Monday, January 29, 2018

#NotProudToBeASpartan, again

It's nowhere nearly as significant as the systemic Title IX and child protection breakdown that paved the way for Larry Nassar to molest who knows how many young ladies, but sad to say, my alma mater also now features professors who apparently are trying to rival Ivy League, Berkeley, and Michigan insanity by arguing that Americans doing yoga contribute to white supremacy.

Needless to say, I'm going to do my favorite yoga pose in honor of MSU's Department of Religious Studies.  Any idea that you've got to have a nanogram of common sense to earn an academic doctorate and get a professor's office is obviously out the window, or perhaps onto the fire hydrant, at this point.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Limitations of civil law

There are a bunch of things that strike me as somewhat odd in the civil lawsuits that are coming in the Larry Nassar debacle, especially as regards Michigan State.  For starters, their lawyers are arguing simultaneously that they must defend themselves because of insurance rules, and that they have sovereign immunity.  OK, if MSU has sovereign immunity, why exactly have they been paying insurance premiums for this kind of liability?  One side of the argument seems to discredit, or at least weaken, the other.

More significantly, the school is caught in an ugly place; they know that they've got 150+ major violations by one bad actor, and that they've got to make some changes or risk a recurrence--but any change made will be discovered and used as evidence against them.  Leaders know that they cannot admit things even if they know they're true for the same reason.

I am generally a fan of civil law, as it's a powerful incentive to good behavior in many cases.  When supervising Sunday School teachers and such in church, I've repeatedly said "imagine me on the witness stand with a hostile lawyer asking why I did this" when someone wanted to cut corners.  That noted, it strikes me that in cases where one has pending court action, the system actually creates an incentive to not make needed changes.

Word to the wise; the time to get things right is when you don't have known problems. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018


In the post-mortem of the Larry Nassar trial, one thing that strikes me is that 14 people are said to have made one sort of report or another at MSU, but until 2016, all of those reports got bottled up in the Title IX reporting process.  As far as can be told, the reports by the victims were "balanced" by the affirmations of coaches and other peers of Nassar, a classic example of "circling the wagons". 

How to fix this?  Of course no reporting structure will be perfect, but it strikes me that the kind of abuse Nassar was committing might leave signs that would be detectable in a standard police "rape kit", especially a doctor's exam.  This case suggests that it might be time to end, or at least heavily modify, Title IX reporting requirements which allow colleges and universities to do the investigation in-house, even when the accusations are of a criminal nature.  In the Nassar case, it's arguable that the university investigation extended the abuse simply because MSU's investigation could never find physical evidence, nor could it separate the evidence from personal attachments.

Now one might say "well, this is just one case", but sadly, there are a litany of Title IX abuses where accused students have been cleared by the police, but where universities did disciplinary actions in cases of clearly consensual behavior.  So for any number of reasons, it's long past time to reform, or end, Title IX.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cool, but why?

Designer Ralph Lauren is apparently putting heating units in the coats to be worn by our winter Olympic team in Korea.  Now this is cool technology, to be sure, but as one who routinely copes with single digit temperatures (and lower), I just have to ask whatever happened to the notion of dressing adequately for the weather.  You know, below 30 degrees you wear a coat, below ten you put a nice heavy sweater below it and wear wool/insulated pants and Sorels, stuff like that. 

I'm also torn about the design, as it looks, really, like a slightly better fitting version of what one could get at Target or Wal-Mart.  We don't need to go to Queen Elizabeth II's couturers, but could we please get something that shows a bit of class?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Time to go, Ms. Simon

One of the big questions about the continued investigation into Larry Nassar's crimes is what extent of contrition ought to be required of the national gymnastics union and Michigan State University, both of whom employed Nassar for a long time and did (or did not do) investigations of Nassar's behavior.  And along those lines, it was the right thing when the board of the gymnastics union resigned soon after walking away from Karolyi Ranch, where much of the abuse occurred. 

Along the same lines, MSU President Lou Anna Simon needs to resign or be fired for her role in this.   Some specific things that happened on her watch include her failure to review Nassar's Title IX report in 2014, ordering MSU athletes not to speak of Nassar in 2017, and allowing Patrick Fitzgerald to wrap up his investigation without filing a written report--and then claiming that she could simply accept his conclusions without a review of the data.

All of this indicates something very simple; she's simply not taking sexual abuse seriously, and for that, she needs to go.   The selection of Fitzgerald is especially problematic for me, as his history includes continuing the Valerie Plame investigation nearly two years after he learned no crime had been committed, as well as his office ending the investigation of Rod Blagojevich just when the list of names of bidders for Barack Obama's Senate seat would have gotten very, very interesting.  One has to wonder whether Fitzgerald's history of bending with the winds of opinion was seen by Simon as an advantage in his investigation at MSU.  

Whatever their motivations, he certainly pulled a neat little stunt by not filing a full report--it reminds me of something a mentor once told me; if you don't document it, you didn't do it as far as he was concerned.  My sentiments exactly.  President Simon, it's time for you to go.  You go with her, Mr. Fitzgerald. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

If only it were just California

California AG (and their legislature and governor, arguably) present a dilemma to businesses there; comply with federal law, or with state law, by criminalizing cooperation with ICE.  I would dare suggest, given the supremacy clause in the Constitution and the legality of federal immigration law, that we might do well to throw Becerra, Governor Brown, and the entire legislature into jail (at least those who voted for these laws) into jail for obstruction of justice.

Whatever one thinks of immigration law, I dare say this is not the way to go about change!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nassar-Weinstein; how it happened

It strikes me that some of the reasons for the crimes of Larry Nassar and Harvey Weinstein remaining hidden for so long have to do with the nature of acting and gymnastics.  For my sports--cross country and track--my interactions with the coaches were limited, as I would go out, warm up, do a workout, and go home.  As long as I was running to my ability, feedback was limited.

Contrast that with gymnastics and acting, where of course the entire scoring system is on how things look, and where the interaction is constant and intensive.  Add to that the pressure to excel, and you have a recipe for a degree of submission to heinous acts that I can not imagine. 

That noted, it's not the only thing going on.  I just watched the impact testimony of a non-gymnast abused by Nassar, and it turns out she told at least half a dozen people, all of whom dropped the ball.  In the same way, my alma mater had 14 people tell....and dropped the ball.  (#NotProudToBeASpartanRightNow)

Lesson to be had; even if your group is doing an activity that can lead to extreme submission by participants, you can limit damage if only you make sure you don't drop the ball.  Also investigate whether your activity really needs that degree of submission. 

A story from the Peace Corps

Former Peace Corps employee Karin McQuillan gives us her recollection of her time in Senegal, in which she establishes very clearly that the part of Senegal she knew quite literally qualified as a s-hole, and what she saw among refugees from that part of the world in Paris--it was to bring that place to Western Europe, more or less.  I also remember a friend from church noting that when she went to an African country with her husband, her job there was to boil water and seriously wash everything they ate.   For reference, these friends were not white and I'd have to guess were also not Republican, either.

More or less, what's being said is that the country doesn't need more Peace Corps volunteers, and they certainly don't need foreign aid and visas to the U.S.  What they need is missionaries who will preach the Decalogue to them, and note that 3500 years ago, Moses told Israel to keep their waste far away from their drinking water. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Apparently the number of confirmed victims of Larry Nassar is up to 140.  At a certain point, you've got to wonder which of his patients he didn't molest.  Ick. 

That noted, Nassar has a life sentence, effectively, and there isn't that much more society can do to him.  The lessons we need to learn here are, really, how to break into the OODA loop of the next guy at the institutions we cherish.  How is it that one guy molested a huge portion of the young ladies who came into his exam room without anyone taking effective action for 20 years?  How does one create a culture in a vulnerable area--Sunday School, schools, clinics, etc..--where it will be unthinkable for a person to sit on evidence as appears to have happened at my alma mater?

Update: apparently my alma mater is not alone in this.  Several schools have hired this woman to administrative posts, including posts where she had authority over writing sexual harassment policies, despite pleading no context in a sexual abuse case.  One would hope that being on Megan's List would be a bar to university employment, but apparently not.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Well said

Actress Keira Knightley comments that she doesn't like doing modern films because "the female characters nearly always get raped", and further comments that modern scripts are getting better--because "I'm suddenly being sent scripts with present-day women who aren't raped in the first five pages and aren't simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife." 

We might infer that the age that gave us Mr. Darcy was better at feminism--real feminism that actually protects women--than the era after the sexual revolution for some odd reason.  The application is left as an exercise for the reader, of course.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Coming next, the Ritz in Dallas?

Five men armed with axes and two handguns have apparently stolen $5.6 million worth of jewelry.  Now call me weird, but I've got a hunch that if they'd tried to rob a Ritz hotel in Texas, Nevada, or Florida, they'd have likely gotten their Darwin awards instead. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Stick a fork in it....

....the Mueller investigation is likely done.  How do we know this? 

Simple.  "Anonymous sources" are claiming that Mueller wants to interview President Trump.  Since you cannot be compelled to testify against yourself, this simply means that Mueller is fishing for a "lying to investigators" claim, which correspondingly indicates that he doesn't have any clear data linking Trump to a real crime.  Worth noting is that by the time President Clinton was compelled to submit to an interview, fifteen people had been convicted of Whitewater-related crimes--very real ones, not "lying to investigators."  In other words, Ken Starr's investigation had legs that Bob Mueller's clearly does not.

Hopefully the real investigation--into the justifications for the investigations starting in the first place--will get some legs and we'll have some fun watching the fur fly.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Happy Elvis' Birthday!

If wiki is correct, he would have been 83 today if he'd lived.  And in honor of his too short life, and in honor of his somewhat odd culinary loves, I decided to have some fun.

You see, apparently his favorite sandwich was peanut butter and banana fried in butter.  Now what does that sound like to you?  Of course; brioche!  So I started with mashed banana in lieu of some of the milk, and substituted peanut butter (which is mostly fat anyways) for half the butter, and....

Suffice it to say it tastes even better than it looks.

Friday, January 05, 2018

A possible good use for electric cars

Obviously, if you've read my work, I'm no fan of electric cars, especially not when my pockets are being picked to buy them for people who are richer than I.  That said, I can think of one area where it might be smart to use them; police work.

Think about it.  Cruisers typically spend most of their time with the engine idling, punctuated by often-high-speed bursts to apprehend speeders and the like.  The engine idles simply because you want to keep lubricants circulating and (more importantly) the officer comfortable.

Well, with an electric car, you keep the officer warm with a seat heater (or chiller, they exist) run off the battery, and with zero warmup time, many electric cars can go 0-60 quicker than anything short of a supercar.  They might not be a good choice for, say, rural Nebraska, where officers might indeed drive more than a few hundred miles in a day, but for ordinary traffic enforcement, where an officer might drive 100 miles or less in a day, it would be just the ticket. 

Moreover, if indeed a typical black & white is idling most of the day, I would guess you could get the price premium for an electric car back quickly simply from gasoline savings.