Thursday, May 31, 2018

Consumer Reports jumps the shark

How so?  Well, if you're familiar with the organization, they used to refrain from giving "buy" ratings to vehicles until they had been around a year or two.  That went out the door when they recommended, I believe, the Toyota Tundra in its first year--and at which, if I remember correctly, they were rewarded with a sub-par reliability record that any good automotive engineer would have predicted.  You have to shake out the bugs, after all. 

Another interesting thing I noted about 15 years back was that they warned against buying the Chevrolet Suburban because of the cost of gasoline, but not against the Mercedes full size SUV, which was predicted to cost about $200 more than the Suburban to fuel each year because it required premium gasoline to get full performance.

Now, on the strength of a braking update, they're giving the same rating to a vehicle from a company that has suffered a rash of battery fires and crashes while in "autopilot" mode.  I think it's safe to say that, while there are good things coming out of Consumer Reports, you've got to watch their bias when it comes to automobiles.  There are times when it isn't exactly subtle.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Apparently the investigation into former USC gynecologist George Tyndall is only a month old, and there are already 410 complaints and 27 people filing suit.  Scarily similar to the MSU case, known complaints date back to the 1990s.  Unlike MSU, USC appears to have a much stronger reporting culture--39 of 52 initial reports were provided to police by the university--and they're being far more proactive in investigating and firing those who looked the other way.   

I'd have to suggest that knowing they're a  private university, and that they have no sovereign immunity, might have something to do with that.  Even so, I  would guess there will be thousands of plaintiffs by the time this one plays out.

And if you read the articles--not recommended for the squeamish, by the way--I think you'll wonder why someone would do such things.  Well, here's a 1991 New York Times article about the subject, and here's a database from the University of Michigan as well.


This article about failure to report cases of suspected criminal sexual conduct with a minor by Planned Parenthood suggests that #MeToo could be....quite costly for Planned Infanticide, at least if the precedents learned at Michigan State are any indication.  If it happens, couldn't happen to a better organization, if you ask me.  You just have to get the victims together and ask them if Planned Infanticide made reports about their victimization.

Might just have to get that started....

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Let's talk sovereign immunity

One of the most perplexing things in the Larry Nassar/MSU fiasco is the topic of sovereign immunity.  There are a bunch of questions about this, starting with why a university with sovereign immunity vs. civil suits would bother with liability insurance to begin with, and continuing of course to why those insurance companies are ponying up hundreds of millions of dollars for something for which they're not liable.  We have here, really, something of a partial triumph of morality and ethics over the law in that $500 million settlement.  Partial, sad to say.

But that said, we ought to examine why MSU and other public institutions have degrees of sovereign immunity to begin with.  Let's start with core government functions; if indeed it is seen as likely that the police, fire department, or military could be effectively shut down by a barrage of civil suits, then some degree of sovereign immunity makes sense there.  It would, if it occurred, endanger the people as a whole.  The application can be debated, but there is a certain logic to it.

Now let's think about universities.  As students at Albion, Calvin, Hillsdale, and a host of other private colleges in Michigan know very well, the state has a vibrant sector of private schools doing pretty much the same thing that the public universities are doing.  So practically speaking, MSU has no more call for sovereign immunity than does Hillsdale.  The only justification for the policy, really, is the notion that public universities either have greater opportunities for liability than others, or that they are uniquely incapable of defending themselves against such lawsuits.

And if that's the best argument out there--and logically I think it is--immunity for universities needs to go.  To paraphrase Frederick Douglass, those denied recourse in the ballot box and the jury box may seek it in the cartridge box.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Well, yes, I'd agree

The Indianapolis Star--which ought to get a few Pulitzers for their coverage of the Larry Nassar scandal--has a new bombshell story out indicating that USA Gymnastics deliberately hid Nassar's status of "person being investigated for criminal sexual conduct" from their constituents.  Put gently, MSU's $500 million settlement ought to look downright puny in comparison with what USA Gymnastics is going to end up paying for that boondoggle.

And I hate to admit it, but one quote of Nassar actually made me smile.  In discussion of the matter with USAG about his status, he's said to have written this:

Can we just say I am sick?

Yes, Mr. Nassar, we can, and I hope that some good psychiatrists get to talk with you in prison to give their profession a better view of what made you do what you did, and how we might avoid that in the future.

What's the life expectancy of a windmill?

If this report from Watt's Up With That? is indicative, it's apparently about five years when they're exposed to high winds and salt spray.  This is about 20% of the rated life.

Regarding that rated life, having done defense related contracting, suffice it to say that I'd be surprised if they'd done a good statistical analysis involving salt spray, waves, winds, UV light, and the other words, their analysis was almost necessarily flawed.  However, any good old time engineer--the kind they might not like hiring at renewable energy companies for obvious reasons--would have told them that they're going to have difficulty due to these factors.

And given that you've got to anchor them somehow--either a floating platform or a foundation going to the bedrock under the sea--it also isn't entirely clear that they're going to produce enough energy to justify making them. 

Ouch.  Once again, "environmentalist" all too often means "person who cannot do math or science."  H/T Powerline.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tip of the iceberg

Continuing on my earlier thoughts, let's examine the implications of the notion that recent "MeToo" revelations are even now just the tip of the iceberg.  Really, if we believe the statistics saying a huge portion of young people are sexually abused, and moreover if we believe the statistics suggesting that rape and sexual assault are grossly underreported even among adults, we've got to say "yes."  For that matter, even if we only believe 10% of what we hear, the answer is still "yes". 

But that noted, let's ask a very simple question; if we were to bring all these hidden cases out into the open and deal with them in civil court (and criminal), is it going to bankrupt us?  The scary answer might be "no".

First, let's do some calculations.  If we value the cost of dealing with childhood sexual abuse at about a million dollars per victim and estimate about 20% of the population is abused by age 18, we have an annual cost of about a trillion dollars per year.   Wild numbers, sure, but bear with me. 

Now let's consider that those who are abused as children show disproportionate mental health problems, are more likely to become abusers themselves, and are more likely to have a variety of long term disfunctions.   Might we guess, perhaps, that the rest of us are paying for what they need already through our insurance premiums, welfare, and the costs of incarceration?  The numbers are similar enough in scale that we ought to consider the possibility that longer statutes of limitations and the end of sovereign immunity might not break the bank at all. 

It might just clarify accounting, and maybe offer us a path to ask whether they money we're spending for this is being effectively used. 

How to hurt victims

Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal (which I called the "Lansing Stale Journal" when I was a student at MSU, I confess....) gives a great summary about why half a billion bucks has 332 victims of Larry Nassar absolutely ticked off.  (H/T one of those ticked off ladies)  More or less, what you have, legally speaking, is an admission of guilt without any evidence of repentance. 

And why so?  Well, Couch is probably correct--as I noted in an earlier post--that part of the problem lies with how civil law tends to work out, and how insurance companies work.  More or less, you have a university with (currently) zero legal liability paying half a billion bucks to...more or less retain the immunity they clearly aren't making very good use.  And in return for (theoretically) paying off this debt, apparently the insurance companies are insisting that the university not admit what the settlement admits; that the university was liable.

If your head is spinning, that makes both of us.  Sovereign immunity is, in its current form, a mess.  But that doesn't explain everything, like how my alma mater consistently chose to insult the victims here.  Sure, there's a place for examining credibility, but when the "evidence" is complete bull... nonsense, what are the ethics in that?

I think it has a lot to do with what's not being discussed in these cases, but which is (implicitly) front and center in the discussion over whether statutes of limitations ought to be extended, and whether government entities ought to lose sovereign immunity.  Specifically, organizations impacted are wondering whether Larry Nassar and Bill Strampel are just the tip of the iceberg.

And, judging by the ease at which I find other examples of wrongdoing in universities, my guess is "yes".  If only MSU were the only bad actor out there, but they're not. 

And no matter how you slice it, when I consider the healing power of a genuine apology and repentance, the current system can hardly be beaten in terms of repeating the abuse that victims have already suffered.  We ought to seriously think about reforming sovereign immunity, practices of civil law, and insurance practices to allow people to admit the obvious, apologize, and invite outsiders in to help clean up the messes.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Homeschooling" and abuse: no connection, same as always

According to this article, the "homeschooling" family recently found to have abused their children significantly had not filed required legal notices, had previously been investigated by social services, and the father of most of the children had previously been convicted of a crime in a plea deal for an indictment mentioning at least four felonies.

In other words, contrary to my previous comments on this matter, this is not in fact a case where a family successfully used "homeschooling" as an aegis against investigation.  It is a case where under-prosecution for crimes and failed social services interventions lead to nasty abuse of children.

Really, as a homeschooling dad who values the freedoms we have and also wants to protect children, it strikes me that the best thing we could have is notification of intent to homeschool combined with actually providing social services the resources they need to do their jobs correctly.  And as a reader of the "HSLDA Court Report", I can say that yes, that means with a culture of honoring the 4th Amendment by getting warrants and not just threatening one's way into a home.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Halfway there, I guess

My alma mater, Michigan State, has reached a $500 million settlement with the 326 or so victims of Larry Nassar's abuse, but it does not appear that they're agreeing to other things the victims desired, and quite frankly MSU ought to desire.  MSU still needs a top to bottom independent audit of all Title IX activities for the past 30 years, top to bottom independent audit of their HR files for the past 25 years, and top to bottom audit of the athletic department for the same period of time.  They also need annual sampling audits of all three functions--I'd argue for the next ten years--to make sure the bad habits don't come back, as well as a formal, public apology. 

It's a relief, but also a huge opportunity apparently squandered.  As such, MSU--and every other college in the country--is simply counting down the days until the next Larry Nassar scandal breaks.  And lookee here, it's a gynecologist at USC.   And a track coach at Arizona....come on, folks, it's only a matter of time before the complainant brings a gun or two instead of a lawyer.

In related news, it appears that the Michigan State legislature is working hard to squander a golden opportunity to fix statutes of limitations on child sexual assault.  By looking at who benefits--of course trial lawyers will benefit to some degree along with their clients--they're really missing the main question, which is whether the duration of effects of these crimes justify lengthening the statute of limitations. 

And given that rape is indeed a capital crime in the Torah, I think we have a principle we can act on.  Yes, longer civil and criminal statutes of limitations will cost money.  They will hurt organizations and benefit lawyers, yes.  On the flip side, if indeed the damage of sexual abuse is lifelong, isn't this an important part of helping the victims heal?

To be blunt, I've got a little bit of a dog in this fight, as my brother and I helped expose a predator when we were young pups.  Our babysitter was one of the abused, and "acted out" some of his abuse by giving us an impromptu sex ed lesson--no touching, but right in front of a picture window.  After we mentioned the incident to our parents, we got a new babysitter, and the perpetrator was "gently invited" to leave town by our former babysitter's father. 

And statistics are that up to 25% of young women (and 16% of young men) are molested by age 18; it's way more personal for them.  Maybe it's time to take this seriously.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Perusing the list of men who have died in recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, it strikes me that all of those who have been identified are men between the ages of 14 and 40.   In other words, they fit the demographics of 99% or more of Islamist terrorists, and when they died, they were doing what Islamist terrorists tend to do--throwing whatever objects might be handy to kill Israelis. 

Looks like Hamas is losing its touch.  They used to be able to get a woman or child killed to at least make it plausible that what they were doing might not be terrorism, but not this time.

A sad day for homeschooling

Update: scratch the note below.  See here for current status; the family was well known to social services and the police before this broke. 

Parents in California have been arrested for a slew of crimes in California, and apparently they've been hiding under the aegis of homeschooling.   Earlier cases have almost invariably fallen into the category of crimes where the perpetrators were already well known to authorities, but such evidence does not appear yet in this case.  The closest I can see is that the couple is said to have had a number of addresses, and (like the Turpin case) those involved in their moving might have noticed something awry.

Of course, there is yet the proverb "hard cases make bad law", and one doesn't want to institute Jeremy Bentham's Panoptikon any more than it already is, but at this point, this case does appear to be one of those harder cases.

I smell lawsuits

Apparently governmental units in California are spoofing Bernie Sanders' campaign slogans to advertise free STD checks.   Maybe people on the left have forgotten that being associated with "the clap" used to be fightin' words, and as a conservative I have jokingly associated the far left with various diseases, but in a sane world, I'd think that Senator Sanders would be suing over that one.

One would have to assume, I'd guess, that a sense of shame at "earning" one of these diseases has completely been lost, which is, of course, a shame.

Friday, May 11, 2018

On circling the wagons

Hopefully an investigation will say a lot more about this one; MSU General Counsel Kristine Zayko has resigned as evidence suggesting she knew about some of the misdeeds of both Larry Nassar and John Strampel has arisen.   It's scary enough to think that a male could look past such sins and crimes; it is even scarier to think that a woman would do so, especially a woman with a law degree and job responsibility for Title IX compliance. 

We err, I think, if we under-estimate the power of group affiliation and the tendency to circle the wagons.  Moreover, Ms. Zayko demonstrates that developing a "safe" environment in any organization is never as simple as simply hiring someone from a likely group of victims. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Big problems in Oakland

A former prosecutor notes that a case where a security guard for a taco truck was killed makes the case for banning assault weapons, as if the shotgun the security guard first saw his killer carrying wouldn't have killed him just as dead as the "assault rifle" actually used.  Worth noting as well is that if the Oakland PD had done its job, the killer would not have even been on the streets at the time of the security guard's death, as he'd have been in jail for felony possession of a sawed off shotgun.

Never mind the fact that in civilized places, taco trucks do not need to hire security guards.  I've told the joke--a lot--about the guy who's afraid of moving to California being reassured that if he finds a good community with good schools and neighbors, it's the same as any other--and then when he asks his benefactor what he does for a living, the benefactor answers "I'm a tailgunner on a bread truck."

Evidently in Oakland, it's not a joke. 

Update: many thanks to Hearthie for pointing out my title incorrectly pointed at LA instead of Oakland.  Oops!  The question now arises whether you need a tailgunner on a taco truck in LA, too.

Houston, we have a problem

Hannah Ettinger, who grew up in the flagship church of Sovereign Grace Ministries, illustrates a distressing pattern among evangelical and fundamental Christians today.  Specifically, while 1 Cor. 7:12-16 tells Christians to let the nonbelieving spouse leave in peace--and I'd argue that a theoretically believing spouse who abandons his wife all but confesses unbelief--there seems to be an ingrained belief in many corners for "my" tribe that divorce is unforgiveable, even in the cases of adultery or abandonment.

It seems that by and large, "my" corner of the church needs to catch up with the church of a century ago, which allowed divorce for adultery and abandonment.  I don't even need to know exactly what the former Mr. Ettinger did to his ex-wife--late nights, things that Ms. Ettinger considers abusive, all that--I can simply reassure her that it is no sin to let a husband go who simply doesn't want to be there.

Ms. Ettinger, on the small chance you're reading this, looks like "we" screwed up.  I'll keep your story in mind in the future.  Hopefully I don't get too many chances to apply what I've learned, but I'll keep the story in mind.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Body blow to the Scouts

Apparently the Mormon Church, and about 20% of Boy Scouts, is now leaving the organization over various changes made, from homosexual leaders to admitting girls.   I'm not quite sure what to think, really.  On one side, it was always strange to me that the Mormons used the Scouts more or less as their discipleship arm for so long--their equivalent of confirmation classes/CCD in some ways.   And on the flip side, since the units nominally retain some sovereignty, it's strange that they're now leaving.  I wonder what happens to Scout camps in Utah and Idaho, really.  They're going to be really quiet going forward, I'd guess.

And really, I wonder what happens to Scouting in general.  This action will take the Scouts to below 2 million young men for the first time in close to a century, and they were having trouble paying the bills even before this.  I don't believe that selling their Utah camps to the LDS will solve the problem for very long, to put it mildly.  They've done a lot of good in the past, so you hate to see them in a death spiral, but that seems to be at least arguable now.

Now that's very interesting....

I saw this one last night while working out; Stephanie Clifford's "lawyer" has made a bombshell claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen received a large payment from Russian sources.  Now on the surface, this seems like really big news, but (having learned a few lessons about the media these days) upon about a second's reflection, I'm about 98% sure this is actually bad news for Michael Avenatti and perhaps even Robert Mueller.

How so?  Simply consider how on earth Avenatti could have learned this.  Barring a sympathetic mole in Cohen's office, his claim is either a lie (and he's in peril of disciplinary action), or his source is in Robert Mueller's office--in which case he and someone in Mueller's office is in peril of being prosecuted.

Ordinarily, I'd approach the Cohen/Avenatti spat about the same way I'd approach a football game between Miami and USC--hoping for injuries on both sides--but it's intriguing how "The Donald" seems to have a knack for making brilliant people make absolutely idiotic mistakes.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Now that's a candid admission

Many are highly offended that Saturday Night Live spoofed the President's alleged relationship with Stephanie Clifford, but for my part, it seems that she's just admitted what the end game is.  It is to get the President's resignation, and the big question is who is paying her lawyer, Michael Avenatti. 

Somehow the question of how they found out about the upcoming tour comes to mind, too.  Just like liberals already knew what to call conservatives in 2009 and knew what it meant, many among their number appear to be on the mailing list for Ms. Clifford's commercial endeavors.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Results of MSU's Title IX review

Well, actually, it's simply a review of the present policy, which I reviewed previously.  Interestingly, the review finds just the opposite of what I suggested--that MSU ought to rescind its requirement that employees report abuse to the MSU police.  To me, this is really odd for the reasons I noted before: Title IX investigations suffer from the lack of subpoena power, as well as from an inability to lawfully collect physical evidence, all in cases where the vast majority of cases they'll be dealing with are criminal.  The report itself cites an unspecified tension with legal requirements, but the simple fact of the matter is that the State of Michigan has had mandatory reporting as far back as 1975.  MSU's policy is simply state law, though imperfectly applied.

Once again, Title IX seems to impose upon colleges and universities the duty to create a parallel system to the criminal justice system, one sadly without the ability to adequately collect evidence, and one without the protections for the accused found in the criminal justice system.  Since it's the system making the most noise, moreover, it will become the dominant system--to the detriment of both victims and the accused.

Now this is seriously cool

Apparently Zora Neale Hurston managed to get an interview with the last surviving man who came to the United States on a slave ship around 1930.  After an 80 year or so wait, the book will be released May 8.  Amazon will have the hardcover for only $14.99.

(and just to be 100% clear here, what's cool is the interview, not the man being kidnapped and taken into slavery)

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Just wondering

If a lovely young lady in Utah can be abused for "cultural appropriation" when she wears a dress styled after traditional Chinese attire, would we then infer that people of other cultures can be treated the same way when they wear traditional American attire like blue jeans, tennis shoes, and T shirts?   Can non-Ethiopians be treated harshly if they drink coffee, and should non- Aztecs be treated harshly if they eat chocolate?  Should those who are not French or Italian be abused if they drink red wine?

As I've noted before, borrowing things from other cultures is a good thing.  While there are certainly obnoxious uses of other peoples' culture, generally stemming from actual clear mockery--e.g. Jolson's blackface routines, "Uncle Tom" minstrel shows--we are all richer because people have "appropriated" items generated by other cultures.  Or, put more bluntly, a lot of us are alive because our own cultures have used items generated by other cultures.  Miss Daum made no apologies, and neither should we.

Update: apparently Miss Daum's dress played well in at least some households in China. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Can argue this either way

1 Corinthians 6 notes that believers should not sue each other, but what does a person do if he already has very clear evidence that the process used by the church in question is irreparably flawed, and the injury is such that it would be ruinous to let the offense slide?  Keep in mind that a great portion of 1 Corinthians 6 is Paul's rebuke to churches who allowed their wealthier members to oppress the poor through Roman courts.  Would we not infer that (as is the case in most churches) if indeed a small group is running things for their own convenience, Paul might rebuke them in the same way that 1 Cor. 6 seems to be a rebuke of wealthy parishioners of the ancient era?

It's not a good thing when believers go to secular courts against one another, but in an age where I see questions of abuse framed in terms that prejudice the discussion against the complainant, I don't know that I can completely rule it out.  At the very least, I can see a case for arbitrators independent of a given church body (and hence independent of their particular politics) to help sort things out.