Category Archives: Culture

The Homogenization of Islam’s Holiest City

From the Economist.

Critics call this Islamic Maoism. Out went the city’s heterogeneous mix of Maliki, Shafii and Zaydi rites; in came homogenisation under the Wahhabi creed. Alongside the black and white dress they forced on women and men respectively, the new tribal rulers reshaped the urban environment, stripping away the past. They replaced the four pulpits at the foot of the Kaaba, one for each of Sunni Islam’s schools, with a single one, exclusively for Wahhabi preachers. They cleansed the faith of saint-worship, demolishing shrines venerated by Shia and traditional Sunnis alike. Of the city’s scores of holy sites, only the Kaaba survives.

Attack in London

These kinds of unsophisticated attacks are impossible to prevent except to identify and act upon people who adhere to the Islamist ideology. That’s difficult in a free society.

The Westminster attacker was British-born and known to the police and intelligence services, Prime Minister Theresa May has revealed.

She told MPs he had been investigated some years ago over violent extremism, but was “peripheral” and was not part of the current intelligence picture.

The so-called Islamic State group has said it was behind the attack.

Another Arrest in Threats to Jewish Centers

Usually, it seems, when the story says that they don’t know the motive, it means that they know the motive and don’t want to say.

Israeli police say a 19-year-old man with American and Israeli citizenship is suspected of making threats against Jewish institutions worldwide.

Police arrested the suspect in the south of Israel on Thursday morning over threats against Jewish communities in the US, New Zealand and Australia.

[…]

But Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Thursday the latest suspect’s motives are unclear.

Guy Arrested for Tweet

This will be an interesting bit of case law.

A man accused of sending a flashing image to a writer in order to trigger an epileptic seizure has been arrested, the US justice department says.

John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Maryland, sent Kurt Eichenwald an animated image with a flashing light on Twitter in December, causing the seizure.

He has been charged with criminal cyber stalking and could face a 10-year sentence, the New York Times reports.

“You deserve a seizure for your post,” he is alleged to have written.

Mr Eichenwald is known to have epilepsy. He is a senior writer at Newsweek magazine, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a best-selling author of books including The Informant.

On the one hand, if the allegations are true, Rivello clearly acted with malicious intent to cause harm to Eichenwald and succeeded in causing that harm. On the other hand, we are treading in dangerous territory if we are going to start arresting people for stuff that they wrote on Twitter.

Kaepernick Feels the Love (not)

Heh.

“Third, the rest genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”

When I spoke to a handful of executives at the combine a few weeks ago, one even called him “an embarrassment to football.”

Tolerant Hollywood Liberals Force Conservatives Into the Closet

Read this whole article and replace the words “Republican” and “conservative” with “gay” or “trans” and then ask yourself if it is acceptable.

In such a charged climate, many conservatives in Hollywood keep a low political profile.

“There’s a McCarthyism coming from the left,” said one prominent TV and movie actor who requested his name not be used for fear of professional repercussions. The actor, who is conservative but not a Trump supporter, said political shouting matches have erupted on the set of one of his shows and that a conservative producer he works with has been shunned by colleagues.

“In 30 years of show business, I’ve never seen it like this,” said the actor. “If you are even lukewarm to Republicans, you are excommunicated from the church of tolerance.”

(Unless you’re a star like Eastwood and Jon Voight, Oscar winners who have openly supported Republican candidates. Voight even spoke during Trump’s inauguration festivities: “God answered all our prayers… Let us rejoice in knowing that from this time on, we will see a renewed America.”)

“Once you reach a certain level of success, it’s fine,” said Michael Medved, the conservative film critic and radio host. “It doesn’t matter.”

University Bans Group for Highlighting University’s “Very Intolerant” Ranking

Universities have become some of the least tolerant places in this nation.

A student union has banned a university Conservative society from using its social media accounts – because they challenged its position on free speech.

Lincoln University’s Conservative Society has been censored by its student union after it posted an image online showing that the university had been ranked “very intolerant” on free speech in a recent survey.

In response, the Students’ Union swiftly suspended the society’s social media accounts, on the grounds that highlighting the university’s ranking had brought it into disrepute.

A Day Without Some Women

Heh.

That’s why the idea that women should take a day off en masse to make a political point is both self-defeating and vaguely insulting. It’s meant to highlight how crucial we are, but its very premise also suggest the opposite: Women are expendable. A Day Without a Woman plays into the idea that we entered the workforce not to support ourselves and our families but to combat boredom or to boost our self-esteem. For all but a very few affluent women, that’s never been the case.

And for all but the most affluent classes, March 8 will be a day like any other day. Except maybe for some serious color clashing when those red clothes are paired with those pink hats. In which case maybe everyone should stay home.

Emma Watson’s Nude Photo Shoot

Well, almost nude. These sort of cultural quandaries are entertaining.

Can you be a feminist and pose in a nearly see-through top for Vanity Fair?

Actor Emma Watson and a British broadcaster are on opposite sides of that debate after Watson — a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador — posed in a white, ropy Burberry top that revealed much of her breasts.

The backlash was swift. Julia Hartley-Brewer, a British radio presenter and commentator, accused Watson of being hypocritical.

“Feminism, feminism… gender wage gap… why oh why am I not taken seriously… feminism… oh, and here are my (t*ts)!” Hartley-Brewer tweeted.

She later defended her tweet, saying Watson “complains that women are sexualised and then sexualises herself in her own work. Hypocrisy.”

Her comments launched a heated debate on social media.

As a man trying to be cognizant of everyone’s sensibilities, what am I to do? Am I supposed to be attracted to her nearly-naked pictures? Is it sexist to be so? Am I rude if I’m NOT attracted to it for not recognizing her beauty? And what does Ron think of all this?

We have placed so many cultural landmines around us that it is impossible to avoid losing a leg every now and then.

UW TAs Fight Back Against Real Life

Too cute. They want to spend their lives in the bosom of academia where they can be shielded from market forces or disparate outcomes based on demand and performance.

A controversial pay plan for graduate students who assist faculty at University of Wisconsin-Madison will be introduced as planned, despite continuing opposition from the student workers’ labor union.

The pay plan increases base pay for teaching assistants, research assistants and program assistants by 3.5 percent, but also lets colleges and schools set higher minimum pay instead of paying assistants in all fields from the same pay scale, as in the past.

The changes are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, according to a Jan. 24 memo from Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf and William Karpus, dean of the Graduate School and Laurent Heller, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

The new pay structure opens the door to growing disparity between pay to graduate students studying and working in high demand fields and those in other fields, said members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association.

Patrick Stewart Becoming An American

Welcome!

“I’m not a (US) citizen. However, there is, maybe it’s the only good thing as the result of this election, I am now applying for citizenship. Because I want to be an American, too.”

He says that he’s applying to be a citizen so that he can fight Trump. Whatever.

I wonder if he is aware that he will have to renounce his knighthood? We Americans don’t take too kindly to feudal titles.

Florida Evaluates Burden of Proof in Self Defense Cases

Hmmmm… this is intriguing.

While at least 22 states have similar laws that say people can use force — even deadly force — to defend themselves from threats, Florida could soon be alone shifting the burden of proof to prosecutors.

Republican Sen. Rob Bradley says his bill “isn’t a novel concept.”

“We have a tradition in our criminal justice system that the burden of proof is with the government from the beginning of the case to the end,” he said.

Florida’s Supreme Court has ruled that the burden of proof is on defendants during self-defense immunity hearings. That’s the practice around the country. According to a legislative staff analysis of Bradley’s bill, only four states mention burden of proof in their “stand your ground” laws — Alabama, Colorado, Georgia and South Carolina — and all place the burden on defendants.

On the one hand, Bradley is correct. Our entire criminal legal structure is founded upon the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty by the government. The burden of proof is on the government to prove that someone broke the law. Why should it be any different in the case of self defense?

On the other hand, the government usually doesn’t have to prove intent. If I shoot someone, the government’s responsibility is to prove that I did it. Assuming that I did, then it would then be my responsibility to prove that the shooting was justified by self-defense. If the presumption if that every shooting is in self-defense unless the government proves otherwise, then it would be asking the government to enter the mind of the shooter to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – intent. That would seem impossible in many cases. Then again, right now it is impossible for the shooter to prove his or her intent either.

Tough call… in the end, I would lean on the side on placing the burden of proof on the government.

UWM Is Failing Black Students

It isn’t unique to UWM, but it’s among the worst.

Only one in five black students (21%) who enroll full-time at UW-Milwaukee graduates in six years, and the completion gap between black and white students is 24.3 percentage points, according to the report from  The Education Trust, which analyzed graduation rates for black students at 676 traditional public and private nonprofit colleges and universities.

[…]

About 35% of UWM’s incoming freshmen graduate in the bottom half of their high school class. And the most recent four-year graduation rate for black students in Milwaukee Public Schools — a major feeder school district for UWM — is 54.7%. Wisconsin also has the nation’s widest gap in high school graduation rates for white and black students.

[…]

Many black students encounter financial, academic and social challenges that can make their path to a degree more difficult, the report says. Increasing college costs have a disproportionate effect on black students and contribute to higher debt levels. And inequalities in K-12 education mean too many black students start college in noncredit remedial courses, the report notes.

What appears is happening is that UWM has lowered admission standards to inflate the enrollment of minority students – an effort fueled by easy money from the federal government and other sources. Many of the students entering were not equipped to succeed, so they didn’t. this also left many of them with debt and no degree to show for it.

The answer is not to lower the standards for graduation or to funnel more money into remedial programs, thus inflating the price of college even more. The answer is to acknowledge that there are many post-high school educational opportunities including skilled trade apprenticeships, tech schools, two-year schools, community colleges, industry training, and yes, four-year universities. The admission standards for any of these options should reflect the basic skills needed so that people entering them will succeed completing the school and set them up to be successful in their careers. We do more damage than good by admitting people to schools in which they are ill-equipped to succeed.

Propaganda War

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:

The 115th Congress took a break last week from wrestling over repealing Obamacare, confirming appointees and all of the other ideas bubbling around the beginning of a new session. It was a brief opportunity for our elected representatives to return home and spend some time listening to the people in their respective districts. And boy, did they get an earful.

If you were watching the news in the past few weeks, the scene was repeated over and over again. A Republican Congressperson or Senator hosted a town hall or attend a public event. They were greeted by dozens of protestors who would interrupt, shout, wave signs, chant, and generally try to be as disruptive as possible. Given President Trump’s temporary travel ban from unstable countries, enforcement of immigration laws, and continued insistence on building a wall on America’s southern border, the most frequent topic of unrest was immigration and/or illegal aliens.

Wisconsin’s own Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner was one such recipient of this treatment. Sensenbrenner has been listening to his constituents in town halls since President Carter was in the White House. As a conservative Republican, Sensenbrenner has been a prime target of protestors. At a recent town hall in Menomonee Falls, the mob shouted down other attendees with chants of “No ban. No wall. America has room for all.” The video of it filled social media and the local news broadcasts.

If one were to just watch the news, one could be forgiven for thinking that there is overwhelming opposition to Trump’s immigration policies. The polls disabuse that perception.

According to a survey conducted by Harvard-Harris Poll and provided to The Hill, the public overwhelmingly supports Trump’s immigration policies. Eighty percent of respondents oppose sanctuary cities and support the federal government compelling sanctuary cities to comply with immigration laws — including local police reporting illegal aliens with whom they come into contact to federal immigration authorities. Seventy-seven percent of the poll’s respondents support an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

Slightly lesser majorities, but still majorities, support Trump’s other efforts regarding immigration. 53 percent support Trump’s temporary travel ban. Fifty-one percent think that the United States should accept fewer Syrian refugees with only 15 percent thinking that the country should accept more.

The only point on which the poll showed disapproval was when it came to the wall. Fifty-three percent of respondents oppose the wall, but 75 percent support increased border patrols. The public clearly wants a less permeable southern border, but is less enthusiastic about that being accomplished with a wall.

How does one reconcile the media perception of massive opposition to Trump’s immigration policies with the Harvard-Harris’ poll’s findings of overwhelming support for those policies? First, one must remember that this is the same media that told the world that Trump was unelectable right up until the day he won the election.

Second, the media, intentionally or not, is the mouthpiece for an intentional misinformation campaign being conducted by Barack Obama’s activist stormtroopers, Organizing for Action (OFA). In a Facebook post on Feb. 9, OFA called on activists to attend Republican town halls to protest. The instruction manual distributed by OFA advises protesters to enter the town halls quietly, sit in the front but “not all sit together,” and spread out in pairs to give the impression of broad opposition.

Then the activists are advised to confront Republican elected officials and “loudly boo the GOP politician if he isn’t ‘giving you real answers.’” The goal is to make Republicans feel uneasy about supporting the Trump agenda and seed “the ground for the 2018 midterms when Democrats retake power.”

Most importantly, activists are told to record their interactions with Republicans, post it to social media, and then feed the video to local and national media. The intent of OFA is to create the impression of broad opposition to Trump’s policies and to destabilize and delegitimize our Republic.

While there is certainly opposition to various policies, and some of it is quite intense, the efforts by OFA to create and feed a fake perception is subversive and reprehensible. It reeks of the tactics used by communist revolutionary organizations for decades. The ability to distribute propaganda instantly through social media and a media willing to parrot their false narrative makes their work easier and more effective.

Celebrating Art

I don’t usually look forward to watching the Oscars, but usually find myself watching some or all of it every year. Yes, there will always be the occasional annoying snide political comments, but whatever. This year, I won’t be watching for sure. They are bragging about the fact that they intend to turn it into an anti-Trump rally. No, thanks.

What is most annoying about that is that the Oscars are supposed to be a celebration and recognition of art, and yet these “artists” can’t even let their own art be the focus. Instead, they seem intent to make their politics overshadow their art.

I contrast that to my experience last night. My family and I attended the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Holst’s “The Planets.” It was absolutely magnificent. Before the performance, we attended the lecture in the atrium where they walked through the movements and talked about their creation, makeup, and influence on other pieces. After the performance, we went back to the atrium where the conductor, Edo de Waart, discussed the performance, the MSO, and other topics. He also took questions from the audience. It was engaging and intensely interesting.

Throughout the entire evening, nary a word was whispered about politics. Instead, we could all find common ground by enjoying art together. Perhaps the pretentious “artists” in Hollywood could come to Milwaukee and learn a thing or two from the MSO.

BTW, the final performance of “The Planets” is tomorrow at 2:30 PM. I highly recommend it.

MPS Votes for School Uniforms

Good!

The Milwaukee School Board voted, 8-1, Thursday night to require student uniforms for all schools in the district, beginning this fall.

Individual schools and individuals students will be allowed to opt-out of the requirement, but it is likely there will be far more students attending public schools in the city wearing polo shirts and khakis.
School Board member Carol Voss suggested at the meeting that the vote would switch the “default position” for MPS students and schools from not requiring uniforms to requiring uniforms.
Currently, about a third of the 150 schools in MPS have uniform codes. Participation is voluntary and ranges widely from school to school.
MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver said uniforms improve the learning environment in schools and increase safety, improve discipline and enhance school unity.

About a dozen people testified before the board, most of them in opposition to the policy, saying it will stifle individuality and creativity among students.

MPS schools are expected to offer families $20 for each student as a start on purchasing uniforms.

I don’t know why the taxpayers need to give parents money for uniforms. Presumably, the parents clothe their children now. They just have to buy different clothes. Still, uniforms are a positive step. They eliminate a lot of disruption, division, and anxiety from the learning environment.

Crook Identification

This is my favorite part of this story.

The complaint explains Rowland is the father of the general manager’s girlfriend’s sister’s youngest child.

Trump Rescinds Federal Overreach

Good.

Washington (CNN)The Trump administration on Wednesday night withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.

[…]

“As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level,” the White House said in a statement.
“The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.”

Charging for Charging

This seems utterly reasonable.

Tired of clients plugging their devices for hours, cafe owner Galina Pokorny now charges €1 ($1.06; £0.85) for those who take too long charging.

“Tourists – always electricity, electricity, electricity. Sorry but who is going to pay me for it?” she said.

A recharge during a 15-minute coffee is still fine. More than that will add to the bill.

The fee applies also to laptops and tablets and it is multiplied by the number of devices being recharged.

Syrian Refugee Becomes Truly American

Yup.

A Syrian man who fled the war-torn city of Aleppo in 2014 after suffering torture and imprisonment is suing President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials over an executive order issued by Trump last month that still effectively bars the man’s wife and daughter from joining him in the U.S., where he was granted asylum.

The man filed the lawsuit anonymously, to protect the identities of his wife and daughter, who still live in hiding in Aleppo. It was filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge William Conley.

The lawsuit doesn’t state where the man lives, only that he’s a resident of the Western District of Wisconsin.