No Evidence Required

Sir Bedevere:             What makes you think she’s a witch?

Peasant:                      Well, she turned me into a newt!

Sir Bedevere:             A newt?

Peasant:                     I got better.

Crowd:                       Burn her anyway!

        —Terry Jones as Sir Bedevere, and John Cleese as the Peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

 

Let me start by saying this up front: if you do things like commit rape and murder, you should have to face the consequences, including going to jail (or, in appropriate cases, facing the death penalty).

But you really should have to be convicted of that crime first.

Over the last few weeks a number of women have been coming out of the woodwork to accuse actor/comedian Bill Cosby of committing various forms of sexual assault at various points in the increasingly distant past.  The most recent is a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles telling an at least somewhat implausible tale of a 15 year old meeting Cosby on a movie set in 1974 along with her 16 year old friend.  According to the lawsuit, Cosby invited the girls to his tennis club where he got them liquored up, then took them to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion and had the accuser perform sex acts on him.

The rather fanciful nature of the story raises obvious questions as to its veracity.  And wealthy celebrities like Cosby make easy targets for those who might want to extort a settlement check, particularly 40 years after the fact when there is little evidence left except her word vs. his (there is a reason we have statutes of limitations).  I note that the lawsuit comes not only 40 years after the alleged incident, but only after several others have made rape allegations against Cosby, giving this latest claim (and its accompanying demand to get paid) a certain “me too” piling-on quality.  But giving this accuser and the others the benefit of the doubt, the most we can say at this point is that we don’t know whether the allegations are true.

And that’s the point, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping the punishment train from rolling out of the station.  On Thursday the Navy announced that it was revoking the honorary title of Chief Petty Officer it bestowed on Cosby in 2011.  This follows NBC’s and Netflix’s cancellation of projects with Cosby, cable’s TV Land yanking reruns of The Cosby Show, and Temple University pressuring Cosby to resign from its board of directors.

All because of allegations.

As of this writing, William H. Cosby, Jr. hasn’t been convicted of anything.  He hasn’t been tried.  He hasn’t even been charged.  In point of fact, of the dozen or so women currently accusing Cosby, only one has even filed a civil lawsuit (it is worth noting that Cosby settled a lawsuit in 2006 brought by another woman making similar allegations).  I admit the number of accusers suggests there may be something to the allegations, but that in itself is not evidence that any one of the allegations is true.  Yet our modern politically-correct court of public opinion has already proceeded to the punishment phase.

And this is the disturbing trend in today’s world of instant internet news, where any accusation, innuendo, or rumor can go viral and become publicly entrenched as the “truth” before the actual evidence has a chance to emerge.  Worse, even when that evidence does emerge, too many allow their emotions to be manipulated to the point that they are unwilling or unable to look at it and distinguish reality from the false narrative pushed by those with other agendas.

Witness the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

By now you know the meme: racist white cop guns down an unarmed black teen affectionately known as the “gentle giant” in cold blood (and possibly in the back) while the child had his hands up in an effort to surrender.  This was the story initially and continually pushed by the media, and egged on by the usual professional race-baiting, grievance-mongering crowd.  It quickly became the public truth, and thus Officer Darren Wilson was convicted of murder in the court of public opinion within hours of the shooting.

But as John Adams once observed, facts are stubborn things.

The grand jury—which actually had and looked at the evidence—saw things differently.  Michael Brown, the so-called “gentle giant,” was videotaped physically assaulting a shop owner while in the course of robbing the store minutes before the shooting.  Brown’s blood and DNA were on Wilson’s squadcar door handle, inside the car, and on Wilson’s gun, all of which supports Wilson’s story that Brown initially attacked him in the car and attempted to get Wilson’s gun when Wilson shot him the first time.  Three reviews of the autopsy—including one highly-publicized third review by a medical examiner hired by Brown’s family that, once conducted, quietly went away—all found wounds indicating that Brown was neither shot in the back (as first reported), nor with his hands up; they showed wounds consistent with charging forward, head down, as if to tackle.  Significantly, the autopsy results were not only consistent with Officer Wilson’s story, but also with the testimony of several black eyewitnesses who said Brown was charging at Wilson.  Based on this evidence, the grand jury declined to indict Officer Wilson.  But because the “truth” of what happened had already been established, the evidence didn’t matter.

The court of politically-correct public opinion had once again already moved on to sentencing.  Hence we now have protestors and even members of Congress running around blindly (ignorantly?) holding their hands in the air chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” even though the testimony of black eyewitnesses and the physical evidence have fully discredited that version of events; in other words, the incontrovertible fact is that Michael Brown did not have his hands up when he was shot, but that fact is irrelevant to the protesters’ perception of the truth.

Other geniuses claim they just want “justice,” and to that end we needed to have a trial so all the facts could come to light.  To one who says that I say fine, let’s start by putting you on trial for murder.  You will undoubtedly react with righteous indignation and say there’s no reason to put you on trial, because there is no reason to suspect you committed murder.  To which I say:

ExactlyThere is no reason to put a man on trial when there is no reason to suspect he has committed a crime.

A grand jury doesn’t operate on the familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for conviction in a criminal trial.  It operates on a standard of “probable cause.”  And it’s a one-sided affair in favor of the prosection; the accused has no lawyer there to cross-examine witnesses, and does not get to put on a defense (yes, I know Officer Wilson got to testify, and that that’s unusual, but that’s neither totally unheard of (defendants generally don’t testify because they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, not because they can’t) nor is it the same thing as presenting a defense case).  Yet despite a low threshold and a tilted playing field, the grand jury refused to indict; in other words, it wasn’t even close.

Under those circumstances, there is no more reason to put Wilson to the expense and anguish of a trial than there is anyone else.  But the myopic “justice seeker,” just like the race-baited protestor, isn’t interested in facts, because he has already established the truth in his own mind, evidence be damned.

It is a dangerous place where allegations alone warrant skipping past trial and conviction and moving straight to sentencing.  It is more dangerous still when allegations and rumor trump undeniable facts.

I have no idea whether Bill Cosby committed rape.  But rather than send him directly to be flogged at the pillory in the town square, perhaps we should take a deep breath and see what the evidence of the facts is first.

Shutting Us Up (reprise)

German Officer:  What did you say to her? Would you kindly repeat it to me?

French Officer:  What I said is none of your business.

German Officer:  Then I will make it my business.

        —Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as the German Officer, and Alberto Morin as the French Officer in Casablanca

 

I want to follow up on a post from last month with a question:

When did we get so afraid of speech?

Attorneys for the City of Houston have subpoenaed local pastors for copies of sermons touching on the topics of homosexuality, gender identity (whatever that is), or Houston Mayor Annise Parker (who, not coincidentally, is openly lesbian).  At issue is a new city “anti-discrimination” ordinance aimed at a ludicrous level of politically-correct hyper-inclusiveness that, among other things, allows men to use women’s restrooms because they “feel like” women (I’ve previously dealt with the insanity of these kinds of laws here).  Apparently there is a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, filed after the city refused a referendum despite a petition collecting nearly triple the number of signatures necessary to place the measure on the ballot.

It is not my task here to debate the merits of the ordinance.  Nor is this about my views on gay rights, same-sex marriage, or even homosexuality in general.  This is about government bullying and censorship in the name of political correctness.

In Texas we allow broad discovery in litigation, even of non-parties, but the information sought must be at least reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of evidence that would be admissible at trial.  To be admissible at trial, the evidence must have a tendency to make some fact of consequence to the determination of the matter more or less probable.  The pastors under subpoena are not parties to the lawsuit; they are neither the ones pressing the legal challenge to the ordinance, nor—obviously—are they the ones responsible for drafting or passing it.  It is difficult to see how anything one of them said from the pulpit makes any fact of consequence in deciding the ordinance’s validity more or less probable.  Curiously, the subpoenas don’t even appear to seek—or at least are not even limited to—sermons dealing with the anti-discrimination ordinance at issue.  Instead, they seek information on sermons dealing with homosexuality in general, or dealing with Mayor Parker personally.  Which begs the obvious question:

Why are the sermons being subpoenaed at all?

One suspects it has everything to do with the fact that the pastors being targeted have been vocal critics of the Parker administration and the anti-discrimination ordinance, which for obvious reasons has been something of a pet agenda item for her.  And that’s a serious problem.

The First Amendment reads in its entirety:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment and the incorporation doctrine, these guarantees restrict not only Congress, but also the States (and, by extension, local governments).  And the idea is pretty simple, really: people in the United States should be able to practice their religion and to speak out against the government without fear of government reprisal.  This concept is the very foundation of what our republic was supposed to be all about, and if you think about it, to the extent any of these pastors said anything having any bearing at all on the ordinance in question, they were engaging in First Amendment activity on multiple levels.  They were in church, exercising their religion. They were before their congregations, thus (presumably) peaceably assembled.  And not only were they engaging in speech, but they were engaging in speech articulating a grievance against the government.  With apologies to Larry Flynt, this is the very essence of what the First Amendment was designed to protect.

Yet their reward for speaking out is to be met by a phalanx of government lawyers, and heaven knows nothing good happens once lawyers start showing up.  All because those in power did not like what these people had to say.

The increasing weaponization of the mechanisms of government to intimidate opposition into silence is chilling, to say the least.  In the last century, dictatorships quashed dissent through the brute force of the KGB or the Stasi.  But state censorship of opposition doesn’t have to be so crude as midnight disappearances to the Gulags in order to be effective.  IRS denies or delays tax-exempt status for Tea Party groups, thus denuding them of the funding necessary to get their message out effectively.  Logan Clements produced a film critical of FUBARCare, and found himself immediately the subject of a tax audit.  The same Department of Justice that refused to prosecute the New Black Panthers when they were caught on tape intimidating voters brought felony campaign finance charges against Dinesh D’Souza after he released an anti-Obama film heading into the 2012 election season.

What do you suppose things like this do to the willingness of ordinary citizens to raise their voices and be heard?

In 2003 then-Senator Hillary Clinton famously squealed that she was “sick and tired” of people being labeled as unpatriotic when they dared to question the Bush administration.  These days, however, it’s not a question of dissenters being labeled unpatriotic, or even racist or homophobic (or maybe worst of all, “denier”).  We’re way past name-calling.  Now, anyone who might dare speak up has to wonder if they’re going to get a call from the IRS.  Or if a process server is going to knock on the door to invite them to a government-sponsored expose of every document in their file cabinet.  Or if they’re going to be arrested and threatened with five-to-ten in a federal penitentiary for jaywalking.

This is not how it’s supposed to be in this country.  We’re supposed to have active engagement by ordinary citizens in the issues of the day.  We’re supposed to disagree, and to be able to voice that disagreement, at times loudly.  As Michael Douglas said as President Andrew Shepard in The American President,

“America is advanced citizenship.  You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech?  Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’”

But we seem to be losing that.  Fast.  Those whose hands grip the levers of power are so consumed with maintaining that grip that they now trod over the most fundamental tenets of our political society to ensure that they never even have to engage in (let alone win) the debate.  It’s becoming increasingly dangerous to speak.  Maybe not physically dangerous, and maybe not even dangerous in a go-to-jail sense—although one increasingly wonders—but it doesn’t have to be.  Just responding to a subpoena can be financially crippling to most, and there’s no insurance to cover it.  For many, the fiscal risk alone is more than they can chance.  Better to keep quiet and not attract the state’s attention.

If we don’t speak out now, if we don’t take that risk, who will be there to speak when they come to muzzle the last of us?

Shutting Us Up

You’d better watch what you say

You’d better watch what you do to me

        —Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Good Love Is Hard To Find

 

Do you ever look around you and ask yourself, “What the hell is happening to us?”  I’ve found myself in that boat lately after a string of stories I’ve been seeing.

Wednesday, a group of students from the Penn State chapter of the Young America’s Foundation were outside the student union building handing out free copies of the United States Constitution.  They were doing so in one of the campus’ handful of specially-designated “free speech zones,” which in itself begs the question why—on Constitution Day, no less—they had to confine themselves to a specially-designated area to exercise their right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the very Constitution they were trying to distribute.  Worse, not only were they at a university—a place where almost by definition the whole idea is to marinate in a free exchange of ideas—but they were at a state university, meaning they were on public property.

The students were then confronted by university officials, who told them they could stand there and distribute their materials, but because they hadn’t reserved a space in advance—undoubtedly requiring a fee (read: free speech tax)—they had to take down their display table (which, of course, was allowing them to attract the attention of interested people without the uncomfortable exercise of personally confronting everyone whether they like it or not).  And if they didn’t comply, the official was going to call the cops.  The reason?  It “violates the policy.”  Nothing about the students being disruptive, destructive, or inciting violence—just mindless, jackbooted enforcement of “the policy.”

You WILL comply, and you will do so because I say so.  

Now, you know the people behind these kinds of policies are the same people who were taking over university administration buildings and rioting with police when they were exercising their freedom of speech in the 1960s.  Apparently anything goes when they’re the ones doing the talking, but mention a conservative idea like the Constitution—the modern Progressive Left never talks in Constitutional terms anymore—and you’d better jump through their policy hoops or shut up.

Think that’s insane?  Read on.

At Arkansas State, a football player and student manager were killed over the summer in separate incidents.  The team sought to honor the pair—both of whom were known to have been Christians—with a small sticker on the back of their helmets depicting a cross bearing the two students’ initials.  Predictably, an atheist got bent out of shape enough to bitch, and the university punted (a decision later reversed, but only after a conservative legal foundation threatened to sue the school, and only on the stipulation that the players voluntarily wear the sticker and pay for it themselves).

How juvenile and self-absorbed do you have to be to complain about a sticker a bunch of 19-year-old kids employ to help grieve over their dead friends at an event nobody forced you to attend?

Last week, principal Val Wyatt told the football booster club at Ventura High School in California that they would be forbidden from selling 200 sandwiches donated by a local Chick-fil-A.  The original reason given was that the principal was working to keep the school free of marketing by vendors attempting to reap a profit.  Profits?!?! Horrors!  But as Todd Starnes points out FoxNews.com, the Chick-fil-A shop donated the sandwiches; it wasn’t going to make a dime.  The principal conceded that her real motivation—supported by the district superintendent—was that she didn’t like Chick-fil-A’s position on gay rights:

“With their political stance on gay rights and because the students of Ventura High School and their parents would be at the event, I didn’t want them on campus.”

Trouble is, as Starnes also notes, Chick-fil-A as a corporate entity—bear in mind even that is separate from the local franchise owner who was actually donating the sandwiches—doesn’t have a position on gay rights.  And if what she’s really referring to is company president Dan Cathy’s now-infamously mis-paraphrased remarks in a 2012 interview in which he was asked about his personal views on same-sex marriage, all he said was he supported the Biblical definition of the family unit.  He didn’t slander or demean homosexuals. [As an aside, I’m not even sure you can characterize his statements as affirmatively opposing gay marriage or any other “gay rights.”  Saying you support traditional marriage is not the same thing as saying you oppose legislation permitting Ken to marry Steve (or marry Steve and Rick, or marry Mr. Tinkles the cat), and it’s worth noting that many of these same people on the Progressive Left support abortion at the top of their lungs yet will tell you that they do not condone abortion in their personal lives.]  But it was enough to deny the kids on the Ventura High football team the benefit of a charitable donation large enough to have bought brand-new state-of-the-art helmets for every kid on the team.

I wonder what Principal Wyatt will have to say to the parents of the first kid with a life-altering brain injury.

But wait. There’s more.

Last month at the College of Coastal Georgia, physics professor Dr. Leon Gardner handed out a syllabus that informed his students if they responded to someone’s sneeze by saying “bless you”—a common courtesy dating to before the Middle Ages, and maybe even to before the time of Christ—it would result in up to a 15% grade reduction. 15%.  That’s turning a B into a C-.  The rule was later rescinded after a massive public outcry, but the idea that it would even occur to someone to enact it in the first place speaks volumes.

At Ramay Junior High in Fayetteville, 8th grader Chloe Rubiano came to school last month wearing a t-shirt that said “Virginity Rocks.”  A laudable sentiment in a 13-year-old, don’t you think?  But at a school where girls are pregnant and guidance counselors distribute condoms, apparently the concept of virginity is too disruptive and sexually-charged to be permitted in public.  So she was forced to change into a gym shirt or be sent home.

This is where we are with our schools.  You can’t distribute the Constitution—even in a designated “free speech zone” on public property—without being slapped with a hyper-technical violation of bureaucratic “policy.”  You can’t mourn a dead teammate by putting a sticker on your football helmet.  You can’t support the local high school football team by selling sandwiches donated by a franchisee of a corporation whose president says he’s happy he’s still married to his first wife and that she’s a she.  You can’t say “bless you” if someone sneezes.  Your 8th grader can’t support virginity, at least not out loud.  Updating a post from several years ago, the 9th Circuit full panel has upheld rulings that an American high school can ban students from wearing American flags because they might incite Hispanic students to violence.   And as I’ve covered previously, your 5th grader can’t read his bible in class during “free” reading time, and if you protest too loudly about your 14-year-old being assigned porn as required reading you go to freaking jail.

Meanwhile . . .

At Clemson University, students and faculty are being required to answer a survey that asks, among other things, how many times they’ve had sex in the last 3 months, and with how many people.  Failure to do so is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct.  Supposedly this is part of some kind of sensitivity training the federal government is requiring under Title IX—and if so, it’s a good example of why the federal government shouldn’t be funding state universities in the first place—but one struggles to see the connection.  I’ll let that speak for itself.

In a world where even dozens of purported “Catholic” universities—including Notre Dame—have sponsored productions of The Vagina Monologues in recent years, and public schools make graphically illustrated sex ed books available to middle school kids, I suppose this shouldn’t be that surprising.  But this is where our cow-towing to political correctness has gotten us.  Sane, rational speech that happens not to fit with the Progressive narrative is banned, while perverted and hyper-sexualized expression, behavior, and intrusions are perfectly acceptable.

I understand that the First Amendment does not mean you can say anything, anytime, anywhere.  And I get it that schools need to be able to maintain a certain degree of order, particularly inside classrooms, to be able to fulfill their primary mission of teaching.  But this persistent and two-faced attack on conservative expression is out of control.

If the Progressive Left gets to control—by force—what we can say and where we can say it, particularly in our schools, then it’s over.  We have to fight back.  We have to push back against this sort of PC-fascism and reclaim our unalienable rights guaranteed to us under the First Amendment.  All of us.  If we don’t start doing it soon, there may be little left we have to say about it.

 

Enforcing Freedom

“And you’re in a tough spot, Jimmy, because you didn’t read the Playtone contract that you, yourself, signed.  And it says you do what I say.  And I say you record these songs from the Playtone catalogue.  You record That Thing You Do! in Spanish.  You get one cut per side of the L.P., but I don’t want any of this lover’s lament crap. I want something peppy, something happy, something up-tempo. I want something snappy.

            —Tom Hanks as Mr. White in That Thing You Do!

Back in 2006 Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, owners of a small Taos photography studio, declined Vanessa Willcock’s request to shoot her same-sex “commitment ceremony,” citing the conflict between their Christian beliefs and same-sex unions.  Although Willcock found another photographer to do it—for cheaper—she sued the Huguenins anyway for illegal discriminatory practices.  On Thursday the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the their refusal to take the assignment violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act.  In his opinion for the unanimous court, Justice Richard Bosson trumpeted the case as highlighting the compromise and accommodation that he says is the essence of what America is about:

“At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others . . . But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life . . . The Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.”

As an initial matter, let me say that if you accept the Rule of Law, as I do, the court appears to have gotten this one correct.  Under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for

“any person in any public accommodation to make a distinction, directly or indirectly, in offering or refusing to offer its services, facilities, accommodations or goods to any person because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, spousal affiliation or physical or mental handicap[.]”

N.M. Stat. 28-1-7 (F).  The statute defines a “public accommodation” as “any establishment that provides or offers its services, facilities, accommodations or goods to the public[.]”  N.M. Stat. 28-1-2 (H).  Thus, taking the statute on its face, by opening their doors and offering their services to the public, the Huguenins were forbidden from making any distinctions—for whatever reason—in offering or refusing to offer those services based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  This is the statute the court was given to work with, and under the Rule of Law the court was bound to enforce it.  The court did its job.

But notice the inconsistency the application of the New Mexico statute in this case highlights.

Justice Bosson says that the essence of America is that “all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others,” but apparently that’s a one-way street; the Huguenins have to compromise to accommodate lesbian unions, but neither the lesbians nor the State of New Mexico have to compromise to accommodate the Huguenins’ Christian beliefs.  To the contrary, they punished the Huguenins for adhering to their religious convictions and withholding their services.  And there’s the rub.

Say what you want about this being a natural extension of the Civil Rights era.  This case is VERY different than, say, a diner refusing to serve lunch to blacks.  Eating lunch has nothing to do with race, thus the service of the meal isn’t in any way condoning the thing to which a racist diner owner objects.  The diner owner isn’t participating in the patron’s blackness.   But the nature of the Huguenins’ services—wedding photography—requires them not only to tolerate or even accept a same-sex union, they actually have to participate in it, thus taking part in the very activity to which their religious conscience objected.  Justice Bosson pays lip-service to the Huguenins’ rights, saying they only need channel their conduct, not their beliefs, but his sentiment is hollow: in sum, they can believe whatever they want as long as they don’t act on those beliefs.

In a different context, this case would be patently shocking.  Imagine the Huguenins were approached by a Satan-worshipper to photograph a Satanic wedding.  Very few would go so far as to say that they should be compelled to accept that assignment, yet that’s what the New Mexico statute would appear to require.  Or let’s reverse the case and suppose a gay photographer were approached by a vocal opponent (on religious grounds) of gay rights to shoot his Southern Baptist wedding.

You’d never hear the end of that one.

With the PC crowd, it’s always all about individual freedom and individual rights . . . as long as it’s their freedom and rights we’re talking about.  When it’s your freedom and rights and they conflict, well, you understand we all [read: you] have to make compromises to accommodate different points of view. 

In this instance, the Constitution should have protected the Huguenins.  They have a First Amendment right to the free exercise—that’s their “conduct,” Mr. Justice Bosson—of religion.  They have a Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of their liberty or property without due process and just compensation.  They have a Thirteenth Amendment right to be free from involuntary servitude.

More fundamentally, whether you like it or not individual freedom necessarily includes the freedom to discriminate; to choose with whom you will associate, and with whom you will do business.  It has to.  You may disagree with the bases for my particular prejudice; I may even be morally, fundamentally, and in every other way wrong.  But so long as I am not harming another or infringing upon another’s rights, the concept of individual freedom, if it is to mean anything, must mean I am nevertheless free to indulge in it.  If you disagree with me, you are equally free to refuse to associate or do business with me.

But in this age of political correctness run amok, it doesn’t work that way.  And now we see it taken to its logical conclusion, that it’s no longer enough to have to accept the views and behavior of those in PC-favored groups with whom you disagree, apparently now you have to condone or even forcibly take part in them, your rights and freedom be damned.

The Huguenins didn’t prevent Vanessa Willcock from having her same-sex ceremony.  Nor did they keep her from having it photographed—indeed, she got that done for less money than the Huguenins would have charged, thus arguably doing her a favor.  All they did was decline to participate in an activity to which they had a moral objection based on their religious beliefs.  And for that, the State of New Mexico has ordered them to pay thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees.

American liberty at its core should be about live-and-let-live.  Justice Bosson is correct in that sense when he writes that we must “leave space for other Americans who believe something different,” and support “the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people.” 

But that space and tolerance has to go both ways.

The Land Of Opportunity

 

Holly came from Miami, F-L-A

Hitchiked her way across the U.S.A.

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her legs and then he was a she

She said, “Hey, Babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

            —Lou Reed, Walk On The Wild Side

 

Just when I thought they couldn’t get any weirder, the left-coastians in California manage to surpass themselves.

On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill requiring California public schools to allow transgender students to choose for themselves whether they will use boys’ or girls’ restrooms and locker rooms, and whether they will participate on boys’ or girls’ athletic teams.  The idea, I gather, is to reduce bullying of transgender kids, and ensure they are comfortable being themselves at school.  As Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center said:

“Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates.”

Really?

First, let’s understand what “transgender” means.  “Transgender” does not have anything to do with sexual orientation; transgender people are not necessarily gay or lesbian (or bi).  The term “transgender” refers to people who, to varying degrees, have a gender identity that differs from their gender assignment at birth.  This may manifest itself in any number of ways, from cross-dressing, to using opposite-gendered pronouns, to full-blown hormone therapy and living life completely as the opposite gender.  The common thread, however, is that transgender people self-identify with the opposite gender from the biological gender with which they were born. 

And there’s the root of the problem with the new California law.

Transgender status is self-selecting, but impossible to verify; ultimately a person is transgender because he or she says so.  Steve may have all the physical attributes of being a boy, but sees himself as a girl, and you’ll just have to take him at his word on that.  The trouble is we have a law in California that allows Steve, simply by claiming transgender status, unlimited access to girls’ restrooms, girls’ locker rooms, and girls’ athletic teams.  But because transgender status is self-conferred, the whole concept behind the California law is at the mercy of Steve’s honesty and intentions.  And the Pandora’s Box here should be obvious.

Take restrooms and locker rooms.  Maybe Steve is transgender and would feel more comfortable in the girls’ lavatory and the girls’ shower.  Somehow I doubt that allowing him in there will do much to save him from the threat of bullying, to the extent he’s in legitimate danger of that.  But what if Steve really isn’t transgender?  What if he’s really just looking for a peep?  What if he wants a snapshot he can put on the internet?  What if he’s a pervert?  Or worse.  And if you think that’s far-fetched, I suggest you re-examine the hormone-crazed nature of teenaged boys, particularly in our modern era of easy-to-access porn, and hyper-sexed movies and video games.

There’s a reason we have gender-specific facilities.  I bet you it’s not one year before there’s a significant incident arising out of a boy being allowed in a girls’ locker room in California.

Then there’s this nonsense about choosing which gendered sports teams in which to participate.  Some time back I wrote that at least it was easy to tell male athletes from female ones.  But under the new California law, telling the difference no longer makes a difference.  If Steve says he’s transgender, he’s now eligible for girls’ golf, girls’ soccer, and girls’ basketball. 

Of course, the problem with that is his being transgender doesn’t erase the fact that physiologically he’s still a male, and thus is almost certainly at a distinct competitive advantage.  Scream all you want about females being capable athletes; that’s not my point.  My point is that there is a very high probability that Steve is bigger, stronger, and faster than the girls.  He’s likely to hit a golf ball considerably farther.  He’s likely to be able to outrun a girl to the ball, and kick it harder when he gets there.  He’s likely taller and able to outjump a girl for a rebound.  That’s not misogyny, that’s just the physical reality.  And it’s why we have separate girls’ teams in the first place: so the girls don’t have to compete against the boys.

But the new California law throws that out the window; suddenly it’s no longer making sure transgender students have “the same fair chance at success as their classmates,” but in fact it’s giving them a leg up.  I can even see hyper-competitive schools starting to field “girls’” teams made up of substantial numbers of “transgender” boys.  And you know it’s only a matter of time before the Ninth Circuit rules that Title IX scholarship rules have to be extended to cover transgender male athletes on women’s college teams.  Then there’s a financial incentive to self-confer transgender status, at least until graduation.  Meanwhile, you have transgender males displacing females on teams created and protected for the express purpose of ensuring that females had the same access to opportunities to compete as males.

This is the sort of lunacy you get when uber-progressive political correctness supplants common sense.  How many girls now have to be made uncomfortable even going to the bathroom in order to ease the discomfort of what has to be a comparatively miniscule minority who are confused about their gender identity?  How many girls now will be denied previously legally-protected opportunities to play for their school because Steve now wants to be called Loretta?

The fact is you can’t accommodate all people in all things.  You particularly can’t do it when the thing to be accommodated isn’t some objectively obvious condition, but a subjective one known only to and existing only by virtue of a declaration by the one to be accommodated.  Taken to its extreme, the California notion would require inconveniencing—or even endangering—almost unlimited numbers of people to salve every conceivable whine.  Victimhood, with all its benefits and claims upon society, becomes available simply for the asking.

Sometimes life is uncomfortable.  Sometimes people are mean.  And no, I don’t think that means we need to not only accept but facilitate that girls will be boys and boys will be girls.  But that’s where you are now in California.

It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world.

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EDITOR’S NOTE:  I missed this, but July 31 marked the two-year anniversary of Chasing Jefferson.  Thanks to those who have stuck with me.  RDW 

Overprotecting Our Kids

“I’m here a week now . . . waiting for a mission . . . getting softer.  Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker.  And every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.”

            —Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now

 

When I was at Rice, my upperclassmen friends—particularly those with older siblings who had attended before them—would often talk about the “pussification of Rice.”  I want to talk about the pussification of America.

The community center in Oxford, Massachusetts is now running no-scoring-everybody-wins youth basketball leagues.  Now, while the article I link focuses on the 6 to 8 year old league, notice that the no-scoring leagues at the center include all the way up to age 12.  This is a growing trend around the country.  Ostensibly, the idea is to focus on fun, keeping everyone included and engaged, and to emphasize teaching game skills over winning.  In themselves these are laudable goals, and I kind of understand it in the context of things like my daughter’s 4-5 year old soccer league at the local YMCA.

But really?  Twelve-year-olds can’t keep score?

Underlying all of this, of course, is this idea that we have to shield kids from the emotional trauma of losing.  After all, having winners and losers favors one set of players over another, and results in unequal outcomes, and we can’t have that.  But it goes on.

The school board in Windham, New Hampshire has just voted 4-1 to ban dodgeball (and other “human target” games) from the district’s schools.  Apparently some parents were complaining that bullies were targeting their kids during games. 

Don’t worry about that mean old Jimmy, Son.  We’ll talk to the school board and if they don’t ban dodgeball, we’ll file a lawsuit.  That’ll teach ‘em.

Jeez.  Rather than standing up to the alleged bullies, choosing not to play, or simply asking gym teachers to better monitor the games, we have to elevate this to the freaking school board and ban the age old PE staple altogether.  All because little Johnny got his feelings hurt.  What’s next?  You know, in baseball we sometimes try to tag a runner—the practice used to be called “soaking,” where you basically had to pound the runner with the ball itself—to get an out.  In kickball we actually throw the ball at runners.  In football we try to knock the ballcarrier down.  Tag is, well, tag.  Ever seen the wall of players guarding their testicles in front of an indirect kick in soccer?   All “human targets.”  Are we going to ban those? 

And we’re not confining our loving protection of these tender sensitivities to sports.  Consider what we’re now seeing in academia.

I’ve previously reported on the growing trend of schools eliminating the concept of an F.  More and more, schools are adopting policies setting a mandatory minimum grade of 70, regardless of the student’s actual performance.  Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor said that “If the choice is between letting kids fail and giving them another opportunity to succeed, I’m going to err on the side of opportunity.”  In Texas we actually had to enact a statute to prevent some school districts from setting minimum grade threshholds, and had to defend it in court. 

But it gets worse.  Not only are we increasingly shielding kids from adverse consequences resulting from poor classroom performance, some schools are now taking measures to shield those poor performers from the stigma and disappointment caused by the achievements of their classmates.  In Ipswich, Massachusetts, the local middle school has canceled “Honors Night,” a long-standing tradition in which high academic achievers are honored with a dinner, awards, and speakers.  Although the school has denied the charge, claiming that it just moved the function from a separate awards night to including it in a larger daytime awards assembly, the explanatory letter Principal David Fabrizio sent to parents is telling:

“The honors night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average.”

In other words, to avoid hurting the feelings of those who don’t achieve as well, we’re going to take away (or diminish) a celebration for those who do.

Over and over I see this Spockian mentality that we must at all cost buffer kids’ fragile egos from every manner of negativity.  No one ever loses.  No one ever gets hit.  No one ever gets picked on.  No one ever fails.  But rather than nurturing them, this is doing kids a tremendous disservice if not outright abusing them, because the real world isn’t that way.

There’s an old saying among gym rats (football players, boxers, Marines, etc.): pain is weakness leaving the body.  The only way to get stronger is to condition yourself to absorb the punishment, and the only way to do that is . . . by absorbing the punishment.  The real world is full of adversity.  But if we shield our kids from every conceivable emotional bump and bruise, we deny them the opportunity to develop the necessary conditioning to deal with it.  Instead they reach adulthood with a distorted worldview that can neither acknowledge nor cope with obstacles and unequal outcomes, because their whole life experience has taught them that these things do not exist.

How are they supposed to compete in the marketplace if they have never known a world with winners and losers?

How are they supposed to be able to handle a-holes and bullies if Mommy and Daddy have always taken up the fight for them?

How are they supposed to regroup and try again after a setback if they’ve never known a world with failure?

Am I suggesting that we need to be putting six-year-olds through two-a-days and sending them to personal trainers?  Certainly not.  But we have to stop coating our kids in bubblewrap.  Give them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from the consequences.  Let them experience facing—and overcoming—adversity and failure.  Push them to stand up for themselves.  Only in this way can they develop the hardness and strength of spirit—the toughness—necessary to survive on their own. 

As it stands, however, we’re raising generation upon generation addicted to Meow Mix.

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EDITOR’S NOTE:  This marks the 200th installment of Chasing Jefferson.  When we started this adventure nearly two years ago, I had a list of 21 topics, and thought we’d be lucky to stretch that list out 6 months.  Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me, sent me encouragement, and passed on links to friends.

Political Correctness Amok II

“See this right arm?  Worth a million bucks a year.  All my limbs together aren’t worth seven cents a pound.”

            —Kevin Costner as “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham

 

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to be politically incorrect.

Again.

The Department of Education last week issued a new directive declaring that access to interscholastic, intramural, and intercollegiate athletics is a “civil right.”  To support this newly-found right, the directive requires schools and colleges to make “reasonable modifications” to allow students with disabilities to participate in school athletic programs, or, alternatively, to create a parallel athletic program of comparable standing to mainstream sports.  Supporters hail this as a dramatic victory for students with disabilities, comparable to what Title IX did for women’s athletics.

Let me say up front that I am a big proponent of interscholastic sports.  I played baseball in high school, and for a brief time tried to walk onto my college team.  I recognize that there are substantial benefits from participation.  But we’re starting to carry the forced inclusiveness thing too far.

First, since when did the Department of Education—in itself inherently an unconstitutional extension of federal authority into state and local matters—gain the power to declare the existence of civil rights?  Maybe I missed something, but I thought that was really left to the Constitution and the courts.  Once you decree a “right,” you open a whole Pandora’s box of endless litigation and controversy.

Second, how exactly is this directive supposed to be implemented?  The DOE swears the idea isn’t to change sports traditions or the nature of the game, or to guarantee disabled students spots on competitive team rosters, but to prevent schools from excluding disabled students “if they can keep up with their classmates.”  Notice the interesting phrasing; the threshold for legitimate exclusion is not “if they’re good enough to make the team,” but “if they can keep up.”  Does that mean that if they are a competent player you have to keep them on the team, even though their disability makes them less competitive than other players?  Consider, for example, a high school golfer who has only one arm.  He may well be able to learn to play with that one arm such that he can get around the course and not hinder the pace of play; but if because of the arm he can’t break 90 playing from competition tees, do we nevertheless have to give him one of the eight spots on the team to the exclusion of an able-bodied player who shoots in the 70s?

And what do “reasonable modifications” mean if not changing the rules of the game to accommodate a disability?  The AP article I read quoted Kareem Dale, who guides the administration’s policies on disabled Americans.  Dale, the article reports, was a high school wrestler who was able to compete because of special rule changes requiring his opponents to maintain physical contact with him during a match.  In other words, the rules were changed to work the game around his disability.  That’s not unlike what the Supreme Court forced the PGA to do several years ago by ordering it to change its rules to allow Casey Martin to use a golf cart due to a bone disorder that made walking difficult (Martin v. PGA Tour, Inc., 532 U.S. 661 (2001)).

Rusty, those two examples were very minor adjustments that didn’t really impact the nature of the game.

Perhaps, but once you allow individual exceptions to the rules, the individual subject to those exceptions is in absolute fact not only not playing the same game as his opponents, but he is playing against them with a rules advantage in his favor.  Casey Martin got to ride a cart, while his competitors had to walk 7000+ yards of often sloping and slick terrain, and if you think that doesn’t matter in golf, go walk Southern Hills in Tulsa when it’s 105 degrees in July and then come talk to me.  And even if those two examples may be minor, where does it end?  The whole point of an athletic contest is for the players to compete against each other under a common set of rules, and the best player on that day wins.  And while the battle is not always to the strong, nor the race always to the swift—that’s the way to bet.  But when we start changing the rules to benefit individual players who are not as gifted as others, the nature of the competition is lost.

Look, the fact of the matter is we are all different.  We have different talents and different abilities.  Different strengths, and, yes, different weaknesses.  Not everybody can do everything, and at some point the distinction between “disabled” and “not good enough” becomes blurry indeed.  At 5’7”, I can’t dunk; does that count as a “disability” such that there should be some rule change to allow me to play college basketball?  No coach in his right mind is going to keep a kid off the team if he’s among the best who try out, regardless of whatever “disability” he has; in that sense, disabled students have the same access other students have.  But with limited rosters and finite resources, the reality is not everyone makes the team.  Able-bodied students get cut, too.

Rusty, you don’t have to change the rules of competitive varsity teams; you could just run a parallel program with disabled students playing other teams of disabled students, just like was done for girls through Title IX.

The parallel program concept is practically unworkable.  First, there aren’t going to be enough disabled students to fill teams.  Second, resources are already stretched thin, and frankly we already spend too much on interscholastic sports in comparison to what we pay our teachers.  Most importantly, however, this isn’t like Title IX and women’s sports.  It’s pretty easy to figure out—with incredibly rare Olympic exceptions—who’s a woman and who isn’t.  But what counts as a disability, if you’re going to start creating parallel programs?  Do you have to be blind or missing one or more limbs?  What if you’re just really, really slow?  And there’s the not so small point of where does it end?  How many “separate but equal” athletic programs do we have to set up to accommodate this shortcoming, that stigma, and the other deficiency?

At some point we are going to have to come to grips with the fact that everyone is different, and that you can’t legislate equality of outcome.  It isn’t possible to make all things equally accessible to all people.  No amount of rules changing or other “reasonable accommodation” is ever going to make the playing field totally level.  The simple truth is we’re not all meant to be athletes, and not everyone belongs on that field, whether it’s because we’re too small, too slow, lack sufficient hand-eye coordination, or are blind.

And that’s OK.

We Cannot Self-Censor To Pacify Islam

DiBergi:          “This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within.  The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted.  They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.”

Tufnel:           That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?

            —Rob Reiner as Marty DiBergi and Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap

 

It is now fully seven days after U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others were killed in an attack on a U.S. embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya.  Mobs displaying varying degrees of violence (ranging from what CNN calls the “peaceful” chanting of “Death to America!” to actually storming in and setting the joint on fire) continue to mass around U.S. diplomatic installations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, London, Pakistan, Paris, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Yet we’ve still had no address to the nation from the President of the United States.

According to the U.S. government, all of this rage and violence—including the military-style hit on Ambassador Stevens, complete with RPGs and well-targeted mortar fire—is spontaneous demonstration stemming solely from a YouTube video produced by Sam Bacile titled “Innocence of Muslims.”  Ironically, without all the outrage over the supposed disrespectful depiction of Mohammed—more on that in a second—no one anywhere would have ever seen this piece of crap.  I’ll bet you a million dollars 99% of the people actually involved in the protests haven’t seen it.  Yet by murdering diplomats and setting embassies on fire, they’ve drawn global attention to the insult, thus heaping slander upon slander a million-fold.

Who’s worse, the blasphemer, or the one who broadcasts the blasphemy to the world?

Now, as I mentioned in the last post, I’ve seen this thing.  Yes, it appears to depict Mohammed in an unflattering light, although frankly it’s so poorly put together it’s difficult even to gather that much.  The script writing is straight out of Beavis and Butthead, it is obviously and crudely overdubbed to insert words like “Mohammed” in places where the actors’ dialogue clearly didn’t use his name, the costuming and production values look like something you’d expect from iCarly (not the Nickelodeon TV show, but the teen-produced internet show-within-the-show), and the editing is so choppy it’s almost impossible to discern even much of a story line.  In short, it’s almost completely unintelligible, and could just as easily be considered a spoof on anti-Muslim bigotry as a serious attempt to smear Mohammed.

How any rational adult could take this garbage seriously enough to be offended by it is beyond me; the Islamists do it waaaaayyyyy too much credit.

And yet not only do we have these murderous vandals swarming all over the Middle East screaming death threats and setting U.S. property on fire, but we have our government falling all over itself to apologize to them.  Hillary Clinton and the State Department are out there condemning the video as “disgusting and reprehensible.”  The White House asked YouTube to examine whether it violated YouTube’s conditions of use (I thought those were a private arrangement between the users and YouTube, not a federal law enforcement mechanism, but I digress…).  The FBI is investigating the film’s producer.  And the media has gone out of its way to make sure you and the world know that this guy is a convicted fraud.

It’s outrageous.  It’s a scandal.

Well, here’s my question:  where was all of this moral outrage in 1999 when the Museum of Art was exhibiting Chris Ofili’s perverted The Holy Virgin Mary, a painting of the Virgin Mary covered in feces and surrounded by little photos of vaginas?  Then-Senate candidate Hillary Clinton told PBS in response to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to close the museum that “it is not appropriate to punish an institution such as the Brooklyn museum that has served this community with distinction over many years.”

Did the U.S. federal government issue an official condemnation of Andres Serrano’s photograph Piss Christ, an “ingenious” image of a crucifix submerged in a mason jar filled with the artist’s own urine?  Um, no—it sponsored a competition award to him in 1987 through a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment of the “Arts.”

[As an aside, who even thinks of these things?  When did poop and pee become “art,” much less anything other than just gross to anyone over about three years old?]

How much time did the FBI spend investigating Mel Gibson in 2004 for the extremely unflattering depiction of the Jewish Sanhedrin as bloodthirsty killers in The Passion of the Christ?

You heard nothing out of the federal government in any of these instances, because there was no murderous mob to appease.  Catholics didn’t take to the streets and set cars on fire over the excretion-based desecrations of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin.  Jews didn’t storm government buildings and throw Molotov cocktails over Gibson’s Good Friday narrative.  The Chinese don’t murder diplomats over movies portraying them as gangsters (see Year of the Dragon).  You don’t see Buddhists screaming “Death to America!” because Bill Murray accused the Dalai Lama of stiffing him on a tip (see Caddyshack).

The fact is no one else on earth acts like this.  The only people on the planet who fly off in an extended infantile, homicidal, destructive rampage at the slightest perceived affront are the Islamists, and they are as predictable as the sunrise in this respect.  So why do we indulge them with repeated apologies, and push a speech-chilling policy of official condemnation and investigation against their antagonist?  Any parent knows that the remedy to chronic toddler meltdowns is not appeasement; fawning attention only fans the flames.

I, for one, am sick of this, and I’m sick of them.  And we cannot and should not alter our fundamental nature to accommodate their grossly over-developed sense of insult.  We have a First Amendment in this country.  I don’t much care for Bacile’s imbecilic video.  I also don’t care for essentially anything that comes out of the mouth of Barack Obama.  But Bacile’s entitled to make his movie, and Obama’s entitled to make his speeches.  My remedy isn’t to silence them through government intimidation, no matter how big a temper-tantrum I throw.

The test for acceptable speech cannot rest on whether this group or that group is prone to getting upset and overreacting.  It is a dangerous precedent indeed to say we have free speech unless what you say is going to offend Muslims, because when they get offended they spend days and days setting things on fire and killing people.

Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Where does that end?  What else can I not say or do because it might offend the Islamists and they get crazy when they’re offended?  Worse, how long before some other group of miscreants or malcontents recognizes the tool that’s been made available to them—that  you can get the government to bend over and to shut the opposition up if you just make it clear that you’re easily upset and you have a tendency to waste people and destroy millions of dollars worth of property when you’re upset?  What kind of chaos ensues if we all act like that?

How about this:  what say we try to act like adults here, and encourage our hyper-sensitive neighbors in the Middle East to do the same.  And if you don’t have enough self-control to keep yourself from launching into the mother-of-all-epic-hissy-fits if the anti-Mohammed theme offends you?

Don’t watch it.

The Ebbing Tide Of Personal Responsibility

“Private Pyle, if there is one thing in this world that I hate, it is an unlocked footlocker!!  You know that, don’t you?  If it wasn’t for dickheads like you, there wouldn’t be any thievery in this world, would there?”

            —R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket

Last week it was reported that New York City public schools were loosening their disciplinary code to eliminate suspensions for, among other things, cutting class, cussing, and smoking.  According to Chancellor Dennis Walcott:

“[W]e don’t just push students out of the classroom where they’re not learning as well . . . [o]ur goal is also to make sure if counseling is appropriate we put counseling in place for them and not just suspend.

“Education law specialist” Nelson Mar echoed the sentiment:

“Often times when children are removed for disciplinary measures it has a negative impact on education, so they have a greater likelihood of failing their classes and also a greater likelihood of them dropping out.

And an unnamed parent also agreed, saying:

“Often kids acting out need more support, not less.  I think guidance would help the student thrive in school more.”

The idea, as best I can tell, is we don’t want to suspend the student, because doing so risks alienating the kid from school, thus compounding the problem.  Better to talk to them, tassel their hair, and give them a hug than to mete out punishment.

What?!?

This is tells you a lot of what’s wrong and getting worse in this country.  We’re so worried about not hurting children’s feelings that we’re failing to teach the basic life skills necessary to function in a free society: self-discipline, self-control, and personal responsibility.  Not that these things are necessarily the primary responsibility of the public schools—these things really should be being taught at home.  But the NYC school situation is indicative of a larger problem.

I think back to when I was a kid growing up in the 1970s.  The little league baseball organization in the small town I lived in gave a “sportsmanship” award to the players on the last place team every year.  In other words, in an effort to ensure that everyone got included and everyone got a prize, the league rewarded failure.

But at least we kept score.

There is a growing trend towards non-competitive no-scoring leagues for youth sports, where the games are played, but no score is kept, and at the end of play no one wins and no one loses (query whether they even count balls, strikes, and outs).  At least not officially.  The idea is to emphasize fun, sportsmanship, and learning the basics of the game, and I’m all for that for younger children to a point.  But at some point you have to recognize the perhaps unintended consequences of what you’re teaching, particularly when you understand that this is only one cog in a larger wheel.

A 2008 ABC News piece reported that an increasing number of American public schools were eliminating failing grades altogether, opting instead for do-over opportunities.  Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor said that “If the choice is between letting kids fail and giving them another opportunity to succeed, I’m going to err on the side of opportunity.”  In Texas we actually had to enact a statute to prevent some school districts from instituting a “minimum grade” threshold of 50, 60, or—yes, this was seriously proposed—70 regardless of the student’s actual performance, and then had to go to court to defend it.  Of course, no small part of the motivation for this move is that the adults in charge—the administrators and teachers—are evaluated largely by the performance of the students.  Eliminating failure (or minimizing its magnitude) by decree gives the appearance of better performance, and thus better evaluations for the faculty, and that’s a whole lot easier than pushing the students to actually do the work to learn the material and pass.  Once again, we seem to miss what we’re teaching when in the interest of self-esteem we give 20 work a passing grade of 70.

Even at home I see a trend towards the avoidance of any adverse results, rather than on preparation and work.  In my girls’ school, we have frequently seen parents obviously doing their kids’ homework for them.  Parents are even going so far as to pull their children out of school for the day just prior to a test for which the child hasn’t prepared, instead of keeping kid in class and making them experience what happens when it’s test time and they haven’t studied.

And have you seen a video game lately?  I confess we have some of these in my house.  Standard fare involves moving a character through a virtual world—fantasy Dungeons & Dragons type stuff, post-apocolyptic dystopia, World War, da ‘hood, you name it—where you kill everyone and everything you see.  Or you get killed.  Except that your character never actually dies, it just starts over wherever you left off.  It was one thing when you got three lives in Pac-Man; you were talking about a pizza-shaped cartoon, and your do-overs were limited by the number of quarters you had.  Here your character is human (albeit virtual), and the extra lives are limitless.

What’s the common thread?  There are no consequences.  There is no reward for effort and success, just for showing up, and there is no downside for failure.  There is no punishment for failing to adhere to minimum social norms.   This is what we’re teaching when nobody wins or loses, nobody fails, nobody gets kicked out, and nobody dies.  It’s just an endless series of do-overs, all in the name of preserving self-esteem.

Well, it’s no wonder, then, that we find ourselves increasingly in a culture of entitlement that embraces the concept of the free lunch and the bailout.  Whether it’s TARP money to banks, welfare with no expectation of actually getting a job, or government-forced forgiveness (or taxpayer-funded buyout) of loan principal, more and more we expect we will be relieved of any  burden associated with our actions.  Why wouldn’t we expect that, if from childhood we’ve never been expected to follow the rules, and it didn’t matter whether we did the work and learned the material because we’d get a passing 70 either way.  Everyone gets the same reward whether they win or lose.  Why should it be any different when we’re adults?

A child of whom nothing’s ever been expected can’t really be expected to produce results when it matters.  I have news for you, but the Chinese don’t give a rat’s ass whether it hurts your feelings that their engineers are better equipped and take your job.  The real world is competitive.  There are winners and losers.  Actions have consequences.  People die, and there is no second life.

If we haven’t learned to compete as children, if we haven’t been taught the self-respect that comes from personal responsibility and achievement (rather than the false self-worth that comes from everything in life having been handed to you for free), we will have no chance of leading in the world of the future, or of providing for ourselves and determining our own destiny.

There will be none of us left who knows how.

*********************************

As an aside, I’m finishing this up about 6:00 p.m. on Monday evening and looking at the program guide for Dish Network.  CNN—the same cable “news” network that gave the RNC convention selected coverage last week—is currently running “Countdown Democratic Convention.”  That’s followed at 7:00 p.m. by “Obama Revealed,” which bills itself as a sit-down conversation with Barack Obama about his time in office.  And the two programs alternate, without break, until 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow they cover the DNC convention from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00, give Piers Morgan an hour, then replay the convention from midnight to 2:00 a.m., and again from 3:00 to 4:00 a.m.

But there’s no bias in the mainstream media.

Real And Present Danger

 
K:        We do not discharge our weapons in view of the public! 
J:         Man, we ain’t got time for this cover-up bullshit! I don’t know whether or not you’ve forgotten, but there’s an Arquillian Battle Cruiser that’s about to . . .
K:        There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do . . . not . . . KNOW ABOUT IT! 
           —Tommy Lee Jones as K, and Will Smith as J in Men In Black
 
This is going to shock some of you who are regular readers of this space, but I feel I must speak out on a matter of critical environmental concern.  While I am not normally a rabid Greenie, I do care for the Earth, and I fear that organizations like EPA and the Sierra Club have allowed themselves to become distracted with political issues to the point that they’re missing one of the gravest dangers of our time.  And we are all at risk.
For years now, those at the vanguard of the environmental movement have been crusading against greenhouse gases, among them CO2.  That’s carbon dioxide: you know, the stuff you exhale when you breathe, and that green plants use in photosynthesis (a critical byproduct of which is oxygen).  Never mind that the planet was under an endless cycle of warming and cooling for billions of years before humans arrived on the scene, that there are serious issues with fraudulent data, or that a significant number of scientists dissent from the Leftist party line that the planet is catastrophically warming and it’s all our fault.  Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, we’re talking about a threat that’s relatively abstract and long term.  I’m concerned with an immediate and concrete threat we face right now:
This dangerous compound is colorless and odorless.  It is 100% volatile, yet not biodegradable, meaning once present in the environment it exists forever in an endless cycle of evaporation into the atmosphere and condensation onto the surface.  This compound is widespread, and multi-faceted in the dangers it presents.  Among its evils:
—          Over 1.2 million people, mostly children, die each year from accidental inhalation;
—          Exposure to certain forms of the compound causes severe tissue damage, in some cases leading to infection, limb loss, and even death;
—          Contact under certain conditions can cause severe burns;
—          It has been known to be found in biopsies of cancerous lesions;
—          Can lead to hypothermia in some environments;
—          Ingestion in excessive quantities leads to unpleasant physical side effects, including bloating, weight gain, and increased urination;
—          Physical dependency can make withdrawal fatal within a matter of days;
—          Identified as a major contributing factor to certain forms of erosion;
—          Extremely corrosive, and can lead to mechanical and electrical failures;
—          Suspected by many scientists to be a key factor in violent weather phenomena such as hurricanes, and also a contributor to El Nino;
—          Responsible for millions in property damage annually.
Worse, this compound has become so widely used in our modern society that it is almost ubiquitous.  You have almost certainly been exposed to it at one time or another, and some studies have indicated that in the United States and other industrial nations it may be present in as much as 100% of the population.  It is used as an industrial solvent and coolant, in the development of weapons of mass destruction, and as a fire retardant.  It was an essential component in the Nazi death camps.  It is found in pesticides, known carcinogens like ethyl alcohol, and in caustic and explosive compounds such as sulfuric acid and nitroglycerine.  It is a major constituent of acid rain.  As I type, some scientists and prominent activists are already warning of dangerous, potentially catastrophic increases in levels of this compound in coastal areas.  
Why are we wasting time on what CO2 might do at some undefined point in the future, when dihydrogen monoxide is killing and harming so many and costing so much right now?  We must do what we can to get the engines of government focused on this urgent and life-threatening issue.  Please contact your congressman today and urge them to pressure EPA to quit spinning its wheels on CO2 and Big Oil, and start taking seriously the imminent dangers of dihydrogen monoxide before it’s too late.
For more information, go to DHMO.org.