Pages

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Cry Closet

by John Stevenson

By now you have probably read of the most recent incarnation of “safe spaces” on campus.  At the University of Utah a “cry closet” has been established to accommodate stressed-out students who are overwhelmed by the tremendous pressures of college.

The cry closet is located in the J. Willard Marriott Library.  It was a product of a class project completed by Nemo Miller and two of her classmates. 

The idea is that students distressed by the pressures of final exams could go into the closet where they would find a darkened environment, plush floor, fabric walls, soft materials, stuffed animals, and other toys.  There the distraught could have a good cry and emerge stress-free. 

The cry closet was endorsed by the University.  Spokesperson Jana Cunningham said the cry closet was a place to “Just let it all out.  Let yourself just get away from your studies….” 

Some students were enthusiastic about the cry closet:  Student Jayde said  “I think one of these should be everywhere all the time.”  Others took a different view, such as:  “Way to prepare students for the real word. Wonder how many prospective employers have cry closets?”  A Utah ex-Congressman called it “pathetic.”

So there were conflicting opinions of the cry closet, the purpose of which was to provide a space for students who were feeling overwhelmed with the stress of finals.

Cry closet creator Nemo Miller explained her reason for creating the cry closet in this enlightening statement:  “I am interested in humanity and the inherent complexities of the human condition.  In my work, I reflect on my experiences and explore what it means to be human.  One aspect of humanity that I am currently exploring is connections and missed connections through communication.  It’s been interesting to watch the response to this piece about human emotions, and I’m proud to see the power of art in action.”  Got all that?

The University of Utah has taken down its cry closet with the May 2 end of finals.  However, it is likely this silly concept will not slink away in ignominy but will metastasize and blossom on other American college campuses. 

Let’s think for a moment about other college-age Americans and the stresses they faced.  Some of those in our parents’ generation came of-age on Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima.  Were there safe spaces and cry closets?

In their teens, our own contemporaries fought at Inchon and in Viet Nam.  No cry closets on either of those campuses. 

More recently American youngsters were tasked with taking Fallujah (twice) and dispatching Osama bin Laden to his Paradise.  No cry closets along those trails either.

Still today, college-age Americans go through U.S. Navy SEAL training, USMC recruit training at Parris Island, and U.S. Army Ranger training.  Again, no safe spaces or cry closets.

Not to say that nowadays most teens join the military, let alone its elite units.  Few do.  But even in the civilian world there are likely not many employers who supply time-out spaces for employees who think they are stressed and need to cuddle a teddy bear.

Looking back on it, college was pretty stress-free compared with later life.  More-or-less-equal parts studying and partying.  Encouraging college students to believe they are under great stress is a disservice.  Particularly leading them to believe that relieving their stress is a legitimate function of the university---even its duty.

This would be funny except for the fact that it sabotages the already slim chance that what nowadays passes for a liberal arts college education will prepare a student for the world that awaits.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Let's Repeal the Second Amendment

by John Stevenson

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently wrote an essay for the New York Times in which he advocated for the repeal of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  For those whose time is spent following the latest news about the Kardashians, the Second Amendment protects “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” 

Despite the Second Amendment saying this right “shall not be infringed,” there has been plenty of infringing going on.  Here’s a list of Federal firearms control laws: National Firearms Act (1934); Federal Firearms Act (1938); Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (1968); Gun Control Act (1968); Firearms Owners Protection Act (1986); Undetectable Firearms Act (1988); Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990); Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993); Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994).  There may be others, but you get the drift.

This is not to say whether these laws are good or bad, effective or not.  Clearly, we don’t want people running around with bazookas or worse, so prohibiting that is a good thing.  Also clearly, the gun-free zone concept has backfired with tragic consequences.

Besides these Federal laws, States and local jurisdictions also have enacted laws to make gun sale or ownership difficult or, in some locations, downright illegal.  In addition, local jurisdictions have passed prohibitions, restrictions, or permit requirements for the carrying of guns openly or concealed.  So that gun owners can “bear” arms but only with great difficulty. 

So various jurisdictions have, in effect, infringed the heck out of the right to keep and bear arms no matter what the Second Amendment has to say.  And the Judicial Branch has gone along with some but not all of it.
There was a precursor to retired Justice Stevens.  In 1991, retired Chief Justice Warren Burger was interviewed on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.  He voiced the view that there should be no Second Amendment---no “right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

Currently, there are various groups who advocate for repeal.  For example, MoveOn.org is sponsoring an on-line petition which they plan to deliver to the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.  This is a symbolic gesture.  Neither the President, nor the Senate, nor the House can repeal a Constitutional amendment.  In fact, even if all three were agreed on repeal they could not do it.

What would be required to rescind the Second Amendment?  You got it---another amendment!  And The Founding Dads wisely made amending the U.S. Constitution difficult.  Not impossible, but difficult.  Thus any amendment which passed would have to reflect a broad consensus within the country.  Here is what’s required. 

The “easy part”:  The Congress by a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House, can propose an amendment.  Alternatively, upon request of two-thirds of the States, the Congress can call a Constitutional Convention, which in turn can propose an amendment.

And the hard part:  In order to take effect, the proposed amendment must be ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the States.  (It’s slightly more complicated, but that’s the gist of it.)

It’s not impossible.  The Constitution has been amended 27 times.  Almost all of the 27 amendments were ratified without any States voting against.  Of the amendments which were ratified but not unanimously, only one had more than two states voting against.  (Four States opposed the Sixteenth Amendment.)

So what are the chances for ratification of an amendment repealing the Second Amendment? 

Let’s make a couple of assumptions.  Let’s stipulate that the Democratic Party is generally for more gun control while the Republican Party is generally not.  Republicans control both houses of the legislatures in 31 States; let’s assume those 31 States would oppose repealing the Second Amendment.  Democrats control both houses of the legislatures in 14 States; let’s assume those 14 States would all support repeal.  There are also four split States, where one house is controlled by Republicans and the other by Democrats; just for the sake of this illustration, let’s put all four split States in the repeal column.  The one remaining State (Nebraska) has an officially nonpartisan legislature, but the State went heavily (60%) Republican in 2016 so it goes in the opposed column.

So, under these generous assumptions, as many as 18 States might vote to ratify a hypothetical amendment to repeal the Second Amendment---while 32 States would not.  But in order to be ratified, three-fourths of the States would have had to vote in the affirmative---that’s 38 States!  Where would the forces for repeal make up the deficit of 20 States?  Given the polarizing nature of this issue, that’s an impossible task.

Bottom line: No matter how much Stevens, Burger, MoveOn, and others might wish it to evaporate, the Second Amendment is almost certainly here to stay.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Lesson Not Learned

by John Stevenson

What was the theme of the “March for Our Lives”?  School safety?  Gun safety?  Gun control?  Banning “automatic rifles”?  Banning “assault rifles”?  Banning “weapons of war”?  Depends who you ask.

Student-on-the-street interviews shown on TV revealed a remarkable disdain for the Second Amendment and, to a slightly lesser degree, for the “outdated” Constitution itself.

I watched a bit of the rally on the National Mall on TV.  One of the protest signs was a dead giveaway:  TAKE YOUR GUNS, NOT MY LIFE.  The rally (march, if you like) was really about banning guns, not about making schools safe.

There was no nod to the concepts of hardening (limiting access to) the schools, providing an armed presence to dissuade attacks or, in the worst case, to engage and kill an attacker.   This omission seems especially remarkable because, only four days before the Mall rally, an armed guard at a Maryland high school was able to confront the shooter and stop the attack.

Why were the Maryland experience---and its lesson---completely ignored by the marchers?  Because they were there to rally against guns, not to rally for the protection of schools.  So best not to mention the value of armed protection which had just been vividly demonstrated in the Maryland incident.

Worse than the students’ failure to recognize the value of armed protection, the media totally ignored it also.  Why?  Because armed protection is not part of the ban-the-guns agenda.  In fact it’s the antithesis of that agenda.

Not to try to cover too much ground here, but let’s just look at some statistics.  Although the latest published data are for 2011, the FBI’s uniform crime reports provide the number of murder victims by type of weapon used.   Handguns 6,220.  Knives 1,694.  “Personal weapons” (eg fists) 728.  Blunt objects (eg hammers, clubs) 496.  Shotguns 356.  And rifles 323.  So-called assault rifles (eg AR-15) are a subset of rifles.  (Note that these data are for victims, not incidents; so in mass killings each victim is counted, not just the incident.)

What is the lesson here?  I suggest the lesson is that the focus on “assault rifles” is misguided.  Assault rifles are targeted because they are particularly scary looking, because there are often multiple victims in a single incident, and because the cable news channels provide wall-to-wall coverage of such incidents.  The coverage often lasts for several days and includes profiles of the dead and heart wrenching interviews with their bereaved relatives and even interviews with “survivors” of the carnage---even those who had missed the entire event because they had stayed home sick or had been on a field trip on the fateful day.
   
The FBI’s statistics would lead you to think a ban on handguns, knives, hammers, or fists would do more to protect kids and make our schools safer.  Since no such bans are likely (or even possible), perhaps the March for Our Lives folks should have directed their efforts toward more practical solutions.

Such as hardening the schools (similar to an airport, a government building, a courthouse, or a hospital) and having on-site armed and capable response at the ready, which proved decisive in the Maryland example.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Thought Police

by John Stevenson

Student suspended for silent prayer

San Francisco---A San Francisco high school student has been suspended from school for silently praying in class.  Sara Devoto, 15, a sophomore at O’Hair High School, was discovered praying while taking a test in her algebra class. 

Sara’s teacher, Sofia Pagan, discovered the violation of school district policy regarding separation of church and state.  Asked how she realized that Sara was praying, Pagan said “Her lips were moving.  Plus this wasn’t the first time, and she admitted it.  I have never known Sara to lie.” 

When asked whether Sara’s silent prayer caused a disturbance in the class, Pagan replied “No, but that’s not the point.  It’s against school policy and against the U.S. Constitution.  I have to report all such violations to the principal’s office.”

O’Hair principal Matthias Teufel said the school is diligently carrying out district policy and upholding the First Amendment’s wall of separation between church and state.  Teufel said his administration has made encouraging progress in suppressing unconstitutional prayer at O’Hair.  “We’ve put a stop to pre-game prayer by the school’s athletic teams and also that kneeling in the end zone thing---to ‘thank God’ after a touchdown.  We’ve also stopped the informal student prayer groups which had been meeting before classes almost daily on school property.” 

Teufel said the school staff is on the lookout for students praying silently.  “We look for signs such as their lips moving or their hands clasped.  If we confront them, these Christian kids normally don’t lie to us, so we catch them pretty easily.” 

Teufel admitted that silent prayer without any overt sign is the most difficult to stop.  He said “Mental prayer without any outward sign is a tough thing to detect, but we’re working on that.” 

When asked how this effort differs from an Orwellian ‘thought police,’  Teufel said “Well, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, the press, and assembly---but it doesn’t say anything about freedom of thought.  And it clearly establishes the wall between church and state.  So I think we’re on firm ground, here.”

Sara’s parents, Joe and Maria Devoto, are trying to help Sara with her lessons while she serves her three-day suspension.  But they may try to move her to a school where prayer is allowed.  Joe said “Sara feels a connection with the Lord, and we don’t want to ask her to stop praying.  We don’t want her to lose that connection.”  And he added “Perhaps a parochial school would be better for Sara.”

The News will continue to follow this story and to report on O’Hair’s ongoing fight to eliminate all religious activity in school and to safeguard the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

NB:  Early feedback indicates some readers have taken this as a true incident, which it is not.  It is satire.  JS

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"Welfare Use by Immigrant and Native Households"

by John Stevenson

We are often told by pundits, immigration advocates, and the news media that immigrants use our welfare system less that native-born Americans and that they are, as a group, a net contribution rather than a drain on the nation’s resources.  Are these assertions true?

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has published an extensive report called “Welfare Use by Immigrant and Native Households.”  The report relies on data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation. 

The report compares households headed by an immigrant (legal or illegal) with those headed by native-born.  The report uses the terms immigrant and foreign-born synonymously, and explains that foreign-born includes all who were not U.S. citizens at birth, including naturalized citizens, green card holders, illegal immigrants, and those on long-term visas such as foreign students.  The report includes as welfare: cash, food, and housing programs and Medicaid.  Most of the data are for the year 2012. 

CIS says it is “an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization.”  Its mission is “providing immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration…”  You can find CIS and the report at cis.org.

The report includes extensive use of statistics in chart and table formats.  Here, in abbreviated form, are some of the highlights of the data.

In 2012, 51 percent of immigrant-headed households used at least one welfare program compared with 30 percent for native-born. 

Welfare use is high for both new arrivals and well-established immigrants.  Of those who had been in the U.S. for more than two decades, 48 percent still accessed welfare.

Welfare use varies by immigration source.  Those with the highest welfare use came from Mexico and Central America (73 percent), the Caribbean (51 percent), and Africa (48 percent).  Only those from Europe (26 percent) and the Indian sub-continent (17 percent) had lower use than native-born (30 percent).

Many immigrants struggle to support their children, but even immigrant households without children have significantly higher welfare use (30 percent) than native households without children (20 percent).

In 2012, 76 percent of households headed by an immigrant who had not graduated from high school accessed welfare, as did 63 percent of those with only a high school education.

Of immigrant households, 24 percent are headed by someone who has not completed high school, compared to 8 percent of households headed by native-born.

The high rates of immigrant welfare use are not entirely explained by their lower education levels.  Households headed by a college-educated immigrant had much higher (26 percent) welfare use than those headed by college educated native-born (13 percent).

In addition to having higher welfare use, immigrant households pay less in taxes to the federal government on average than do native-born households.  For every dollar that native households pay in income and payroll taxes, immigrant households pay 89 cents.

We also are often told that immigrants, especially illegals, are legally barred from accessing the welfare systems.  The report deals extensively with that issue.  Here’s a brief summary:  Most new legal immigrants are barred from welfare programs when they first arrive, as are illegal immigrants.  But the ban does not apply to all programs; most legal immigrants have been in the U.S. long enough to qualify for at least some programs, and the bar often does not apply to children; States often independently provide welfare to new immigrants; naturalizing makes immigrants eligible for all programs; and, most important, immigrants (including illegals) can receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children. 

And, the report adds, some provisions restricting immigrant use of welfare are entirely unenforced. 

It is important to recognize that the report addresses only immigrants’ use of welfare programs.  It does not address whether or to what extent welfare programs play a role as an immigration magnet.  It does not deal at all with other important issues such as immigrant versus native-born crime rates, immigration’s financial and social effects on our public schools, or the overall cultural and societal impacts of immigration.

The report, which is based on Census Bureau data, only answers the immigrant-use-of-welfare issue---and convincingly.  And it bolsters the case for immigration reform and a merit-based system.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Rebuilding the Family

by Monreale

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a City Journal contributing editor. She ends her article, The Decriminalization Delusion, with these words:

In the final analysis, America does not have an incarceration problem; it has a crime problem. And the only answer to that crime problem is to rebuild the family—above all, the black family. The media troll incessantly for an outlier case of a hapless bourgeois who got slammed in prison for a one-shot mistake. In fact, the core criminal-justice population is the black underclass. “Young black males between the ages of 17 and 26 drive the system,” says corrections expert Steve Martin. “Family is the solution—and the work ethic. You show me people with intact families and those folks work—their chances of ending up in prison are next to zero."

How, then, to rebuild the family, not only as an antidote to crime but as the repository and source of our highest and best selves? 

I'm going to go out on a limb here--I think it's necessary.

Seventy percent of black children are born out of wedlock. How many of us realize that the rate for the rest of us (including Hispanics) approaches 50%? For almost 50 years study after study has identified this phenomenon as linked to dysfunction and crime, as causing serious damage to children, especially boys. Yet our society refuses to face it, to grapple with it.  Blacks go along with this because they prefer to blame their problems wholly on racism and external forces rather than assigning proper weight to deep cultural flaws. Liberal commentators and social scientists go along with it because it's politically correct and because they fear that truth-telling, describing behavior that's unflattering to people of color, would subject them to the charge of racism or blaming the victim. The rest of us go along and when we're asked to examine our own culture we also turn away. Why? I think it's because facing the facts would mean we'd have to change our ways, some of which are clearly dissolute.  Despite the price paid by our children, we'd rather not change anything.

We must affirm marriage as the historically universal union of a man and a woman, in which the state takes an interest only because it may result in children. Other than for the promise of the next generation, the state should have no interest in marriage. Gay marriage probably can't be undone but we don't need to accept what it teaches.  Affirm the importance of the role of a mother who nurtures children and oppose the feminist propensity to denigrate motherhood and elevate careerism over motherhood. Affirm the importance of fathers as supporters and guides to their children, balancing the mother's role. Criticize the prevalence of divorce and make it more difficult until such time as any children of the marriage reach their majority. Dishonor any women who decide to have children on their own as a lifestyle choice. Refuse government subsidy to unwed mothers except to maintain the children, and if children are not reasonably cared for, remove them to foster parents. Dishonor and penalize men who father children outside of marriage; require them to support their children. And more.

Unrealistic? Who would have guessed 25 years ago that the movement to tolerate homosexuals would become a requirement to endorse them,  would lead to a mandate to celebrate them and then would impose on all of us the decree to accept the legitimation of gay marriage (or be accused of "homophobia"), which would, in turn, lead to the walls crashing down around any resistance to transgenderism?  
 
In the recently televised annual Oscars ceremony, the film Call Me By Your Name was up for Best Picture. Critics loved the film, saying it was about "two young men falling in love."  The film portrays a summer sexual affair between a boy who appears to be around age 14 and a man who looks around 30. Yet the critics ignore or laboriously downplay the obvious homosexual aspect of the film, perhaps for fear they would be accused of legitimizing public perceptions that gay men often engage teenagers. The critics take comfort in the fact that, for obvious reasons, the Director has the boy initiate the encounter as well as having the boy's father issue glib praise and approval to both the boy and man for engaging in the affair, in that it enriched the boy's experience.

Totally ignored: the film is based on a gay novel, the screenwriter and the Director are both gay, and gay Hollywood has embraced the film as its own.  Could this film have gained such prominence even a short five years ago? Very recently many popular outlets reported a story of bestiality (with a dolphin!), providing the details quite unabashedly, even sympathetically. We're adults, aren't we?  So what's next?

Public opinion can change rapidly in a positive direction too. All it takes is a leadership willing to take risks and a followership not stifled by PC. Notice how the concept of "Diversity" started to take hold in the mid-70's. Today, despite the complete lack of any evidence for its purported benefits, Diversity has become America's most visible cultural ideal. What if a determined cohort set out to establish the nuclear family in the same position? There are nascent signs of strength (for example see distinguished professor of law Amy Wax on traditional values, a New York Times piece for which she is being hounded, punished but not silenced).

We should refuse to concede defeat.

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 time.com, 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 urbandictionary.com]

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 money.cnn.com, 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 weather.com 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 constitution.com, 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 dailycaller.com, 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.