What Gender Spectrum?

January 7, 2014

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“The Next Frontier in Social Justice”

Lately, social justice warriors have exhibited considerable agitation and sense of urgency over the rights of transgendered people, who are said to suffer considerable discrimination, harassment, and lack of acceptance. Joe Biden declared discrimination against this minority “the civil rights issue of our time,” while journalists and activists speak excitedly of transgender rights as “the next frontier.”

Just enforcing existing, or passing new, anti-discrimination laws is not enough, we are forewarned. “Cultural protections” for transgendered people, commonly known as trans*, will be erected, and society will be re-educated about how it conceives of sexual identity. “[I]t will need to reevaluate just how necessary it really is to define people according to what’s between their legs. This would clearly help the transgender community, but it might be healthy for the rest of us, too.” 

The so-called “gender binary”, where the world is viewed as male and female, is evil and wrong, we are instructed. We must all now embrace the “Gender Spectrum” (“GS”), which better reflects nature and most importantly, is “inclusive.”

But is this novel way of perceiving human sexuality valid? What, if any, scientific evidence exists to support it? And why is changing not just how people treat trans*, but how they think and feel about their own sexuality, so important?  We shall see.

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Terms

The Gender Spectrum has been defined as

“… a range of gender identities between and outside of the categories of male and female…”

which is usually expanded to include Gender Expression, “the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, haircut, voice, and other forms of presentation”, and Gender Role, “the set of roles, activities, expectations and behaviors assigned to females and males by society.”  Sexual orientation (gay; straight; bi; asexual) is also frequently placed under the rubric.

In contrast to the “static, binary model”, The Gender Spectrum is presented as a “more nuanced, and ultimately truly authentic model of human gender” that describes the “far more rich texture of biology, gender expression, and gender identity intersect in multidimensional array of possibilities.”  The concept has been around for about fifteen years.

Gender itself is a fairly recent coinage that refers to the personal sexual identity of an individual above & beyond their biological sex. People almost always identify as the gender that matches their sex, but trans* either identify as the gender opposite their sex, or, in rare cases, have no clearly defined gender identity. The causes of transgenderism are poorly understood. (A small fraction of the population is intersex — people who, due to genetic or embryological anomalies, have genitalia & other physical sexual traits that are neither completely male or female. Intersex is separate from transgendered.)

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Numbers

When people discuss transgenderism and the GS, they can be maddeningly vague with quantification — ‘not all people conform…’ or ‘many people express…’ or ‘some people display…’ etc. There happens to be a debate raging over the figures generally cited for prevelance of transgenderism. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) gives 1:30,000 among men and 1:100,000 among women, figures that found their way into APA’s DSM V. But these derive from just a handful of forty year-old studies, and Lynn Conway, a mathematician and a trans* zirself, has made a compelling argument that they’re off by several factors.

By adding up sex reassignment surgeries (SRS) performed in the US since the 1960′s, Conway arrives at a minimal  transgender prevalence of 1:2,500, or 0.04%. But considering lessening stigma, and that not every person who identifies as trans gets SRS, more trans* are likely out there. Through a series of assumptions & back-of-the-envelope calculations, Conway extrapolates to a final estimate of 1:170, or <0.6%

A careful & comprehensive meta-study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, conducted in 2011, found that ~ 0.3% of US residents identified as trans* — all things considered, within the same ballpark as Conway’s figure. The results of other recent surveys tend to fall within Conway’s base and peak estimates.

Whether trans people constitute 3/10ths or 6/10ths of a percent of the population, describing them as ‘some’ is vague, and as ‘many’ downright misleading. ‘Very few’,  ‘a small fraction’ and ‘rare’ are more fitting, as this visualization of the UCLA estimates makes clear:


Identity_pie

Now, this is not to say that, just because trans* are a tiny minority, they are not deserving of our respect or equal rights. As Conway observes, the prevalence of blindness and deafness are similarly low, but society takes great pains to accommodate the blind and the deaf.

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The Nature of Sex

This may seem pedantic, but a basic review of sexual development & reproduction is in order before examining the validity of the GS.

Homo sapiens reproduce sexually, as have our ancestors for the past 1.2 billion years. By design, each human comes equipped with either exclusively female, or exclusively male sex organs. We are not hermaphroditic, are incapable of parthenogenesis, nor do we self-pollinate.

Sex is determined by the X and Y chromosomes. Get two Xs and you’re female; an X and a Y, and you’re male — it’s either/or. (Specifically, the SRY gene on the Y chromosome determines maleness.) Rarely, something goes wrong when the gametes merge, creating a zygote with a lone X, an XXY, XXYY, or an SRY gene that’s fallen off the Y chromosome or migrated to an X. A meiotic anomaly can create XYY. Individuals born with any of these karyotypes are known as intersex and (except XYY) are infertile.

In the womb, the precisely-timed delivery of precise amounts of hormones is required for the initially amorphous embryo to develop either male or female attributes. This process, too, infrequently goes awry, leading to individuals with genitalia and other physical sex attributes that are neither fully male nor female. They are also intersex and infertile.

It must be stressed that karyotypic and embryological anomalies are errors in the processes — fatal breakdowns, actually, from the perspective of the germ line — and in no way ‘natural’ variants of sex. (It’s noteworthy that intersex pregnancies spontaneously abort at a far higher frequency than average.) This should be an uncontroversial statement of fact, yet there are those who deny it.

The group GenderSpectrum.org insists

“… even if gender is to be restricted to basic biology, a binary concept still fails to capture the rich variation observed. Rather than just two distinct boxes, biological gender occurs across a continuum of possibilities. This spectrum of anatomical variations by itself should be enough to disregard the simplistic notion of only two genders.”

Evidence of this “biological continuum” presumably includes:

  • 5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency — incidence of births 1:40,000
  • Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (XY female) — 1:20,000
  • Cloacal Exstrophy — 1:400,000
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) — 1:14,200
  • Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY males) — 1:1,000
  • Mullerian Agenesis (congenital absence of a vagina) — 1:5,000
  • Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS) — rare, incidence unknown
  • Swyer Syndrome (XY gonadal dysgenesis) — 1:30,000
  • Turner Syndrome (45,X0) — 1:2,500

This is idiotic. The above are all intersex conditions where the natural sex determinant processes have gone awry. Intersex people deserve our compassion and our support in developing their personal gender identity. Their conditions, however, are birth defects, not “rich variations.”

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The Nature of Gender

To successfuly reproduce, an individual must: 1) attract members of the opposite sex; 2) be attracted to members of the opposite sex. Mating relies on physical cues and behaviors to achieve these two objectives. These physical traits and behaviors are fixed, phenotypic expressions of the genome.

For humans at least, it’s generally assumed that a gender identity is generated within the mind. To the best of my knowledge, humans are also the only animals who’ve developed elaborate cultural rituals and cues (most notably, hoop earrings, raised pick-up trucks, & line dancing) to augment or supplant instinctual sex behaviors and attributes.

Getting one’s gender identity or sexual attraction wrong is, again from the perspective of the germ line, a fatal mistake. That’s why we don’t find any trans* animals or gay animals. (Homosexual behaviors have been observed in animals, but they are — aside from one known example of male beetles depositing sperm packets on other males’ carapaces, and that an alternate, “piggy-back” strategy for delivering sperm to females —  for dominance or other non-sexual social purposes.)

Homosexuals, bisexuals, and trans* are, of course, found among humans. Some hypothetical explanations for a genetic basis to homosexuality have been put forth (based on outlaw genes, kin selection), but no hard evidence exists (i.e., no “gay gene” has been found.) Pre-natal hormonal imbalances have been tentatively linked to lesbianism. Instances like ancient Sparta imply that culture can influence human sexual attraction. And that’s about the extent of what we know at this point.

How gender identity forms is even less clearly understood. A few studies have found that the brains of MtF trans* resemble the brains of normative females in certain ways, but no causation arrow can be attached to this correlation. What can be said is, although gender self-identification can sometimes be mutable in childhood, it nearly always is fixed by puberty.

In all but a tiny fraction of instances, gender identity aligns with anatomical sex. This should be considered the normative, default position. (Please bear in mind that this is not by any means a moral judgment.) Further, in most trans*, it seems that this default position has simply been reversed. Whether that cortex where gender forms developed differently in the womb, or whether the social cues that influence gender went askew, most trans* identify with the sex directly opposite their anatomy. A mere fraction of the fraction of people who are trans* are ambivalent, or “gender fluid”.

As with pretty much everything about us, nature and nurture are likely at play. Research into the mechanics of gender identity is almost non-existent, but the patterns indicate that we are predisposed toward a default ‘cis’ identity, with embryological or environmental anomalies sometimes perturbing it.

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What Spectrum?

Scientific inquiry may thrive on tentative claims that are only as assertive as the evidence merits, but crusades are waged on dogmatic certainty. The social justice crusade to transform society’s attitudes about sex and expression requires that a continuous spectrum of gender identity exist across the entire population. The graphics found in SJW literature give an idea of how they envision the Gender Spectrum:

gender_scale1

(Answer three simple questions about your wardrobe to learn where you fall on the Spectrum!)


newspectrum

(Reminder: Intersex is not the same as transgender.)

gender_doughnut

(As you become more masculine, you eventually turn feminine?)

cartoon_spectrum

(Why don’t these people have necks?)

Let’s compare those to a graphic representation of the findings in the UCLA study:

Spectrum_bar

Do you see a spectrum, or a binary?

Ah, but, the SJW replies, you’ve ignored the hidden influence of sexual attraction, gender expression and gender role-playing. So let’s address those, too.

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Sexual Attraction

Whether you’re hetero-, homo-, or bi-sexual seems to me a separate issue from your gender identity, and even granting that connection, the raw data does not reveal a spectrum. The UCLA study estimated 3.5% of US adults identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Gay_pie

Other studies conducted over the past decade in the US, Canada, Western Europe and Australia, ranged from 1.2% to 3.7%, with one outlier at 5.6%.

Ah, but, comes the retort, as the noted anthropologist, Honey Boo-Boo, observes: “everybody is a little bit gay.” Straight, gay, bi — these are just artificial cubby holes!  In fact, in all the surveys UCLA looked at, more people reported having had same-sex attractions than self-identify as gay or bisexual. Taking the highest figure, 11.0% (from that outlier study, the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth,) let’s graph it out:

gay_bar

The 89% of adults who reported having never had a same-sex attraction appear on the far left. For the purpose of this exercise, and lacking precise data, I’ve evenly spread out the other 11% along the ‘gayness’ scale, despite indications that around half of gay people are also decidedly ‘binary’ in their attractions. For the overwhelming majority of people, there is no spectrum.

Gender Expression, Gender Roles

When it suits them, SJWs insist that gender identity is hard-wired, and we so often hear them speak of ‘a girl born in the body of a boy.’  But when it’s time for the Cultural Revolution to begin, gender suddenly becomes mutable:

“Gender expectations and messages bombard us constantly…. Like other social constructs, gender is closely monitored by society. Accepted social gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way.”

Thus, not only does society have no room for trans* expression, it actively suppresses the hidden gender-fluid tendencies inside all of us. This argument, however, is predicated on the alleged disparity between the ‘artificial’ binary and the ‘natural’ spectrum. As shown above, both gender identity and sexual attraction display marked binary properties. Spectrum advocates complain that

“individuals fitting neatly into [social gender role] expectations rarely if ever question what gender really means. They have never had to, because the system has worked for them.”

Could it be that the vast majority of people prefer these standard roles?  Not the slightest effort has been made to produce concrete evidence showing otherwise — or to explain, exactly, why safeguarding the rights of a minority requires the majority to alter their private behavior and deepest self-perceptions.  So, when Pistol Annies affirm that there’s nothing better than being loved by a workin’ man, who won’t do the dishes or laundry, but who can fix about anything and will keep your car real clean, instead of trying to re-educate those gals, we should take them at their word.

That being said, if, as a society moving toward greater egalitarianism and less gender-based dichotomy of labor, we now choose to relax enforcement of traditional gender roles for those who choose to deviate from them, that’s a good thing. But no half-baked theory is required to explain David Beckham or Steven Tyler. And we can have women astronauts and men nurses, women in suits and men in scarfs, women who chop wood and men who cry during TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, without the need to pretend they aren’t fully women and fully men.

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Culture Club

Spectrum advocates assert that “[g]ender diversity is a normal part of human expression documented across cultures and recorded history,” and point to

“[n]on-binary gender diversity … throughout the world, documented by countless historians and anthropologists. Examples of individuals living comfortably outside of typical male/female identities are found in every region of the globe. The calabai, and calalai of Indonesia, two-spirit Native Americans, and the hijra of India all represent more complex understandings of gender than the simplistic model seen in the west.”

It is indeed possible to find scattered examples of cultures tolerant of intersex and transgendered people. (Sadly, they seem the exceptions to the rule.)  One might well cite these examples to encourage greater tolerance in our own society. But they simply do not hold up as evidence of a gender spectrum. Just because these pre-modern societies — ignorant of chromosomes, pre-natal development, or orbital frontal cortices — invented third, fourth or fifth “sexes” to explain certain phenomena, doesn’t mean extra sexes exist for real.

Further, for this to serve as proof that our “simplistic” binary model actively suppresses expressions of gender non-conformity, SJWs would need to produce data showing a significantly higher prevalence of gender-queer individuals in these cultures. They haven’t bothered, and likely can’t.

Finally, hirja of the Indian subcontinent traditionally had, and often still have, their penis and testicles chopped off as boys, then are forced into a life of prostitution. This is not a cultural practice we should seek to emulate.

Spectrum proponents say our gender roles are ‘just a social construct.’ But societies and cultures do not appear out of thin air. The origin of human societal culture can be traced back through the group behaviors of our hominid  & earlier social animal ancestors, all the way to the  mating instincts of the first sexually-reproducing creatures. Our cultural gender constructs are the direct product of, and are designed to facilitate, sexual reproduction. Far from being arbitrary or capricious, our ‘binary’ gender roles and expressions precisely replicate the function of fixed sex displays like plumage or instinctual behaviors. Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a mating dance.

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The Insane Charade

We have shown that:

  1. Trans* individuals are extremely rare (~ 0.3%);
  2. Same-sex attraction is rare (~ 3%);
  3. Our species is by design a sexual binary of male and female;
  4. The vast majority of people — cis and trans*, straight and gay — self-identify as either male or female;
  5. Normative cultural gender roles and expressions, albeit sometimes taken to extremes by certain cultures, are consistent with that sexual binary and naturally emanate from it;
  6. A large majority of people are comfortable with standard gender roles and forms of expression. That almost no one conforms to clichéd, exaggerated stereotypes is unremarkable; that a few people deviate widely from standard gender expressions does not equate to a smooth variance across the entire population, much less is proof of the existence of extra sexes.

In spite of all this evidence and logic, SJWs damn anyone who doubts the Gender Spectrum as ignorant and hateful.

Not atypically for SJWs, they conflate two separate arguments. The first, that trans* deserve equal treatment under the law, and don’t deserve ridicule or abuse, is one I heartily agree with, as would any fair-minded person.

Their other argument, over which they have launched a crusade, and against which they are experiencing considerable push-back, is that society must be restructured, our public institutions revamped, our very perceptions altered, to conform to a non-existent gender spectrum. So people are shamed for finding trans* sexually unattractive, or for denying that they themselves secretly harbor homosexual feelings. “He” and “she”, “his” and “hers” are banned as Words of Intolerance™, and we are now expected ask each person what are zir preferred pronouns before addressing qi. Teachers and students receive  indoctrination  sensitivity training to embrace the legions of spectrum-queer in their midst.

We have SJWs demanding that trans* be allowed to express their gender in any way they see fit, and expect ‘cis folk’ to not just tolerate it, but to find it groovy. Then, without batting an eye, they hector and shame people who desire and enjoy traditional gender roles and expressions.

We have parents now raising their children as gender neutral, afraid to impose arbitrary idenities in case their kid might be ‘two-spirit.’   Worst of all, many SJWs and therapists now actively encourage children as young as 3 years of age to identify as trans*.   Considering that, while some amount of gender nonconformity & ambivalence is relatively common among children, nearly all children who experience it sort things out on their own to become ‘cis’ by puberty, this is unconscionable.

All this is stupid and wrong, highly unfair to individuals and disruptive to society. I don’t care how often you berate me, how many times you label me a ‘hater’, a ‘trans-phobe’, or ‘cis scum‘, I will not participate in your insane charade. I’ll gladly stand up for equal rights for trans* people, but I won’t deny the facts: there is no Gender Spectrum.


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh. All rights reserved.


Critiquing Social Justice Theory

December 30, 2013

I want to bring to the attention of my fellow true liberals a post I’ve written on another blog, where I critique a young feminist’s own critique of certain concepts central to social justice activism:

Specifically, I address the worth of Gender as Performance, Rape Culture, and Privilege as scientific models.

(Note: don’t anyone be put off by the blog’s name — this post has nothing to do with atheism!)

I invite you all to read my piece, and tell me what you think.

– Matt


Statistics, Race-Baiting, And Lies

August 1, 2013

Immediately following the Not Guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, the hysterical editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress wrote a typically hysterical response. Also typical for TP, he got his facts all wrong.

The content of Six Million Trayvons: How The George Zimmerman Mindset Has Rigged The Justice System Against Young Black Men is nearly dwarfed by its title — just seven bullet point citing statistics that supposedly expose the ingrained racism of our police and courts. Yet this brief piece is brimming with inaccuracies, deceptions, and the vilest of race-bating innuendo.

This is more than just sloppy journalism. Writer and TP founder, Judd Legum, draws heavily on The New Jim Crow, a racist polemic by Michelle Alexander. Not only does the US justice system suffer from institutionalized racism, Alexander claims, there’s a vast conspiracy to replace Jim Crow laws with incarceration:

“Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to … engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination … are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

Alexander’s argument runs something like this:
1. Jim Crow denied blacks the vote
2. A felon can’t vote
3. Blacks are much more likely to commit a felony than whites
4. Ergo: Convicting blacks for felonies = Jim Crow

This conversion from overt discriminatory laws to covert felonization was both stealthy and willful: “The new system had been developed and implemented swiftly, and it was largely invisible, even to people, like me, who spent most of their waking hours fighting for justice.” (Or just maybe, it’s “largely invisible” because it doesn’t exist!)

Legum attempts to substantiate Alexander’s conspiracy theory by deceptive presentation of crime statistics. Below, each point is addressed one-by-one.


1. A black male born in 2001 has a 32% chance of spending some portion of his life in prison. A white male born the same year has just a 6% chance. [Sentencing Project]

This 5.3:1 ratio correlates well with the 7:1 disparity in the commission of crimes, blacks vs. whites. It is not evidence per se of racism in the penal system.

Legum insinuates that police go out of their way to arrest more black perps than whites. But FBI reports on crime statistics show that, by race, arrest rates and the rates of commissions of crimes correlate extremely closely. (In 2011, whites were actually slightly more likely to be arrested for their violent crimes than were blacks.)

Similar findings first appeared in The Color of Crime (“TCOC”), a 1999 study that stirred great controversy because the authors were white supremacists. Though TCOC often overreached, especially when analyzing hate crimes and inter-racial crime, its presentation of crime-by-race data was accurate: blacks as a demographic do indeed commit crimes, especially violent crimes, at a far higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group.

Critics were reduced to the intentionally misleading — “[p]eople of color are disproportionately arrested, sentenced and incarcerated when compared to white people accused of similar offenses” — or the obtuse: one community leader rejected the FBI data on the grounds that it omitted “corporate crime” committed mostly by whites.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, while not objecting to the raw data, insisted that “socioeconomic factors including poverty, education, social status and urban residence account far better for criminal behavior than race.”

Nevertheless, the fact remains that blacks are more frequently incarcerated because blacks more frequently commit crimes.


2. In major American cities, as many as 80% of young African-American men have criminal records. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

That’s over 3x higher than the national average for adults. Where Alexander spots a racist conspiracy, The Southern Poverty Law Center finds socio-economic factors at play. Instead of pointing a finger at the legal system and its commensurate response to the high urban crime rate, shouldn’t we address the culture and environment that produce so many urban criminals?


3. African-Americans who use drugs are more than four times as likely to be incarcerated than whites who use drugs. African Americans constitute 14% of the population and 14% of monthly drug users. But African-Americans represent 34% of those arrested for a drug offense and 53% of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense. [American Bar Association]

Legum deceitfully compares drug use rates with drug arrest arrest rates, as most arrests are for drug sales. (FTR, in 2011, illicit drug use was 8.7% among whites, 10.0% among blacks.) Nor is any distinction made for the type of drug involved.

Blacks are 2 1/2 times more likely to belong to gangs as whites. A large percentage of those arrested for drug violations are gang members. Around 30% of crimes committed by gangs are related to drug sales, and often involve the use of a gun. Nearly half of all youth gang members are involved in street drug sales, greatly increasing their odds of being arrested.

Considerable disparity does exist in the severity of punishment received by black drug offenders vs. whites. But as the very ABA paper cited in the article concludes, this is not due to overt racism, rather “unanticipated consequences” of “ostensibly race-neutral policies.” Foremost is the poor “quality of defense counsel” available most black perps: “too often the lawyers who provide defense services are inexperienced, fail to maintain adequate client contact, and furnish services that are simply not competent.” Another key factor is the profusion of “drug laws that penalize drug offenses that take place within a certain distance of a school more harshly than other drug crimes.” As blacks are more likely to live in urban areas, “blacks convicted of a drug offense are subject to harsher penalties than whites committing a similar offense in a less-populated area.”

The ABA also found that

“[a]t the sentencing stage, low-income substance abusers are also disadvantaged compared to defendants with resources. Given the general shortage of treatment programs, a defendant who has private insurance to cover the cost of treatment is in a much better position to make an argument for a nonincarcerative sentence than one who depends on publicly funded treatment programs.”

Now, is that racist, or economic?


4. In seven states, African Americans constitute 80% or more of all drug offenders sent to prison. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

If you want to exaggerate the severity of a problem, just cherry-pick the data and pass it off as a new stat. Apparently, the overall 53% rate cited in #3 wasn’t quite awful enough for TP’s creative class, white-guilt self-flagellation.


5. Black students are three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. One in five black boys receive an out-of-school suspension. Education Secretary Arne Duncan who commissioned the study, said “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” [New York Times]

Nowhere in the NYT article or the Dept. of Education’s report is there a single, concrete piece of data showing racial bias, only innuendo. Comparing generic data, lumped together from every school district in America and for every offense regardless of type or severity, is statistically worthless.

Statements like “Black students are punished more harshly when committing the same offenses as white students” are meaningless when “same offense” is defined as ‘anything leading to a suspension.’

Despite Duncan’s inflammatory conjectures, the Christian Science Monitor notes that:

“One thing experts do agree on is that the causes for the discrepancies are complex. Some urban schools with the highest suspension and expulsion rates also have high populations of poor black students, a higher-than-average percentage of whom come from single parent families. Other studies have shown that children from such homes are more prone to disciplinary problems.”

The Education Dept. study, the Monitor reports, “also suggests that the problems are inherent in how American schools are set up, with the lowest paid and least experienced teachers most often working at poorer, urban schools with more discipline problems.” Once again, we encounter socio-economic factors, not racism.

A 2009 study of North Carolina public schools by Josh Kinsler confirms this. Firstly, Kinsler looked only at 6th and 9th graders, to reduce the effect of any ‘reputation bias’ among teachers & principles. He then compared punishment rates across schools, by type of infraction, and between whites and blacks in the same school. His findings are striking:

“Across schools, black 9th grade students receive 22% longer suspensions than white students when committing simple rule violations. This gap disappears entirely when black and white student suspensions are compared within schools…. Within schools, black and white students are equally likely to be suspended and receive similar suspension durations conditional on behavior and a host of other observable characteristics.”

The only racial bias Kinsler uncovered was unexpected: black principals tend to mete out harsher punishments than their white colleagues, especially in schools with large black student bodies.


6. Black youth who are referred to juvenile court are much more likely to be detained, referred to adult court or end up in adult prison than their white counterparts. Blacks represented 28% of juvenile arrests, 30% of referrals to juvenile court, 37% of the detained population, 35% of youth judicially waived to criminal court and 58% of youth admitted to state adult prison. [National Council on Crime And Delinquency]

Again, Legum neglects to mention any mitigating factors, leaving the reader to assume racism is at work. Yet the very paper cited, Justice For Some, admits:

“It is not clear whether this overrepresentation is the result of differential police policies and practices (targeting patrols in certain low-income neighborhoods, policies requiring immediate release to biological parents, group arrest procedures); location of offenses (African American youth using or selling drugs on street corners, White youth using or selling drugs in homes); different behavior by youth of color (whether they commit more crimes than White youth); different reactions of victims to offenses committed by White and youth of color (whether White victims of crimes disproportionately perceive the offenders to be youth of color); or racial bias within the justice system.”

The NCCD report presents data showing that blacks, 17% of the youth population, were responsible for 27.5% of all youth offenses but 45.6% of all violent crimes committed by youths. As a “growing number of states have adopted legislation to exclude certain serious crimes from the jurisdiction of juvenile court and send them directly to adult court”, one would expect black youths, given their greater prevalence for violent crimes, to be more often charged as adults. Youths committing violent crimes are also more likely to be referred to juvenile court instead of remanded to the custody of a relative.


7. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

This is the sort of moronic non-sequitur that passes for common sense among proglodytes. To imply that racism in the US is worse than it was under Apartheid is the height of insanity.

News flash: crime is always low in police states. Apartheid exerted blanket control over every aspect of the lives of South Africa’s blacks, with an unflinching, militarized police to enforce it. Note Legum won’t compare the US with today’s South Africa, where there’s 55 murders every day, and violent car-jackings are reaching epidemic proportions. Where the police — under a black president — have been re-militarized, and — under a black commissioner — face charges of widespread brutality.

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Blaming the Bogeyman

Unlike Legum’s deceptive bullet points, the real statistics show very little overt racial bias whatsoever in our justice system. What does exist is largely unintentional and linked to socio-economic status. These areas of unfairness must be addressed. But a crusade against the chimera of institutional racism is misinformed, misdirected, and counter-productive. While it may fuel the masochism of ThinkProgress fools, and help dung beetles like Alexander get published, it lets down the very people in whose name these social justice warriors ostensibly act.

In 1911 Booker T. Washington observed

“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

A century later, a new generation are playing the same con game. Instead of attacking the real culprits — poverty, dysfunctional schools & families, a sub-culture that actively promotes crime & violence, the rise of gangs, half a century of flawed, failed social engineering — the race-baiters and their prog facilitators target bogeymen.

So long as groups like ThinkProgress continue to spout lies, charlatans like Alexander promulgate conspiracy theories, and demagogues like Jackson & Sharpton spread hate, the real causes of the problem will never be addressed.

(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh. All rights reserved.


We Need to Talk About the Zimmerman Verdict

July 16, 2013

The Verdict

Not Guilty was the correct verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.  That is my firm belief, based on the definition of the charges and of self-defense under Florida law, on the sum of the evidence and testimony presented in the trial, which I followed closely, and on the prosecution’s utter failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt pretty much anything.

How a reasoning, informed person could see otherwise baffles me.  Yet many of you, my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, have expressed dismay, disbelief, and rage that Zimmerman was exonerated.  I suggest that your belief in Zimmerman’s guilt is founded on false information, ignorance of the law, &/or faulty logic.  I will attempt here to disabuse you of those.

With alarming frequency, people impute malevolent motives to those who disagree with them.  Since my facts and logic are impeccable, people assume, anyone who disagrees must be a vile [___]-ist.  Dividing us into camps of Good vs. Evil is wrong, it is highly corrosive, and it must end now.

I invite and encourage all of you to debate this important topic with me.  Our first impulse may be to sweep it all under rug, but I earnestly believe that unless we discuss it openly and civilly, things will only fester.  We need to talk.  Show me where my knowledge is deficient, expose my logic as fallacious.  I’d never hold it against you to question what’s inside my head.  I will if you question what’s in my heart.

_  

All We Know 

Despite rampant speculation, extrapolation, and conjecture, there’s very little of the events of the evening of February 26, 2012 that we know for certain.  We do know that George Zimmerman (“GZ”), a member of the local neighborhood watch, called 911 about an unknown person he believed to be acting suspiciously.  We know his neighborhood had recently suffered a spate of burglaries and home invasions, something that concerned GZ.  As he exited his car and attempted to locate the person in the heavy downpour that night, GZ stayed on line while awaiting the arrival of the police officer he’d requested. Though not required by law to comply with the advisements of a dispatch operator, GZ did indicate he was following the dispatcher’s suggestion to not actively follow the suspicious person. 

We know that Trayvon Martin (“TM”) was walking through the neighborhood that night, returning from a trip to the store.  His friend testified that while on the phone with her that night, TM mentioned an unknown person checking him out, expressed his concern, and his intent to run home.

Approximately four minutes later, GZ and TM encountered each other. It’s unsure if one or the other intentionally precipitated the contact, or whether it was by chance.  Per GZ’s testimony, TM approached him, then punched him without provocation. A police photo and a doctor’s exam showed that GZ received extensive injuries about the face and head, including a broken nose and gashes on the back of his scalp.  The coroner found no fight injuries on TM except some scrapes on the knuckles, consistent with using his fists.  The single eye-witness described GZ laying on his back, TM straddling GZ and furiously beating him.

In a 911 recording we can hear what witnesses confirmed: someone screaming desperately for help for almost a minute.  When questioned by police, TM’s father and brother were unable to identify the voice.  In court they and TM’s mother testified it was TM.  Numerous people in GZ’s circle testified that the voice was GZ’s.

We know GZ shot TM, killing him with a single bullet.

The entire incident, from GZ calling 911, to TM receiving a gunshot wound to the chest, lasted about seven minutes.

_
The Law

After questioning GZ, the police found no grounds for arrest.  After reviewing the case, the DA found no reason to convene a grand jury.  Responding to public pressure and meddling by the DoJ, Florida assigned a special prosecutor, who filed a charge of Second Degree Murder against GZ, considered excessive by most legal experts.  Just before the jury was set to deliberate, a lesser charge of Manslaughter was presented for them to consider.

All of us are familiar with the phrase “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”  In a civil case, only a preponderance of evidence is required to reach a judgment.  In a criminal case, guilt must  be proven “beyond, and to the exclusion of, a reasonable doubt.”.   If we stray from these principles, if we no longer recoil at the thought of punishing an innocent person, either out of emotion or the ‘desire to send a message’, we sell our liberty cheap.


Second Degree Murder 

Florida law is explicit in what must be proven for Murder 2:

  • The death was caused by the criminal act of (defendant).
  • There was an unlawful killing of (victim) by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

A “series of related actions” may constitute an act if “arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.”  An act is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind” only if:

  1. a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and
  2. done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent, and
  3. of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.

GZ committed no crime that evening.  He was well within his legal rights to walk through his neighborhood.  He had the right to follow an unknown person, and challenge them, if that’s what he did.  GZ was licensed to carry a gun, and was operating it properly.

To presume guilt, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that GZ either committed a crime, or was acting in a way no reasonable person would ever act.

GZ’s actions cannot be interpreted as pursuant to any “single design or purpose” other than identifying a stranger.  That GZ had resolved to shoot someone that night is completely unsupported by evidence.  If you haven’t listened to the entire 911 call, do so.

To presume guilt, you must rule out all possible alternative interpretations of GZ actions.

Neither do GZ’s actions, nor his personal character as revealed by witnesses, point to “a depraved mind without regard for human life.”

To presume guilt, you must prove beyond reasonable doubt that GZ possessed a depraved mind.


Manslaughter

The jury was also allowed to consider the lesser charge of Manslaughter:

  • (Defendant) intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of (victim).
  • (Defendant) intentionally procured an act that caused the death of (victim).
  • The death of (victim) was caused by the culpable negligence of (defendant).

Judge Nelson’s instructions to the jury were meticulous in laying out the considerable burden of proof, and deserve quoting in full:

Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence. But culpable negligence is more than a failure to use ordinary care toward others. In order for negligence to be culpable, it must be gross and flagrant. Culpable negligence is a course of conduct showing reckless disregard of human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights.

The negligent act or omission must have been committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily injury.

GZ was not obliged to curtail his movements simply because there was a chance the stranger might punch him.  (There is no “eggshell ego” principle).

To presume guilt, you must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that GZ must have known his actions would likely result in a death.


Self Defense

Contrary to popular belief, GZ did not invoke Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.  GZ claimed he was unable to retreat, so his act of self-defense was Justifiable Homicide:

The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon the defendant….

To presume guilt, you must prove that, after his nose had been broken and while his head was being slammed against the pavement, GZ’s “fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm” was not reasonable.

_

The Wrong Guy

“Ah, well, technically…” you may mutter, while remaining unhappy with the verdict.  I suspect that’s because ‘you’ve got the wrong guy’, as the line in the old crime dramas used to go.  Two wrong guys, actually.

Within hours of the news breaking, the media and other agitators were spinning a tale about it.  Some crazed, racist vigilante had hunted down a little black boy clutching a bag of candy.  Yet again.  Blacks were outraged; whites both shamed and ashamed.

That tale was false, concocted from bits of biases, stereotypes, resentments, misinformation, and a whole slew of lies.  The very first lie (one still being repeated to this day) was the photo released of the departed, a cherubic thirteen year-old:

cherub13

‘What kind of sick bastard could gun down a little child like that?’  you must have thought.  I know; I thought it, too.  Only TM wasn’t thirteen.  He was seventeen, athletic, 6’0″, 170 lbs.:

T33ZY

To get a true perspective of the physical bulk of this “boy”, look , if you can, at the crime scene photo.

What you never learned if you only watched  Pravda  MSNBC, what the jury never got to hear, was that TM was serving a 10-day expulsion from school, his third.  That he’d recently been caught with stolen jewelry.  That he’d boasted on twitter about punching a school-bus driver, and how he’d learned to drop someone with a sucker-punch.  That he’d been caught at school carrying marijuana and that the coroner found THC in his system.  That the skittles and fruit-flavored soft drink he was carrying were actually two of the three ingredients (along with codeine cough syrup) for “Lean” or “Purple Drank”, a trendy & intoxicating rapper’s concoction TM used to talk about making.

The first blow to the Zimmerman-as-racist fable came when his photo was released.   The distinctly latino features failed to match their cartoon-image of a racist. The hate-mongers quickly ‘pivoted’, labeling GZ a “white-” or “self-described” hispanic.  In the same way we describe our president as “half-white” or a “self-described black.”  Pravda MSNBC lent a helping hand by editing GZ’s 911 call to make him sound racist.

Then, as more kept coming out that belied the racist slander — GZ has black relatives, mentored a young black teenager, spoke out against police brutality against a black suspect, has several black friends, is a registered Democrat!!! — the smears shifted to framing him as some frustrated, out-of-control “cop wannabe.”  That caricature, too, was resoundingly undermined.  If you haven’t yet listened to the testimony of the many character witnesses who spoke on GZ’s behalf, do so.

All that was despicable, but let’s not lose focus on the crux of the matter. GZ had nothing to prove.  Perhaps you find him creepy, inept, whatever.  Doesn’t matter. You don’t need to like George Zimmerman to conclude his innocence.  You only need a reasonable doubt about his guilt, and there is an ocean of doubt.  Finally, and most importantly:  you, me, all of us — need to adhere to our Law, or we all lose our freedom.

 

Update 7.23.13:  Some have questioned what caused the Sanford Police to treat the the incident as self-defense.  Here, a photo taken by police of GZ just after he was brought in for questioning:

george-zimmerman closeup


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


The America Transformed! Film Festival

July 4, 2013

When barack obama first ran for president, he promised to transform America.  Five years later, the transformation is nearly complete.  It’s not the kind of future you all envisioned when you voted for him, and it’s certainly nothing like the shiny, false promises he duped you into believing.

Were our Founding Fathers to see what’s become of America, they’d be horrified.  Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, they struggled and fought a war to bring forth a new nation, conceived in liberty. Then, in the Spring of 1787, they met in Philadelphia to craft a lasting document to forever preserve justice, welfare, and freedom for the American people.  When Benjamin Franklin exited the hall where the Constitution had just been drafted, so the story goes, a woman on the street asked, “What have we got: a monarchy or a republic?” “A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”

And for two centuries we kept it, but now it’s all but slipped through our fingers.  Free speech, freedom of assembly — remember when we had those?  Protection from illegal search and seizure, the right to a speedy trial and to face your accusers?  Nice to have, yes, but what with the war on terror and all ….   Oh, and the pursuit of happiness?  When a CEO makes 478 times what his employees do, there ain’t much happiness left over to pursue.

All good things must come to an end, they say.  When the Constitution was written, it granted liberties and opportunity unparalleled in human history.  It was a great gift, purchased with blood and toil, to future generations.  We’re the generation that pawned that gift for base amusement, for comforts and distractions.

“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved”, wrote Sam Adams.  “On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”

While we distract ourselves with social media, sports, gadgets, and reality shows, President  Emperor obama wipes his ass with the Constitution, laughing at you for being the suckers that let him get away with it.

Since no one in America today seems to have the motivation, much less the balls, to heed Sam Adam’s call that “the liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards”, we might as well do one of the only things we’re good at anymore, and watch some television.

Following are some films that will help you acclimate to Emperor obama’s transformed America and your new, unfree role in it:

_
LIVES OF OTHERS  (2006)

Where America now has FISA and PRISM, East Germany bugged your apartment.  Like here, in the DDR everything you said was monitored.  Adherence to the party line forwarded a career, while one careless comment could ruin it; criticism of the government put you behind bars.  Fear begat silence.

Defiant Hero:  Gerd Wiesler

_

SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (2005)

When the nazis prosecuted their political opponents, they used the old Weimar criminal code — they just changed the definitions of the crimes.  So, next time you say, ‘I don’t care if they listen to my phone conversations, because I’m not doing anything illegal,’ ask: how long before they change  what’s “illegal.”

Defiant Martyr: Sophie Scholl

_
THE HUNGER GAMES
(2011)

Following the ravages of global warming, famine, and civil war, an elite minority live in decadent luxury while the general populace, overworked and underfed, struggle to survive.

Defiant Hero: Katniss Everdeen

_
ROLLERBALL (1975)

Corporations rule the world.  The business elite and celebrities enjoy private villas, expensive wines, and jet-setting.  The proletariat are kept quiet with mindless entertainment and violent sports.

Defiant Hero: Jonathan E

_

1984 (1984)

Where the term “Orwellian” comes from.  In a totalitarian state, the populace is under 24/7 surveillance, distracted from their hardships by the threat of a war that never ends.  The language has been intentionally dumbed down to stifle independent thought.  Love for dictator, Big Brother, is maintained by directing hate at a scapegoat, Emmanuel Goldstein.  The state practices total oppression simply because it can.

Defiant Hero: None.  It’s a real downer.

_

V FOR VENDETTA  (2005)

A fascist party, promising to save the country from the threat of wars, anarchy and disease, is swept into power.  All political dissent is brutally crushed, the media is co-opted to spew propaganda.

Defiant Heroes: Guy Fawkes; V; Evie; everyone.

_

‘But,‘ you protest, ‘things are that bad here!’  Yet.  Liberty is a fragile thing.  It requires constant care & attention to maintain, and we have neglected our liberty to the point where it has withered and all but died.  Once lost, liberty can only be regained at great cost, if at all. Once imposed, tyranny rapidly entrenches itself, and grows steadily worse.  Watch the movies, and get used to your future.

Or, remember just one line of dialog, and act on it:

People should not fear their governments;  governments should fear their people.

(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


Parks And Wreck

April 29, 2013

The California state legislature is currently entertaining a bill that would make it legal for homeless people to live in city parks, sleep in parked cars, to cook, bathe and relieve themselves on public property, and to panhandle with impunity.

The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act (AB 5), the brainchild of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, is a monstrosity of run-on sentences, grandiose pronouncements, and baffling non sequiturs, all composed in a verbose, convoluted & euphemistic language that only superficially resembles English.  In and of itself, the composition of AB 5 shows why our nation is suffering slow strangulation by legislation.

The actual proposals and underlying intent of AB 5 are extremist, threaten to disrupt civic cohesiveness, erode the quality of life, and undermine the rule of law, while offering little of substance to the homeless.

_

Homeless Haven

With their mild climates, profusion of charitable groups, and lax attitudes,  California’s cities prove hospitable to those who live permanently on the street.  Current PC conventions refer to such people as “the homeless”. In the past, they’ve been known as hobos, vagrants, or bums (derived from the German Bummler, or ‘drifter’, and akin to the Irish term ‘traveler’.)   “Homeless” was coined to elicit empathy by conjuring the image of otherwise respectable people & families temporarily displaced by bad fortune.   Homeless families, though, tend to avail themselves of shelters, and their average stay is three weeks — enough time for them to sort out their problem and arrange for a place to stay.

The vast majority of people living on the street do so on a permanent basis.  Most are addicts and/or mentally ill, some are runaways.  For various reasons, they decline offers of temporary shelter, and cannot or will not work toward finding a regular home.  Homelessness is their preferred state of existence. A surprising number of individuals and advocacy groups feel that weakening or abolishing vagrancy laws is an adequate solution to their problems.

Mental Diarrhea as Legislation

AB 5 begins — though it’s hard to say where or even whether Ammiano’s mental diarrhea has a beginning, middle or end — with the fallacious argument that, since California had unjust ordinances in the past (e.g. the so-called Ugly Laws prohibiting “people with ‘unsightly or disgusting’ disabilities to appear in public”), any ordinance that makes it hard to be a vagrant is also unjust. He notes that, while the California constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, disability, orientation etc., a person’s “housing status” is not covered.  If that was Ammiano’s real concern, a one-sentence bill adding the words “housing status” would have sufficed — and probably already been passed on a voice vote.

Next comes a litany of the mistreatments endured by the homeless, who’ve been denied:

  • “Housing and employment as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address“;
  • “The ability to make certain purchases or enter certain contests as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address….”  (No Publishers’ Clearing House for you!);
  • “Access to safe, clean restrooms, water, and hygienic supplies … especially with the proliferation of closures of public restrooms”;

And so on. Public shelters are chided for not properly respecting the “dignity” of lesbians, trans-people, pet owners, et al.  The lack of adequate mental health services is also mentioned in passing, but merits no specific provisions in the bill.

_

The Privileged Underprivileged

Despite repetitious, long-winded assertions that new legislation is required to give the homeless equal protection under the law, AB 5 would actually afford vagrants special rights and immunities not enjoyed by the rest of us.  These would include the right to:

  • Remain in any public space “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” even after the “homed” must exit;
  • Stand, kneel, squat, sit, lie down or sleep indefinitely on benches, sidewalks, etc.;
  • Place or set down an unlimited quantity of personal possessions in public indefinitely;
  • Store scavenged goods on public property for reuse and recycling;
  • Representation by a public attorney for offenses & citations for which “homed” citizens do not receive free counsel;
  • Prepare and share food, bathe, and attend to personal hygiene in public.  The phrase “urinating in public” was struck in committee, but the broader provisions of the bill would still legalize it.  (It’s a bit amazing that in the midst of drafting AB 5, Ammiano forgot that humans also produce large quantities of feces.)

Civil servants, who on their own initiative allow the homeless to make use of public buildings or who distribute public supplies to them, would be immune from punishment.  Panhandling would also be decriminalized, on the grounds that the homeless have a “right to self-employment.”

_

Parks and Wreck

Panhandling and vagrancy have long been banned by cities, for good reason: they are anti-social behaviors that make a city unpleasant to live in or to visit.

Panhandling is begging, often done in an aggressive, threatening manner, something I’ve personally experienced.  Traveling by BART to San Francisco one Friday night years ago, I exited onto a deserted Market Street and was immediately accosted by a panhandler.  He ignored my “sorry, no change on me”, got into my personal space and started demanding dollar bills.  I spent several, tense minutes staring him down, bracing for the fight he alluded to, before my ride showed up.  Had I been a tourist, instead of visiting a new girlfriend, I likely would have written off San Francisco for good.

Vagrancy defeats the entire purpose of public parks and other areas: to provide aesthetically-pleasing spaces to be shared and enjoyed by all.  Vagrants abuse and monopolize a public space by converting it into their private space, and in doing so, spoil its appeal and accessibility to others.

Yet, under AB 5, A city would be permitted to implement its local ordinances only if:

  1. Its county provides 24-hour “health and hygiene centers” for the homeless, and;
  2. The municipality does not lie within a federally-designated “area of concentrated unemployment or underemployment or an area of labor surplus”, and;
  3. “The public housing waiting list maintained by the county contains fewer than 50 persons.”

As the League of California Cities points out, all of these requirements are beyond the control of a city.  Further, “AB 5 would create costly mandates, blur the line between local jurisdiction authority, and undermine the local decision making process.”

Now, this might be Tom Ammiano’s way of indirectly pressuring for social reforms, but it sure is a dumbass way to run a government.

_

The Beggars of Calcutta, California

Some on the Right would like to force vagrants to ‘take personal responsibility’ for themselves.  The thing is, they have taken personal responsibility, and living on the street was what they came up with!  These people are constitutionally incapable of doing better.  If a quadriplegic fell overboard, you wouldn’t shout, ‘it’s sink or swim, buddy!’

Science writer Malcolm Gladwell explored the case of one homeless man in Denver, a substance abuser with personality disorders, who after years of repeated run-ins with the police and visits to the ER, froze to death.  Gladwell ran the numbers on the cost of the public services expended on this one man, and discovered it would have been cheaper for the city to have given him an apartment and a full-time caretaker for life.

One might imagine such a ‘socialist’ approach appealing to Ammiano and his  ilk.  In truth, they are no different from the brahmins of Calcutta, perfectly fine with their lowest caste living in squalor.

A truly compassionate society would never consider permission to camp in parks a valid solution.  Instead, vagrants would be removed from public spaces and placed in shelters.  This would be compulsory, for the very act of choosing permanent homelessness indicates an incapacity to care or reason for oneself.  Rather than being tossed spare change to buy Night Train, these fellow human beings would receive — in addition to proper shelter and basic amenities — professional treatment, counseling, and support for their addictions, mental conditions, or familial issues.

AB 5 is not a real solution, and it’s certainly not compassionate. At best, it’s demagoguery; at worst, a plan to convert our precious parks and plazas into lawless refugee camps.  No sane society would contemplate such a step.

(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


A Tale of Two Amendments

April 23, 2013

In West Virginia yesterday, a 14 year old junior high student, Jared Marcum, was ordered by a teacher to remove his t-shirt, which the teacher considered offensive.  Marcum refused, and attempted to explain to the teacher his right to wear said shirt.  His fellow students in the cafeteria stood on benches and tables and began chanting in support of Marcum.  The police were dispatched and Marcum arrested for “disrupting the school process.”  Here’s what he wore:

nra_shirt_cr

The school’s dress code prohibits

  • Clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexually suggestive phrases;
  • Clothing that displays advertisements for any alcohol, tobacco, or drug product.

Mesh tops and dog collars are also (praise be!) banned.  But nothing about political statements or images of guns per se.
_

That Offensive Bill of Rights

It’s impossible to know the full thought process behind the teacher’s action.  What we will be officially told is that he was merely using his discretion to prevent anyone from being offended, or from an argument or dispute arising.  The preposterous claim that Marcum “almost incited a riot” is a flimsy fig leaf, indeed.  It was the teacher’s response to the shirt, not the shirt itself, that sparked the raucous but harmless protest.

Two observations:

1) You can’t offend-proof the entire world.  There’ll always be somebody that’ll be butthurt by something  – a crucifix around someone’s neck might annoy a jew, while a “Jesus Never Existed” t-shirt is bound to steam a christian.  Does this teacher comes down equally hard on students who might offend Bengals fans by wearing a Steelers jersey?;

2) Marcum’s t-shirt was a simple affirmation of:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

(Please tell me this was not a Civics teacher!)

Marcum’s interpretation of the Second Amendment likely differs from that of the teacher, other students, and almost definitely me.  His support for the Bill of Rights, however, ought be shared by all of us, and his free exercise of speech not be abridged.
_

Education or Indoctrination?

The Right complains that the majority of school teachers are liberals, and that they are indoctrinating their students.   The first is an irrefutable fact; the second, I always considered false conjecture.  I’m not so sure anymore. Last year, we heard the (yes, Civics) teacher wrongly tell her students that it was a federal crime to speak out against the president.  Now we have this.

When I was a schoolchild during the era of Nixon Ascendant, it was a comfort when a few of my teachers, always scrupulously neutral in front of the class, clandestinely whispered to me that they were against the war, too.  But, now that I think about it, there was subtle indoctrination as well.  I remember lectures on how wonderful the American Melting Pot was, and being led in song, us little suburban white kids swaying and holding hands with the little bused-in black kids as we belted out “We Shall Overcome”.

That message of accepting diversity and rejecting racism was the same I got at home (sans the singing and hand-holding.)   Isn’t that where those sorts of messages belong?  Did my elementary school teachers have the obligation or the right to countermand the message other classmates were receiving from their parents, that the coons and the spics were lazy, worthless, and to blame for everything?  Those are not rhetorical questions.
_

The Care and Feeding of Your Free Speech Rights

The right to free speech is not absolute in all circumstances or at all times.  The courts have uniformly ruled that, so long as a citizen has access to the exercise of free speech in some areas, it can be limited in others, like a school.   Nor are things like slander, libel, or inciting a riot (for real) — or that most hackneyed of Civics teacher examples, shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre — covered under free speech.  Schools in particular also have a compelling reason to limit the extent of confrontational speech to deter bullying and disruption.

It’s a fine line between proscribing slurs or confrontational behavior, and imposing a cultural or political status quo.  For the greater part, the teachers of my youth did an exemplary job navigating that line.  There are alarming indicators that many of today’s teachers, along with progressives at large, have strayed far over the line.
_

“It Is Known”

In George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones saga, the primitive Dothraki people confirm each statement, whether fact, lore, superstition, wives’ tale or wild rumor, with “it is known.”   Such unquestioning absolutism is rife among the more strident segment of the Progressive Left  (for whom I have coined the term “proglodyte”.)

In the minds of  proglodytes, “it is known” that their view on an host of issues, from gun control to abortion, from the meaning of gender to immigration, is established fact.  Proglodytes also view the world in black and white, with everything “We” believe as Good, and everything “They” believe as Evil.  This leads them to fallaciously attribute, for example, a solidity to their opinion that more gun control is a good thing (and should be taught?) on par with the solidity of the fact that Evolution is true, and that it, but not Intelligent Design or Creationism, should taught.

We cannot, nor should we, prevent teachers from ever influencing their students.  A good Civics teacher would be teaching Heller, and stimulate, not stifle, debate by asking his or her students to compare the opinion and dissent to their own interpretation of the Second Amendment.  In other words, to encourage them to think for themselves.
.

Anyone who espouses an idea must be willing to let that idea stand the test of debate and refutation.  They must be willing to entertain opposing arguments and to permit the expression of antithetical ideas.   The banning of a T-shirt may seem innocuous, but it is the first step down the slippery slope to fascism.


(c) 2013 by Matt Cavanaugh.  All rights reserved.


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