Wednesday, July 2, 2014

More Updates and Variations on Themes

Curmie is not yet ready to respond in an adult manner to the mind-blowingly stupid SCOTUS decision in the Hobby Lobby case—calling five Supreme Court Justices doo-doo heads probably isn’t the most eloquent of rebuttals, but I’m so bewildered that even the likes of Alito and Thomas could be that illogical, could so readily ignore precedent, could so conflate personal religious conviction with sound legal opinion that I can’t do better right now. Justice Ginsberg calls it a “mine field.” Curmie thinks she’s being optimistic.

Anyway, let’s return, instead, to the updates and variations on themes started a couple of days ago.

The Nation’s Rape Capital
We start with a story I first covered in July 2012: the term “rape culture” may be thrown around a little too frequently these days, but it certainly applies to Missoula, Montana, the University of Montana, and especially the football team. I wrote then that:
There’s little wonder that there’s a widespread belief that 1). sexual assault is not being treated very seriously in Missoula—not by the university and not by the local police, 2). the looking the other way is especially pronounced when football players are involved, and 3). the intervention of the DOJ is not merely appropriate but necessary.
Now there’s more from Missoula: a petulant display from the County Attorney, rejecting not merely some but apparently all of the DOJ’s recommendations for his office. Keep in mind here that Curmie is no fan of federal interference in local affairs, but when a city of under 70,000 people is seeing a sexual assault reported well over once a week for a period of several years (who knows how many weren’t reported), when that small city has come to be known as the nation’s “rape capital,” well, it’s pretty clear that the locals are either unwilling or unable to do the job. (Curmie bets on the former.)

Dana Liebelson of Mother Jones describes the proposed changes as follows: “The DOJ recommended adding two or three new staff positions, including an advocate for victims; ramping up training for county supervisors and prosecutors; and collecting more data on sexual-assault cases, including feedback from victims.” In some, perhaps even most, environments, telling the Feds to take a long walk on a short pier would be absolutely justified. But, in a city where a detective told a woman who was vomiting during her assault that “she might have had a case if she had been unconscious during the rape rather than merely incapacitated,” where another victim was asked why she hadn’t fought harder and asked “Tell me the truth—is this something we want to go through with?,” then I might perhaps be permitted a little skepticism about the claim that “the Missoula Police Department and our office have done a very good job of handling sexual-assault allegations regardless of what national and local news accounts may indicate.” If this is “very good,” one shudders to imagine what “horrible” looks like.

So Missoula remains Rape Central. Everyone from the police to prosecutors seems to be more concerned with proclaiming their competence than in proving it. There may be—or may have been—a very bad atmosphere swirling around the university football team. But the real problem lies with those sworn to protect the citizenry and—intentionally or otherwise—utterly failing to do so.

Gwendolyn Williams: Not Overweight
The “Fat Letter”
Next—a story I wrote about in October 2013, when 11-year-old Lily Grasso, a healthy, athletic girl in Naples, Florida, received the so-called “fat letter” because, although she’s fit enough to be on the volleyball team, at 5’3” and 124 pounds, she meets some idiot’s definition of “at risk” and “overweight.” A variation on the theme has now occurred on Staten Island: 9-year old Gwendolyn Williams (4’1”, 66 pounds), who is apparently precisely one pound over the average weight for her height and age. For this, she was described as “overweight” by some sub-moronic “Fitnessgram” from the city Department of Education. As might be expected, the DOE digs its own grave snootily defending itself. Here are the last three paragraphs of the New York Post article:
A DOE spokeswoman defended the Fitnessgrams Thursday as “just one indicator … which helps students develop personal goals for lifelong health.”

But for Gwendolyn, the Fitnessgrams are just dumb.

“I know that I’m not overweight, so why should I believe the New York Department of Education?” she said.
If Fitnessgrams are “just one indicator,” why not get more information before labeling children, especially girls, as overweight? In fact, Gwendolyn is absolutely correct: Fitnessgrams are indeed just dumb, and she shouldn’t believe the New York Department of Education about, well, anything. And that’s the problem—the DOE has made itself look silly, and has lost considerable credibility. That’s a bad thing, on the off chance that there are some things at which they are not as arrogant as they are hopelessly inept.

Moving on… In January of this year, I wrote about an online poll that got hijacked first (perhaps) by SeaWorld employees and then (for sure) by people reacting to the perceived manipulation. The poll had to do with the publicity generated by the documentary film “Blackfish,” which shows SeaWorld in a considerably less than positive light.

Now comes more evidence against SeaWorld’s protestations that “No one knows for sure how long killer whales live. Long-term studies will ultimately answer this question. By counting growth layers in teeth, scientists find that killer whales in the North Atlantic may live to 35 years.” If orcas “may” live to be 35, then the fact that most of those held in captivity at SeaWorld die in their 20s and the average lifespan in captivity is 4 ½ years is only mildly troublesome. Unfortunately for the spinmeisters at SeaWorld, J2 (a.k.a. “Granny”), recently spotted off Canada’s western coast, is 103 and was photographed in the 1930s. Oops. Tell me again how captivity doesn’t harm these magnificent, intelligent, social, creatures. But you’d better bring your A game if you want to leave without a bitch-slapping.

“Gang Signs”
In February I wrote about two brothers in Wisconsin who were (initially) suspended from school for making “gang signs” in a photograph published in the local paper. The fact that they are basketball players (the photo was of them in the uniform of their high school team) and that the principal ever-so-scary gang sign in question was universally recognizable as the signal for a three-point shot never quite penetrated the fog that surrounds the brains of school officials.

Dontadrian Bruce: Not a Gang-Banger
Whether there’s a racial element at play here is up for debate. What isn’t is that the students in question are African-American. So, coincidentally or otherwise, is Dontadrian Bruce, who was suspended from his school in Olive Branch, Mississippi for the same infraction. There are two differences: Dontadrian plays football instead of basketball, and his gesture, he says was to illustrate the number on his uniform: 3. This is a little less obviously innocuous than the Jackson brothers’ gestures. That makes me only virtually certain that his gesture was completely innocent, whereas the Jacksons’ case attained ontological certitude.

Nonetheless (or, given the genius displayed by most high school administrators, therefore), a disciplinary committee ruled in favor of “indefinite suspension with a recommendation of suspension” because, apparently unknown to young Mr. Bruce, the seemingly innocent gesture we see him make—that looks exactly like the way a European would signal the number 3 (not to mention virtually identical to the ASL sign for the number)—is “affiliated” with the Chicago-based gang the Vice Lords, which according to one news report “has a known presence in the nearby area,” whatever that means. Dontadrian says he was “trying to tell [his] side, and it was like they didn’t even care.” I believe him. Why? Because there had better be some real evidence before throwing a kid—any kid, even a trouble-maker (and Dontadrian isn’t one)—on the scrap heap. Stupid “zero tolerance” policy (the usual apologies for redundancy) or not, a little common sense had damned well better enter the equation at some point. Assistant Principal Todd Nichols and every member of that disciplinary committee deserve to be fired and paraded through town in stocks wearing signs that say “I convicted a kid on no evidence because I couldn’t be bothered to care about justice.” I was tempted to put “stripped naked” in the previous sentence, but nobody wants to see that.

Seriously, though, if schools in general were as interested in teaching our kids as they are in convicting them of phony transgressions, I’d be a lot more confident about the nation’s future. (By the way, the school finally lifted the suspension—the world-wide humiliation the school faced and the 2600-member Facebook group of Dontadrian’s supporters has nothing to do with that, I’m sure.)

Steve Green: Not Law-Abiding
Steve Green
Finally, we turn to another of the ongoing exploits of Hobby Lobby’s sanctimonious Hypocrite-in-Chief, Steve Green. Back in April, I wrote about Green’s successful attempt to convince the blithering idiots of the Mustang school district in suburban Oklahoma City that an unquestionably evangelical course on the Bible was just what that public school curriculum needed. Green’s pitch was patently disingenuous—same as his Obamacare complaint—but, given the complete lack of concern for, say, education or the Constitution evinced by school board members, the proposed course sailed through.

Now it turns out that Green met privately with members of the school board just hours before the vote: an apparently clear violation of Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act.
The April 14 meetings with Steve Green and other members of the Museum of the Bible curriculum team occurred just hours before the Mustang School Board approved the course as an elective for the fall. The Mustang superintendent acknowledged insisting on separate presentations so the public wouldn’t have to be invited, and did so at the direction of Green and his public relations representatives.

“I want to emphasize again that per my conversation with Ashleigh and the decision to break into two groups, that this will not be a public meeting,” Superintendent Sean McDaniel wrote in one of the emails obtained under an Open Records Act request, referring to a woman at the Saxum public relations company, which represents Hobby Lobby and helped set up the meetings.

The Oklahoma County prosecutor said the move—which involved the board leaving its base in Canadian County and traveling to Oklahoma City—could create a potential violation if it is proven to be a deliberate attempt to go around laws that require government bodies to meet openly.

“Even if there’s an out-of-county board, if they come here and meet in an attempt to circumvent the Open Meetings Act, just because they’ve met in a place that’s not routine, doesn’t mean they circumvent their requirements for meetings,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said.”  If someone is going to that great of length to avoid quorum, it sounds like they’re being pretty darn careful.
So it turns out that Steve Green is not only a duplicitous, pompous fraud and a disgusting human being—we knew that long ago, after all—he also quite likely broke the law (or told his minions to do so). But there is a bright side: he strengthened Superintendent McDaniel’s case for Curmie Award consideration.

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