Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Diversity Uber Alles---the Sequel, Winter 2018

by John Stevenson

My Mar. 7 essay described the media adoration of the “diversity” of two 2016 summer Olympians.  To the point where they celebrated the Islamic identity of one competitor while completely ignoring her lack of success in the actual competition.  And in the other instance---an actual gold medalist!---they focused so much on her race that their headline failed to identify her by name.

Fast forward to the 2018 Seoul winter games.  The Olympic motto is “faster, higher, stronger.”  Fox News Executive Editor John Moody criticized the U.S. Olympic Committee’s effort to increase the representation of Blacks and gays.  He wrote that the USOC’s goal was to make the team “darker, gayer, different.”   Ooops.

Moody questioned how that effort would contribute to representation on the medal stand.  Moody’s question was loudly booed, including by Fox News itself, which effectively disowned him:  “John Moody’s column does not reflect the views or values of Fox News and has been removed.”

Well, it turned out Moody’s concern was correct: Team USA gathered 23 medals---fewest since 1998. 

The most front-and-center, in-your-face, of the “darker, gayer, different” contingent made their mark not in their competitions but in their sideshow antics.  These were speed skater Shani Davis, freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, and figure skater Adam Rippon.  Here’s what happened:

Shani Davis and luge athlete Erin Hamlin were among the nominees to carry the Stars and Stripes in the opening ceremony.  According to USA Today, “….the vote was tied 4-4 between Davis and Hamlin. The USOC’s official procedure, determined last year and communicated to athletes, dictated that a coin flip must be used to break the tie.”  Hamlin won the toss. 

Davis did not accept this gracefully.  USA Today reported that he tweeted: “…when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event. @TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer…#BlackHistoryMonth2018…”  And he then chose not to march in the opening ceremony parade with his teammates.  So apparently Davis thought his color and his prior-year medal entitled him to be the flag bearer---rules be damned.

Officially gay Gus Kenworthy failed to medal in his freestyle skiing event.  But he got his moment in the spotlight.  At the conclusion of his failed event, his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas was waiting for him, rainbow flag in hand and wearing a shirt emblazoned USAGAY.  According to, Kenworthy had been vocal about representing LGBT Americans at the Seoul games.  Kenworthy and Wilkas shared a televised kiss in front of an ecstatic crowd. 

And just to be sure the world knew (as if the world cared) of his disdain for the current Administration, Kenworthy tweeted:  “Everybody here has worked so hard to make it to the Olympics…Everyone except Ivanka. Honestly, tf is she doing here?? [tf is an abbreviation of wtf, see]

Flamboyantly gay (if you doubt it, google him) figure skater Adam Rippon spent his Olympic energy criticizing Vice President Mike Pence, who was charged, along with his wife Karen, to lead the U.S. delegation at the Seoul games.  Reports differ, but it appears that Pence offered to meet with Rippon but was rebuffed.

Unlike Davis and Kenworthy, Rippon actually won a share of a bronze medal in a team event.  Rippon was always-on: calling attention to himself, stirring up controversy, and yakking up a storm.  After his competition in the games, NBC offered Rippon a gig as a correspondent for their coverage.  But, as reported on, Rippon turned down the offer, saying he needed instead to stay with his teammates and friends in the Olympic village.    

Fortunately, the Seoul games were not all about diversity and grievance.

Space won’t permit listing them all but there were many highlights, including a gold for women’s hockey and a surprise first-ever gold in curling.  And the only American woman to land a triple axel in any Olympics.  A total of nine gold medals, and no raised fists or rainbow flags on the medal stand. 

And finally there’s Lauren Gibbs (who is African-American).  Gibbs and her teammate Elana Meyers Taylor won silver in the women’s bobsled.  Gibbs took several selfies with Ivanka Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Along with the selfies, Gibbs posted the message in the paragraph below.  What a refreshing and encouraging contrast to the rudeness and disrespect displayed by the aggrieved.

“It’s important to remember that we don’t have to agree on everything to get along, be civil to each other and enjoy each others company. #itsforamerica it was a pleasure to meet you both! Lauren Gibbs (@lagibbs84) February 25, 2018.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Diversity Uber Alles, Summer 2016

by John Stevenson

This is not about either of two fine athletic competitors, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Simone Manuel.  It is about the press coverage of their respective achievements.

A pre-competition CNN headline read: "Muslim fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad set to make U.S. Olympic history in Rio."  Reading the story which followed that headline, you would have to reach the twelfth paragraph before finding out anything about her ability or achievements as a fencer.  The entire rest of the article exalted her for wearing the hijab.

After the individual saber competition, the ABC News headline was: "Fencer becomes first American Olympian to compete in hijab."   Like the earlier CNN article, this one focused almost entirely on the great breakthrough in American athletics:  having a hijab-wearer compete on Team USA.  A single brief paragraph told of her performance (she was eliminated mid-way through the event, as were the other Americans). 

Ah, but in the team saber event, a medal for America!  Here is the New York Daily News headline: "Ibtihaj Muhammad, U.S. teammates win bronze in sabre fencing at Rio Olympics."  The article began: "U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad came to the Rio Games determined to show the world that Muslim-American women can excel in sports."   Deep into the article you will discover the names of her co-medalist teammates, including one who had been a two-time gold medal winner in a previous Olympics---and whose performance in Rio likely saved the bronze for Team USA. 

Muhammad's teammates' performance, their names, even their very existence were just not the story the press was interested in covering.  It was all about the wearing of the hijab.

(Update: In November 2017, Mattel announced the launch of its hijab-wearing Barbie, “modeled after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.”  This further celebrates her astounding athletic achievement.)

So onward to Simone Manuel. 

The headline in the San Jose Mercury News read:  "Phelps shares historic night with African-American."  Say what?

Manuel won Olympic gold in the 100 meter freestyle event.  Rather than honoring her by announcing her name in its headline, the newspaper instead identified her only by her race. 

With her performance in Rio, Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual gold in any Olympic swimming event.  Earlier in the day Michael Phelps had taken his 22nd gold by winning the 200 meter individual medley.  Thus the two were tied together in the Murky News headline.

The swift social media backlash caused the paper to rewrite its headline to "Stanford's Simone Manuel and Michael Phelps make history."  (Never mind the obvious ambiguity in that re-write---the cleanup squad was surely rushed.)  The paper also offered this apology:  "The original headline on this story was insensitive and has been updated to acknowledge the historic gold medal wins by both Simone Manuel and Michael Phelps. We apologize for the original headline." 

But the cat was out of the bag.  The Murky News had divulged to readers that in their mindset the most important thing was not the champion herself, or even her performance, but that she was African-American.

The press treatment of these two Olympic stories betrays an obsession with race, gender, diversity---at the expense of the actual athletic news.  But perhaps that obsession is just a reflection of the diversity uber alles mindset of academia, the media, and other opinion shapers in today's America.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Global Warming Strikes Again

by John Stevenson

Indulge me a little trip down memory lane.  My Jan. 22, 2014 column “An Akademik Lesson” described the voyage of 52 scientists and tourists into the Antarctic.  The leader of their expedition was Professor Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales.   Their mission was to study global warming---especially “to discover how quickly the Antarctic sea ice is disappearing.”

Their Russian ship Akademik Shobalskiy became icebound on Christmas Eve.  Apparently the professor and his mates had overlooked the analyses by NASA and by Colorado University’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.  Both had reported Antarctic sea ice was increasing and had reached its greatest extent since 1979, when measurements began. 

Attempts by Chinese, Australian, and French icebreakers failed to reach the Akademik.  Eventually the tourists and global warming scientists were rescued by helicopter.  The Russian crew stayed behind and waited for the ice to break up.

I don’t know whether the global warming adventurers had been unaware of the NASA and CU data.  Or perhaps they were aware but discounted the data because it did not match their beliefs.  Either way, their headlong plunge into the Antarctic in search of global warming sure made them look foolish.

Fast forward exactly and coincidentally four years to Jan. 22, 2018.  On that date reported that the U.S. Navy’s newest warship had become icebound. 

The USS Little Rock, commissioned at Buffalo on Dec. 16, was headed south to its new home port in Florida.  But global warming intervened.  The Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway froze up tight and became impassable.   

Unlike the Akademik Shobalskiy, the Little Rock was not on a mission to gather evidence of global warming.  It was minding its own business, steaming for its home port in the Sunshine State when global warming caught up with it in Montreal and froze it in solid for the duration of the winter.

Fortunately, the Little Rock’s crew will be able to soldier (sailor?) on.  They have been given cold-weather gear, their supplies are sufficient, their morale is high (so we’re told) and they are using their forced dockside situation to perform training drills.  Maybe they are even able to get shore leave and to practice their French with the Montreal natives.  I hope so.

On opposite sides of the globe, the Akademik Shobalskiy and the Little Rock do share a common place in the annals of global warming.  Their circumstances demonstrate that global warming acts in strange and mysterious ways.  At times it even reveals itself as its own nemesis doppelganger---a record-setting hard freeze.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Parkland Massacre

by Monreale

The gun controllers are out in force but their suggestions, whether sincerely held or just political fodder, are generally irrelevant or unrealistic. First, the voters are not going to support draconian measures. That's  the voters, not the NRA. The NRA follows the voters. 

We must begin with the fact that 350 million guns are already out there. Even granting the impossible, "fixing" the Second Amendment, the guns are still there. Ban "assault weapons?" Strengthen background checks? Prohibit private party and gun show sales without running a check? Limit the capacity of magazines? OK. California has done all these things for years. It didn't prevent the San Bernardino mass shooting in 2015 (16 dead--semi-automatic rifle) and other less costly shootings.

In the last 25 years in the U. S., we've experienced 16 mass shootings with 10 victims or more. Six involved AR-15 type rifles. Ten involved other weapons, mostly handguns.

My point is not that such measures are worthless, simply that, by and large, they amount to band-aids and are  opposed by a great many voters

Restrict gun sales to the mentally ill? I'm not sure how many mass shootings can be attributed to the mentally ill--a minority, I suspect, but this idea bears examination. Of course, it would be very hard to administer. How do we make fine distinctions between, say, the temporarily depressed and those who are genuinely mentally ill? We are dealing with Constitutional rights here. And as we saw just recently, under extreme pressure from the advocates for the handicapped and the ACLU, Trump rescinded Obama's midnight hour attempt to address the mentally ill.

I agree with Florida Governor Rick Scott. The "see something, say something" mandate is most important, and the FBI's failure to properly deal with a very good and specific tip is inexcusable. The Director of the FBI should resign.

Beyond that, to me the most incredible fact about the Parkland school shooting is that the security guard they had on hand was unarmed!  Some head or heads should roll for this fatally stupid error.

That brings me to the most important thing we could do about mass shootings in schools and elsewhere. 

Israel has more experience with attempts to kill its civilians than any other Country. The Palestinians are ever present. What Israel does, then, is to employ trained, armed security guards in every venue deemed at risk, including schools. It works. We use security guards to protect money in banks, to protect merchandise in malls. If I had young children, I would not place them in a school that lacked trained, armed security guards.

The argument that so-called "gun free zones" are where the greatest danger lies has merit. The  2017 Las Vegas mass shooting took place in a "gun free zone." The only one with a gun was the murderer. If a few of the thousands who attended that event had been carrying .45 or .357 magnum pistols, the shooter would have been put down long before he killed 58 innocents.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Presumed Guilty---The Sequel

by John Stevenson

In my January 10 column, I wrote of the injustice of presuming guilt of all men accused of sexual harassment or worse. This continues that train of thought.

As described on the website, feminist columnist Emily Lindin says “it’s OK if, in the interest of the greater good, the lives of some innocent men are destroyed by false accusations of sexual harassment.”
Well, if that seems a bit harsh, other notable feminists have expressed similar if slightly less extreme views in favor of accepting sexual harassment and rape accusations as gospel.  Examples include Obama administration spokesperson and current CNN political commentator Jen Psaki; former Bernie Sanders press secretary, Democratic strategist and current CNN political commentator Symone Sanders; and (ironically) Hillary Clinton herself.

Let’s look at some situations which cast doubt on the wisdom of rushing to the judgment that sexual harassment or rape accusations should be accepted as true.

Of course the highest profile non-rape in recent memory is the 2006 case in which three Duke University lacrosse players were accused of rape by Crystal Gail Mangum.  She was a student at another college and worked as a stripper and dancer.  In response to the accusation, the Duke lacrosse coach was forced to resign and the school president cancelled the remainder of the lacrosse season.  The Duke faculty condemned the three accused students.  Their pictures were displayed on accusatory posters which appeared on campus.  

Eventually Mangum’s fake story fell apart.  The North Carolina Attorney General declared the three students were victims of a “tragic rush to accuse.”  The Duke president apologized for “causing the families to feel abandoned when they most needed support.”  But the damage had already been done.  The falsely accused students’ reputations were destroyed.  And, to go along with their conviction in the court of public opinion, the three now had arrest records which will require a lifetime of explanations. 

A second notorious case began in 2014, when writer Sabrina Erdely’s story “A Rape on Campus” appeared in Rolling Stone.  According to the article, a University of Virginia student named Jackie had been taken to a party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.  There, she claimed to have been gang-raped.

UVA suspended the fraternity, and then followed up by suspending all Greek organizations.  The Charlottesville police department investigated and determined the story to be a hoax.  Nevertheless, the student newspaper The Cavalier said the incident, true or not, pointed to UVA’s inadequate handling of sexual assault complaints.

Rolling Stone retracted the false story, but not before the Phi Kappa Psi house had been heavily vandalized, students demanded that UVA implement harsher consequences in sexual assault cases, and hundreds of students participated in faculty-organized marches.

In, Eric Owens wrote “Here Are Eight Campus Rape Hoaxes Eerily Like the UVA Rape Story.”  In condensed form, these are some highlights from each of the eight:

Morgan visited the University of California, Santa Cruz for a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender conference. While there she called 911 and claimed to have been raped on campus in broad daylight.  It turned out her story was a hoax.

Desiree, a student at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. told police that two men raped her in a bathroom on campus. Desiree was the president of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women and it was during Sexual Assault Awareness Week.  She eventually recanted her fake rape allegations. Police suggested that Desiree could have been attempting to “make a statement” about sexual assault and charged her for making a false report to police. Her husband said cops targeted her not because of her lies but because “she is a women’s rights activist.”

Princeton University student Mindy accused a fellow Princeton student of raping her.  She slandered the student by spreading the story through conversations around campus.  She also repeated the smear at a campus “take back the night” rally. But she did not pursue criminal charges.  Once Mindy’s claim fell apart, she wrote an apology in the Daily Princetonian newspaper.  She explained that her deceitful claim was intended to “raise awareness for the plight of the campus rape victims.”

University of Wyoming student Meg anonymously posted a rape threat directed at herself on a Facebook page called UW Crushes.  A ruckus followed, and there was a big feminist rally. A school official denounced “rape culture.”  Police investigated the incident, quickly determining that Meg posted the message on her own computer while it was in her possession. She pled no contest to a charge of interfering with a peace officer and paid a small fine.

At Hofstra University Danmell voluntarily had sex with no fewer than five men in a dormitory bathroom.  Her boyfriend found her understandably disheveled.  Possibly to deceive the boyfriend, Danmell accused the men of gang rape. As a result of her lies, four innocent men were arrested and jailed. (A fifth remained at large.) The four men were only saved because someone had filmed the orgy on a mobile phone.  Danmell’s story crumbled because the video showed that the sex was consensual. The father of one of the falsely accused said “Unfortunately, everything doesn’t stop because the DA says go home and drops the charges.”

Former University of Florida student Tanya lied to police about getting bound and gagged in a Gainesville apartment complex parking lot.  Tanya said a man tied her hands and gagged her while she was getting out of her car and tried to rape her.  Implausibly, she claimed she escaped, bound and gagged, by kicking him in the tenders.  Tanya initially defended her fabricated story by saying that she was trying to teach “a lesson to women in the area that an attack could happen to them.”  Police charged her with filing a false police report.

At Oberlin College, a “take back the night” group posted a number of signs on campus labeling an apparently randomly-chosen, innocent freshman as “Rapist of the Month.”   “My initial reaction was complete shock, complete disbelief,” the accused student said. He had to deny the allegation to his friends.  Another student at Oberlin, sophomore Emily, suggested that critics of the incredible falsehood were missing the “take back the night” group’s larger point.  “So many women get their lives totally ruined by being assaulted and not saying anything,” Emily explained. “So if one guy gets his life ruined, maybe it balances out.”

Mariam, then a sophomore at George Washington University, weaved a racist fiction about a campus rape.  Mariam, who was a rape counselor and worked for a rape crisis hotline, told the school newspaper about a white caller who was raped by two black men on campus.  When her story crumbled, Mariam said she was really sorry and insisted that she “had hoped the story, as reported, would highlight the problems of safety for women.”

These examples of false rape reports are not intended to trivialize rape.  In fact, like the women who claim an unwelcome proposition or a wolf whistle constitute sexual assault, those who fabricate imaginary rapes are the ones who trivialize the crime.  They cause actual rape reports to be taken less seriously and they undermine the attention and credibility owed real rape victims.

A presumption of guilt seems now to be in vogue.  What these and other examples of false reports demonstrate is that both real victims and the accused would be better served by a presumption of innocence.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Night Vision

by Chris James

The British 1941 de Haviland Mosquito was arguably the finest example of a fighter bomber anywhere in WW II.  It could outfly (e.g. out-climb) even the vaunted Messerschmitt 109 fighter.  The reason for its outstanding performance was that it was mostly made from lightweight laminated wood.  To which was added twin, mightily powerful, Rolls Royce Merlin engines - the same as those used in the Spitfire.  It could carry up to 2000 lbs. worth of bombs, i.e. 20 one hundred pounders.  Not shabby.  It was so precise in its speed, flight and bombing capability that it pioneered pin-point, low-level bombing.  Among its many successes, the removal - by bombing - of the walls of the Amiens prison in France enabled numerous incarcerated resistance fighters to escape unharmed.

By the middle of the war, British scientists had miniaturized ponderous radar equipment down to the level that it could be fitted into the Mosquito and other fighter bombers.  Since Mosquitoes were used as escorts on bombing raids, then, at night, using their radar, they could shoot down defending German fighters at will.

With spiraling losses of its precious fighters, the Germans were very perplexed at this - for them, very unpleasant - turn of events.  Obviously, the British wanted to put them off the scent.  So they concocted a cheekily devious plan to do so.  A leading pilot in the Mosquito squadrons was Group Captain John Cunningham, made popular through the media.  As poster-boy, he was used in a phony scheme to explain the Mosquito's night fighting successes.  At the center of the plan was the lowly carrot (sans stick).

During the war, the well-intentioned British government accumulated food stocks to ameliorate food shortages and potential starvation.  Root vegetables, because of their longer term storability, were prime candidates.  However, what the government overlooked was that just about everybody in the U.K. at that time was growing vegetables on every square inch of available land, public or private.  The result was that the British government was stuck with a large over-supply of - in this instance - carrots.

          Some smarty pants, somewhere in the bureaucracy, came up with the idea that the improved performance of the Mosquito in night time operations over Germany could be sold as being due to the consumption of the humble carrot by the flight crews.   The carrot: Wholly responsible for stunning improvements in night vision.  This fictitious explanation, together with Group Captain Cunningham's fictitious passion for carrots, were "outed" in the national press.  "Cat's Eyes Cunningham" became the main cog in the propaganda machine, and improving night vision via carrot became an instant article of faith among the citizenry.  The resulting public clamor for carrots created a tsunami-sized demand that was dutifully met in large part by the government's mountainous carrot stock, serving to eliminate that problem entirely.

          Eventually, of course, the Germans discovered what was really going on.  But, by the time that they did, it was too late to do them much good.  So, the next time those orange colored shavings are scattered in your salad, take an historical moment to remember what the world owes this unassuming little root vegetable.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

It Won't Be an Easy Fix

by John Stevenson

In late December 2017, an unarmed man was shot dead in the doorway of his Wichita home by police.  There had been a 911 call from a man claiming to have shot and killed his father.  The caller claimed he was holding a gun on his mother and sister, and had doused the house with gasoline. 

The call had been made by a man in Los Angeles, allegedly because of a dispute with a Wichita resident over a video game.  It was a hoax call, designed to send a SWAT team to the home of his video-gaming opponent as a prank.  He got the address wrong, and the police arrived instead at a neighboring home where they killed the homeowner---who they thought had murdered his father and was about to torch the house with his mother and sister inside.

I had never before heard the term “swatting,” which means to make a hoax call for emergency services (police, fire, SWAT) to harass the resident at an address where there is no emergency.  It has become common enough that in 2008 the FBI labeled it “swatting.”

Swatting is emblematic of behaviors which have arisen in the past couple of decades and which are particularly cruel, often random, often anonymous, and show a shocking disregard for the lives or dignity of others.  Here are some examples.

Laser attacks which seek to temporarily blind airline pilots on takeoff or landing.  On one day in 2009 a dozen planes were attacked at Sea-Tac Airport.

Freeway overpass attacks, where bricks or large rocks are dropped onto windshields of cars below.

Sniper attacks on multiple randomly chosen victims---the D.C. sniper in 2002; Ohio in 2003; West Virginia also 2003; and Phoenix 2015.

Disruption of military funerals by Westboro Baptist Church, ongoing since 2005.

The Knockout Game, in which an unsuspecting stranger is sucker-punched.  A nearby accomplice of the assailant films the assault and the video appears on the internet.  This seems to have started in 2009.

Bumfights, in which teenagers goad homeless people into fighting or performing stunts for cash or alcohol.  There is a series of videos, starting in 2002.

There are other examples.  But what do these behaviors tell us?

These behaviors are characterized by cruelty, randomness, or disregard for the personal worth of others.  Such attacks appear to have become more prevalent.  They have certainly become more brazen.  In fact, filming your anti-social behavior for all to see seems like the very definition of brazen.
Masses of teenagers invade a commuter train to assault and rob the passengers.  Or they invade and loot a high-end store or even an entire mall.  I’ll bet they didn’t do that when you were a kid.

The source of these behavioral changes may originate in the disintegration of family structure, or in chaotic and dysfunctional schools, or in the steadily waning number of Americans who regularly attend church.  In addition, the military draft provided a great civilizer of young men---but the draft is an institution now half a century gone from American life.

Regardless of the root cause or group of causes, these behaviors point to a societal change that will be very difficult to correct.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Presumed Guilty

by John Stevenson

The tsunami of “sexual harassment” charges, denials, confessions, resignations, and summary executions has dominated the news lately and is not likely to die out soon.  It is very troubling the way this is being handled by those in authority over the accused, by his peers, and by the media.

High profile cases in the firestorm include politicians, media figures, and Hollywood hot-shots.  But the common denominator of the accused harassers is not their occupation or political persuasion---or that they are strikingly handsome and impeccably well-mannered like Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken.  Instead, what the accused have in common is that they are rich or famous or powerful---or some combination of those qualities.

So why do I dissent from the mad dash from accusation to execution?

First of all, there seems to be no real definition of “sexual harassment.” The U.S. EEOC provides a definition, but it is of no practical use in assessing the situations that have been in the news. Here’s a dictionary definition: uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (such as an employee or student).  From that, it seems that the victim gets to define sexual harassment by deciding what is uninvited or unwelcome. 

Is it harassment to ask for someone’s phone number?  To ask her for a date?  To compliment her appearance?  To take her arm while crossing the street?  To pinch her butt while you are both drinking at a party?  To steal a kiss?  To tell a risqué joke?  What about repeated occurrences as opposed to a single incident?  And so on….

There’s obviously a wide range of behavior, from a verbal compliment to forcible rape.  Some of which almost everyone would agree is criminal, and some of which almost everyone would agree is benign.  To lump these under the sexual harassment umbrella seems wrong.  It elevates the benign to a punishable offense and at the same time diminishes the recognition of truly heinous behavior including rape.

My second problem is that there is no process for adjudication of accusations.  Or, where there is a process, it is bypassed in the rush to punish.

If the alleged acts were criminal, and reported timely, then the judicial system could be used to resolve the accusation. But for the most part, the acts involved are either not criminal at all or else lack sufficient evidence for prosecution. 

So what’s left is a non-judicial process such as investigation by an ethics panel.  But even that remedy is ignored---as with the accusations against Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken.  Both were pushed into agreeing to resign their positions without recourse to the existing ethics panels of the House or Senate.

Why is the rush to punish over-ruling the application of investigatory procedures?  Well, it’s because the peers of the accused (and society at large, for that matter) are afraid to be “on the wrong side” of the Me Too movement.  The demand that the accusers must be believed and the fear of being branded as sexist or misogynist has overwhelmed almost all those who dare to question the lynch mob approach.  (I would have called it a kangaroo court approach, but decided that was unfair to kangaroo courts.)  Thus the accusation alone requires punishment.  No investigation required.

To be fair, there are some dissenting voices but they are generally not among the peers of an accused.  Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson speaks about this almost nightly, and Paris-based freelance journalist Claire Berlinski has written an excellent article “The Warlock Hunt” which you can find on line.  And Sen. Joe Manchin has spoken forcefully that his colleague Franken should have received a fair hearing.  But such public dissenters are few.

My third issue is that most of the accusations describe long-ago events.  These are particularly hard to defend against (which I guess does not matter since the accusation alone mandates summary execution without investigation).  Some of the accused have claimed no memory of the events and, with a decades-old incident, there’s even a chance this might be true. 

A fourth problem is that what one person understood to be consensual may not have been so in the mind of the other.  Or if it was consensual, that consent may have dissolved over time—or on “the cold gray dawn of the morning after.”  Consent may indeed be in the eye of the beholder, such as described in Donald Trump’s 2005 Access Hollywood tape, in which he said “I don't even wait…when you're a star, they let you do it…”   Does that describe consent or not?  I suppose you could interpret and argue it either way. 

The fifth and final concern I will raise here is that punishment is arbitrary---determined on-the-fly by the accused’s employer or peers in their haste to outrun the lynch mob.  How could it be otherwise when there is no agreed upon and ranked list of offenses?  

No, I am not advocating in favor of sexual harassers.  What I do favor is defining sexual harassment adequately, adjudicating accusations timely and fairly, and tailoring the punishment to the offense.  But most importantly, the now-in-vogue presumption of guilt---that all accusations are true---should be replaced by a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

That’s my dissenting opinion.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Solving the Whiteness Problem

by John Stevenson

White males are a species our civilization, or at least academia, would be better off without.   At least that’s what Piper Harron, a professor at the University of Hawaii says. Her thesis is that white men, just by their presence, are keeping others from advancing. 

Well, to be fair, her problem is not with all men---it’s only with white cis men.  What is a cis man?  He’s a man who is biologically a man and who knows he is a man.  (Odd that someone invented a word for that---wouldn’t “normal” suffice?)  So transgender men are exempt from Harron’s complaint.  Here’s what she wrote:

Not to alarm you, but I probably want you to quit your job, or at least take a demotion…you are probably taking up room that should go to someone else.  If you are a white cis man…you almost certainly should resign from your position of power…[and] make sure you’re replaced by a woman of color or trans person.

Not relying on white cis men to go away voluntarily, Harron also suggests that universities stop hiring white cis men.  Of course if you disagree with her you are racist, sexist, or transphobic.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently sought to fill eight positions in its tech department.  These included IT Systems Administrator, Product Manager, and Chief Security Officer. 

Madeline Leader, the DNC’s Data Services Manager, sent an email to employees saying that she was looking to recruit a “staff of diverse voices and life experiences.” But apparently that diversity does not include white cis men, because Leader included this: “I personally would prefer that you not forward to cis gender straight white males, as they are already in the majority.”  So much for the heralded inclusiveness of the Democratic Party.

DNC spokesman Michael Tyler disavowed Leader’s message, saying it “was not authorized by DNC nor was it authorized by senior leadership.” 

But the Grand Prize for proposals to solve the whiteness problem once and for all goes to Nicole Valentine, who writes in  Valentine goes far beyond the University of Hawaii professor and the DNC’s Data Services Manager.  After all, they only wanted white males to give up their jobs to women of color or to transgenders---or at least to keep white males from advancing in their careers.

Valentine wants white folks to be aborted out of existence.  Here are some of the more coherent excerpts from her genocidal essay:

In progressive society, it is often white families that stand in the way of equality and justice…That is why the white family must be destroyed.

Valentine then offers this totally inverted view of the availability of abortions.  “Women of color do not often have the privilege to choose termination as do white women…white supremacy prevents women of color from their freedom to choose.”  Data show just the opposite is true: whether measured by the number of abortions per woman (age 15-44) or by the number of abortions per 1000 live births, Black women have roughly three times the number of abortions as white women.

But, back to the excerpts from Valentine’s entertaining if deranged thesis: 

White women: it is time to do your part!  Your white children reinforce the white supremacist society that benefits you.  If you claim to be progressive, and yet willingly birth white children by your own choice, then you are a hypocrite.  White women should be encouraged to abort their white children, and to use their freed-up time and resources to assist women of color who have no other choice but to raise their children…How about adopting children of color who have lost their parents to the destructive white supremacist society that you have enabled and encouraged? 

There’s plenty more, as you can imagine, but here is Valentine’s piece-de-resistance:

Of course, the best choice is to act preventatively to ensure that white children are not at risk of being born.

Whiteness problem solved.  Hard to top that one.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Crime and Punishment at the Air Force Academy

by John Stevenson

You probably heard of the recent hate crime crisis at the Air Force Academy Prep School.  Some racist cadet wrote hateful messages on the whiteboards outside the dorm rooms of five African-American cadets. 

I say “hate crime” because that’s how it was reported in the media.  Of course writing a message, however hateful, on an erasable board is not a crime in the U.S., although it might be a crime in some other Western countries (e.g. England, Germany, Australia, etc.) that do not have robust free speech protections comparable to our First Amendment.  But the written messages were racist, hateful and, although not a crime, certainly a violation of the Air Force Academy’s rules.

The Prep School is for students who are on-track to enter the Academy but need a bit more development and polishing before admission.  The Prep School is on the same campus as the Academy and under the same superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. 

Silveria wasted no time in reacting to the crisis.  He assembled all 4,000 Academy and Prep School cadets and he gave them a collective butt chewing.  Referring to the offensive messages, he said:

If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place.  That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School.

If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.

The lashing Silveria gave his cadets received universal praise in the press.  For example, an editorial in The Washington Post was titled “Too bad Trump can’t emulate the military when it comes to matters of race.”  The article included this: “Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria did naturally what Trump is incapable of doing.  The Air Force Academy superintendent answered the hate in his ranks immediately, head-on, and with a moral clarity nonexistent in the Oval Office.” 

The New York Times and an assortment of other publications and political figures across the political spectrum, including Sen. John McCain and former Vice President Joe Biden, joined in the hosannas heaped upon Silveria. 

Denouncing the hate crime, applauding the Academy superintendent, while simultaneously taking a gratuitous shot at President Trump---that seems like pretty safe ground.  A trifecta for virtue signalers. 

The wisdom of Phaedrus---“things are not always as they seem”--- would have well served the Academy superintendent, the press, the politicians, and others who leapt aboard the cadets-are-racist bandwagon. 

As it turns out, the racist messages on the whiteboards of the Black cadets were in fact written by one of the alleged victims---one of the five Black cadets who were targeted by the racist messages.  That cadet has confessed to the hoax and is no longer at the Academy---allowed to slink away, name withheld to protect the guilty.   

If this turn of events comes as news to you, it’s because it was much less enthusiastically reported in the media and received little attention from those who had boldly commented when racism apparently ran rampant just a few days before.

Whenever a hate crime is discovered to be a hoax, we are assured by experts that hate crime hoaxes are extremely rare.  A National Review article disagrees, saying this:

Fake hate crimes…are by this point so familiar that they are practically a cliché.  When a Muslim woman…was attacked and had her hijab ripped off, two things happened: One, the Left insisted that this announced the coming wave of pogroms against Muslims in the Age of Trump; two, people who follow this sort of thing began betting how quickly she’d be exposed as a fraud.  It did not take long.

The National Review article goes on to list several hoaxes.  And if you Google “fake hate crimes” you’ll find enough examples to keep you busy reading for a good while.  One web site maintains a database (though it’s always lagging and incomplete) of hundreds of such hoaxes: There probably are other such lists.

Had the superintendent waited just a few days for the results of the Academy’s own investigation, he would have known who was responsible.  He could then have spared his corps of cadets the unfairness and indignity of being berated for a supposed evil of which they were totally innocent.  And he could have spared himself the embarrassment of having lobbed an ICBM at the wrong target.

The superintendent offered not so much as an “oops” for fragging his own cadets.  He offered instead this ludicrous declaration to justify his action:  “Regardless of the circumstances under which those [racist] words were written, they were written, and that deserved to be addressed.”  

Really?  Addressed with whom?  Well, he did address it.  He chewed out the entire corps of cadets, who had absolutely nothing to do with it.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

At Least They Won’t Be Surgeons

by John Stevenson

Under this banner on Nov. 9, 2016, in an essay titled “Shielded from the Truth,” I reported to you on an exceptionally hare-brained scheme cooked up and implemented by a New York private boys school.  They had made a blanket offer to all the parents that school officials would raise report card grades if the parents thought their student would be emotionally traumatized by actually seeing his earned grade. 

Assuming any parent would go along with it, the effect of this plan would be to deprive the student of knowing his need to put forth more effort.  It would therefore ensure his delusional understanding of his own performance.  And in turn it would virtually condemn the deceived student to unexpected but inevitable failures in the world awaiting him after his bogus graduation.  I refrained from naming the school or staff involved

Could anything be stupider than concealing a student’s performance from him?  Well, maybe so.  Along comes a professor at a respected state university.  As in the earlier column, I refrain from naming the professor or the university.  Let’s just call him Professor Plum.  (If you feel compelled to fact-check, all the gory details are available on 

Professor Plum  teaches business courses at his university.  He apparently wants to make his courses as stress-free as possible for his students.  To that end, the syllabi for two of his courses described his “stress reduction policy.”

Examples of his stress reduction efforts, quoted from the syllabi, include these:

All tests and exams will be open book and open notes, including the use of material on your laptop.

All tests and exams will…assess low level mastery of the course material.

Only positive comments about [students’] presentations will be given in class. Comments designed to improve future presentations will be communicated by email.

And best of all:

If you feel unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course, you can email the instructor indicating what grade you think is appropriate, and it will be so changed.  No explanation is required…

Apparently Professor Plum felt the need to square his approach with reality, so he added:

While this approach might hinder the…mastery of the course material, ultimately these are your responsibility.  I will provide every opportunity for you to gain high level mastery.

In a nutshell:  the exams will be without rules; the exams will be geared to assess only minimal achievement; students will never receive criticism in class; and students get to choose the grade they think they deserve. 

So for Professor Plum, mastery of the course material is less important than a stress-free experience.  But to be fair, he does indicate willingness to help any who really want to “gain high level mastery” (translation: learn the material).

I confess that I am congenitally incapable of learning a foreign language.  In fact, to pass the required three college semesters it took me five tries.  Where was Professor Plum when I needed him? I could have saved myself two wasted semesters.  And had a better GPA to boot.

The sad thing here is that Professor Plum’s students are being cheated by his leniency.  They are being passed along through the system without being prepared for whatever they will tackle after graduation. Stress-free undeserved grades will inevitably lead to stress-inducing future failures.

In addition, it is significant that Professor Plum holds the title of “Regents Professor,” which is “bestowed by the Board of Regents on truly distinguished faculty.”   

It may be of some comfort that the “stress reduction policy” has been removed from the course syllabi.  But not before managed to archive it for historical value and also for well deserved and eternal ridicule.

I suppose we should look for the silver lining, so here it is.  The ill-prepared students of Professor Plum will go on to fail in the business world.  At least they won’t be failing as air traffic controllers or cardiac surgeons.