The Bookworm Beat 5-7-15 — the “Damn it, I’m a lawyer” edition and open thread

Woman writingI spent way too much time today wearing my lawyer, daughter, and mother hats, with no time for my blogger hat. Well, the blogging time is now, and I’ve got lots of stuff to share. As is often the case when I’m tired, these are not in any particular order, so you should read the whole thing, rather than assuming “substance at the top and fluff at the bottom.”

Leftists and math

The Chicago teachers’ union is at it again, trying to suck blood out of a rock, the blood being pension funding and the rock being the virtually bankrupt city of Chicago. The friend who sent me this link had a pungent comment about the fact that, for people like Communist and labor leader Karen Lewis, math is hard:

“Once again, the board has created a fiscal crisis in order to justify its continued attack on our classrooms and communities,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “By citing its so-called $1.5 billion deficit, the mayor is proposing a reduction in teaching staff which will result in larger class sizes and the loss of teaching positions.”

At the center of the complaint is the Chicago Board of Education, which wants teachers, social workers and other union members to take a 7 percent pay cut by paying their own pension contributions in order to address some of the city’s economic problems. The union, which has rejected the pension reform proposal, has accused the board of bad-faith bargaining for refusing to reach an agreement of substance in talks which began in November.

Lewis accused the school system of being “broke on purpose” and for retaliating against the union simply because it opposed Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the recent reelection.

I love that phrase: “Broke on purpose.” I’m going to have to try to work it into my own day-to-day life.

A cri de couer re the suddenly ubiquitous trigger warnings

As is true for many of us, Michael Rubin didn’t see trigger warnings coming. It’s just that suddenly there they were, censoring people left and right — although really mostly to the Right, leaving the field open to the only group sensitive enough to avoid all trigger warnigs: Hard core Leftists. Rubin understands what’s really going on and has a suggestion of his own:

All trigger warnings should have a trigger warning so that no one who has experienced or fled from a repressive society might suffer post-traumatic stress reminding them of the authoritarian, Orwellian oppression from which they fled. Millions of people in the countries which comprised the Soviet Union, as well as in China, Cambodia, and Eastern Europe, not to mention tens of thousands of people in Iran, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Eritrea have lost loved ones or spent time in prison/re-education camps for not abiding by the state’s determination of what they should think and believe. Trigger warnings, even if well intentioned, might remind them of this oppressive and sometimes lethal political correctness and cause undue stress. Accordingly, in order to protect the mental well-being of those who value liberty, intellectual freedom, and oppose censorship, perhaps it’s time to agree to put trigger warnings ahead of trigger warnings to ensure that no one is inadvertently stressed out by the decline in mental and intellectual maturity and the infantilization of society which trigger warnings represent.

The person who brings a gun to a free speech fight is ALWAYS wrong

The practically moribund, but still breathing, Time Magazine, to its credit, gave Pamela Geller space in which to make her case. Her case is the correct one. I urge all of you to read this and, if you have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or email round-Robin, to send it along.

The attack in Garland showed that everything my colleagues and I have been warning about regarding the threat of jihad, and the ways in which it threatens our liberties, is true. Islamic law, Sharia, with its death penalty for blasphemy, today constitutes a unique threat to the freedom of speech and liberty in general.

Freedom of speech is the foundation of a free society. Without it, a tyrant can wreak havoc unopposed, while his opponents are silenced.

Putting up with being offended is essential in a pluralistic society in which people differ on basic truths. If a group will not stand for being offended without resorting to violence, that group will rule unopposed, while everyone else lives in fear.


Many in the media and academic elite assign no blame to an ideology that calls for death to blasphemers — i.e., those who criticize or offend Islam. Instead, they target and blame those who expose this fanaticism. If the cultural elites directed their barbs and attacks at the extremist doctrine of jihad, the world would be a vastly safer place.

Read the whole thing and try to get everyone else you know to do so too.

That’s the redoubtable, inimitable, absolutely necessary Pamela Geller in her own words. For other good words about free speech, I recommend David French’s “Pamela Geller’s Critics Are Proving Her Point,” and Rich Lowry’s “Why Won’t Pamela Geller Shut Up?” Both these articles are must-reads.

Also, if you want a perfect Kodak moment of Leftist hypocrisy, check out John Nolte’s post about the New York Times, which condemns Geller from bashing one religion while it bashes another.

Oh, and one more thing: our craven government security forces — that would be the FBI and Homeland Security — haven’t even bothered to talk to Geller about the threats against her life from Islamists.

James Franco in praise of McDonald’s

I love McDonald’s Chicken Selects and believe that they serve the best french fries around. Wherever you are, it’s a reliable, cheap meal. McDonald’s is also a great entry level job, teaching youngsters such virtues as punctuality, reliability, and hard work. So even though I find him distasteful, I have to applaud James Franco for writing a WaPo opinion piece praising McDonald’s.

Shy Tories strike again

In 1992, in England, polls indicated that many fewer Brits would vote Conservative than would vote for Labour. In fact, Conservatives won by a substantial margin. And thus was born the “shy Tory factor” which said that, in a climate in which Leftists humiliate, berate, and otherwise attack conservatives, people lie to pollsters about their voting preferences. That seems to have happened again in England, where David Cameron took an unexpected lead — unexpected, that is, to all of those who forgot the shy Tory factor.

Tom Cotton takes a principled stand against a Constitution-weakening Trojan Horse

Tom Cotton was the only Senator to vote against the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. He did so for all the right reasons. In his own words:

“A nuclear-arms agreement with any adversary—especially the terror-sponsoring, Islamist Iranian regime—should be submitted as a treaty and obtain a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate as required by the Constitution. President Obama wants to reverse this rule, requiring opponents to get a two-thirds vote to stop his dangerous deal. But Congress should not accept this usurpation, nor allow the president any grounds to claim that Congress blessed his nuclear deal. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to stop a dangerous deal that would put Iran on the path to obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

I like that young man.

Harrison Bergeron comes to life

I’ve often mentioned Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” which is set in a dystopian future where everyone is equal. Vonnegut, in the days before he turned into a brain-dead Leftist, realized a core problem with the whole “everyone must be perfectly equal” movement: You cannot make dumb people smart, or slow people fast, or ugly people beautiful; however, you can make smart people dumb, fast people slow, and beautiful people ugly. In other words, the only way to level society is to lower society — that is, to bring everyone in it to the lowest common denominator.

Kevin Williamson points out that, decades after Vonnegut wrote his timeless story, the Left is still busily trying to bring America down to the lowest common denominator.

Vandalism just cheapens our cause

I did a post about the attack on Christianity, and used as one of my discussion points a stupid church sign in Mill Valley that likened God and Joseph to gay men who parented Jesus. I used speech to attack speech, which epitomizes the marketplace of ideas.

Unfortunately, someone vandalized the sign, which is not an argument; it’s just tantamount to a heckler’s veto and makes us no better than the Left. It would have been so much better to have emailed my post to everyone in Mill Valley….

There won’t always be an England

When I lived in England more than 30 years ago, the North was much more British than the more cosmopolitan South. There were many fewer foreigners living there, and the old towns had people whose families had lived in the region for hundreds of years.

I therefore always find it particularly appalling when I read articles describing the Islamisization of Yorkshire — a trend that carries with it anti-British sentiment, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, and a whole host of other disgusting social pathologies that Islam invariably trails in its wake.

The Leftist revolution continues to eat its own

All I can offer you is the lede to this Daily Caller story. You have to read the whole thing yourself to appreciate it fully:

Students at Dartmouth College launched a petition drive demanding the newly-elected student body president resign after they say he was disrespectful to the plight of American blacks and other marginalized groups.

The twist: The president is a gay black man.

Wolf Howling sent me this story. I wrote him back to say that the phrase about revolutions eating their own was the right idea for what I wanted to say, but it just had too brawny and masculine a feel for what’s going on. Seeing a fight like the one at Dartmouth is kind of like watching Lord of the Flies, only with a cast of feral two-year olds.

Is Hillary too sick to be president?

If this D.C. gossip story about Hillary’s seriously fragile health, centered around brain damage issues, is true, Hillary is committing a fraud against the American people. Of course, there’s nothing new about that, so why am I even getting excited about it?

Even when Leftists get close to the truth, they veer away before touching it

My friend Patrick O’Hannigan caught something interesting in Vanity Fair when Leftist pundit James Woolcott tried to write an even-handed critique about dishonesty in the American media: with the best will in the world, he couldn’t do it.  His bias just kept oozing out.

Which reminds me of a Scientific American article by Piercarlo Valdesolo that’s been making the rounds. In it, Valdesolo acknowledges that strong Leftist bias in social psychology and acknowledges that it perverts study outcomes and analyses. He notes that conservatives say that the answer is to allow more conservatives into these liberal only enclaves, both to get studies with other viewpoints, and to get necessary push back on the Leftists’ own work.

One would think that, have admitted that it’s a problem that there are no conservatives in the field, Valdesolo would agree that the field needs more conservatives. If one thought that, one would think wrong. Instead, Valdesolo says that liberals simply have to be more vigilant about their biases. James Woolcott’s failure pretty much illustrates everything that’s wrong with Valdesolo’s inability to contemplate doing away with Leftist academic monopolies.

Monday morning round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesI’m going to have a lot of stuff about the Israel/Hamas showdown (of course) but, for those of you who are interested in other stuff, don’t despair. I’ll have other stuff too.

** 1 **

I’ve often mentioned StandWithUs, an organization that was founded to fight the growing antisemitism on American campuses. During the current war, StandWithUs has used social media on Israel’s behalf.

One of the things it started was a campaign that sees people mailing pictures of the cover of their passport, along with a message on the palm of their hand: “I stand with Israel.” This article describes the campaign, and this link takes you to the page where you can upload your photo.

I dug out my passport yesterday and sent my message. If your passport is handy, perhaps you can too. When a war is fought, not just on the field of battle, but around the world in cyberspace, these things matter.

Palestinian support for Israel against Gaza

** 2 **

One of the things Muslims do when they conquer a territory is to erect their prayer towers at a height higher than any other building in the community. Not only does this visually prove their dominance, it also forces everyone around to hear the Muslim call to prayer (which Obama described as “the sweetest sound I know“). Lately, to ensure that everyone hears that “sweetest sound,” Muslims have taken to blasting the call to prayer out on loudspeakers. In Israel, some residents finally had enough and blasted out a few prayers of their own.

** 3 **

The Lancet, founded in 1823, was once one of England’s most prestigious medical journals. During the Iraq War, though, it proved that it had become just another hack Leftist mouthpiece when it published an article in 2004 claiming that 68,000 Iraqis had died from U.S. attacks, a number it updated in 2006 to 655,000. All these numbers were resoundingly debunked, but the study still had an impact, inflaming the usual suspects in the Muslim world and on the Left.

Flush with the success of its last disinformation campaign, The Lancet is at it again, with a completely unsourced diatribe against Israel (which I won’t dignify with a link). Two Israeli physicians tried to get The Lancet to publish a well-sourced rebuttal but, although a reputable science publication would have willingly published that rebuttal, The Lancet naturally refused. If you, however, would like to learn truth via data, rather than lies via screeds, go here.

** 4 **

Hamas fighters may be getting demoralized, but its leaders are feeling flush with success. They’ve got a pile of dead children for photo ops, they got flights to Israel shut down for 24 hours, Jews in Europe are under siege in a way reminiscent of 1938, American streets are filled with thousands of pro-Hamas marchers, and the President and Secretary of State are fully on-board with Hamas’s agenda. To the relief of Israel supporters around the world, though, Israel appears to be thumbing its nose at the Obama regime and, instead, is focusing on its own security. This focus means continuing the Gaza operation so as to shut down those tunnels.

** 5 **

Europeans are, as always, fully supportive of Hamas. Part of this is age-old antisemitism. Part of it is Leftism. Part of it is a way of blaming Jews for Auschwitz and the purges and pogroms in which even conquered countries cheerfully participated.

And part of it, apparently, is the European Union’s ongoing battle with the U.S. for world supremacy. Once upon a time the U.S. supported Israel against the Soviet Union, which supported the Arabs. Now, the EU is supporting the Arabs against the U.S.’s long-standing support for Israel.

The only flaw in that plan is that, thanks to Barack Obama, the U.S. is also supporting the Arabs, so that the EU isn’t distinguishing itself from the U.S. at all. (See here and here, for articles supporting the conclusion that Obama is no longer bother to hide his pro-Hamas, anti-Israel stance.)

** 6 **

Facebook has gone despicable and deleted pro-Israel pages while allowing genocidal anti-Israel pages to stand.

The problem, of course, is that despite its vileness, Facebook is still the only game in town when it comes to spreading political messages throughout ones community of friends, acquaintances, and followers. For example, I know that many of my “real me” Facebook friends couldn’t care less about Israel or, since they’re DemProgs, they kind of vaguely support Hamas.

Because I’m inundating my feed, though, with clear, pro-Israel posters, there’s a possibility that this information will subliminally seep into their brains and value systems.  After all, that’s how Hollywood did it in the 1970s through today:  they subliminally changed people’s values through “entertainment” shows that were really “info-tainment” shows for Leftist ideas.

** 7 **

The Son of Hamas understands both how nihilistic that organization is and that its ultimate goal is world conquest for a caliphate:

** 8 **

Here’s another insight into how Muslims think — and it’s not the way people raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition think.

And finally, on to other, non-Israel/Hamas stuff:

** 9 **

I know that there are bad cultures that care for and wouldn’t gratuitously hurt animals (witness Hitler’s and the Nazi’s love for dogs), but are there any good cultures that gratuitously hurt and torture animals?  I can’t think of any.  Anyway, the following video is darling:

** 10 **

If you’ve been following the Bakken crude oil debate — which sees critics claiming that it’s too volatile to ship, and therefore useless — here are some actual facts explaining that it’s perfectly shippable (which, if it isn’t a word, ought to be).

** 11 **

The facts: A gun-toting man enters a gun-free hospital and begins firing, killing one person. He is stopped only because one of the staff doctors, ignoring the hospital’s gun-free status, shoots him, saving untold numbers of lives. The logic in Left land: Gun free zones should stay gun free because guns are dangerous.

No matter how many times you point out that the only way to stop a mass shooter is if a good guy with a gun shows up (whether that guy is on site or whether it takes 20 minutes for armed police to arrive), the Left insists that just declaring a zone “gun free” will save lives. It’s this kind of stupidity that practically drove me into the arms of conservativism.

** 12 **

Teacher’s unions — not individual teachers, many of whom are devoted and wonderful, but teacher’s unions — are harming American schools. This video perfectly describes my public school experiences growing up in San Francisco:

** 13 **

By leaping on every Leftist politically inspired bandwagon, experts have devalued themselves so much that half the world ignores anything they have to say.

** 14 **

Remember Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who was for withholding funds from federal Obamacare exchanges before he was against it? Well, there’s more….

(And here’s something cool: I bet you recognize the website at that link.  You should, because Hube, at the Colossus of Rhodey is one of my longtime Watcher’s Council friends. It turns out that the man who unearthed the first Gruber video was one of Hube’s old classmates. When he needed a forum to take down Gruber and reinforce Halbig, he went calling on his old friend who is now a conservative blogger.)

** 15 **

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been iconic figures since the end of the 19th century. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not write them as gay characters. Indeed, Dr. Watson adores women and eventually marries, leaving Holmes alone in the flat at Baker Street. With the renewed popularity of Sherlock Holmes and Watson thanks to a recent BBC series, the LGBTQ crowd thinks Holmes and Watson need an upgrade: They should become gay lovers.

Hmmm. Thinking. … Thinking. … Thinking. … Nope. I just don’t see it. What I do see, though, is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spinning in his grave.

** 16 **

One of the things conservatives constantly need to re-learn is that the culture wars are never won. When one side gains temporary dominance, the other side than begins a renewed charge to end that dominance. We’re currently in a period of Leftist dominance that has (finally) started a nascent conservative comeback. Should we win, we’ll naturally, and stupidly, rest on our laurels, creating a vacuum that the Left will aggressively rush to fill.

I mention all this because America may have won WWII in 1945, but the war is still being fought at the academic level. When the Smithsonian first mounted a Hiroshima exhibit 15 years ago, the Left seemed to have won, making the exhibit all about American imperialist aggression. Five men successfully fought back, but even they caution that the fight is never over.

** 17 **

I love Harry Stein’s writing. He’s warm and funny and mirrors my own journey from Left to Right (although I didn’t begin as far Left as he did). His crossing the Rubicon book, How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), is most definitely worth a read.

What I didn’t realize (or didn’t remember) about Stein, is that his father, Joseph Stein, wrote the book for Fiddler on the Roof, a show that simultaneously helped pro-Jewish and pro-Israel feeling around the world, even while offending religious Jews with its message favoring assimilation. Joseph Stein was the kind of Jew I knew growing up: educated, funny, creative, and very, very Left.

Harry has written a lovely homage to his father (who died in 2010, aged 98 years), managing to maintain his love and respect for the man whose political and social values Harry so definitively rejected.

** 18 **

Hamas secret weapon

I'm at a fundraiser now

Hamas refuses ceasefire

Civilization calls

Harry Reid on illegal immigrants

(Thanks to Earl and Sadie, who contribute to every post I write by sending me wonderful articles and images. Caped Crusader is also one of my main sources for images and anecdotes, although I don’t think any of his contributions made it to this particular post.)

Public schools dying under the weight of teacher’s unions

Teaching math

I’ve been hostile to teacher’s unions since I was a child.  I saw them from both ends:  as a lifelong public school student and as a child whose father (reluctantly) belonged to the California teacher’s union.

In the classroom, my teachers were decrepit fossils, many of whom hated students, and few of whom could teach.  Here’s a highlight list of some of those teachers:

  • Mr. X, the science teacher who quizzed 13 year old girls about their sex lives, said of a Jewish student “there’s another one Hitler should have gotten,” and who physically attacked a student and then threw a movie projector out the window.  I think it was the damage to school property that finally got him kicked out of the classroom on administrative leave.  He drew a full salary for four years before they terminated him.
  • Mr. Y, the math teacher who would periodically rush out into the noisy hallway outside his classroom, screaming “G-g-get a-w-w-ay from m-m-my c-c-c-classroom, you f-f-future p-p-pimps and wh-wh-whores!”  His teaching was no better than his attitude.
  • Ms Z, famous for telling students that children’s books were riddled with sex.  After her class, students would convene in the halls to spread the word about sexual imagery in The Cat In The Hat or Where The Wild Things Are.  (I hear from reliable sources that high school English teachers today are just as, if not more, sex obsessed than Ms. Z.)
  • Ms A, the chemistry teacher who was one year away from retiring, and had apparently decided to start her retirement early by stopping teaching.  She had us memorize the Periodic Table of Elements, but never actually told us what it was.  She’d give us worksheets with experiment procedures, but forgot to tell us what scientific principle was at stake.  I got a B in her class.  Everyone else I knew got an A, because they’d managed to get their hands on the master sheet for her test.  She didn’t care.  She was leaving anyway.

I had some decent, or merely mediocre, teachers during my years in public school, but I had only three or four really good teachers. With those few exceptions, my teachers were old, bored, hostile, and/or dysfunctional.  Had they been employees in the private sector they would have been fired long before or, fearing firing, they would have gotten their acts together.

What I heard from my Dad about the inner workings of the teacher’s union didn’t make me very happy either.  For one thing, and this is a gripe that no longer has much resonance, the unions did a lousy job of getting teachers decent salaries.  The way it worked was that the union bosses would enter into a negotiation with the school administrators (who were also union members).  The deal would be that the administrators would get a 4% cost of living wage and the teachers a 2% cost of living wage (this was during the inflationary 1970s).  Once this deal was reached, the administrators would then negotiate with the powers that be for this pay package.  And that was it.

My Dad was disgusted that he was forced to pay union dues to an organization that provided him with something that barely qualified as a living wage.  As I said, those days are gone.  The unions have figured out how to make sure that their members get good wages.

What disgusted my Dad even more than lousy salary representation was the way the unions insisted on sticking their noses into curriculum matters.  California unions were advancing Ebonics long before the media caught hold of the notion.  (And when the media caught on, a still sane American public laughed the idea out of the schools.)  They also argued in favor of abandoning phonics (so a generation didn’t learn to read), pushing new math (so a generation, myself included, never learned math), and generally overhauling education in a direction that decreased learning.  In recent decades, they’ve added an overwhelming Leftist tilt to the entire curriculum.

My regularly occurring rant against teacher’s unions came about today because Prager U has a new video out, this one about the damage teacher’s unions to do American public education.

Incidentally, I’m trying out a new approach when it comes to school vouchers.  When I post about vouchers, I say that the school choice movement is the best thing that can happen to public school teachers.  The good ones are always complaining about the curriculum limits placed upon their classrooms and the way these limits interfere with their ability really to teach the children.  School choice, by forcing public schools to compete, would mean that school boards and state education departments would have to listen to these teachers in order to improve the schools’ competitive standing.  This argument puts teachers in a bind, because they can scarcely argue that there’s no room for improvement.  Further, if they reject this argument, they’re conceding that they’re not being truthful when they speak to concerned parents and say that, with regard to a certain teaching approach, their hands are tied.

It’s not the teachers, it’s the unions

For the most part, teachers across America are hard-working, committed, good people.  A teacher raised me.  My Dad was willing to work for a pittance because he had a genuine calling to teach.

Nowadays, teachers ostensibly get paid much more money than my Dad did, but at what cost?  As this video shows, the money isn’t really going to the teachers.  It’s going to the unions and the politicians, i.e., the employees’ representatives and the employers’ representatives, two groups that should create balance by pulling against each other put that, instead, suck up wealth by working in tandem against the taxpayers: