Kjerstin Laine has been making tiny monthly payments on her student loan, and she doesn’t understand why her balance has been getting bigger instead of smaller. People who are this dumb should not be allowed to borrow money. Oh, and try drinking some water.

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

October 31, 2022

Kjerstin Laine is yet another example of how it’s too easy to get admitted to college. Since she finished graduate school with $98,000 in debt, she’s only been paying $300 a month toward her debt. And she doesn’t understand why her balance has been going up instead of down.

It should be illegal for people this stupid to borrow money.

Also, she needs to learn to drink some water.


Meet a 30-year-old with $110,000 in student debt who chose her job in hopes of public-service loan forgiveness — but her balance just keeps growing

By Juliana Kaplan

October 30, 2022

Kjerstin Laine

Kjerstin Laine. Courtesy of Kjerstin Laine

Like millions of student-loan borrowers, Kjerstin Laine is in loan-relief limbo.

For Laine, a 30-year-old who has over $110,000 in student debt, the $20,000 in forgiveness she’s set to get from President Joe Biden’s plan is just a drop in the bucket. As a first-generation college student whose debt has shaped the trajectory of her career, she fears her balance will balloon even more after pandemic-era payment pauses end and interest starts accruing again.

I never miss a payment, always on time, and yet my balances never go down,” Laine told Insider. “I don’t understand how people can’t see that there is something wrong with that picture.”

Despite working through college and taking measures to cut down on the cost, Laine completed her degree in 2014 with a grand total of $98,000 in debt from her undergraduate and graduate studies. In the eight years since, accruing interest has brought her balance to today’s amount, despite her consistent repayment.

Laine chose her job in communications for an education-advocacy nonprofit because it was a good fit for her skills — and because it could set her up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives student debt for government and nonprofit workers after 10 years of qualifying payments.

But that program has historically been riddled with flaws, and she recently paused that strategy to take a marketing-agency job with a salary that brings her much closer to the $90,000 the federal government estimated she needed to make a year to afford to pay back her debt. She’s also paying off medical debt.

“I also had to leave the nonprofit sector to get anywhere near that, obviously,” she said. “So it’s like that Catch-22.”

Laine is one of many millions of US borrowers stuck in an untenable situation. She’s grateful for the relief she’s set to get — though the legality of Biden’s forgiveness is still under scrutiny — but she’s not sure she’ll be able to afford monthly payments when they restart in January.

Her situation points to the larger structural issues underpinning the student debt crisis, where first-generation and lower-income students take on huge debt burdens to get ahead and up their earnings but still find themselves buried under ever-growing balances. Many, like Laine, have shaped their lives around the hope of assistance — now that it’s here in some form, it may not be enough.

“The hardest thing is that I trusted in this system that I was told from a very young age was going to be my path to prosperity or a decent — not anything exorbitant — but a decent middle-class life where I could give back to the community that helped raise me and supported me through education programs, meal programs, things like that,” Laine said. “And it feels like that’s a big broken promise now.”

Interest on student loans can balloon, meaning balances don’t go down — and could go up

As a college student in California, Laine worked at several jobs in places like restaurants and grocery stores. She took classes at her local community college and at her university in the summer and winter to try and reduce her expenses. She graduated in 2012, a semester early to cut down on costs, racking up nearly $18,000 in debt total for her undergraduate degree in journalism.

She went on to a “dream school” for a master’s in journalism, still working part time and leaving with an additional $80,000 in debt in 2014. At the end of her time in school, she was hospitalized for dehydration after she said she ran herself ragged.

Despite consistent payments, the years since graduation have seen Laine’s debt grow. It comes down to the issue of interest capitalization, which is when accrued interest tacks on to a borrower’s principal balance and can lead to debt loads being much larger than what was initially borrowed.

Biden’s administration has taken steps to prevent interest capitalization. In July, it released a proposal to end the practice in every instance that isn’t required under the Higher Education Act, like forbearance periods, but those changes won’t be implemented until next year. And borrowers are still struggling to stay on top of their payments.

For borrowers like Laine, within a few years, interest could cancel out any of Biden’s relief she received.

“I was paying $300 until the pandemic hit. I was paying $300 a month, I think, for three to four years, and my balances never went down,” she said. “They always went up.”

Public servants like Laine can get their debts forgiven — but many can’t even get in touch with their loan servicer

While Laine is a big proponent of public-service loan forgiveness, she said it “has been plagued by its own issues.”

The company that manages the entire Public Service Loan Forgiveness portfolio — MOHELA — isn’t making matters any easier. After a number of loan companies ended their federal contracts last year, all borrowers enrolled in PSLF were transferred over to MOHELA, and the process hasn’t been seamless.

Insider previously spoke with two borrowers who wanted to get simple questions on their PSLF payments answered but ended up spending hours on the phone and never even got connected to a representative who could answer their questions.

“I’m really concerned about MOHELA as a servicer in total,” Laine said.

While MOHELA never commented on the hours-long hold times, Scott Buchanan, the executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance — a group that represents federal loan servicers — previously told Insider that the Education Department decided how many resources it gave loan companies, which affects how many customer-support staff they can hire.

But with the PSLF waiver expiring on Monday, which allows past payments, including those previously deemed ineligible, to count toward forgiveness progress, borrowers are in a time crunch to access the expanded relief. The department recently introduced permanent PSLF fixes for after the waiver’s expiration, but that doesn’t eliminate confusion some borrowers may be experiencing with their payment history.

“I’d love nothing more than to be able to dedicate my entire career to serving this sector,” Laine said. “All of my career choices are kind of centered around this debt, and that’s a really tough, not fun place to be in.”

October 31, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Education, Math, Student debt bailout. Leave a comment.

Wind farm in Germany being demolished to make room for coal mine


Wind farm in Germany being demolished to make room for coal mine

By Paul Sacca

October 30, 2022

A wind farm in Germany is being demolished to make room for a coal mine expansion.

German energy giant RWE is tearing down wind turbines to expand a neighboring coal mine in an effort to deal with the country’s energy crisis. The area of the wind farm near the small town of Lützerath will be used to expand the Garzweiler open pit mine in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The wind farm features eight wind turbines. One wind turbine was dismantled last week, two more are scheduled to be deconstructed some time next year, and the final five will be taken down by the end of 2023.

RWE officials admit that the move appears to be “paradoxical.”

“We realize this comes across as paradoxical, but that is as matters stand,” RWE spokesperson Guido Steffen said in a statement.

The Ministry of Economy of North Rhine-Westphalia added, “If Lützerath were to be preserved, the production volume required to maintain the security of supply over the next eight years could not be achieved, the stability of the opencast mine could not be guaranteed and the necessary recultivation could not be carried out.”

In addition, RWE will reactivate three lignite-fired coal units that were previously on standby.

“The three lignite units each have a capacity of 300 megawatts (MW). With their deployment, they contribute to strengthening the security of supply in Germany during the energy crisis and to saving natural gas in electricity generation,” RWE said in September. “Originally, it was planned that the three reserve power plant units affected would be permanently shut down on September 30, 2022, and September 30, 2023, respectively.”

Germany’s cabinet approved the decision to revive the unused coal units after energy prices skyrocketed because of the sanctions issued due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

North Rhine-Westphalia and RWE had previously declared they would stop using fossil fuels by 2030.

Climate change activists are furious about the transition from wind power to fossil fuels.

Last week, there were thousands of demonstrators who participated in protests against high energy prices in six German cities: Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Hanover, and Dresden.

As of September 2021, 60% of Germany’s gas came from Russia, but last month it was down to zero.

Reuters reported, “Germany imported 37.6% of gas from Norway in September compared with 19.2% in the same month last year, while Dutch deliveries climbed to 29.6% of imports from 13.7%, data from utility industry group BDEW showed.”

Last week, BASF – the world’s largest chemicals group by revenue – announced that the company will “permanently” downsize in Europe because high energy costs have made the region increasingly uncompetitive.

“The European chemical market has been growing only weakly for about a decade [and] the significant increase in natural gas and power prices over the course of this year is putting pressure on chemical value chains,” BASF chief executive Martin Brudermüller said on Wednesday.

October 31, 2022. Tags: , , , . Environmentalism. Leave a comment.

Environmentalists finally admit that the plastic “recycling” that they have been telling us to do for decades is a scam: “people are sending these off to be recycled and then they are sitting in recycling facilities across the country not being recycled or they’re being incinerated or sent to landfills instead”


Greenpeace report finds plastics recycling is a dead-end street

October 27, 2027

A new report by the environmental nonprofit Greenpeace released on Monday finds that the vast majority of plastic waste produced by U.S. households is not recycled.

Lisa Ramsden, a senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace USA and one of the authors of the report, spoke with host Brad Mielke on ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast about the biggest takeaways from the report, the state of the recycling industry in the U.S. at large and what consumers should know about recycling.

START HERE: Can you describe this new report you guys have because it freaked me out. Like, am I not…should I not be…I can’t recycle anything? What’s going on?

LISA RAMSDEN: So, most plastic is not being recycled in the United States. American households produced about 51 million tons of plastic last year, and only 2.4 million of those tons were actually recycled.

START HERE: As in people are sending them to a recycling center and they’re just not getting recycled?

RAMSDEN: Exactly. So there are many difficulties that come along with plastics recycling and people are sending these off to be recycled and then they are sitting in recycling facilities across the country not being recycled or they’re being incinerated or sent to landfills instead.

October 27, 2022. Tags: , . Environmentalism. Leave a comment.

What’s Cooking in Switzerland: Burt Wolf Travels & Traditions (#805)


October 23, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , . Food, Television, travel. Leave a comment.

Footage shows moment Insulate Britain protester was pushed by wheels of car


Video description:

Guardian News

Footage shows moment Insulate Britain protester was pushed by wheels of car

October 19, 2021

Footage has emerged of the moment an Insulate Britain protester was pushed by a Range Rover by a woman driving her son to school.

When the protesters refuse to move the driver gets back into her car and inches it forward on to them.

Asked if she was hurt, during the incident which took place last Wednesday during the group’s protest on the A1090 in Thurrock, Essex, one activist said: “I think so, but I feel quite a lot of adrenalin pumping.”

The video was shared by Insulate Britain. A spokesperson for the group said this was the first time they had published any footage of the reactions they have provoked.

October 22, 2022. Tags: , , , . Environmentalism, Idiots blocking traffic, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Video and transcript: Derrick Wilburn, a black father, criticizes critical race theory at a school board meeting in Falcon, Colorado





I’d like to begin my comments tonight by reading a quote, which in essence is the genesis of all of this Black Lives Matter, social justice CRT conversations we’re having in our country today, quote, I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color, close quote, Colin Kaepernick, August 2016.

I am the direct descendant of the North American slave trade. Both of my parents are black, all four of my grandparents are black, all eight of my great great grandparents all 16 of my great greats. On my mother’s side, my ancestors were enslaved in Alabama. On my father’s side, we were enslaved in Texas.

I am not oppressed. I’m not oppressed, and I’m not a victim. I’m neither a press nor a victim. I travel all across this country of ours. And I check into hotels and I fly commercially. And I walk into retail establishments, and I order food and restaurants. I go wherever I want, whenever I want. I am treated with kindness, dignity, and respect, literally from coast to coast. I have three children. They are not oppressed either.

Although they are victims, I’ve taught my children, they’re victims of three things, their own ignorance, their own laziness and their own poor decision making. That is all my children. We are not victims of America, we are not victims of some unseen 190 year old force that kind of floats around in the ether.

Putting critical race theory into our classrooms is taking our nation in the wrong direction. racism in America would by and large, be dead today, if it were not for certain people and institutions keeping it on life support. And sadly, sadly, very sadly, one of those institutions is the American education system.

I can think of nothing more damaging to a society than to tell a baby born today that she has grievances against another baby born today, simply because of what their ancestors may have done two centuries ago. There is simply no point in doing that to our children. And putting critical race theory into our classrooms, in part does that putting critical race theory into our classrooms is not combating racism.

It’s fanning the flames of what little embers are left. I encourage you to support this resolution. Let racism die the death it deserves.

October 20, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Education, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

San Francisco is spending $1.7 million on one public toilet. It will be built by union labor, and won’t be finished until 2025. But the workers’ benefits are very, very, very good!


S.F. is spending $1.7 million on one public toilet: ‘What are they making it out of — gold?’

By Heather Knight

October 19, 2022

San Francisco politicians will gather at the Noe Valley Town Square Wednesday afternoon to congratulate themselves for securing state money for a long-desired toilet in the northeast corner of the charming plaza.

Another public toilet in a city with far too few of them is excellent. But the details of this particular commode? They’re mind-boggling, maddening and encapsulate so much of what’s wrong with our city government.

The toilet — just one loo in 150 square feet of space — is projected to cost $1.7 million, about the same as a single-family home in this wildly overpriced city. And it won’t be ready for use until 2025.

Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) secured the $1.7 million from the state for the toilet after hearing “loud and clear” from the community that families needed a bathroom. The plumbing is already there, added when the plaza was constructed six years ago, but there was never money for the actual bathroom. Until Haney stepped in.

The former San Francisco supervisor said the Recreation and Parks Department told him the going rate for one public bathroom was $1.7 million so he secured the full amount, not questioning the pricetag.

“They told me $1.7 million, and I got $1.7 million,” Haney explained. “I didn’t have the option of bringing home less of the bacon when it comes to building a toilet. A half a toilet or a toilet-maybe-someday is not much use to anyone.”

True, but instead we have a toilet-maybe-in-more-than-two-years that could have paid to house a family instead. So why is a public bathroom so insanely expensive, and why does it take so long to build? A joint statement from Rec and Park and the Department of Public Works, which will work together to build this extravagant bathroom, pointed to several reasons.

For one thing, the cost to build anything in San Francisco is exorbitant. The city is the most expensive in the world to build in — even topping Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York City. We’re No. 1! Even for places to go No. 1.

Like everywhere, construction costs have risen 20% to 30% in the past couple of years due to global supply chain issues and the rising costs of fuel, labor and materials. But like always, there’s a certain preciousness to the process in San Francisco. (Just look at the years-long, ongoing quest to design and manufacture bespoke city trash cans.)

“It’s important to note that public projects and their overall cost estimates don’t just reflect the price of erecting structures,” the statement said. “They include planning, drawing, permits, reviews and public outreach.”

For a toilet? Apparently so.

An architect will draw plans for the bathroom that the city will share with the community for feedback. It will also head to the Arts Commission’s Civic Design Review committee comprised of two architects, a landscape architect and two other design professionals who, under city charter, “conduct a multi-phase review” of all city projects on public land — ranging from buildings to bathrooms to historic plaques, fences and lamps.

The web-page describing that process states the point is to ensure “that each project’s design is appropriate to its context in the urban environment, and that structures of the highest design quality reflect their civic stature.”

Sorry, kid. I know you’ve got to go, but have you considered the context of the urban environment?

The project will then head to the Rec and Park Commission and to the Board of Supervisors. According to the city’s statement, it will also be subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act. Then, the city will put the project up for bid.

“Once we start the project, we’ll have a clearer timeline, but we expect to be able to complete the project in 2025,” the statement read.

The city said the $1.7 million estimate “is extremely rough” and budgets “for the worst-case scenario due to the onerous demands and unpredictable costs levied by PG&E,” the possibility code requirements could change during the project and in case other unexpected circumstances come up.

The city is in a legal battle with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. over the city’s claim that the utility has slowed projects and forced them to be more expensive unless they obtain electricity directly from the utility instead of the city’s Public Utilities Commission.

The bathroom will be built by unions whose workers will “earn a living wage and benefits, including paid sick time, leave and training.”

“While this isn’t the cheapest way to build, it reflects San Francisco’s values,” the statement read.

I’m a union member myself, and of course the majority of our public projects should be union built. But does a $1.7 million single bathroom really reflect San Francisco’s values? I don’t think so.

The supervisors in 2019 approved a Project Labor Agreement between the city and unions that requires union labor for all “covered projects” — but this bathroom isn’t one of them because it’s not worth $10 million and it didn’t come from bond funding.

There are other, much cheaper options. I e-mailed Tom Hardiman, executive director of the Modular Building Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, and asked him to guess what San Francisco was spending to build one toilet in 150 square feet of space.

“I’m going to guess high, I think, and say $200,000,” he wrote back.

I seemed to nearly give him a heart attack by telling him the actual figure in a subsequent phone call.

“This is to build one public restroom?” he asked incredulously. “What are they making it out of — gold and fine Italian marble? It would be comical if it wasn’t so tragically flawed.”

He then said he’d do some research and found a cheaper option within minutes. He said Chad Kaufman, CEO of Public Restroom Company, just delivered and installed seven modular bathrooms in Los Angeles for the same price San Francisco will spend to build one. These are not Porta Potties, but instead have concrete walls with stucco exteriors and nice fixtures with plumbing.

“There will be some onsite labor which absolutely can be union,” Hardiman said, pointing to crane operators, laborers and plumbers.

And, he said, they could be delivered in eight months.

Phil Ginsburg, director of the Recreation and Parks Department, said many park systems around the country use pre-fabricated restrooms, which are much cheaper — and he hopes San Francisco becomes more politically open to them too. The department has occasionally used them in the past — including at the Redwood Grove playground in McLaren Park — and it’s unclear why one seems off the table for Noe Valley.

“Given how much the public values and needs public restrooms, I would hope these could be more common features in our parks that don’t currently have restrooms,” he said. “Our parks continue to need investment and every dollar saved by installing one allows us to make additional improvements elsewhere in our parks.”

October 19, 2022. Tags: , . Government waste. Leave a comment.

A Los Angeles judge sentenced a black man to be locked up in a mental institution for one year because he hugged a stranger on a bus without her permission


To Dismantle the Prison System, We Need Viral Justice

By Ruha Benjamin

October 18, 2022

My younger brother, Jamal, and I grew up the same. Same home, same parents, same neighborhoods. But as a young Black man, the police have been chasing him all our lives. “Chasing” is the wrong word. Hunting…he is hunted. Tender meat feeding a rapacious quota system—another deer head an officer can mount on his wall.

In his late teens, Jamal began showing signs of mental illness—schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, paranoia—we weren’t sure yet. Things came to a head after he had gone missing and we found him collapsed, dehydrated, and emaciated, after hearing voices that told him not to eat. My brother is over six feet tall, and when we located him, he weighed less than 100 pounds.

A few years went by; then, during one of his episodes, Jamal grabbed a woman sitting next to him on the bus and held her for a few seconds in a bear hug. The woman screamed and my brother let go. But suddenly the bus driver stopped the bus, and cops boarded and arrested my brother for attempted kidnapping.

The cops took Jamal to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, L.A. County’s notorious jail. With nearly 20,000 employees, including more than 10,000 sworn deputies, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the largest sheriff’s department in the world, and its website boasts that the Twin Towers are “the nation’s largest mental health facility.” But after being caged in the Twin Towers, Jamal was so traumatized that he couldn’t stand trial.

The Twin Towers, where approximately 15,000 people await trial, yet to be convicted of any crime, is part of what has become known as the “Abu Ghraib of Los Angeles.” In a 2011 report titled Cruel and Unusual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails, the ACLU’s National Prison Project spells out a “pattern of brutal abuse…which at times crossed the line into torture.” The report includes eyewitness testimony of Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies humiliating prisoners with sexual and racial epithets, and punching, kicking, and beating non-resisting inmates to the point of their needing surgery and hospitalization. It is a level of inhumanity that observers say exceeds even that of maximum-security prisons.

After reviewing testimony by inmates, former inmates, chaplains, and civilians, as well as reports, correspondence, media articles, and legal filings, even Thomas Parker, a former FBI agent who worked in the bureau’s Los Angeles Field Office, came to a damning conclusion: “Of all the jails I have had the occasion to visit, tour, or conduct investigations within, domestically and internationally, I have never experienced any facility exhibiting the volume and repetitive patterns of violence.” Now imagine your own loved one trapped inside this den of brutality.

Jamal was held in Twin Towers for several weeks before he was sent to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County for three months to be medicated so that he could take the stand. He was brought back to the Twin Towers, and it was several more weeks before he was brought before a judge, who eventually ruled that it wasn’t a criminal case that needed to go to trial.

At the hearing, when the judge asked the woman on the bus whether Jamal had hurt her in any way, she said no, that he had held her for a few seconds. In that moment, she seemed remorseful that it had come to this. The judge, in turn, ordered that my brother be admitted into a mental health facility for one year followed by several more years of court-mandated psychiatric treatment. In exchange for an unwanted hug, our punishing institutions squeezed their tentacles around Jamal tighter and tighter.

The day my brother’s criminal record was eventually expunged felt bittersweet. It came after years of harassment, profiling, jail, imprisonment, shame, trauma, and so much more that typing these words reignites a burning rage. Is it possible to wipe off a brand? How else can I describe the “mark of a criminal record,” as the sociologist Devah Pager calls it, but as a modern-day brand? Rub…rub…rub… as much as you can, the scar left behind refuses to disappear.

Each time the carceral system brands a loved one, an entire family is marked. We feel the iron of a vicious system whose appetite seems limitless. When the beast decided it had had enough, it spit my brother back out. Record expunged. But not before forcing him to sit for years in its repulsive belly, corroding his spirit and consuming his mind. The stench of that beast snakes around us, tightening and releasing, squeezing and pulsing in what clinicians term post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.

In an essay titled “Collateral Damage,” sociologist Alyasah Sewell and public health researcher Kevin Jefferson explain, “People do not have to be inside the criminal justice system to feel the effects of the criminal justice system. In fact, the surveillance policies of the criminal justice system reach so far as to shape the health of people who have not yet entered into its gates.” Is it any wonder that the health of entire communities is adversely affected by being criminalized? Higher blood pressure, higher rates of asthma, diabetes, and more—health conditions born of a ritualized pattern of terror and trauma. Even when we are not the prey, we feel hunted.

So, what is there to do? How do we create justice that is not just vital, but also infectious?

The concept of “viral justice” offers a fresh orientation, a way of looking at (or looking again) at all the ways people are working, little by little, day by day, to combat unjust systems and build alternatives to the oppressive status quo. It invites us to witness how an idea or action that sprouts in one place may be adopted, adapted, and diffused elsewhere. Rather than a strict focus on macro processes and “structural change,” viral justice reminds us how individual volition maintains or transforms the status quo. Social systems, after all, rely on each of us playing along or questioning the rules of the game.

Transforming the rules in this context is not about police reform. Instead, it refers to the upending of an entire system—the gradual abolition of an institution born of slave patrols, one that protects property over people, and is kept alive by the myths of virtuosity and necessity. But those larger goals take shape in the small print of city, state, and federal budgets where individuals, groups, and coalitions—like the Seattle Solidarity Budget—are calling for investment in social goods like housing, education, work, and community.

Viral justice is also about creating communities of care—articulating the kind of world we want out there in our relationships and interactions with strangers and friends right here. It requires that we answer educator and abolitionist Mariame Kaba’s vital question: “What else can we grow instead of punishment and suffering?”

Last month, I spoke at the Fifth Annual #FreeHer Conference in Detroit, Michigan, organized by the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. Those gathered are engaged in a range of organizing efforts including mass clemencies for women who are aging, sick, survivors of sexual violence, and those who have served decades already—those hunted, captured, and maimed by the system. They are fighting for housing, counseling, higher education, and other support services for people returning from prison. They are advocating against the construction of new jails and prisons, including “pressuring architectural firms not to bid on the multimillion-dollar job.” For example, in Massachusetts, formerly incarcerated women got the state legislature to pass a bill, which now sits on the governor’s desk, imposing a five-year moratorium on any new construction.

This is viral justice at work. Starting in their own backyards, those gathered at the #FreeHer Conference are working with neighbors, friends, and family members—like the mother-daughter duo who co-founded Families for Justice as Healing—to uproot the soul-sucking conditions that tear us apart and seed the resources that we all need to thrive.

#FreeHer reminds us that the work of crafting more caring social relations isn’t charity work or work to be done on behalf of others. Falling from a burning building, I might hit the ground first, but you won’t be far behind. My wellbeing is intimately bound up with yours. We don’t need allies—we need everyone to smell the smoke. Together, we can change our world from one in which our loved ones are hunted, our families torn apart, and our communities surveilled, to one in which people like my brother, like me, and like you will be fully embraced and empowered.

October 18, 2022. Tags: , , . Police state, Racism. Leave a comment.

An athlete says she was “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” but the video and audio recordings say otherwise. The New York Times says fake claims like this are so common that a black writer wrote a book about them.


What a Report of Extreme Racism Teaches Us

By John McWhorter

October 14, 2022

It’s time for a few words on what we might learn from a Black volleyball player’s claims about what happened at a match she participated in at Brigham Young University this past August. I have refrained from commenting on this for a spell, in case there were further revelations. As there have been none yet, I shall proceed.

Rachel Richardson, a Black member of Duke’s volleyball team playing in a match at Brigham Young University, claimed that she and other Black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” such that they had to face a crowd amid which slurs “grew into threats.”

But a sporting match such as this one is attended by thousands and is well recorded, both professionally and also by anyone in attendance with a cellphone. To date, no one has offered evidence that corroborates Richardson’s claims of racist verbal abuse, either independently or as part of an investigation by B.Y.U. There is nothing comparable in the security footage or in the television feed the school took of the match. No one at the match representing either school has described hearing such a thing happening. No witnesses have been reported as coming forward.

To be clear: It is possible that some racist spectator shouted a racial slur at Richardson at some point during the match. But it seems apparent that no rising tide of slurs and threats occurred during that match — that would be clear in the recordings. And Richardson’s having possibly exaggerated what happened casts into doubt whether there were any slurs at all, given that people leveling such words tend to do so with the intention of being heard by others, and no one present has come forward and explicitly said they heard it. Richardson and her representatives have presented no explanation as to why recordings via modern technology do not reveal what she claimed.

We cannot know why Richardson made this claim. Maybe she misheard common volleyball chants, as some have suggested. Or perhaps there were members of the crowd who did in fact resort to racist slurs that others either did not hear or are not willing to corroborate. But it’s hard not to sense that all of this is discomfitingly ambiguous — the likelihood that Richardson’s basic claim of being continuously heckled with racist slurs from the stands seems rather infinitesimal.

But this is why the B.Y.U. story is important. The message from this story is not just that interpretations of events will differ, or that in some fashion racism persists in America even if the details on this case are murky. We must also engage with the unfortunate possibility that the B.Y.U. story may be a demonstration of a pattern, one that we must be aware of to have an honest debate about racism in America today.

I have long noticed, in attending to episodes of this kind in our times, that claims of especially stark and unfiltered racist abuse, of the kind that sound like something from another time, often do not turn out to have been true. Accounts of this kind, I have realized, should be received warily. Not with utter resistance, but with a grain of salt.

The people making such claims appear to be thinking of horrors of the past and claiming that what supposedly happened to them shows that those horrors persist. It is difficult not to notice, for example, the parallel between Richardson’s claim and Jackie Robinson’s being called the N-word from the stands in the 1940s.

But while we have not remotely reached a point where racism does not exist, we have reached a point where some people are able to fabricate episodes of racism out of one unfortunate facet of being not Black, but human — crying wolf and seeking attention. This kind of thing was probably less likely when actual episodes of this kind, including lethal ones, were ordinary. Who would, on top of legalized segregation and lynching, make up racist violence? It would have seemed too trivializing of what actual people regularly went through. But today? Things are, while imperfect, quite different.

The classic, and perhaps officially inauguratory, example — and this is in no way to equate Richardson’s possible exaggeration to the prior, extraordinary event — was Tawana Brawley’s claim in 1987 to have been kidnapped and raped by a group of white men and then left in the woods wrapped in a garbage bag, covered with feces and scrawled with racial slurs. The sheer luridness of that scenario was always a clue that Brawley staged the whole thing, which she was proved to have done. A U.S. Justice Department report concluded that in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, Officer Darren Wilson did not callously shoot Michael Brown dead despite his having his hands up in surrender, despite Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson’s claim to that effect.

White lacrosse players at Duke did not rape a Black stripper at a party, despite the 88 Duke professors who published a newspaper ad implying the lacrosse players were guilty. And of course, the actor Jussie Smollett’s story that MAGA-hatted homophobic racists jumped him in the wee small hours and put a noose around his neck has not held water. Nor is it an accident that the scenario sounds less like real life than something that would have happened on the television soap opera “Empire” that Smollett was starring in.

Cases like these are not eccentric one-offs. It is painful to have to write that they are a pattern. The incidents could fill a whole book, and they have: “Hate Crime Hoax” by Wilfred Reilly, a Black political scientist, covers over 400 cases primarily in the 2010s that were either disproved or shown to be highly unlikely. It isn’t that discrimination never happens. But the more extreme and ghastly the story, the less likely I am to believe it.

It is a kind of good news. Today’s hoaxes are often based on claims of the kinds of things that actually happened to people and went unpunished in the past. That today such things are sometimes fabricated shows, oddly, that in real life, progress has taken place.

My point is not remotely to ignore claims of racism. It is to be wary of the especially bizarre, antique-sounding cases. And so: Indeed, the racially offensive trash talk by the Los Angeles City Council members that surfaced this week was egregious, but talk like that, when speakers are unaware anyone else will hear, is common, sad though that is. That story does not disprove my point, because it happened in an ordinary rather than outlandish manner. Grotesque, racist private talk certainly still persists.

While we must always be maximally aware that racism does still exist, we must also know that not all claims of racist abuse hold water and that being aware of this does not disqualify one from being an antiracist. True antiracists know that Black people exhibit the full scale of human traits and tendencies, including telling tall tales — and yes, even about matters involving racism.

October 14, 2022. Tags: , , . Fake hate crimes, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

California convicted rapist arrested for murder just weeks after early release from life sentence: ‘senseless’


California convicted rapist arrested for murder just weeks after early release from life sentence: ‘senseless’

By Lawrence Richard and Danielle Wallace

October 12, 2022

A convicted rapist in California whose sentencing judge argued he should “never get out of prison” was arrested in the murder of a Sacramento man just weeks after his release, officials said.

Michael Xavier Bell, 36, was arrested this past Sunday for murdering a 60-year-old Sacramento care facility employee just 73 days after he was released early from a decades-long sentence, according to the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Association President Michele Hanisee called his early release “tragically predictable” and said it resulted in “another senseless murder of an innocent victim.”

Bell’s release came amid the state’s effort to rehabilitate juvenile offenders not guilty of homicide back into society under Senate Bill 1391. The legislation passed and was signed into law in 2019 by then-Governor Jerry Brown.

Attorney General Rob Bonta and other California state officials “ignored impassioned pleas about how dangerous this legislation was to public safety,” Hanisee argued.

“There were no safeguards created within this legislation to protect the public from the most dangerous juvenile offenders such as Bell,” the associated president added. “Nor was there any mechanism for addressing the retroactive effect on convicted juveniles, like Bell, who had since become adults and who therefore could not be returned to the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system.”

“This is why Bell was released from custody without any form of supervision or services and apparently without having received any type of sex offender treatment or rehabilitation,” Hanisee also said.

Nathan Hochman, a Republican running for California Attorney General, reacted in a statement to Fox News Digital

“Tragically, but as predicted, Attorney General Rob Bonta’s support for a bill that allowed Michael Xavier Bell, a convicted, brutal rapist, to be released decades early from his sentence only to arrested 73 days later for murdering a 60-year old Sacramento man, proves how unfit Bonta is to be our chief law enforcement officer,” Hochman said. “As a result of Bonta’s actions, the victim’s blood is on Bonta’s hands.”

Bell was initially arrested in December 2000 after breaking into a woman’s home and sexually assaulting and raping her at gunpoint, according to court documents.

“Bell and an accomplice took turns committing sexual assaults, at times pointing a gun at the victim’s head and at times pointing the gun at the victim’s 8-year-old son, forcing him to watch,” Hanisee said.

At the time of the incident, Bell was nine days away from his 15th birthday. His age did not stop a state court from trying and convicting him as an adult in 2002 — a decision SB 1391 revisited.

“He was so dangerous and unrepentant that the sentencing judge stated: ‘It is this court’s intention this defendant never, never get out of prison. This defendant is incapable of being rehabilitated. This defendant is not someone who should ever be allowed into society,’” Hanisee wrote.

Bell was subsequently sentenced to a combined state prison term of 53 years to life behind bars for multiple counts of robbery, multiple counts of forcible rape, multiple counts of forcible oral copulation, kidnapping and assault with a firearm. After a lengthy legal battle, the sentence was reduced to 43 years to life.

This sentence was reaffirmed in Sept. 2016 when the case was appealed. Then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris represented the state in arguing to keep his lengthy sentence in place.

Court documents show Christopher Hawthorne, an attorney for Bell, countered by arguing that the “parole eligibility date at age 55 violates the equal protection and cruel and unusual punishment provisions of the state and federal Constitutions.”

The 2nd District Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the initial judgment.

The Association claimed Bell remained unrepentant through his time in prison and had a violent in-prison record.

“According to records filed with the court, he was twice convicted of new felony battery cases while in prison and had numerous disciplinary write-ups wherever he was housed. In his last years of incarceration, he was charged and convicted of felony vandalism of government property for smashing the windows of the visiting area. He was even written up for the rape of another inmate,” Hanisee said.

Despite the violent pattern, California officials ultimately chose to release him.

Fox News Digital reached out to Bonta’s office but did not immediately receive a response.

October 13, 2022. Tags: , , . Social justice warriors, Violent crime. Leave a comment.

Vancouver, Canada refuses to protect the public from a violent serial criminal who has more than 30 convictions


Career criminal who struck Asian student with a pole in Vancouver walks free after bail

By Carl Samson

October 12, 2022

The man accused of violently attacking a 19-year-old Asian woman in downtown Vancouver late last month is now out of jail after being granted bail.

Mohammed Majidpour, 35, allegedly struck the victim’s head with a pole while she was walking near Dunsmuir and Cambie Streets at around 9:50 a.m. on Sept. 27. He also allegedly yelled anti-Asian slurs before fleeing the scene.

A Canada-wide manhunt commenced after Majidpour was identified. He was reportedly arrested the following day.

Majidpour has been charged with assault with a weapon in connection with the incident. Records show he has had over 30 convictions dating back to August 2015, which include cases of assault, assault with a weapon and making threats, as per Global News.

Just last year, Majidpour was charged with criminal harassment after allegedly stalking a woman named Jamie Coutts in the city’s Chinatown area. However, after pleading guilty to unrelated counts, his charge was stayed and he was only given a year of probation.

Still, Majidpour reportedly violated his probation multiple times before the Sept. 27 attack. Aside from his assault charge, he appeared in Downtown Community Court for failure to report.

Majidpour, however, walks free once again after the judge granted him bail and released him on several conditions this week. Those conditions include avoiding contact with the victim, avoiding possession of any weapon and reporting to a bail supervisor and certain support workers.

Kash Heed, former Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General of British Columbia, voiced his disappointment at the decision. He believes Majidpour will re-offend.

“If you want to look at a frustrating failure of our justice system in British Columbia and how it’s administered, this is a prime case,” Heed told CTV News. “The unfortunate part is someone else will become a victim of his violent nature, and that’s a sad part of this.”

Majidpour is set to return to court on Nov. 15.

October 12, 2022. Tags: , , . Social justice warriors, Violent crime. Leave a comment.

The news often reports on “botched executions,” but they never report on “botched euthanasia.” Why is that?

The news often reports on “botched executions,” but they never report on “botched euthanasia.” Why is that?

Are most “botched executions” caused by malice, or incompetence?

Here’s the latest example of a “botched execution” in the news:


‘Botched execution’ lasted 90 minutes as Alabama inmate survived ‘torture,’ lawsuit says

By Julia Marnin

October 11, 2022

An Alabama inmate on death row survived a “botched execution” lasting 90 minutes as prison workers unsuccessfully searched for his veins, according to a federal lawsuit.

In late September, a knock on the window bordering the execution chamber ended the lethal injection attempt before Alan Miller was left alone for 20 minutes hanging vertically on a gurney with needle puncture wounds — wondering if he was to die that day, court documents state.

The event was described as “torture” after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed.

Now attorneys representing Miller say he is “the only living execution survivor in the United States.”

Miller has awaited his execution after a judge sentenced him to death after two workplace shootings in 1999 that left three men dead in Alabama, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

A month before his execution date, Miller filed a complaint against John Q. Hamm, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, Terry Raybon, the warden of Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and state Attorney General Steve Marshall on Aug. 22, alleging he faced “constitutionally inadequate treatment” in prison, court records show.

Since the “botched execution,” Miller filed a new complaint on Oct. 6 to include claims related to his failed lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility after Hamm, Raybon and Marshall sought to have his lawsuit dismissed, according to court filings.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office declined McClatchy News’ request for comment on Miller’s lawsuit on Oct. 11. Attorneys from the office are representing Hamm, Raybon and Marshall. McClatchy News contacted Miller’s attorneys for comment on Oct. 11 and was awaiting a response.

Miller’s new complaint says officials are rushing to have him executed by lethal injection again — even though he initially opted for a different execution method — to end his lawsuit and avoid facing his claims. On Oct. 4, the defendants asked the state Supreme Court for permission to execute Miller “as soon as possible.”

“Defendants are well aware that if they kill Mr. Miller, this litigation—and all judicial scrutiny of their constitutional violations against Mr. Miller — becomes moot,” the new complaint states.

The case

In 2018, Miller selected nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method on an election form, the lawsuit says.

With this method, an inmate inhales nitrogen, eventually resulting in asphyxiation and death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

However, Miller’s lawsuit accuses officials of losing his nitrogen hypoxia election form, as well as other inmates’ election forms. State officials claimed there was no record of Miller’s form, according to the complaint, and it was ultimately decided that Miller was to be executed by lethal injection.

Previously, medical professionals have had trouble finding Miller’s veins, and the lawsuit accuses officials of having this knowledge and knowing “Miller would suffer greatly from their attempts to set an IV in his veins.”

On Sept. 1, Miller submitted a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent him from being executed by a method other than nitrogen hypoxia, the complaint says.

On Sept. 22, Hamm, Raybon and Marshall filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to have Miller’s preliminary injunction vacated, according to the complaint. Hours later, the Supreme Court granted the defendants’ request, allowing for Miller’s execution to proceed by lethal injection that evening.

“It is difficult to overstate the mental — and eventually physical — anguish that Mr. Miller experienced on the night of September 22 into the early morning hours of September 23,” the complaint states.

The day of Sept. 22, Miller visited his family before learning he was to be executed that night due to the Supreme Court’s decision, according to the lawsuit. Then, he said his final goodbyes to his attorneys.

After Miller laid down and officials strapped him to the execution gurney, he was repeatedly slapped as prison workers tried to find his veins and made puncture wounds in a process described as “painful and traumatic,” according to the complaint.

Miller’s upper body was punctured in a number of places as he experienced excruciating pain before they tried puncturing his foot, where he says they hit a nerve, creating more pain, the complaint states.

After roughly 90 minutes, the process was abandoned entirely and Miller was left alone hanging on the gurney, according to the lawsuit.

“Mr. Miller felt nauseous, disoriented, confused, and fearful about whether he was about to be killed, and was deeply disturbed by his view of state employees silently staring at him from the observation room while he was hanging vertically from the gurney,” the complaint states. “Blood was leaking from some of Mr. Miller’s wounds.”

Eventually, Miller heard a prison worker tell him “your execution has been postponed” and he was sent back to his death row cell on Sept. 23 with no explanation, according to the complaint.

Miller’s lawsuit argues he has suffered post-traumatic stress and physical pain since the “botched execution.”

“Defendants’ insistence on continuing to execute Mr. Miller via lethal injection can only be considered intent to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on him,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent Miller’s execution by lethal injection and to recover monetary damages for him in connection with his failed execution, according to the complaint.

Atmore is about 120 miles southwest of Montgomery near the Alabama-Florida border.

October 11, 2022. Tags: , , . death penalty. Leave a comment.

Californians Move to Texas – Episodes 1 and 2

Episode 1:


Episode 2:


October 9, 2022. Tags: , , , . Humor, Politics. Leave a comment.

This New York Times article on the failure of California’s high speed rail reminds me of the chapter “The Moratorium on Brains” from Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged

This New York Times article on the failure of California’s high speed rail reminds me of the chapter “The Moratorium on Brains” from Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged.

In that chapter from the fictional book, everyone on a passenger train died because the train was controlled by politics instead of common sense.

This new article from the New York Times explains how the real world train’s ridiculous, absurd, irrational route was chosen based on politics instead of on common sense.

The New York Times article states:

“… the design for the nation’s most ambitious infrastructure project was never based on the easiest or most direct route. Instead, the train’s path out of Los Angeles was diverted across a second mountain range to the rapidly growing suburbs of the Mojave Desert – a route whose most salient advantage appeared to be that it ran through the district of a powerful Los Angeles county supervisor.”

Wow. That’s just dumb.

The article then goes on to state many different reasons why the project is so far behind schedule, and so far over budget. These blunders are the result of decisions being made based on politics instead of on logic.

By comparison, look at the very successful high speed rail in other parts of the world, such as Japan and Western Europe. They designed and built their high speed rail systems based on logic and rational thinking, not politics.

You can read Rand’s entire novel for free at this link. The chapter that I mentioned begins on page 523.


Here’s the New York Times article:


How California’s Bullet Train Went Off the Rails

America’s first experiment with high-speed rail has become a multi-billion-dollar nightmare. Political compromises created a project so expensive that almost no one knows how it can be built as originally envisioned.

By Ralph Vartabedian

October 9, 2022

LOS ANGELES — Building the nation’s first bullet train, which would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, was always going to be a formidable technical challenge, pushing through the steep mountains and treacherous seismic faults of Southern California with a series of long tunnels and towering viaducts.

But the design for the nation’s most ambitious infrastructure project was never based on the easiest or most direct route. Instead, the train’s path out of Los Angeles was diverted across a second mountain range to the rapidly growing suburbs of the Mojave Desert – a route whose most salient advantage appeared to be that it ran through the district of a powerful Los Angeles county supervisor.

The dogleg through the desert was only one of several times over the years when the project fell victim to political forces that have added billions of dollars in costs and called into question whether the project can ever be finished.

Now, as the nation embarks on a historic, $1 trillion infrastructure building spree, the tortured effort to build the country’s first high-speed rail system is a case study in how ambitious public works projects can become perilously encumbered by political compromise, unrealistic cost estimates, flawed engineering and a determination to persist on projects that have become, like the crippled financial institutions of 2008, too big to fail.

A review of hundreds of pages of documents, engineering reports, meeting transcripts and interviews with dozens of key political leaders show that the detour through the Mojave Desert was part of a string of decisions that, in hindsight, have seriously impeded the state’s ability to deliver on its promise to create a new way of transporting people in an era of climate change.

Political compromises, the records show, produced difficult and costly routes through the state’s farm belt. They routed the train across a geologically complex mountain pass in the Bay Area. And they dictated that construction would begin in the center of the state, in the agricultural heartland, not at either of the urban ends where tens of millions of potential riders live.

The pros and cons of these routing choices have been debated for years. Only now, though, is it becoming apparent how costly the political choices have been. Collectively, they turned a project that might have been built more quickly and cheaply into a behemoth so expensive that, without a major new source of funding, there is little chance it can ever reach its original goal of connecting California’s two biggest metropolitan areas in two hours and 40 minutes.

When California voters first approved a bond issue for the project in 2008, the rail line was to be completed by 2020, and its cost seemed astronomical at the time – $33 billion – but it was still considered worthwhile as an alternative to the state’s endless web of freeways and the carbon emissions generated in one of the nation’s busiest air corridors.

Fourteen years later, construction is now underway on part of a 171-mile “starter” line connecting a few cities in the middle of California, which has been promised for 2030. But few expect it to make that goal.

Meanwhile, costs have continued to escalate. When the California High-Speed Rail Authority issued its new 2022 draft business plan in February, it estimated an ultimate cost as high as $105 billion. Less than three months later, the “final plan” raised the estimate to $113 billion.

The rail authority said it has accelerated the pace of construction on the starter system, but at the current spending rate of $1.8 million a day, according to projections widely used by engineers and project managers, the train could not be completed in this century.

“We would make some different decisions today,” said Tom Richards, a developer from the Central Valley city of Fresno who now chairs the authority. He said project executives have managed to work through the challenges and have a plan that will, for the first time, connect 85 percent of California’s residents with a fast, efficient rail system. “I think it will be successful,” he said.

But there are growing doubts among key Democratic leaders in the Legislature – historically the bullet train’s base of support – and from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has been cautious about committing new state financing. As of now, there is no identified source of funding for the $100 billion it will take to extend the rail project from the Central Valley to its original goals, Los Angeles and San Francisco, in part because lawmakers, no longer convinced of the bullet train’s viability, have pushed to divert additional funding to regional rail projects.

“There is nothing but problems on the project,” the speaker of the State Assembly, Anthony Rendon, complained recently.

The Times’s review, though, revealed that political deals created serious obstacles in the project from the beginning. Speaking candidly on the subject for the first time, some of the high-speed rail authority’s past leaders say the project may never work.

Unless rail authority managers can improve cost controls and find significant new sources of funding, they said, the project is likely to grind to a halt in future decades.

“I was totally naïve when I took the job,” said Michael Tennenbaum, a former Wall Street investment banker who was the first chairman of the rail authority 20 years ago. “I spent my time and didn’t succeed. I realized the system didn’t work. I just wasn’t smart enough. I don’t know how they can build it now.”

Dan Richard, the longest-serving rail chairman, said starting the project with an early goal of linking Los Angeles and San Francisco was “a strategic mistake.” An initial line between Los Angeles and San Diego, he said, would have made more sense.

And Quentin Kopp, another former rail chairman who earlier served as a state senator and a Superior Court judge, said the system would be running today but for the many bad political decisions that have made it almost impossible to build.

“I don’t think it is an existing project,” he said. “It is a loser.”

The 2-hour, 40-minute Dream

Although it comes more than a half century after Asia and Europe were running successful high-speed rail systems, the bullet train project when it was first proposed in the 1980s was new to America, larger than any single transportation project before it and more costly than even the nation’s biggest state could finance in one step.

The state was warned repeatedly that its plans were too complex. SNCF, the French national railroad, was among bullet train operators from Europe and Japan that came to California in the early 2000s with hopes of getting a contract to help develop the system.

The company’s recommendations for a direct route out of Los Angeles and a focus on moving people between Los Angeles and San Francisco were cast aside, said Dan McNamara, a career project manager for SNCF.‌

The company‌ ‌pulled out in 2011.

“There were so many things that went wrong,” Mr. McNamara said. “SNCF was very angry. They told the state they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional. They went to Morocco and helped them build a rail system.”

Morocco’s bullet train started service in 2018.

The goal in California in 2008 was to carry passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2 hours 40 minutes, putting it among the fastest trains in the world in average speed.

The most direct route would have taken the train straight north out of Los Angeles along the Interstate 5 corridor through the Tejon Pass, a route known as “the Grapevine.” Engineers had determined in a “final report” in 1999 that it was the preferred option for the corridor.

But political concerns were lurking in the background. Mike Antonovich, a powerful member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was among those who argued that the train could get more riders if it diverted through the growing desert communities of Lancaster and Palmdale in his district, north of Los Angeles.

The extra 41 miles to go through Palmdale would increase costs by 16 percent, according to the 1999 report, a difference in today’s costs of as much as $8 billion.

According to interviews with those working on the project at the time, the decision was a result of political horse-trading in which Mr. Antonovich delivered a multi-billion-dollar plum to his constituents.

“I said it was ridiculous,” said Mr. Tennenbaum, the former rail authority chairman. “It was wasteful. It was just another example of added expense.”

The horse-trading in this case involved an influential land developer and major campaign contributor from Los Angeles, Jerry Epstein.

Mr. Epstein, who died in 2019, was a developer in the seaside community of Marina del Rey who, along with other investors, was courting the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for a 40-year lease extension on a huge residential, commercial and boat dock development.

Mr. Epstein was also a member of the rail authority board, and he became a strong backer of Mr. Antonovich’s proposal for a Mojave Desert diversion on the bullet train.

“The Palmdale route was borne of a deal between Epstein and Antonovich, absolutely,” said Art Bauer, the chief staff member on the State Senate Transportation Committee, speaking publicly on the matter for the first time.

“If I get my lease, you get my vote was the deal,” Mr. Bauer said. Though Mr. Epstein was only one member of the board, his lobbying of other board members proved critical, he said. “Epstein got the votes. The staff didn’t get the votes. The staff didn’t want to go that way.”

The desert route “sacrificed travel time and increased the costs,” and opened the door to “a whole series of problems” that have become only clearer as time has gone on, he said. “They betrayed the public with this project.”

A similar assessment was made by Hasan Ikhrata, a former executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, the giant regional planning agency that helped build powerful support for the bullet train.

The rail route “was not based on technical and financial criteria,” Mr. Ikhrata said.

In a recent interview, Mr. Antonovich, now retired, said there was no connection between Mr. Epstein’s support for the Palmdale route and his own support for the lease extension in Marina del Rey. “Jerry played a role in promoting Palmdale,” he said, but “they were two separate breeds of cat, the Marina and the desert.”

There were plenty of reasons for routing the train through the two desert cities, where more passengers could board, he said, and it was only natural that his constituents would want to see benefits from a bullet train. “We wanted to share all that stuff.”

The dogleg from Burbank to Palmdale was never without advantages. For one thing, said Mr. Richards, the current rail authority chairman, the direct route through the Grapevine would have had higher land acquisition costs and faced opposition by a major landowner. After the decision was made, Mr. Richards said, a follow-up study validated the choice.

But it has presented a complex engineering challenge, requiring 38 miles of tunnels and 16 miles of elevated structures, according to environmental reports.

And it introduced a fundamental conflict that has dogged the project. If the train was to rush passengers between the state’s two urban hubs almost as fast as they could fly, how much speed should be sacrificed by turning it into a milk run across the huge state?

Then came the decision to start building a train between Los Angeles and San Francisco that reached neither city.

A Bullet Train for the Farm Belt

The idea of beginning construction not on either end, but in the middle – in the Central Valley, a place few in Los Angeles would want to go – was a political deal from the start.

Proponents of running the rail through the booming cities of Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced cited a lot of arguments: The Central Valley needed jobs. It would be an ideal location to test equipment. It would be the easiest place to build, because it was mostly open farmland.

But the entire concept depended on yet another costly diversion.

Instead of following Interstate 5 through the uninhabited west end of the valley, the train would travel through the cities on the east side – more passengers, but also more delays, more complications over acquiring land, more environmental problems.

Rail authority leaders said starting the bullet train in the center of the state reflected a decision to make sure it served 85 percent of the residents of California, not just people at the end points. Running it on the east end of the valley, they said, would ensure that it served existing cities; building on empty farmland would encourage new sprawl.

“The key to high-speed rail is to connect as many people as possible,” Mr. Richards said.

The rail authority spokeswoman, Annie Parker, said studies in 2005 showed that building along the east side of the Central Valley provided better and faster service, though it was 6 percent more expensive. In any case, she said, the current route is what voters agreed to in 2008 in a $9 billion bond authorization.

State senators were under pressure to endorse the Central Valley plan, not only from Gov. Jerry Brown but also from President Barack Obama’s transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, who came to the state Capitol to lobby the vote.

The Central Valley quickly became a quagmire. The need for land has quadrupled to more than 2,000 parcels, the largest land take in modern state history, and is still not complete. In many cases, the seizures have involved bitter litigation against well-resourced farmers, whose fields were being split diagonally.

Federal grants of $3.5 billion for what was supposed to be a shovel-ready project pushed the state to prematurely issue the first construction contracts when it lacked any land to build on. It resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in contractor delay claims.

“The consequence of starting in the Central Valley is not having a system,” said Rich Tolmach, who headed the nonprofit California Rail Foundation that promotes public rail transit and was deeply involved in the early days of the project. “It will never be operable.”

Which Path Through the Mountains?

More political debate ensued over what route the train would take into the San Francisco Bay Area. The existing rail corridor through Altamont Pass, near Livermore, was a logical alternative. The French engineering company Setec Ferroviaire reported that the Altamont route would generate more ridership and have fewer environmental impacts.

But as with so many decisions on the project, other considerations won the day. There was heavy lobbying by Silicon Valley business interests and the city of San Jose, which saw the line as an economic boon and a link to lower cost housing in the Central Valley for tech employees. They argued for routing the train over the much higher Pacheco Pass — which would require 15 miles of expensive tunnels.

In 2008, the rail authority issued its record of decision.

“It absolutely has to go through Pacheco and up through San Jose,” Mr. Richards said.

October 9, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , . Books, Dumbing down, Government waste. Leave a comment.

Op-Ed: Listen up, college students. You don’t ‘get’ a grade. You have to earn it


Op-Ed: Listen up, college students. You don’t ‘get’ a grade. You have to earn it

By Jillian Horton

October 9, 2022

Every fall, my mental timeline is flooded with memories of the teachers who changed my life. And last week — when I read about the controversial termination of Maitland Jones Jr., a distinguished New York University professor whose courses in organic chemistry were deemed too hard by students hoping to get into medicine — it took me back to the September I met my toughest teacher.

It was 1994, and I was a 19-year-old student in my third year at Western University in London, Ontario. I had signed up for a course in the department of English taught by one Donald S. Hair. My first clue that professor Hair would defy expectations? He was bald.

Standing at the lectern in a three-piece suit, he took roll, ever-so-properly referring to each of us as “Miss” or “Mister.” It was a distinct shift from the vaguely beatnik tone of many of our other professors, with whom students could sometimes be found drinking beer at one of the campus pubs.

A few weeks into the class, the professor administered our first test. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about — until he handed my exam back the following week with a 67 written on it in red ink.

Sixty-seven! I’d never received such a low mark. I was dependent on a scholarship, and any grade below 80 put my future in jeopardy. My seatmate’s murderous expression revealed her mark had been miserable too. We fumed silently: Professor Hair was an old weirdo! How dare he derail our GPAs? What was the old boy’s problem, anyway?

But the real problem was this: He was right. I knew it as soon as I’d cooled off and taken the time to digest his comments. My writing was sloppy, my understanding of key concepts superficial. Like many of my peers, I was used to earning top grades. Now, for the first time, a teacher had introduced an uncomfortable question. Were we actually “earning” them?

The next day, I went to his office. With burning cheeks, I told him I knew I’d butchered the exam. To my childish surprise, he wasn’t a “weirdo” in the least. He was funny, warm and uncommonly patient. He assured me if I worked hard, I’d achieve my potential in the course, and he’d be available to help me.

I went away, read and read some more. The more I read, the more interesting his classes became, and soon, his complex, spellbinding lectures were the highlight of my week. I worked my guts out in that course. The grade I earned in his class was the lowest I’d receive that year. But I had earned that grade. Nearly 30 years later, I’m still proud of that.

As an associate dean and teacher of medical students for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what usually makes a good doctor — and it isn’t organic chemistry. I disagree with the colleague of professor Jones who told the New York Times that he did not want anyone treating patients who did not “appreciate transformations at the molecular level.” The comment struck me as slightly less outdated than keeping a bag of leeches for emergency bloodletting. There is ample evidence other paths prepare students extremely well for a career in medicine.

That issue is a sideshow anyway, because the strong public reaction to this story is largely about something else: the commodification of education. For U.S. medical schools, the Assn. of American Medical Colleges oversees a rigorous and detailed accreditation process, which relies on the collection of mounds of data — including an exit survey that can heavily influence the school’s accreditation outcome. The survey begins by asking students to rate the degree to which they agree or disagree with this statement: “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my medical education.”

Is that the right way to ask someone to evaluate their education? It seems more appropriate for rating their Starbucks latte. My job is not to ensure my children — or my students — are always “satisfied.” That metric would worsen the quality of my parenting and my teaching; both require me to do unpopular things if I am to do my job well. “Satisfaction” is the language of consumer experience, and when it becomes a target metric, it alters something fundamental about the interaction between people.

I have felt that shift as an educator. I’ve witnessed, and championed, long-overdue changes in the learning environment, including a focus on the psychological safety of students. But I’ve seen disheartening changes too — namely the evolution of a relationship with students that sometimes feels transactional, as if the primary objective is no longer just about turning them into doctors but, rather, keeping them constantly satisfied, the teacher less preceptor than proprietor.

That shift is deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

Long after I’d moved on from Western University, I heard professor Hair had been nominated for an award for excellence in teaching. “Professors are often afraid to employ his high standards,” I eagerly wrote in a two-page letter of support. “Setting the bar higher may initially be uncomfortable, but it gives students … a sense of self-respect and pride which is stolen from us when we work in circumstances where such experiences do not exist.” He won that award. And he also earned it.

If my low grade in professor Hair’s class had been a barrier to me becoming a doctor, would I feel differently? I really don’t know. I suppose I thought he had a right to be tough as long as he was also trying to be fair. The irony? What I learned from him made me a better doctor. Not because I was satisfied.

Because I grew.

Jillian Horton is a writer and physician. She is the author of “We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing.”

October 9, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Health care, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

New York City let this guy keep trying until he finally succeeded at killing someone


Homeless man accused of fatal Brooklyn subway slash was free without bail in earlier stabbing

By John Annese

October 6, 2022

The homeless man accused of fatally slashing a union steamfitter aboard a Brooklyn L train was free without bail after a 2021 knife attack in Brooklyn.

Alvin Charles, 43, was arrested in July 2021 and charged with attempted first-degree assault, accused of stabbing a man in the arm and stomach that April. Prosecutors asked for $50,000 bail, but Judge Jessica Earle-Gargen granted him supervised release.

Law enforcement sources said he was complying with the terms of his release and showing up at his court appearances, so when a grand jury indicted him on attempted murder charges in March, Supreme Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino continued his supervised release.

Charles is accused of getting into an argument with victim Tommy Bailey, 43, on a Canarsie-bound L train at around 8:50 p.m. Friday. He stabbed and slashed Bailey repeatedly in the head, neck and torso, killing him, according to a criminal complaint.

The stabbing was caught on video, and the NYPD used facial recognition software to identify Charles, the complaint alleges. Several people also witnessed the attack, according to cops, though the witnesses aren’t mentioned in the complaint.

Charles’ lawyer, Roy Wasserman of the Legal Aid Society, said he’s heard of no other evidence beyond the facial recognition hit that established Charles as the killer — software that “has been found by experts and other jurisdictions to be racially biased against darker-skinned people.”

“It says on police paperwork that I’ve observed before that it can be used in terms of investigation but it cannot be used for probable cause,” she said. “It seems that he became a suspect based on racially biased software that the NYPD uses. I haven’t heard otherwise.”

Wasserman tried, unsuccessfully, to have Charles released, arguing that New York state law doesn’t allow the judge to consider “dangerousness” when setting bail, and that his history complying with the court dates in his pending case proves he’s not a flight risk.

Judge Inga O’Neale nevertheless ordered Charles held without bail, based on the seriousness of the murder charge he faces.

October 8, 2022. Tags: , , , . Social justice warriors, Violent crime. Leave a comment.

Every city has exactly as much crime as it’s willing to tolerate


14-year-old Bronx gunman busted for attempted murder has 18 prior arrests

By Rocco Parascandola and Thomas Tracy

October 7, 2022

He’s 14 with more arrests than years around the sun — and now he’s facing two attempted murder charges, police said Friday.

The fresh-faced teen, who now has 18 arrests under his belt, was busted on Oct. 5 for two recent shootings in the Bronx, including one in which the target was shot in the leg, NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.

The youth opened fire on his victims from the back of the scooter, Essig said.

“Eighteen (arrests)… He’s 14-years-old,” Essig lamented Friday.

The teen was not identified because of his age. The driver of the scooter remained at large.

Essig said Bronx investigators linked the boy to a Sept. 19 shooting in which someone opened fire on a Dunkin’ Donuts on Broadway near W. 230th St. in Marble Hill. The gunman was aiming at a man inside the eatery. He caused property damage, but didn’t injure anyone, cops said.

He was also allegedly connected to a Sept. 25 shooting on Kingbridge Road near Webb Ave. in Kingsbridge Heights where a man was shot in the leg.

Police believe the teen is responsible for another Bronx shooting on Sept. 22, this one less than a block from the first crime, in which another man was hit in the leg. The teen hasn’t been charged in that case.

Cops charged the teen with two counts of attempted murder and weapons possession. He was arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court.

Police say the teen is a Young Gunna, a gang affiliated with the Bloods. All three of the victims are members of Old Kingsbridge Block 1300, known as the OKBs, a subset of the Crips.

The boy’s first time in a holding cell was in 2018 — when he was about 10 or 11 — for menacing someone with a weapon, police said.

His arrest record includes multiple misdemeanor and felony assaults, gang assault, criminal mischief, menacing, possession of a loaded firearm and criminal possession of stolen property after he was found with a stolen motorcycle, cops said.

Earlier this year, cops arrested him on grand larceny charges, authorities said.

October 8, 2022. Tags: , , , . Parenting, Social justice warriors, Violent crime. Leave a comment.

New York University dumbs down its pre-med curriculum so students who are too dumb and/or lazy to pass organic chemistry can still become doctors


At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame?

Maitland Jones Jr., a respected professor, defended his standards. But students started a petition, and the university dismissed him.

By Stephanie Saul

October 3, 2022

In the field of organic chemistry, Maitland Jones Jr. has a storied reputation. He taught the subject for decades, first at Princeton and then at New York University, and wrote an influential textbook. He received awards for his teaching, as well as recognition as one of N.Y.U.’s coolest professors.

But last spring, as the campus emerged from pandemic restrictions, 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against him.

Students said the high-stakes course – notorious for ending many a dream of medical school – was too hard, blaming Dr. Jones for their poor test scores.

The professor defended his standards. But just before the start of the fall semester, university deans terminated Dr. Jones’s contract.

The officials also had tried to placate the students by offering to review their grades and allowing them to withdraw from the class retroactively. The chemistry department’s chairman, Mark E. Tuckerman, said the unusual offer to withdraw was a “one-time exception granted to students by the dean of the college.”

Marc A. Walters, director of undergraduate studies in the chemistry department, summed up the situation in an email to Dr. Jones, before his firing.

He said the plan would “extend a gentle but firm hand to the students and those who pay the tuition bills,” an apparent reference to parents.

The university’s handling of the petition provoked equal and opposite reactions from both the chemistry faculty, who protested the decisions, and pro-Jones students, who sent glowing letters of endorsement.

“The deans are obviously going for some bottom line, and they want happy students who are saying great things about the university so more people apply and the U.S. News rankings keep going higher,” said Paramjit Arora, a chemistry professor who has worked closely with Dr. Jones.

In short, this one unhappy chemistry class could be a case study of the pressures on higher education as it tries to handle its Gen-Z student body. Should universities ease pressure on students, many of whom are still coping with the pandemic’s effects on their mental health and schooling? How should universities respond to the increasing number of complaints by students against professors? Do students have too much power over contract faculty members, who do not have the protections of tenure?

And how hard should organic chemistry be anyway?

Dr. Jones, 84, is known for changing the way the subject is taught. In addition to writing the 1,300-page textbook “Organic Chemistry,” now in its fifth edition, he pioneered a new method of instruction that relied less on rote memorization and more on problem solving.

After retiring from Princeton in 2007, he taught organic chemistry at N.Y.U. on a series of yearly contracts. About a decade ago, he said in an interview, he noticed a loss of focus among the students, even as more of them enrolled in his class, hoping to pursue medical careers.

“Students were misreading exam questions at an astonishing rate,” he wrote in a grievance to the university, protesting his termination. Grades fell even as he reduced the difficulty of his exams.

The problem was exacerbated by the pandemic, he said. “In the last two years, they fell off a cliff,” he wrote. “We now see single digit scores and even zeros.”

After several years of Covid learning loss, the students not only didn’t study, they didn’t seem to know how to study, Dr. Jones said.

To ease pandemic stress, Dr. Jones and two other professors taped 52 organic chemistry lectures. Dr. Jones said that he personally paid more than $5,000 for the videos and that they are still used by the university.

That was not enough. In 2020, some 30 students out of 475 filed a petition asking for more help, said Dr. Arora, who taught that class with Dr. Jones. “They were really struggling,” he explained. “They didn’t have good internet coverage at home. All sorts of things.”

The professors assuaged the students in an online town-hall meeting, Dr. Arora said.

Many students were having other problems. Kent Kirshenbaum, another chemistry professor at N.Y.U., said he discovered cheating during online tests.

When he pushed students’ grades down, noting the egregious misconduct, he said they protested that “they were not given grades that would allow them to get into medical school.”

By spring 2022, the university was returning with fewer Covid restrictions, but the anxiety continued and students seemed disengaged.

“They weren’t coming to class, that’s for sure, because I can count the house,” Dr. Jones said in an interview. “They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.”

Students could choose between two sections, one focused on problem solving, the other on traditional lectures. Students in both sections shared problems on a GroupMe chat and began venting about the class. Those texts kick-started the petition, submitted in May.

“We are very concerned about our scores, and find that they are not an accurate reflection of the time and effort put into this class,” the petition said.

The students criticized Dr. Jones’s decision to reduce the number of midterm exams from three to two, flattening their chances to compensate for low grades. They said that he had tried to conceal course averages, did not offer extra credit and removed Zoom access to his lectures, even though some students had Covid. And, they said, he had a “condescending and demanding” tone.

“We urge you to realize,” the petition said, “that a class with such a high percentage of withdrawals and low grades has failed to make students’ learning and well-being a priority and reflects poorly on the chemistry department as well as the institution as a whole.”

Dr. Jones said in an interview that he reduced the number of exams because the university scheduled the first test date after six classes, which was too soon.

On the accusation that he concealed course averages, Dr. Jones said that they were impossible to provide because 25 percent of the grade relied on lab scores and a final lab test, but that students were otherwise aware of their grades.

As for Zoom access, he said the technology in the lecture hall made it impossible to record his white board problems.

Zacharia Benslimane, a teaching assistant in the problem-solving section of the course, defended Dr. Jones in an email to university officials.

“I think this petition was written more out of unhappiness with exam scores than an actual feeling of being treated unfairly,” wrote Mr. Benslimane, now a Ph.D. student at Harvard. “I have noticed that many of the students who consistently complained about the class did not use the resources we afforded to them.”

Ryan Xue, who took the course, said he found Dr. Jones both likable and inspiring.

“This is a big lecture course, and it also has the reputation of being a weed-out class,” said Mr. Xue, who has transferred and is now a junior at Brown. “So there are people who will not get the best grades. Some of the comments might have been very heavily influenced by what grade students have gotten.”

Other students, though, seemed shellshocked from the experience. In interviews, several of them said that Dr. Jones was keen to help students who asked questions, but that he could also be sarcastic and downbeat about the class’s poor performance.

After the second midterm for which the average hovered around 30 percent, they said that many feared for their futures. One student was hyperventilating.

But students also described being surprised that Dr. Jones was fired, a measure the petition did not request and students did not think was possible.

The entire controversy seems to illustrate a sea change in teaching, from an era when professors set the bar and expected the class to meet it, to the current more supportive, student-centered approach.

Dr. Jones “learned to teach during a time when the goal was to teach at a very high and rigorous level,” Dr. Arora said. “We hope that students will see that putting them through that rigor is doing them good.”

James W. Canary, chairman of the department until about a year ago, said he admired Dr. Jones’s course content and pedagogy, but felt that his communication with students was skeletal and sometimes perceived as harsh.

“He hasn’t changed his style or methods in a good many years,” Dr. Canary said. “The students have changed, though, and they were asking for and expecting more support from the faculty when they’re struggling.”

N.Y.U. is evaluating so-called stumble courses — those in which a higher percentage of students get D’s and F’s, said John Beckman, a spokesman for the university.

“Organic chemistry has historically been one of those courses,” Mr. Beckman said. “Do these courses really need to be punitive in order to be rigorous?”

Dr. Kirshenbaum said he worried about any effort to reduce the course’s demands, noting that most students in organic chemistry want to become doctors.

“Unless you appreciate these transformations at the molecular level,” he said, “I don’t think you can be a good physician, and I don’t want you treating patients.”

In August, Dr. Jones received a short note from Gregory Gabadadze, dean for science, terminating his contract. Dr. Jones’s performance, he wrote, “did not rise to the standards we require from our teaching faculty.”

Dr. Gabadadze declined to be interviewed. But Mr. Beckman defended the decision, saying that Dr. Jones had been the target of multiple student complaints about his “dismissiveness, unresponsiveness, condescension and opacity about grading.”

Dr. Jones’s course evaluations, he added, “were by far the worst, not only among members of the chemistry department, but among all the university’s undergraduate science courses.”

Professors in the chemistry department have pushed back. In a letter to Dr. Gabadadze and other deans, they wrote that they worried about setting “a precedent, completely lacking in due process, that could undermine faculty freedoms and correspondingly enfeeble proven pedagogic practices.”

Nathaniel J. Traaseth, one of about 20 chemistry professors, mostly tenured, who signed the letter, said the university’s actions may deter rigorous instruction, especially given the growing tendency of students to file petitions.

“Now the faculty who are not tenured are looking at this case and thinking, ‘Wow, what if this happens to me and they don’t renew my contract?’” he said.

Dr. Jones agrees.

“I don’t want my job back,” he said, adding that he had planned to retire soon anyway. “I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

October 7, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Health care, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Texas Wesleyan Cancels Play After Students Say Use of Slur Is Harmful [The writer of the play is black]


Texas Wesleyan Cancels Play After Students Say Use of Slur Is Harmful

The play’s author, who is Black, said he crafted its language to be historically accurate in representing civil rights struggles. But the theater program at the university heeded the call of students.

By April Rubin

October 6, 2022

Texas Wesleyan University halted its production of “Down In Mississippi,” a play about registering voters in the 1960s, after criticism from students who said racist epithets in the script could contribute to a hostile, unwelcoming environment. Its author said he was using that language to represent the reality of the period.

The play by Carlyle Brown, a Black playwright based in Minneapolis, focuses on the efforts of a movement that led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed racial discrimination and protected Black voters. The plot, which is set during the Freedom Summer campaign, centers on three student activists as they travel from New York City to the South to register Black voters.

In telling that story, the playwright included a scene in which a white character used a racial slur, repeatedly, to refer to Black people, opening up a controversy on campus that also spotlighted a larger rift in American society over discussions of race and the portrayal of the struggles of people of color in media and the arts.

Two students who were not part of the production, and were described as a Latinx woman and a Black woman, heard about the scene through word of mouth and submitted bias reports to the university’s administration on Sept. 23, said Chatashia Brown, the university’s assistant director for student diversity and inclusion programs.

Their complaints prompted administrators of the university, in Fort Worth, to host a “listening session” on Sept. 29, which had been previously scheduled as the opening night of the play. Students, actors and members of the university’s faculty and staff joined the open forum, as did Mr. Brown.

Black students said that the explicit language in the play would further aggravate problems on a campus that they said did not cater to the needs of its significant population of students of color. As of fall 2021, 58 percent of students at Texas Wesleyan identified as Asian, Black, Latino or biracial.

“They wanted to kind of come in and be able to see the story and understand its impact without being triggered by it,” Ms. Brown said.

The students who expressed their concerns said that the repetition of the racial slur, spoken about a dozen times in the play, would have caught them off guard and negatively affected their mental health. They worried that the play could lead other students who are not Black to feel more comfortable repeating the slur.

“We pretty much all understand what harmful language is and how it’s been used because a lot of them still deal with that today,” Ms. Brown said. “So they just thought the timing and the place of it was pretty upsetting.”

The playwright said that his intentions were for the performance to be historically accurate. To him, the past shouldn’t be sanitized — and he said that the racial slur was used provocatively, for audience members to feel the impact it has had in real life. The scene portrays one of the play’s three students, who is white, showing the Black student how he would be treated on their journey. Training sessions like the one portrayed were common at the time and were intended to help people understand the severity of the behavior they could face.

Mr. Brown, who joined the listening session on a video call, said the play seems to have become a catalyst for a discussion about racial relations on campus that is separate from his work

“As the conversation went on, a couple students went up and looked at my image on the screen and said, ‘It’s not your play, Mr. Brown; it’s just not the play at this place, at this time,’” he said in an interview.

Last school year, the president of the Black Student Association went on a hunger strike to raise awareness of the lack of diversity on Texas Wesleyan’s campus. Among the sources of her discontent: The university didn’t have substantial classes focused on ethnic or racial studies, despite having a diverse student body; and no established multicultural center existed for students to convene.

The protest, along with other feedback from students about concerns with the campus climate and diversity, prompted the university to announce earlier this year that it would emphasize “community, engagement and inclusion” through a strategic plan, which included measures such as incorporating multiculturalism, inclusion and anti-intolerance in its curriculum; engaging in culturally relevant teaching to connect with students of diverse backgrounds; and identifying a space on campus for multicultural student programs.

However, the discussions around the play showed that students’ grievances had not been addressed to the extent they wanted, said Jaylon Leonard, president of the student body.

“It was not the play itself, but about some things that we had dealt with in the past with the school in regard to diversity and inclusion recently that weren’t unanswered,” he said, adding that “for this to be thrown on top of those issues, it was something that we were not ready to accept.”

Production dates for “Down in Mississippi” were first delayed, and the theater program considered hosting the play off campus at the Jubilee Theatre, a Fort Worth venue that puts on plays that highlight African American experiences. But the faculty of the Texas Wesleyan theater department decided not to put on the play at all, after students involved expressed their discomfort, said Joe Brown, theater chair and professor of theater arts.

The theater program has produced plays about the Holocaust, the gay rights movement, religion and political extremism, and they have been well-regarded in the campus community, Professor Brown said. All of the upcoming plays this season will examine the theme of exclusion.

“Our motivation was what’s happening in the United States right now is pretty scary with women’s rights and L.G.B.T.Q. rights and voter suppression and Black rights,” he said. “There’s some scary things happening in different states, so we felt the timeliness of ‘Is history repeating itself?’”

Students in the play sought the guidance of D. Wambui Richardson, the artistic director of the Jubilee Theatre, early in the production process, since he has put on several other plays with similar themes. He has heard the critique that the approach of a play could be glorifying negative aspects of the Black experience, citing an act on police brutality as an example, Mr. Richardson said.

“Our response was if we’re not creating a space for the conversations to be had in a safe and nurturing environment, then those conversations are not being had,” he said.

He offered for the production of “Down In Mississippi” to be moved to his theater, but Mr. Richardson came to understand that the Fort Worth student community did not seem ready for it.

“A message is only as important and vital as the lips that will repeat it, the ears that will hear it and the legs that will carry it,” Mr. Richardson said.

As the only Black person on the production team, Mya Cockrell, who was responsible for the scenic design, had reservations but felt that she had to come to terms with a show that was moving forward.

She appreciated that members of the cast went out and spoke with people involved in the civil rights movement and learned about the history, but she said that the greater campus community would have benefited from that discussion.

“I personally don’t think that the theater was in a place to put on a show like this,” Ms. Cockrell said, “because I think there’s a lot more that we can do as a community to help people, and I don’t think we were necessarily doing that or educating people outside of the theater.”

October 7, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Cancel culture, Dumbing down, Education, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Washington Post: Federal agents see chargeable tax, gun-purchase case against Hunter Biden


Federal agents see chargeable tax, gun-purchase case against Hunter Biden

Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee, must decide whether to charge the son of the current president

By Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein

October 6, 2022

Federal agents investigating President Biden’s son Hunter have gathered what they believe is sufficient evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase, according to people familiar with the case. The next step is for the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, a Trump administration holdover, to decide on whether to file such charges, these people said.

The investigation into Hunter Biden began in 2018, and became a central focus for then-president Donald Trump during his unsuccessful 2020 reelection effort. Initially, the investigation centered around Hunter Biden’s finances related to overseas business ties and consulting work. Over time, investigators with multiple agencies focused closely on whether he did not report all of his income, and whether he lied on gun purchase paperwork in 2018, according to the people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case.

Agents determined months ago they had assembled a viable criminal case against the younger Biden. But it is ultimately up to prosecutors at the Justice Department, not agents, to decide whether to file charges in cases where prosecutors believe the evidence is strong enough to lead to a likely conviction at trial.

Given the intense political interest in a criminal probe involving the son of a sitting president, Attorney General Merrick Garland has made clear that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, David C. Weiss, who was nominated by Trump in late 2017, is supervising the case.

Garland has vowed there will be no political or otherwise improper interference in the Hunter Biden case, and has not moved to push Weiss to make a decision, the people familiar with the matter said. It is not uncommon for Justice Department investigations to take years to finish. Justice Department policy would require any criminal tax charges to be approved by the department’s tax division.

A spokeswoman for Weiss declined to comment, as did spokespeople for the Justice Department, and the FBI and the IRS, the two primary investigative agencies.

Asked about the case, Chris Clark, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, accused investigators of leaking information. “It is a federal felony for a federal agent to leak information about a Grand Jury investigation such as this one,” Clark said in a written statement. “Any agent you cite as a source in your article apparently has committed such a felony. We expect the Department of Justice will diligently investigate and prosecute such bad actors. As is proper and legally required, we believe the prosecutors in this case are diligently and thoroughly weighing not just evidence provided by agents, but also all the other witnesses in this case, including witnesses for the defense. That is the job of the prosecutors. They should not be pressured, rushed, or criticized for doing their job.”

Any charging decision involving the Biden case is especially fraught because Trump and his allies have made accusations of corruption in Hunter Biden’s business dealings a key line of attack against Democrats, both before and after the 2020 presidential race. At the height of the election campaign, Trump allies revealed that a Delaware computer shop owner had turned over to the FBI a laptop that had apparently belonged to Hunter Biden. Trump and others argued the data on the laptop showed evidence of unethical and possible illegal business deals; Joe Biden and his supporters denounced the efforts as a smear.

In March, The Washington Post reported that two computer security experts had reviewed thousands of the emails purportedly from Hunter Biden’s computer and found they were authentic communications, based on cryptographic signatures from Google and other technology companies. It could not be determined for this article whether the laptop and its contents were useful in the Justice Department investigation.

The Biden probe has proceeded with relatively little fanfare in recent months amid the much larger and more public Justice Department and FBI investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified material at Mar-a-Lago — and a separate federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump and his allies have sharply criticized federal law enforcement over both those cases.

Questions about the younger Biden’s foreign business ventures have long dogged his father’s political life. Trump and his GOP allies specifically cite as ethical conflicts Hunter Biden’s past work for a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president, as well as his China-related business affairs. In a July 2019 phone call, Trump urged Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate both Joe and Hunter Biden — part of a pressure campaign that led to the first of Trump’s two impeachment trials in Congress.

In December 2020 federal agents sought to interview the younger Biden, leading him to publicly acknowledge that he was under investigation. “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors,” Hunter Biden said in a statement at that time.

Clark, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, said in his statement Thursday that he has “had no contact whatsoever with any federal investigative agent. Therefore, a rendition of the case from such an ‘agent’ is inherently biased, one-sided, and inaccurate. It is regrettable that law enforcement agents appear to be violating the law to prejudice a case against a person who is a target simply because of his family name.”

Republicans have pressed the Biden administration to appoint a special counsel to take over the investigation into the president’s son, arguing the step was needed to ensure public confidence in the probe’s outcome. Under Justice Department regulations, any special counsel would still answer to the attorney general, however. Garland chose not to make such an appointment, instead keeping the case with Weiss, whose previous career as a federal prosecutor stretches back decades and includes violent crime and white-collar cases.

In the early days of the Biden administration, a Justice Department official said removing Weiss as U.S. Attorney as he was overseeing the Hunter Biden case would likely spark significant political backlash.

In April, after White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Biden “is confident that his son didn’t break the law,” Garland was asked at a Senate hearing about how the Justice Department is handling the case.
Weiss “is in charge of that investigation. There will not be interference of any political or improper kind,” Garland answered. “We put the investigation in the hands of a Trump appointee from the previous administration.”

The primary focus of the tax investigation has been whether Hunter Biden did not declare income related to his various business ventures, including overseas. The gun paperwork part of the investigation stems from 2018, a time period in which Hunter Biden, by his own account, was smoking crack cocaine.

In October of that year, Biden purchased a handgun, filling out a federal form in which he allegedly answered “no” to the question whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

According to a book Hunter Biden later wrote about his struggles with substance abuse, he was using drugs heavily that year.

Prosecutions for false statements on gun-purchase forms are relatively rare, but they do happen. In the fiscal year that Hunter Biden purchased that handgun, Justice Department records show prosecutors received 478 referrals for lying on the forms. Of those, charges were filed in 298 cases, or about 60 percent of the time.

Federal agents refer to such cases as “lying and buying.” Historically, prosecutors have significant discretion to decide which ones are worth federal resources.

“A prosecutor can say they have bigger fish to catch, or they can decide to seek a deal,” said Joseph G. Green, a retired agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “As agents, we would always include as many charges as we could, but it’s ultimately up to the prosecutor to decide which ones they will bring.”

October 6, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Guns, Joe Biden, War on drugs. Leave a comment.

NYC bail reform slammed after repeat offender makes 42nd attack


NYC bail reform slammed after repeat offender makes 42nd attack

By Bryan Ke

October 4, 2022

Robert Kelley, vice president of New York City’s Transport Union, slammed the city’s bail reform on national television following a repeat offender’s attack on a “hero” subway employee nearly two months ago.

Kelley criticized the city’s bail reform during his appearance on “Fox & Friends First” on Monday, more than a month after Alexander Wright, 49, was accused of assaulting an off-duty subway worker in the Bronx in August.

“This has to stop. The new bail reform must be changed. Time and time again, this guy shouldn’t have even been privileged to be under the new bail reform in terms of him being free,” Kelley told host Todd Piro.

“After 40 beatings, you’d think they’d lock him up and throw away the key,” he continued.

The subway incident occurred at Pelham Bay Park Station on Aug. 11 when the victim, identified as Anthony Nelson, 35, was called by a rider to help two straphangers Wright was harassing. Nelson, who was off-duty at the time, rushed to help the victims.

After Nelson arrived at the scene to get a description of the harasser for the police, Wright reportedly punched him in the face as he walked away. The subway employee suffered a dislocated nose and a broken collarbone from the attack.

Despite being injured, he and another man held Wright down until the authorities arrived. Wright was charged with assault and harassment. Last week, he was arraigned and is currently being held at Rikers Island on a $5,000 bail.

Before the August incident, Wright already had over 40 prior arrests on record, including an attack on an Asian woman in New York City’s Chinatown in May 2021.

“I never thought I’d say this, but, at the end of the day, the MTA employees have a more dangerous job than the NYPD,” Kelley said. “At least they [the NYPD] have weapons to protect themselves… our members don’t.”

October 5, 2022. Tags: , , . Social justice warriors, Violent crime. Leave a comment.

Police arrest man for having candy. Even after a lab test proved that it was candy, they wait four months to drop the charges.


Heart-shaped candy led to man’s drug arrest, New Jersey suit says. He’s suing police

By Julia Marnin

October 3, 2022

Vaneltines Candy

After bags of heart-shaped Valentine’s Day candy found inside a man’s car led to his arrest on a drug charge, he decided to sue police in New Jersey, according to a federal lawsuit.

Fernando Saint-Jean, of Massachusetts, says he was “falsely charged” with possession of MDMA/ecstasy after officers found the candy inside his car during a traffic stop in New Jersey, court documents state.

However, lab test results proved that the pastel-colored candy, commonly found in stores around Valentine’s Day, did not contain illegal substances more than two months after Palisades Interstate Parkway Police officers arrested Saint-Jean in May 2018, court documents state.

As a result, Saint-Jean filed a false arrest lawsuit against officers and the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police department in 2019, but it was put on pause until an appeals court resolved the defendants’ appeal, according to court records.

After a federal court in New Jersey rejected the officers’ request for qualified immunity — which can protect government officials facing lawsuits — the officers filed a notice of an appeal to challenge the district court’s decision. The case subsequently rose to an appeals court.

Now, Saint-Jean’s federal lawsuit can continue after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded it does not have “jurisdiction over the officers’ appeal” challenging the rejection of the request for qualified immunity, a written opinion from Sept. 23 states.

McClatchy News contacted attorneys representing the defendants and the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police department for comment on Oct. 3 and was awaiting a response.

Origins of the case

On May 6, 2018, Saint-Jean was driving home to Massachusetts, with his uncle as a passenger, after attending a family birthday celebration in Elizabeth, New Jersey, according to an amended complaint.

While driving along the Palisades Interstate Parkway and abiding by the speed limit, Saint-Jean was pulled over by a police officer “without legal justification,” the amended complaint states. Saint-Jean’s lawsuit argues he was pulled over for no reason other than his race as a Black man.

While speaking with the officer, Saint-Jean said he is originally from Haiti but is a U.S. citizen living in Massachusetts, as corroborated by his state license plates and driver’s license, according to the amended complaint. The officer told Saint-Jean he was pulled over for driving too slow and for having tinted windows.

After other Palisades Interstate Parkway police officers arrived at the scene, they told Saint-Jean and his uncle to step outside of the vehicle before patting down Saint-Jean and searching his car without “legal basis,” the complaint states.

Inside the car, they found bags of Valentine’s Day sugar candies that Saint-Jean’s co-worker had previously given him, according to the complaint. The candies had written words on them such as “call me,” “laugh” and “true love.”

Saint-Jean offered to provide police with his co-worker’s contact information to verify it was candy, but they refused and arrested him for possession of a controlled substance and a traffic infraction for having tinted windows, the complaint states.

“The intake process at the police station included photographing and fingerprinting Saint-Jean; it did not involve administering any tests on the small, heart-shaped objects,” the appeals court wrote in its opinion, adding that the prosecution of Saint-Jean ensued.

On July 27, 2018, a drug analysis conducted by state police confirmed that the candies were not illegal drugs, according to the amended complaint.

“After the heart-shaped objects were lab tested over two months later, the truth came out: they were just candies,” the appeals court’s opinion states. “Even with that knowledge, it still took nearly four additional months to drop the charges against the driver.”

Saint-Jean filed an initial complaint, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution, against the officers in April 2019 before his amended complaint was filed in January 2021, court records show.

Officers sought to dismiss the complaint by raising qualified immunity defenses, but the District Court of New Jersey rejected their requests for qualified immunity, according to the appeals court’s written opinion.

“Specifically, qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a ‘clearly established’ statutory or constitutional right,” according to Cornell Law School.

Saint-Jean’s lawsuit argues that the officers violated his Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights in connection with the alleged false arrest and malicious prosecution.

“The officers filed a notice of appeal to challenge the District Court’s denial of qualified immunity under federal and New Jersey law. But before the officers appealed, the driver had amended his complaint,” the court wrote. “Due to that prior amendment, the District Court’s order was not final when the officers appealed.”

As a result, the officers’ appeal was reviewed by the appeals court, which dismissed it, according to the opinion.

In filing the lawsuit, Saint-Jean is seeking at least $60 million as relief for damages and attorney fees, the complaint states.

October 5, 2022. Tags: , . Police state, War on drugs. Leave a comment.

BLM Rioter Who Murdered Retired St. Louis Police Captain Sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole


BLM Rioter Who Murdered Retired St. Louis Police Captain Sentenced to Life in Prison without Parole

By Brittany Bernstein

October 5, 2022

David Dorn

The 26-year-old man convicted of killing retired St. Louis Police Captain David Dorn was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Wednesday.

Stephan Cannon’s sentencing comes after a jury convicted him in July of fatally shooting Dorn in June 2020. The 77-year-old was responding to a burglary alarm at a friend’s pawn shop during a night of Black Lives Matter rioting when Cannon shot him.

Cannon was convicted in July on all of felony charges he faced, including first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, stealing $750 or more, unlawful possession of a firearm, and three counts of armed criminal action.

Dorn’s widow, Ann Wood-Dorn, has said her husband would regularly respond when Lee’s Pawn & Jewelry’s burglar alarm was triggered. On the night of his death – June 2, 2020 – Dorn was defending the shop from looters around 2:30 a.m. when he was fatally shot.

Cannon was one of the robbers Dorn confronted before he was murdered.

His death was live-streamed on Facebook Live. During the 13-minute-long video that circulated online, a young man can be heard saying, “Oh my God, cuz … They just killed this old man at the pawn shop over some TVs … c’mon, man, that’s somebody’s granddaddy.”

Attorney Marvin Teer said Cannon fired ten shots at Dorn as he arrived at the scene and fired off warning shots to stop the looters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Public defender Brian Horneyer argued during the trial that police had “tunnel vision” in accusing Cannon of the crime and suggested detectives relied on co-defendant Mark Jackson as their main witness despite Jackson being “a man who lies as easily as he breathes.”

Cannon continued to maintain his innocence during the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, KSDK reported.

Wood-Dorn also spoke during the hearing, saying that her husband “became a victim of the very thing he fought against.”

Dorn’s son Brian Powell told Cannon: “I hope your eyes are woke. You still have time to get everything together and make amends with your maker.”

Then-St. Louis police Chief John Hayden previously described the night of Dorn’s death as “mayhem.”

Four police officers were shot, some 55 businesses were attacked, and a convenience store was set on fire. It was just one of countless nights of rioting that gripped nearly every major American city after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.

Dorn, an African-American, retired from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2007 after 38 years of service. He became Chief of Police for the Moline Acres Police Department the next year.

On the first anniversary of the officer’s death, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch told National Review he remembers Dorn as a “great friend” and “wonderful law enforcement officer.”

“He’s very much missed and the night that he was taken from our community was a horrible evening for everyone in St. Louis,” Fitch said. He added that the violent evening of unrest was “really fed by the defund the police crowd which really whipped up a lot of protests in the St. Louis area that ultimately led to Captain Dorn’s death.”

October 5, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , . Black lives matter, Rioting looting and arson, Violent crime. Leave a comment.

A person in New York has become paralyzed because their idiotic parents never got them vaccinated for polio


How polio came back to New York for the first time in decades, silently spread and left a patient paralyzed

By Spencer Kimball

October 4, 2022

An unvaccinated adult suffered paralysis in June from polio, the first case in New York since 1990.

Wastewater surveillance later found the virus had been spreading silently in the New York City area for months.

The origin of the virus is still under investigation, but samples in New York are genetically linked to polioviruses found in London and Jerusalem wastewater.

When a young adult in a New York City suburb visited an emergency department in June after experiencing weakness in their lower legs, the shocking diagnosis would lead local officials to declare a health emergency in New York and put authorities across the U.S. and around the world on a state of alert.

The individual, a resident of Rockland County, had suffered from a fever, a stiff neck, back and abdominal pain as well as constipation for five days. The patient was hospitalized and tested for enterovirus, a family of pathogens that in rare cases can cause weakness in the arms and legs.

New York state’s Wadsworth Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would subsequently confirm the worst: The young adult was suffering from paralysis after contracting polio, the first known U.S. case in nearly a decade and the first in New York since 1990.

The patient was unvaccinated.

“I was very surprised. I never thought I’d see a case of polio in the United States, certainly not in Rockland County,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, the county health commissioner. The CDC considers a single case of paralytic polio a public health emergency in the U.S.

Polio is a devastating, incurable disease that once struck fear into parents’ hearts every summer when transmission peaked, threatening children with paralysis. But the virus has faded from U.S. public consciousness over the decades after a successful vaccination campaign crushed transmission in the 1960s.

In the late 1940s, more than 35,000 people were paralyzed from polio in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC. But the advent of an effective vaccine in 1955 dramatically reduced the spread of the disease to less than 100 cases annually by the 1960s.

The virus had been eliminated from the U.S. by 1979, though sporadic cases that originated abroad have been identified over the years.

How polio reemerged in New York this year remains the subject of investigation, but public health officials believe the virus originated overseas in a country that still uses the oral polio vaccine. American health officials stopped using the oral vaccine more than 20 years ago because it contains live virus that can — in rare circumstances — mutate to become virulent, but it is still common in other countries.

Genetic analysis of New York poliovirus samples indicates a weakened virus strain used in one of the oral vaccines mutated over time to cause the outbreak. Combined with low vaccination rates in some New York communities and greater international travel, this provided an opening for the virus to slip back into the U.S. this year and paralyze the Rockland patient.

“The underlying lesson is this is an infectious disease and it travels easily with population movements,” said Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesperson for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the organization that represents the worldwide campaign to eliminate the virus.


October 5, 2022. Tags: , , , . Health care, Parenting. Leave a comment.

Hypocrite pro-life Republican Herschel Walker paid for his girlfriend’s abortion


‘Pro-Life’ Herschel Walker Paid for Girlfriend’s Abortion

The woman has receipts—and a “get well” card she says the football star, now a Senate candidate, sent her.

October 3, 2022

Herschel Walker, the football legend now running for Senate in Georgia, says he wants to completely ban abortion, likening it to murder and claiming there should be “no exception” for rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

But the Republican candidate has supported at least one exception – for himself.

A woman who asked not to be identified out of privacy concerns told The Daily Beast that after she and Walker conceived a child while they were dating in 2009 he urged her to get an abortion. The woman said she had the procedure and that Walker reimbursed her for it.

She supported these claims with a $575 receipt from the abortion clinic, a “get well” card from Walker, and a bank deposit receipt that included an image of a signed $700 personal check from Walker.

The woman said there was a $125 difference because she “ball-parked” the cost of an abortion after Googling the procedure and added on expenses such as travel and recovery costs.

Additionally, The Daily Beast independently corroborated details of the woman’s claims with a close friend she told at the time and who, according to the woman and the friend, took care of her in the days after the procedure.

The woman said Walker, who was not married at the time, told her it would be more convenient to terminate the pregnancy, saying it was “not the right time” for him to have a child. It was a feeling she shared, but what she didn’t know was that Walker had an out-of-wedlock child with another woman earlier that same year.

Asked if Walker ever expressed regret for the decision, the woman said Walker never had. Asked why she came forward, the woman pointed to Walker’s hardline anti-abortion position.

“I just can’t with the hypocrisy anymore,” she said. “We all deserve better.”

October 4, 2022. Tags: , . Abortion. Leave a comment.

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