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By Jan C. Ting

Penn State students, alumni, and faculty are enablers, not victims, of the child sex abuse scandal

The devastating Freeh report on the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal makes clear that the problem at Penn State is not confined to a few individuals who chose to ignore child abuse rather than compromise the reputation of a money-making and money-generating football program. Rather Penn State has a cultural problem.

Penn State culture has centered on worship of its successful football program, to the point that everyone down to janitors understood that nothing would be allowed to threaten the image of that program and its future of inspiring donors and generating profits and wealth. Everyone who bought into that football-first, "We are Penn State" culture was an enabler of the continuing child abuse. That includes the alumni who promoted it and the students and faculty who profited from it.

So I'm not swayed by expressions of concern for the "innocent" football players, students, or faculty whose careers could be affected by the punishments which should be imposed on Penn State. They chose to buy into that culture, and they should be willing to bear the consequences of having done so.

If the situation described in the Freeh report doesn't demonstrate the lack of institutional control over the Penn State football program warranting the "death penalty" for that program, which is within the powers of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to impose, what does? The failure of Penn State to voluntarily impose such a death penalty on its football program demonstrates its continuing state of denial and hope to avoid consequences for its failure of morals, culture and values.

And should Penn State be allowed to keep the football victories it won over many years while the sexual abuse of children was covered up to protect the football program? What kind of values does a decision like that uphold?

The criminal liabilities of Penn State's leaders and former leaders who are still alive will become clear in due course. The determination of their and the university's civil liabilities to the victims of child abuse which was tolerated by the university promises to be protracted and difficult. Where are the Penn State trustees and alumni willing to step-up and fund the (your name here) Child Sex Abuse Victims Compensation Fund?

The penalties imposed on Penn State for its money- and football-worshipping culture need to be sufficient both to break with its past, and to deter other institutions from pursuing the same goals with the same moral blindness. Does anyone think they will be?

Alternatively, Penn State University could be formally re-named Paterno Sandusky University (PSU). And then they can keep the statue.

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Voting should be mandatory

Republicans are attempting to limit voter turnout in various states, including Pennsylvania, by requiring citizens to produce particular forms of photographic identification on election day in order to exercise their right to vote. We should be doing just the opposite, doing whatever we can to increase voter turnout on election day. The easiest way to do that would be to require all citizens to vote under penalty of paying a small, perhaps $3, fine for failing to vote, as is done in Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Uruguay, and several other democracies.

Mandatory voting would insure that elected officials are truly representative of their electorates, and not just those most interested in and most able to vote on election day. In the U.S. we are experiencing political gridlock because both major political parties are dominated by their most extreme wings which are most likely to vote and be politically active. Mandatory voting would force both political parties and all candidates to pitch their campaigns towards the political center where the less politically attentive have been prone to not voting.

Mandatory voting will insure that even the least privileged segments of the electorate will have a say in the outcome of elections, and may to some extent mitigate the impact of money on elections since "get out the vote" efforts will no longer be required. Citizens may be more attentive to political developments and issues knowing that they are required to vote on election day. Mandatory voting would prevent efforts at voter suppression by employers or special interests or anyone else.

U.S. citizens have many obligations under our Constitution and laws. Citizens are required to pay taxes and to attend school up to a certain age. Citizens are required to show up for jury duty when summoned, and are subject to military conscription whenever Congress requires. Citizens who are financially able, we recently learned, can be compelled to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. In comparison, requiring citizens to vote would be a minor imposition, but with big, positive consequences for democracy.

Mandatory voting will not insure a 100% voter turnout. Exceptions will have to be made for those physically unable or who otherwise have a good excuse. There will always be some who neglect or who deliberately choose not to vote. The fine for not voting may be difficult to collect.

But jurisdictions which have imposed the legal requirement of a small payment for every disposable grocery or merchandise bag, have seen a dramatic increase in customers bringing their own re-usable bags or alternatively juggling their purchases without a bag to avoid paying an extra nickel or dime. Most voters can be expected to make considerable effort to vote if it means avoiding a fine of even just a few dollars.

Functioning democracies require citizen participation. Higher participation by citizens gives legitimacy and respect to elected leaders and the electoral process. We should stop trying to restrict voting for citizens, and instead should do what is necessary to insure that every citizen votes.

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Too many Harvard lawyers setting national policy?

The American Bar Association reported 1,225,000 lawyers in the U.S. as of 2010, when the official U.S. population was determined to be 308,746,000. So that's about one lawyer for every 300 Americans.

But 25 out of our 44 presidents have been lawyers, Presidents Obama, Clinton, Ford, and Nixon most recently. And it's not unprecedented to have both leading nominees for the office of president trained as lawyers. The last time that happened, before this year, was in 1996 when Bob Dole ran against President Clinton. But it is unprecedented, I believe, for both nominees for president to be graduates of the same law school, as are Mitt Romney and President Obama.

There are over 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. What are the odds against both nominees for president having graduated from the same law school, studied law in the same classrooms, and with the same law faculty?

The presidential race between Governor Romney and President Obama was directly affected by the Supreme Court's recent 5 to 4 vote upholding President Obama's Affordable Care Act, in which Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion and cast the decisive swing vote. What are the odds that Chief Justice Roberts would have attended the same law school as the two presidential contenders?

In fact, Mitt Romney graduated from Harvard Law School in 1975, President Obama in 1991, and Chief Justice Roberts in 1986. And the Chief Justice is not the only Harvard Law School graduate on the high court.

A majority of the nine current Supreme Court justices are graduates of the same law school located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to the Chief Justice, Justice Scalia graduated in 1960, Justice Kennedy in 1961, Justice Breyer in 1964, and Justice Kagan in 1986.

Harvard Law School also claims a sixth Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as an alum because she attended two of her three law school years there (1956-58) before transferring to Columbia to accompany her husband, HLS class of 1958, to his new job in New York. The other three Supreme Court Justices are all graduates of Yale Law School, Justice Thomas in 1974, Justice Alito in 1975, and Justice Sotomayor in 1979.

There are three illogical characteristics of the legal profession in the United States today. First, it really matters what law school a lawyer attended. Second, it really matters if a lawyer was selected to serve on the law review as a student. And third, law school grades really matter, especially in the first year of law school.

These are illogical characteristics because of the abundance of successful and influential American lawyers who happen to have none of those enumerated highlights in their biographies.

There are in fact many pathways to a successful career in the law. Yet the traditional hierarchies of the legal profession persist as sorting devices at the critical early stages of some lawyer career paths, like the one leading to the Supreme Court.

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Chief Justice Roberts and Supreme Court uphold the individual mandate and the Affordable Care ...

In its eagerly awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, the Supreme Court's decisive swing vote surprisingly belonged, not to Justice Anthony Kennedy as expected, but instead to Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush.

Although five of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents to uphold the controversial individual mandate and Medicaid expansion provisions of President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice Roberts assigned to himself the job of writing the majority opinion. He found that the Act's individual mandate requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, though not authorized by the Commerce clause of the Constitution, nonetheless was authorized under the Congressional power to tax. He also wrote that the expansion of Medicaid coverage could stand, but without the power specified in the Act to revoke existing Medicaid funding to states if they decline to comply with the expansion.

Chief Justice Roberts also was the decisive swing vote in the Court's 5-3 decision earlier in the week striking down three of four contested provisions in the Arizona immigration law S.B.1070. In that case, if either he or Justice Kennedy had instead dissented, the resulting 4-4 split, because of Justice Elena Kagan's recusal, would have sustained the lower court opinion striking all four contested provisions.

In the immigration case, the Chief Justice's vote may have enabled one of the contested Arizona provisions to survive. But on the Affordable Care Act, it's hard to see any silver lining for conservatives in the Chief Justice's vote.

I think the Chief Justice voted the way he did because he didn't want, and he didn't want "his" Supreme Court, to end up on the wrong side of history.

Few, if any, people are as conscious of the history of the Supreme Court as those who currently sit as justices. Maintaining respect for, and the reputation of, the high court is the particular concern of the Chief Justice whose name is associated with the court.

All students of the Supreme Court are aware of its history in blocking Congressional efforts to regulate hours for child labor, to establish a minimum wage, and President Franklin Roosevelt's early initiatives to respond to the Great Depression. No one remembers the obstructionist justices. But the justices who dissented like Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes have been honored by history.

History is written by the winners. I think the Chief Justice believes that he and his court will be judged to have been on the right side of history.

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