.
4.26.2006 12:49am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Word comes from someone in the know that his wife's name is Katharine, kid Fraser Robert. Doesn't sound very Arabic to me; but then again, the article didn't imply she was, just that Americans feared her loathesome English accent.
4.26.2006 12:49am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
Charles Chapman-

But the the following paragraph describes rounding up and deporting arabic men without greencards by the thousands, his wife being spared because she posesses a green card.

Funny, I don't remember that roundup. Well, he's a bigshot college professor who, when distraught, writes like a precocious high school senior.
4.26.2006 12:50am
Lev:
more like precious writing by a precious high school senior
4.26.2006 1:00am
RandomReaderX (mail):
If you don't remember the post 9/11 roundup of Arabic men who were deported, you weren't paying attention. At one point in 2002, we were deporting them by the jetload, after trials in a secret immigration court. The OIG did a full report on those detained immediately after 9/11 (available at http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/0306/index.htm) which concluded:

While recognizing the difficult circumstances confronting the Department in responding to the terrorist attacks, we found significant problems in the way the September 11 detainees were treated. The INS did not serve notices of the immigration charges on these detainees within the specified timeframes. This delay affected the detainees in several ways, from their ability to understand why they were being held, to their ability to obtain legal counsel, to their ability to request a bond hearing.

In addition, the Department instituted a policy that these detainees would be held until cleared by the FBI. Although not communicated in writing, this "hold until cleared" policy was clearly understood and applied throughout the Department. The policy was based on the belief - which turned out to be erroneous - that the FBI's clearance process would proceed quickly. Instead of taking a few days as anticipated, the clearance process took an average of 80 days, primarily because it was understaffed and not given sufficient priority by the FBI.

We also found that the FBI and the INS in New York City made little attempt to distinguish between aliens who were subjects of the PENTTBOM investigation and those encountered coincidentally to a PENTTBOM lead. Even in the chaotic aftermath of the September 11 attacks, we believe the FBI should have taken more care to distinguish between aliens who it actually suspected of having a connection to terrorism from those aliens who, while possibly guilty of violating federal immigration law, had no connection to terrorism but simply were encountered in connection with a PENTTBOM lead. Alternatively, by early November 2001, when it became clear that the FBI could not complete its clearance investigations in a matter of days or even weeks, the Department should have reviewed those cases and kept on the list of September 11 detainees only those for whom it had some basis to suspect a connection to terrorism.

The FBI's initial classification decisions and the untimely clearance process had enormous ramifications for the September 11 detainees. The Department instituted a "no bond" policy for all September 11 detainees. The evidence indicates that the INS raised concerns about this blanket "no bond" approach, particularly when it became clear that the FBI's clearance process was slow and the INS had little information in many individual cases on which to base its continued opposition to bond. The INS also raised concerns about the legality of holding aliens to conduct clearance investigations after they had received final orders of removal or voluntary departure orders. We found that the Department did not address these legal issues in a timely way.

The FBI's classification of the detainees and the slow clearance process also had important ramifications on their conditions of confinement. Many aliens characterized by the FBI as "of high interest" to the September 11 investigation were detained at the MDC under highly restrictive conditions. While the FBI's classification decisions needed to be made quickly and were based on less than complete information, we believe the FBI should have exercised more care in the process, since it resulted in the MDC detainees being kept in the highest security conditions for a lengthy period. At the least, the FBI should have conducted more timely clearance checks, given the conditions under which the MDC detainees were held.

Our review also raised various concerns about the treatment of these detainees at the MDC. For example, we found that MDC staff frequently - and mistakenly - told people who inquired about a specific September 11 detainee that the detainee was not held at the facility when, in fact, the opposite was true. In addition, the MDC's restrictive and inconsistent policies on telephone access for detainees prevented them from obtaining legal counsel in a timely manner.

With regard to allegations of abuse, the evidence indicates a pattern of physical and verbal abuse by some correctional officers at the MDC against some September 11 detainees, particularly during the first months after the attacks. Although most correctional officers denied any such physical or verbal abuse, our interviews and investigation of specific complaints developed evidence that abuse had occurred.

We also concluded that, particularly at the MDC, certain conditions of confinement were unduly harsh, such as illuminating the detainees' cells for 24 hours a day. Further, we found that MDC staff failed to inform MDC detainees in a timely manner about the process for filing complaints about their treatment.

The September 11 detainees held at Passaic had much different, and significantly less harsh, experiences than the MDC detainees. The Passaic detainees were housed in the facility's general population and treated like other INS detainees held at the facility. Although we received some allegations of physical and verbal abuse, we did not find evidence of a pattern of abuse at Passaic as we did at the MDC. However, we found that the INS did not conduct sufficient and regular visits to Passaic to ensure the conditions of confinement were appropriate.

In sum, while the chaotic situation and the uncertainties surrounding the detainees' connections to terrorism explain some of these problems, they do not explain them all. We believe the Department should carefully consider and address the issues described in this report, and we therefore offered a series of recommendations regarding the systemic problems we identified in our review. They include recommendations to ensure a timely clearance process; timely service of immigration charges; careful consideration of where to house detainees with possible connections to terrorism, and under what kind of restrictions; better training of staff on the treatment of these detainees; and better oversight of the conditions of confinement. We believe these recommendations, if fully implemented, will help improve the Department's handling of detainees in other situations, both larger scale and smaller scale, that may arise in the future.
4.26.2006 1:07am
FXKLM:
Steve: If you read the whole article, I don't think your interpretation is reasonable. Look at this:


Six years ago, Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson estimated that 660,000 Canadians were living and working illegally in the United States. Most Canadians blend in easily. But after Sept. 11, 2001, fear replaced curiosity as the standard response to things unknown.


He's saying that after September 11, Americans became hostile foreigners, including Canadians. I agree that it's completely ridiculous to think that Americans would hostile to the English, but I also think it's the most persuasive reading of the article. He clearly says that the hostile reaction his wife gets is to her accent. It might be absurd, but he really did say it.
4.26.2006 1:07am
o' connuh j.:
CrazyTrain looks like you just got PWN3D!1!!! jumping on the bandwagon of racecard hysterics with no room to talk shit now because you humiliated yourself so totally.

Bye!
4.26.2006 1:09am
Steve:
RandomReaderX, it's people like you who spoil good jokes for everyone.
4.26.2006 1:10am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
Duke conservative?

AHAHAHAHAHAHA

I grew up surrounded by Duke Forest, under the tower of Duke Chapel, a fan of Duke Basketball, and am dating a Duke student.

The only way Duke can be viewed as conservative is from the eyes of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
4.26.2006 1:15am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):

If you don't remember the post 9/11 roundup of Arabic men who were deported, you weren't paying attention.


I was busy on a pile of rubble.
4.26.2006 1:19am
Patrick (mail):
For what it's worth, that 'moths to a flame', from a Canadian law professor, is probably quoting Lord Denning disparaging America's attraction to tort litigants (and anti-suit injuncting one of the said litigants, in the Laker Airways litigation).
4.26.2006 1:23am
sujal (mail) (www):
Ah, the two wrongs make a right argument. Nice one, Glenn.
4.26.2006 1:23am
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
just mincing through, sujal?
4.26.2006 1:31am
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Sujal--

A wrong and a right don't make a right either.
4.26.2006 1:35am
MJH (mail):
My favorite part: "At particular risk are green-card holders who have failed to file U.S. tax returns, as all permanent residents are required to do."

How dare the United States try to collect taxes from people who live and work in the United States? I guess he feels that the United States exists for the convenience of whoever happens to wander in.
4.26.2006 1:50am
eeyn524:

How dare the United States try to collect taxes from people who live and work in the United States?


That section of the article was about permanent residents who don't live and work in the US. There's plenty to complain about in the article, but he was hardly advocating or excusing tax evasion. He was pointing out the ways a non-resident resident can get caught.
4.26.2006 2:01am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I think the reaction perfectly natural if his wife is indeed British.

I mean, did the Indians burn Washington DC? Did Pakistanis try to capture Baltimore? Nevermind that we were better off without either city, it's only natural that after 9/11 Americans want to keep an eye on those Brits.
4.26.2006 2:02am
Cornellian (mail):
God that article was so idiotic in so many ways.

Before 9/11, my wife's English accent often generated a friendly response, including the comment "You sound just like Princess Diana." After the attacks, the warm chatter gave way to a strained silence.

So after 9/11 Americans are suddenly hostile to British accents? Hard to believe.

At least my princess had a green card and was, therefore, on the legally advantageous side of the divide between "us" and "them." Thousands of men of Arab ethnicity were rounded up and either detained or deported without charge or access to lawyers. Significantly, none of them were citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

Oh this is a good one. A person who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident has zero legal right to remain in the United States so yes, their lack of either status is indeed "significant." As for the fact they were of Arab ethnicity, was he expecting Swedes? Chinese?

How do you explain to an American -- especially one with a flag on his shoulder and a gun on his hip -- that you no longer wish to live in the United States?

'Cause you know us Americans and our guns. We're just waiting for the chance to shoot some guy for saying he doesn't want to live here anymore.

My instinctive response was to put words to paper. Five days later, on Sept. 16, 2001, my article, "The hawks are hovering. Prepare for more bombs," appeared in London's Independent on Sunday. I continued to write, almost exclusively for British papers, chastising the Bush administration for its unnecessary violations of human rights and international law.

Apparently a terrorist attack on the United States never caused him to consider criticizing those responsible for the attack. Nope, it's all about criticizing the big bad USA.

I remembered one of my grad students at Duke, now a law professor in Mexico City, explaining that most of these labourers have forged social-security cards that are convincing enough to protect their employers from the police, while providing no protections for the workers.

You mean a FORGED social security card doesn't actually give you any legal protection like, say a REAL social security card???? Oh, the outrage! - does Amnesty International know about this?

My principal motivation in surrendering my green card was not to avoid problems at the border. I was seeking to commit -- without hesitation or qualification -- to my own special place. As someone who was born in Canada, I never had to affirm my citizenship. I never had to demonstrate my deep love for this country. Unlike the millions of Canadians who were born outside Canada, I'd never made my choice.

This is so classically Canadian. He spends an entire article talking about how much he dislikes the United States and draws the conclusion that somehow that amounts to an affirmation of being Canadian. That pretty much sums up just about everything that's wrong with Canada. Good riddance Mr. Byers, and thanks for creating a job opening at Duke.
4.26.2006 2:09am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
"If you don't remember the post 9/11 roundup of Arabic men who were deported, you weren't paying attention."

It is too bad that the US government waited until after there were 3000 dead Americans before performing that salutary bit of social hygine.
4.26.2006 2:42am
RandomReaderW (mail):
There were 762 detainees according to the report mentioned above by RandomReaderX. Not an insignificant number, but not thousands.
4.26.2006 5:11am
Federal Dog:
Too bad Byers didn't offer some account of why Americans lapsed into a "strained silence" because of an English accent (positing that this happened). Why would he think Americans had a post-9/11 problem with English accents?

Weird.
4.26.2006 8:45am
AppSocRes (mail):
Perhaps it was not the English accent of the Prof's wife, but the words spoken -- perhaps along the lines of the Prof's rant -- that aroused others' angst/ire.
4.26.2006 9:20am
TC (mail):
As an alumnus of that allegedly "conservative law school at a conservative university," all I can say to Byers is "don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya."
4.26.2006 9:43am
Freder Frederson (mail):
My mother is English (born in England, emigrated to this country in 1963, returned to England in 1981). Her Father was Indian (he emigrated to England around the end of World War I), her mother was white. She can easily be mistaken for an arab or Indian. Her maiden name was Mahomed, it is now and for the last 51 years been Roberts. She suffered a lot of discrimination growing up in England, but before 9/11 she had no problems in this country.

Since 9/11 (and this is a 73 year old woman with a typically pasty English husband), whenever she visits this country (they usually come over once a year as they still have two sons living here) she is always pulled aside for extra scrutiny at the airport and she notices that people are more suspicious than they once were. So if the professor's wife is of Indian or Arab descent, it is not just his liberal paranoia.
4.26.2006 9:56am
aslanfan (mail):
I certainly don't endorse the subject article, but it is utterly ignorant to dismiss American ignorance and parochialism as a "stereotype" of the Canadian left. Americans are, by and large, ignorant. Somin's Cato Institute study concludes that voters tend to be "abysmally ignorant of even very basic political information." One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth. Many college students can't find Mexico on a map. And on and on. No where is this ignorance more apparent than in foreign affairs. Ask the editor of any major newspaper. Americans would rather read an article entitled "Ten Steps to a Healthier Colon" than a substantive analysis of even the most pressing international issue. There are cultural and historical reasons for this ignorance, and the accompanying indifference (as compared to the rest of the world), but goobers we are (present company excluded).
4.26.2006 10:38am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Random Reader-

You might want to note that 782 detainees is not "thousands".

See http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/0306/chapter2.htm#IV

Within a year of Pearl Harbor, FDR had locked up more than 200,000 persons (from a much smaller US pop.) some 40% of whom were native-born US citizens. None of those "holds" were based on immigration status.
4.26.2006 10:55am
Houston Lawyer:
The only time I can remember ever being thrown by an English accent was in Chuck E Cheese here in Houston, when a young Black girl asked, in a most proper English accent, what she was supposed to do with her tokens when she piled into the pit of balls. It took me just a second to adjust to this completely unexpected phenomenon, but I managed to stutter a response eventually.

Even if the man's wife is of another race, most Americans would assume that anyone with a British accent would be on our side. That may be just another stereotype, but I believe it to be widely held.
4.26.2006 11:11am
Duke sucks. (mail):
Duke sucks.
4.26.2006 11:23am
TC (mail):
But UNC swallows. :)
4.26.2006 11:24am
TC (mail):
My apologies, but it was too easy. Please delete.
4.26.2006 11:51am
lucia (mail) (www):
To get back to the debate about Byer's wife's ethnicity:


Byers, 39, is a one-time Saskatchewan farm boy and the very model of the modern globe-trotting academic. He and his English wife, Katharine (they met during his stint at Oxford), have two American children, born during Byers' time at Duke University in North Carolina.
From MACLEANS.CA

Of course, there does leave open the possibility that Katharine, who is referred to as English, is of Pakistani, Indian or Arab descent. Still, the name sound British, she is described as English, he met her at Oxford, and Byers paragraph seems to suggest it was her accent that made people wary.

Until some one shows evidence to the contrary, I'll assume that Katharine looks typically British. Since Factulty members in similar disciplines tend to meet each other, and often meet family members, I'll assume David Bernstein knew she looked typically British and was not simply assuming her ethnicity. (Though it would be the most plausible interpretation of Bryer's words.)
4.26.2006 12:32pm
Steve:
I'm not sure if it means any more to say someone "looks typically British" than it does to say they "look typically American." There are an awful lot of nonwhite British people, as one might expect from a formerly farflung empire. I don't think it makes any sense to say "most British people are white, so I'm just going to assume she is white, even though the story becomes completely absurd if she is white and makes a lot more sense if she is not." The fact is that we just don't know.
4.26.2006 1:03pm
Fishbane (mail):
Good lord. Someone decides they prefer to live somewhere else, and people wig out. Sure, he comes off as hyperbolic, but I'm sure anyone who changes countries must have rather strong reasons for doing so: that's a lot of effort.

As a native U.S. citizen (Ivy educated, so I'm probably tainted), I'm in the process of learning French. Why? So I have the option of Canadian citizenship. I haven't decided to go, but options are good. (Finland has nice rules as well, and I already speak German, so I could work on Swedish with much less effort than tackling Finnish, but that's a much more radical and expensive change.)

I have never understood why people get so testy about folks that don't want to live here, but then, perhaps that's the other side of why I'm willing to keep my options open on leaving.
4.26.2006 1:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth. Many college students can't find Mexico on a map. And on and on.
There are parts of the world where a sizeable fraction of the population thinks that blowing themselves up will take them to a paradise filled with perpetual virgins to satisfy their sexual needs. Ignorance and bizarre ideas are pretty common, regardless of nation.
4.26.2006 1:16pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
"
I don't think it makes any sense to say "most British people are white, so I'm just going to assume she is white, even though the story becomes completely absurd if she is white and makes a lot more sense if she is not.
"
Byers doesn't strike me as the most articulate writer, but I can only assume that if his wife is brown, he would have been all over it in the article. He is, after all, in no position to assume that people know who his wife is. If he wanted to write that Americans are bigoted toward brown people, and had evidence to that effect, would he have really excluded it? Of course not. But the best he could muster was that we hate the dreaded limey accent, which, and here you are right, is just idiotic.
4.26.2006 1:19pm
Cornellian (mail):
I certainly don't endorse the subject article, but it is utterly ignorant to dismiss American ignorance and parochialism as a "stereotype" of the Canadian left. Americans are, by and large, ignorant. Somin's Cato Institute study concludes that voters tend to be "abysmally ignorant of even very basic political information." One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth. Many college students can't find Mexico on a map. And on and on. No where is this ignorance more apparent than in foreign affairs.

I don't doubt that a distressingly high percentage of Americans are woefully ignorant of every country in the world other than their own, but Canadians are in no position to criticize. Canadians are equally ignorant of every other country in the world other than their own and the United States, and are informed about the latter only because of US media saturation of the Canadian market.
4.26.2006 1:21pm
Cornellian (mail):
As a native U.S. citizen (Ivy educated, so I'm probably tainted), I'm in the process of learning French. Why? So I have the option of Canadian citizenship. I haven't decided to go, but options are good. (Finland has nice rules as well, and I already speak German, so I could work on Swedish with much less effort than tackling Finnish, but that's a much more radical and expensive change.)

You already have the option of Canadian citizenship because you speak English. There is no requirement that you speak French and in fact there is very little opportunity to even speak French in Canada outside the province of Quebec or in employment with the federal government. Outside the province of Quebec the percentage of French speakers is vanishingly small. You're far more likely to run into a speaker of Chinese or Urdu.
4.26.2006 1:23pm
Steve:
Well, I dunno about that. I have friends in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver who all speak French fluently. Yet I have not a single Canadian friend who speaks Urdu (well, perhaps I shouldn't assume). Of course, my friends all speak English as well, which perhaps was your point. A working knowledge of French makes your life in Canada perhaps .01% easier, unless you are in Quebec.
4.26.2006 1:37pm
guest111 (mail) (www):
It actually does help you to get into Canada if you speak French. Quebec has its own immigration rules, and a French-speaker gets substantially more points in the review process (literally, not figuratively). Once Quebec decides to let you in, you don't have to stay in the province: you can move anywhere else in Canada. So French-speakers who want to live in Toronto, for example, apply to immigrate to Quebec instead.
4.26.2006 1:42pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
At any rate, Fishbane, no one cares that Byers decided to leave America. The reason we are having this discussion is that his apparent reasons reek of the stereotypes and delusions that many Americans suspect some foreigners to hold, such as,

"How do you explain to an American -- especially one with a flag on his shoulder and a gun on his hip -- that you no longer wish to live in the United States?"

Poor Byers, it'll be so hard for him to explain his reasons for leaving to, umm... Davy Crockett, and... Audie Murphy?
4.26.2006 1:50pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
Taking as true that, post 9/11, Byer's wife was exposed to strained silence when speaking, I suspect it was not her English accent that elicited it but the content of her speech.

"Bushitler is the source of all evil in the world", didn't spur amiable conversation from most Americans shortly after 9/11. Granted that no mention was made of this specific sentence possibility in the column except for the general thread running through the whole thing.

Note that it was not a post 9/11 Bush that drew Byers' "instinctive response" to warn the world of Bush and America because they (as in he AND his wife) "felt nothing but horror as the Twin Towers collapsed, knowing not only that thousands of lives had been lost, but that Mr. Bush's neo-conservative advisers would seize their chance to plot a militaristic course." They already knew Bush was evil because he stole the 2000 election.

Best they are back in Canada where they can safely boo visiting American grammar school hockey players without getting strained silence for his wife's accent.
4.26.2006 1:50pm
msk (mail):
Somewhere in the middle of the Globe and Mail article, Byers asserts that there are plenty of fake Social Security cards good enough to trick employers. Ignoring everything else on other issues:

Why do we still tolerate a system that allows withholding payroll taxes on the identical Social Security number in three or ten widely separate cities simultaneously, all year long, in fixed-location occupations such as motel maid, dishwasher? Or, Social Security simultaneously associated with persons of five different names?

Do we? (Does our SSA, that is, still ignore these obvious signs of fraud?) Why would we tolerate the re-use of the Social Security numbers of persons long dead? Or made-up numbers that have never been assigned to anyone yet?

The era of pencil and paper, file drawers full of little application blanks (thousands of miles distant) ended a while back. Did they only computerize and streamline the processes of handing out money?

Maybe Byers was only trying to get himself a free trip to Moscow (and he stayed long enough to create two USA-citizen children who can invite him to visit here anytime he wants), but at least Byers' irritating comments publically raised the question of fake Social Security cards for us. Why is it still so easy to use someone else's number?

Fifteen years ago, if I used my auto club membership to pick up a handful of maps in another city, AAA would send a polite card asking if I had moved there permanently. You might regard that as intrusive, but they diplomatically made it clear their computer just kicked out a notice of a member visiting to use services of an office other than the one nearest home.

Why haven't Social Security computers been programmed to pick up multiple income streams from the same card number, or other indicators that records might need examining? Might need examining, unless explanation is on file (I'm bi-coastal, teaching at two schools this year, for example. I'm Rip van Winkle, and I've started using my card again 20 years after my Social Security death benefit was paid.).

Payments of Social Security benefits are largely via direct deposit now, eliminating all those pesky fingerprints on cancelled checks. The banking system has become much more fraud-friendly, in terms of destroying or withholding evidence -- also reported to be post-September 11 changes in banking to "protect" the rapid circulation of cash with a paperless system.

It's not the average immigrant, legal or illegal, who figures out how to exploit major systems, but once a loopholed system is implemented, word gets around.

Social Security has been evolving since 1935. It's hugely complex, but they could fairly quickly identify groups of numbers issued prior to 1940, say, or other groups of numbers you'd be surprised to find in use today.
4.26.2006 1:52pm
DustyR (mail) (www):
Come on Fishbane! While, in general, there are various levels of effort to change countries, Byers' effort was miniscule though he made it rather harder than he needed to.

All Byers had to do was take a flight back to Canada (and ship his stuff back by truck) and stay there. No different than moving from one city to another. His residency would have lapsed with no consequence.

But that would have left for less snark in his next column.
4.26.2006 2:03pm
Hoosier:
I have to take issue with this "Americans are stoopid and don't know about the world" trope. If we wanted to invade Mexico, WE COULD FIND IT, for Chrisakes. What more do you want?

It never ceases to amaze me that people like Beyers will decide that we are such ignorant, xenophobic boors that they can't live among us--only to go on and write an ignorant, xenophobic column about America.

I'd like to think his departure marks a change for the better. But who wants to bet that Duke Law will find someone just like him to fill his much needed void?
4.26.2006 2:30pm
Law Devil (mail):
Damn Canadians, go back home you dirty frost back!
4.26.2006 3:19pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Every American generation learns a particular bit of geography particularly well.
You don't want to be in the area with which we are in the process of becoming familiar.
You really don't.

Better we remain ignorant of your area. We would prefer it, and, we guarantee, so would you.
4.26.2006 3:23pm
amliebsch:
Yes, I too am shocked and horrified that by 2001, Americans stopped comparing his wife to a British royal who had been dead for four years.
4.26.2006 3:46pm
Cornellian (mail):
Yes, I too am shocked and horrified that by 2001, Americans stopped comparing his wife to a British royal who had been dead for four years.

Americans are distressingly well informed about Lady Diana, Princess of Wales.
4.26.2006 5:27pm
Erica (mail):
For everyone saying that it's ridiculous that Americans would be hostile to those with British accents, think again about the less-cosmopolitan and less-urban locales in the US. I have two close friends, a US citizen and her British husband, who very frequently encounter xenophobic remarks specifically based on the husband's accent. The wife has frequently been questioned as to why she would marry a foreigner, and why an American boy wasn't "good enough" for her (by everyone from colleagues to store clerks &waiters to job interviewers). The husband is repeatedly asked why he can't just learn to talk "normally." They are in Ithaca, NY - not exactly the stronghold of conservatism, but apart from its universities still a fairly rural area. However, they haven't noticed much of an uptick since 9/11 - the prejudice was there well beforehand.
4.26.2006 6:33pm
Cornellian (mail):
I also live in Ithaca and have never seen that kind of prejudice directed towards someone with a British accent, or any accent. Admittedly I don't have an accent so maybe all this stuff is going on when I'm not around, but there are tons of foreign students in my classes, none of them has ever mentioned encountering prejudice in Ithaca and most of them have accents far less familiar to the typical American than a British one.
4.26.2006 7:35pm
Christopher:
Regardless of whether or not British accents tend to be shocking to Americans of whatever stripe, Byers' statement is not about Americans having an innate suspicion of those accents.

Byers makes it clear that the way people responded to his wife's accent changed after 9/11. While one could certainly argue that 9/11 made many Americans more suspicious of Arabs, Persians, Pakistanis, Indians, Egyptians, etc., the idea that it made many Americans more suspicious of the British is beyond absurd.
4.26.2006 8:44pm
george (mail):
Just a note on the Somin research, he himself notes that it would be irrational to amass significant information as to politics: the vote of a well-schooled man is just as inconsequential as high-school drop out actor, so there's never a pay off for said pedant.

So assuming arguendo that Americans are indeed woefully ignant of the technicalities of the Patriot Act, does that mean they are doing the smart thing?
4.26.2006 9:01pm
hey (mail):
That Americans were suspicious of Brits is facially ridiculous. Especially given the tremendous British response immediately after 9/11 and their continued support (or at least that of Tony Blair and his administration) in all of the events that have followed.
4.26.2006 9:44pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
What's scary is how much power and influence people like Byers have. He and Ward Churchill and other left-wing professors have literally poisoned the minds of our young people. Why do we let Marxist America-haters teach our children?
4.26.2006 10:49pm
Duke04:
For what it's worth, as a recent Duke grad (and Durham native), I would say that Duke is a school with a rather liberal faculty (though I haven't seen many other universities that are significantly different--I'm at Chicago now) and a student body that by and by, doesn't care (with a small VERY vocal leftist fringe).

Maybe it was the fact that I hung out with mostly engineers and science majors, but there wasn't a lot of sympathy for anti-Iraq war protests, anti-Horotwitz reallies, etc in my memory. They were there, and people went nuts, but on a campus of I'd guess ~6500 undergrads, a tiny percentage. Likewise with the faculty--a few names pop up over and over again. Diane Nelson. The Cultural Anthropology Department, etc.

I would definitely describe the Duke student body as a perfect example of a (very) silent moderate conservative majority, and a (very) shrill leftist minority, with a lot in the middle. I could be completely wrong on this particular point, but I always got the feeling that a large number of Duke students were 1st generation money (if they were indeed "money") ... that's pure speculation though.

I was also a history major--one of the departments at Duke with zero registered Republican professors--and only had one or two classes in which I found the professors particularly odious.

(as a side note, I'm sad to see that the Duke Conservative paper web site seems to have gone on hiatus .. http://www.newsense.org/ )
4.27.2006 1:44am
James of England:
I flew out to Beaumont, TX, on the 9/18/01, my original flight having been delayed from the 13th. Perhaps the delay was what caused me to miss the wave of hostility towards my accent. By the time I had arrived, the backlash against the hostility had been so strong that I was treated with real affection by everyone for the following couple of months.

An alternative explanation might be that English women were considered likely to be terrorists, whereas everyone knows that English men are effeminate types who couldn't hope to hurt a manly American. ;-)

Seriously, I can see how some of the affection I received could be distressing to Mrs. Byers. I had 2 entirely unrelated Irish American men crying, one on my shoulder, the other a week later with a little more reserve, because they felt awful about having supported the IRA. Years of being raised to hate us, and 9/11 suddenly brought home the idea that terrorism sucked. If you were one of many English socialists who supported the Marxist IRA, one can imagine the desire to travel to flee these conversations, though. For a more mainstream example of how the hostility would be likely to manifest, I still occaisionally have total strangers hear my accent and voice their support for Blair and so on. I imagine that many of these people would often react poorly if I were to rejoin them with general hostility to America's rape of the world. As it happens, I'm a huge fan of freedom, so I'm merely speculating here, but I don't think it's totally unrealistic to suggest that having an English accent could draw attention to you and cause people to ask you about your views on foreign policy. If you had locally obnoxious views, then the treatment you received on the basis of your accent could reasonably be characterised as hostile.

In short, he's an idiot, he phrased it poorly, but what he was saying is not necessarily as absurd as it might sound.
4.27.2006 2:02am
James of England:
Christopher, to try to condense my comment better: 9/11 didn't necessarily make Americans suspicious of many people that they would not have been suspicious of otherwise, but it sure made them more interested in the views of foreigners. If your views offend, this can ammount to much the same thing.

It would be unfair to describe them as prejudiced against Mrs. Byers, but well-founded hostility can feel just as hurtful as ignorant hostility.
4.27.2006 2:06am
Katherine (mail):
"He and Ward Churchill and other left-wing professors have literally poisoned the minds of our young people"

By literally here I guess you mean "figuratively"?
4.27.2006 8:34am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

By literally here I guess you mean "figuratively"?

No, I think he means "they poured ear poison into their minds." (Well - they would if they could, dammit).
4.27.2006 9:47am
Mr. Bingley (www):
Kind of like that worm Khan used?
4.27.2006 10:06am
Smithy (mail) (www):
And Duke conservative? What a joke. I grew up in Raleigh and we used to call Duke Kremlin-in-Durham. It was a hotbed of vegans, coeds who didn't shave their legs, and anti-war types. Duke is about as conservative as CBS News.
4.27.2006 10:18am
Janice Nix:
Note that on Leiterlawreports, Prof. Leiter has now pointed to Schwartz's rather offensive comment here, without responding to or even acknowledging the more cogent points made by Prof. Bernstein and the other commenters here.
4.27.2006 10:34am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.


I don't believe this claim for a nanosecond. The closest that I recall was a "survey" in the 1980's/90's which claimed that 16 percent of the American public believed the Earth was flat. Later it was determined that the question was worded poorly and people mistakenly thought that they were giving a "no" response rather than a "yes" response.
4.27.2006 11:44am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Note that on Leiterlawreports, Prof. Leiter has now pointed to Schwartz's rather offensive comment here, without responding to or even acknowledging the more cogent points made by Prof. Bernstein and the other commenters here.


Interesting, I'm always on the lookout for a good blawg to read and hadn't heard of the Leiterlawreports until know. If this is representative of how Leiter responds to arguments made by the other side (shades of Crooked Timber), then I'll have to give his site a pass and keep looking.
4.27.2006 11:57am
Mandamus (mail):
Damn, the ass-hole is moving back to Canada. Well, I for one, don't want him back here. Here he will, when (unfortunately not if, he gets a law teaching position) not only continue to teach, from a clearly socialist biased worldview, but he will be able to vote, and will likely blurt his anti-Americanism whenever and whereever possible.

Whereas, if he stayed in North Carolina, his anti-Americanism will sound just like that of the other professors, he probably will not be as vocal (as a non-US citizen) and he will not be able to vote.

Just like keeping terrorists in Gitmo where they can't do any damage, having a 'Move-on' level paranoid tranzi socialist living in a country where he cannot vote, reduces the damage he can do to the body politic. And cowardly paranoid he certainly seems to be.

And now he'll probably apply for a position at my alma mater, which has been taken over by radical femnazis' who probably do not shave their legs....
4.27.2006 1:50pm
Greg D (mail):
Americans would rather read an article entitled "Ten Steps to a Healthier Colon" than a substantive analysis of even the most pressing international issue.

Um, given the hard core left wing slant of US papers, which makes essentially everything political that they write worthless, I'd certainly prefer the former to the latter, and I'm a policy geek.
4.27.2006 3:45pm
Jaime non-Lawyer:
1) Blame Canada.
2) I suspect that people's reactions had little to do with her accent and a lot to do with things she and/or her husband had to say.
3) My European wife has a strong accent and has been overwhelmed with the friendly response she has received, without exception. In fact, her reception here has been much friendlier than the reception she gets in other European countries.
4) My in-laws have asked my wife questions similar to those an earlier commenter cited. Why marry a foreigner? A local not good enough? Ooo, those ignorant, intolerant European yahoos.
5) Blame Canada.
4.27.2006 5:11pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.

In a way, can you blame them? Modern science has fed them half a dozen half-baked theories -- from evolution to global warming to string theory -- and in the process lost all credibility. If modern scientists stuck to actual science -- as opposed to politically-motivated left-wing junk science -- maybe more people would believe about things like the revolution of the earth about the sun.
4.27.2006 5:27pm
Christopher Cooke:
I thought Canada was one of our states. Did we give it back to the English? (shows you what I learned at Cornell). As for American college students not being able to locate Mexico on a map, I think that survey was conducted during Spring Break, in Cancun, so there may be other explanations than simply ignorance. The fact that so many of our college youths manage to find their way to Mexico during Spring Break indicates a familiarity with international travel procedures, if not geography. I guess that is something.

As for global warming and evolution, I am waiting for a new "string" theory that explains how both are interrelated. Until then, I am sticking with ignorance, like some of the posters. It is easier than understanding "science" and "data" that contradict my deeply-held religious beliefs.
4.27.2006 6:47pm