"Multiple Layers Of"...Repurposed Mall Food Court Workers
The TSA again shows what they're made of.
As you sit on hours of lines in TSA security theater this weekend, chew on this. (Tagging @amyalkon)
He retweeted this:
A convicted criminal made it through airport security with a woman's stolen boarding pass
From the AP:
SALT LAKE CITY -- A sex offender with a stolen boarding pass got through airport security in Salt Lake City and checked in at a gate for a flight to California before he was caught earlier this month, authorities have disclosed.
...He had grabbed a boarding pass that a woman accidently left at a check-in kiosk and used it to get through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, said Craig Vargo, chief of airport police.
"He tried to make it seem like it was a mistake, that the boarding pass printed incorrectly, or that he grabbed the wrong boarding pass," Vargo told the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City newspaper that first reported the story.
The only reason he was caught? Not due to the pretend security force in pretend cop uniforms using their "power" to grope and intimidate passengers.
Salata was detained after the woman who had left the pass at the kiosk checked in using a replacement ticket that had been uploaded to her phone, Vargo said.
Our civil liberties are taken from us in a useless security puppet show which pretends every single American is a security risk instead of having trained intelligence officers do probable cause-based policing that looks at actual risks.
Your cupcake in a jar is not a danger. Even your gun is not a danger. It's people who are a danger: people who believe what Islam tells them -- that they get an express pass to salvation by mass-murdering for Allah -- and are willing to act on it.
The vast sums we spend to humiliate some grandma with a diaper -- while getting Americans used to having their civil liberties violated (and training them to be docile in the face of that) -- would be far better spent investigating the few people in America likely to do harm to the rest of us.
Hateful Speech Must Also Remain Free -- Including That Of An Anti-Semitic, Holocaust-Denying French Asshole
As the coddled kittens on college campuses are demanding trigger warnings for "The Great Gatsby" and Greek poetry, and as they are trying to shut down any speech that does not align with their beliefs, speech around the world is getting less and less free.
As I've written before, nobody needs the First Amendment to say, "Have a nice day!" It's the amendment for assholes, and it's a very good and healthy thing we have it.
The ideas in speech that is banned do not go away; they just go underground.
This is why I, as a person who grew up Jewish and got kind of kicked around for it by rotten kids, am all for the free speech of an anti-Semitic French asshole comedian, and I think it's absolutely disgusting that he's been sentenced to jail in Belgium.
Brendan O'Neill, at Spiked, thinks as I do:
It's the 21st century and Europe is meant to be an open, enlightened continent, and yet a man has just been sentenced to jail -- actual jail -- for something that he said. Will there be uproar? It's unlikely. For the man is Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, the French comedian, and what he says -- that Jews are scoundrels and the Holocaust is a fiction -- is deeply unpleasant. Yet if we're serious about freedom of speech, if we are truly committed to ensuring everyone has the liberty to think and say whatever they please, then the jailing of Dieudonné should outrage us as much as the attempts to shut down Charlie Hebdo or the jailing of a Saudi blogger for ridiculing religious belief. We should be saying 'Je Suis Dieudonné'.
Due to the regimen of hate-speech laws in 21st-century Europe -- which police and punish everything from Holocaust denial to Christian denunciations of homosexuality -- Dieudonné has been having run-ins with the law for years. In 2009, a French court fined him €10,000 for inviting a Holocaust denier on stage during a gig. In March this year, a French court gave him a two-month suspended prison sentence for saying he sympathised with the attack on Charlie Hebdo and with the anti-Semite who murdered Jews at a Parisian supermarket a few days later. Now, this week, a Belgian court has given him an actual prison sentence: a court in Liège found him guilty of incitement to hatred for making anti-Semitic comments during a recent show and condemned him to two months in jail.
In all these cases, Dieudonné has been punished simply for thinking and saying certain things. This is thought-policing. It's a PC, spat-and-polished version of the Inquisition, which was likewise in the business of raining punishment upon those who said things the authorities considered wicked. To fine or imprison people for expressing their beliefs is always a scandal, regardless of whether we like or hate their beliefs. Dieudonné really believes the Holocaust is a myth, as much as a Christian fundamentalist believes that people who have gay sex will go to hell or American liberals believe Hillary Clinton will make a good president. He is wrong, massively, poisonously so; but then, so are those Christians about gays and those liberals about Hillary. If every person who says wrong, malicious or stupid things were carted off to jail, Europe's streets would be emptied overnight.
O'Neill's bottom line is exactly right:
All hate-speech laws should be scrapped. Dieudonné should be freed. And a continent whose governments argue against the imprisonment of bloggers in Saudi Arabia while jailing comedians at home needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Phew! The Firefighter Has A Vagina! That Will Keep Us So Much Safer In A Fire!
In New York City, a female firefighter who was allowed to graduate the academy, despite failing physical tests, is on medical leave -- 10 days into the job.
And no, she didn't get injured rushing into a burning building. She was checking some stuff on the truck.
Susan Edelman writes in The New York Post:
Probationary firefighter Choeurlyne Doirin-Holder injured herself Monday while conducting a routine check of equipment at Queens' Engine 308 in South Richmond Hill. Getting off the truck, Doirin-Holder missed a step and landed on her left foot, suffering a fracture, sources said.
It was her second shift after a transfer from Engine 301. In training for a hazmat assignment, officers found her struggling to perform the required tasks.
Firefighters called the tripping incident embarrassing -- and alarming.
"If you're going to get hurt in the firehouse checking a rig, what would happen at a fire?" an insider asked.
Check out her training history:
But Doirin-Holder's competence was questioned by sources familiar with her training. They said academy instructors let her pass the Functional Skills Test, a rigorous obstacle course of job-related tasks, even though she had failed to complete it in the required 17 minutes and 50 seconds or under.
In addition, when she failed to finish a 1.5-mile run in 12 minutes or less -- even after the course was shortened -- she was allowed to demonstrate aerobic capacity on a StairMaster machine under watered-down requirements enacted by FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
Doirin-Holder, who turns 40 this month, is one of 282 "priority hires" passed over in 1999 and 2000. Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered they must get preference as victims of past discrimination against minorities.
It was Doirin-Holder's third attempt to pass the academy. She failed midway through an academy class in 2013 and returned to her former job as an EMT. Two other female priority hires in that class did well.
I don't care if you're black, white, spotted, male, or female. What I care about is whether you can pass the required tests and work as a teammate with your fellow firefighters.
But even if you are a team player and the nicest person in the world, if you aren't strong enough and fit enough to have their back, you endanger your fellow firefighters -- and any person you're supposed to be rescuing in a fire.
The idea of going to a store today...well, I'd rather pop out my eyeball and feed it to my dog.
Dealz!! (Without Leaving Your Chair!)
Today's Deals for Black Friday at Amazon.
Search Amy's Amazon and give me a wee kickback from anything you buy -- which is much-appreciated!
And please consider "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" -- only $11ish at Amazon. Along with positive reviews in the WSJ and other publications, Library Journal gave the book a starred review: "Verdict: Solid psychology and a wealth of helpful knowledge and rapier wit fill these pages. Highly recommended." Orders of the book (new only, not used!) help support my writing, blogging, radio hosting, and my answering questions that won't make the column.
Government Protecting Us From Dangerous Criminals: Bubbies Busted For Mahjong Gambling Den At Florida Condo
Anne Cohen writes at Forward.com:
Quiet Jewish mahjong group or illicit gambling den?
That is now a very real question for Lee Delnick, Bernice Diamond, Helen Greenspan and Zelda King (ages 87 to 95) after their weekly game of mahjong was interrupted by a police raid.
The women were told to pack up their dominos and leave the Escondido Condominium clubhouse in Altamonte Springs, Florida, where they have gathered regularly for some time, the Times of Israel reported. The charge? Violating a local ordinance prohibiting playing mahjong for money.
Apparently, an anonymous Escondido snitch (call him the busybody in Building 11) tipped off the authorities to the ladies' shady activities.
The four women did as they were told -- begrudgingly. "This is ridiculous," King complained. "We haven't played in the clubhouse for weeks! We have to go to each other's homes to play and not everyone lives in Escondido."
"It is an international game and we are being crucified!" she added.
King has a good reason to be outraged. She explained to the Florida Jewish News that her neurologist has told her mahjong is a good way to "delay and possibly prevent dementia."
Apparently, it is not actually illegal because the ladies have a $4 limit, and the law states:
"Certain penny-ante games are not crimes; 'Penny-ante game' means a game or series of games of poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, dominoes, or mahjong in which the winnings of any player in a single round, hand, or game do not exceed $10 in value."
Also, common areas of a condo, etc., count as a dwelling.
And finally, it's legal because "the ladies are well over 18."
Yay, cops! I'm sure these ladies are a danger to someone -- like if they leave their cane sticking out across the floor in the grocery store.
On An Airplane, My Seat Is Not Partially Your Seat Just Because You're Large
There's yet another story out there of a man who engaged in seat spillage on a plane -- spilling over into the seat of the person next to him.
While American Airlines wasn't wise in initially trying to yank him off the plane, the man, naturally, was indignant that he not be allowed to just have his body take over part of a seat another person has paid for. Free of charge, natch!
Chris Shelley claims he was booted off an American Airlines flight with no explanation other than "anyone two inches over the seat can't sit on the aircraft."
The American engineer said: "The worst part was being treated as if I was some sort of criminal. Not only a criminal, but a fat criminal."
Chris, who flies more than 100,000 miles a year, was sat on board a flight from Dallas to Orange County on Friday when an elderly petite woman sat in the aisle seat next to him.
He said: "She was clearly not particularly happy, got up and left and went towards the front of the aircraft."
The retired marine said he thought nothing of it until "a young gentleman in a vest with an American Airlines emblem on it turns to me and says: 'Sir! You need to take your things and deplane immediately. Come with me."
The mortified passenger said he was "in shock" when the employee told him the woman had complained he was too big for his seat.
He said: "They told me anyone over two inches (five centimetres) in the seat can't sit on the aircraft."
They ended up finding him another seat after he begged to stay on the plane.
Guess what: You have no right to any inches of my seat area. You want or need to take up more than one seat? Don't expect to get it for free.
I write about this in "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck":
The "No Grazing in Others' Seat Space" rule also applies if you've got 200 or so extra pounds you keep meaning to lose. If you take up two seats, buy two--or at least offer the passenger next to you a couple hundred dollars for colonizing half of theirs.
As commenter skirabbit said on FlyerTalk:
The airline industry needs to do something about overweight people. I am not sure why it is acceptable to tell someone their luggage weighs too much but there is such a taboo around telling people they are too fat to fit into an economy class seat. I personally cannot stand when some overweight person spills over into my seat or my space. I am not sure why I should be polite or accept that I have to share my space with someone who is obese.
Just like with luggage weight, hand luggage size, there should be a rule that if you do not fit into your space you need to pay for a bigger seat e.g. in first or two seats. Whilst I feel sorry for Mr Shelly and his weight problem - where is his concern for his fellow travellers?
There's a Spanish proverb I learned from the late psychologist Nathaniel Branden: "Take what you need, but pay for it."
Obama's Naivete On ISIS
The President seems to be utterly clueless about behavioral economics.
Shadi Hamid writes in The Atlantic:
Obama hypothesized that if he were "an advisor to ISIS," he would have released rather than killed hostages like Foley, with notes pinned to their chests no less, saying "stay out of here." It is a self-evident banality that very few American politicians take seriously: Understand your enemy in order to defeat him. Obama should be lauded for being both able and willing to imagine himself in diverse political contexts, but the statement was remarkably naive, suggesting a readiness to apply a straightforward "rational actor" lens that doesn't necessarily apply in the fog of jihadist war. This role as analyst in chief is one the president has warmed to. He regularly insists, for example, that world leaders are acting against their own rational self-interest, whether it be Vladimir Putin, with his "reckless" interventions in Ukraine and Syria, or the Israelis, for failing to support an Iranian nuclear deal that Obama thinks will make them safer. As for the Iranians, once the nuclear deal was struck, the hope, sometimes explicit but always somewhere underneath the surface, was that Iran would "moderate" and be induced to become a constructive partner in the resolution of regional conflict. Being "constructive" was in their interest, after all, just as it was in America's, and just as it was in Russia's.
Behavioral economics has shown that we are driven by cognitive biases and don't just act with the cool rationality economists of yore thought drove us. A good book to read on this is Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Another great one on cognitive biases is Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.
Why people--and organizations--do what they do is one of the most fascinating (and sometimes frightening) questions considered by political scientists. There are elaborate, formal models of rational-choice theory, in which human behavior is consistent, predictable, and straightforward, yet we know, from our own lives, that we constantly act against our own interests. Oftentimes, we know we're acting against our own interests but plod along anyway, oblivious to the costs or perhaps taking pleasure in that feeling of weightlessness and abandon that often accompanies irrational decisions.
...Regardless of what the U.S. and its allies do, ISIS will prove an unusually challenging foe. And this is where religion and particularly apocalyptic religion matter. Take, for example, the ISIS leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani's September 2014 statement, in which he addresses the West directly, saying, "being killed ... is a victory. This is where the secret lies. You fight a people who can never be defeated. They either gain victory or are killed. And O crusaders, you are losers in both outcomes."
In Islam, a person who dies committing violence for Islam gets an express pass to salvation and special rewards once he's there.
So, live or die, it's a win-win for those seeking to force the Dark Ages on the rest of us.
Pass The Yams And The Rude Remarks, Please
Check out my appearance on KPCC talking about handling Thanksgiving rudeness -- and proactively getting in the right spirit. Just about 10 minutes of tips to make your Thanksgiving thankier and less contentious.
Much of this handling is done pre-emptively, as I point out on the episode. Here's the link to both the episode and some printed thoughts.
I'll give extra thanks if you buy my manners advice book, "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck." It's science-based and funny.
And whoopee...the Kindle of my book, I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman's battle to beat some manners into impolite society, is on special sale -- just $1.99 for a limited time.
Black Friday Deelz! Week At Amazon
Save big at Black Friday Deals Week.
This isn't on special but it brings me daily joy (and it's better than the more expensive ones, including the slightly groovier looking Capresso one): Capresso frothPRO.
Here's a $9.99 battery-op hand frother for when you travel that gets some wowza reviews. The important thing about a hand frother is that you don't have to hold down a button for it to forth. Thumb-killing over time!
Of course, my science-based and funny book, "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck," makes a faaaabulous gift. For all the wonderful people and rude assholes in your life.
To buy stuff you don't see in my links and give me a wee kickback (that costs you nothing), Search Amy's Amazon here. (For stuff not listed above.)
And thanks to all who shop through my links! Every purchase you make is much appreciated!
Smart Highways Instead Of A Stupid "High-Speed" Train
Politicians in California are effectively putting money into horseshoes. Billions upon billions of dollars.
In the LA Times, UCSB econ prof Dick Startz explains that "there's a better, cheaper, more California solution to moving people long distances: smart highways":
For an estimated $2 billion, we can add smart lanes to Interstate 5 in both directions between Los Angeles and San Francisco. For those keeping track, that's 32 times less costly [than trains]. And much of the necessary technology is being developed here in California. In contrast, while future high-speed trains might be built in the United States, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has asked for and received a waiver of the "Buy America" requirements for the first prototype trains.
High-speed rail might be a good solution if we had a flat, unoccupied plot running from Los Angeles to San Francisco with no mountains, valleys and expensive land to purchase in the way. Obviously, we don't. And even an ideal landscape wouldn't solve the "last mile" problem -- getting to and from the central rail stations. With rail, if you live far from the railhead (which almost everyone does), you need to drive through traffic to the central station, find a place to park and arrange transportation at the other end. But high-tech highways can have many entrances and exits and link up with the existing highway system.
In theory, modern railways have a speed advantage over modern highways. Not only would the bullet train travel faster than existing autos, it would also travel faster than computer-driven cars along certain stretches, notably from Los Angeles to San Jose, with a promised top speed of 220 mph. Along other stretches, however, including San Francisco to San Jose and Anaheim to Los Angeles, the train's anticipated speed will be 110 mph. We have regular cars that can beat that now. Granted, we don't allow cars to reach their top speeds due to safety concerns. But on a high-tech highway, computer-driven cars would be able to achieve high speeds routinely and safely.
...The high-tech highway offers yet another plus that's not often mentioned: Unlike rail, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution run by a monopoly. Once highway lanes are added and standards are established for just how smart a vehicle has to be, anyone can go into the smart highway transit business. There will be small-business opportunities for renting and "driving" smart autos, smart vans, smart limos and smart buses. How about a 120-mph luxury bus trip with no driver but with a steward serving drinks and snacks? The Dutch have already built a prototype 23-passenger, electric-powered limo with cruising speeds of 160 mph.
The use of high-tech highways need not be limited to driverless vehicles. Current technology is very close to allowing high-speed cars and buses with just enough smarts (such as smart cruise control with lane-guidance technology) to "platoon" in reserved lanes. Packing vehicles tightly together as they travel would cut wind resistance enough to overcome energy efficiency issues, enabling at least some car models in current use to cruise at 120 mph.
Princeton Group Rises Up Against Politically Correct Intimidation On Campus
Posted at NRO: "The Princeton Open Campus Coalition is a student group at Princeton University formed to push back against the recent wave of politically correct suppression of open academic discourse on campus."
Here's an excerpt from their letter to Princeton President Eisgruber:
We oppose efforts to purge (and literally paint over) recognitions of President Woodrow Wilson's achievements, including Wilson College, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and his mural in Wilcox Dining Hall. As you have noted, Wilson, like all other historical figures, has a mixed legacy. It is not for his contemptible racism, but for his contributions as president of both Princeton and the United States that we honor Wilson. Moreover, if we cease honoring flawed individuals, there will be no names adorning our buildings, no statues decorating our courtyards, and no biographies capable of inspiring future generations.
We worry that the proposed distribution requirement will contribute to the politicization of the university and facilitate groupthink. However, we, too, are concerned about diversity in the classroom and offer our own solution to this problem. While we do not wish to impose additional distribution requirements on students for fear of stifling academic exploration, we believe that all students should be encouraged to take courses taught by professors who will challenge their preconceived mindsets. To this end, the university should make every effort to attract outstanding faculty representing a wider range of viewpoints -- even controversial viewpoints -- across all departments. Princeton needs more Peter Singers, more Cornel Wests, and more Robert Georges.
Similarly, we believe that requiring cultural competency training for faculty threatens to impose orthodoxies on issues about which people of good faith often disagree. As Professor Sergiu Klainerman has observed, it reeks of the reeducation programs to which people in his native Romania were subjected under Communist rule.
We firmly believe that there should be no space at a university in which any member of the community, student or faculty, is "safe" from having his or her most cherished and even identity-forming values challenged. It is the very mission of the university to seek truth by subjecting all beliefs to critical, rational scrutiny. While students with a shared interest in studying certain cultures are certainly welcome to live together, we reject university-sponsored separatism in housing. We are all members of the Princeton community. We denounce the notion that our basic interactions with each other should be defined by demographic traits.
Okay, So Veterans Left To Rot Without Proper Healthcare -- Here's $142 Million In Bonuses!
Donovan Slack and Bill Theobald write in USA Today:
WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out more than $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans' health care and other issues racked the agency.
Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country last year. They received $300 to $900 each. Managers in Tomah, Wis., got $1,000 to $4,000, even though they oversaw the over-prescription of opiates to veterans - one of whom died.
The VA also rewarded executives who managed construction of a facility in Denver, a disastrous project years overdue and more than $1 billion over budget. They took home $4,000 to $8,000 each. And in St. Cloud, Minn., where an internal investigation report last year outlined mismanagement that led to mass resignations of health care providers, the chief of staff cited by investigators received a performance bonus of almost $4,000.
...-- In Arizona, Sandra Flint, now-former director of the Phoenix regional VA benefits office, received a bonus of $8,348. Irate veterans confronted Flint at a public forum in August 2014 over a backlog of about 8,200 pending benefit claims. Included were 3,667 pending longer than 125 days. A spokeswoman at the office could not be reached for comment.
Gotta love government. In real life, you get bonuses for doing exemplary work.
In government, they give you money just for being alive and breathing.
Which -- whoopsy! -- is more than we can say about some of the veterans who were "helped" by people working for the VA.
John McWhorter Talks To Glenn Loury On What Campus Protesters Get Wrong
Paris Attacks Really Caused By "Magical Shape-Shifting Jews"
Instead of blaming the Muslims who slaughtered hordes of unarmed people who were enjoying meals or a concert with their friends, the suburban Paris Muslims Daily Beast reporter Dana Kennedy interviewed blamed...who else...the jooos!
But -- no less -- magical, shape-shifting Jews!
For the record, I'm a post-Jewish atheist, but I still like to shape-shift for a little extra exercise.
It's actually pretty invigorating -- except for when I shape-shift into a lady in a burka and get mistaken for covered porch furniture.
Stuart Winer explains in the Times of Israel:
The belief that Jews have supernatural abilities to carry out their wicked plans is not uncommon in the Middle East.
In 2013 during a speech to religious students, Mehdi Taeb, who headed a think tank and was considered close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said that Jews are powerful sorcerers who have used their abilities to attack Iran. He noted that while "the Jews" had yet to unleash their full powers, their abilities were negated after they tried to use magic to interfere with the Iranian elections of 2008 and 2009.
And here's a satire site with a rather hilarious "explanation" of how we magical Jews do it.
The Greens And Some Inconvenient Truths
Joshua S. Goldstein and Steven Pinker write in the Bo Globe about some inconvenient truths for the green movement:
The first is that, until now, fossil fuels have been good for humanity. The industrial revolution doubled life expectancy in developed countries while multiplying prosperity twentyfold. As industrialization spreads to the developing world, billions of people are rising out of poverty in their turn -- affording more food, living longer and healthier lives, becoming better educated, and having fewer babies -- thanks to cheap fossil fuels. In poor countries like India, citizens want reliable electricity to power these improvements, and stand ready to vote out any government that fails to deliver it. When American environmentalists tell the world to stop burning fossil fuels, they need to give Indians an alternative that delivers the prosperity they demand and deserve.
That brings us to the second inconvenient truth: Nuclear power is the world's most abundant and scalable carbon-free energy source. In today's world, every nuclear plant that is not built is a fossil-fuel plant that does get built, which in most of the world means coal. Yet the use of nuclear power has been stagnant or even contracting.
Nuclear power presses a number of psychological buttons -- fear of poisoning, ease of imagining catastrophes, distrust of the unfamiliar and the man-made -- and so is held to an irrationally higher standard than fossils. When a coal mine disaster kills dozens, or a deep-water oil leak despoils vast seas, nobody shuts down the coal or oil industries. Yet the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan, which killed nobody, led Germany to shut down its nuclear plants and quietly replace them with dirty coal. Even France -- which gets three quarters of its electricity from nuclear power and has never had an accident -- now plans to shut down many plants under pressure from environmentalists.
Ideology often leads to idiocy, like our "environmentalist" LA mayor's "road diet" initiative. Yes, he's trying to put LA on a diet from roads, meaning that he's shutting off traffic lanes and turning them into bike lanes...which means that he's turning LA into more of a traffic hell than it already is.
Now, I got around New York on my bike. That's because with 20 blocks as a mile, it would have been six miles for me to ride all the way from downtown (Canal Street) to 100th Street. LA is far more vast and spread out. What we need to be on a diet from is this particular mayor.
The Insult Of Overprotecting Minority Students
Ralph Ellison saw it that way.
The thing is, claiming to be insulted or "wounded" by words is now a way to unearned power over others. Overprotection is the best pathway to grievance for all the grievance hunters -- who are really power-seekers with a PC veneer.
About Ellison's take, NYU history and education prof Jonathan Zimmerman writes in the LA Times:
In a 1967 interview, the African American novelist Ralph Ellison denounced the commonplace idea that blacks had been permanently "damaged" by slavery, segregation and institutional racism. Instead, Ellison insisted, blacks' survival in the face of discrimination and hatred demonstrated their strength and character.
"Any people who could endure all of that brutalization and keep together, who could undergo such dismemberment and resuscitate itself ... is obviously more than the sum of its brutalization," Ellison said. "I am not denying the negative things which have happened to us and which continue to happen, but I am compelled to reject all condescending, narrowly paternalistic interpretations of Negro American life and personality from whatever quarters they come, whether white or Negro."
Ellison would be appalled by our current moment on American campuses, where the damage thesis has returned with a vengeance. From Yale University and Ithaca College to the University of Missouri and Claremont McKenna College, black students and their allies are claiming that racist behavior -- and administrators' weak response to it -- are harming minorities' psychological health. They insist that overtly racist comments as well as "microaggressions" -- smaller, day-to-day slights -- take a psychic toll.
"I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns," wrote one student at Yale, where a professor's email about Halloween costumes triggered protests.
...If we let ourselves be governed by feelings, we'll go down a rabbit hole of competing grievances and recriminations. The question will no longer be who is right or wrong or what's most worth rectifying -- in any objective, demonstrable sense -- but who is experiencing the most pain and trauma.
In the process, we'll demean minority students in the name of protection. As Ralph Ellison reminded us nearly half a century ago, the idea of damaged black minds condescends to people who are much stronger than the accumulated slights they have suffered. I support the minority students standing up to the racism that still surrounds them. But I won't patronize them by "validating" everything they say simply because they feel it. Neither should you.
Asset Forfeiture: Federal Agents Are Bigger Thieves Than Burglars
Federal agents took more money and stuff from Americans in 2014 than burglars did, writes Bonnie Kristian at Rare.us.
The feds took $4.5 billion. Burglars only made off with $3.9 billion.
As recently as 2008 it was "just" $1.5 billion, and there's compelling evidence that law enforcement agencies use this license to bolster their budgets in lean years.
...This comparison is even more appalling when you consider that many people whose money or stuff is taken through civil asset forfeiture are never charged or convicted with any crime.
That's because it essentially allows a police officer who finds you "suspicious" to just take your stuff.
Once your property has been confiscated, the burden of proof is on you, not the police, to show that you didn't get it from any criminal activity. Even if you personally are cleared of all charges, that may not matter. As the Philadelphia City Paper reports, "Technically, it's the property--not its owner--that's being accused of criminality, which means the property can be subject to forfeiture whether or not its owner is ever convicted of a crime."
In other words, they don't have to charge you. They don't have to present any evidence of illegal activity. In fact, you have no right to a lawyer and won't get a day in court. In some jurisdictions, you actually have to pay thousands of dollars just to be able to contest the seizure.
Like a staycation, but with links.
"This Is The Business We've Chosen"
Where Is The Joy In The Islamic Death Squad Business?
Joyce Carol Oates, tweet-slapped:
Government-Creep: You Are A Criminal In So Many Ways
Jarret Skorup and Geneva Ruppert write at Michigan Capitol Confidential about what I just named government-creep -- how people can be prosecuted for breaking ridiculous laws they don't know exist:
Lisa Snyder's neighbors had children and early starts at work. She was happy to watch their kids until the school bus arrived in the morning -- until she was threatened with penalties for running an unlicensed child care service.
Alan Taylor needed more parking at his growing business and thought he had received all the proper permits to expand the lot on his property. But the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality successfully prosecuted him for jeopardizing a wetland he didn't know existed.
Kenneth Schumacher got rid of some scrap tires at what turned out to be an unlicensed disposal facility. Though he didn't intend to break the law, he was sentenced to 270 days in jail and a fine of $10,000.
Michigan has over 3,000 felonies and misdemeanors on the books -- far more than the average resident could possibly remember. Obvious crimes, like murder or theft, make up some of these statutes, but more of them cover actions such as "transporting Christmas trees without a manifest" or burning grass clippings or leaves in certain areas.
These laws are especially dangerous to ordinary people because 26 percent of Michigan's felonies and 59 percent of its misdemeanors don't specify criminal intent. This means that people who never intended to break the law may be (and often are) prosecuted for crimes they had no idea they committed.
That's "mens rea" -- having a "guilty mind"; an intent to commit a crime -- which has been removed from consideration.
It's serious stuff when a man goes to jail -- is put in a cage -- and fined, and over disposing scrap tires a facility he had no idea was unlicensed. (What, are we supposed to check a business's paperwork when we patronize it? So, every time you go to 7-Eleven, Target, a bike shop on the boulevard?)
These laws can be used to squash speech and in other nefarious ways (beyond their mere nefarious existence).
More from the piece on possible reforms -- and how sick that they are needed:
To fix this problem, the Michigan Legislature is considering adding intent provisions to laws that currently lack one, with two bills before the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Bill 4713 passed the state House unanimously and would establish that if a law does not indicate a "culpable mental state" the prosecution must show that a person violated a law "purposely, knowingly or recklessly." This bill exempts certain sections of Michigan code.
Senate Bill 20 is similar, but would only apply to future laws. Because there are so many laws and regulations already, proponents of criminal intent reform prefer a bill that is strong going forward but also applies to laws on the books. Neither of these bills eliminates crimes; they merely clarify the standard of intent needed in a prosecution.
These reforms would not allow a Michigander to get out of a larceny charge by claiming ignorance of the law, but they would make it less likely for him to do jail time for catching a fish he didn't realize was protected, or being smacked with hefty fines for failing to properly display a camping license on his tent.
The prohibitions against operating "day care" in one's home -- or watching one's neighbors' kids so mom can get off to work on time -- mainly hurt poor women who are struggling to make ends meet without going on public assistance. (They aren't so good for middle-class women, either.)
Harvey Silverglate's book on how we're all criminals now: Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.
The "Sensitivity" Double Standard On Campuses
I'm uncomfortable with the thought of Joe Biden occupying any position any more powerful than, say, emcee of a golf club roast.
However, at the coffee shop on Saturday, I spent about a half an hour talking with (and listening to) Marie, who'd love to see Biden as President, and has a number of views on a number of issues that are on the opposing end of mine.
Still, she's a thoughtful person, so I listened to what she had to say -- some of which made me uncomfortable; some of which made me cringe down into my organs. (Mainly the Biden-as-President portion of the conversation.)
Being uncomfortable is okay. It's even good. I'm all for it -- and think it's an essential part of gaining an education. In college and in life.
Alan Dershowitz writes in the NY Daily News about the "safe spaces" college students are demanding -- safe from speech that makes them uncomfortable:
However, the "safe spaces" envisioned by these protesters seem to matter only when the interests of those who share their political persuasions are affected.
There has been conspicuously little attention paid to incidents of anti-Semitism reported, for example, at Hunter College, where students supportive of Israel were chased away from a rally blaming high tuition fees on "Zionist administrators," and where protestors shouted "Zionists out of CUNY" (the City University of New York), by which they meant Jews.
Where are the cries for safe spaces for Jewish students faced with such blatant intimidation?
Instead, "safe spaces" rhetoric has been used by students to insulate themselves from ideas that they deem offensive. Last spring at Columbia, the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board objected to the inclusion of material by the Roman Poet Ovid on the ground that "like so many texts in the Western Canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom." Last month, an event hosted by a student-group at Williams College called Uncomfortable Learning, was cancelled due to security concerns when protestors subjected organizers to severe online abuse.
...The hypocrisy of protestors demanding protection from potentially offensive ideas while simultaneously insulting and harassing people who fail to demonstrate adequate levels of enthusiasm for their agenda should be obvious to all. But too few university administrators and faculty call out these hypocritical students for their double standard.
Let's be clear: All students should be made to feel physically safe on campus. They should also be protected from verbal abuse. Colleges should attempt to foster an inclusive and tolerant environment that allows individuals of varied backgrounds to feel comfortable discussing a wide range of intellectual, social and political topics.
...Students subjected to abuse or intimidation should be offered support services, and that may even entail setting aside "safe spaces" where they can find peace and quiet, access peer support groups and counseling services.
However, such safe spaces must not be extended to campuses as a whole. Classrooms in particular must not become intellectually sterile environments, where ideas are subjected to censorship based on the fact that they make some students feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, universities should foster discussions of controversial ideas, subversive ideas, ideas that provoke and challenge students to question their beliefs and preconceptions. That process is central to learning and intellectual progress more generally. Safe spaces rhetoric must not be allowed to undermine it.
Why Syrian Refugees Are Not Like Jewish Refugees in World War II
Joel B. Pollak writes at Breitbart about the claim that the Syrian refugees are like the Jewish refugees from World War II. He explains why the Jewish and Syrian crises -- and refugees -- have little in common. A few examples:
1. Jews were not a terror threat; there is evidence terrorists are hiding among Syrian refugees. Jewish refugees were not a threat to the countries where they sought asylum. In the early 1920s, fears of communist activism among Jewish immigrants had helped drive restrictive immigration laws, but that threat-and the over-reaction to it-had long passed. In contrast, at least one, and as many as three, of the terrorists in the recent Paris attacks allegedly hid among Syrian refugees, prompting legitimate fears.
2. Jews were singled out for persecution by the Nazis, not (initially) fleeing an ongoing war. If anyone has a unique moral claim that parallels the Jews of Europe, it is the Syrian Christians, Iraqi Yazidis, and other minorities being persecuted by radical Islamist forces in the Middle East. But that is not true of the broader wave of Syrian refugees. That is not to blame them for the war, but it does suggest there is a good moral case for distinguishing among refugees, rather than admitting all who wish to come.
3. Jews had nowhere to go; Syrian refugees should have many places to go. When Nazi Germany began persecuting Jews, the Jewish population had few-and dwindling-alternatives. The State of Israel did not exist, and Britain, to appease Arab leaders, tried to keep Jewish refugees out of Palestine. Syrian refugees, however, theoretically have many options. There are 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for example; some, unconscionably, are refusing so far to admit any refugees.
4. Opposition to Jewish refugees was "racial"; opposition to Syrian refugees is based on security concerns. One of the main reasons immigration laws restricted Jewish entry into the U.S. was to promote the racial, i.e. genetic, superiority of the national "stock." (Such eugenicist ideas were widespread, far beyond Nazi Germany.) In contrast, resistance to Syrian refugees has to do with fear of terrorism (see above), and valid concerns about importing radical Islam (a severe problem among Somali refugees).
Suppression Of Free Speech In Academia Is Out Of Control
Nat Hentoff, not exactly a Tea Party member, has a piece at Cato Institute about the latest in hostility to the exercise of free speech on American college campuses. There's a disturbing trend:
MU's student body vice president later tried to justify the students' self-imposed restrictions on the press during an interview on MSNBC. She suggested that the First Amendment "creates a hostile and unsafe learning environment."
No More Yoga For You, Non-Hindus! It's "Cultural Appropriation"
Aedan Helmer writes in the Ottawa Sun that a free campus yoga class was recently cancelled:
Student leaders have pulled the mat out from 60 University of Ottawa students, ending a free on-campus yoga class over fears the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."
Jennifer Scharf, who has been offering free weekly yoga instruction to students since 2008, says she was shocked when told in September the program would be suspended, and saddened when she learned of the reasoning.
Staff at the Centre for Students with Disabilities believe that "while yoga is a really great idea and accessible and great for students ... there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice," according to an email from the centre.
...The centre goes on to say, "Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced," and which cultures those practices "are being taken from."
The centre official argues since many of those cultures "have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy ... we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves while practising yoga."
The concept of cultural appropriation is normally applied when a dominant culture borrows symbols of a marginalized culture for dubious reasons -- such as the fad of hipsters donning indigenous headdresses as a fashion statement, without any regard to cultural significance or stereotype.
But Scharf, a yoga teacher with the downtown Rama Lotus Centre, said the concept does not apply in this case, arguing the complaint that killed the program came instead from a "social justice warrior" with "fainting heart ideologies" in search of a cause celebre.
"People are just looking for a reason to be offended by anything they can find," said Scharf.
This is the new way people become special -- by being offended.
And I guess for some, it makes a lot of sense.
Why put in all that sweat and hard work to accomplish something in the world when you can be somebody -- make people notice you, make them stop whatever they're doing -- simply by saying you're offended?
Immigration Minus Assimilation Means Conflict
Daniel J. Flynn writes at The American Spectator that terrorists are often on the dole before they murder:
The ex-wife of Ibrahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up in last Friday's Paris attacks, says he worked one whole day during their two-year marriage. Instead of labor, he slept during business hours, watched DVDs, and smoked "alarming" amounts of marijuana every day while blaring Arabic rap music. She told the Daily Mail, "We lived on unemployment benefit which was only €1,000 a month between us so we worried a lot about money."
...Before he blew himself up outside a French soccer stadium, Bilal Hadfi lived in state-subsidized housing. Like so many, he hated his landlord. His Facebook page shows him drinking, raising his middle finger, and aiming a firearm. He failed his school exams and confessed an addiction to video games. He repeatedly posted the message (pardon my French) "Nique de police."
...Many of the terrorists displayed more decadence than devotion. Boulahcen's brother maintains she never read the Koran. The headmaster at Hadfi's Belgium school says he "wasn't especially religious." Abdeslam's wife notes that he refused to go to mosque.
...Open wallets as much as open borders doom Europe. Harboring shiftless populations alienated from the surrounding culture by religion asks for trouble. Give them blank checks and watch them fill up the blank spaces of indolence with destruction. We hate our benefactors.
The Islamists understand the tolerance and multiculturalism of the West as weaknesses to exploit rather than kindnesses to reciprocate. They pay back the dole with gunfire. Ahmed Almuhamed, saved off a sinking refugee boat by the Greeks, returned the favor by shooting up a packed concert hall. The English language lacks a word describing such off-the-charts ingratitude. Perhaps the French now have one. Almuhameditude?
"The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism," Samuel Huntington concluded two decades ago in The Clash of Civilizations. "It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.
UPDATE: Incredible photo, via @LewRockwell -- payday at a Paris welfare office ("Photo taken in front of Social Security Family Benefits Office in Rosny-sous-Bois" -- which is actually a suburb of Paris).