New column on the abuse of adjuncts by colleges in The Modesto Bee

Academia lectures the public about caring for the marginalized and oppressed in our society, while systematically marginalizing at least half the faculty teaching in its own institutions:   “Assigned only one or two classes per term with no guarantee of any assignment, they have no benefits, little respect and pathetic pay.  They are the Dixie Cups of higher education:  plentiful, cheap, and disposable.”  My column in The Modesto Bee.  Please share if you agree . . .

 

To Love, Honor, & Cherish . . .

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I did not realize, until spotting Mark Steyn’s column, that today is the 10th anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death through court-ordered dehydration/starvation.  The legal battle between her family and her estranged husband became a national debate, and so was naturally the subject of many heated arguments in the weekly meetings I then attended of Modesto Bee Community Columnists.  Frustrated, I finally put my odd-woman-out thoughts on paper, although the Bee never published it, as it did not meet the “local angle” requirement.

TO LOVE, HONOR AND CHERISH

by Leslie Beggs (2005)

The world is topsy-turvy. When Congress intervened to attempt to have Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted, Michael Schiavo called it a “sad day . . . because the government is going to come in and trample all over your personal, family matters.” But it is precisely her family who wants her kept alive, and it is he, who lives with another woman and their two children, who wants his legal wife, personally, dead.

Terri Schiavo is caught in a web of he-says vs. my-family-says because she did not leave a written living will document. Her husband claims he is doing out of love what his wife would have wanted. However, a former workmate of Terri’s claims that he was a control freak who monitored the odometer of Terri’s car to make sure she wasn’t making unallowed stops after work. Both the friend and Terri’s family further assert that Terri was planning to leave him.

Instead she experienced her brain-damaging heart attack, and now the husband she was allegedly going to leave, is insisting that she die. The parents claim (along with some doctors and nurses) that Terri is responsive, that she laughs, cries, and at times attempts to speak. They also claim that she could swallow, but that Michael Schiavo has diligently prevented any type of rehabilitation. Mr. Schiavo and his experts claim that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, that she feels nothing, that her reactions are random brain stem reflexes.

But if she really is in a state of total unself-consciousness, then how does sustaining her with food and water (she breathes on her own just fine) cause her to suffer? If there is no there there, then why can’t Mr. Schiavo let her parents, who are begging to care for their daughter, do so? If she does have some level of awareness and reaction to those around her, how does death through starvation/dehydration, not amount to cruel murder?

A Florida ACLU spokesman claims that the judge who refused to re-hear the case is protecting “the freedom of people to make their own end-of-life decisions without the intrusion of politicians.” But Terri left no written directive and her family contradicts the husband’s version of events at every turn. If there is not reasonable doubt for preserving Terri’s life, then there can be no doubt on anyone’s behalf.

None of us in the public knows who is telling the truth and who is lying regarding Terri Schiavo’s condition, much less how she got there. (Mr. Schiavo will not let cameras into the hospital room.) But we do know that medical experts and legal experts are human, and thus not omniscient when it comes to Terri’s level of awareness.

How can a society which takes extraordinary measures to save beached dolphins (how do we know they didn’t beach themselves on purpose?), justify the legally-directed killing of a woman based primarily on the hearsay evidence of a husband whose marriage vows have long been broken?

So the parents watch their daughter die of thirst while Michael Schiavo’s lawyer celebrates this exercise of Terri’s “personal liberty.” If legal due process does indeed lead to the death of this brain-damaged woman who cannot speak for herself, then our legal system is gravely morally-damaged. So are we.

FIRE’S Top Ten “Winners” in the War Against Free Speech

          Here in America, the danger to free expression is beginning to be greatest where it should be most defended, that is to say, within the walls of the academy.

~Salman Rushdie, 2015

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) just issued its 4th Annual Top 10 List for “threats to free speech on campus.”

As Kirsten Powers said of the list, “Read it and weep.”  I read it, and not only because my college made the list for a case I’m all too familiar with, but because my own experience introduced me to FIRE’s work supporting free speech across the nation.

Sadly, there is enough free-expression suppression going on in our institutions of higher learning to keep FIRE busy for decades – far too many administrators, faculty & students treat the U.S. Constitution as if it was something they dimly remember from a boring high school fiction class.  Taken as whole, this year’s Top Ten list makes an excellent case for regarding higher education as a very expensive absurdist play.  As for weeping, peruse the list for yourself and see if Powers isn’t onto something.

The utter stupidity of the knee-jerk “I’m offended” reactions is stunning.  An artist at the University of Iowa set up a temporary art installation – a statue of a robed KKK wizard made out of a collage of newspaper articles covering racial violence from 1908-2010 – and students instantly assumed his “statement art” was making a statement celebrating racism rather than decrying it. This is rather like seeing a cross from the highway and assuming whoever put it there is a fan of crucifixion.

Instead of being embarrassed by their faux pas, the intolerant students demanded that the statue be whisked away out of sight, and so it was.  The administration soothed them predictably, assuring offended students that their campus had “no room for divisive, insensitive, and intolerant displays.” Further, UI President Sally Mason made a public apology to students who felt “terrorized” by the artwork and for U.I.’s failure to provide a “respectful, all-inclusive, educational environment.”  U.I. even allowed “victimized” students to put off exams and other work.

And pretty much anything terrorizes college students these days.  Ever gone to a birthday party at Chevy’s and taken home a sombrero?  You might want to bury it quietly in the backyard on a moonless night.  If caught, don’t be surprised if you, like the ADPi sorority at Cal-State Fullerton, find yourself coordinating a mandatory training session covering “cultural competencies and diversity.”  Members of the sorority were so sentenced after committing the grievous sin of serving tacos at their “Taco Tuesday” recruiting event, while wearing “sombreros and other Mexican garb.”

What’s next?  Will just liking tacos make us guilty of dietary aggression?  Could I utter the words “Spaghetti Western” without being hauled off to get my cultural competencies rearranged — or will I get a pass because I’m half Italian?  Perhaps only my Irish half will require “re-education.”  So . . . is it offensive if I set out a baked potato buffet on top of my Irish linen tablecloth, or should I switch it out for a more neutral tablecloth first?

And could someone please explain to me how it is “sensitive” to FORCE rogue students or faculty to take sensitivity training whose sole purpose is to make their opinions conform to campus-sanctified PC opinion?   “All-inclusive” is clearly short for “all-who-believe-exactly-what-we-believe-inclusive.”  Those of you who don’t toe the line need to be excluded and punished, even for the way you dress off campus:  Such demands should be recognized for what they are:  sanctioned bullying.

As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff argues, colleges “not only fall short on promises of free expression and academic freedom but openly suppress constitutionally protected speech on campus by using tools such as speech codes to shut down forms of expression that might be uncomfortable, disagreeable or even offensive to some members of the campus community.”

I remember sitting, decades ago, in a college philosophy class and hearing “I think; therefore I am.”  But “thinking” is just so . . .  passé.  Too many seem to have embraced a new version asserting their own existence: “I am; therefore I’m offended.  Placate me.”  Academia talks the talk of “diversity,” and while it works hard to bring in employees and students who LOOK different on the outside, it seems dedicated to producing Stepford students and faculty who think exactly alike on all the de rigueur PC isms of the moment.

And my college?  Modesto Junior College stopped student Robert Van Tuinen from passing out free copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.  Months later, after paying a $50,000 settlement to Van Tuinen, the unrepentant Chancellor wrote an op-ed in the local paper asserting that he wasn’t prevented from handing out the Constitutions after all – i.e., don’t believe your lyin’ eyes.  You can watch the video here – but if it brings back horrible memories of the awful absurdist play your high school teacher made you sit through, don’t complain.  This is your official Trigger Warning.

Once Upon a Time, Place and Manner . . .

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by Leslie Beggs

Colleges and universities have been raking in the negative PR of late, and not just because the lousy job market has left grads and their parental units staggering under the huge college loan debt typically handed out with their diplomas.  There’s also growing evidence that while diplomas specify the recipient’s major subject area, too many students have picked up concurrent shadow degrees in the up-and-coming field of Intolerance, hence the rude trend of disinviting graduation guest speakers.

Apparently, higher education leaves them in such a fragile emotional state that they dare not risk hearing from anyone who doesn’t meet their 100% organically-certified ideological purity standards. This is no surprise given that the once lush groves of academe have withered down to mostly one species of left-leaning cacti – and a prickly one at that.  Academic freedom and free speech currently are about as welcome on campuses as a mink coat at a PETA convention.

We’ve experienced the new era of hyper-regulated speech up close and in person here at Modesto Junior College, where my husband has taught since 1991.  Last fall he spotted a video in which a college student is stopped by a campus security officer from passing out free booklets to passersby.  The freebie?  Copies of the U.S. Constitution.  The date?  September 17th, Constitution Day.  The video, now with over 240,000 views, is what is known in the PR world as “bad optics.”

As my husband peered closer at the ludicrous story – and believe me, it takes a lot to divert him from an online Scrabble battle — he recognized a familiar face.  “Hey – that’s my student!”  Rob Van Tuinen, following a six-year stint in the Army, had decided it would be a good idea to start a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) Chapter on campus while pursuing his degree.

But Van Tuinen  quickly learned that he was not at liberty to promote a club celebrating our unique American liberties because he had violated MJC’s “Time, Place & Manner” Policy, which governs the conditions under which “free” speech enterprises may be allowed to occur on our campus.  Van Tuinen had not filled out the Limited Public Forum Request Form  five business days in advance, had not been granted permission, and worse still, was just standing willy-nilly on the sidewalk offering U.S. Constitutions to whoever walked by, instead of confining himself to the tiny “free speech” area, a concrete stage off the beaten path.  Fortunately, he was smart enough to operate his smartphone camera and capture his run-ins with MJC’s irony-impaired staff.

The "Free Speech" Stage

The “Free Speech” Stage

When national news media picked up his story, MJC deservedly found itself a magnet for ridicule and attempted damage control through its own social media:

. . . (YCCD) colleges have free speech areas on campus for activities such as distributing material on campus.  In addition, people can distribute material in the areas generally available to students and the community as long as they don’t “disrupt the orderly operation of the college.”  In the case of the YouTube video, it does not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operation of the college.  Therefore, we are looking into the matter . . .“

~ MJC Facebook page, Sept. 19th, 2013

On Sept 22nd, President Jill Stearns took her case to the local newspaper, which paired her column next to one I had written on the same topic. She complained about the media coverage and regretted not MJC’s treatment of Van Tuinen, but the media’s treatment of MJC. Her lament that people who were calling to complain “have no interest in the fact that we carve out designated free speech areas” to minimize “disruption” only confirmed the suspicion that she still did not understand that there is nothing free about speech that must be approved by officialdom, granted an appointment, and then relegated to a tiny area.

By September 27th, Stearns took a more conciliatory tone in a press release.  However, MJC’s allegedly “comprehensive review” — which somehow did not include talking to Rob Van Tuinen – had found the usual go-to excuse whenever bad policies are caught behaving badly:  a misunderstanding:

We deeply regret this misunderstanding. College staff have been provided the policy and procedure for review and follow-up training is planned to further ensure that clear and accurate information is provided in the future.

~MJC President Jill Stearns, News Release, Sept 27th,2013

Note the subtle scapegoating of the staff – why else would they need follow-up training unless they had screwed up a perfectly fine free-speech policy1 by giving Van Tuinen confusing and inaccurate information? Her statement also noted that a formal apology had been sent to the student, so I asked Van Tuinen what he thought of it.  He hadn’t seen the press release and had heard nothing about an apology.2

Two days later, it arrived in his mailbox.  Sticking to the same narrative as the press release, Stearns did not apologize for MJC’s anti-First Amendment speech controls, but for “the lack of clear communication regarding distribution of materials on campus . . . “

Although Van Tuinen appreciated the apology, he wasn’t buying the “misunderstanding” narrative, probably because he had read the “Free Speech” Guidelines which Administrative Specialist Christine Serrano can be seen handing him in the video.  He knew that both the security officer who stopped him and Serrano had enforced the Guidelines exactly as written.  If anything, they could teach the follow-up training that Stearns had promised.

The non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which serves as a national watchdog protecting free speech rights on college campuses, wasn’t buying it either. FIRE’s Peter Bonilla had already sent a letter to President Stearns detailing the many sins committed against the First Amendment by MJC’s speech code.  He also offered absolution by volunteering to aid MJC in rewriting it – for free.   MJC’s leadership, however, wasn’t interested in free.  (FIRE tells me they have two people on staff who help colleges across the country right their speech code wrongs.)

Van Tuinen had little faith that MJC’s “ongoing” policy review process would actually go anywhere.  He decided to sue to get the speech rules changed to conform to the U.S. Constitution, which is, as he can be heard arguing in the video, “the highest law in the land” – as if that might matter.  With the help of FIRE, his attorneys filed suit twenty-four days after his initial run-in with MJC’s speech code enforcers.

Although he eventually prevailed in getting the Constitution-compliant policies he wanted, settling out of court in February, the continuing resistance of MJC’s leaders to admit they ever abridged Van Tuinen’s First Amendment freedoms is troubling . . . and a little weird.   Some would argue that because Stearns apologized and settled out of court, that whatever protestations MJC leaders made in the aftermath should be ignored. It’s over and done with.  But what is not known widely is that there were retaliatory measures taken against faculty who disputed the party-line – a story that hopefully can be told another day.*

But beyond those retaliations, the way MJC’s leaders tried to conceal how restrictive their speech code really was – using a carefully crafted brew of misleading talking points and legalese — ought to give pause to those who just want to move on. I can’t, because I love MJC and I hate what’s happened to it.  Three generations of my family have gone here: my father in the 50’s, I in the 70’s, my sons after me and a slew of other family members, some currently attending or working here.  Our college has many great teachers and staff, a world-class observatory and a lovely tree-laden campus.  But the events depicted in the video should never have happened – and the leaders who created the toxic micro-managing culture in which they did happen have yet to admit they erred in any way.

Instead, MJC has continued to argue that Van Tuinen could have passed out his materials beyond the free speech stage, since he wasn’t being “disruptive.”  During the initial weeks of attempted damage control, every statement mentioning those other permissible campus places for free speech used the exact same phrase:  “the areas generally available to students and the community.”  Sounds natural, right?

Mom, can I go out and play? 

Sure, honey, you can go out and play in the areas generally available to children and the neighborhood.

This quirk of repeated exact wording caught my attention, so I dug a little deeper into MJC’s Time, Place & Manner policy for the East Campus and found the fine print: “the area(s) generally available to students and the community is designated as the stage area Northeast section [sic] of the quad.”  The Guidelines likewise identify the “stage area northeast of the Quad” as the lone East Campus “area(s) generally available to students and the community.” They also specified that the distribution of printed matter “shall take place only within the area(s) generally available to students and the community,”  i.e., the stage.  Don’t even think about wandering around campus offering Constitutions to any passersby who might accept one – that would be anarchy.

So there you have it:  the free speech area and “the areas generally available to students and the community” are different names for the same place:  the concrete stage.  Every time MJC officials protested that in addition to the stage, which was unavailable, Van Tuinen could have also passed out free Constitutions from “the areas generally  . . . “  they were really saying that although he couldn’t use the stage on Constitution Day, he could have used the stage; likewise, although he was stopped from handing out Constitutions, MJC claims he wasn’t stopped.  This is the sort of mutually contradictory nonsense Captain Kirk would use to fry evil supercomputers in Star Trek.

If it was obvious to you that “the areas generally available  . . .” consisted of a smallish concrete stage, and nothing but this stage, please raise your hand.    If this doublespeak definition makes your head hurt, you are beginning to understand the Orwellian word games being played here.

Who gave the higher-ups at MJC the idea that the First Amendment ought to be house-trained, collared and stuck on a short leash to a concrete stage?  And where did they get the notion to use wording in such a deceptive way that they could appear to fully support expansive free speech rights while failing to mention that their own fine-print definition shrank it down to a few square feet of concrete on the east campus?

What the press release giveth, the fine print taketh away.

There was no misunderstanding here, and no “lack of clear communication,” between Van Tuinen and the employees who stopped him on Constitution Day, as Stearns claimed in her apologies.  It’s obvious that the security guard and Serrano knew the Guidelines and were well-versed in how to approach a rogue free-speecher.

No, what the YouTube video reveals is not poor communication about good policies, but accurate communication about bad policies.  That they were changed via Van Tuinen’s lawsuit is the good news.

The bad news is that the Constitution Day episode reveals that what we have here at MJC is not a failure to communicate, but a concerted effort by administration to miscommunicate.

Chancellor Joan Smith says that “MJC cherishes free speech and always will.” I’m thinking we should start digging through the 500 or so pages of policies and procedures to locate the fine-print definition of “cherish.”

~

*Go here to see more of the story in the video that FIRE released on June 25th, 2014 about Van Tuinen’s experience — Quarantining the Constitution: The Fight for Free Speech on a California Campus

Here’s a great article by Tim Cushing of TechDirt, discussing the all-campus email that Dr. Holly sent out in support of Rob Van Tuinen.

~

1Dying to get a rough idea of how academic bureaucracies come to have their reams of rules and regs? Boards of Trustees set district policies – many of which are mandated by their parent bureaucracies at the state and federal levels: the state chancellor’s office, Ed. Codes, etc.   In this task, boards are often provided templates from the Community College League of California (CCLC), which informs trustees which provisions are legally required, and which are recommended.

Relevant constituency groups have their input, and then the chancellor submits the proposed policy to the board, which either leaves it as is or tinkers with it and then approves it after a second reading. The chancellor then creates the specific procedures which enact the policy.    The Guidelines given to students filling out the request form to use the free speech area, were yet another iteration of the Time, Place & Manner policy, and of mysterious parentage.

Revision of existing policies typically occurs when Ed. Code changes require alterations.  Ed. Code 76120 requires that colleges have some sort of Time, Place & Manner policy.  However, these policies are not, despite multiple attempts to the contrary, supposed to supersede the First Amendment and applicable case law.

2In none of MJC’s statements is Rob Van Tuinen mentioned by name, with the exception of the post-settlement Bee opinion piece by Smith.  He was always “the student” in “the incident.”  Another subtle way to tell him, besides not talking to him when investigating “the incident,” just how much he really matters . . .

Yay — Another Diss to the Tyranny of Grad DISinvitations

Dean Ryan’s letter contains precisely the advocacy for robust debate that FIRE hopes to see from college and university administrators.

~Susan Kruth, FIRE

If only Dean Ryan were the rule, rather than the exception . . .

Read the article here.

FIRE’s Latest on the ‘Disinvitation Season’

How about we have no graduation speakers at all, no graduation ceremony, and just mail you your diploma? That way you’ll be freed from the horror of hearing anything from anyone who might have done anything at any time in their past which you might disapprove of and/or who might have the temerity to say something you disagree with. And if your diploma arrives in any way folded, spindled, or mutilated, consider it an apt metaphor for your university-educated brain.

Read the article here.

NSA’s Bulk Data Collection Fail

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board‘s just-released report doesn’t detail a single instance of the NSA’s bulk data collection leading to the foiling of a terrorist plot — for the simple reason that this oversight agency couldn’t find any — and yet, the mantra “to keep Americans safe” is incessantly uttered by  the NSA’s defenders whenever the wisdom (not to mention legality) of collecting pretty much every data bit generated by everyone, ever, is questioned.  (Well, once the NSA finally-sort of-almost-maybe admitted that’s what they might be doing — for your own good, of course. See how that one flies with Angela Merkel.)

With this latest report revealing that the NSA’s counter-terrorism claims have been wildly exaggerated, the data stockpile’s potential use for corruption ought also to get a closer look.  Even if 99.9 percent of NSA employees are 99.9 percent pure, a few bad-apple agents with ill intentions could partner with a few  bad-apple politicians or government officials — for the sake of symmetry, let’s pretend there are only a few — and use the available data for blackmail, coercion, or the kind of anonymous leaks that send political enemies scrambling for rehab or other cover.

As for the claim that no NSA agent could improperly access such data without others knowing about it, there is an obvious answer:  Edward Snowden.

Equally absurd is the assumption that the NSA would or could know about all misuse of data — or that the NSA’s assurances that no abuse has occurred are in any way meaningful.  Last time I checked, the reason blackmailers are often successful is that the victim cannot reveal the blackmailer without revealing whatever it was that made the victim blackmailable in the first place.

What?  500 phone calls last month to ‘Bunny’?  Sure,  I can explain that.  Yeah . . . that’s a nickname for my . . . uh . . . accountant.

So perhaps it’s time, despite the president’s assurances about the necessity of bulk data collection,  for the NSA to focus on targeted data-gathering and analysis instead, and to make sure the pertinent results are promptly shared with other law enforcement agencies.  After all, in piling up its mountainous haystack of all cyber data that was, is (and ever shall be, if the NSA prevails against its critics),  the NSA seems to have missed a few needles — in fact, every needle of late.

With more selective data and analysis, the NSA might, for instance,  have come across the Tsarnaev brothers perusing an online magazine for the do-it-yourselfer terrorist, checking out the helpful “How To” page for making pressure-cooker bombs.  Alerted law enforcement agencies might subsequently have flagged their purchases for the “ingredients,” and a pre-Boston Marathon arrest could and should have occurred.

Tragically, no such arrest was made. In today’s uber politically correct climate, it is apparently considered “Islamophobic”  to focus our data-culling on the places where terrorists tend to “hang out” — in both the cyber world and the real world.  Even though the Russians had earlier warned the FBI about the Tsarnaevs’ family ties to Chechen rebels and the elder brother’s six known visits to an Islamic militant in the Russian republic of Dagestan,  that info wasn’t considered compelling enough to tap not only into their particular data stream, but to actually pay attention to where they were swimming in tha stream. Instead, various Tsarnaevs were interviewed by various FBI agents.  The apparent gist:

Are you  terrorists?

No.

Oh.  OK.

How else to explain that shortly thereafter, when the brothers were learning to cook with nails and ball bearings, no one in the we-need-your-data-to-protect-you trade was paying attention?  (And we worry that Snowden has tipped off the bad guys??)

Likewise, our data-gatherers were also spectacularly incurious about  an Air Force major who ordered business cards online that described him as a  “Soldier for Allah,” and was email pals with radical Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki.  Before it became “insensitive” to keep tabs on folks who might, by virtue of behavior, travel patterns and cultural or religious affiliations, have a higher probability of being terrorists than, say,  little old ladies from Milwaukee flying to visit great grandchildren, this sort of behavior, like collecting recipes for pressure cooker bombs,  might have sparked some serious, and prolonged, investigation.

But we don’t have to go back that far to find an example of the bulk data collection FAIL. On Jan. 24, police in Pennsylvania arrested a Russian teenager whose suitcase housed  a “weapon of mass destruction” – a bomb.  The Penn State University student reportedly built it from online purchased parts, but the police weren’t searching through his belongings in response to an NSA tip about his online activity.  They weren’t looking for a bomb at all – they were looking for pot as part of a drug investigation, and serendipitously stumbled across his other hobby.  To the original drug charges, police have added “possessing a weapon of mass destruction, risking a catastrophe, possessing instruments of crime, prohibited offensive weapons, incendiary devices, [and] recklessly endangering another person.”

So here we have another young Russian buying his terrorist wares online, and yet the NSA didn’t flag him or his online purchases.

The question is, within the mega haystack of NSA data, how many other needles have escaped notice?  And why have so many of our politicians and talking heads failed to notice that the NSA hasn’t produced a single instance in which their massive data sweep has led to the prevention of an attack?  It’s time for lawmakers to take the recommendation of the PCLOB and shut down the bulk collection of all Americans’ data, an egregious violation of the Fourth Amendment, and for the NSA to focus its full attention on the sites and behavior patterns common to terrorists.  Sometimes less is more.

This a.m., from the hubster chat files

Jim, staring at single-serve coffee maker we’ve owned for two + years: “So if it says ‘extra-bold’ that means I should choose the 10 oz. size?”

Leslie: “Yes, ‘extra-bold’ means it has enough coffee to make a larger cup. It’s not a description of the flavor.”

Jim: “I didn’t know I married some sort of javalogist.”

Leslie: “You didn’t. You married someone who reads directions.”

Jim: “I don’t think that was in the pre-nup. You should probably get some help for that.”

Can I just give to a kickstarter campaign for Steve Taylor to make more kickstarter videos like this one?

Perfection:   http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2128223578/steve-taylor-and-the-perfect-foil-new-album-really

Big Brother Goes Back to College

These revelations about surveillance being used and abused by university administrators for C.Y.A. purposes would come along less frequently if citizens understood more clearly the natural human tendency to corruption, and cherished the Constitution for what it is:  a bulwark against tyranny.    Those who want power always want more of it — that’s human nature.  The rest of us are foolish to be so easily manipulated in the alleged service of our own security.

Coming next: “You can keep your freedom if you like your freedom. Period.”

Scary stuff: The Drift Toward Despotism by Mark Steyn

Where are the Shutdown Enforcement Thugs When You Need Them?

I wonder if anyone is dressing up this Halloween as a National Park Service Officer??

Chick Curmudgeon

So when news came out that the exclusive House and Senate gyms and athletic facilities are still open during the shutdown, though they’re on the official list of shutdown closures, an unnamed source explained away the discrepancy with a rhetorical question, “How do you close a basketball court?”

Well, I’ve been studying the shutdown, as it has been masterfully enacted by the White House, or as some are now calling it, The Spite House, and I think I can help.  Start with armed officers  — that’s  the tackthat the National Park Police are taking, and it’s working quite well, not only with our own citizens, but also non-English-speaking foreign tourists, who thought they were under arrest.  Position the officers directly under the baskets.  If the phrase “No recreating!” doesn’t work, they can shoot into the balls (the basketballs).

Cones, which are blocking drivers from pulling onto scenic overlooks…

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Demanding Intolerance

 

Kudos to Mike Rowe (Discovery Channel host) for this great response to a woman who was incensed by his appearances as a guest on Glenn Beck’s show.  Her diatribe about the “horrible and psychotic” Beck is akin to the sentiments following the Being Liberal post that I wrote about yesterday in  Awkward?  

It’s interesting  — we used to hear demands from the Left  for “tolerance” and now they’re trying to keep their “own” in line by demanding that they be “intolerant” of the boogeymen/women of the Right.  I’ve never seen Rowe’s show Dirty Jobs, so I don’t know the extent to which we might disagree on core issues, but he’s obviously a fair guy and one who still possesses a rarer and rarer commodity these days:  goodwill.

But the guts of your question – even without all the name-calling and acrimony – reveal the essence of what’s broken in our country. You want to know “how I can associate” with someone you don’t like? The short answer is, how can I not? How are we ever going to accomplish anything in this incredibly divisive time if we associate only with people that we don’t disagree with?

 

Exactly.

 

Awkward?

Just saw a post on Facebook from “Being Liberal” which thanks “Americans Against the Republican Party” for a photo of a woman looking deeply distressed and forlorn as she stares at her computer screen, with this caption:

Awkward.

That moment when you connect with an old friend from high school.  And you discover that she’s a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Fox News.

It’s got over 43,000 “likes” and is pushing 9600 “shares,” and it’s coming from the very crowd that had a national hissy fit when Limbaugh said he hoped Barack Obama would “fail,” even though he’d made it clear he thought the president’s policies would hurt the country if they succeeded.

Now we’re in the midst of that hurt, with too many part-time jobs and too few full-time careers; huge national debt; record numbers of people on unemployment and/or some form of welfare assistance;  a surfeit of scandals including Fast & Furious,  Benghazi, and an IRS which targeted political opponents; a Justice Dept. which taps journalists; foreign adversaries who respect us less, allies who are angry over NSA surveillance; and a signature piece of legislation that’s proven wildly successful at getting people dumped off the health insurance plans they were assured they “can keep,” but  features a three-and-a-half year in-the making website that is about as effective as an Etch-A-Sketch at enrolling them in new health care plans.

A quick sampling of the comments following the post:

Heck, I’ve unfriended family members because I couldn’t take what they were sharing!!!

Oy! So true… AND, Glenn Beck. The worst!

I have family that are die hard Republicans. They swear by Fox News and all of the right-wing pundits. Thank God I only have to be around them once a year at Thanksgiving.

Ugh….pretty much my entire “HS” list on fb. Most of which are “do not show in newsfeed” or blocked.

I have quite a few liberal friends and relatives on Facebook, and for the record, I’ve never blocked anyone because I didn’t agree with their posts, much less “unfriended” someone because they loved MSNBC or Bill Maher or even posted photos from “Americans Against the Republican Party”  featuring condescending captions.

And yet, Being Liberal thinks my political views are unbelievably embarrassing?

What’s embarrassing is that the same people who are always lecturing the rest of us about “inclusion” and  “tolerance” and  “diversity”  seem blissfully unaware of their own tendency to be  non-inclusive, non-tolerant and non-diverse, ideologically speaking.

More importantly,  I believe they’re mistaken about human nature and thus miscalculate the likely effects of various policies or initiatives.  We subscribe to very different worldviews and place our faith in very different objects or institutions.  But there seems to be less and less mutual respect these days between people who differ philosophically, and Being Liberal’s post serves as a  snapshot in social-networking time, illustrating one of the main reasons:  the Left thinks the Right is too stupid to be worth listening to.

We’ve been “deleted” from the conversation about what ails our country and what might help it, because we listen to and admire the wrong people, and this, you see, cannot be tolerated.

And that’s not awkward; it’s sad.

Students With WAY Too Much Free Time

From the 2012 Ohio University Campaign

 

From the 2011 “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign

Thanks to Chicks on the Right for cluing us in to Ohio University’s “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign, which illustrates what happens when the humor-impaired and liberal academia meet on a holiday.  Universities used to have noble intellectual aims — now they function more as overpriced group facilitators, helping students get in touch with their Inner Victims:

The purpose of STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) is to educate and facilitate discussion about all isms (racism, sexism, classism, etc.),  raise awareness about social justice, and promote racial harmony. Our job is to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.

Really?  You want me to feel comfortable expressing my feelings?  Ok.  I feel  that you need to get over it, and spend your time at school preparing for a real job– being a professional victim is not a job — even if Jesse Jackson et al. make a fortune at it.  I further feel that you should cut the condescending campaigns which don’t promote anything but your own sense of superiority.

Do you really believe that people are so stupid that they think their cheesy Halloween costumes say anything accurate or meaningful about anybody’s culture?   In case you hadn’t noticed, Halloween is a national progressive dessert party that ends in a sugar-induced diabetic coma — it’s not a museum tour with docents, and nobody’s singing “It’s a Small World, After All,” either — well, not if they want any treats.  So please, trade in that diversity training that you’re so eager to offer to others, and learn how to laugh again, including at yourselves — it’s not as lucrative as a lifetime of earnest hypersensitivity to all the “isms” that were and are to come, but it’s a lot healthier — for everyone.